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In 1892 Sigmund Krausz published his Street Types of Chicago. Rather than take photos on the streets, he lit and posed subjects in his studio to create what he termed “Character Studies” of average urban Chicagoans in the 1890s, illustrated with Kodak photographs. The artist has caught the inspiration of his subjects. His studio was at 3930 Cottage Grove.
He made 36 photogravures of people and below is a selection of the most interesting.
The literary descriptions are original to the images and were written by contemporary well-know local authors.The plates measure 9-1/4″ X 6-1/2″.
One of the Finest
The moral status of the policeman is the moral status of the city he serves. Complain as you will of the scandalous conduct of this or that member. Mourn at the seeming general depravity of the men who wear the blue. They are yet a reflex of the people who employ them. When Cromwell ruled, officers were praying men. When Louis was king, they intrigued for mis tresses. In America they travel on the average lines of intelli gence, honesty and fidelity followed by the mass.
Policemen are men. They — unlike poets — are made, not born. What a man was in former life he is as a policeman. Putting on blue, thatching his poll with a helmet filling his hand with a club or a revolver does not make him braver, or abler, or more honest than he was at the beginning. Also, it cannot make him worse. Remember in your sweeping condemnation the officers who stand indifferent to weather; who brave danger every time they help a child across the street; who invite mutilation every time they make an arrest; who are knit of the fibre of rectitude and strength, and who stand for the best that is in their employer. Remember, as there are heights of holiness, there are sinks of in iquity. Laving in these polluted waters are human brutes whose venomous hate is leveled at no one with such deadly purpose as at the officer. They delight in “slugging” him. They are the tigers of a city’s jungle.They rend without reason—only because they hate that typified Right. They would peril their life to injure it. They would give their life to obliterate it.
Between the Bad, who hate him upon one side, and the Good, who distrust him on the other, the life of “One of the Finest” is far from serene.
— LeRoy Armstrong
We see him every day, we see him everywhere, we meet him on the streets, in the parks, in hotels, theaters, and we see him even in church. We know him, we know him well; and still — how is it that natural science has not taken any notice of him, though his existence has been proved for the last two or three centuries ? No Buffoon, no Brehm has ever attempted to describe his haunts, his habits Or his mode of living; nobody has ever thought of classifying him.
Yet he is an interesting subject, and his study would well re pay the trouble of profound and scientific research. A native of larger cities, his beauty, .his cleanly habits and docile manners have fitted him eminently for a ladies’ pet, and nature has provided him with the necessary instinct to recognize his destiny, for wherever we meet him, he is trying to attract the attention of the fair sex. Is he successful in that? If not, it isn’t his fault, for his per severance in lounging on street corners, in front of theaters, etc., is simply marvelous, and well deserves the coveted reward. And then, isn’t he irresistible? His symmetrical form clad according to the latest fashion plate, his statuesque poses and his winning smile are the danger ous weapons that conquer the hearts of the fair damsels who are careless enough to cast a glance at this modern Antinous. As he stands twirling his handsome mustache in a wonder fully artistic pose of attention, his intelligent eyes beaming kindly admiration, every inch a dude, he is well excusable if he believes in the truthfulness of his device.
- Veni, vidi, vici
— Sigmund Krausz
The Ice Man
As here portrayed, the iceman is a very serious personage. Though he does not neglect his duties as a carrier, his eyes are gazing onward, and his thoughts are evidently far away. It is not difficult to guess the burden of his ruminations.” If , “thinks he,” it is possible to adopt a vast lake as a stock in trade, employ nature, an unsalaried agent, to crystallize its waters by the ton, and, with my aid, dispense the product by the ounce, surely it must be a mistake to suppose that my employers pursue this busi ness exclusively for philanthropic purposes, The goods are never unseasonable ; wages are moderate, and as long as one customer in each block continues to pay his bills, there can be no risk of loss. The largest item of expense is stationery, and even here economy is practiced, the same bills being used for charges for ice delivered and for ice not delivered” Here his train of thought is interrupted by the falling of a handful of ice, and, as it resolves it self again to liquid form, he gazes dreamily upon it, and falls into this reverie :
- How wonderful are your works? Nature ! Can it be possible that this little pool of water was but now a solid, precious mass, which, placed upon my scale, would have weighed two pounds, and upon any scale no less than fourteen ounces? How simple is the process by which this water, converted into ice, again becomes water, after having been charged as ice. Wonderful! wonderful!
So reflecting, he transfers the load which he has been carrying in his hand to a chest, and, musingly and purusively moves forward.
— LeRoy Armstrong
The Organ Grinder
The blue-bird and the organ grinder are the harbingers of spring. Although it has become the fashion to speak slightingly of the latter, yet his quaint manner and unpretentious instrument are the source of much quiet enjoyment. Who has not at some time been carried away on a creamy sea of recollection by a half- forgotten melody winding itself out of the twisted throat of a hand-organ? Only a decade ago light operas were the fashion and the streets were merry with their melodies. The boot black whistled their catchy airs to the early morning, and the weary pedestrian quickened his steps at the sound of their inspiring measures. The gray bearded man of affairs hummed them softly between the coming and going of customers in his office; the pink and dimpled baby in the crib sank into restful slumber, soothed by their rhythmical cadences. But more pretentious, if less mu sical, compositions have laid hold of the public’s fancy, and these touching bits of harmony, once so familiar to our every-day life, are heard no more:
- In the rush and roar of sound,
Every melody is drowned.
Even the street bands have left off playing Hayes and Root to toot Volkmann and Wagner. The organ-grinder alone clings to the tripping valse of Strauss — he alone soothes our restless spirits with Annie Eaurie — awakens us to new endeavor with the stir ring Marseillaise. He comes to us with the songs we used to love in the long ago; the songs that will be sweet to us always, because one who was dear to us loved and sang them when the day was growing misty and dim in the twilight, Blessings on the organ grinder! He is the children’s friend, and his much-abused instrument-what a storehouse of precious memories it is after all!
— Charles Eugene Banks
A Musical Family
Anyone who has witnessed a performance by this poor family in front of our Michigan Avenue palaces must have been moved by a profound sympathy with the mother, her children, and the inmates of the palaces. Although the commanding influence of music has long been recognized, yet the path of musicians is to-day by no means free from thorns. The musical family in our picture is at times subjected to severe criticism. It is not their fault, they try to please all. Some keys of their instruments are made to play, for the delecta tion of lovers of music, while others emit no sound, — a concession to the opposing faction; and this division is made with a commend able impartiality.
Criticism does not deter thein; their ancestors, playing the identical instruments, encountered the same opposition. It is true these objections are not always unfounded. It is perhaps but reasonable to limit a performance to one composition at a time, and that one to be played by all the artists.
Again, one of the players should be empowered to make a selection for all. This plan, faithfully executed, will remove all uncertainty as to the production rendered. The claim that a musical instrument should be recognizable by its sound, independently of its shape, is not without some force. And discords should not, as a class, be favored.
But the errors indicated, when they occur, are not in tentional, and all reasonable efforts are made to rectify them. The places of notes, almost as soon as their omission is discov ered, are supplied by other notes, designed to subserve the com poser’s purpose, In this family, we see a fair distribution of labor. The babe provides the vocal, the older children supply the instrumental music, while the mother wields the baton, — particularly useful at rehearsals. The sirens who sought, with music, to lure Ulysses to his doom, did not utilize the instruments employed by this family, and their efforts were a conspicuous failure.
— Sigmund Krausz
Rattling down the streets comes a covered wagon, driven by ” our beerman,” a burly fellow whose jolly countenance betrays him asa native of the ”Fatherland.” Here and there he stops his team, drags a box out of his vehi cle, and as he rings the basement bell of a residence, or knocks at the front door of a cottage, he looks all ” pizness.”
And it is a good business “our beerman” is doing, for the cosmopolitan population of American cities has in latter years increased at an immense rate, and there are thousands of families, foreign and native, who receive their weekly supply of bottled Hofbraü, Edelweiss or Zacherl.
With the advent of beer the reign of whisky is doomed, for it is an established fact that there is less drunkenness and depravity among beer-drinking nations than among those whose favorite liquid is of a more alcoholic quality, and for this reason “our beerman ” will prosper, for in the same proportion as his business increases the frequenting of saloons and whisky-drinking must decrease.
— Sigmund Krausz
The jaunty cap over the fluffy hair, dressed in an airy suit which is exceedingly becoming, her face flushed with the excite ment of the interesting sport, she walks with elastic steps off the tennis grounds.
As she carelessly swings the raquet in her hand, her springy gait as well as the luster of her eyes and the healthy color of her cheeks betray the perfect state of her physical condition. Like all women devoted to outdoor sports she has a certain independent air about her.
While not so prominent a type on the streets of the city as the bicycle girl, she may be fre quently seen on the lawns of the fine residence streets, and many a passer-by will stop for a moment and admire her graceful motions as she flits over the grass, or bends her lithe body in graceful curves to receive a high ball.
The Tennis Girl is anything if not picturesque, and in this respect she certainly outranks her sister of the wheel. She has been made the object of the camera as well as the brush of the artist, and many are the songs that have been written in her praise. Looking at our picture, who would say that the tennis girl does not deserve all the nice epitaphs that have been bestowed on her, or that all the pretty things said about her are not really true? As an embodiment of feminine grace I vote her the palm, and say:
- She is my ideal! Would I were hers!
— Charles Lederer
He is certainly a nuisance, and this is probably the reason why the bill poster generally avoids the bright light of day and does his work either at night or during the earliest morning hours.
The bill poster is essentially a product of American advertising methods.
The craft is almost unknown on the European continent.
But then the poor European is way back in art-education. He does not appreciate the beauties of a fifty-yard-circus advertisement on the walls of a building or on the fence around an empty lot. He has no understanding of how one can improve the natural beauty of a romantic dell by judiciously placing a tooth powder or soap-ad on the most prominent rocks and bowl ders.
The bill poster is a native of the large cities, but he may be found during the summer seasons at the smaller towns and vil lages where he industriously plasters walls and fences, the most effective advance agent of the many-ringed circus and the barn storming dramatic show. It cannot be said that he has no ad mirers at all. Should he be seen in daytime with brush and pail in hand, poster sheets slung over the shoulder, he is followed by a crowd of inquisitive children who eagerly watch him roll up sheet after sheet, until their delight knows no bounds when the com pleted work shows all the animals of Noah’s ark, or the most stirring scenes in the blood-curdling border tragedy: The mystery of Dead Man’s Gulch!
But the bill poster is nevertheless an unmitigated nuisance, and his existence ought to be forgiven him only for the occasional delight he furnishes the children.
— Charles Lederer
The Letter Carrier
Have you ever conceived what an important part the letter- carrier plays in life and in the history of civilization? Have you ever thought about the clever mechanism of the great machine — so perfect in every detail — of which he is the alpha and omega? If you have done so, you will have found the secret of his popularity, for was there ever a type more welcome in hut or palace than the letter-carrier?
Ever since the time of Cadmus has he been the bearer of tidings joyful and sorrowful, and the maiden of to-day awaits the dain tily enveloped missive of her admirer with the same anxiety as the virgin maiden of Rome or Athens awaited the waxen tablets on which the stylus of her lover had engraved his tender feelings.
But incomparably harder was the lot of the ancient messenger than that of his brother of to-day.
The distances he had to traverse were long, the roads — if any — bad, and great was the danger that frequently lurked in his path. . . . Centuries have rolled down the abyss of time, and the lot of the modern letter-carrier has become comparatively easier. Steamboats and railways have relieved him of the most ardu ous part of his duty, and the light and flimsy product of rags has taken the place of the cumbersome tablets of the ancients and the voluminous parchment rolls of medieval times; but still his task is not an enviable one, and trudging his monotonous daily rounds carrying in his bag unconsciously and unconcernedly Fortuna’s and Pandora’s gifts alike, the letter-carrier well deserves our sympathy.
— Sigmund Krausz
One of the types that haunt the residence parts of the city in preference to the business district is the the scissors-grinder. He is generally an Italian, though other nationalities also contribute to this sharp profession. The scissors-grinder is a man who is always welcome to the cook, who, if she happens to be a daughter of Erin, will for the moment forget her innate prejudice against the Eyetalian and intrust her dull knives to his care.
Whether he carries his apparatus on his back or pushes it before him on wheels, his mind reverting to his sunny home or to his native maccaroni pots, his brown hand does not tire of swinging the bell with which he reminds our housewives of a dull carving-knife or a rusty pair of scissors.
The boys also welcome him and are interested spectators during the process of putting an edge on the pocket-knives which Santa Claus had brought them last Christmas.
What a pleasure it is for the children to stand around that spark-emitting grindstone ! They don’t disturb the taciturn Italian, who grinds away with the stoical equanimity of a Marc Aurelius until he tests the edge with his horny thumb and de mands his ten or fifteen cents.
The scissors-grinder likes America, but not always enough to be willing to die here. His ambition is to save a few hundred dollars — if possible more — with which to return to his sunny country.
There, on the beautiful plains of the Lombardy or in the picturesque mountains of Calabria he will enjoy the eve of his life with plenty of polcuta and maccaroni.
Mayhaps he will look compassionately at the poor Lazzaroni in Naples, compared to whom, he imagines himself as a Croesus.
— Charles Lederer
What brighter, sunnier than a bevy of American school girls? How happy they are ! Life to them seems as yet a perennial picnic. Can’t you read their love of fun in their smiling eyes? The tricks they are sure to play at school to-day; the saucy answer to rude boys that one can read on their half-parted lips ! And yet, at the same time, the affectionate nature they show, and the entire absence of all affectation!!
They’re a healthy type of our shifting, many-tongued street life. No schoolgirls in the universe are jollier, cleverer, more ambitious or nicer than are our American girls. Romping with the boys, coasting and skating with the best of them, trundling their hoops with the speed and agility of greyhounds, and playing lawn tennis till their young backs ache, they are yet thoroughly girlish — though not what one of them termed “girly girls.”
Try them at flirting — yes, even the girls in the short frocks— and you’ll soon find there’s a heap of pure femininity concealed about their slender anatomy. But try them also with their books, to be fair about it. You’ll find, in nine cases out of ten, they know more than boys of the same age.
They can jump and play, run and catch ball, but they can also sit at home and “do” a heap more difficult mathematics than Jack and Will, their stur dier playmates. Take it altogether, our American schoolgirls are made of pretty good stuff, the stuff which makes good wives and good mothers, good breadwinners and true mates. Nowhere else in this broad land of ours will the future American of the feminine gender show forth more gloriously than right here.
— Wolf von Schierbrand
Three keen ‘thin ones of the wolf tribe,’ ready for the day’s work. Spectacles over that sharpest pair of eyes; a hat carefully bat tered. Blacking to sell. The capper on the left; the back-capper on the right. Boys to make the beginnings of a crowd. crowd. If I be greedy, seeking for whom I may devour, let me pass quickly by this innocent three, this artful trio. They are not there to get rich buying blacking from one another.
But if I love my neighbor as myself I may approach. I may purchase a box of this wonderful product. I may speak without danger. They will show me their shell-game; they may set to work like beavers with their cap and their back-cap, exciting my supposed desire to rob them. But I have no such desire. How sharp, how keen, how thin! Ages of piracy behind them! Hereditary genius of robbery!
The lean one at the left, how clumsily he gives, but you should see how deftly he would take! Into this world is born every minute a greedy fellow who believes he could outwit these sinuous, clean-cut neat fakirs at their own games. Here comes one even now! Make way, boys; let the gentleman see this blacking! Ah, yes, five cents out of five dollars!
Are they not generous to give him a genuine nickel with his four dollars and ninety cents of queer money! Do I dislike these birds of prey? Ah, you ask a hard question! See yon eagle hovering between the crest of the mountain and the crag of cloud! There is a goosy-gander in the valley, plan ning the fall of Aquila, and Aquila, the eagle, has his unflinching eye fixed on something white and long-throated down below!
Out For a Stroll
She has just finished her frugal luncheon in the small, dingy office room where she is employed as stenographer and typewriter, and the warm sun shines so invitingly through the open windows that she decides to utilize her noon hour by taking a little walk.
She is pretty, and as she trips gracefully through the bustling crowd, daintily lifting her dress with a neatly gloved hand, many admiring glances follow her. Here and there she recognizes an acquaintance, but she does not stop.
Now she reaches a crowded corner and passes the gauntlet of young dudes and old Lotharios, who congregate there to review female pedestrians; but she does not seem to be annoyed, and rather enjoys the attention which her appearance has attracted. If we are not mistaken, she even smiles as she turns a side glance at a handsome young fellow.
She knows it is wrong to flirt — for it was only last Sunday that her pastor had warned his young flock, in a very elaborate sermon, against the sin of flirting — but then it is such pleasant pastime, and she will not do so again — till to-morrow, for it is one o’clock, and duty calls her to the desk.
A degenerated descendant of the ancient people of Rome or Sparta, the swarthy banana pedlar pushes his cart contentedly through the thoroughfares of the city. No thoughts of the an cient glory of his nation disturbs his mind when he cries out his “Ba-na-nos! Ba-na-nos!!” He is not sentimental. He is bent on making his profit, and the commercial instinct is far more de veloped in him than that warlike spirit which predominated in his ancestors. The banana cart is the war-chariot behind which he fights his battle of life. The few paltry dimes which form the profits of a day are to him perhaps as much as the spoils of a vic torious battle were for one of his progenitors. Indeed, Rome and Sparta have fallen. The ancient soil does not even grant a sufficient living to the descendants of Lycurgus and Scipio. The new world is the Mecca towards which their steps are now directed, and in America they find what the mother country denies them — a chance in the battle of life—a chance for a living. The banana pedlar is not a bad citizen. He is peaceful and saving. Though his surroundings in the quarters which he in habits are not of the most elevating kind, yet he is able to rise above them. Not all banana pedlars ere destined to become rich, but their thrift and industry are essential factors in the amassing of a small competence, sufficient for their modest requirements, when the cart gets too heavy too push and the legs too slow to follow.
A Disciple of Æsculap
You all know this character, have known him for years, and, judging from his perennial vivacity and virile force, he is likely to survive many of his younger competitors. His beard is silvery, but his form is erect, and there are not wanting men who allege that he wears spectacles, not to see through, but so that they cannot be seen through — by an outsider. Our friend’s stock in trade is not extensive. It consists of a black bag, an aged um brella, a suit of shiny black, and a venerable appearance. In the black bag he carries mysterious compounds, guaranteed to cure every ill to which human flesh is subject. He is a bird of passage, and principally affects the smaller country towns, where he es tablishes himself at a second rate hotel. Then a small boy dis tributes circulars, setting forth that Professor Blank of the Royal College of Physicians of Dunnowhere will be in town for one week and holds himself in readiness to cure every trouble from toothache to cancer. His clientage is derived mostly from that class of women whose chief trouble is ill-temper generated by dyspepsia. With a wholesome fear of the State Board of Health before his eyes, our friend seldom stays more than a few days in one place; and as to his so-called panaceas, it would be found on analysis that if they could do no good, they- certainly could do no harm.
Perhaps the method does not appeal to everyone, but surely the aim of these Salvation Army girls is a noble one. What the nurse in the sick room is for the body, any member of the great religious society called “Salvation Army” is for the soul. What if the use of the tambourine and the drum is ridiculed by those who do not take the trouble to look beyond the surface!
The end justifies the means; and there is no denying that the Salvation Army has achieved commendable results. Go into the dingy quarters of the poor, visit the grimy streets of the tenement dis tricts, and you will find the self-sacrificing soldier of the Lord in the thick of the battle, not only against Satan, the arch-enemy of the soul, but against those mighty foes of humanity: vice, drunk enness, filth, and other forms of moral degeneracy.
Doughty warriors they are, even if frail of body, and the souls they have snatched from moral perdition, the human beings they have saved from utter despair, number in the thousands. It is, therefore, a matter of congratulation rpr the world in general to see the growing influence of this Church militant in the quarters where moral improvement is most desirable.
Whether they call themselves ” Salvation Army ” or “American Volunteers ” is a matter of small importance; and if their method sometimes elicits a smile even from a sympathizer, let it not be a reason to withhold our approval of the work to which our “Hallelujah Lasses” have bravely devoted their whole energy and life.
Rapid Messenger Service
A white-whiskered libel in the picture-papers represents the blue-suited and red-trimmed messenger boy as a human snail. Illustrated by cuts, he is shown in youth receiving an important message. An old man, with bleary eyes and the gray of extreme age on his face, is seen returning fifty or sixty years afterward with the answer, which is delivered to the grandson of the sender.
This series of pictures embodies a malicious falsehood, for the messenger almost always gets back before he reaches middle age. In the popular mind, some business man in an awful hurry twangs the mechanical jamboozle in a corner of his office, and two and a-half minutes later a winged Mercury in blue and red rushes into the room. A note is handed him, and he dashes out with a whoop and a clatter that startle the whole neighborhood.
Once outside, the boy lets down gradually into a trot, which subsides into a walk that presently fetches him up in front of a theatrical bill-board, where he stagnates in open-mouthed admiration of the pink and yellow attractions of a ballet troupe. Then he drifts off into space and wanders about the universe until he gets ready to come back.
These are popular errors, which have very slight foundation in fact, for the little fellow is a very useful help in the scheme of nineteenth century civilization.
At any hour of the twenty-four, in fair weather and foul, the messenger- boy may be seen trudging with sturdy legs along the street; or hanging to the tail-end of a horse-car, always with a grave and sober sense of responsibility befitting his function in the community, He never slips into the seductive opening of an alley to pitch pennies or shoot “craps.” As a rule he is active and reliable , and on the whole has a higher appreciation of duty than had the Judge who adjourned court to look at a dog fight.
In the Employ of the Gas Companies
We all know this man, many of us to our sorrow. He may be said to be in bad odor continuously — both above and below ground.
There is not much superfluous flesh on his bones, but then a diet of escaping gas is not particularly conducive to adi pose tissue. In spite of his acts of vandalism one cannot with hold a feeling of pity for the poor devil who works so faithfully and unremittingly — when the gang-boss is in his proximity. Wait until the foreman is at the farther end of the block, how ever, and your sentiments will experience a change. Instead of pity, it is admiration you will feel for this worthy representative of the dinner-pail brigade, who can do more artistic loafing than any other member of the order. Not that he stops work at all ; bless you, he is too cute for that ! Just watch his pick rise and fall, and you will comprehend my meaning.
Why, a blind man could detect by its sound just how far away that gang-boss was from the digger. He is a social sort of fellow. He likes to chat with his neighbor in the next trench, nods to the cabbies that drive by, and has even been known to attempt a flirtation with the servant girl engaged in sweeping her mistress’s porch.
He drinks freely of the water that the small boy with the wooden bucket offers in a tin dipper, for he sweats profusely, and his system needs replenishing. But it is at noon, when his growler-can is filled from the nearest saloon, that he appears in all his glory.
Watch him take a swig ! No bottle with a white label was ever emptied with keener zest than that beer-can. Talk about nectar for the gods? He would none of it! Give him beer — all he can guzzle — and he is supremely happy.
—Sam T. Clover
Phyllis Hamilton says
Please correct the following error in the section on ‘Chicago Street Types’ — the title of the Organgrinder. You show it as “The Organrider” — and a simple correction will keep your marvelous website among the best in the Chicago history spectrum.
Corrected! Thank you for the catch.