Friday, January 17, 2020

January 17, 1925 -- Chicago Loop Turns Day into Night -- Smoke Menace Increases

January 17, 1925 – Day is turned into night in the Loop as “every available light in the central business district was utilized to offset the darkness” as a “condensed cloud of smoke, soot, dirt, tar, ash, ferric oxide and gasses … reduced the light to such an extent that it was all but dark.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 18, 1925]  The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that the city’s damage by smoke is in excess of $50 per family each year, “the sheer physical damage to property of all kinds from collars and cuffs to lace curtains and rugs.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 12, 1925]  “Each year Chicago throws away for smoke damage almost as much money as it cost to build the world’s fair and the sanitary canal,” the article continues.  The city has been trying to do something about the problem of smoke pollution since 1881 when the first crude anti-smoke ordinance was passed.  In 1912 the city spent $46,000 in an attempt to moderate the problem.  By 1924 that figure had slipped to $26,600.  In 1910 the staff of the smoke inspection bureau numbered 34, but by 1924 that number had dwindled to 10.  On January 21, 1925 the City Council orders its health committee “to begin at once and continue from day to day an inquiry of the causes and effect of air pollution in Chicago, and to report its finding and recommendations to this council not later than March 1, 1925," noting that in failing to confront the issue the city “not only fails to meet its obligation and one of the first purposes of its existence, but also directly contributes to sickness, suffering, and possibly death, which fails to take all reasonable precautions and measures to protect, promote, and conserve public health.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 22, 1925]  Things did not improve quickly ... the above photo shows the corner of Lake and State Streets at 10:15 a.m. on February 1, 1957 ... 32 years after the Tribune cried out for change in 1925.
January 17, 1909 –The Chicago Daily Tribune reviews “the greatest wrecking operation that ever was carried out in Chicago,” [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 17, 1909] the demolition of four square blocks bounded by Canal, Clinton, Fulton and Madison Streets. Beginning on May 2, 1907 a hundred individual structures that housed more than 500 businesses were leveled within 18 months to make way for the new passenger terminal for the Chicago and North Western Railroad.  Two months before the operation began, three men, working for the Garden City Wrecking Company, inspected every building in the area, in an attempt to assemble an accurate bid for the work.  Leading the list of salvageable material that the appraisers found was lumber worth between $400,000 and $500,000.  The Tribune reports the buildings held “… old joists, beams, and stringers of cork pine that the lumber market today could not equal in quality and sizes.  Timbers twenty odd feet in length without a knot to mar them were the rule.  Forty years ago this pine – now almost extinct – could be bought for $12 a thousand feet; today such pine will sell for $150 a thousand.”  Over a hundred workers spent 18 months clearing the area, hauling away millions of tons of material from the 13-acre site.  The Ogilvie Transportation Center at the bottom of the highlighted rectangle now anchors the section of the city that was cleared in 1909.  It replaced the Chicago and North Western terminal that was demolished in 1984.

January 17, 1920 – Chicago wakes up to the realization that the day of the hangover is gone as Prohibition begins at midnight.  On the previous day “auto trucks were at a premium during the late afternoon and early evening” [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 17, 1920] as individuals pursued the last chance to buy liquor for home consumption and transport it to their homes.  Major A. V. Dalrymple, the “head of the prohibition enforcers” promises that no effort will begin at enforcing the new law for ten days. “Of course I don’t mean that you can sell the stuff tomorrow,” he says. “Far from it. But we will not start any search of seizure until this ten day period has passed.”

January 17, 1915 – South Halsted Street between Polk and Madison Streets becomes a battle ground as 1,500 unemployed men, women, boys and girls battle the police.  According to the Chicago Daily Tribune, “Shots were fired, clothes were torn, eyes blackened, and heads cracked while clubs, blackjacks, and revolver butts were used with bruising effect on heads, arms and knuckles” as the “hunger procession” proceeded up Halsted Street.  [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 18, 1915] The battle occurs after a meeting of the unemployed at Bowen Hall at the Hull House settlement.  Two detectives inside the hall, dressed as unemployed workmen, listen as Lucy Parsons, the widow of Albert Parsons, who was hanged for alleged complicity in the Haymarket Riot of 1886, speaks.  The detectives, Sergeants Fred Krueger and Herman Eastman, report that trouble is brewing.  First Deputy Superintendent of Police Herman Schuettler, who himself was at his post during the Haymarket riot, orders, “Demand a permit from them, and if they haven’t got one order them to disperse. The reserves will be on the way to help you.” A procession forms on Polk Street, just west of Halsted and begins to march, six people abreast, up Halsted, carrying a large black banner with one word, “Hunger,” displayed in white letters.  The police order the marchers to disperse, but the marchers continue onward, a voice crying out, “To h___ with the orders.  We’re hungry!”  The policemen, small in number and waiting for reinforcements, are surrounded.  According to the paper’s reporter, “In a minute the cluster under the swaying ‘hunger’ banner was a maelstrom of fists and clubs.  Girls and women shrieked and fell to the ground in the fray.  A small, dark haired girl, climbing on to the shoulders of a man, dove head foremost into the center of the fight, her fingers reaching out for the eyes and hair of the policemen … The detectives drew their revolvers and began to lay to right and left, felling all within reach … Women threw their arms around the necks of the plain clothes men, biting them and tearing their faces with finger nails.”  On the marchers move, coming up to a phalanx of policemen at Harrison Street; the procession breaches the line and continues north to Adams Street where they encounter mounted officers.  On they continue to Monroe Street.  Battered at each new block “the ranks of the marchers were becoming noticeably thinned.  Those remaining appeared to be the more vindictive who had succeeded in fighting their way through.”  Finally, at Madison Street the marchers find themselves surrounded, and many of those who are left “made for doorways, alleys, saloons, lunch rooms, and basements, where they mingled with the surprised patrons and escaped.”  At each intersection along the route of the march arrests are made, and those taken prisoner charged with rioting, unlawful assemblage and parading without a license.  At the conclusion of the festivities the Tribune reports, “Halsted street looked like an armed camp with squads of police stationed at the corners and mounted men patrolling the middle of the street.”  Mrs. Lucy Parsons is shown above, missing a glove, after her arrest.

January 17, 1903 -- Judge Arthur Chetlain sentences George Wellington "Cap" Streeter to an indeterminate term in the penitentiary at Joliet for manslaughter for the killing of John S. Kirk on February 11, 1902 in the "District of Lake Michigan." The dead man had been a watchman for Henry W. Cooper, the man lakefront property owners had engaged to protect their interests on the north side of the river near Oak Street. "Cap" Streeter was not personally connected to the scene where the killing occurred; he was held responsible because testimony indicated that he had told the occupants of the district that if anyone "came fooling' around" to shoot him. After being found guilty in December 3, 1892, Streeter said, "They found us guilty but it only goes to show that when a lot of millionaires get together and get the help of the state the liberty of a man ain't safe. This whole thing is a scheme." The captain and his missus are pictured above.

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