Adolph Luetgert came to Chicago from Germany shortly before the Chicago Fire of 1871. A man was found dead in the alley behind Luetgert’s saloon and grocery on Clybourn and Webster Avenues, after being warned not to spit on Luetgert’s floor (the man’s cause of death was found to be choking on a plug of chewing tobacco).
Two years later, Luetgert’s wife died unexpectedly while in confinement awaiting childbirth.
But worst of all, his second wife went missing, and her wedding ring was found in a rendering vat in the basement of his sausage factory. Luetgert was tried and convicted for the highly-talked about “Boiling Cauldron Murder.” He died in Joliet prison.
Albert G. Spalding
The first regulation baseballs and bats used by professional players were manufactured by Chicago entrepreneur (and former pitcher) Albert G. Spalding.
Allan Pinkerton was Chicago’s first police detective, and America’s first “private eye.” Ironically, he’d come to Chicago after fleeing his native Scotland to escape imprisonment.
Andreas von Zirngibl
Andreas von Zirngibl was born in Russia on March 30, 1797 and was a soldier in the army that fought Napoleon at Waterloo in 1816. He made his way to Chicago, where he had a farm and where he died on Aug. 21, 1855. In his will, he decreed that he be buried on his own land and that his grave be kept sacred, no matter what happened to the land. His grave still stands, surrounded by the rust and rubble of the American Fastener Salvage yard, which sprawls north and east of East 93rd Street and South Ewing Avenue.
Anna Sage, the infamous “woman in red,” was a Romanian immigrant who identified John Dillenger to FBI agents in exchange for help stemming her deportation. As she and Dillenger left the Biograph theater, he was shot and killed by the agents. The Biorgraph is still (sporadically) in operation, and is located at on Lincoln Ave. just north of Fullerton.
In 1895 Arnold Schwinn established his bicycle company, providing vehicles for a country gone mad with “wheeling.”
Chicago’s park and boulevard system, with its flat terrain, made cycling practical and instantly popular.
“Wheelmen” formed bicycling clubs, each with its own colors, and even women took up the fad. Bloomers and divided skirts liberated them from tightly-laced Victorian clothing.
Unfortunately, for all the good it did, Schwinn’s company also ushered in the crime of “bicycle theft,” which resulted in a thriving black market business.
After retiring from basketball, Michael Jordan played professional baseball with the Chicago White Sox farm team: the “Birmingham Barons.”
Captain George Wellington Streeter
Captain George Wellington Streeter bought and repaired an old boat, naming it the “Reutan.” The maiden voyage of the Reutan took place on July 10, 1886 (Captain Streeter had been “test driving” his boat in anticipation of a gun-running trip to Honduras). The Reutan ran into stormy weather, though, and he never made it to Honduras. After being tossed around for a couple of hours, the Reutan ran aground on a sandbar approximately 450 feet offshore of Superior Street. As soon as the storm passed, Captain Streeter began evaluating his situation. He and his wife were all but broke, so they decided to leave the Reutan where she sat and live on it, rent-free. This was the beginning of today’s “Streeterville” neighborhood.
Joseph Cardinal Bernardin was appointed archbishop of Chicago, succeeding John Cardinal Cody, who died amid scandals over financial misappropriations.
In 1926, a young pilot named Charles Lindberg initiated airmail service between Chicago and St. Louis.
Eulalia Pointe du Sable
The first birth on record in Chicago was of Eulalia Pointe du Sable, daughter of Jean-Baptiste Pointe du Sable (Founder and Haitian native) and his Potawatomi Indian wife, in 1796.
George M. Pullman
As an answer to Chicago’s muddy streets, George M. Pullman raised them four to seven feet. Working with two other contractors in 1857, Pullman raised an entire block of stores and office buildings on Lake Street between Clark and LaSalle. Not one pane of glass was broken in the four-day operation.
In 1844, only one year after slaughtering Chicago’s first cow, Gurdon Hubbard was the largest meatpacker in Chicago.
By this time, he was slaughtering 300 – 400 hogs every day.
Harold McCormick & Edith Rockefeller McCormick
Edith Rockefeller McCormick was the daughter of Standard Oil magnate John D. Rockefeller. Harold McCormick was the son of reaper king Cyrus McCormick. In order to revive thier failing marriage (which linked two of America’s greatest commercial dynasties), “Villa Turicum” was built in 1911. With 44 rooms on 269 acres in Lake Forest, it was a beautiful estate. It was torn down in 1956 without ever having been occupied.
Chicago’s first African American mayor, Harold Washington, took office in 1983.
James “Sheriff Jim” Brown
James Brown was a popular horse race figure in the 1890’s. Known as Sheriff Jim, because he had once served as a sheriff of Lee County, Texas, he still paraded around with a six-shooter that had 12 notches in the handle.
Joseph “Pops” Panczko retired in 1990 at the age of 72 as the dean of Chicago’s trunk poppers and lock pickers (his retirement was brought about by his release from prison after his 200th arrest). He had begun his career at age 12 by stealing coats from the cloak room at Humboldt Park Elementary School.
Chicago was the first American city to establish a juvenile court, in 1899.
Louise DeKoven Bowen (whose grandmother, incidently, had been the first child born at Fort Dearborn) was prominent in the creation of not only the juvenile court but of the Juvenile Protective Association. She also endowed a summer camp for underpriveleged children.
King Edward VII
Chicago’s first royal visitor: King Edward VII, then Prince of Wales (1860).
Len & Phil Chess
Two Polish-born brothers, Len and Phil Chess, started Aristocrat Records in Chicago in 1946.
The name was later changed to Chess Records, and it became the most important label for blues music in the world.
Mrs. Kate O’ Leary
The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 was thought to have been started when a cow owned by Mrs. Kate O’Leary kicked over a lamp in the barn.
In 1868, Illinois’ first female lawyer, Myra Bradwell, founded The Chicago Legal News. She is credited with using her paper to prod lawyers to be more honest and professional as well as initiating the drive that created the Chicago Bar Association in 1874.
Unknown to most, Michael Jordan was born in Brooklyn, New York on February 17th, 1963.
One of the first two residents of Chicago (1674) whose names history has recorded was a bootlegger. Pierre Moreau, known as “The Mole,” and a fur trader, sold liquor to local Indians.
After gangster Samuel “Nails” Morton was killed by a kicking horse on May 13, 1923, three of his enraged henchman led the guilty horse to the spot in Lincoln Park where the accident had occurred and gunned it down. Incidently, Nails Morton was a member of Dion O’Banion’s North Side bootleg operation and a Maxwell Street native. He had won a Croix de Guerre during World War I.
Before the 1993/94 season, Michael Jordan retired from basketball. Just prior to his retirement, his father had been murdered and rumors were circulating about Michael’s excessive gambling.
Robert Maynard Hutchins
In 1929 Robert Maynard Hutchins was elected president of the University of Chicago.
Only 30 years old, he was the youngest man ever to head a major American university.
Rookie of the Year
Michael Jordan, after being named Rookie of the Year, went on to lead the Bulls to three consecutive World Championships (1991, 1992, and 1993).
Saul Alinsky and Joseph Meegan
In 1939, Saul Alinsky and Joseph Meegan formed the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council, one of Chicago’s – and the nation’s – most famous community activist organizations. Ill-mannered and aggressive though he was, Alinsky got results.
Shoeless Joe Jackson
Sports writer Grantland Rice asked three ballplayers who was the greatest natural batter who had ever played. The three were Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, and Tris Speaker. Without a moment’s hesitation, each answered, “Joe Jackson.”
Unfortunately, he was implicated with seven other Chicago White Sox players for throwing the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds.
St. Francis Xavier Cabrini
In 1917, St. Francis Xavier Cabrini (namesake to the delapidated neighborhood west of the Magnificent Mile) died in Columbus Hospital after founding 70 hospitals, schools, and orphanages, and inducting over 4,000 women into her Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart.
In 1947 she was canonized, thus becoming the first American saint.
In 1971 Sylvester “Two-Gun Pete” Washington, known as the deadliest cop in Chicago history, died at the age of 65 of natural causes. In 18 years he claimed to have made 20,000 arrests and to have killed 16 men. He wore twin .357 magnums with pearl handles. In the words of a fellow policeman, Washington “was the star of his own show.”
Vina Fields was the madame of the largest brothel in Chicago in the 1890’s. In 1893, while the World’s Columbian Exposition was in full swing, she has as many as 80 young women working in her establishment.
William B. Ogden
Chicago’s first mayor was William B. Ogden. He defeated John H. Kinzie for the position in 1837.