Chicago Bears The Chicago Bears enjoy a rich history and play a big part in our city’s past, as well as that of professional football. From the Monsters of the Midway to the Superbowl Shuffle, “Da Bears” have never failed to keep Chicago’s attention.
Many believe that George S. Halas was the father and founder of professional football, but this isn’t quite true. The first recorded football game to be played was on August 31, 1895 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, before Halas’ time.
Professional football got its start in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Teams were pretty much just thrown together, their rosters consisting primarily of those who couldn’t find a job anywhere else.
To get to the real beginning of professional football (and the beginning of the Bears), one needs to go all the way back to the A.E. Staley Manufacturing Company. This corporation (a starch manufacturer) opened its doors in Decatur, Illinois in 1912. Being big sports fans, both Mr. Staley, Sr. (the owner) and his general superintendent G.E. Chamberlain decided to sponsor company athletic teams.
The “Staley Fellowship Club” started off sponsoring a baseball team in 1917. It did well in its first season, winning the Commercial League and City Championship. For the next five years, the baseball team continued its success. Because of the baseball team’s success, Staley decided to beef up his football and basketball programs. He decided that he needed some major talent to command his football team, someone who could organize the program, recruit players, as well as coach and play on the team. George Halas was chosen for the job.
Halas had his hands full; he was to learn the starch business, play on the company baseball team, plus put together the 1920 company football team, the “Decatur Staleys.” This would prove to be the very beginning of the Chicago Bears.
Halas started work in the company’s mill house on March 18, 1920, and the football team quickly flourished. Everyone able wanted to play for the Staleys, and for good reason. Each player was guaranteed a job at the company. The team was also allowed to practice up two hours a day, during company time, with pay – something unheard of in depressionwracked America.
Halas went on a recruiting spree. He handpicked his new team from college stars and players from the previous company team.
One problem he had was putting together a set schedule. Other teams were loosely thrown together and game scheduling was all but impossible.
Frustrated, Halas wrote a letter to Ralph Hay of the Canton Bulldogs, who had tried to start a league in his automobile showroom in July of 1919. Halas’ letter rekindled Hay’s interest in creating a league, and resulted in a meeting to discuss rules that threatened to kill the old league of the previous year. Eventually, a new league was born.
September 17, 1920 saw the first official meeting of the teams in Canton, Ohio. There were 11 teams total. Each team would pay a franchise fee of $100 to belong to the league (this was probably meant to show the legitimacy; no money ever changed hands).
The Decatur Staleys played their first game at Staley Field in Decatur, Illinois on October 3, 1920. 2000 fans were onhand to see the result of Halas’ recruiting efforts (and with good reason). The Staleys shut out the Moline Tractors, 200. They were off to a good start, and wound up completing the season with a record of 1021.
The Decatur Staleys went to the Western Division Championship, which was held at Cub Park (now Wrigley Field) on December 4th in front of 11,000 spectators. Even though the game ended in a tie, the Staleys took home the title (due to their record).
Unfortunately for the next year’s 1921 team, the U.S. economy was getting worse and worse. The A.E. Staley Manufacturing Company was not immune to the plight. Staley had to look deep into his operation to determine how to stay afloat, and the intramural athletic programs got the axe.
Rather than disband the team altogether, Staley offered the team franchise to Halas. He even sweetened the pot with $5,000 to cover the team expenses for the year. The Decatur Staleys would move north to Chicago where the crowd size was considerably bigger, increasing the chances of the team’s success. The only stipulation was that the team would be called the “Chicago Staleys” for their first year in Chicago. Halas accepted the offer.
After the second game of the season, and armed with a deal with the owner of Chicago’s Wrigley Field and a new partner (Edward “Dutch” Sternaman), the Chicago Staleys played the remainder of their home games in Chicago.
Halas’ recruiting handiwork paid off again in 1921. The team became the first to bring the National Pro Championship to Illinois with a record of 911. By virtue of their successful record, and the tie in the Championship Game with the Chicago Cardinals, the Staleys were the National Champs in 1921.
On January 28, 1921, the Chicago Staleys were renamed the Chicago Bears. That’s how it all began! Throughout the following decades, many historic events in football involved the Bears, including the following:
Harold “Red” Grange (the infamous “Galloping Ghost”) signed with the Bears on November 22, 1925 and professional football really got its start. His agent C.C. (Cash & Carry) Pyle negotiated a $100,000 deal, and unheard of salary at the time.
The Bears won the 1932 championship before 11,198 fans at Chicago Stadium. The franchise lost $18,000 that season and Sternaman sold his half of the club to Halas.
The 1933 season marked the beginning of the National Football League. That year the Bears beat the Giants 2321 in the NFL’s very first championship game. The Bears advanced to the NFL title game twice more in the 1930’s.
Halas left for war duties in the middle of the 1942 season, but the team continued to win. In 1943 the Bears beat Washington 4121 at Wrigley Field in the NFL title game.
Halas returned in 1946 and the Bears won the title again defeating the Giants, 2414, before a NFL record crowd of 58,346.
The Bears won their final title under Halas in 1963, beating the NY Giants, 1410, at Wrigley Field.
A new era was signaled in 1965 when the club drafted Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers in the first round of the college draft. Sayers set a NFL record with 22 touchdowns as a rookie, including six in a single game against the 49ers.
Ed McCaskey was named team’s vicepresident and treasurer in 1967, a position he held for 17 years before being named Chairman of the Board in 1983. Among his many civic contributions on behalf of the Bears was guiding the Brian Piccolo Fund from its inception in 1970 to 1987, raising millions of dollars for cancer research.
The Bears played their final season in Wrigley Field in 1970 before moving to Soldier Field (incidentally, Soldier Field had been in existence since 1924). In the same year, Halas was elected president of the NFC when the NFL and AFL merged.
In 1975, the Bears moved their training camp to Lake Forest after spending 31 years in Rensselaer, Indiana; this was also the year that Walter Payton was the club’s firstround draft choice.
After a 14year hiatus (ouch!), the Bears returned to the playoffs in 1977, winning their final six games to finish 95. The Bears again made the playoffs in 1979 under head coach Neill Armstrong.
Armstrong’s tenure ended in 1982, and he was replaced by Dallas Cowboys’ assistant Mike Ditka (“Da Coach”), who had been a Bears tight end from 196166.
The Bears returned to the NFL elite in 1984. They advanced to the NFC Championship game (losing to San Francisco) and Walter Payton broke Jim Brown’s alltime NFL rushing record. The loss in the ’84 title game set the stage for the 1985 season in which the Bears posted shutouts in the both playoff games before ripping the Patriots, 4610, in Super Bowl XX. The Bears won the NFC Central division each of the next three seasons, but could never get past the NFC title game.
The great Walter Payton’s jersey was retired following the ’87 season.
The Bears made playoff appearances in 1990 and 1991. The 1992 season was marked by the retirement of Mike Singletary, the end of the Mike Ditka era, and Kevin Butler becoming the club’s alltime scoring leader.
Dave Wannstedt was named the 11th coach in team history in 1993 and led the Bears to backtoback winning seasons in 1994 and 1995.
The uniform numbers of Dick Butkus (51) and Gale Sayers (40) were retired in 1994.
The Bears became the first franchise in NFL history to win 600 games; number 600 was a 137 win over Tampa Bay at Soldier Field (112397).
On August 1, 1998, Mike Singletary became the 24th Bear inducted into the NFL HallofFame, the most of any franchise.
Dick Jauron was hired as the 12th head coach in club history on January 24, 1999.
Sadly, on November 1, 1999, Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton died at the age of 45. The Bears named the Halas Hall indoor facility in his honor the following offseason.
The people of Chicago have been some of the most diehard fans in NFL history. Through thick and thin (though more noticeably through thick) they’ve cheered on the Bears, from basement LaZBoys, neighborhood bar stools, and icy Soldier Field bleachers in January. With their rich past (and so much more to come!) and deep Chicago roots, nothing less should be expected. Go Bears!
Chicago Black Sox The 1919 World Series is home to the most notorious scandal in baseball history. Eight players from the Chicago White Sox (who would later be nicknamed the Black Sox) were accused of throwing the series against the Cincinnati Reds.
Details of the scandal and the extent to which each man was involved have always been unclear. It was, however, frontpage news across the country and, despite being acquitted of criminal charges, the players were banned from professional baseball for life.
If anything can be said in their favor (and not much can be) the players on Charles Comiskey’s 1919 Chicago White Sox team had plenty to complain about. Together they formed the best team in baseball (some say one of the best teams that ever played the game), yet they were paid a paltry sum compared to what many players on other teams received.
Comiskey’s contributions to baseball are unquestionable, but he was very frugal when it came to salaries and also liked to rule his team with an iron fist. The White Sox owner paid two of his greatest stars (outfielder “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and third baseman Buck Weaver) only $6000 a year, despite the fact that players on other teams with half their talent were getting $10,000 or more (can you imagine that happening these days??).
For Sox pitcher Eddie Cicotte, there was another source of irritation: in the fall of 1917, when Cicotte approached a 30win season that would win him a promised $10,000 bonus, Comiskey benched the star pitcher rather than be forced to come up with the extra cash.
The players had few options in dealing with their owner. Because of baseball’s reserve clause, any player who refused to accept a contract was prohibited from playing baseball on any other professional team. Its no wonder ball players become bitter with owners.
To make matters worse, the White Sox players did not get along with each other. The team was divided into two factions; one led by second baseman Eddie Collins and the other by first baseman Chick Gandil. Collins’s faction was educated, sophisticated, and able to negotiate salaries as high as $15,000. Gandil’s less polished group, who only earned an average of $6,000, bitterly resented the difference.
In 1918, with the country disrupted by World War I, interest in baseball dropped to an alltime low. The 1919 World Series was the first national championship after the war, and baseball and the nation were eager to get back to “regular” life. Postwar enthusiasm for baseball soared. National interest in the Series was so high that baseball officials decided to make it a best of nine series, instead of the traditional best of seven.
Although gambling was intertwined with baseball long before the eight White Sox were accused of fixing the Series, the number of gamblers at ballparks had dramatically increased by 1919. Ironically, Comiskey posted signs throughout the park declaring, “No Betting Allowed In This Park.” Unfortunately for Comiskey, the signs were not enough. Player resentment was high and gamblers’ offers, which were sometimes several times a ballplayer’s salary, were too tempting to refuse.
The financial problems and general unhappiness of the White Sox players was persuasion enough to convince eight members of the team to enter into a conspiracy that would change the game of baseball forever and be remembered as the greatest scandal in the history of professional sports. They would agree to throw the World Series.
No one is sure (or at least they aren’t talking) of EXACTLY how the conspiracy started and progressed. It is generally agreed that the idea of fixing the Series apparently first sprang into the mind of Sox pitcher “Chick Gandil.” The “fix” probably began about three weeks before the end of the 1919 season. Gandil contacted an acquaintance (and professional gambler) named “Sport” Sullivan. He (Gandil) demanded $80,000 in cash for himself and whomever else he could convince to join his devious plan.
Gandil knew that the Chicago’s ace pitcher, Eddie Cicotte, had no love for Charles Comiskey. What’s more, Cicotte had money troubles. He was soon “in.”
With Cicotte on board, Gandil’s efforts to persuade other Sox players progressed quickly. After securing seven players (besides himself), Gandil met with Sport Sullivan to tell him the fix was on, provided that he (Sullivan) could come up with $80,000 for the players before the Series began. Sullivan told him that it might be difficult to get that much cash so quickly, but he promised to meet with Gandil again before the final games of the regular season.
Then things started getting complicated. Another gambler, “Sleepy” Bill Burns, had heard of a possible fix. He approached Cicotte and offered to top any offer Sullivan might make. Gandil met with Cicotte and Burns and announced that they would work a fix with Burns for an upfront $100,000. Burns and an associate, Billy Maharg, set off for New York to meet with the most prominent gambler/sportsman in America, Arnold “Big Bankroll” Rothstein. The fix would go to the highest bidder, if Rothstein would pony up that much money.
At first he didn’t. Sport Sullivan, meanwhile, continued independently to pursue his own fix plans. He ended up also going to New York and meeting with Rothstein. When Sullivan laid out his plans for the fix, Rothstein expressed an interest in the scheme that he had initially wanted no part of. Rothstein decided to send a partner of his (Nat Evans) back to Chicago with Sullivan to meet with the players.
On September 29, the day before the Sox were to leave for Cincinnati to begin the Series, Sullivan and Evans met with the players. Evans listened to the players’ demand for $80,000 in advance, then told them he would talk to his “associates” and get back to them. When Evans reported back, Rothstein agreed to give him $40,000 to pass on to Sullivan, who would presumably distribute the cash to the players. The other $40,000, Rothstein said, would be held in a safe in Chicago, to be paid to the players if the Series went as planned. Rothstein then got busy, laying at least $270,000 on the Reds to win the Series.
With forty $1,000 bills in his pocket, Sullivan decided to bet nearly $30,000 on the Reds instead of giving it to the players; he thought they could get the money later. Odds were dropping quickly on the onceheavy underdog Reds team, and the best Sullivan could do was get even money. After his heavy betting, Sullivan passed the remaining $10,000 to Gandil, who put the money under the pillow of the starting pitcher, Eddie Cicotte, for game one of the Series.
The players were not happy at receiving only $10,000 from Sullivan, and seven of them (only “Shoeless” Joe Jackson was absent) met on the day before the Series opener. The players decided to throw the first two games, but also demanded the money they’d originally bargained for.
Opening Day of the series was a sellout. The game stood 1 to 1 with one out in the fourth, when the Red’s Pat Duncan lined a hanging curve to right for a single. Things went downhill from there for the Sox. The game ended with the Reds winning 9 to 1. Meeting later that night with Charles Comiskey, Sox manager Kid Gleason was asked whether he thought his team was throwing the Series. Gleason said (truthfully) that he thought something was wrong, but didn’t know for certain.
As in game one, the fourth inning turned out to be crucial in game two as well. Lefty Williams, renowned for his control, walked three Cincinnati batters, all of whom scored. Cincinnati won 4 2.
Before game three in Chicago, Burns asked Gandil what the players were planning. Gandil lied. He told Burns they were going to throw the game, when in fact they hadn’t yet decided what to do (remember, they hadn’t received the cash they’d originally been promised). Gandil and the rest of players in on the fix were angry at so far receiving only a fraction of their promised payoff. He saw no reason to do Burns any favors. Burns and Maharg, on Gandil’s word, bet a bundle on the Reds to win game three. The Sox won the game, 3 to 0, with Gandil driving in two of his team’s runs. His message was clear.
Gandil told Sullivan that he needed $20,000 before game four, or the fix was over. Sullivan made the deadline, but just barely. The Reds broke a scoreless tie in the fifth when pitcher Eddie Cicotte managed to make two fielding errors. After the 20 game, Gandil passed out $5000 each to Risberg, Felsch, Williams, and Jackson. He gave nothing to Weaver. It was clear by this time that the Sox third baseman was not participating in the conspiracy. Weaver had been playing well.
When gamblers failed to produce the promised additional $20,000 after the loss in game five, the Sox players decided they’d had enough. It would be the old Sox again, the Sox that had won the American League pennant. They took game six, then won again in game seven. With a win in game eight, the bestofnine Series would be tied.
Rothstein told Sullivan, in no uncertain terms, that he did NOT want the Series to go to nine games. Sullivan in turn contacted a Chicago thug known as “Harry F.” Sullivan told “Harry” to pay a visit to the starting Sox pitcher in game eight, Lefty Williams, and make sure that the game was to be thrown, in the first inning. At 7:30 on the evening before the game, Williams was greeted by Harry F. when he and his wife were returning home from dinner. The man asked to have a word with Williams in private. He did.
Williams threw only fifteen pitches in the eighth and final game before being taken out, allowing four hits and three runs. Cincinnati went on to win the game 10 – 5. They’d won the Series.
Talk of a possible fix in the 1919 Series was everywhere, and continued through the fall and into the winter months of the 1920 season. In July, Sox manager Kid Gleason’s suspicions of a fix were confirmed by a friend “on the inside.” Gleason went to the press with the story, but was unable to convince anyone (because of fear of libel suits) to print it.
Exposure of the Series fix finally broke just as the Sox were in a close fight for the 1920 American League pennant. Reports of another fix (this one involving a CubsPhillies game on August 31) led to the convening of the Grand Jury of Cook County. Assistant State Attorney Hartley Replogle sent out dozens of subpoenas to baseball personalities. One of those called to testify was New York Giants pitcher Rube Benton. Benton told the grand jury that he saw a telegram sent in late September to a Giants teammate from Sleepy Burns, stating that the Sox would lose the 1919 Series (apparently the fix wasn’t much of a secret among ballplayers).
News of Benton’s revelations was leaked to Cicotte within hours of his testimony. A couple of days later, the Philadelphia North American ran an interview with gambler Billy Maharg, providing the public for the first time with many of the shocking details of the scandal. Cicotte quickly spilled the beans, saying that he regretted his participation.
Within hours, the other Sox players learned that Cicotte had talked. Who would be next? It was Joe Jackson that turned up, obviously after a bender, in the chambers of presiding judge Charles McDonald. Two hours after he began testifying, Jackson walked out of the jury room, telling two bailiffs, “I got a big load off my chest!”
When the grand jury finally concluded its investigation, indictments were handed down against the eight White Sox players, as well as Joe Sullivan and several of Arnold Rothstein’s henchmen. Rothstein, who allegedly made $270,000 on the 1919 Series, was not indicted by the grand jury (he moved on to bootlegging, drug dealing, and labor racketeering). Eventually he was murdered by a rival gambler. The indicted players, however, faced a trial.
The trial of the accused White Sox players (who had been suspended for the remainder of the 1920 season) began in June of 1921. The grand jury records, however, including the confessions of Jackson, Cicotte, and Williams, were reported missing (they turned up four years later in the hands of Comiskey’s lawyer, George Hudnall, who never explained their reappearance). After a month of hearing testimony, it took the jury just two hours and fortyseven minutes to acquit all defendants; lack of evidence and the missing confessions resulted in a notguilty verdict. In the end, the trial did not answer many questions. The facts (never clearcut to begin with) continued to be manipulated, distorted, and subject to outright lies.
After the 1920 season, not to mention the trial, there was a general fear among the owners that baseball might not bounce back from the gambling scandal. They decided to clean up their act. The threeman national baseball commission was replaced by a single, independent commissioner with dictatorial power over baseball. Federal Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis was appointed commissioner, and he acted quickly to restore the public’s faith in baseball. Immediately after they were acquitted of criminal charges, Landis banned all eight players from the game.
He stated, “regardless of the verdict of the juries, no player who throws a ball game, no player who undertakes or promises to throw a ball game, no player who sits in confidence with a bunch of crooked players and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball.”
Landis was true to his word. Despite the best efforts of some of the players (especially Buck Weaver) to gain reinstatement, none of the eight players (now known as the Chicago “Black Sox”) would ever again play major league baseball. However, though they were banned from professional ball, several of the Black Sox were unwilling to entirely give up on the sport they loved. While some of the players distanced themselves from baseball, Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte, and Swede Risberg continued to play the game in outlaw leagues or semiprofessional teams.
Thus is the story of the Chicago Black Sox, the most notorious scandal in the history of professional sports.
St. Valentine’s Day Massacre One February evening on Chicago’s north side, seven welldressed men were found riddled with bullets inside a garage located at 2122 N. Clark Street. They had been lined up against a wall, with their backs to their executioners, and shot to death. With the exception of Dr. Reinhardt H. Schwimmer, these men were mobsters working under the leadership of gangster and bootlegger “Bugs” Moran. Within a few seconds these seven men had become a sordid piece of Chicago’s history: the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.
The building was named the S.M.C. Cartage Company Garage, a red, brick structure. A group of men had gathered there that morning, a meeting set up by a Detroit gangster who told Bugs Moran that a truck full of hijacked whiskey was on its way to Chicago.
One of the men was Johnny May, an exsafecracker who had been hired by George “Bugs” Moran as an auto mechanic. He was working on another truck that morning, with his dog tied to the bumper, while six other men waited for the truck of whiskey to arrive. The men were Frank and Pete Gusenberg, and James Clark (Moran’s brotherinlaw) was also there. So were Adam Heyer and Al Weinshank; and Dr. Reinhardt Schwimmer, a young optometrist who had befriended Moran and hung around the liquor warehouse for the thrill of rubbing shoulders with gangsters.
Bugs Moran was late for the morning meeting. While the seven men waited inside of the warehouse, they had no idea that a police car had pulled up outside, or that Moran had spotted the car and had quickly taken cover. According to eyewitnesses, four men got out of the police car, two of them in uniforms and two in civilian clothing. They entered the building and a few moments later the clatter of machinegun fire broke out. Then four figures emerged and drove away. May’s dog, still tied to the bumper of the truck, was barking and howling; when neighbors arrived to see what was going on they discovered the bloody scene.
Moran’s men had been lined up against the rear wall of the garage and gunneddown. All seven eventually died, but the main target (Bugs Moran) had been missed; he’d figured the arrival of the police car to be some sort of shakedown and had hung back. Being late never paidoff so well! When the machinegunning began, Moran fled.
When the bodies were discovered in a bleeding heap on the floor of the garage, it seemed that no one could have survived the attack. However, this proved to be untrue. One investigator on the scene found Frank Gusenberg lying unconscious amongst the bloody corpses, breathing heavily and choking on his own blood. He was immediately taken to the hospital, where investigators waited for their only possible lead to wake up and reveal who was responsible for the murders. Their greatest fear was that he would die before they had the opportunity to question him. Eventually he did wake. However, when he was asked for the identity of the killer, he simply stated “I’m not gonna talk,” and died. Without Frank Gusenberg’s testimony and with only a few eyewitnesses outside the garage, the investigators had to return to the scene of the crime and try to piece the murder together with what little information they had.
Surprisingly, while Moran quickly targeted Capone as ordering the hit, the authorities weren’t so sure. Investigators on the scene found the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre to be somewhat puzzling. The victims were mobsters, with an endless supply of weapons and a wellknown capability for brutality. Why would they turn their backs and face the wall without putting up a fight? That was one of many questions to be answered, and would prove to be a key clue in explaining the murders.
Another question came about after an eyewitness gave her account of what happened on that night in 1929. She lived directly across the street and had a perfect view of the garage. She claimed to have seen two uniformed policemen exit the garage while escorting two plain clothed men who held their hands up in the air, as if they were under arrest. Of course, this had comforted the shaken woman, thinking that the loud gunfire that she had just heard had been resolved and the parties responsible were being taken into custody. However, the Chicago police had no record of any such activity at 2122 Clark Street until they arrived on the scene to find the horrifying blood bath.
After a reenactment of the crime, authorities concluded that the two men dressed as policemen entered the garage and acted as if they were police on a common investigation. The Moran outfit automatically assumed that they were policemen on a routine sting. It was obvious that they didn’t suspect that the two “policemen” were killers or they certainly would have never been killed without a fight. But as it was, the mobsters seemed to have cooperated with the costumed officers and consequently let the fake policemen disarm them and force them up against the wall. As soon as their backs were turned, they were shot down.
Therefore, the eyewitnesses were somewhat accurate when they claimed to have seen two policemen arresting two men. What they had actually seen was four brutal murderers making their cleverlyplanned getaway. If a neighbor or neighbors looked out after such rapid and explosive gunfire, what better way to calm their nerves than by letting them think that everything was under control? The mysterious killers drove away, long before anyone thought to call the police; the neighbors saw from their windows that the police were already there.
Capone had been in Florida at the time of the massacre and upon hearing the news he publicly stated, “The only man who kills like that is Bugs Moran.” At the same time, Moran was proclaiming, “Only Capone kills guys like that.”
Al Capone was never arrested for the crimes, nor were the mysterious gunmen ever identified. Instead, he was blandly indicted for tax evasion some years later and spent seven years in prison, only to be released to retire in Florida where he died from syphilis in 1947. No one will probably ever know who the actual shooters were, but one of them was probably Machine Gun McGurn, one of Capone’s most trusted men.
Moran, of course, was right Capone had been behind the killings. Some would argue that the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre is not noteworthy as a gangland murder (these syndicate ‘hits’ were common throughout the 1920s, especially in Chicago). Some believe that these murders are so special because of the effect they had on the general public, and the outrage that followed emphatically demanded that something had to be done. Ironically, it is possible that the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre marks the beginning of the end for Al Capone and his empire. He’d gone too far, authorities were outraged, and even his interested (if not allout adoring) public had lost their attraction to him and his mystique. Capone had finally overstepped his bounds, and had mortally wounded not only Bugs Moran’s gang but his own as well, if indirectly.
In 1967 the famous garage that was home to the massacre was demolished. However, the bricks from the bulletmarked rear wall were purchased and saved by a Canadian businessman. In 1972 he opened a nightclub with a Roaring 20’s theme and rebuilt the bulletridden wall as an attraction. The club continued to operate for a few years and when it closed, the owner placed the bricks into storage. He then offered them for sale with a written account of the massacre. He sold the bricks for $1000 each, but soon found that he was getting back as many as he sold. It seemed that anyone who bought one of the bricks was suddenly stricken with bad luck.
According to the stories, the bricks themselves had somehow been infested with the negative energy of the massacre. Whatever the legend of the bricks themselves, and whether or not they have been “haunted” by what happened, there is little doubt about the site on Clark Street itself. Even today, people walking along the street at night have reported the sounds of screams and machine guns. Those who are accompanied by dogs report their share of strangeness too. Animals appear to be especially bothered by this piece of lawn, sometimes barking and howling, sometimes whining in fear.
The building itself is longgone, but the area is marked as a fencedoff lawn that belongs to the nearby nursing home. Five trees are scattered along the lawn in a line, the one in the middle marking the location where the rear wall once stood. Visit the spot yourself – you might just hear the events of that Valentine’s Day so many years ago!
The Civic Opera Building The Civic Opera Building
The worldrenowned Lyric Opera of Chicago performs in one of North America’s finest opera houses, the Civic Opera Building. The opera house was a vision of Samuel Insull (18591938), a local billionaire known as “the Prince of Electricity.” Insull, the president of the Chicago Civic Opera Association, wanted to erect a new opera house to replace the Auditorium Building on South Michigan Avenue as the home of the Chicago Civic Opera – one that would be housed in and supported by a commercial office building. He also demanded five requisites for the new opera house: safety, excellent sight lines, comfortable seating, gracious surroundings, and worldclass acoustics.
The Civic Opera Building is a limestone skyscraper with a 45story office tower and two 22story wings. The mixeduse structure houses both a 3,563seat auditorium and more than half a million square feet of office and retail space. Its architecture clearly expresses its joint role as a civic monument to culture and commerce. The Civic Opera Building faces the Chicago River between Washington and Madison streets, and was completed after just 22 months of planning and construction. It is built in the shape of a massive throne, facing west. It is reputed that Insull had instructed the designers to do this so he could turn his back not only on City Hall (who had all but stolen his electricity utility, bungling it in the process), but New York and the “big business” it signified. Some even say that Insull had promised to return to his building as a ghost and take his seat on the throne.
The building is a combination of Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles. Inspired by the Paris Opera House, comedytragedy masks and a cornucopia of instruments decorate the entrances. The design team Insull chose (Chicago’s architectural firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst & White) wanted the Civic Opera Building to symbolize “the spirit of a community which is still youthful and not much hampered by traditions.” The firm was already wellknown for designing the Field Museum, the Wrigley Building, and the Continental Illinois Bank Building on South LaSalle Street. It later went on to design the Merchandise Mart Building in the 1930s.
From its opening on Nov. 4, 1929 (just six days after the stockmarket crash) until the Lyric Opera of Chicago was founded in 1954 (as Lyric Theatre), the Civic Opera Building was home to quite a few: the Chicago Civic Opera, Chicago Grand Opera Company, Chicago City Opera Company, and Chicago Opera Company. The adjoining Civic Theatre, at the north end of the blocklong building, was used to present plays (including the premiere of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie), dance performances, and films; for a while it even served as a television studio.
A $100million renovation of the backstage area began in 1993, and continued through 1996. During the renovation, all 3,563 seats and carpeting were removed from the auditorium, and 20,000 square feet of scaffolding went up (seven stories high!) to allow cleaning and painting of the auditorium. The theater had never been fully repainted since it opened in 1929. During the summer of 1996 more than 30 artisans from around the country worked in the Civic Opera Building six days a week, 10 hours a day, applying 2,000 gallons of gold paint to the elegant ornamentation of the auditorium, Rice Grand Foyer, and all lobbies.
6,000 square yards of new deepred carpeting were installed in the theater and lobbies and a mainstage curtain was added. The curtain is made of 580 yards of heavyweight wool velour and silk fringe to replicate the 1929 original. Each side of the curtain weighs approximately 500 pounds, and has an area of 64 x 45 feet. Backstage, a 40foothigh, 40,000pound soundproof door was installed to acoustically separate the scenery handling area from the mainstage. Thirtytwo miles of new rope and cable were installed to update the scenery rigging system. Additionally, 170 miles of electrical wiring and 38 miles of electrical conduit were installed throughout the Civic Opera Building. These renovations have reestablished the Civic Opera Building as one of the finest structures in Chicago.
The Eastland Disaster A dark chapter of Chicago’s history opened on the morning of July 24, 1915. The Eastland, a lake passengersteamer, cast off from the Chicago River Dock at the Clark Street Bridge with 2,572 passengers on board. The ship immediately listed away from the dock, righted itself momentarily, and slowly rolled over on her side to settle on the river bottom. It would prove to be one of the worst tragedies of the 20th century.
The Eastland was commissioned as a passenger ship that would travel a 77mile route on Lake Michigan between Chicago, Illinois and South Haven, Michigan. At the time, this was a popular travel route for businessmen dealing in produce as well as for tourists who enjoyed cruising on the lake. The Eastland also made runs in Lake Erie between Sandusky and Toledo, Ohio. The ship changed owners a couple of times and was eventually bought by the St. JosephChicago Steamship Company in June of 1914, at which time it returned to its original route between Chicago and cities in northern Indiana and southwestern Michigan.
The Eastland’s construction was of steel and was suited for the ocean, much like that of other Great Lakes passenger ships of the period. The ship was four decks high, had a length of 269 feet, and a beam (width) of 36 feet. The Eastland was deliberately built to be narrow to enable it to travel through the water at higher speeds, and was able to reach speeds slightly over 22 miles an hour which earning it the nickname “Speed Queen of the Lakes.”
During its first year on the Great Lakes, the Eastland experienced periodic problems with stability while loading and unloading cargo and passengers. One incident occurred in the summer of 1904 while the Eastland was heading towards Chicago after having left South Haven with approximately 2500 passengers aboard. After the ship had traveled about 1.5 miles into Lake Michigan, it inexplicably began listing (leaning) to the starboard (right) side. The list reached 20 to 25 degrees. After relocating the passengers (whose concentration on the starboard side of the ship had likely contributed to the listing problem) and changing the balance by adding water to the ship’s port (left) ballast tanks, the list soon corrected. This incident created a rumor that the Eastland was unstable and unsafe. A similar incident occurred in 1906, again apparently caused by a concentration of passengers on one side of the ship. It is important to note, though, that, other than a few minor incidents such as these, the ship’s safety record was consistently satisfactory. To prove the ship safe, the Eastland Navigation Company (the ship’s owner from 19091914) placed a halfpage newspaper advertisement in the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Cleveland Leader on August 9, 1910. The ad read “. . .there are thousands of people who know absolutely nothing about boats, the rules and regulations for their running, and inspection and licensing of the same by the U. S. Government. In the hope of influencing this class of people there have been but into circulations stories to the effect that the Steamer Eastland is not safe.” The ad also offered a five thousand dollar reward to anyone who could “bring forth a naval engineer, a marine architect, a shipbuilder, or any one qualified to pass on the merits of a ship who will say that the Steamer Eastland is not a seaworthy ship, or that she would not ride out any storm or weather any condition that can arise on either lake or ocean.” No one ever came forward to claim the reward, and no more problems with the Eastland were reported thereafter.
In the beginning of the 1915 season, the Eastland passed its federal inspection, despite several new alterations that most likely made the ship even more topheavy, and therefore unstable, than it had previously been. Nevertheless, following another federal inspection on July 4, 1915, the Eastland’s official licensed passenger capacity was raised from 2,183 to 2,500.
Saturday, July 24, 1915 was the day of the annual company picnic for the employees of the Western Electric Company. Seven thousand tickets were distributed to company workers and their families living in the Chicagoland area. The tickets were seventyfive cents each and children were to be admitted at no cost. The day’s cruise was to take passengers to Michigan City, Indiana, a city of beautiful shoreline beaches. It is still a popular resort area today.
That Saturday morning, the Eastland was moored on the south side of the Chicago River in downtown Chicago, near the Clark Street bridge. The Theodore Roosevelt, the Petoskey, the Maywood, the Racine, and the Rochester were other ships chartered for the picnic and moored near the Eastland. Specific ship assignments had not been made for the employees. So, because the Eastland and the Theodore Roosevelt were the newest and most elegant, they were the most popular to the picnicking Western Electric employees. Also, these two ships were scheduled as the first to depart, leaving little doubt that both would be filled to their capacities.
Preparations began for loading at 6:30 a.m., and the Eastland was scheduled to depart at 7:30. 5000 people had already arrived and were waiting to board. Because the company picnic was an important social event, a great many of the employees in attendance were young, single adults in their late teens or early 20s. At 6:40, passengers began boarding the ship. At 6:41 a.m., the ship began to list to starboard (towards the dock), but this was not unusual as it was due to a concentration of boarding passengers who had not yet dispersed throughout the ship and were lingering on the starboard side. But, as the list hindered the continuation of loading slightly, the Eastland’s Chief Engineer, Joseph Erickson, ordered the port ballast tanks to be filled enough to help steady the ship. By 6:51, the ship evened out.
At 6:53, the ship began to list again, this time to port. When the list reached 10 degrees, the Chief Engineer ordered the starboard ballast tanks to be partially filled. The list was straightened temporarily, but began to again list to port. Within the next few minutes, the ship straightened again, but the port list resumed at 7:20, at which time water began coming into the ship through openings on the lower port side. Even so, no great panic occurred among the passengers. In fact, some began to make fun of the manner in which the ship was swaying and leaning.
By 7:28, the list had reached 45 degrees, and many of the crew began to realize the seriousness of the situation. Many more passengers were now on the port side of the ship, as they had gone there to view a passing Chicago fireboat that had sounded its whistle while passing. As the furnishings and appliances on the boat fell over with loud crashes and slid across the decks, the passengers began to panic. Many passengers began to crawl out of gangways or other openings on the starboard side as the Eastland gently continued to list to port until it finally settled on its port side at 7:30.
Some fortunate passengers found themselves standing on the starboard hull of the Eastland, or trying to stay afloat in the currents of the river. Others were trapped within or under the Eastland. One eyewitness described the scene:
“I shall never be able to forget what I saw. People were struggling in the water, clustered so thickly that they literally covered the surface of the river. A few were swimming; the rest were floundering about, some clinging to a life raft that had floated free, others clutching at anything that they could reach at bits of wood, at each other, grabbing each other, pulling each other down, and screaming! The screaming was the most horrible of all.”
Other boats in the area and people nearby began helping with rescue operations immediately. Some onlookers dove into the river or jumped onto the boat to help those who were struggling while others threw wooden planks and crates into the water to help people stay afloat. The crews of other ships were pulling people out of the water, dead and alive. By 8 a.m., all survivors had supposedly been pulled out of the river. Ashes from the fireboxes of nearby tugboats were spread over the starboard hull of the Eastland so rescue workers would not slip on the wet and slick surface as they cut holes in the side of the hull to pull out survivors as well as dead. The screams coming from those inside the ship were disturbing for onlookers. By the time the holes were cut in the hull, many who had been alive at the time the ship rolled had since drowned. A great effort was expended to remove the dead from inside the ship as divers had to go underwater within the hull to retrieve bodies.
A major problem occurring immediately after the disaster was the vast amount of bodies that needed to be laid out in order to be identified. As the Western Electric employees were not assigned to ships, no passenger lists existed and none were written as the ship was boarded. By Saturday afternoon, the Second Regiment Armory on Washington Boulevard had been established as the central morgue. The bodies were set together in rows and around midnight on the 24th, those who believed their relatives might have perished were admitted to begin identifying. Identification took a few days since some entire families were wiped out in the disaster and no one was left in the immediate area to assist in identification.
The total death toll was 844 people. Eight hundred and forty one were passengers, two were from the crew, and one was a crewmember of the Petoskey who died in the rescue effort. Although the Titanic, which sank three years before in 1912, had a higher total death toll of 1,523, the Titanic actually had a lower death toll of passengers than the Eastland, as crew deaths from the Titanic totaled 694.
Salvaging the ship itself was not an easy task. While raising the ship, difficulties were encountered in getting it to float as so much water needed to be pumped out of the hulk. The ship was finally again afloat on August 14.
The Illinois Naval Reserve acquired the Eastland four years later, after several modifications that enabled the ship to serve safely as a training vessel. Renamed the U. S. S. Wilmette, it served for several years until it was decommissioned in 1945. The Wilmette was then sold for scrap, and by early 1947 was completely disassembled for parts and metal.
The Fort Dearborn Massacre
The Fort Dearborn Massacre
Fort Dearborn was constructed in 1803. The War Department needed a fort at the mouth of the Chicago River; what is now Chicago was growing rapidly, and a legitimate outpost was in order. Troops arrived in the area on August 17th and began building shelters and a stockade. A year later, Fort Dearborn (named in honor of the Secretary of War) was completed.
For some years the garrison was peaceful and traders flourished. However, the outbreak of the War of 1812 with Great Britain moved the government to order the evacuation of the fort. The threatening attitude of local Potawatomi and Wynadot Indians led the entire population of the settlement around Fort Dearborn to take part in the evacuation. After leaving the fort, the evacuees were attacked; many settlers were slaughtered, and the fort was destroyed.
Fort Dearborn was rebuilt in 1816, and was occupied by United States troops for twentyone years. In 1837 it was once again abandoned, but stood until 1856. The history that can be pieced together is as follows:
The original Fort Dearborn was a simple stockade of logs that were sharpened, placed on end, and planted into the ground; basically what you think of when you think “fort.” The outer stockade was a solid wall with a gated entrance, and legend has it that there was even a secret underground entrance that led beneath the north wall to the river. Inside the fort were a parade ground, officers’ quarters, troop barracks, a guardhouse, and an ammunition magazine.
In 1804, a man named John Kinzie settled in the region and bought out the property of Jean Lalime (who had himself bought it from John Baptiste Pointe DuSable, Chicago’s founder). Kinzie quickly assumed the role of the civilian leader of the area, trading and dealing with the local Indian population. He encouraged close ties with the Potawatomi, which created tension with some of the local white settlers. Kinzie would figure prominently in the events that were to come.
In 1810, Captain Whistler was replaced by Captain Nathan Heald, who brought with him Lieutenant Linus T. Helm. Both were strong soldiers with experience on the frontier. Helm soon married the stepdaughter of John Kinzie. In addition to she and Heald’s wife, there were now other women at the fort, all wives of the men stationed there. Within two years, there were 12 women and 20 children at Fort Dearborn. The settlement around Fort Dearborn was beginning to boom.
The effects of the War of 1812 had brought many Indians into alliance with the British. They (correctly) saw Americans as the invaders of their lands. After the British captured the American garrison at Mackinac (an island at the very tip of Lake Michigan), Fort Dearborn was in great danger. Orders came from General William Hull that Heald should abandon the fort and leave its contents to the local Indians.
Unfortunately, Heald delayed in carrying out the evacuation, and soon the American troops had no good way to leave. The local Potawatomi and Wynadot arrived in numbers, gathering around the fort. It quickly became obvious to Captain Heald that he was going to have to bargain with them if the occupants of Fort Dearborn were going to safely reach Fort Wayne.
On August 12, Heald left the fort and held council with the Indians gathered outside. By this time, it was estimated that 500 Indians were encamped at the fort. Heald proposed to the chiefs that he would distribute to them the stores and ammunition in the fort, in exchange for safe conduct to Fort Wayne. This was agreed upon, and conditions were set to abandon the stockade.
Unfortunately, Heald was met with alarmed soldiers upon his return to the fort. They questioned the distribution of guns and ammunition that could easily be used against them. Heald reluctantly agreed, and the extra weapons and ammunition were destroyed, and their remnants dumped into an abandoned well. In addition, the stores of whiskey were dumped into the river. The Potawatomi and Wynadot observed this, and they too began making plans that differed from those agreed upon with Captain Heald.
On August 14, Captain William Wells arrived at Fort Dearborn. He and 30 Miami warriors had managed to get through the throng outside. Wells was a frontier legend among early soldiers and settlers in the Illinois territory. Captured by Indians as a child, he was adopted into the family of Little Turtle, the famous war chief of the Miami. Later, Wells served as a scout under General “Mad Anthony” Wayne and was currently serving as an Indian agent at Fort Wayne. Also, he was also the uncle of Captain Heald’s wife, and after hearing of the evacuation of Fort Dearborn (and knowing the hostile fervor of the local tribes) he’d made his way to the fort to assist in the evacuation.
Late on the evening of the 14th, another council was held between Heald, Wells, and the Indians. Heald was told that, despite the anger over the destruction of the ammunition and whiskey, the garrison would still be conducted safely to Fort Wayne. In return, Heald was told that he had to abandon the fort immediately. By this time, Heald had more than just his men and their families to think of. John Kinzie and the other local settlers had also come to the fort for protection. Heald agreed without an argument.
Throughout the night, wagons were loaded and reserve ammunition was distributed, amounting to about 25 rounds per man. Early the next morning, the procession of soldiers, civilians, women, and children left Fort Dearborn. The infantry soldiers led the way, followed by a caravan of wagons and mounted men. The rear of the column was guarded by a portion of the Miami who had accompanied Wells. They, along with Wells himself, did not believe the promises made by the Potawatomi and Wynadot, and they had their faces painted for war.
The column of soldiers and settlers was escorted by nearly 500 Potawatomi Indians. As they marched southward into a low range of dunes separating the beaches of Lake Michigan from the prairie, the Potawatomi moved silently to the right, placing a dune between themselves and the evacuees. The act was carried out with such stealth that it went virtually unnoticed. A little further down the beach, the dune ended and the two groups would come together again.
The column traveled to what is now 16th Street and Indiana Avenue. There was a sudden milling about of the scouts at the front of the line, and suddenly a shout came up from Captain Wells: the Indians were attacking. A line of Potawatomi appeared over the dune and fired down at the column of settlers and soldiers. The officers managed to rally the men into a battle line, but it was of little use. Too many were injured in the early moments of the attack, and the line collapsed. The Potawatomi overwhelmed the evacuating soldiers and settlers, flanking the line and snatching the wagons and horses.
What followed was savage. Officers were slain with tomahawks. The fort’s surgeon was cut down by gunfire and then literally chopped into pieces. Mrs. Heald was wounded by gunfire, but was luckily spared when captured by a sympathetic Potawatomi Chief. The wife of another soldier was not as lucky; she’d fought intensely and was hacked into pieces because of it. Nearly everyone who fell had his or her head chopped off.
John Kinzie’s niece survived, though she’d been wounded by a tomahawk. Eventually she was spirited away by a Potawatomi named Black Partridge, a childhood friend. In the end, cut down to less than half their original number, the garrison surrendered under another promise of safe conduct. In all, 148 members of the column were killed; 86 of them adults and 12 of them children.
Captain Wells had been captured early in the fighting, but he managed to escape from his captors. Taking a horse, he rode into the Potawatomi camp in a blind fury. The barrage of bullets fired at him missed their mark, but his horse was brought down and he was captured again. Two Chiefs interceded to save his life, but Pesotum, another Chief, stabbed Wells in the back and killed him. His heart was then cut out and distributed to the other warriors as a token of bravery. The next day, a halfbreed Wynadot named Billy Caldwell gathered the remains of Wells’ mutilated body and buried it in the sand. Wells Street now bears his name.
Captain Heald was wounded twice in the battle; Mrs. Heald was wounded seven times. They were later released and a St. Joseph Indian named Chaudonaire took them to Mackinac, where they were turned over to the British commander there. He sent them on to Detroit where they were turned over to the American authorities.
John Kinzie and his family were also miraculously spared. His friendship with the Potawatomi led to their deliverance from the massacre. He returned to Chicago a year later, but found much had changed by then. He failed to get his business going again, and took a position with the American Fur Company, who had once been his largest competitor.
In time, the Illinois fur trade came to an end and Kinzie worked as a trader and Indian interpreter until his death in 1828. At that point, thanks to revisionist history books written by his descendants, Kinzie was almost enshrined as a founder of Chicago. Through the 1800’s, history overlooked his questionable business practices, like selling liquor to the Indians and even the reputed murder of a business rival. It would not be until much later that Kinzie’s role in Chicago history would even be questioned.
Other survivors were taken as prisoners. Some died soon after, while others were sold to the British as slaves. The British who quickly freed them, appalled by the carnage they had experienced. Fort Dearborn itself was burned to the ground by the victorious Indians and the bodies of the victims were left where they had fallen, scattered to decay in the dunes of Lake Michigan.
When replacement troops arrived at the site of Fort Dearborn a year later, they were greeted with not only the burnedout shell of the fort, but the grinning skeletons of their predecessors and the luckless settlers. The bodies were given proper burials and the fort was rebuilt in 1816. The troops left for the last time in 1836, when the city was able to fend for itself.
As for the Indians, the Potawatomi soon began denying any responsibility for the massacre, passing the blame to the Winnebago Indians. The price for the massacre would be high for those who had existed peacefully with the white settlers before the war. Memories of the slaughter led to the removal of the Indians from the region, and by 1833 their forced removal from Chicago was complete.
The Massacre site can be visited today, although it (of course) looks nothing like it did at the time of the event. Only a small metal plaque remains to mark the spot of the slaughter. It is posted at the corner of 18th and Prairie Avenue.
The Great Chicago Fire The Great Chicago Fire
Besides the fact that the Great Chicago Fire started around 9 o’clock on Sunday evening, October 8, 1871, somewhere in or very near the O’Leary barn, the exact particulars of its origins are unknown.
But, given the dry summer and the careless way the city had been built and managed, a kick from a cow would have been all it took to burn Chicago down.
As A.T. Andreas, the city’s leading nineteenthcentury historian, put it, “Nature had withheld her accustomed measure of prevention, and man had added to the peril by recklessness.”
Chicago averaged about two fires a day the previous year, including twenty in the preceding week. The largest of these occurred just on Saturday night, the day before.
Firemen still might have been able to contain the Sunday blaze but for a series of technological and human failures in the alarm system.
The fire, driven by a strong wind out of the southwest, headed straight for the center of the city. It divided unpredictably into separate parts by hurling out flaming brands on the superheated draft it generated, leaping the South Branch of the Chicago River around midnight.
By 1:30 it reached the Courthouse Tower, from which the watchman barely escaped through the burning stairway by sliding down the banisters. When city officials realized that the building was itself doomed, they released the prisoners from the basement just before the great bell plummeted through the collapsing tower.
As thousands fled to the city’s north side, the fire pursued them. By 3 a.m. it had consumed the Rumsey homes on Huron Street, and a halfhour later the roof collapsed on the pumping station, effectively rendering any firefighting efforts useless.
Back in the South Division, the luxurious new Palmer House gave way, along with the offices of the Chicago Tribune, whose editors throughout the summer and fall had exhorted the Common Council to raise the level of fire protection if they wished to avoid just this sort of disaster.
One of the last South Division structures to fall was Terrace Row. By noon on Monday the North Division fires had reached North Avenue. They advanced the better part of a mile to Fullerton Avenue, then the northern limit of the city.
Tuesday morning a saving rain began to fall and the flames finally died out, leaving Chicago a smoking, steaming ruin.
As the fire spread out of control, the mood of the population shifted from interest and concern to alarm and panic. Many heard the Courthouse bell and saw the red and amber flames in the distance but thought little of what was by this time a commonplace occurrence.
Individuals who worked in downtown buildings that were supposed to be “fireproof,” like the one that housed the Tribune, or simply people understandably fascinated with the spectacle, rushed to positions from which they could watch its progress.
Before long, however, they realized that there was no place of guaranteed safety. Fascinated as well as fearful, people alternately tried to get the best view and flee for their lives with what little they could salvage, creating havoc in the streets and wild crowding on the bridges crossing the river.
Husbands and wives, parents and children, were separated. It seemed as if the ground was itself on fire which in fact it was, since the streets, sidewalks, and bridges were made of wood.
Even the river seemed vulnerable, as several vessels and grease along the water’s surface ignited.
Later there were reports of Chicagoans trapped or crushed in their homes, on one of the bridges, or in the Washington and LaSalle Street tunnels, the latter of which had just opened in early July. Along with the stories of narrow escapes, heroic rescues, and selfless mutual assistance, there were also tales (no doubt exaggerated but with some basis in fact) of looting and drunkenness, as well as of outrageous demands and outright thievery by those with wagons who had been hired to cart goods to safety.
“‘Pay as you go’ had become the watchword of the hour,” observed one of the refugees dryly. “Never was there a community so hastily and completely emancipated from the evils of the credit system.”
The burnedout gathered in dazed and dispirited groups on open stretches of prairie west and northwest of the central city, in the South Division along Lake Michigan, in the North Division at the south end of Lincoln Park, and along “the Sands,” a patch of lakeshore just north of the river.
Here Chicagoans who heretofore had little contact with each other were unceremoniously forced together. As a fire history put it, one could find “Mr. McCormick, the millionaire of the reaper trade, and other northside nabobs, herding promiscuously with the humblest laborer, the lowest vagabond, and the meanest harlot.”
Once they settled themselves, there was little they could do but bear witness to this calamity beyond comprehension.
Devastated Chicago remained so hot that it took a day or two before it was possible even to begin a survey of the physical damage. According to the papers, in some instances when anxious businessmen opened their safes among the rubble of what was once their offices, precious contents that had survived the inferno suddenly burst into flame on exposure to the air.
Shortly after the fire, Stephen L. Robinson, a North Division resident whose home was not burned, set out with a printed map of the city to mark what was still standing.
Among the few scattered survivors he noted were the mansion of Mahlon Ogden (brother of William) on Lafayette (now Walton) Street north of Washington Square Park, and the much more modest home north of Armitage of police officer Richard Bellinger, both of which were saved by a combination of vigilant dousings and good luck.
And had he reached the South Division, he would have seen the Lind Block standing a forlorn watch over the downtown. Had he then crossed to the West Division, he would have found the O’Leary cottage safe and sound in front of the ashes of the barn.
The socalled “Burnt District” encompassed an area four miles long and an average of threequarters of a mile wide more than two thousand acres including over twentyeight miles of streets, 120 miles of sidewalks, and over 2,000 lampposts, along with countless trees, shrubs, and flowering plants in “the Garden City of the West.”
Gone were eighteen thousand buildings and some two hundred million dollars in property, about a third of the valuation of the entire city. Around half of this was insured, but the failure of numerous companies cut the actual payments in half again.
One hundred thousand Chicagoans lost their homes, and many more their places of work.
The North Division was the hardest hit. Officer Bellinger had been one of the rare lucky ones, for by Colbert and Chamberlin’s count 13,300 of 13,800 buildings in this portion of the city had been destroyed, leaving almost 75,000 people (the overwhelming majority of the area’s population) without a home.
Virtually the entire German community in the North Division was burned out. The fire also destroyed the genteel neighborhood of the Old Settlers, and with it a whole way of life.
Gone was I.N. Arnold’s grand home, with its extensive art collection, its library of eight thousand books, and its memorabilia relating to the Civil War and to Arnold’s old friend, Abraham Lincoln.
Gone also were the lilacs, elms, barn, and greenhouse that filled a whole block just west of Pine Street (now Michigan Avenue) between Erie and Huron.
William Ogden lost not only his Chicago home and businesses but also his vast lumber holdings in Wisconsin, which fell before the great fire in Peshtigo, near Green Bay, the same night.
But these men and their families were among the more fortunate victims, since they had solid insurance, ready credit, other assets, and a substantial network of family and friends.
The less welltodo in many cases suffered more severely. It was likely that the fire consumed everything they owned, not to mention their sources of income. If they had insurance at all, it was probably with one of the local companies that failed in the fire.
In one of the infrequent sympathetic mentions of the poor in contemporary published accounts of the fire, Colbert and Chamberlin told of those “who had no twenty dollars to give to a cartman” and “no sympathizing friends down the avenue to give them shelter and other comforts.” If they perished, it is very possible that they had no one to record their passing, especially if they had no local relatives.
Estimates of the fatalities, which mainly ranged between two and three hundred (by contrast, the fire in rural Peshtigo was the worst in American history in terms of loss of life, with some 1500 killed), seem surprisingly low.
Without losing sight of all the loss and suffering, it is important to remember how much of the city did not burn. Most heavy industries, including the stockyards, were located west or south of the burnt district, out of harm’s way.
The downtown railroad depots were leveled, but not the farmorecritical rail infrastructure. What the fire could not touch was Chicago’s most important feature, its location, which made it more accessible than any place on earth to resources and markets throughout the globe at the very time when America was taking over world leadership in industrial enterprise.
But for the moment and luckily it turned out to be a brief moment the devastation caused by the fire was inescapable. There were ruins everywhere. After the first shock wore off, the postholocaust cityscape quickly came to possess a double fascination, both in itself and because of its association with what it suggested about the past and future of Chicago.
The blocks and blocks of ruins became a popular subject for photographers and illustrators. “The town is beginning to fill with aesthetic sightseers,” the New York Tribune reported three days after the fire went out. “The artists of the illustrated papers are seated at every coign of vantage, sketching for dear life against the closing of the mail.”
Both the quantity and the quality of the ruins seemed to some to endow the young city with a place in history. “No city can equal now the ruins of Chicago, not even Pompeii, much less Paris,” E.J. Goodspeed bragged in his history of the fire. Another contemporary chronicle, James W. Sheahan’s and George T. Upton’s The Great Conflagration, contained a sixpage meditation on the sublime scene, titled “Chicago by Moonlight” and brimming with mythological allusion and historical reference.
To Goodspeed, writing in a similarly purple passage, the fire seemed to defy the usual restrictions of time, with which Chicago’s spirit had so little patience. This city with no past now “in the compass of a single night” had ruins equal to those of great and ancient civilizations.
“Here all time is reproduced in a moment,” he wrote, conveniently forgetting that it was the city’s hasty growth that had put its future at risk in the first place.
Mayor Roswell B. Mason reached his office in the Courthouse about midnight, and for the next two hours he followed the fire’s progress, issued commands, and sent telegrams to other cities beseeching them for additional men and equipment. Forced to flee the burning building, he was now only one more frightened fugitive in the crowded streets, with no alternative other than to try to make it back to his nearby South Division home, if it was still standing.
As it turned out, his house was spared, though the advancing flames forced him to take a long detour into the North Division before heading back. Almost three hours later he completed his nightmare journey.
On Monday morning, with the city still ablaze, Common Council President Charles C.P. Holden called a combination of elected officials and prominent citizens to a meeting later in the day at the First Congregational Church, out of harm’s way in the West Division. They turned the church into a temporary city hall (the first of several makeshift provisions for government services) and arranged to enlist citizens as special deputies, as well as to provide food and water to the burntout.
Mayor Mason joined the meeting by midafternoon, in time to sign a proclamation pledging “the faith and credit of the city of Chicago” to “the preservation of order…the relief of suffering,” and “the protection of property.” Other executive orders established the price of bread, banned smoking, limited the hours of saloons, and forbade wagon drivers from charging more than their normal rates.
This group also established a Relief Committee, consisting of private citizens and elected officials from the three divisions, whose task it was to organize and administer the distribution of food, supplies, and money that, thanks to the telegraphed reports of Chicago’s distress, began arriving that evening.
Contributions eventually totaling about five million dollars in value came from towns and cities across the country and the world, from schoolchildren, labor organizations, and civic associations.
Given the appalling circumstances, the Common Council’s actions seem admirably clearheaded and effective. But to those who felt that the dying out of the flames hardly meant the end of danger, they were not enough. In the wake of the stories of looting, drinking, and arson came reports that professional thieves from elsewhere and local lowlife were now eager to take advantage of weakened Chicago.
“The city is infested with a horde of thieves, burglars, and cutthroats, bent on plunder, and who will not hesitate to burn, pillage, and even murder, as opportunity may seem to offer to them to do so with safety,” warned the Chicago Evening Journal a day after the fire.
The national press carried similar stories, which also appeared in personal accounts. Cassius Milton Wicker, a freight agent for the Chicago and Northwestern railroad, wrote to his family in Vermont, “With the close of the fire, or rather conflagration, our troubles have not closed. Roughs and thieves from all parts of the country flocked here for plunder.”
These kinds of paranoid tales inevitably follow any largescale cataclysm, and how much truth was behind them is one of the many things about the fire that is impossible to ascertain. Virtually all such anecdotes were not based on personal observation but on hearsay, and it is likely that people like Wicker got their information from reading the papers.
But there is no question that the fears, which generated and sustained the rumors were real, especially for some middle and upper class nativeborn Chicagoans. In their eyes, what was immediately required was the assertion of authority. At the same time, however, they had little trust in local government, particularly the members of the Common Council. Such fears and distrust were prompted by notorious events that preceded Chicago’s tragedy and influenced how people understood it.
The fire was all too reminiscent of the Paris Commune, which had been put down in late May of 1871 in a bloody battle that ended with Paris set afire by radicals in a lastditch act of defiance against the Versailles government.
Closer to home, the exposure of New York’s Boss Tweed bolstered suspicion of urban political organizations.
In this context Mayor Mason followed the urging of the city’s social and economic elite in taking two extraordinary steps to assure the rescue and relief of Chicago. The first was to entrust the “preservation of the good order and peace of the city” to LieutenantGeneral Philip Sheridan, the Civil War hero and Indian fighter who now lived in Chicago and who commanded the Division of the Missouri from his South Division office.
Two days later, on October 13, Mason turned over the administration of the relief to the Chicago Relief and Aid Society, which had appealed to him to take this step. On the Society’s board sat some of the Old Settlers who had established the organization two decades earlier, but its driving spirit was a younger group of businessmen and professionals that included merchant Marshall Field, sleeping car manufacturer George Pullman, and attorney Wirt Dexter.
These men had a very substantial stake in the city’s future and an equally firm belief that this future depended on reestablishing a defined social order that had been severely disrupted in the social chaos of the fire.
For two weeks Sheridan oversaw a de facto martial law of dubious legitimacy enforced by a mix of regular troops, militia units, police, and a specially organized “First Regiment of Chicago Volunteers.” They patrolled the streets, guarded the relief warehouses, and enforced curfews and other regulations.
John DeKoven, cashier of the Merchants’ National Bank of Chicago, wrote to his wife of his experience as a sentry, “I have not had my clothes off for a week, the city is paroled [sic] every night, you should have seen me last night paroling our alley with a loaded revolver in my hand looking for incendiaries for there are many about.”
For several months after conventional law and order had been restored, state politicians disputed whether such measures were justified and legal, but their immediate calming effect was evident.
Former LieutenantGovernor William Bross, part owner of the Tribune and refugee from Terrace Row, later recollected his response to the arrival of the soldiers Sheridan summoned from Omaha and Leavenworth:
“Never did deeper emotions of joy overcome me. Thank God, those most dear to me and the city as well are safe.”
The Relief and Aid Society’s fire activities were considerably more longlived, extending into 1874. Dividing the city into districts, the Society opened offices and supply depots connected by telegraph and separated its work into different areas contributions, shelter, employment, transportation, distribution, and health each overseen by a different committee.
It not only distributed food and clothing, but also made available the materials for several thousand simple “shelter houses,” erected four barracks for the homeless poor, helped secure necessary tools and appliances to those who required them, and performed some 64,000 vaccinations against smallpox. It was a model of a new kind of “scientific” charity whose work was conducted by paid professionals carrying out the policies of an executive board.
These policies reflected the board members’ particular social vision. Concerned about losing the city’s labor force, they soon suspended the issuing of free railroad passes to fire refugees. Similarly, they took better care of certain members of the population than others.
The shelter houses were reserved mainly for skilled workers. The Committee on Special Relief looked to the needs of those more genteel fire victims who “were borne in a single night from homes of comfort and plenty into absolute destitution.” It was assumed that such people of refinement would have to be found and helped discreetly, since they would be too proud to ask for help.
As for the ablebodied poor, the barracks were good enough; probably better, the Society maintained, than the housing they had lost. The best thing was to get them off relief and back to work as soon as possible.
The Society took great care “to detect and defeat imposition” on its charity by such people and “to aid in establishing order by withholding encouragement to idleness,” which was a threat to social order. It was determined to “give no aid to any families who are capable of earning their own support,” at the same time assuring the productive labor necessary to rebuild the city.
It required applicants to fill out various forms if they wanted aid and to supply a reliable reference, such as an employer or minister. Then a “visitor” would check personally on the merits of the case.
A labor exchange was set up with the philosophy that “Any man, single woman, or boy, able to work, and unemployed at this time, is so from choice and not from necessity.”
The Relief and Aid Society deserves a great deal of credit for its extraordinary efforts. It probably did dispense the world’s charity more effectively than Chicago’s overburdened and underfinanced postfire city government could have done. But its supporters’ assessment of the dangers of entrusting the funds to local officials, like many other rumors connected with the fire, were exaggerated by concerns about the balance of power in a democracy defined by class and ethnicity (the Society took care to identify its clients by national origin).
Journalist Sydney Howard Gay, who later wrote the Society’s selfcongratulatory report, claimed that its leaders were men “above personal temptation” who saved the relief from “the utter corruption of our city politics.”
The alternative, the Tribune agreed, was “the foul brood of city politicians who greedily counted…upon retaining place and putting their enemies under their feet, with the personal and pecuniary power which the handling of the relief fund and provisions in kind would give them.”
Meanwhile, some applicants grumbled about inefficiency, impersonality, and favoritism. In late February the Society terminated assistance to 800 families on the grounds that they were now the responsibility of the financiallystrapped county government, drawing severe criticism for withholding aid to the needy in the dead of winter when the organization possessed the only resources available.
Common Council President Holden proposed that the Society be made to hand over the remaining relief funds to the city. But the proposal failed, and the consensus remained that the Society, like Sheridan and his soldiers, had saved Chicago in its hour of need when its own worst enemy was perhaps itself.
“In the midst of the most pressing demands of their private affairs,” Frederick Law Olmsted told readers of The Nation, “men of great good sense and well informed have taken time to devise and bring others into a comprehensive and sufficient organization, acting under wellguarded laws.”
Wrigley Field History WRIGLEY HISTORY
In 1920, Weeghman Park becomes known as Cubs Park, after chewing gum magnet William Wrigley buys out the remainder of Charles Weeghman’s share of the club. The park would undergo yet another name change in 1926 when it becomes Wrigley Field.
Instead of becoming one of the first teams to install lights, the Cubs went on to become the last, finally getting them in 1988. After 5,687 consecutive day games played by the Cubs at Wrigley, the lights were finally lit on August 8, 1988, for a game with the Philadelphia Phillies. That game was rained out after 3½ innings, and the first official night game took place the following evening against the New York Mets. The Cubs won, 64. Lights had actually been placed in the ballpark for installation in 1941, but Wrigley instead donated them to a shipyard for the war effort the day after Pearl Harbor. In the late 1980s, however, Cubs management insisted that the team was in danger of leaving Wrigley if lights weren’t installed, and Major League Baseball threatened to make the Cubs play postseason games at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
Wrigley Field was home to Babe Ruth’s “called shot,” when Ruth allegedly pointed to a bleacher location during Game 3 of the 1932 World Series … Ruth then hit Charlie Root’s next pitch for a homer.
Wrigley Field was home to the great May 2, 1917, pitching duel between Jim “Hippo” Vaughn and the Reds’ Fred Toney … both Vaughn and Toney threw nohitters for 9.0 innings before Cincinnati’s Jim Thorpe (of Olympic fame) drove in the only run in the 10th inning … Toney finished with a nohitter.
Originally known as Weeghman Park, Wrigley Field was built on the grounds once occupied by a seminary.
Before they were the “Cubs,” Chicago’s north side ball club was knows as both the “Federals” and the “Whales.”
The first National League game at the ballpark was played April 20, 1916, when the Cubs beat the Cincinnati Reds 76 in 11 innings … a bear cub was in attendance at the game.
The Wrigley Field bleachers and scoreboard were constructed in 1937 when the outfield area was renovated to provide improved and expanded seating. The original scoreboard remains intact. The scorebyinnings and the pitchers’ numbers are changed by hand. The numbers signaling batter, ball, strike and out, along with “H” and “E” to signify hit and error, are eyelets.
The 27foothigh, 75footwide scoreboard was built in 1937 by Bill Veeck. Its top is 85 feet above the field. The 10footdiameter clock was added in 1941. No batted ball has ever hit the scoreboard. Two baseballs barely missed a homer hit onto Sheffield Avenue (rightcenter) by Bill Nicholson in 1948, and one hit by Roberto Clemente onto Waveland Avenue (leftcenter) in 1959.
One of the traditions of Wrigley Field is the flying of a flag bearing a “W” or an “L” atop the scoreboard after a game. A white flag with a blue “W” indicates a victory; a blue flag with a white “L” denotes a loss.
The original vines were purchased and planted by Bill Veeck (who constructed the scoreboard) in September 1937. Veeck strung bittersweet from the top of the wall to the bottom, then planted the ivy at the base of the wall.
The first permanent concession stand in baseball was built here in 1914. The custom of allowing fans to keep foul balls hit into the stands started here, as did the custom of throwing back home runs hit by opposing players. “Take Me Out To the Ballgame” has been sung (offkey) thousands of times by venerable announcer Harry Caray (19141998), and countless fans have watched the game from the porches and rooftops of the houses on Waveland Avenue (behind the leftfield fence) and Sheffield Avenue (beyond right field).
Wrigley is affected by wind conditions more than any other major league park. Breezes off Lake Michigan favor pitchers, but winds blowing toward Lake Michigan take homers with them.
During the 1930s, grounds superintendent Bobby Dorr lived in a six room apartment at the ballpark, adjacent to the leftfield corner gate; Cubs traveling secretary Bob Lewis later lived there; the apartment is still there and is now used by the food services group at the park.