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The Coughlin Ballads
Chicago Tribune, May 20, 1903
Resplendent with electric lights and polished mirrors the new “barrel house” owned and conducted by “Hinky Dink,” otherwise Ald. Michael Kenna, has been thrown open to the public. The resort is the pride of the “tired and weary,” and over what is said to be the longest bar in the world thousands of “tubs” are passing daily.
When the “Workmen’s Exchange,” the alderman’s other house, on the opposite side of the street, was closed to make way for a new building, there was sadness and dismay.
“Woe is us,” was the cry. “What is left for us in Chi?”
But the answer came back full of hope and faith.
“‘Hink’ will never desert us. We have trusted him and he has never failed us.”
This faith was not misplaced. The alderman secured a long termed lease on the building on the opposite side of Clark street, a few doors south of Van Buren street, and a hundred carpenters and other mechanics were put to work. The result was known when the doors were opened Saturday evening.
World’s Biggest “Barrel House.”
The room, 100 feet long by 50 feet wide, is said to be the largest ‘barrel house” in the world. The bar, curving slightly to the middle of the room, is eighty-four feet long. A small office is at one end of the bar, and a bread box that is big enough for a refrigerator is at the other.
In the opposite side of the room is a lunch counter, where bowls of sou, prepared in the kitchen below, with unlimited quantities of bread, are always ready for the hungry.
There are no larger receptacles made for beer than the glasses that are handed across the bar. The bowl seems as large as an ordinary hat. The price is 5 cents.
Three bartenders are kept at work, and the sales are recorded on cash registers. Twice or three times a day the alderman comes in from his other saloon, at Clark and Van Buren streets, and empties the contents of the money drawers into a large sack, which he stows away in the safe.
Early in the morning n agent from the brewery comes and counts the dimes and nickels, as there is little other money that reaches the registers. The alderman knows from the indicator how much money there should be, and he has no time to count it himself. The agent gives him or his secretary a receipt, and every month a check is sent for the amount that remains after the price of the beer has been deducted.
Twenty ounce glass and eight ounce glass
Food, Drinks Even Beds.
Above the “barrel house” a lodging house is being made ready. There will be rooms for 250 men—all guaranteed to be filled at registration time. Private lockers, shower baths, iron bedsteads, are some of the conveniences. It is not for the one night lodger, as the rooms are to be rented by the week. The rate will be $1 each.
“I am going to give these poor ‘hobos’ the best home they ever had in their lives,” said Ald. Kenna yesterday.
Between 7 o’clock Saturday evening and the same time on Sunday forty-eight barrels of beer had been sold. The supply ran out, and the bartenders were idle for several hours. There are about ten “tubs” of beer in a gallon, and in a barrel there are thirty-two gallons. Forty-eight barrels means that 15,300 glasses of beer were sold in less than twenty-four hours in the new home of the “bum.”
“I expect to average thirty barrels of beer in this place,” Ald. Kenna explained. “Across the street I have sold on an average of seventeen barrels a day for the last five years, and here I shall have room for all my customers.”
And There’s a Fortune in It.
Is Ald. Kenna making money? Well, here is what one of his friends said last evening:
- ‘Hink’ making money? Well, I guess if I had his place and the trade I’d retire in a year. Just figure it up. With his rebates and his dividends from the stock he holds in the brewery his beer will not cost him more than $3.50 a barrel—and that;s putting it high. He will average 320 glasses from each barrel, so that thirty barrels a day will mean an income of $480. The beer will cost $105. His help, lunch, and other expenses will be about a hundred more.
Is he making money? He will make $100,000 a year out this place alone—twice the salary of the president of the United States, and out of a South Clark street ‘barrel house.’ He will hey a thousand dollars a month from the lodging house, too.
First Drink Is Free.
The beer trade is about the only trade of the house, practically the only whiskey served being the “mornin’s mornin’,” which is given free to each of the lodgers before breakfast.
This drink is known among the lodgers as the “corpse reviver.” It is served in tall, imposing looking glasses that are deceptive as to the amount they hold. A drink from the “ice man’s” bottle in an ordinary saloon is like soothing sirup by comparison, as it is said along Clark street that a teaspoonful of “corpse reviver” would make a Chinaman whip Jeffries. After one free injection of the reviver the lodger, braced for a strenuous day, goes forth to work on his own personal vineyard.
Chicago Tribune March 28, 1906
The pre-election condition of “wide openness” locations became more pronounced yesterday in all the levee wards of the city where the saloon and gambling element can be of service to I M. O. candidates. The word was spread that a loosened lid was to be the order of things at least until after next Tuesday.
WIth the Second ward, under the skillful leadershIp of I. M. O. Perrigo, thrown’ open as it has not been in months, and the First ward. with some discretion, a close second. the tenor of the administration’s practical politics is supposed to be demonstrated.
Among the wise men of the underworld in these two wards was one who spoke frankly about the conditions, He sad:
- We are going to elect the men the Dunne people want us to. They are here for another year anyway. We have got to live now, and Ve can do it by placing the votes right.
That is a sample of levee phIlosophy, carried out with more or less accuracy in every district where the loose lid is a factor that cannot be denied.
Gambling in City’s Center.
Gambling is flourishing downtown and in the Twenty-first and Eighteenth wards. The “hotels” of the loop have ceased their watchfulness. Saloons are growing careless about shutting up at 1 o clock; that is, if the saloonkeeper is friendly to the I. M. O. candidates.
Aid. Kenna’s saloon in Clark street, known as the “Workingman’s Exchange,” openly violated the law by opening at 4.a. m. or earlier and dishing out beer to the voters. Everything 0. K.’d by Perrigo, the I. M. O. candidate In the Second ward, is “safe.” In the Nineteenth ward. where Simon O’DonnelI carries the administration banner, things run with a flimsy attempt at obeying the law. In the stockyards conditions are wide open.
Chief Collins and Mayor Dunne assert they have no knowledge of any leniency shown to the saloons and the mayor laughed at the report that the law is violated in wards where municipal ownership candidates are running. The levee people themselves do not claim the mayor is possessed of personal knowledge of their doings.
“I saw the chief this morning and asked him about this,” said the mayor. “The lid Is not off, or if It is I know nothing about it. My instructions have been strict and I am sure Chief Collins is carrying them out.”
Chief. Collins says w-hen. he gets an affi- davit that these things are so he will look into it.
Many Handbooks Are Running.
The gambling situation is illustrative of the condition In the First ward. There are from seventy-five to one hundred handbooks running, and several of the poker combinations put out of business by the activity of south side constables a few weeks ago have con- and found safe places.
Cohen, Wyscopp, and Harrison, well known gamblers, have combined in a poker game at the Midland hotel, said to be under the protection of Ald. Coughlin, another ardent I. M. O. worker. who is playing practical politics. “Tony” Hines, H. Dlnkman, and Hanson, formerly of 14 Custom House place. now run an open poker game at 47 Clark street. They are known as Tom McGinnis’ men.
“Mushmouth” Johnson, who has been put out of business times innumerable, Is conducting a crap game for negroes at 464 State street. Brown, a negro, is at the door. “Dan” McGowan is in charge inside. The poker men who ran games at the Veley and ‘Windsor-Clifton hotels, raided by constables, who found forty decks of marked cards in the outfit, now are running In the Twenty-first ward, at 44 North Clark street. In this combination are Edward Wade. Pierre Marx, “Doc” Raphael, and Charles Felt—all McGInnis men.
“Steerers: Are Working Openly.
The old Dearborn-Vanderbilt club combination, which took refuge In the Sherman house after it was driven from Its places, now is running at Bishop court and West Madison street, in the Eighteenth ward. The men in this are Charles Kirt, Lou Vogel. Max Vogel, “Big” Steve, Billy Barry, and Edward Springer. They have six or seven “steerers ” In the downtown district, and the gang at44 North Clark street has eight “steerers” who have been seen at work in the last few days.
From this evidence it is apparent that I. M. O. Is Implanted in the Eighteenth and Twenty-first wards, and that the opposing candidates will be defeated if saloons and gambling run free can do It.
Mont Tennes Resumes Sway.
Of the seventy-five handbook places the most open is that conducted at 123 Clark street by Mont Tennes, the north side gambling king. Anyone can walk in there ard place a bet. Other handbooks are run at Dale’s hotel, the Imperial hotel, in a barber shop back of 327 Wabash avenue, in room 54 at 119 La Salle street, and 199 South Clark street-
At 157 Clark street there is a handbook, as there also is over “Pat” O’Malley’s saloon at Polk and Clark streets. A poker game is run there also by George Little. At Twenty-first street and Wabash avenue twelve books are run in the saloon of Rafferty & Munter, good I. M. O. adherents.
“Workingmen’s Exchange” Busy.
The “Workingmen’s Exchange” in Clark Street was a busy place at 4 a. m. yesterday. For half an hour previous to that moment the straggling voters of the First ward nad been stumbling down the lodging house steps and forming into line, which soon extended half a block down the street—a line of shifting, ragged men, enlisted to the banner of municipal ownership without any qualifications. No questions of the wisdom of $75,000, Mueller certificates bothered them. The town was alive again. There was something doing.
The general tendency, not only at Aid. Kenna’s place but throughout the downtown district, is to shorten up the hours of saloon closings.
The saloonkeepers apparently have forgotten already the “orders” issued a month ago by Chief Collins that saloons not only must close at 1 o clock, but must remain until 10 a. m. The,”fashionable” hour for opening is now to be 3:40 for those places which shut tight at 1 a. m.
Nineteenth Ward Wide Open.
In the Nineteenth ward, where the administratIon is engaged in a desperate effort to land Simon O’Donnell, the “labor union and municipal ownership candidate,” in the city council. the “wide open” conditions supposed to be popular with a “cosmopolitan” population, were distinctly prevalent East night.
Gambling was rife. particularly In the Greek “coffee houses” along Halsted street, most of which have now learned the drawing powers of “score cards ” and general sporting information. Hand books and policy. the “poor man’s game.” are reported to have crept back into the ward despite the efforts of the Citizens’ association to stamp them out.
As for “1 o’clock closing,” that seemed to have become fiction along Halsted street. Blue Island avenue, and the main streets which cross those teeming thoroughfares. None of the saloons near the headquarters of the candidates, in the vicinity of Halsted and Harrison streets, made any pretense of closing until the last political worker had secured his fill.
George Louterbach, proprietor of Brandt’s hall, at Erie and North Clark streets, was arrested on a warrant sworn out by Inspector Lavin for violating the 1 o’clock cloning ordinance.
Michael “Hinky Dink” Kenna and “Bathhouse” John Coughlin
Michael “Hinky Dink” Kenna (left) and “Bathhouse” John Coughlin
In the late 1800s, Michael “Hinky Dink” Kenna (August 20, 1858 – October 9, 1946) purchased a tavern on Clark Street called The Workingman’s Exchange, where he traded food and alcohol for votes. Kenna was elected Alderman in 1897, when he teamed with fellow First Ward Alderman (each ward had two Aldermen until 1923) “Bathhouse” John Coughlin (August 15, 1860 – November 11, 1938) to create a powerful political machine in what was then called The Levee District, the area just north of 22nd Street along the east bank of the Chicago River.