Monday, July 29, 2019

July 29, 1918 -- Chicago Taxi Wars Begin
July 29, 1918 – Stink bombs “which distributed a most pungent and overmastering odor” [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 30, 1918] are thrown “with great liberality” on Wells, Madison, La Salle, and Randolph Streets, with the final detonation occurring in the Celtic barroom in the Hotel Sherman.  The last bomb sends guests in the hotel “into the open air with tremendous alacrity.”  It is believed that the attacks are the result of a feud between warring taxicab organizations, the Checker Cab Company and the Yellow Cab Company. This was just the tip of the iceberg in a battle that would last throughout most of the Roaring Twenties. Checker, the smaller firm, made up of owner-operators operating, like Uber or Lyft, under a single name, battled it out with the much larger Yellow Cab Company.  When Checker began using Loop taxi stands, previously exclusive Yellow Cab turf, the fight was on.  Things got so bad by June, 1921 that two aldermen introduced a resolution in the City Council, calling on the police chief to keep cabs from both companies off the streets until cabmen stopped killing each other.  Things got even more heated when Yellow Cab divided into two factions, one composed of union drivers and the other of non-union chauffeurs.  The whole things finally calmed down by the end of the 1920’s when the owner of Yellow Cab, John Hertz, sold his stock in the company and got out of the business.  Ultimately, Yellow Cab and Checker merged, and the city found a way to damp down violent competition and make money at the same time by selling taxi cab medallions that limited the number of cabs on the street.  A terrific explanation of the whole mess can be found here

July 29, 1914:  Destruction begins on the swing bridge at Canal Street to make way for the new vertical lift bridge for the Pennsylvania Railroad as the new bridge stands, nearly complete, above it.  The new bridge will be the heaviest lift span in the country.  Today it is the only bridge of its type on the Chicago River system.  When it is raised, the bridge provides 130 feet of clearance for traffic on the river below.  According to “The lift truss span was constructed outward from the towers with the use of special falsework that angled back into the tower so that it would not be in the river obstructing boats … As built the bridge contained 6,941,000 pounds of structural steel and machinery. An interesting design feature of the bridge was that the northern piers of the bridge were built overly wide, so that half of these piers could support half of a second vertical lift bridge, should the railroad have wished to add more trackage to the line.”  The top photo shows the new bridge towering above the original swing bridge in 1914.  The color photo shows the bridge today in its lowered position.

July 29, 1934 – The Dymaxion, a three-wheeled automobile, arrives at the Century of Progress World’s Fair with Buckminster Fuller, its designer, driving the vehicle onto the fairgrounds where it will be exhibited at the Crystal House on Northerly Island.  Nineteen feet long with front wheel drive and a single wheel at the rear, the car is capable of traveling at 120 miles per hour.  The photo above shows the Dymaxion beside architect George F. Keck's "Crustal House" on Northerly Island.

July 29, 1936:  The motor ship Material Service sinks early in the morning a mile north of the lighthouse at Eighty-Sixth Street as she is caught in an open-water gale for which she was not designed.  Although seven members of the crew are rescued, Captain C. D. Brown and 15 other crewmembers die.  First Mate John M. Johnson says upon his rescue, “We were going along as usual when suddenly the vessel listed to port.  Then it came back on an even keel, but immediately began to sink.  We had the usual complement of lifeboats, but the sinking was so sudden that there was no chance to launch them.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 29, 1936]  The ship had hauled a load of gravel from Lockport to Chicago, and had left the mouth of the Chicago River around midnight, headed south for a dock in the Calumet Harbor area when disaster struck.


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