Back to Notorious Chicago
Harper’s Weekly, January 22, 1898
When Carter H. Harrison was running for Mayor of Chicago it was charged by almost the entire newspaper press of that city that his election would mean that under his administration the city would be “wide open.” After he was elected and had assumed office, the understanding became general, not only in Chicago, but elsewhere, that Chicago was really wide open, and that, in the vernacular, “everything went.” When Mayor Harrison, at the head of the famous Cook County Democratic Marching Club, came to New York last. October to lend moral support to Tammany Hall in the municipal campaign, the word was passed along that, in case Tammany should win, New York would be wide open like Chicago. It was not meant that New York would take Chicago’s administration as its model and follow along the same lines exactly, but it was meant that there would be what is called a “liberal interpretation” of laws regulating petty vice and crime when Tammany should come into what Ta many politicians call her own.
When passing through Chicago. in the early part of December last, I endeavored to learn exactly what was meant by “wide-open” Chicago, so as to set forth what might be expected from Tammany, if the Chicago example should be followed under the administration of Mayor Van Wyck and the renewed rule of Richard Croker, in the way of “liberal interpretation” of law. I spent three days in making that investigation, and to make sure that it should be thorough and not subject to question, I enlisted the services of a Chicago police reporter of fifteen years’ experience, and the assistance of an active member of the police force—a man who has worn the police uniform of that city daily for nearly a quarter of a century. The reporter was with me during the entire time of my investigations, and the police official during part of the time. The policeman went with us where it was necessary to have such an official to secure entrance to certain haunts of vice, and when, for the sake of safety, police protection seemed desirable. Wherever the policeman accompanied us he was in full uniform. Ho was not a patrolman.
The investigation was what might be called strictly professional, in that it was undertaken from no morbid motives, and was conducted as any newspaper man of standing would make such an inquiry. We found an appalling condition of affairs in the toleration of the lowest grades of vice—a toleration demanded by the exigencies of politics and the desire to levy blackmail. We found that at that time what is known as petty gambling was conducted openly, because of the same political demand, and that the Superintendent of Police, according to his own admission, made to me in his office, knew that such gambling, with its debasing influence, was going on in dozens of places in open violation of law. Our police guide visited some of these gambling places with us, and the fact that he was present in the room in full uniform caused no diminution in the ardor of those who were gambling, and no apparent fear of risk to players or proprietors. A day or two after Christmas, Chicago dispatches said that some of the gambling dens we visited were raided by the police. In the first week of January another raid followed, and information from Chicago has come to me that these raids were of the usual kind that take place when the police find it advisable to play honest for a time. The Civic Federation of Chicago is at work.
We found that a system of police blackmail is in existence in Chicago which matches in its unscrupulous nature and extent the worst phases of the police blackmail that was levied in New York under the palmy days of Tammany rule. We found that there was no pretence of enforcing the law forbidding music in saloons. and that the law compelling saloons to close on Sundays and prohibiting theatrical entertainments on that day was a dead letter, as it practically has always been in Chicago. We found block after block of low dives in the heart of the city, in what is known as the “levee district,” where thieves and thugs and persons of revolting character passed in and out, tho like of which the Bowery in the heyday of its prosperity never saw. We found, as the result of all this, ample justification for the assertion that neither life nor property is safe in Chicago—a fact made plain by the dispatches in the newspapers of the country for a year or more. We found that New York’s “Tenderloin”—the “Tenderloin” of the past never reduced open lawlessness so flagrant or immorality so boltiJas exists at present in Chicago. Never in the “Tenderloin” or elsewhere in New York were children used as decoys for robbery and vice as they are to be found at present on the streets of Chicago after nightfall. Never in New York were pictures displayed in the windows of dives so debasing as may be seen in the windows along the “levee” in Chicago.
It is only fair at the outset to say that Mayor Harrison. when told him what had been my errand in Chicago, and had related only some of the things that I had seen, denied vigorously that Chicago was wide open in the sense that had been charged by the newspapers. He said all such talk was newspaper calumny, originated in a desire to defeat him in his campaign for Mayor. He declared that Chicago was better morally than New York, and asserted with vehemence that police blackmail did not exist under his administration. He said that if he could get satisfactory proof that such blackmail did exist he would drive every police official engaged in it out of office. He pronounced it “the meanest, lowest, most despicable” form of municipal corruption. When I informed him that police blackmail did exist in Chicago, and that I had a list of rates charged by the police to the proprietors of the dens of infamy-—a list furnished to me by a man the truth of whose assertions could not and would not be questioned, if his name were known, by any sane person in Chicago or elsewhere—he rose abruptly from his chair, pounded his desk, and asserted that I had been misinformed. He said that if I would give him the name of my informant confidentially, he would seek out the same information and act at once, and it is also only fair to say that I believe him to have been in earnest in what he said. When I made mention of the gambling that then was going on he made light of it, and said that it was only a small matter, a mere incident, “such as may be found in any large city.” He declared that gambling-houses where faro and roulette were played openly, the luxurious gambling-houses that once existed in all large cities and do exist in some of our cities to-day, were not to be found in Chicago. He said an attempt had been made to open such places, and that he had closed them up. He further more said that no such places would be allowed to exist during his administration. l did not tell him all that I had seen, because. if he desires, he can learn all about such matters himself, and because they were of such a character that any man who even makes pretensions to refinement could not speak of them freely to another man, much less write about them or indicate their nature in print. If an one would wish to know partly what. “wide open ” Chicago means, he should spend an evening in the Harrison Street station-house. It is a low, shambly structure in the heart of the levee district, on a narrow street that runs along one of the railroad terminals. Police reporters assert that it is the “worst station-house in the world,” meaning by that the place where more arrests for grave and shocking crimes are chronicled than in any other police station in the country. The cells are in the cellar, and adjoining the hearing-room are two police courts where those arrested are arraigned. The desk is in a sort of alcove in the southern end of the main room, and is screened with a wire netting. It is a busy place. As many as 300 arrests have been chronicled there in one night. It is a dull evening when fifty arrests are not made. Except for the manifest character of those who swarm in and out of the place, one might fancy it the counting-room of some financial institution, for the clink of money-changing is going on there constantly, and the shylock of the slums, the professional bondsman, stands by the grating of the desk and hour after hour reaps his harvest. In the Harrison Street station there are two shylocks who do most of the business. One is a negro about fifty years old, a member of the bar, keen in judgement and rich in this world’s goods. The other is a white man, such as may be found in most police courts. The fee for each bail bond is said to be five dollars. Rarely are these bonds forfeited. If they are forfeited, the shylocks pursue their victims relentlessly, and ultimately land them in jail. Few of those arrested remain in the cells all night. One may easily compute what a paying business it must be to these professional bondsmen to have the run of a station-house like that to the practical exclusion of others, and one may form other conclusions if he so desires.
Evening Scene in the Harrison Street Police Station, Chicago.—Drawn H. G. Maratta
Right here should be mentioned a provision of the law relating to police justices in Chicago, a provision that upon reflection must seem unwise to every thinking man. The law gives to the magistrate a fee of one dollar for every bail bond he issues, and also a fee of one dollar for the continuance of any case. This makes the office of police magistrate immensely profitable, especially to the two justices who sit in the Harrison Street police courts. The object of the law, I presume, was to provide, in the first place, what politicians call “a fat thing,” and in the second place, to remove all temptation of money-making from the magistrates by participating in any blackmailing cliques in police circles. These magistrates are also State officials, in that they are appointed by the Governor and not by the Mayor.
lt is because of this law regarding police justices, and because of the great profit to the professional bondsmen and others, and also because of the fact that the station house is right in the centre of the vice-ridden district, that so many arrests are made there of an evening. The system in vogue is simply a money-making enterprise, and not an agent for law, order, and good government. Suppose there are 300 arrests there, and that 250 of those arrested are bailed out. That means $250 allowed by law to the police justice who sits behind the sergeant’s desk with the police officials far into the night, and $1250 for the professional bondsmen. The man who supposes that the bondsmen get all of this $1250 must be a fool or utterly ignorant of the ways of police officials in cities where corruption holds sway. I make no charges as to where this money goes, because I have no means of proving legally such assertions, and it is not my business to do so. I simply have my opinion, and others who visit or read of the place may form theirs No one can deny that there is opportunity in that station-house for the formation of a ring of blackmailers to prey upon vice and its devotees, and that the very foundation of such a system lies in the law permitting police justices to get what is known as the “first rake-off.” All this may explain why as many as 300 arrests of the vilest creatures in Chicago have been made in one night in that precinct. The same persons have been raided as many as three times in one night. On the evening of my visit I saw at least a dozen women arraigned twice, bailed out, and then permitted to go back in peace to dens of infamy.
About one o’clock in the morning business drags, and soon after the arrests for the night cease. The sponge has been squeezed dry. The miserable creatures who have been preying upon the debased, have been made to give up all the money they can spare to the shylocks and others, and the Harrison Street police station resumes its normal work of caring for drunks and other ordinary violations of law. In all my experience of nearly fifteen years as a newspaper man in the four largest cities of the United States I have never seen evidences of so corrupt a condition of affairs as exists nightly in the Harrison Street police station. Perhaps it is unnecessary to say more than to assert that no such opportunity has existed or could exist for plunder in any other city of this country without the formation of a police ring to divide the spoils, and also to call attention to the fact that at the very time of my visit there was a clash between the authorities at the “central office” and the Harrison Street police. Detectives from headquarters were swooping down upon the precinct and making arrests on their own account, and when the attention of the rank and file of. the Harrison Street station was called to this fact they simply shook their heads in a wise way and smiled.
Chicago’s Levee District at Night
Harper’s Weekly January 22, 1898
It is only a step from the Harrison Street station to the centre of the gambling-district. What Mayor Harrison said about the non-existence of faro and roulette in town in elaborately furnished and luxurious gambling-houses was true, so far as I could learn. I think that if there had been any of these places in Chicago I should have found them. The only gambling games that were going on openly, and of course tolerated at that time by the police, were the games known as craps and stud-poker. Craps has long been a favorite gambling game with negroes, and many persons are inclined to think that it is a small matter, a mere throwing of dice for money. Perhaps Mayor Harrison so regards it. If he does so regard it, and if others share his opinion, let me quote what one of the best-known authorities on cards, Foster, in his Complete Hoyle, says of the game. After noting that it practically is a game of hazard, he says.
- It is rapidly replacing faro as the gambling game of America.
If Foster is right, Mayor Harrison’s assertion, given with some show of pride, that faro did not exist in Chicago loses most of its value. If faro did not exist, its national substitute existed in a score of places. We visited nearly a dozen of these places, and in some of them our police guide in full uniform accompanied us. In others, however. the policeman would not go. This was the ease in the first one we visited. It has since been raided. It was over the chief saloon of O’Brien & Powers, both men aldermen, shining lights in Chicago Democratic politics, and strong political friends of Mayor Harrison. Powers is president of the Cook County aggregation that came to New York to help out Tammany, and he and Mayor Harrison must have marched side by side on their visit. It would not do for the policeman to go into that place with us, and he called a man in the door way, and said:
- Here are two friends of mine. They want to go up stairs.
The other man nodded his head and we went in, while the policeman waited outside for us. We stopped for a moment in the bar-room, and then went to the rear of the room and found a long stairway which led to the large room above. It is not necessary to make a directory of this article and tell exactly where this saloon is situated. Everybody in Chicago, practically, knows its location. At the top of the stairs we were scrutinized closely by a man who seemed to be on watch, but nothing was said, and we passed in. I do not know whether we could have gained admission without our new escort. In some of the other places I am sure we could not have walked in without some one vouching for us. but in most of the dens there was no attempt at scrutiny.
The description of one of these places will do for all that we visited. Because of its prominence and the politics involved, I shall tell what I saw in the O’Brien & Powers place. There were four long gambling-tables in the room. At three of them craps was being played; at the fourth, stud-poker was the game in progress. Each table was presided over by two men, one the dealer, and the other the croupier who raked in the money and chips The tables were surrounded by from twenty to forty men, most of them young. The air was foul with smoke, and the electric lights splattered in the haze. The men at the tables were not what might be called well-to-do. Probably one-quarter of them were negroes. There were also Chinese among them. Most of the others were men of dissolute habits. Some were thieves, and others were thugs, ready for any kind of a “job.” Some of them were politicians, and others were young clerks. That grade of men known as men about town was also represented liberally. Taken as a whole, however, it was an aggregation of men of the most depraved tastes. They were simply a disgusting lot. Not for an instant could the gambling there be called a “gentleman’s game.” The crowd was o such a character as to make an ordinary man instinctively feel to see that his pocket-book was all right, and then to wish for fresh air.
While the dice were being thrown there was much excitement. The dealer was urging all to play fast. It kept the hands and eyes of all busy to keep track of the game. The stakes were not high—from one to three or four dollars—but there were men at the tables who had won or lost as high as from fifty to sixty dollars, so I was informed. The scene at one table was duplicated at the others where craps was being played.
At the stud-poker table there was the same kind of a crowd and similar excitement. The players bet against one another, and the house depends for its profit upon what is known as a “kitty,” a certain number of the chips being withdrawn from the table in each game for the house’s profit. The house is a sure winner in this game. In one of the places we visited the dealer was a Chinese, said to be one of the most expert gamblers in the United States. The dealer was constantly urging the players to make their bets fast.
Such was the gambling that was going on in “wide open” Chicago early in December last. Since then the Civic Federation of that city has moved in the matter, and has secured the indictment of the managers and alleged owners of most of the important places. O’Brien and Powers were among those indicted. The other places that we visited were conducted for the most part by politicians of the same grade as O’Brien and Powers, some of the managers also being aldermen. The important thing about them, aside from their debasing character, was the evident fact that all were tolerated by the police. They could not have lasted for an hour without such protection, and it was worthy of note that our police guide knew exactly which ones he could enter with us, and which ones it was the part of wisdom to refrain from entering. Another noteworthy thing about them was the fact that Mayor Harrison, as I shall show later, could not have been ignorant of their existence during all the months they had been running unless he is a very dull man, which he is not. The four or five hundred dollars a night that these places were making represented the daily gain which the wide-open policy demanded and was getting through the political system in vogue there, and nothing more.
We are now ready to consider the system of police blackmail in Chicago. As I said at the outset, the list of rates was given to me by a man who has intimate knowledge of the matter—a man whose figures must be correct down to the last cent. Were I to give his name, no person would think of questioning the accuracy of his statements. So far as I know, he has never shared in the plunder. His name is on the official pay-rolls of the city, and his office and personal character are such that he would have no motive to deceive me. I told Mayor Harrison that police blackmail did exist, because of this man’s statements to me, and also because I saw in my investigations resorts of such a character as never have existed in any American city, and never can exist, without police protection and consequent blackmail. This is the list of rates as given to me by this authority: gambling-houses, $50 and upward a month; panel-houses, $35 to $50 a month; saloons where music is played contrary to law, $100 occasionally; immoral places, $50 to $200 a month. There is also black mail of large fruit-stands. There is little blackmail of saloons for Sunday selling, largely because the saloon traffic is under the direct supervision of the aldermen. It is notorious, however, that it costs $100 to get a saloon license, and $500 to get it back if once it is revoked. The matter of granting licenses and of revoking them is referred to the alderman in the ward concerned. One may see from this how important the office of alderman is in Chicago. So corrupt has this office-holding clique become in Chicago that up to July 1 last, when the law was changed, it was notorious that even the grand-jury room was not free from this degrading “hands out” system. The same man who told me of the police rates said that he had positive knowledge that a certain grand jury had demanded, and had secured, as high as $20,000 in a big gambling case, and then had returned “no bill.”
This spirit of loot is everywhere in Chicago. It may be found in the City Hall, in the award and performance of contracts for public works, in the falsifying of public records, in the collection of public moneys. Evidence of downright dishonesty in these matters has been spread before tie public repeatedly in the scandals of municipal administration in the city. It follows in the wake of the low class of politicians that rule the place as surely as night follows day. It is a living and continual illustration of the depths to which spoils politics will go if unchecked by a healthy public spirit.
Having investigated my subject, I went to the Superintendent of Police, Joseph Kipley, the appointee of Mayor Harrison, told him what I had seen and done, and asked him what he thought about it. I said I wanted his views for publication. He stood up in his office, placed his hands behind his back, looked toward the ceiling in a vacant way, twisted his mouth and cheeks into a half-smile and a half-smirk, and said:
- I have heard that some of the boys are playing craps a little. You know, I don’t go around much. Indeed, I can’t; I have so much to do right here! It isn’t right to expect me to know everything that is going on in town. How could I get all over town in such a big place as this? I don’t know that anything wrong is going on. We wouldn’t allow that, of course—no, sir!
(This ‘no, sir’ was said with emphasis.)
- I am sure that not a roulette wheel is turning in town.
(Mayor Harrison said the same thing afterward.)
- Of course little games may be running here and there, but as I said before, you can’t expect me to know about them. The fact is we want to make every body happy, to make them like to live here, on know. The town isn’t ‘wide open.’ Of course if I could get around more I might know more of what is going on.
Did one ever hear such a piece of baby-act pleading as that? And from the chief of police in the second largest city in the Union! Did Kipley know exactly what was going on in the haunts of vice in Chicago? Of course he did, unless he is an utter fool. The disgusting part of it all was that he should attempt to palm such stuff off on any person of intelligence. Let me tell Mayor Harrison right here that if he will appoint me superintendent of police in Chicago, or any one of a hundred newspaper men I could name, or even one of a dozen smart office-boys I might mention, the superintendent of police in that city will know what is going on in that town within twenty-four hours. And when investigators ask about the condition of affairs, there will be no baby-act pleading. The response to inquiries will be:
- I have nothing to say. Go to see the Mayor.
I went to see the Mayor without being told, simply as a matter of fairness. I told him my errand, and said if he wished to make any comment, I was ready to print it. He said, promptly:
- I will say to you, as I have said to others, this town is not so ‘wide open‘ as New York, where you come from.
How about the gambling that is going on about town ?
- I want to say that there is not a game of faro being played or a roulette wheel turning in Chicago. I know whereof I speak. I have three special agents, paid by me from a secret fund, and not known to six other men in Chicago. They report only to me. The city treasurer or city comptroller does not know them. All administrative control in Chicago centres in this office
(no baby-act pleading there!)
- and at this desk. Only those things occur in the way of vice in Chicago as occur in every large city.
How about the crap games?
- Well, there may be a little of that going on, but that’s a small affair.
(Foster, the card authority, doesn’t think craps is a small affair.)
- I stopped the big games as soon as they were opened. They won’t open again. If you want to know, I’ll tell you what I think about dealing with this matter of regulating things in a big city. I don’t believe in closing saloons on Sunday. I do believe in lowering the blinds and in closing the front doors. I don’t believe in stopping Sunday shows. I don’t believe in closing saloons at midnight. The laws on the statute books requiring these things are dead letters. Public sentiment is against enforcing them. The man doesn’t live who could shut up Chicago saloons on Sunday. I shall not try to do it. It isn‘t for political reasons—that’s not important especially—bnt because the people would not tolerate it for an instant.
Then you don’t believe in enforcing laws not approved by”public opinion?
- No, I don’t, and I don’t intend to try to do so.
But your oath of office requires you to enforce all laws, and Sunday opening of saloons is against law.
- There’s a difference of opinion about that. Our Sunday-closing law we interpret to mean the outward closing, the semblance of closing. That I believe in. I don’t think that saloons should be wide open on the day when thousands want them to appear closed. The law does not mean actual closing. The man who drew it and was most influential in having it passed so interpreted it. If it meant actual closing, and I had to face that problem under oath, I say to you frankly I don’t know what I should do. I never shall have to face that problem, and so we need not discuss that matter.
Mayor Harrison then took another tack, and volunteered this statement:
- There is one thing I want you to understand clearly. Police blackmail does not exist in this town. I won’t tolerate it for a moment. It is the meanest, lowest, most despicable kind of corruption.
I told the Mayor that I was glad to hear him express such sentiments, but that it was only fair to him to say that I had a list of the rates charged in police blackmail in Chicago, prepared for me by one of the officials in the city, and that I intended to print it on such authority. It was then that the Mayor sprang from his chair and pounded his desk, saying that I was misinformed. He then said:
- I don’t believe it. If you will give me the name of your informant I will try to get the same information from him, and I declare that I will drive out of office every man engaged in it. I can’t. believe that any police official under me is unclean. You have been misinformed.
I cannot dispute Mayor Harrison’s sincerity. I am sure that his own office is clean. It was a relief to meet a man who is not a coward and who did not plead the baby act. But I have this to say in print to Mr. Harrison: if he will put his three special agents at my disposal. or will come with me himself, I will show him sights in Chicago that. as he is a manly man, will make him want to rush to the fresh air for clean breath, as they did the police reporter who was with me on my investigations. I remember that the reporter touched me on the shoulder in one place and said:
- If I don’t get out of here I shall faint. I had no idea Chicago was like this.
I will show Mayor Harrison block upon block of vile dives, some of them kept by his political friends, all running in violation of law, I will show him gambling-saloons, notwithstanding the recent police raids. I will show him some splendidly equipped liquor-saloons, right in the heart of the city, with Hungarian bands in them. all contrary to law, and patronized by hundreds upon hundreds of the vilest creatures of the streets. And if he will stop long enough to look about in these saloons and study the depraved of both sexes there, he will understand that these resorts exist for no other reason than to cater to such trade. I will show him beggars stopping decent men with their wives and daughters on the streets, and little children hovering about doorways, ready to pounce upon drunken men so that others may plunder them.
It would not do to close this article without saying something of my interviews with two of Chicago’s famous statesmen—Alderman Michael Kenna, familiarly known as “Hinky Dink,” proprietor of two saloons, and Sol Van Praag, the man who was reported in the newspapers at the time to have “touched Mr. Croker” for forty dollars to get home after the visit of the Cook County Democracy to Tammany Hall. Hinky Dink said to me—I thought it wise not to disclose my full identity—that New York was “the only town” in this country. With some show of regret he admitted that many of the persons who had been in exile in Chicago since the Lexow investigation would go back when Tammany assumed power. He added:
- Tammany treated us like gents. Nothing was too good for us.
Van Praag was behind his bar, serving out drinks. He wanted to talk of the Cook County Democracy’s visit to New York. He said:
- l tell you it was a regular mascot. We have elected eight Democratic mayors on these trips. ” He mentioned Indianapolis. Louisville, and Syracuse its among the cities. “There we were, 285 of us gentlemen, all dressed alike. marching four abreast, and every man as straight as if he wore a corset. When we heard that Van Wyck was elected we burned up everything in the shape of loose wood we could find. Some of us burned up some money, too.
Just then there came the strains of a song from Van Praag’s back room, where nearly twenty women and half a dozen men had congregated. A man with a broken baritone voice was singing some maudlin verse about a gray-haired mother, to the wild applause of the men and the shrieks of approval from the women.
Van Praag said:
- Got a fine voice, ’ain’t he? I think he’s a prize. He’s a Frenchman
(and here he grew confidential)
- And one of the very-best-singers-in~Chicago. So you’re from New York? Have a drink on the house with me. When Van Wyck gets in, it ‘ll be all right. Money will begin to circulate. Good-by. That fellow’s got a fine voice, ’ain’t he?
So much for “wide-open” Chicago. It was wide-open. but only in the lowest and vilest ways. Anti who was and is paying the bill for it all? Simply the young women lured into wretchedness anti the young men who are debauching their careers and wrecking their lives. And why was it permitted? Some said it was in the interest of “personal liberty,” that high-sounding phrase that means so much at election-time. Others said that it was permitted so as to make money circulate.
But I found a deeper reason than these for “wide-open” Chicago. It was this: The
game of national politics in 1900 is being played all over the West, and nowhere more assiduously than in Chicago. The great streams of national party movements find their most prolific sources of supply in our large cities. The men who violate the laws regarding decency in Chicago are the small fry politicians, the men in control of the party management there. It is important for the ambition of more titan one man that Chicago shall be kept in line with the free silver propaganda. To check entirely the local politicians, men like Powers, “Hinky Dink,” and “Bath-House John,” would be to imperil the chances of party supremacy here.
It has been intimated that Mayor Harrison himself has heard what he fancied to be a Presidential bee buzzing about him. Why not? Why should not he be nominated, if Bryan could capture the prize? It has also been intimated that he would not be averse to a nomination for the Vice-Presidency, or, failing in that, would be glad to have a place in the cabinet of the next President, if he should he a Democrat. If these rumors, which have been printed repeatedly, are unjust to Mayor Harrison, it is probably not unjust to him to say that as a politician he desires first of all to retain his party’s supremacy in Chicago, and that being accomplished, to use that supremacy to his own or some other man’s advantage. The way to retain it is to allow Powers, “ Hinky Dink,” Van Praag, “Bath-House John,” and the rest to have as large swing as possible, ignoring the price that must be paid by the city in the ruin to its young, and the enormous damage resulting from its reputation as an unsafe and an unwholesome place in which to live—a reputation which is already costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars yearly.
It is safe to say that Tammany will not copy “wide-open” Chicago. The days of open alliance with crime for political benefit or for personal gain are over in New York. That stage has passed. Vice will continue to exist in New York, as it always must exist where millions are collected, but it will not be open and shameless, as in Chicago. There will be no open gambling-rooms over saloons of Tammany leaders. There will not he block after block of low dives in full blast. Should there be police blackmail, it will not be apparent to every one. Tammany would not dare to turn New York into a “wide-open” Chicago; and I think its leaders have no such desire, for there are other ways of making money.
There is only one man in Chicago who can actually clean up the place. His name is Carter Harrison. If he had the energy and courage to undertake the work sincerely, not in any Puritanical spirit, but in a spirit of ordinary decency, he would not only build for himself such a reputation as decades could not destroy, but would add to the prosperity of the city, and to its attractiveness as a place in which to live and work. The spirit of the real, the progressive Chicago calls unceasingly to him for full liberation from active alliance with vice. The noise and clatter of pothouse politicians are such that the Mayor has heard only part of the cry. A few gambling-saloons have been raided. When will they open again?
Chicago Tribune, May 26, 1901
The extension of the business district toward the south has long been recognized, but the extent of the inroads made by business upon the area reserved for the levee in old times can only be appreciated by visiting the part of the city lying between Jackson boulevard and Twelfth street, or by counting the number of skyscrapers, warehouses, or office buildings erected below Jackson boulevard.
News comes from New York that the Tenderloin is being transformed into a retail center. In Chicago the dives and resorts of the old levee are being replaced at one point by wholesale houses, at another by buildings devoted to the printer’s trade, at another by furniture stores. The congestion in the central part of the city, the low prices prevailing outside of the older business district, and other things tempt the investor to cross over the line and build in what had been disreputable territory.
Limit Moving South.
Harrison street has for a long time been the theoretical northern limit of the levee, but actually Van Buren street is still included in the district. On some of the streets running north and south business has forced its way into the levee farther than elsewhere. The entire length of Dearborn street, for instance, as far as its termination at Polk street has been built up with business blocks. On Clark and State streets the northern limit of the levee is variously placed between Van Buren and Harrison, and occasionally resorts are found north of these points, which indicate that the police may be mistaken in their claim that vice, with its attendant cheap shows, has been driven south of Harrison street.
The holdings of railroads have had a great influence on the development of property in the region south of Van Buren street. Franklin and Market streets, which are for the most part lined with great warehouses, end abruptly at Congress and Harrison streets, where the character of the improvements and the quality of the streets remind one of certain parts of Milwaukee avenue.
Displaced by Railroads.
The old levee extended as far west as Sherman avenue, but almost all of this territory up to the river is now controlled by the railroads, so that the western end of the levee has been forced as far east as Clark street. On Clark street the levee extends as far north as Van Buren, though business blocks are to be seen here and there; on Custom-House place it stops between Harrison and Van Buren streets; on Plymouth place most of the property has been improved for legitimate business enterprises as far south as Harrison street and even beyond. It is difficult to say, how much of State street is in the levee and how much has been annexed to the mercantile district.
The extension of the business center of the city below Jackson street was begun in earnest about a dozen years ago, when the first modern fireproof office buildings were built south of Jackson street. The Rialto, the northern half of the Monadnock, the Pontiac, and Manhattan were pioneers. Since their erection a score of others have been added, some of them for wholesale purposes, one for use as a retail store, but the majority on Dearborn street for use as offices. This does not include the improvements on the lake front.
Streets Show Strange Mixture.
The termination of La Salle street at Jackson boulevard and Dearborn street at Polk street may have had an influence in their character which has not been noticed on Clark and State, where it has been difficult to separate the levee from the business part of town. From time to time an effort is made to induce the police to place the dead line for levee characters and resorts south of Harrison street, but without success. In Chicago, as in New York, only the pressing demand for space by the business community, which results in the appropriation of parts of adjoining territory, accomplishes any real improvement. In many places on the border of the levee modern steel-framed, fireproof skyscrapers will face dilapidated frame houses or abut an old dive.
Chicago Tribune, July 7, 1901
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 affidavit 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 at 44 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.
John Nall says
In 1965 when I drove for Berry Bearing from 26th & Michigan, much of these buildings still existed and even remnants of some of the “clubs”. My delivery area was from the lake west to Oak Park, IL. and from Lake St. South to 31st. This was years after the heydays of brothels and gin joints but there was more left than most people might suspect. If you realize the coverage of my delivery area then you will also realize, if you know history, what went on in those areas in the times of Hinky Dink, Capone, Torrio, O’Banion and others.When I took this job my father warned me about certain people he knew that worked for Berry and he also knew much of what went on during the 20s & 30s. Dad grew up in Hermosa Park and knew a great deal of people OK or connected. I learned very quickly who was connected during the 60s and took good advice and never indulged in any illigal activities, particularly those run buy the mob. It was enough to know of them and what they looked like and to always be a gentleman. I came to know several of those who were part of the mob in the 60s and made friends with them but never once asked to or got involved in their “business.” Most of those guys were far more decent than one would expect and getting along with them required nothing more than mutual respect. They did not push and we stayed friends even until now for those still alive like me If I can be of any help with certain knowledge you are welcome to ask. Search me out on FaceBook John Nall
Dominic Candeloro says
i aam looking f or material on Anna Carlo Blasi, the midwife who was known as the Queen of Little Italy and who became part of the first ward organization in the 1900s, floated a candidacy for Alderman in in 1913 followed by absence of mention in the newspapers until he death in t920.