Friday, May 18, 2018

The First National Bank of Englewood offers a new way to save in 1910.

We’re always being told to save more money. But this time, did a Chicago bank go too far?

The First National Bank of Englewood was located at 347-349 West 63rd Street in Chicago. In 1910 the neighborhood was upper-middle-class, and booming. The bank was doing fine. But like any smart business, officials at First Englewood knew they could do better.
First National Bank of Englewood, 347-349 West 63rd Street, Chicago, Illinois
The bank began publishing a small monthly magazine called Savings. It was distributed free in the community, and had the usual tips on how to save money. All pretty bland and innocent. Then, in the December 1909 issue, readers were treated to the following advice from the fine folks at First Englewood:
“One woman’s method of saving money—or perhaps we should say one of a woman’s methods of saving money—is to go through her husband’s pockets every night while he gently slumbers. All the loose change she finds she deposits in our bank at interest.”
Now a month had passed. During that time, the bank had added 500 new depositors. The head cashier said there was only one way to explain this—the wives of Englewood had been inspired by the article, and were filching coin from their sleeping mates.

Strange as it might seem, some men thought First Englewood’s savings campaign was unethical. The editor of Savings didn’t agree. The bank was merely helping the community become more thrifty. “For the last ten years we have made a close study of the people of Englewood,” he said. “At last we have the combination.”
As for the wives, many said they’d taken advantage of Christmas celebrations to acquire some of hubby’s cash. This had caused some excitement for one lady on Normal Avenue.

“The first time I tried separating my husband from his money, he came to me all out of breath and said that thieves had entered the house,” the woman recalled. “I said nothing until he rushed for the telephone to inform the police. Then I asked him to wait a minute and maybe I might explain.”

With that, the woman fetched her copy of Savings and pointed to the appropriate paragraph. Her husband laughed. All was well again on Normal Avenue.

The First National Bank of Englewood continued building its business in the years ahead, thriving along with the community. During the 1930s the bank became involved in a long dispute with the federal government. It closed in 1941.

by John R. Schmidt

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Chicagoan Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972), the "Queen of Gospel" was the most celebrated Gospel singer in the world.

She was born on October 26, 1911, as Mahala Jackson and nicknamed "Halie." Jackson grew up in the Black Pearl section of the Carrollton neighborhood of uptown New Orleans. 

In 1927, at the age of 16, Mahalia Jackson moved to Chicago, Illinois, in the midst of the Great Migration.

In 1929, Jackson met the composer Thomas A. Dorsey, known as the Father of Gospel Music. He gave her musical advice, and in the mid-1930s they began a 14-year association of touring, with Jackson singing Dorsey's songs in church programs and at conventions. His "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" became her signature song.

In 1930 or 1931 she added the "i" to her name, changing it from Mahala to Mahalia, so people would pronounce her name properly.

Jackson liked to practice her singing at night while she cooked and cleaned her flat. The landlord complained about the noise, so Jackson saved her money and bought her own apartment building. That didn’t work, either—now her tenants were saying she was too loud.
"I sing God's music because it makes me feel free," Jackson once said about her choice of gospel, adding, "It gives me hope. With the blues, when you finish, you still have the blues."
In 1950, Jackson became the first gospel singer to perform at Carnegie Hall when Joe Bostic produced the Negro Gospel and Religious Music Festival. She started touring Europe in 1952 and was hailed by critics as the "world's greatest gospel singer". In Paris she was called the "Angel of Peace," and throughout the continent she sang to capacity audiences. The tour, however, had to be cut short due to exhaustion.
In 1956 Jackson decided the only solution was to buy a house for herself. Driving around the Chatham neighborhood on Chicago's South Side, she stopped at a number of homes with “For Sale” signs out front. At each one, she was told that the property had just been sold.

Chatham was an all-white area. Though restrictive covenants had been outlawed by the U.S. Supreme Court, that didn’t seem to matter. “The attention I had been getting from white people for my singing had sort of confused me,” Jackson wrote later. “They still didn’t want me as their neighbor.”

Jackson then went to a real estate agent. A white surgeon had a house on the market at 84th and Indiana. When told the identity of the prospective buyer, the surgeon said he was “proud to sell my house to Mahalia Jackson.”

The news of Jackson’s purchase at 8358 South Indiana Avenue in Chicago (Historical Marker outside the house) sent the neighborhood into a frenzy.
Mahalia Jackson's House at 8358 South Indiana Avenue, Chicago, Illinois
A local Catholic priest who tried to calm things was ignored. Protest meetings were held. Jackson received hostile phone calls at all hours of the night, threatening to dynamite the house.

The situation didn’t improve when she moved in. Rifle bullets were fired through her window. A police guard was posted, and remained in front of the house for nearly a year. “I hadn’t intended to start a crusade,” Jackson recalled. “All I wanted was a quiet, pretty home to live in.”

Early in 1958 Edward R. Murrow brought his Person-to-Person interview program to Jackson’s home. Jackson used the occasion to invite the local kids over for ice cream and cake, and a chance to appear on TV. When many of the children show up, Jackson thought she was finally being accepted.

A cynic once described integration as “the time between the first black family moving in, and the last white family moving out.” Jackson’s neighborhood followed that course. Scared by panic-peddling realtors and afflicted by their own prejudice, all the whites eventually cleared out.

At the March on Washington in 1963, Jackson sang in front of 250,000 people "How I Got Over" and "I Been 'Buked and I Been Scorned." Martin Luther King Jr. made his famous "I Have a Dream" speech there. She also sang "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" at his funeral after he was assassinated in 1968.

“The white people swore we would ruin it,” Jackson wrote about the neighborhood in her 1966 autobiography. “They said it would be a slum overnight. But it hasn’t changed. The grass is still green. The lawns are as neat as ever. Children still whiz up and down on their bikes.” So it was in 1966. And so it still is today.


Mahalia Jackson sings Amazing Grace.

She was described by entertainer Harry Belafonte as "the single most powerful black woman in the United States." She recorded about 30 albums (mostly for Columbia Records) during her career, and her 45 rpm records included a dozen "golds"—million-sellers.

She ended her career in 1971 and devoted much of her time and energy to helping others. She established the Mahalia Jackson Scholarship Foundation for young people who wanted to attend college. For her efforts in helping international understanding, she received the Silver Dove Award. Chicago remained her home until the end.

She opened a beauty parlor and a florist shop with her earnings, while also investing in real estate ($100,000 a year at her peak).

Jackson died on January 27, 1972, at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park, Illinois, of heart failure and diabetes complications.

Two cities paid tribute: Chicago and New Orleans. Beginning in Chicago, outside the Greater Salem Baptist Church, 50,000 people filed silently past her mahogany, glass-topped coffin in final tribute to the queen of gospel song. The next day, as many people who could—6,000 or more—filled every seat and stood along the walls of the city's public concert hall, the Arie Crown Theater of McCormick Place, for a two-hour funeral service. Her pastor, Rev. Leon Jenkins, Mayor Richard J. Daley and Mrs. Coretta Scott King eulogized her during the Chicago funeral as "a friend – proud, black and beautiful". Sammy Davis Jr. and Ella Fitzgerald paid their respects. Joseph H. Jackson, president of the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc., delivered the eulogy at the Chicago funeral. Aretha Franklin closed the Chicago rites with a moving rendition of "Precious Lord, Take My Hand."

Three days later, a thousand miles away, the scene repeated itself: again the long lines, again the silent tribute, again the thousands filling the great hall of the Rivergate Convention Center in downtown New Orleans this time.

Mahalia Jackson was inducted as a Laureate of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois and awarded the Order of Lincoln (the State’s highest honor) by the Governor of Illinois in 1967 in the area of The Performing Arts.

Mahalia Jackson won Grammy Awards in 1961, 1962, 1972 and 1976. Jackson was posthumously inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, a special Grammy award established in 1973 to honor artists whose recordings are at least twenty-five years old and have "qualitative or historical significance," in 1947, 1956 and 1958. 

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Biography of Charles Gates Dawes from Evanston, Illinois. He was a Lawyer, Businessman, Banker, Politician, Government Employee, WWI Brigadier General, V.P. of the U.S., and Ambassador to Great Britain.

"Once upon a time, there were two brothers. One of them went to sea. The other became Vice President of the United States. Neither of them was ever heard from again.”

That was an old vaudeville joke, and it always got a laugh. It was true enough. Charles G. Dawes was our 30th (1925-1929) Vice President, and he lived in Illinois. But unless you’re from Evanston, you probably never heard of the guy.


Charles Gates Dawes
Dawes was born in Ohio in 1865, became a lawyer, and practiced in Nebraska for awhile. Dawes' prominent positions in business caught the attention of Republican party leaders. They asked Dawes to manage the Illinois portion of William McKinley's bid for the Presidency of the United State in 1896. Following McKinley's election, Dawes was rewarded for his efforts by being named Comptroller of the Currency, United States Department of the Treasury. Serving in that position from 1898 to 1901, he collected more than $25 million from banks that had failed during the Panic of 1893, and also changed banking practices to try to prevent a similar event in the future.

In October 1901, Dawes left the Department of the Treasury in order to pursue a U.S. Senate seat from Illinois. He thought that, with the help of the McKinley Administration, he could win it. McKinley was assassinated and his successor, President Theodore Roosevelt, preferred Dawes's opponent. In 1902, following this unsuccessful attempt at legislative office, Dawes declared that he was done with politics. He organized the Central Trust Company of Illinois, where he served as its president until 1921.

In 1909 he bought this house at 225 Greenwood Street in Evanston, Illinois. The Dawes House was designated a national Historic Landmark in 1976. It is now owned by the Evanston History Center (formerly known as the Evanston Historical Society).
During the First World War, Dawes was commissioned major, lieutenant colonel, and colonel of the 17th Engineers. In October 1918 he was promoted to brigadier general. From August 1917 to August 1919, Dawes served in France during World War I as chairman of the general purchasing board for the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), as a member representing the AEF on the Military Board of Allied Supply, and, after the war, as a member of the Liquidation Commission of the United States War Department. He was decorated with the Distinguished Service Medal and the French Croix de Guerre in recognition of his service. He returned to the United States on board the SS Leviathan in August 1919.

In February 1921, the U.S. Senate held hearings on war expenditures. During heated testimony, Dawes burst out, "Hell and Maria, we weren't trying to keep a set of books over there, we were trying to win a war!" He was later known as "Hell and Maria Dawes" (although he always insisted the expression was "Helen Maria")

Dawes resigned from the Army in 1919 and became a member of the American Legion. He supported Frank Lowden at the 1920 Republican National Convention, but the presidential nomination went to Warren G. Harding. When the Bureau of the Budget was created, he was appointed in 1921 by President Harding as its first director. Hoover appointed him to the Allied Reparations Commission in 1923.

After the war, Dawes went to work in the Harding Administration. He was Budget Director, and was later put in charge of German reparations payments. Because they had lost the war, Germany had to pay billions of dollars to the victorious allies.

For his work on the Dawes Plan[1], a program to enable Germany to restore and stabilize its economy, Dawes shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1925. The negotiations on reparations broke down. Dawes's plan was replaced with the Young Plan, which reduced the total amount of reparations and called for the removal of occupying forces.

By 1924 Calvin Coolidge was President and running for re-election. He wanted a running mate from the pivotal swing-state of Illinois. The Republican Convention gave the spot to ex-Governor Frank Lowden. He turned it down. Then Dawes got the nod. He delivered his acceptance speech from the porch of the house in Evanston, Illinois.

The Coolidge-Dawes ticket won a landslide victory.
TIME Magazine Cover: Charles G. Dawes - June 11, 1928
After that, the two men didn’t get along. It didn’t help matters when the Vice President missed a crucial tie-breaking vote, and one of the President’s cabinet nominees was rejected. Dawes was back at his hotel at the time, taking a nap.

Dawes was never seriously considered as a presidential candidate. He was later Ambassador to Great Britain, then returned to banking. 

He died in 1951 and is buried in Rosehill Cemetery and Mausoleum in Chicago.

Dawes stipulated in his will that the house become a historical museum. It has been the home of the Evanston History Center since 1960, and it was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 


[1] The Dawes Plan, an arrangement for Germany’s payment of reparations after WWI. On the initiative of the British and U.S. governments, a committee of experts, presided over by an American financier, Charles G. Dawes, produced a report on the question of German reparations for presumed liability for World War I. The report was accepted by the Allies and by Germany on Aug. 16, 1924. No attempt was made to determine the total amount of reparations to be paid, but payments were to begin at 1,000,000,000 gold marks in the first year and rise to 2,500,000,000 by 1928. The plan provided for the reorganization of the Reichsbank and for an initial loan of 800,000,000 marks to Germany. The Dawes Plan seemed to work so well that by 1929 it was believed that the stringent controls over Germany could be removed and total reparations fixed. This was done by the Young Plan. 


Tobacco aficionados might be interested to learn that Dawes designed and popularized the Dawes Pipe.