Tuesday, April 21, 2020

April 21, 1855 -- Lager Beer Riot Leaves One Dead

April 21, 1855 – Imagine that you are a hard-working German or Irish immigrant in 1855.  You work a six-day week, ten or twelve hours a day.  What happens on that seventh day?  You rest.  And what is the best way to rest back in those primitive days when there was no YouTube or Tik-Tok?  You head out to one of hundreds of small pubs that are scattered throughout the north and west sides of the city.  Perfect … until trouble comes a-knockin’ on the tavern door when Levi Boone is elected mayor.  Soon after his election on March 6, the mayor convinces the City Council to raise liquor license fees by 500%, mandating that the licenses must be renewed quarterly.  Boone also triples the size of the municipal police force before decreeing that the city would enforce an old ordinance requiring bars and taverns to close on Sunday.  Before long, hundreds of arrests are made for violating the Sunday ordinance, and the tired and downtrodden – and now beer-less – German workers raise a defense fund for those who were now not IN bars, but BEHIND them.  A judge schedules April 21, 1855 for a test case to hear arguments concerning the legality or illegality of the actions of those who have been arrested.  On the appointed day a swarm of completely sober and exceedingly angry Germans crosses the river, headed for the Cook County Court House.  Mayor Boone orders the bridges across the river swung open, so that the invasion can be stalled long enough to summon additional police to the area.  Despite being outnumbered, the police are still able to push the protestors out of the Court House, and they retreat to the north, across the river.  In the afternoon, however, an armed mob comes back down Clark Street, determined to make their voices heard.  Boone once again orders the bridge at Clark Street opened.  Since the bridges open by rotating on a turntable located in the middle of the channel, many protestors are stuck on the bridge when they are opened.  This does not help their dispositions.  Tempers are heightened further when the police open fire on the protesters on the Clark Street bridge.  In the mayhem one person is killed and over 60 arrested.  Boone declares martial law, and cannon are set up around the courthouse square.  It is over for the mayor, though.  No one arrested during the Lager Beer Riot is punished, and the license law does not last through the summer.  In 1856 heavy turnout from the German and Irish drives Boone and his cronies out of office, the first time in the young city’s history that a coalition of working class citizens determine the outcome of an election.  As a bit of city trivia … chicagocop.com notes that Hunt Avenue in Beverly is named for Captain Leander Hunt, a Chicago policeman who lost his arm after being wounded during the riot.  For a hilarious recounting of the events of the day, tune into this YouTube offering.  The above photo shows the Clark Street swing bridge at about this time.

April 21, 1975 – City planning officials release “The Riverside Plan of Chicago,” a document that, for the first time, assembles all of the proposals for river improvements in a single place.  The Chicago Tribune reports that if the plans are carried out as proposed “the 1.5-mile stretch of the Chicago River, between Wolf Point and Lake Michigan, could one day rival the lakefront as the city’s recreational mecca.”  [Chicago Tribune, April 23, 1975]  The report looks toward an eventual string of small parks and walkways along both banks of the river, a 100-acre park on landfill south of the river and east of Lake Shore Drive, improvements to Navy Pier, and the conversion of Ogden slip, south of Lake Point Tower, into a park.  Another recommendation is the placement of artwork on both public and private property along the river, especially along the south bank near Michigan Avenue, at Wolf Point and at Navy Pier.  A small park is proposed on a site at the foot of Rush Street on the north bank, along with a 25-foot landscaped walkway for the river frontage at Wolf Point. The report also looks toward construction of some residential buildings along the north bank of the river between Lake Shore Drive and the proposed bridge at Columbus Drive.  The two photos form a stark contrast between what the river and the adjoining area looked like in 1970 and what it looks like today.

April 21, 1967 -- The third and final tornado to strike Illinois on this day begins northwest of Joliet at about 4:45 p.m. It moves east-northeast, building power and momentum as it goes. It takes six minutes for the monster funnel to carve a path of damage 16 miles long through the suburbs of Oak Lawn, Hometown, and Evergreen Park. At the intersection of Ninety-Fifth Street and Southwest Highway it throws several dozen cars stopped in traffic off the road, and sixteen people are killed at just this one location. The south end and east wall of Oak Lawn High School are destroyed at 5:26 p.m. when the school clocks stop. With winds of over 100 m.p.h., the tornado finally blows itself out over the lake off Rainbow Beach. Even though it is no longer on the ground, it still has enough power to pop windshields out of cars parked at the Filtration Plant at Seventy-Eighth Street and the lake. The disaster is immense -- 33 people lose their lives, and over 1,000 suffer injuries. 152 homes are totally demolished, and another 900 or more are damaged. In its analysis of the tornado the National Weather Service concludes, "Most of those killed were people who were not in a position to hear the warning because they were away from home. Actually, the tornado could hardly have come at a worst [sic] time of day or week to catch the greatest number of people out in the open."

April 21, 1948 – A gang of more than a hundred railroad workers begins laying tracks form the Illinois Central tracks across South Lake Shore Drive at Twenty-Eighth Street and into the grounds where the Chicago Railroad Fair is set to open on July 20.  A cut is made in the southbound lanes of the drive so that tracks can be laid with the northbound lanes tackled the following day.  Assurances are given that asphalt resurfacing of the road will "leave the drive as good as ever.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, April 22, 1948] Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry organized the Railroad Fair “to celebrate the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Opening of the West in the United States, by holding an Exposition in Chicago, showing in Educational, Scientific and Graphic form the building and development of the Railroads of North America with a demonstration of their place and importance in the American Economy.”  [chicagology.com] The fair was originally supposed to run for just the summer of 1948, but it was so successful that the city brought it back for the summer of 1949.  Held on 50 acres of Burnham Park between Twentieth and Thirtieth Streets, the fair was planned in just six months and featured exhibits from 38 railroads and 20 railroad equipment manufacturers. During the two summers the fair ran, over 5.5 million people trekked to the lakefront to see the show.  The laying of the tracks across Lake Shore Drive is shown in the photo above.

April 21, 1901 – A huge iron tank breaks from its supports on the roof of the Galbraith Building on Madison Street and smashes through six floors to the basement.  Seven people are injured, none of them seriously, and all the glass on the Madison Street side of the building is broken.  Two crows are killed in the Slotkin Pet Store on the ground floor.  Fortunately, the accident occurs on a Sunday.  There was no warning, and if the tank had fallen on any other day of the week, casualties would have undoubtedly been far higher.  The tank had been installed a month earlier to supply water to the fire suppression system, and the water in the tank alone weighed almost six tons.  Harry Solomon, one of the fortunate souls who escaped the tank’s fall, said, “The thing was over before we could realize our peril.  A deluge of water and wreckage poured on us as we stood gazing into the great gap that had been cut through the floor not three feet from where I had stood.  I knew in an instant that it was the tank, as we had spoken of the danger of installing the great weight in the old building.  The whole building shook, and I thought there was no hope for us, but we rushed to the fire-escape to avoid going down with the floors.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, April 22, 1901] In the above plate from Rand McNally's 1893 View of Chicago the Galbraith Building is #10 at the very top of the rendering toward the right corner.

1 comment:

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