Saturday, June 23, 2018

German-American Bund leader Fritz Kuhn promises to make Germany and America great once more at a Chicago rally at Irving Park and Narragansett on June 18, 1939.

German-American Bund leader Fritz Kuhn promising to make Germany and America great once more at a rally at Irving Park and Narragansett on June 18, 1939.

It might seem absolutely inconceivable that there was a time in Chicago in which a fascist rally would attract thousands of people. But on June 18, 1939, the American flag and Nazi swastika banner flew side by side in what is now known as Merrimac Park.
Chicago newspapers estimated that between 4,000 and 8,000 assembled to support the German-American Bund, an organization whose stated mission was to "defend the Constitution, Flag, and Institutions of these United States of America." But as at other Bund gatherings, those that spoke showed nothing but contempt for American democracy. There was remarkably little ideological difference between the German-American Bund and the Nazi Party in Germany. Several hundred men and boys dressed in uniforms resembling those worn by Nazi storm troopers. Vendors sold beer, brats, and anti-Semitic literature.
Bund recruiting tent on display during the June 18, 1939, rally.
At least 100 police officers were kept on reserve in case of a riot, but the only disturbance of the day involved a handful of brownshirts who had confiscated the film of a newspaper photographer. The crowd would be safe from hearing from the groups it wished to eliminate from American society. Praising Adolf Hitler, Bund leader Fritz Kuhn appealed to the enthusiastic crowd to carry on his organization's "patriotic fight" to "free America."
Nazi sympathizers in front of the Field Museum in May 1931.
The event, which began with "The Star-Spangled Banner," ended with a Hitler salute and German hymns. The story of Nazism in Chicago began nearly 15 years earlier with the foundation of the Chicago chapter of the Teutonia Society, a group made up of working-class German immigrants who supported the National Socialist Party in Germany. Its national leader, a Chicago printer named Fritz Gissebl, would eventually end up as a high-ranking SS officer in Nazi-occupied Poland, although the group functioned more as a Hitler fan club and anti-Semitic drinking society than a fearsome political organization. When it disbanded in 1932, it had only about 500 members nationwide.

The Nazi party's seizure of power breathed new life into the movement. In July 1933, the Friends of New Germany held its first convention in Chicago, with the grandiose goal of unifying the millions of German-Americans under its banner. The group was no less hostile to Jews or leftists than were its counterparts in Germany. The historian Sander A. Diamond has suggested that skilled workers left economically insecure by the Depression formed the core of its membership. By April 1934, the Chicago chapter reportedly had 500 members, including 40 storm troopers that performed military drills each Thursday. Although new members took an oath that affirmed the Führerprinzip—the principle that the leader's word was above any written law—the Friends of New Germany was such a fractious mess that the German government, which had long collaborated with the group, ordered German nationals to resign their memberships in October 1935.
Police hold back demonstrators at a Bund rally at Lincoln Turner Hall at Diversey and Sheffield in October 1938. The Bund was bitterly opposed not only by the groups it had sought to eliminate from American society, but also by most German-Americans, the vast majority of whom wanted nothing to do with the Bund.
In March of 1936, the German-American Bund was formed. Kuhn, a Detroit chemist and naturalized American citizen who had proven himself a skilled organizer, was elevated as its leader. The new American führer was able to bring stability to the project of spreading Nazism in the United States, projecting the illusion that it was a rapidly expanding mass movement. "His bombast, propensity for exaggeration, and lies were part of his technique," Diamond writes.

The Bund did not go unchallenged in Chicago. In September 1937, the Chicago Daily Times ran a ten-part series on the group. Two German-American brothers, James and John Metcalfe, went undercover and quickly rose in its ranks. Backed by the Bund's own malignant propaganda, they characterized the organization as an "alien army" that considered not only Jews and Communists as its enemies, but also the Catholic Church and New Deal liberals. One Bundist told John Metcalfe that he had witnessed "men dumped out of windows and killed" in Germany. "The day will come over here when Jews get the same treatment on the street they get in Germany," he said. The exposé intensified pressure for the federal government to investigate the group, particularly its ties to the German government. While the group continued to portray itself as a deeply patriotic organization, its actions showed an alarming contempt for democratic traditions. At a meeting at the Germania Club in Lincoln Park that drew 1,000 participants in February 1938, William Kunze, the head of the Bund's publicity office, declared that Jews, representing 4 percent of the population, controlled the press, radio, movie studios, schools, courts, and finance. Asked how the Bund proposed "to eliminate the Jews," Kunze urged that legislation could be passed along the lines of those that excluded Asian immigration to the United States, adding that this might not be necessary "if the Jew learns his lesson." During the meeting, a storm trooper from Glenview smashed a reporter's camera. Two students were assaulted when they refused to salute the Nazi flag.
Police hold back demonstrators at a Bund rally at Lincoln Turner Hall at Diversey and Sheffield in October 1938. The Bund was bitterly opposed not only by the groups it had sought to eliminate from American society, but also by most German-Americans, the vast majority of whom wanted nothing to do with the Bund.
In October 1938, German-Americans and Czech-Americans protested a Bund celebration of the Nazi annexation of the Sudetenland. Demonstrators attempting to bring an American flag into the hall were beaten by Bundists. As the streets around the hall filled with 5,000-plus demonstrators, more than 150 police officers were called in to prevent a possible riot. "We are not worried about those who want to break up our little volksfest," Kuhn told his comrades. He should have been. During a meeting of 20,000 supporters at Madison Square Garden, held in honor of George Washington's birthday, Bundists violently attacked a Jewish-American protester who charged to the podium as Kuhn was speaking. The extreme views expressed by Kuhn and other orators simply hardened the public view of the Bund as a threat to civil society. The June 1939 mass meeting at Irving Park and Narragansett was meant to raise money for Kuhn's defense, as he had been indicted for embezzlement from the Bund. While the organization took the official position that there was no crime because its leader exercised absolute power, a jury of Kuhn's peers convicted him on the charges of larceny and forgery after eight and a half hours of deliberation.

Under intense federal scrutiny, the Bund was a broken organization by the time Nazi Germany declared war on the United States. In 1943, a federal court stripped Kuhn of his citizenship on the grounds that he had demonstrated complete allegiance to a foreign power. Deported to Germany in 1945, he died in obscurity and poverty six years later. The rally in June 1939 would not be the last mass meeting of Nazis in Chicago, although these extremists often came from mixed ethnic and cultural backgrounds disdained by the Bund. George Lincoln Rockwell, leader of the American Nazi Party, spoke in Marquette Park in August 1966 to an audience that may have been as large as 3,000. Although the National Socialist Party marches of 1977 still loom large in the public consciousness, there were only perhaps 30 marchers in total.

It would be nice to think that our city would never have to experience such a spectacle again, but you shouldn't hold your breath. 

The Chicago Reader

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Lost Towns of Illinois - Grayland, Illinois

Grayland, a suburb of Chicago (annexed in 1889) was created by subdividing John Gray's farm. Gray deeded the land that he had already built a depot on the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad line. In return for the property, the R.R. promised to maintain and service the depot, thus insuring that the inhabitants of Gray's subdivision would have easy transport to Chicago and back. The station was opened in 1873 to service Grayland.

John Gray, of Grayland, Illinois, a beautiful Chicago suburb, was at one time the jolly landlord at the Green Tree Tavern from 1838 to 1841 when it was called the Chicago Hotel.
When not kept busy with his guests sat in the door and shot wolves that came to carry away his young pigs at the barn across the street.

November of 1840 may be dated the earliest fair footing of education in Chicago with the first schoolhouse. The Board of Education then consisted of John Gray, Wm, Jones, John Young Scammon, Isaac N. Arnold, Nathan H. Balles, J. H. Scott, and Hiram Hugunin. Teachers were paid $100 for a quarter, consisting of three months.

The first public school building worth mention was erected in 1843, and stood where The Inter Ocean office stood (on the northwest corner of Madison and Dearborn at 85 West Madison [under the old Chicago street numbering]). It was built at the urgent instance of Alderman Miltimore, and was for years known as "Miltimore's Folly," it being very generally assumed that there would never be enough children in Chicago to fill so large a building.

Today, the Grayland Station is a Metra commuter railroad station in the Old Irving Park neighborhood in Chicago along the Milwaukee District/North Line. It is located at 3729 North Kilbourn Street, which is 8.2 miles away from Union Station, the southern terminus of the line, and serves commuters between Union Station and Fox Lake, Illinois.

NOTE: Additional reading about John Gray; The Township of Jefferson, llinois, Chapter VII, is in my Digital Research Library of Illinois History®

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Jean La Lime is Chicago's first murder victim on June 17, 1812.

Chicago was not a city, but rather a frontier settlement occupied mostly by French-Canadian and American traders as well as soldiers and Native Americans. It was the home of Fort Dearborn, the site of the famous battle that would take place that same year.

But Fort Dearborn’s history was bloodied even before it became known for the battle that bears its name. Just two months earlier — on June 17 — it was the site of Chicago's first documented slaying — and some say its first murder. The suspect in the slaying was John Kinzie. In history, he is sometimes referred to as "Chicago's first citizen," but Haiti-born Jean Baptiste Point du Sable is widely considered to own that title today. (Du Sable built a cabin just north of the Chicago River near Lake Michigan — approximately where the Tribune Tower is today — in 1779, where he established a trading post. That same cabin was later purchased by Kinzie in 1804.)

The deceased was Jean La Lime, a French trader who also served as an interpreter among the settlement's inhabitants and the Native Americans. La Lime first purchased du Sable's cabin and later sold it to Kinzie. In 1812, Kinzie and La Lime were neighbors, but historical accounts do not portray their relationship as neighborly. There was "bad blood" between them, according to a Chicago Daily Tribune article from 1942.

"They had some long association with each other," Russell Lewis, chief historian at the Chicago History Museum, said. "It was a very small neighborhood… and people were competitive. John Kinzie was not known as a particularly generous or affable person."

While Kinzie's name triumphed over La Lime’s in Chicago lore, historical portraits of him aren't all flattering. A Chicago Tribune article from 1966 paints Kinzie as an "aggressive" trader who clashed with some American soldiers stationed at Fort Dearborn. Ann Durkin Keating, a history professor at North Central College in Naperville, describes Kinzie as a "volatile and violent character." Tensions between Kinzie and La Lime came to a head on June 17, 1812, when the two men met outside Fort Dearborn, La Lime armed with a pistol and Kinzie with a butcher’s knife. Keating describes the murder that ensued as "premeditated" in her book "Rising Up from Indian Country: The Battle of Fort Dearborn and the Birth of Chicago."

A witness account of what followed appears in Keating's book: “We saw the men come out together; we heard the pistol go off, and saw the smoke. Then they fell down together. I don’t know as Lalime got up at all but Kinzie got home pretty quick. Blood was running from his shoulder where Lalime shot him.”
The murder site of Jean La Lime at today's address of 444 N. Wabash Avenue, Chicago.
The reasons for the fatal dispute are unknown. Kinzie fled the area afterward and didn’t return until authorities ruled the slaying was in self defense. Historians do not know whether Kinzie attacked La Lime first or if it were the other way around.

"The fact that Kinzie, of course, after La Lime was killed, ran away and became a fugitive, that's open to lots of different kinds of interpretation," Lewis said. "He was innocent if it was self defense, so why did he run away?" Whether Kinzie really did murder La Lime in self defense — and it's suggested that his gunshot wound is evidence that he might have — another possible reason he fled is because of his loyalties. Chicago in 1812 was a frontier settlement with people from all over the world — France, Canada, Great Britain and possibly Spain, to name a few — as well as the Native Americans who already lived there. Kinzie may have stood out in this melting pot for his pro-British and anti-American stance, Lewis said. This may have made him unpopular with some of the settlement’s inhabitants, possibly leading Kinzie to believe he wouldn't get a fair trial. After recovering from the gunshot wound from La Lime, Kinzie narrowly escaped death again at the Battle of Fort Dearborn on Aug. 15 that year. He died in Chicago in 1828.

Today, Kinzie's remains are buried at the historic Graceland Cemetery in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood.
John Kinzie grave in Graceland cemetery.
La Lime's body was rumored to be buried near Kinzie's cabin. In 1891 — 79 years after the slaying — a partial skeleton thought to belong to La Lime was excavated at Illinois Street and Cass Street (now Wabash Avenue) and given to the Chicago Historical Society, which still possesses the preserved skeleton. The remains have never been confirmed to belong to La Lime, whose legacy remains nearly as anonymous as his skeleton.
The alleged skeleton of Jean La Lime, at the Chicago Historical Museum.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.