Saturday, December 31, 2016

The History of Rosiclare, Illinois, in Hardin County on the Ohio River.

Hardin county was made by taking the south end of Gallatin and the northeast part of Pope counties. It was created on March 2, 1839, and was only 185 square miles in size.
The second smallest county in Illinois is next to Putnam county. There are three towns in the county; Elizabethtown, with a 2020 population of 210; Rosiclare, 964; and Cave-in-Rock, 230. 

The first settler within the limits of the county was reported to be James McFarlan, Sr., who had a contract with the United States to furnish beef for the garrison at Fort Massac (Metropolis, Illinois, 30 miles southwest). He settled at the present site of Elizabethtown in 1808, where the trail crossed from Nashville, Tennessee, to the salt works at Equality.
Here McFarlan ran a ferry across the Ohio River for twenty years. William McFarlan was also a settler as early as 1808. 

In 1808 Governor William H. Harrison gave Isaac White and Jonathan Taylor permission to operate a ferry at Elizabethtown. John King was the first cabinet maker. Mr. Ewell was the first teacher and Rev. Stilly, a Baptist minister, preached the first sermon in the county.

Benona Lee came in 1809.
In 1839 lead was discovered on the farm of Mr. James Anderson, one mile south of the site of the present-day town of Rosiclare. Nothing was done at that time toward developing the deposit. In 1842 Mr. Pell, living one mile north of Rosiclare, discovered fluorspar and lead. Companies were organized, and mines opened.
These mines were worked at intervals until 1851, when they were abandoned. More was done once the fluorspar mines were opened up in recent years. Since then, there has been significant activity in the fluorspar, zinc, and lead mining businesses. The mines are less than a mile out of Rosiclare. Two railroads were built, one steam and the other electric, leading to the river and used to move the raw products of the mines to the river, where they are loaded onto barges for transportation to buyers. The mines were closed due to cheaper foreign competition in 1996.

Fluorspar is used directly or indirectly to manufacture aluminum, gasoline, insulating foams, refrigerants, steel, and uranium fuel. 
Since 1965, the annual Hardin County Fluorspar Festival has been held in the fall in Rosiclare, Illinois, to celebrate the influences brought to the area by the Fluorspar Mining Industry. 

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Broadway at Leland Avenue looking north toward Lawrence Avenue Chicago, Illinois. 1926

Broadway at Leland Avenue looking north toward Lawrence Avenue Chicago, Illinois. 1926

The Story of an American Merchant, Richard W. Sears in Chicago by 1893.

Richard Warren Sears was born on December 7, 1863, in Stewartville, Minnesota, to Eliza A. Benton and James Warren Sears, a successful wagon maker.

When Richard was 15, his father lost his substantial fortune in a stock farm venture; his father died two years later. Young Richard then took a job in the general offices of the Minneapolis and St. Paul Railroad to help support his widowed mother and his sisters.

Once he had qualified as a station agent Sears asked to be transferred to a smaller town in the belief that he could do better there financially than in the big city. Eventually, he was made station agent in Redwood Falls, Minnesota, where he took advantage of every selling opportunity that came his way. He used his experience with railroad shipping and telegraph communications to develop his idea for a mail-order business.

As a railroad station agent in a small Minnesota town, Sears lived modestly, sleeping in a loft right at the station and doing chores to pay for his room and board. Since his official duties were not time-consuming, Sears soon began to look for other ways to make money after working hours. He ended up selling coal and lumber and he also shipped venison purchased from Native American tribes.

In 1886 an unexpected opportunity came his way when a jeweler in town refused to accept a shipment of watches because no rail freight charges had been paid. Rather than having the railroad pay to return the shipment, Sears obtained permission to dispose of the watches himself. He then offered them to other station agents for $14 each, pointing out that they could resell the watches for a tidy profit. 

The strategy worked and before long Sears was buying more watches to sustain a flourishing business. Within just a few months after he began advertising in St. Paul, Sears quit his railroad job and set up a mail-order business in Minneapolis that he named the R. W. Sears Watch Company.

Offering goods by mail rather than in a retail store had the advantage of low operating costs. Sears had no employees and he was able to rent a small office for just $10 a month. His desk was a kitchen table and he sat on a chair he had bought for 50¢. But the shabby surroundings did not discourage the energetic young entrepreneur. Hoping to expand his market, Sears advertised his watches in national magazines and newspapers. Low costs and a growing customer base enabled him to make enough money in his first year to move to Chicago and publish a catalog of his goods.
In Chicago Sears hired Alvah C. Roebuck to fix watches that had been returned to the company for adjustments or repairs. The men soon became business partners and they started handling jewelry as well as watches. A master salesman, Sears developed a number of notable advertising and promotional schemes, including the popular and lucrative "club plan." According to the rules of the club, 38 men placed one dollar each week into a pool and chose a weekly winner by lot. Thus, at the end of 38 weeks, each man in the club had his own new watch. Such strategies boosted revenues so much that by 1889 Sears decided to sell the business for $70,000 and move to Iowa to become a banker.

Sears soon grew bored with country life, however, and before long he had started a new mail-order business featuring watches and jewelry. Because he had agreed not to compete for the same business in the Chicago market for a period of three years after selling his company, Sears established his new enterprise in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He hired Roebuck again and this time he dubbed the product of their partnership A. C. Roebuck and Company. In 1893 Sears moved the business to Chicago and renamed it Sears, Roebuck, and Company.

Once established in Chicago, the company grew rapidly. The first edition of the Sears catalog published in the mid-1880s had included a list of only 25 watches. 

By 1892, however, it had expanded to 140 pages offering "everything from wagons to baby carriages, shotguns to saddles." Sales soared to nearly $280,000. A mere two years later the catalog contained 507 pages worth of merchandise that average Americans could afford. Orders poured in steadily and the customer base continued to grow. By 1900 the number of Sears catalogs in circulation reached 853,000.

Sears was the architect of numerous innovative selling strategies that contributed to his company's development. In addition to his club plan, for example, he came up with what was known as the "Iowazation" project: the company asked each of its best customers in Iowa to distribute two dozen Sears catalogs. These customers would then receive premiums based on the amount of merchandise ordered by those to whom they had distributed the catalogs. The scheme proved to be spectacularly successful and it ended up being used in other states, too.

Richard Sears had a genius for marketing and he exploited new technologies to reach customers nationwide via mail-order. At first, he targeted rural areas: People had few retail options there and they appreciated the convenience of being able to shop from their homes. Sears made use of the telegraph as well as the mails for ordering and communicating. He relied on the country's expanding rail freight system to deliver goods quickly; the passage of the Rural Free Delivery Act made servicing remote farms and villages even easier and less expensive.

Such tremendous growth led to problems, however. While Sears was a brilliant marketer (he wrote all of the catalog material), he lacked solid organizational and management skills. He frequently offered merchandise in the catalog that he did not have available for shipment, and after the orders came in he had to scramble to find the means to fill them. Workdays were frequently 16 hours long; the partners themselves toiled seven days a week. Fulfilling orders accurately and efficiently also posed a challenge. One customer wrote, "For heaven's sake, quit sending me sewing machines. Every time I go to the station I find another one.

You have shipped me five already." Roebuck became exhausted by the strain of dealing with these concerns and he sold his interest in the company to Sears in 1895 for $25,000.
With his partner out of the picture, Sears badly needed a manager. He eventually found one in Aaron Nussbaum, who bought into the company with his brother-in-law, Julius Rosenwald. It was Rosenwald, not Sears, who transformed Sears, Roebuck "from a shapeless, inefficient, rapidly expanding corporate mess into the retailing titan of much of the twentieth century." He streamlined the system by which orders were processed, employing a color-coding scheme to track them and an assembly-line method of filling them. These efficient new techniques enabled the company to meet the challenge of handling an ever-increasing number of orders. 

By 1895 the company was grossing almost $800,000 ($26.8 million today) a year. Five years later that figure had shot up to $11 million ($368 million today), surpassing sales at Montgomery Ward, a mail-order company that had been founded back in 1872.

In 1895 Sears married Anna Lydia Mechstroth of Minneapolis and they had three children.  

In 1901 Sears and Rosenwald bought out Nussbaum for $1.25 million ($50 million today).

By 1906, for example, Sears, Roebuck was averaging 20,000 orders a day. During the Christmas season, the number jumped to 100,000 orders a day. That year the company moved into a brand-new facility with more than three million square feet of floor space. At the time it was the largest business building in the world.
Beginning in 1908 Sears, Roebuck and Co. sold mail-order Modern Homes program. Sears was not an innovative home designer. Sears was instead a very able follower of popular home designs but with the added advantage of modifying houses and hardware according to buyer tastes. Individuals could even design their own homes and submit the blueprints to Sears, which would then ship off the appropriate precut and fitted materials, putting the homeowner in full creative control. Modern Home customers had the freedom to build their own dream houses, and Sears helped realize these dreams through quality custom design and favorable financing.
Over the next 32 years, Sears designed 447 different housing styles, from the elaborate multistory Ivanhoe, with its elegant French doors and art glass windows, to the simpler Goldenrod, which served as a quaint, three-room and no-bath cottage for summer vacationers. (An outhouse could be purchased separately for Goldenrod and similar cottage dwellers.) Customers could choose a house to suit their individual tastes and budgets. Production ended in 1940 and Sears sold about 70,000 - 75,000 homes. 

The History of Sears Modern Homes and Sears Honor Bilt Homes includes Floor Plans.

In the initial production year of 1909, the Sears Motor Buggy was offered only as a $395.00 ($12,000 in today's dollars), solid-tired, runabout. But starting in 1910, Sears offers 5 different models of the automobile. The truth of the matter is that they were all basically the same car with different amenities, like fenders, lights, tops, etc. 
Richard Sears resigned as president of the company he had founded in 1909. His health was poor and many of his extravagant promotional schemes had begun to run into opposition from his fellow executives, including Rosenwald. He turned the company over to his partner and retired to his farm north of Chicago. At the time of his death on September 28, 1914, Sears left behind an estate of $25 million ($703 million today) and an enduring legacy of success in the highly competitive world of retailing. 

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

The Oldest House in Chicago's West Ridge Community.

In 1871, Peter Schmitt Jr. (aka: Schmidt; Americanized to Smith when married to Elizabeth Phillip), built this stunning home at 6836 North Ridge Boulevard for a cost of $5,100.00. The home still stands and has been in the same family for 146 years. Today's value is 100 times the original cost at $510,000.
The number of Chicago residence jumped from 50 in 1830 to 4,170 by 1837. Construction supplies never kept up with demand. The extraordinary demand for quick shelter led to Chicago’s first reputation for architectural innovation; balloon framing. In 1833 St. Mary’s Church was built on a new principal of construction – the substitution of thin plates and studs, running the entire height of the building and held together only by nails. The older and more expensive method of construction used mortised and tenoned joints. A house now could be erected in a week, but usually was not fixed to the ground. 

The Smith house was near completion but still under final construction at the time of the Great Chicago Fire. The house was much further north of the conflagulation and totally safe. There is no record of the building style, but one can assume, since it is still standing, lived in and owned by the same family, that it used “old school” construction methods.

Expense Record of Building the Schmitt House; recorded in 1871: 
   Carpenter Work:........Cash......$750
   Mason Work:............Cash......$600
   Sash and Moulding:...............$150
   Lime and cement:.................$125
   Locks and Things:................$75
   Paint and Painters:..............$100
   Lumber at Evanston:..............$75
   Stone Work:......................$50
   Carpenter Cash:..................$50
   Moulding Door:...................$50
   Other Cash payments:.............$1337
   Grand Total:.....................$5150

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Manning & Bowes Saloon After a Bomb Explosion in 1909.

Manning & Bowes Saloon after a bomb explosion showing the room near the bar in ruins with four men standing and sitting at one end of the bar. The saloon was located at 321 State Street (today, 501 South State Street) in Chicago. (1909)

Chicago Sunday Tribune - June 27, 1909

Although the police profess to have one man under suspicion as having caused bomb explosion No. 30 at Manning & Bowes Saloon, 321 State Street, no arrests were made yesterday (Saturday, June 26, 1909). A rumor is gaining in strength that the man under suspicion has a strong political "pull," but the police deny that this is true of the person they are seeking.

Detectives from the headquarters and the Harrison Street station house continued work throughout the day upon the case but were unable or unwilling to report any progress when asked about the bomb throwers. 

Assistant Chief of Police Schuettler declares that every means the department has at its command is being used in the pursuit of the man or men responsible for the repeated outrages.

"I wish I knew who the certain police official is who knows the persona responsible for the dynamite bombs in the so-called gamblers' war; I would give ten years of my life to know who is responsible for the outrages."

This was the statement made last evening by Assistant Chief Schuettler in response to a published account said to have been made by persons who are said to be in touch with the gambling situation.

"I don't believe there is any official attached to the Chicago police department who has information that would lead to the identity of the perpetrators of the bomb outrages," said the assistant chief.

"I have officials of a powder company at work trying to locate the place where the bomb throwers obtain the powder, which is the explosive used in most of the bombs. I believe we are close to the track of the bomb throwers but cannot afford to make arrests upon suspicion. We have several persons under surveillance, but it is our business to catch them in the act in order to secure a conviction."

"It makes me feel mighty bad to know that no arrest has been made as yet, but we would be in a worse way if we made arrests upon suspicion and were unable to produce evidence against the suspects that would satisfy a court."

"We have followed up the movements of all the known gamblers and obtained lists of men that are supposed to be their enemies within the gambling fraternity. I have heard rumors that there is someone who we are afraid to arrest. That is untrue."

"If we secure evidence against anyone, no matter how he may be connected, we will not hesitate to make arrests. This last outrage has made the detectives who have worked at times upon cases determined to land the men who are responsible."

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

The Hub Roller Rink & Axle Roller Rinks of Illinois.

The Hub Roller Rink opened in a desolate area in October 1950 at 4510 North Harlem Avenue, Chicago, Illinois. For those familiar with Chicago today, this area is now a shopping mall and small stores.
In 1950 there was nothing between the Roller Rink and Irving Park Road.
The "Harlem Outdoor Theater (drive-in theater)" was at the corner, and across the street was the Illinois State Police Headquarters. South of Irving Park was some small stores and a few restaurants that many Roller Rink regulars hung out at after the rink closed.
Hub Roller Skating Rink Concession Stand before the Axle Remodeled.
The HUB was a supersized roller skating rink for its time and housed a Giant Wurlitzer Pipe Organ, initially played by Leon Berry. The skating area was about 275 feet long and some 95 feet wide. The floor was much larger if you included the area outside of the rink railings that allowed skaters access to the rink floor.

Music by Freddy Arnish, Organist at the Hub.

The skating had set "styles of skating" displayed on a lighted sign when the organ music would change tempos. Most of the time, the skating style was "All Skate" Some other skating styles were: Couples Only, Waltz, Fox Trot, and a few fancy dances such as; Collegiate and the 14-step.
The Romp was when skaters joined hands in groups of 3, 4, or 5 people, and the end person would be "whipped" around the turns, which often would end in a group falling from the high speeds.
The rink was open every night and had matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Weekends always found huge crowds, some who never even put on a pair of skates. The lobby area was almost as big as the rink, and it had a sizeable oval snack bar about 40 feet long in the center of the lobby. Around the outside walls were coat rooms, shoe skate rentals (leave your shoes as security for the rentals), a skate store, and a skate repair window (minor adjustments to rentals or personal skates were free), as a small dance floor with a jukebox.
A two-story office and the coat room separated the lobby from the rink. The only access to the rink area was through a large opening at the west end of the lobby.
The Hub changed owners and renamed it "The Axle" in 1974. The company, "M&R Amusement," owned all three roller skating rinks.
The Pro Skate Shop in the Axle Roller Rink in Niles, Illinois, in my case, gave me the first credit account I had when I was only 14 years old. I put down $60 on a great pair of professional men's roller skates, a special order. It had leather above the ankle boot, high-end wheels, hubs, trucks, and a jump bar to keep the trucks from breaking off under stress. I set the trucks so loosely that they would wobble when I lifted my foot and jiggled it. After about 6 weeks (about 15 skating sessions), the shoes were broken in, and I could wear thin socks without getting any blisters!

They were expensive, $175 ($630 today), but I skated there on weekends (2 or 3 times, including Sundays) for 5-6 years, so it paid off for me. Here's how it worked. Every time you went skating, you'd have to give the Pro Shop at least $5 and your shoes to store. After skating, you return the skates to the Pro Shop and provide them with the roller skates to store until you return the next time. I never told my parents until the day I paid them off (in a little over a year) and brought them home. 

During the Intermissions, the rink held age-related speed races. I won a lot! The winners would get a free pass for their next admission. 

The Axle locations were:
  • Countryside, IL: Route 66, just East of LaGrange Road. (Closed Mid-1978)
  • Norridge, IL  4510 North Harlem. [Formerly: Hub Roller Skating Rink, Chicago]
  • Niles, IL: Milwaukee Avenue just north of Golf Road (Closed August 8, 1984)
The Axle closed its doors in October 1985.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

The History of Merrill C. Meigs Field Airport, Chicago, Illinois (1948-2003)

Merrill C. Meigs Field Airport (ICAO: KCGX) was a single strip airport that was built on Northerly Island, the man-made peninsula that was also the site of the 1933–1934 Century of Progress World's Fair in Chicago. 
The airport opened on December 10, 1948, and became the country's busiest single-strip airport by 1955. The latest air traffic tower was built in 1952 and the terminal was dedicated in 1961. The airfield was named for Merrill C. Meigs, publisher of the Chicago Herald and Examiner and an aviation advocate.
Northerly Island, owned by the Chicago Park District, is the only lakefront structure to be built based on Daniel Burnham's 1909 Plan of Chicago. 
The island was to be populated by trees and grass for the public enjoyment by all. However, drafted less than six years after the Wright brothers' historic flight oDecember 17, 1903, the 1909 plan did not envision any airports for Chicago.
The Main Terminal Building was operated by the Chicago Department of Aviation and contained waiting areas as well as office and counter space. The runway at Meigs Field was nearly 3,900 by 150 feet. In addition, there were four public helicopter pads at the south end of the runway, near McCormick Place. The north end of the runway was near the Adler Planetarium. The airport was a familiar sight on the downtown lakefront. 
President George W. Bush Boarding Marine One Helicopter at Meigs Field. (2002)
Meigs Field was also well known as the default takeoff airfield in many early versions of the popular Microsoft Flight Simulator software program.
In a controversial move on March 31, 2003, the airport achieved international notoriety when then Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley ordered city crews to bulldoze the runway at night and without the 30-day advance warning required by FAA regulations.
The final plane leaves Meigs Field - April 5, 2003

The Northerly Island's 91-acre peninsula juts into Lake Michigan at the heart of Chicago's Museum Campus has been repurposed as Daniel Burnham's 1909 Plan of Chicago envisioned. The majority of this space is dedicated to nature and features beautiful strolling paths, casual play areas and a spectacular view of the Chicago skyline.

In 1972, Mayor Richard J. Daley proposed Meigs' closure, but he backed down when threatened with the loss of federal FAA funding.

In 1980, Mayor Jane Byrne proposed Meigs' closure for the 1992 World's Fair if the City was chosen as the host city.

In 1992, the City Department of Aviation published its intent to close the airport in its annual report.

In 1994, Mayor Richard M. Daley announced plans to close the airport and build a public park in its place on Northerly Island. 

In September of 1996, the Park District & Department of Aviation closed Meigs. Within two months, the State Legislature voted to reopen the airport under state control. In January 1997, Governor Jim Edgar & Mayor Daley struck a bargain: Meigs would reopen for 5 years, with the City retaining control of the airport.

Meigs was reopened in February 1997.

In 2001, a compromise was reached between Chicago, the State of Illinois, and others to keep the airport open for the next twenty-five years. However, the federal legislation component of the deal did not pass the United States Senate.

On March 31, 2003, in the early morning hours, with a Chicago Police escort, the city bulldozed the runway at Meigs Field.

The FAA fined the city $33,000 for closing an airport with a charted instrument approach without giving the required 30-day notice. This was the maximum fine the law allowed at the time.

On September 17, 2006, the city dropped all legal appeals and agreed to pay the $33,000 fine and REPAY the $1 million dollars in FAA Airport Improvement Program funds that it used to destroy the airfield and build Northerly Island Park.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

The Term "Mickey," as in "I was slipped a Mickey" has Chicago Roots.

After Al Capone, Mickey Finn is probably the most famous criminal name in Chicago history. Between 1896 and 1903, he ran a saloon at 527 South State Street (today it would be at 1101 South State Street, Chicago).
Finn was a diminutive Irishman who first came to Chicago to work graft during the influx of visitors drawn to the World's Fair in 1893. An expert pickpocket and a fence for stolen goods, he plied his trade on travelers arriving at Dearborn Station and throughout the Custom House Place levee district. Soon, he found work tending bar at a tough saloon in Little Cheyenne, where he began training others in his techniques, particularly the streetwalkers who frequented the bar and helped gentlemen select drinks.

But Mickey Finn is best known for his own bar, the Lone Star Saloon and Palm Garden, which he opened in 1896. For seven years, it held the reputation as the toughest joint in the city -- and it certainly served the strongest drinks. The Lone Star was populated by resident "house girls," who made it their job to encourage visitors to drink as much as possible, and to offer any other services that might be requested of them for a price.

In 1898, Mickey Finn met a mysterious voodoo priest named Dr. Hall, who made his living selling love potions and trinkets to the superstitious and uneducated folk of the red light district, and also supplying them with heroin and cocaine. From Dr. Hall, Finn purchased brown bottles filled with liquid and a white, powdery chemical detritus, which no one ever precisely identified, but which made Mickey Finn famous.
Back at his bar, Finn mixed Dr. Hall's concoction with snuff-tinged water and liquor to make "Mickey Finn Specials" -- which the house girls promoted unceasingly. Pity the poor fellow who was cajoled into proving his manhood by ordering this stiff drink though. Isabel Fyffe and "Gold Tooth" Mary, two of the Lone Star's house girls, later testified before an Aldermanic committee about the effects of the drink:

When the victims drink this dopey stuff, they get talkative, walk around in a restless manner, and then fall into a deep sleep, and you can't arouse them until the effect of the drug wears off.

After falling prey to the knockout drink, the house girls and the bartender would drag the victim into one of the Lone Star's back rooms, which Mickey Finn referred to as the "operating room." There, he was stripped naked, and anything of any value was removed from his person, including his clothes if they were of sufficient quality. Later, his body would be dumped into the alleyway behind the saloon. When he awoke the next day, the victim usually had little memory of what had happened and how he ended up in a dirty levee alley.

Not all of Finn's victims suffered only robbery. Gold Tooth Mary testified:
I saw Finn take a gold watch and thirty-five dollars from Billy Miller, a trainman. Finn gave him dope and he lay in a stupor in the saloon for twelve hours. When he recovered he demanded his money, but Finn had gone...Miller was afterward found along the railroad tracks with his head cut off.

Like all saloon-keepers in the First Ward, Mickey Finn paid his protection money to the Aldermen/Vice lords Michael Kenna and John Coughlin, and he was convinced he would never be caught. But in 1903, the jig was up. Persistent reports of dopings at the Lone Star led the police to investigate the saloon more closely, and Gold Tooth Mary and some of the other house girls began to fear that one day, Finn would take their hard-earned savings. She told the city graft committee,

I was afraid I would be murdered for the two hundred dollars I had saved up, and I did not want to be a witness to any more of the horrible things I saw done there. I was afraid I would be arrested some time when some victims who had been fed on knockout drops would die. When I saw his wife put the drugged liquor to the lips of men I could not stand it, as bad as I am. Oh, it was just awful to see the way men were drugged and stripped of their clothing by Finn or his wife. Finn had an idea that most men wore belts about their waists to hide their money. He had robbed a man once who hid his money that way, and he never delegated searching the 'dead ones' to the skin.

Finn claimed that Mary was framing him, saying "I'd lose money in feeding 'dope' along with the big 'tubs' and the clams I dish out to the 'guys' that blow in here. I wouldn't get enough money out of their clothes in a year to pay for the 'dope'."

But on December 16, 1903, Mayor Carter Harrison ordered the closure of the Lone Star Saloon, and Mickey Finn wisely left town shortly thereafter. But not before he sold the formula for his famous drink to a number of other Southside saloons, who marketed it as a "Mickey Finn," or even just a "Mickey". The name eventually came into use as a generic term for any knockout drink, and to "slip a mickey" into someone's drink now means to secretly drug an unsuspecting victim.

Mickey Finn's saloon is long gone, replaced by a modern condominium building and a pet store fills the space where the Lone Star once beckoned to unsuspecting victims.

by Chicago Crime Scene Project.

Auto Wash Bowl, Chicago, Illinois.

The Auto Wash Bowl concept originated in St. Paul, Minn. It was patented in 1921 by inventor C.P. Bohland, who opened two locations in St. Paul. He devised the bowl as an easy way to clean mud off of the undercarriage of cars. Back in this early age of motoring, roads were often unpaved and muddy, and that mud would get caked on the undercarriage of the car and the wheels — but a spin in the nifty Auto Wash Bowl took care of that.

The nearly 80-foot-wide ridged concrete bowl could hold about 16 inches of water at its deepest point in the center. Customers paid 25¢ to an attendant who strapped a protective rubber cover over the radiator. Patrons would then enter the bowl via a ramp and drive their cars around and around the bowl at a speed of about 10 miles per hour. The ridges in the concrete would vibrate the car and the water, creating a sloshing action that helped wash away all the mud from the chassis and wheels. The process took about three or four minutes. The car would then exit the bowl where patrons who wanted a complete car wash could enter one of the bays where the rest of the car would be cleaned. On a busy Saturday, about 75 cars per hour would go for a spin in the Auto Wash Bowl.
The Auto Wash Bowl, northwest corner of 42nd Street and South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL. 1924
The Auto Wash Bowl, Southeast corner of Elston and Diversey, Chicago, IL. 1926
Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Thompson’s Cafeteria Restaurants of Chicago, Illinois.

Although it is largely forgotten today, the Chicago-based John R. Thompson Company was one of the largest "one arm lunchrooms" chains of the early 20th century. Food would be very cheap but customers had to sit in a schoolroom style chair with a small eating surface and widespread out arm-rests, one being short, making it difficult to get real comfortable and stay too long. It was Thompson's way to turn-over tables faster and increase profits by decreasing a customer's dining time.
We so strongly associate fast-food chains with hamburgers that it may be surprising to learn that Thompson’s popular sandwiches included Cervelat (a cooked sausage), smoked boiled tongue, cold boiled ham, hot frankfurter, cold corned beef, cold salmon, and Herkimer County cheese, served on “Milwaukee Rye Bread” baked by the restaurant chain’s own bakery.
Thompson’s Cafeteria Restaurant at Madison and Kedzie, Chicago. Circa 1933.
Thompson's Cafeteria on Randolph Street, Chicago.
Thompson was proud that his meals were suited for sedentary office workers of the early 1900s. A 1911 advertisement claimed that lunch at Thompson’s “won’t leave you logy and lazy and dull this afternoon.” Thompson, an Illinois farm boy, ran a rural general store as his first business. He sold it in 1891, moved to Chicago, and opened a restaurant on State Street. He proved to be a modernizer in the restaurant business as well as in politics.

He operated his cafeteria's on a “scientific” basis, stressing cleanliness, nutrition, and quality while keeping prices low. In 1912 he moved the chain’s commissary into a premier new building on North Clark Street. Thompson’s, then with 68 self-service lunchrooms plus a chain of grocery stores, became a public corporation in 1914, after which it expanded outside Chicago and into Canada.

By 1921 there were 109 restaurants, 49 of which were in Chicago and 11 in New York with a commissary (a restaurant or cafeteria in a military base, prison, movie studio or other institution) in New York City. By the mid-20s Thompson’s Restaurants, Childs Restaurants, and Waldorf Lunch System were the big three U.S. restaurant chains.
John R. Thompson Restaurant Office:
350 North Clark Street

John R. Thompson Restaurant Locations:
350 North Clark Street
15 West Adams
141 North Clark Street
354 North Clark Street
528 North Clark Street
44 South Clark Street
220 South Clark Street
520 South Clark Street
105 North Dearborn Street
337 South Dearborn Street
414 South Dearborn Street
80 East Jackson Boulevard
24 West Jackson Boulevard
60 West Madison Avenue
119 West Madison Avenue
339 West Madison Avenue
521 West Madison Avenue
811 West Madison Avenue
955 West Madison Avenue
1548 West Madison Avenue
3200 West Madison Avenue
1152 South Michigan Avenue
1418 South Michigan Avenue
2201 South Michigan Avenue
31 East Monroe Street
61 West Monroe Street
340 Plymouth Court
91 West Randolph Street
62 East Roosevelt Road
314 South State Street
412 South State Street
76 West VanBuren Street
110 West VanBuren Street
7 South Wabash Avenue
104 South Wabash Avenue
207 South Wabash Avenue
343 South Wabash Avenue
175 West Washington Street
3813 North Broadway
3875 Cottage Grove Avenue
235 South Halsted Street
1223 South Halsted Street
4167 South Halsted Street
6215 South Halsted Street
6243 South Halsted Street
3169 North Lincoln Avenue
1228 North Milwaukee Avenue
1581 North Milwaukee Avenue
206 West 31st  Street
1122 West 35th Street
1031 West Wilson Avenue
In politics, Thompson served as a Republican committeeman and managed the campaign of a “good government” gubernatorial candidate in 1904. A few years later he failed in his own bid to run for mayor, promising he would bring efficiency to the government while improving schools and roads. In the 20s he financed a personal crusade against handguns.

Despite John R. Thompson’s progressive politics, his business would go down in history as one that refused to serve Negroes. Or, as civil rights leader Marvin Caplan put it in 1985, “If the chain is remembered today, it is not for its food, but for its refusal to serve it.” Thompson died in 1927.
Where he stood on the question of public accommodations is unclear but the chain faced numerous lawsuits by Negroes in the 1930s. However, the best-known case occurred in 1950 when a group of integrationists led by Mary Church Terrell was refused service in a Washington D.C. Thompson’s Restaurant. 

The group was looking for a case that would test the validity of the district’s 19th-century public accommodations laws. After three years in the courts, the Thompson case (for which the Washington Restaurant Association raised defense funds) made its way to the Supreme Court which affirmed the so-called “lost” anti-discrimination laws of 1872 and 1873 as valid.

Over the years the Thompson chain absorbed others, including Henrici’s and Raklios. At some point, possibly in the 1950s, the original Thompson’s concept was dropped. 

By 1956 Thompson’s operated the Holloway House and Ontra CafeteriasIn 1971, as Green Giant prepared to buy Thompson’s, it had about 100 restaurants, including Red Balloon family restaurants, Henrici’s restaurants, and Little Red Hen Chicken outlets. 


Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.