Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Fingerhut Bakery was a Chicago staple since 1895.

Fingerhut Bakery opened in 1895 at 18th and May streets in Chicago. Bohemian immigrant Frank Fingerhut brought the "old country" recipes with him for baked items like Kolacky (a soft and sweet cookie filled with jam), Houska (a sweet yeast bread with raisins and dried fruit), and Babi (Rye Bread).
In 1916, Frank's son Charles purchased land at Cermak and Central (5537 W. Cermak) and built the Charles Fingerhut Bakery. Another store, Fingerhut's Oven Fresh Bakery, opened in Brookfield, Illinois. Herb Fingerhut, a grandson and a seventh-generation, later ran the company until it closed in 2004.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Monday, September 24, 2018

Film footage of the 1919 World Series, the year of the Black Sox Scandal, was discovered in 1978.

In 1978, in north-west Canada’s Yukon territory, construction on a new recreation center was under way in a small rural settlement called Dawson City. As bulldozers tore up the ground where the previous sports hall had stood, a remarkable discovery came to light: hundreds of reels of ancient nitrate film.
Five hundred and thirty three (533) silent films were recovered, including newsreels and features of all types, dating from the 1910s and 20s. Most were previously unknown to film scholars or thought to be totally lost. But for 49 years the inhospitable cold of the Yukon landscape had safely protected the films – which had been found at the bottom of an old swimming pool.
1919 Chicago White Sox team photograph.
This film is an excerpt from the British Canadian Pathé News showing various baseball games between the Chicago Black White Sox[1] and Cincinnati Reds in the infamous 1919 World Series.

Film clips of 1919 White Sox World Series.
This silent film shows some age damage.
runtime: [04:30:00]

[1] The Black Sox Scandal; was a Major League Baseball match-fixing incident in which eight members of the Chicago White Sox were accused of intentionally losing the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for money from a gambling syndicate led by Arnold Rothstein.

The fallout from the scandal resulted in the appointment of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis as the first Commissioner of Baseball, granting him absolute control over the sport in order to restore its integrity.

Despite acquittals in a public trial in 1921, Judge Landis permanently banned all eight men from professional baseball. The punishment was eventually defined to also include banishment from post-career honors such as consideration for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Despite requests for reinstatement in the decades that followed (particularly in the case of Shoeless Joe Jackson), the ban remains in force.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Windsor Theatre in Chicago, Illinois, (1886-1961).

On September 11, 1886, the Windsor Theatre, on the north side, opened for its first season at 468 North Clark Street (post-1909: 1225 North Clark Street), which extended over a period of 40 weeks. This new playhouse is intended exclusively for the use of stars and traveling companies, and will hold much the same relation to the other Chicago theatres that the Windsor of New York sustains to the playhouses of the metropolis.

The Windsor is included in a new block of substantial brick stores on Clark street, near Division, and is about a mile and a half from the City Hall. With the exception of the Criterion theatre, on Sedgwick street, the theatre Is further north than any similar place of amusement in the city. It is reached through a corridor 52 feet long. the main entrance being on Clark street.

At the end of the corridor is a reception room, and beyond that a series of ornamental arches, extending to the lobby of the house. The main floor is divided into a parquet and parquet circle, the former corresponding to the orchestra chairs in a New York theatre. The floor of the parquet inclines gradually from the stage, and that of the circle rises more rapidly, so that every seat commands a good view. of the stage. There is but one tier above the parquet, and this is divided into two sections, the front portion consisting of a line of boxes extending its entire length. Each compartment is separate, so that It can be used for private parties if desired, but single seats will be sold when required. In the rear of this balcony circle and raised to an altitude of five feet, with a separating rail, is the gallery proper. The seating capacity of the theatre is 2,000. The design and decoration of the auditorium is mosque and the fresco work, upholstery, carpets, and furniture are in harmony with the general architectural style.
The building will be illuminated with the incandescent electric light. The stage is 78 feet wide and 48 feet deep, and the dressing rooms are in the rear of the prompt entrance. The accommodations for chorus, singers, ballet dancers, and minstrels are underneath the stage. The furniture of the stage consists of 20 complete sets of stock scenery and the usual working bridges, spring, vampire, star, and other traps. The new theatre will be under the management of Philip A. Lehnen, of the Welting Opera. House, Syracuse.

Adelina Patti, famed singer of the nineteenth century, once occupied a box at the Windsor when a young singer who was her protege was making her debut. A canopy was stretched from the doorway to the curb, and the carpet under it was strewn with roses for Patti’s entrance.

The theater name was changed from Windsor to Lincoln in 1894, then back to Windsor when the new theater opened in 1914. 
The Windsor Theater in 1936
The Windsor Theatre was opened as part of the Lubliner & Trinz circuit on May 9, 1914. It was one of the earliest projects from the firm of Rapp & Rapp. The theater was later run by the H & E Balaban chain.

The theater was remodeled by the firm of Pereira & Pereira in 1936. The Windsor operated into the late-1950s, and was razed by 1961.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Racine Wagon & Carriage Company, Chicago Public Library Delivery Station carriages. Circa 1885

As Chicago's reconstruction after the Great Fire of 1871 progressed and residential districts extended further from the downtown area, it became apparent to the library's directors that the Chicago Public Library needed to make its services available to people nearer to their homes. 
In April 1884, the Library Board appointed a Special Committee on Delivery Stations. Four stations, two on the West Side, one on the North Side, and one on the South Side, were established. In June 1884, the Board agreed to pay Mr. Morris Rosenstock $18.00 per week to manage the delivery of materials to the four stations by horse-drawn carriage.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Friday, September 21, 2018

Professor Theodore Kadish Natatorium which stood at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Jackson Boulevard in Chicago, 1880s.

The Kadish Natatorium was a private venture. In the early 1900s, Chicago Park Commissions began building natatoria, facilities with showers, indoor swimming pools, and gyms, to provide public bathing and recreational opportunities to the city's increasingly crowded neighborhoods.
The Kadish Natatorium at Michigan Avenue and Jackson Boulevard in Chicago.
By 1915, Mayor Carter H. Harrison II and the Special Park Commission had hit upon the idea of building natatoria adjacent to city pumping stations to take advantage of excess steam generated there.

Three were eventually built, one being shown in the artist rendering above, the Central Park Avenue (Jackson) natatorium. Another was called the Roseland (later Griffith, in Block Park) and the Springfield Avenue natatorium, later named the Beilfuss Natatorium. 

At the Beilfuss Natatorium, competitions and swim meets were covered by the newspapers. There were indeed rings that could be lowered and trapezes, and often they were lowered and we'd take turns running and jumping and swinging on them, or missing and splashing which was great fun anyways.

The place was always very hot and you could hear the pumping station moaning when you were under the water. There was one older man who worked there and he would line up all the kids who couldn't swim and give them lessons, which basically consisted of him pushing them in the shallow water while all of the "good swimmers" watched out for them and yelled encouragement at the opposite end of the pool.

NOTE: Swimming was not a co-ed activity in the Victorian era (or before) because boys and men swam naked. The men in this illustration are wearing trunks. I believe that the artist added swimming trunks to the illustration so it could be used in the newspapers.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

State Street (Amusement) Park at the South-west Corner of State & 22nd Streets in Chicago. (1883)

Illustration of Patent № 298,710 "Roller Coasting Device" granted on May 13, 1884.
Alason Wood's invention was noticed and imitated by several other Toledo Ohio inventors and businessmen, like Philo M. Stevens who traveled to Chicago to build a circular railway with a slightly modified design. The Chicago Daily Tribune reported on September 30, 1883 that his 22-foot-high, 140-foot-diameter circular railway was under construction at a cost of $800 on a large vacant lot at the corner of State and 22nd Street in today's South Loop community. The reporter misspelled his name as Philo M. Stevenson. 
The grounds used to be called "State Street Grounds" aka: "23rd Street Grounds" which was a baseball park. In it, the Chicago White Stockings played baseball from 1872 to 1877, the first two years in the National Association and then in the National League.
23rd Street Park - The First Home of the Chicago White Stockings.
The park grounds was on the block bounded by 22nd Street (now Cermak Road), State Street, 23rd Street, and Armour Avenue (now Federal Street).

The design, according to the patent he applied for on October 16, 1883, was nearly identical to Wood's, but had a constant slope down, and a constant slope up. The car, which stopped at the end of the uphill grade, was held in place by an anti-rollback pawl. The two-car trains could accommodate 6-9 passengers seated sideways in each car, and Stevens offered three short 15-18 second rides for a nickel. The newspaper article claimed that Stevens had already built two coasters in Toledo, and would built one shortly in New Orleans.

His patent #298,710 Roller Coasting Device was granted on May 13, 1884, and assigned to the Roller Coaster of America Company; thus where the generic name roller coaster originated.
Alason Wood was the first to be granted a patent for a circular railway with series of undulating drops after the lift hill. This was a radical departure from the lineage of switchback railway design, but considering that Wood was unfamiliar with those convoluted designs, his approach was novel in that it returned its passengers to near its starting point without the need of a separate return track.

Wood was a dirt poor carpenter, but a born tinkerer, who after watching children slide down hills on their slide boards, was inspired to design a railroad whose cars could travel both up and down hills. He envisioned a ride that would thrill its passengers with speed, rather than take them for a slow scenic ride. His innovation was to bend the rails into a circle, allow the passenger car to roll down the incline from a height, and use the ride's final uphill incline as a brake on the car's momentum, thus eliminating the need for friction brakes to bring it to a final stop. By logically tying the two ends of his tracks together into a continuous elliptical loop, he returned passengers to their starting point without the inconvenience of awaiting a return train or the interruption of a mildly exciting ride.

His wood-framed ride had a height of 23 feet, diameter of 150 feet, and a circumference of 475 feet. A platform 13 feet above ground, where passengers debarked, had a seating capacity of 200 for those awaiting their turn. Passengers walked up the stairs to the loading platform, while pairs of cars each seating six sideways on a long bench were winched up a nine-foot-high incline. It was a short exhilarating downhill ride over a series of undulating hills, only ten to twelve seconds from start to finish, but passengers could ride it three times for their nickel.

Wood's patent was quite detailed in the various slopes of his ride. The cars gained speed down a 15% grade, a drop of just 6 feet over 48 feet of track, then only dropped two additional feet along the next 167 feet before reaching the next 15% down-grade along 64 feet of track, then finally down to the bottom, a two foot drop along 53 feet of track. The car's speed was arrested as it climbed a 15% grade of 9 feet over a 72 foot distance, and then glided into the unloading station along 22 feet of level track.

Wood sold half his pending patent to Joseph A. Cahoon, a businessman in Toledo for $17,000 plus royalties. Cahoon saw its potential as an amusement ride, and since he could recover the ride's construction cost of $600 within a several weeks at most, he and several associates began construction, first in Toledo and possibly Cleveland in 1883. They then built in Ponce de Leon Springs in Georgia as reported by the Augusta Chronicle, and Coney Island, NY in June 1884, and at Philadelphia's Fairmont Park in July 1884.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

The Shipwreck of the "Silver Spray" rests a stone's throw from Hyde Park's 49th street beach in Chicago.

On July 15, 1914 -- almost exactly a year before the SS Eastland disaster -- the Silver Spray, a 109-foot-long ferry, set sail to pick up 200 University of Chicago students and take them to Gary, Indiana, to tour the steel mills.
Unfortunately the trip never came to pass as the Silver Spray ran aground on Lake Michigan's Morgan Shoal, a massive underwater rock formation that was formed millions of years ago by glacial activity. 
Morgan Shoal is a million square foot dolomite shelf left over from glacial action millions of years ago near what would eventually be Lake Shore Drive at 49th Street. The wave action at this unique spot along the shoreline creates the city’s only pebble beach and a tricky navigational spot for boats.
Once it was apparent that the ship was doomed, the captain and the seven-man crew decided to remain with their ship, not even halting the preparation of the evening's stew.

Three days later, after various vessels attempted to pull the Silver Spray free of the limestone reef, the crew was taken ashore. Attempts to salvage the ship only caused it to slam against the rocks, and the wooden steamship quickly broke in two.
A Chicago Examiner comic from July 16, 1914, the day after the Silver Spray hit Morgan Shoal and two days before waves finally broke the ship apart.
In addition, the boiler had been left on and the ship caught fire as it sank, making for quite the spectacle. Groups of spectators on shore began collecting the wooden debris as it floated in and burnt them in large bonfires. It must have been a delightful time.
The remains of the Silver Spray can still be seen peeking out of the waters of Lake Michigan. While most of the wooden structure is long since gone, the ship's metal boiler still juts out of the water.
The boiler of the Silver Spray.
The Silver Spray is the closest shipwreck to the shoreline of Chicago and is thus a popular diving spot, along with Morgan Shoals in general.
Some swimmers even paddle out to the wreck and sunbathe on its exposed angle. For better or worse, the Silver Spray seems to be bringing more joy to people in its death than it ever did during its operation.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Kate Sturges Buckingham was one of the great women in Chicago's history.

Kate Buckingham died in her home at 2450 North Lakeview Avenue on December 12, 1937, at 79. She was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Zanesville, Ohio alongside her parents, brother and sister.

Kate Sturges Buckingham
In announcing Miss Kate Sturges Buckingham's passing, the Chicago Tribune noted, "She was godmother to the Art institute; the collections for which it's most famous were her gifts. She was godmother to the opera; at the time of her death she was a guarantor. She was godmother to some 200 or more music and art students. She was a heavy donor to the Field Museum, numerous Chicago charities, and many nameless Chicagoans."

Despite being one of the wealthiest women in the United States and one of the most generous individuals in a city blessed with a long procession of altruistic citizens, Miss Buckingham preferred that no credit come to her for the many contributions she made. Later in life she ordered that her name be removed from the Social Register and severely limited her circle of friends.

Miss Buckingham was born on August 3, 1858, the eldest daughter of Ebenezer and Lucy Buckingham, in Zanesville, Ohio. Her mother's father, Solomon Sturges, was responsible for bringing the family to Chicago in the 1850s. At that time the Sturges and Buckingham families controlled a string of grain elevators in Ohio, Pennsylvania and along the Erie Canal. It was sound business sense to move to Chicago and in 1850 Miss Buckingham's great uncle, Alvah Buckingham, constructed the first grain elevator in the city.

Everything that the Buckingham and Sturges families owned was obliterated in the Great Fire of 1871, their homes on the north side of the city, their grain elevators along the river, the first of many tragedies that would become a motif that ran through Miss Buckingham's life.

A second Chicago Fire in 1874 gave rise to one of the earliest examples of Miss Buckingham's generosity. After that second conflagration, the 15-year-old Kate launched a drive to raise funds for a Christmas party to bring some measure of joy to children in the Cook County hospital.

The Tribune describes the effort... "On Christmas eve the Christmas tree, heavily laden with gifts, was set up in the children's ward, and its many candles were lighted. Tragedy swiftly followed. Through some mishap the burning candles started a fire, and the tree and all its Christmas largesse burned down. Bur young Miss Buckingham, nothing deterred, set forth to raise anew money enough for gifts for each child. And did."

The family relocated their home to Prairie Avenue, the city's most select street, and the family business, J & E Buckingham, prospered beyond measure. In 1882 Miss Buckingham's father also built a grand home in Lake Forest, but despite its location on a bluff above Lake Michigan, the family continued to make its principal home in Chicago.

It was in the Prairie Avenue home that Kate and her sister, Lucy Maud, were educated. It was in this home that Lucy Buckingham died in 1889, and it was there that Kate's sister became increasingly incapacitated. From the house Clarence Buckingham, Kate's brother, and their father expanded the family's enterprises to include banking, insurance, steel manufacture, and real estate.

The family's affiliation with the Art Institute began in the 1890s when Clarence, impressed by the Japanese art exhibited at the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, began collecting Japanese prints. Ebenezer died in 1911, Clarence died just over a year later, and Lucy Maud lingered on in increasingly poorer health until 1920. All the losses must have further isolated Kate, a woman left alone in a house that mother, father, sister and brother had shared for her whole adult life.
She continued to collect art, though, following her brother's lead. Clarence had been a governing member of the Art Institute of Chicago for three decades and a member of the Board of Trustees for a dozen. [Scultz & Hast] After the death of her sister, Kate Buckingham gave her entire collection of Japanese prints, etchings and engravings, Chinese pottery and porcelain, Persian miniatures, Chinese ritual bronzes, Italian silver and English lusterware to the institute. [The Frick Collection.]

She also furnished the Art Institute's Gothic room in the memory of her sister and finished the Jacobean Room at the museum in the name of her parents. In 1925 she also gave her brother's entire collection of fourteen hundred sheets of Japanese prints to the museum.

Miss Buckingham also wrote a check to the Art Institute that was to be used for a great monument to Alexander Hamilton. Of course, her most memorable contribution was the donation that allowed construction of the great [Buckingham] Fountain in Grant Park, dedicated to her brother, along with a $300,000 endowment to provide for its maintenance.
The Buckingham fountain was donated by Kate Buckingham in honor of her brother Clarence in 1927. The fountain was the largest in the world at the time it was built, and is still one of the largest. Edward H. Bennett designed the monument in collaboration with French sculptor Marcel Loyau and engineer Jacques H. Lambert.

The fountain was meant to represent Lake Michigan and the four states that touch the lake - being Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. The fountain is constructed of Georgia pink marble. To give a vision of just how large the fountain is - the bottom pool is 280 feet in diameter, the lower basin is 103 feet. the upper basin is 24 feet and the upper basin is 25 feet above the lower basin.
But here is something else that resulted from her generosity about which most people are unaware. On February 12, 1912 Kate Buckingham bought a property of 81 acres in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts. It was not far from where a 55-room "cottage," which her father had built near Pittsfield, Massachusetts, stood until it burned to the ground in 1899.

On the new piece of land Kate Buckingham built Bald Hill Farm. After her death the farm, to which another 80 acres had been added, was sold to Serge and Natalie Koussevitzky. Mr. Koussevitzky was the conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, a man with a dream of one day creating a summer musical festival for the symphony. In 1978 after the death of the Koussevitzky, the organization purchased the property, and it now lies at the heart of the Tanglewood Music Festival.

When she died, Kate Buckingham left a half million dollars to friends and relatives. She left another $126,000 to her maid, chauffeur, children of her caretaker, her nurses, doormen and elevator men at the Lakeview cooperative building. In today's dollars, those gifts would total over nine million dollars. She left another $3.1 million for art and cultural organizations, including two million to the Art Institute of Chicago.

The Tribune article that conveyed the news of Kate Buckingham's death ended with "a well-authenticated anecdote" dealing with "one of her rare visits to the Continental Illinois National bank and Trust company, in which she was an important stockholder."

"On this occasion," the story went, "she stopped at the cashier's cage to get money. She had no identification papers with her, and the teller asked if anyone in the bank could identify her. She cast a brief, flashing glance around the nearby desks. 'They're all dead,' she snapped."

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Chicago's First Roller Skating Rink.

The first roller skating rink in Chicago was the "Chicago Roller Skating Rink" located at Congress and Michigan which is in the Chicago Loop area. It opened in November 1880.
Rumor has it that the Chicago Roller Skating Rink was the roller skating venue during the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition because there was no rink on the fairgrounds.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A Manual 'Ferris' Wheel at the Old Catlin Illinois Fairgrounds Kills a Young Girl in 1876.

The Ferris wheel[1] originally called 'Ups and Downs,' among other names, was without power and was operated by men who manually pushed the cars around as they came to them. The directors of the fair were afraid the “contraption,” as they termed it, was unsafe and refused to give the owner permission to operate it on the fairgrounds.
The man who had charge of the wheel placed it just outside the fence which enclosed the fairground and on the first day an attempt was made to operate it — it collapsed.
An 'Ups and Downs' ride at an unknown location. The arms extend a couple of
feet beyond the carriages served as handles for manually turning the ride.
One person, a young girl, was killed and several other people were injured. The owner escaped by mounting a horse and riding swiftly away. He was never apprehended and escaped facing a charge of manslaughter.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

[NOTE] The first Catlin Fair was a one-day event organized in 1850 and held on the site of the First Presbyterian Church. It was moved for the third year to Butler’s Point [2], and continued there for 40 more years without profit. 

[1] Although this article is about 1876, I use the term "Ferris wheel" (aka Observation Wheel) which was 1st coined at the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition in 1893, is used for the benefit of the readers visualization. 

[2] Butler's Point - James Butler settled on land which lay just to the west of Catlin in 1819 and the area became known as Butler's Point. When a railway station was built where Catlin is now located, trade and residences drifted to better facilities, and Butler's Point was lost in Catlin. This village was named Catlin on account of that being the name of one of the officers of the Wabash railroad. 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

A downtown Chicago museum no one seems to know about, and, you can just walk-in!

The Chicago Cultural Center at 78 East Washington Street opened in 1897 as Chicago's first central public library. 
The Main Chicago Public Library. Circa 1898
The building is a Chicago Landmark that houses the city's official reception venue where the Mayor of Chicago has welcomed Presidents and royalty, diplomats and community leaders. It is located in the Loop, across Michigan Avenue from Millennium Park. It was converted in 1977 to an arts and culture center at the instigation of Commissioner of Cultural Affairs Lois Weisberg.
The city's central library is now housed across the Loop in the spacious, post-modernist Harold Washington Library Center at 400 South State Street which opened in 1991.
The Harold Washington Library Center.
As the nation's first free municipal cultural center, the Chicago Cultural Center is considered one of the most comprehensive arts showcases in the United States. Each year, the Chicago Cultural Center features more than 1,000 programs and exhibitions covering a wide range of the performing, visual and literary arts. It also serves as headquarters for the Chicago Children's Choir.
The stunning landmark building is home to two magnificent stained-glass domes, as well as free music, dance and theater events, films, lectures, art exhibitions and family events. Completed in 1897 as Chicago’s central public library, the building was designed to impress and to prove that Chicago had grown into a sophisticated metropolis. The country’s top architects and craftsmen used the most sumptuous materials, such as rare imported marbles, polished brass, fine hardwoods, and mosaics of Favrile glass, mother-of-pearl and colored stone, to create an architectural showplace.
Located on the south side of the building, the world’s largest stained glass Tiffany dome ― 38 feet in diameter with some 30,000 pieces of glass ― was restored to its original splendor in 2008.
On the northside of the building is a 40-foot-diameter dome with some 50,000 pieces of glass in an intricate Renaissance pattern, designed by Healy & Millet.

FURTHER READING: The History of the Main Chicago Public Library.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 


On a personal note: 

In the late 1960s I visited the Main Chicago Library to complete a grammar school assignment. For those who remember, there were two hallways running north-south from entrance to entrance. In those hallways were displays of cultural arts; sometimes paintings, sometimes display cabinets lined both hallways with collections of "stuff." I was lucky enough to be there during the exhibit of Cracker Jack (1896) toys thru time. I was a vast collection, over 2,000 toys, and took all the cabinets in both long hallways. 
Pot Metal Toys
Cracker Jack originally included a small "mystery" novelty item referred to as a "Toy Surprise" in each box. The tagline for Cracker Jack was originally "Candy-coated popcorn, peanuts and a prize." Prizes were included in every box of Cracker Jack beginning in 1912. Early "toy surprises" included rings, plastic figurines, booklets, stickers, temporary tattoos, and decoder rings.
1960s-70s Plastic Toys
The prizes attained pop-culture status with the catch-phrase "came in a Cracker Jack box," particularly when applied sarcastically to engagement and wedding rings of dubious investment value.