May 7, 1893 –A sad day at the World’s Columbian Exposition as poor General Davis, a Florida alligator, is laid to rest, having succumbed to the less-than-tropical conditions of the fair’s lagoon. It seems that five weeks earlier two alligators were caught in Central Florida and shipped to the Fisheries Department of the World’s Fair. They were named Columbus and General Davis and upon arrival at the fairgrounds, they were “given space at the edge of the Lagoon.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 8, 1893]. Apparently, no one stopped to consider that an early May day in Florida is a considerably different day than one finds in Chicago. The newspaper account dryly observed, “After the ‘gators had shivered in the lagoon for a day or two, it was determined to take them out again and give them warmer quarters until the weather got warmer.” The guests from Florida were in no mood to be moved once again and “the Aquarians showed fight, and everyone was afraid to go near them.” At last, though, they were taken to the Horticultural Building and allowed to bask in the 90-degree heat – too late, it seems, for poor General Davis, and notification was sent that one dead alligator needed to be transported from the building. A gang showed up, led by an unfortunate soul “who simply knew that he was to find an alligator in a box and haul it off and who thought it was a simple affair.” The worker, wielding an axe, knocked the top off the box and “seized the animal by the tail in a business-like way”. Columbus, the live alligator, had been roused. The creature’s tail “flourished around for a minute or two like the tail of a terrier; and but for the sides of the box would have broken every bone in the man’s body … the great jaws opened and shut savagely with a clash like a steel trap, and the snorting of the insulted alligator could be heard down at the Administration building.” The worker who opened the box fled and would not return. The rest of the gang nailed the top back on the box, then lifted the “rude casket” of General Davis into a wagon and headed off. The wagon’s driver accepted the hide of General Davis in return for his morning’s work.
May 7, 1993 –The Chicago Tribune reports that the United States Coast Guard has approved a request by the city to restrict the opening of river bridges to recreational boaters. The trial period will run through May 31, “to see if the city request for the additional restriction on the operations of the bridges would be feasible.” [Chicago Tribune, May 7, 1993] Under the provisions of the plan bridges will be opened for recreational boaters only between 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. on Sundays and after 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. There must be at least five boats in a group in order for the bridges to open with 25 boats as the top limit. Additionally, a request must be made to the city at least 24 hours in advance. For years Mayor Richard J. Daley has groused about opening the river bridges for pleasure boaters, saying at one point, “Did you ever see a sailboat at 12 o’clock, downtown, you see one sailboat going down the Chicago River? You have to raise all these bridges for one sailboat – then you wonder why fire and police can’t get across and you wonder why when [bridges] get stuck.” Once the test period is over, the city must support its claim of heavy surface traffic over the bridges by supplying the Coast Guard with the number of vehicles passing in 15-minute periods over two weeks, among other forms of documentation. Today the bridges raise for pleasure boaters during the spring and autumn months on Wednesdays and Saturdays. In the above 1993 photo pleasure boaters sail north past the Civic Opera building, headed for the main stem of the river and Lake Michigan.
May 7, 1902 – Hundreds of people line Lake Shore Drive north of Oak Street to pay a final tribute to Potter Palmer. The Reverend James S. Stone, rector of St. James’ Episcopal Church, leads modest services inside the Palmer mansion. The honorary pallbearers are led by Marshall Field and Robert T. Lincoln. Active pallbearers include: Carter H. Harrison, J. Ogden Armour, Frank O. Lowden, H. G. Selfridge, James H. Eckels, Cyrus H. McCormick, Watson E. Blair, and Otto Gresham. Carriages line up on Schiller, entering the mansion’s yard through the north gate as Mrs. Palmer, accompanied by her sons, Potter Palmer, Jr. and Honoré, enter them for the ride to Graceland Cemetery. Large delegations from the Iroquois Club and the Hotel Men’s Association also are present.
May 7, 1959 – The Chicago Daily Tribune engages in a bit of gloating after a day earlier it had run an editorial calling for the revival of a 1957 proposal for the improvement of the south bank of the Chicago River near the Michigan Avenue bridge. Voices are heard in City Hall endorsing the long-range plan that includes the extension of Wacker Drive east from Michigan Avenue to meet Lake Shore Drive as well as “a river bank of flowers with outdoor, French type cafes spotted along the banks.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 7, 1959] With the exception of a 190-foot city-owned parcel just east of the bridge, the land on the south bank is owned by the Illinois Central Railroad. The article includes a rendering, shown above, that gives an idea of what the south bank might look like if the plan is implemented.