Saturday, May 5, 2018

May 5, 1914 -- South Water Street Profile

May 5, 1914 –The Chicago Daily Tribuneprofiles South Water Street, a place that is “busy before most of inhabitants have left their beds.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 5, 1914]At 5:00 a.m. the city is quiet … “the air is cool and fresh, free from the midday fragrance of burned gasoline, soot, and coal smoke.  The water running into the lake under the State street bridge is clear and blue, not yet tainted with the burden of sewage and waste.”  This is not the case on South Water Street, though.  There are “at least 20 roosters, crowing their loudest on each of the street’s four blocks to greet the belated city sun.”  There are 400 Italians and three times as many Greeks, “Black eyes flashing hands waving, singing classic odes to the returning springtime and hurling defiance at the robbers who hold the morning’s strawberries.” Loaded trucks and wagons are “lined up solidly on either side of the four blocks and other teamsters trying to ease between the lines, addressing people who got in their way with that altogether friendly and fearful profanity which is elsewhere current only in the far west.”  The sidewalks are lined with crates, barrels and boxes as tall as a man.  There is an endless procession of pushcarts and hundreds of salesmen in long white coats vying with grocers and market men buying the day’s supplies.  In building basements bananas ripen.  The second and third floors of the businesses are given over to “South Water Street’s hospitals, where first aid to injured vegetables is applied.”  By 7:00 a.m. the day’s run of fresh strawberries – 18 carloads from Louisiana – arrives and “lids are pried off, samples tasted, the freshness tested, prices asked.” Peddlers leave with thousands of cases of produce with most of the Greeks selling from wagons; the Italians, most of them, “still cling to their baskets.”  By 8:00 a.m. the residential streets of the city are “vocal with their cries.”

May 5, 1912 – Chief of Police John McWeeney gets down to business and tells his lieutenants to apply “drastic measures” to striking pressmen in the newspaper strike that began with workers striking against Hearst publications in Chicago on April 30, an action that has now spread to all of the other newspapers in the city. “The tactics of the strikers have been a disgrace to civilization,” says the Chief. His feeling is that 528 patrolmen are “none too many . . . in view of the unexpected brutality resorted to by the strikers.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 6, 1912] A female news vender was attacked at the Fifty-First Street station of the “Alley ‘L’”. A newsboy at Thirty-Ninth Street was also beaten with a blackjack. Another newsboy was attacked at Clark and North Avenue, and a reporter for the Chicago Examiner was roughed up at Madison and Halsted. It will be a long time before the violence dies down; the strike finally ends in November. Above the Chicago police make a show of force as the strike continues.

May 5, 1930 – The Marshall Field and Co. wholesale house moves into its new headquarters at the Merchandise Mart at Wells and Kinzie Streets.  The move is completed over a weekend in order to avoid any interruption in the firm’s schedule.  The company’s new home will be located in a south portion of the new building, the largest building of its kind in the world.  Each display room, three to a floor, will cover over a block of space.  The silk section will even have a stage, making it possible to host fashion shows.  Consider how amazing this is ... the first shovel of dirt for this massive project was dug on August 12, 1928.

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