Monday, September 7, 2020

September 7, 1948 -- Brach Candy Explosion Kills 15

Chicago Tribune Photo

September 7, 1948 – An explosion and fire rips through a building of the massive Brach Candy plant at 4656 Kinzie Street around 3:00 a.m., killing 15 workers and injuring 18 more.  It is fortunate that day shift workers had not reported for duty when the explosion occurs, so there are fewer than the 2,400 workers that would have been at the site five or six hours later.  Most of the damage is confined to two rooms on the top floor of the three-story building that covers an entire city block.  Fire Commissioner Michael J. Corrigan says that the explosion could have been one of the greatest disasters in recent years if it had occurred when all employees were on duty.  One employee says that there was no warning of the explosion which blows out a portion of the building’s north wall, temporarily blocking the Chicago and North Western Railroad tracks on one side of the building.  Investigation reveals that a fire preceded the explosion, and that the explosion, probably caused by suspended corn starch in the air, killed several men who were fighting the fire along with a dozen others who were in the vicinity.

September 7, 1968 – Mayor Richard J. Daley releases “The Strategy of Confrontation,” a 77-page report that chronicles the disturbances that took place in the city during the Democratic convention two weeks earlier.  The report claims “to point out the nature and strategy of confrontation as it was employed in Chicago,” [Chicago Tribune, September 8, 1968] It pinpoints the origin of the disturbances as November 16, 1967 when Jerry Rubin, the leader of the Youth International Party, issued a call to demonstrators to come to Chicago and “Bring pot, fake delegates’ cards, smoke bombs, costumes, blood to throw and all kinds of interesting props.  Also football helmets.”  Others blamed for the violence were Rennie Davis, Chicago coordinator for the National Mobilization Committee to end the War in Vietnam; David Dellinger, national chairman for that committee; Tom Hayden, one of the founders of the Students for a Democratic Society; and Abbie Hoffman, an associate of Rubin’s.  The report also indicts the news media for aiming “malice to the authorities while presuming good will and sincerity on the part of the protestors,” leading to “ugly and distasteful scenes … reported all over the nation and the world without sufficient explanation to allow the reports to be placed in perspective.”  The city’s Corporation Counsel, Raymond F. Simon, with the help of the police, the United States attorney’s office, and the city law department, is responsible for the report that concludes that the ultimate goal of the protestors “was to topple what they consider to be the corrupt institutions of our society, education, governmental, etc., by impeding and if possible halting their normal functions while exposing the authorities to ridicule and embarrassment." 

September 7, 1939 – In the space of a day 75 million gallons of raw sewage are diverted from the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to a new southwest side treatment plant in Stickney.  The transition occurs through the removal of a wooden bulkhead at the Western Avenue sewer at Thirty-Eighth Street, an action that diverts the sewage into the southwest side intercepting sewer leading to the new plant.  This sewer drains 12.5 miles of the city, including half of the waste from the stockyards.  Prior to the transition to the Stickney plant, the sewer had dumped 40 tons of solid waste into the canal each day.  Within a few weeks all of the sewage from the area between the canal and Eighty-Seventh street will be diverted to the plant.  The Stickney plant is just one part of a $162,000,000 sewage disposal program begun after the U. S. Supreme Court ordered a reduction in the diversion of water from Lake Michigan earlier in the decade. Today the Stickney Water Reclamation Plant is the largest wastewater treatment facility in the world, serving 260 square miles, including the central part of Chicago and 46 suburban communities.  It covers 413 acres with nearly 400 employees managing the treatment of up to one million gallons of water every minute.

September 7, 1934 – At a time when the city and its occupants swelter in the summer heat with little they can do about it, the Chicago Daily Tribune prints a glowing article that touts its super-swell air conditioning system, installed during the cold weather months, a system that has already provided 1,358 “air cooled hours” for employees and tenants of Tribune Tower.  Holmes Onderdonk, the manager of the building, says, “The whole idea was to make working conditions better for employees and tenants . . . When the air cooling system was first contemplated there was an opinion that a building already erected couldn’t be air conditioned.  The working of this system shows it can be done.  The refrigeration machinery will be built into new buildings in the future, but it was an accomplishment to install the system here.” 

Chicago Tribune photo
Chicago Tribune photo
September 7, 1928 – Mobster Antonio Lombardo is shot dead at the corner of Madison and Dearborn Streets, one of the busiest corners in the Loop, at 4:30 p.m.  One of two bodyguards accompanying Lombardo receives a fatal shot in the back while the other slips into the crowd and escapes.  Police on the scene chase the attackers, and crowds jamming the streets at the beginning of rush hour panic as “policemen and gunmen ran through crowds with menacing revolvers.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 8, 1928]  Lombardo and his two bodyguards had just left the offices of the Italo-American National Union at 8 South Dearborn Street, just three blocks from City Hall and walked 50 feet west on the south side of Madison Street when they are attacked.  A “crowd of thousands” had already gathered in the area, watching an airplane intended as a display at the Boston Store being hoisted to an upper floor window. Born in Sicily in 1891, Lombardo came to Chicago as a teenager, building a lucrative grocery business in his early adulthood while also working in various mob-influenced bootlegging operations until in 1925 he became president of the 15,000-member Unione Siciliana, an organization that “involved substantial political influence over an important voting bloc … [creating] the opportunity for the one who held that position to become a ‘fixer’ with connections to city hall.”  [chicagocrimescenes.blogspot]  A rival for the position, Joseph Aiello, became enraged at the slight and threw his allegiance to the North Side gang, plotting to avenge the perceived injustice by killing Lombardo.  Aiello did become president of the organization for about a year while Al Capone was in a Philadelphia prison.  Shortly after Capone returned to Chicago, Aiello, too, was gunned down. One man was arrested in the shooting of Lombardo – Frank Marco “a New York hoodlum and a known acquaintance of Aiello’s,” but before street justice found him, the law did, and “his bullet-riddled body was found on East Nineteenth Street in New York City” in February, 1930.  The top photo shows the crowd gathered around the murder scene while the second photo shows the plane that was being lifted into the Boston Store, an event that had attracted a massive crowd to the location of the assassination.

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