Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The History of Keeneyville, a Bedroom Community in unincorporated DuPage County, Illinois.

The area called Keeneyville, which never incorporated, was named after Albert F. Keeney (1872-1950), who was among the first settlers.
Lake Street School, Keeneyville, Illinois. Circa 1950s.
On October 4, 1897, Lake Street School District 20, Bloomingdale, opened the doors of a one room cabin schoolhouse with 9 students, ranging in age from five to twelve years old, and Ms. Eunice P. Batten, the only teacher. The first school building was used until approximately 1914. Then sometime in the 1920s, a new building was built. However, there is no information available where classes were held. By 1930, Lake Street School had two classrooms and 18 students.

Albert Keeney, a native-born Iowan and a real estate developer, decided to subdivide his farmland along Lake Street into individual plots for homes. The Keeneyville subdivision was created when Albert and Virginia Keeney signed and recorded the land plat in 1932.

The original subdivision, East of Gary Road, and South of Lake Street (U.S. Highway 20), contained approximately 115, one acre lots.

People knew Albert as a very colorful man. His hair was white and he always wore a red Marshall Field necktie which he bought by the gross (twelve dozen).

Mr. Keeney became a leader in the community. He donated land to the Keeneyville Bible Church in addition to making other major contributions to the church. The Lake Street School also benefited from Albert's generosity, as he even donated the sign that hung over the schools entrance.

Mrs. Mae Miller, who lived to be 100 years old, and her husband Francis, were one of the first home owners in Keeneyville. The lake in Keeneyville was considered by the local Indians to be a great fishing spot. According to Mrs. Miller, the lake was reduced to a swamp when drainage ditches were cut, and fill material was dumped in the lake during the original construction of Gary Road back in the 1930’s.

The small hidden lake in Keeneyville is still there.
Keeneyville's Hidden Lake
Maps show Virginia Road going south from Lake Street (U.S. 20) two blocks to where Virginia ends at Lawrence Avenue but that's incorrect. Virginia actually dead ends one-half block south of Lake Street due to a lake that interrupts the street. You'd never realize that there is a lake there because it's hidden by surrounding trees, bushes and scrubs. South of the lake Virginia Road picks-up again and continues to Lawrence.

Because Keeneyville is such a small subdivision, not too much excitment occurs there. But on October 30,  1955, the Chicago Daily Tribune reports:
18 TEEN-AGERS FINED $375 FOR BATTLE PLANSEighteen young men arrested October 22 as they were about to begin a gang fight in Keeneyville, DuPage county, werre fined a total of $375, including $108 court cost, by Kennith H. Winters, Bloomingdale township justice of the peace, in Roselle, Illinois yesterday.

The fines [per offender], including costs, ranged from $16 to $31 ($152 to $294 today). In addition each of the teen-agers was orderd to observe a 9 p.m. curfew for 90 days, and to be home by 8 p.m. thru tomorrow night. Each was charged with disorderly conduct. An adult overheard discussion of the battle plans and notified the Dupage county sheriff's office, which sent several squads to the scene. They arrived at the intended battleground, a school yard at Lake Street and Gary Avenue, just as fists were about to fly.
Another article says the gang fight was between Keeneyville boys, which called themselves “The Keeneyville Swamp Rats,” vs. a group of Roselle boys.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Monday, April 22, 2019

A brief biography of overachiever Colonel Rosell M. Hough (1819-1892).

In 1836 Elijah Hough (pronounced Huff) and his wife Electa, his daughter Cornelia, and two sons, Oramel and sixteen-year-old Rosell (spelled without an "e" on the end), moved into the Roselle and Bloomingdale area from Massachusetts.

Rosell worked as a butcher and supervisor in the Chicago meat packing business until 1850, when he and his brother, Oramel, opened their own meat packing plant on Halsted Street and Orange Avenue (79th Avenue). At the London Exposition of 1852, their beef won first prize for quality of "imported meat products," thus receiving a large contract for supplying beef to the English troops fighting in the Crimean War (1853-1856).

He was later a partner in the firm of Hough, Hills and Co., soap and candle manufacturers which, believe it or not, used the by-products from their meat packing company.

Rosell was elected and served as a Chicago alderman for the 2nd district from 1855 thru 1856. 

Rosell joined the Union Army on Septem­ber 10, 1861, with the rank of major. He served in Missouri, where he was wounded. He reenlisted June 13, 1862, with the rank of colonel. In 1864 Colonel Hough was active in recruiting volunteers for the army. With his help 6,000 men were recruited. 
Colonel Rosell M. Hough is seated in the middle.
After the Civil War, Colonel Hough was elected the first president of the Chicago Chamber of Commerce in 1864, and serving as a founder of the Chicago Union Stockyards and supervised its construction until opened in June of 1865. Roselle retired from the meat packing business.

When President Lincoln's funeral train arrived in Chicago on the way to Springfield, Rosell led the funeral procession on May 1, 1865, marching on Michigan Boulevard. It was estimated that 37,000 people marched and 150,000 lined route.
President Lincoln’s Funeral Procession in Chicago on May 1, 1865.
Harper’s Weekly Magazine.
Rosell was founder and president of the "Chicago and Pacific Railroad Company" which was organize in 1865 by a special act of the Legislature of Illinois.  

In 1868 when Rosell returned to the Roselle and Bloomingdale area, he found things changing. Cotton production in the South had all but stopped as an aftermath of the Civil War. There was a demand for cloth that could be produced from flax. Roselle began growing this crop on land he had bought from his father, Elijah, before his death in 1851.

Rosell established the "Illinois Linen Company" which manufactured linen and rope. The factory was located in Bloomingdale on the northwest corner of Chicago and Elgin Road (in 1891 the name changed to Elgin Avenue, then later to Irving Park Road) and Roselle Road, across the road from Henry Holstein's Grist Mill.
Vacant Illinois Linen Factory. Circa 1908.
Vacant Illinois Linen Factory. Circa 1908.
As President of the Chicago and Pacific Railroad, Col. Hough was able to influence the route. He saw future growth for his linen factory if the train would come through Wood Dale, Itasca, Medinah, and Roselle instead of Addison and Bloomingdale. It is rumored that he paid $10,000 to have the survey changed so the train line would go through Roselle, Illinois.

Rosell hired ex-convicts and ruffians from Chicago as laborers and built boarding houses near the factory to accommodate the factory workers. Their notorious drinking and fighting earned the town the nickname “Raise Hell.” One boarding house was nicknamed "The Beehive” because of the number of people living there and the amount of in-and-out foot traffic.
"The Beehive” so named due to the number of people who lived there. Inside was kitchen, a parlor, and bedrooms with two and three-tiered bunk beds in them. The residence, located at about 25 South Roselle Road was built in the 1870's by Rosell Hough as an Inn/Boarding House for workers in his flax factory. The house was razed in 1973.
The village was first platted and offically named Roselle in 1875 and incorporated on October 7, 1922.

Colonel Hough stayed in Roselle until 1880, at which time he sold his business interests in this area Hough then settled in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where he had a cattle company and land holdings. In declining health, the Colonel returned to Chicago in 1890, where he died March 8, 1892. Rosell had no children.

In 1895 the flax factory was shut down. Cotton was once again king in the South; moreover the Roselle soil had become exhausted after its many years of growing flax. These two reasons rendered the flax factory useless.

The building was converted to a tile and brick company by Chicago businessmen who had purchased the property. By 1900 the clay that had been found in the area also gave out, and the brick and tile company was closed. The building sat vacant until it was razed sometime in the 1920's.
Vacant Brickyard Company Factory. Photograph Circa 1908.
Rosell M. Hough and Wife are entombed at the Old Union Cemetery in Lincoln, Illinois.
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Henry Holstein and his Grist Mill in Bloomingdale, Illinois.

Henry Holstein was born in Hanover, Germany, December 22, 1821, eldest son of John H. and Maria (Boss) Holstein. John H. was a farmer, and died in his native land in 1862, aged sixty-five years. He had two sons and five daughters—Louisa, Fred and our subject. Louisa is the wife of Louis Homeir, of Addison Township, and Fred resided with her. 

Henry was raised a farmer, and remained with his parents until fourteen years of age, when he went to learn the miller's trade. In the spring of 1849, he came to America, arriving in Baltimore the end of May. The next month, he came to Addison Township, where he worked at farming, and afterward went to Cook County. The next year, he returned to Addison and rented land from Deitrich Stuckmann, where he continued thirteen years.
The wind-powered grist mill purchased from Mr. Colbury. This drawing of Henry Holstein's residence and mill was shown in the 1874 Atlas Map of DuPage County, Illinois.
He then moved to the unincorporated Bloomingdale area in 1863 where Holstein bought 114 acres of land at today's Schick and Bloomingdale Roads, costing $2,600, and lived there until 1874.

He moved again, just north of the village of Bloomingdale (incorporated 1889; re-incorporated 1923), where he bought the land and old wind-powered mill (Note: windmill build date is unknown) owned by Mr. Colbury. The land included the intersection of Chicago and Elgin Road (in 1891 the name changed to Elgin Avenue, then later to Irving Park Road) and Roselle Road (Roselle, Illinois, incorporated in 1922).
1874 Bloomingdale Township Map - Approximate location for Holstein's house and mill.
The mill was one of the largest in the area and designed for large-scale production, built with a wing building, presumably used for shipping or receiving. It was constructed with a foundation of stone, a wide base, and a self-governing tail fan to turn the cap.
Henry Holstein's residence and mill. The windmill was on the southeast corner of Irving Park Road and Roselle Road. The Holstein house was on the southwest corner.
(The exact location provided by the "Illinois State Library.")
Holstein hired experienced German miller Henry Raap to operate and maintain the mill. As experienced as Raap was, he narrowly escaped death when a tornado heavily damaged the Holstein Windmill in 1879.

Holstein did not reopen his mill for business until 1882 after painstakingly reconstructing it with improvements. He added a third run of millstones to increase the mill’s capacity.

Soon after reopening, however, Holstein sold the mill to a man named Steinbeck. Steinbeck hired Herman Schmoldt to operate the mill with Raap. When a steam engine was installed, Raap left to work for the railroad. The mill was destroyed by another tornado in 1899; this time, however, the mill was not rebuilt, but rather “capped” and served the rest of its life as a grain storage space.
Henry Holstein's mill after it was hit by a second tornado in 1899, destroying the top of the windmill.
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Friday, April 19, 2019

The Krupp Gun Pavilion at the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition: The world's largest gun.

Friedrich "Fritz" Alfred Krupp
Friedrich Alfred Krupp (1854–1902) was known as the richest man in Germany at the time of the World’s Columbian Exposition and his estimated worth was over 125 million dollars with an annual net income of 10 million. The Friedrich Krupp cast steel company was started by his grandfather in 1811 in Essen Germany, passed to his father Alfred Krupp “The Canon King” and became his upon his father’s death in 1887. During this time the Krupp family was also the largest employer in Germany with an estimated 45,000 employees.

Friedrich Alfred Krupp was known as “Fritz” since the age of 14 and was nothing like his father and grandfather, at least not at first glance. While his father Alfred was known as a stern industrialist and actively involved in the political activities of Germany, Fritz was more interested in natural science, generosity, and suffered from asthma which was more than likely the result of growing up around the poor air quality which surrounded the steel making factories. At one point, his father had thought of disowning him and naming one of his nephews as heir but eventually Fritz reluctantly gave in to the wishes of his father and took over when his father passed in 1887. While the Krupp empire was involved in many different aspects of metal manufacturing it was the tools of war, specifically the Krupp canons that made the Krupp name world renowned.

The 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition was the perfect venue to show off the metal working prowess bearing the Krupp name and Krupp spent a good amount of his own money to do so.
The Krupp Gun Pavilion (also known as the Krupp Gun Exhibit) was impressive on its own. It was created to be somewhat of a cross between a fortress and the “Villa Hugel” which had been the Krupp family home since 1873. The entrance hall was 138 feet long by 25 feet wide by 30 feet high while the main exhibit hall was 197 feet long by 82 feet wide by 43 feet high. It was located between the replica of the Convent La Rabida and the Leather Exhibit just south of the moving sidewalk and Casino Building. This area is currently occupied by the La Rabida Children’s Hospital. The structure cost Krupp upwards of 1.5 million dollars to erect and about the same amount to transport it to and from the fair. The pavilion housed both tools of war and peace but honestly, it was the big gun that drew the crowds.
The $1.5 million dollar Krupp Pavilion at Chicago's 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.
Known as the largest canon in the world, the canon barrel weighed just over 240,000 pounds, was 46 feet long, 6.5 feet in diameter at the breech and the muzzle opening (the caliber of the gun was 16.54 inches). It was capable, according to a Krupp representative, of firing a 2,000 pound projectile over a distance of 13 miles (Krupp literature claimed only 5.5 miles). When using the shrapnel version of the 1 ton shell would explode 3400 steel balls weighing about a quarter pound each. You definitely did not want to be on the receiving end of this piece of artillery. The gun cost Krupp about $200,000 to produce and $80,000 to transport to the U.S. At the end of the fair,  Krupp offered the gun to the U.S. military for a price of $223,000 including turret and all mountings. The U.S. quickly rejected the offer due to the fact that they believed the gun too dangerous and too expensive to operate at $1,500 per shot.
Inside the main exhibit hall of the Krupp Pavilion showcasing both of the world's largest steel canons. It had been said that neither one worked well. 
There was also a rumor that Krupp was going to donate the gun to the City of Chicago and the city in turn was going to use it in a fort which was going to be placed opposite Hyde Park on five acres of “made” land which would have had a clear view of the lake front from the Evanston light house to Calumet Lake. That rumor was quickly proven to be false.

Aside from the spectacular guns, Krupp introduced the Expo crowds so something that they had not experienced before, indoor air-conditioning. People had often entertained the idea of cooling a building in warm temperatures much like heating a building in cool temperatures but up to this point had not seen such a device in actual service.
Krupp Gun Exhibit Building from across the water.
Krupp had two “Glacier Fountains,” as they were called, in the main exhibit hall on the northeast and southwest corners. He had used these types of cooling devices at his cast steel works at Essen, Germany since 1890 and were designed and engineered there between 1884 and 1886 by Dr. William Raydt of Hanover. The fountains sprayed fresh water upward and over a series of copper “worms” or coils that contained salt water cooled to a point below freezing. As the water froze to the coils it created a block of ice that cooled more of the fresh water and subsequently the air surrounding the water which then dropped to the ground making more room for warm air and creating a circulating cooling effect. The refrigeration machine used to cool the water used carbonic acid and was designed and patented by Dr. Raydt. During the warm months of the fair you could see people placing their hands close to the fountain to cool themselves in much the same way that you would see people trying to warm themselves next to a stove. One Columbian Guard who was stationed inside the exhibit near the fountains stated that because of the cold air he felt as if he was “going into consumption.”

Krupp was ahead of his time in how he treated his employees. Around the world there was a growing distrust between employees and employers but Krupp was a leader in employee relations. He built entire colonies or towns for his employees. He provided them with family housing, bachelor housing, schools, libraries, parks, hospitals and gymnasiums. He also created a pension fund for those who achieved 20 years of service, a disability pension fund for those hurt in the performance as “Kruppianers” as well as a fund for the widows and children of workers who had died. He also set up the predecessor of our 401(k) by having workers opt to invest 3% of their income and the company would match 100% of their contributions. Additionally, he paid for a retirement home for the elderly among the veteran “Kruppianers.” He did all this in order to create a sense of loyalty and family among his workforce. Oddly enough all of this benevolence toward his employees created contention between the Krupps and the Socialist Democratic Party which thrived and gained support based on vilifying big business which generally did not treat their employees well at all. This could have ultimately led to his undoing.

After the Expo ended,  Krupp dismantled his pavilion, and by the third week of March 1894 his “big gun” was on its way back to Germany by Steamer.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Lost Towns of Illinois - Bradley, later renamed Dunton.

History of Dunton began in March, 1836 when Asa Dunton, a Yankee stone cutter from Oswego, New York, with his wife, Lois Hawkes Dunton, and six children, the youngest of whom was only two years of age, came to this locality looking for desirable farming land on which to stake a claim. Previous homesteaders had settled in the wooded areas of Wheeling and Elk Grove, but Asa, recognizing the excellence of the soil and the advantage of well-drained higher ground, decided to file his claim on open prairie. He filed his claim for the 160 acres allowed and a like amount for each of his minor sons, William H., 17 years old, and James, 14 years old.

He established his pre-emption rights to these public lands by declaring his intention of settlement, by proving his residence within six months, cultivation of the tract within one year, and payment of the established purchase price of $1.25 an acre. Final title of the homestead was not secured until he had proved his residence for five years. During that first winter Asa and his family were forced to stay in temporary shelter from the winter's icy blasts in Deer Grove. Final proof of compliance with the law enabled Asa to obtain full title to the three homesteads in 1841. The family moved to Lemont, Illinois, where the men found employment in the quarries where stone was being cut for buildings in the town of Chicago, then numbering 4,000 people.

By then the area had largely changed its ethnic composition, as many German farmers from Saxony had arrived during the 1840s. John Klehm might serve as an example; he was at first a potato farmer, supplying the Chicago market, and in 1856 began a nursery for cherry, apple, and pear trees, later moving into spruce, maple, and elm, and then flowers. By the late 1850s the area had become noted for its truck farms, sending dairy products as well as vegetables to Chicago on the railroad.
First Map (1854) of the Town of Bradley Dunton (Arlington Heights), Illinois.
In 1854 he laid out one-half of his farm into lots, creating the town of “Bradley” named in honor of Peter Bradley who was a great friend of Asa's son, William Dunton. When the village was first platted, it was only four blocks wide by eight blocks long. The first boundaries matched Euclid Street on the north, Arlington Heights Road on the east, Sigwalt Street on the south, and Highland Avenue on the west.

The name was changed to Dunton when it was learned that there was already a Bradley in Illinois near Kankakee. (note the word Dunton was later written in by hand just above Bradley on the plat map).

In 1855, Asa became the Postmaster of Arlington Heights operating out of his house.

Asa Dunton left Lemont in 1847 to return his family to his original claim. The small frame home that Asa erected for his family home stood on open prairie, beside an old Indian trail (Arlington Heights Road), with no neighbors and no roads. It still stands today (2019) at 612 North Arlington Heights Road. Built of hand hewn beams it has withstood the ravages of wind and weather and is today the proud possession of its present owner. Old timers well remember when it was the home of Asa's granddaughter, Mrs. Farwell.

Some of the old pine and spruce trees, a number of which are still standing north of Euclid and east of Arlington Heights Road, were set out by the Dunton Family. The name "Pine Street" was chosen in later years because of that stand of pines, now more than 170 years old, truly a bequest of beauty.

James Dunton resided in his father's home until his marriage in 1849. He built his first home at 623 North Arlington Heights Road, which stood until 1916 when new construction raized the house. There the family lived until James erected the stately three-story home at 619 North Arlington Heights Road in 1869, just before the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The story is told that many local people stood on the flat part of the roof at the rear and watched the conflagration from that vantage point, twenty-two miles from the scene of the blazing city.
Recent picture of 619 North Arlington Heights Road, Arlington Heights, IL.
Recent picture of 619 North Arlington Heights Road, Arlington Heights, IL.
Recent picture of 619 North Arlington Heights Road, Arlington Heights, IL.
The little town at the depot slowly grew, acquiring a blacksmith, a cheese factory, a hardware store, and a hotel. In 1874, the name was changed to Arlington Heights and was incorporated in 1887, when its population numbered about 1,000. Most were farmers, but they were joined by others who worked in Chicago, for Arlington Heights was an early commuter suburb.

The town developed religious institutions that reflected the origins of its citizens; the first churches were Presbyterian (1856) and Methodist (1858), with a German Lutheran church following in 1860; Catholics had no church here until 1905.

By the turn of the century Arlington Heights had about 1,400 inhabitants, and it continued to grow slowly with a good many farms and greenhouses after World War II. By then Arlington Heights was also known for its racetrack, founded in 1927 by the California millionaire H. D. “Curly” Brown on land formerly consisting of 12 farms. Camp McDonald and two country clubs were founded in the 1930s.

The great population explosion took place in the 1950s and 1960s, when the spread of automobile ownership, together with the expansion of the Chicago-area economy, drove the number of people in Arlington Heights—expanded by a series of annexations —up to 64,884 by 1970. By then virtually all the available land had been taken up, and the formerly isolated depot stop found itself part of a continuous built-up area stretching from Lake Michigan to the Fox River.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Dick's [Richard Bell] Amusement Park, Bloomington, Illinois. (1955-1965)

Richard Bell, a young Black man, was a self-taught business man and entrepreneur. He bought a farm in Bloomington, Illinois where he raised hogs, popcorn, and soybeans for many years. Next he bought and operated an auto body repair shop. He employed a number of young men, black and white, to who he taught important job skills.
In 1955 Dick opened "Dick's Amusement Park" in Forest Park in Bloomington. The amusement park had a merry-go-round, Ferris wheel, a coal-fueled miniture train, pony rides in an enclosed track, a playground and a concession stand. He closed the park in 1965 and sold off all the rides.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.


Ike Sanders hospitality and food service success, as a person of color, in Bloomington, Illinois.

Isaac "Ike" Joshua Beasley Sanders (1878-1929), a colored man, opened a restaurant and rooming house located at 306 South Main Street in Bloomington, Illinois in 1903. It was known as “Ike Sander’s Restaurant Short Order House.” The restaurant not only provided good meals and courteous service, but provided people with boarding and lodging by the day or the week with clean and well ventilated rooms for reasonable prices.
The interior of Ike Sander's first restaurant in Bloomington, Illinois. Ike's first wife, Allie Headley is behind bar; Ike's sister, Lillian is on the right and Ike is in the rear.
Lue Anna Brown Sanders Clark recalled that his restaurant served both blacks and whites and that Ike was well liked by all people in Bloomington which was likely why his business was so successful. Ike and Allie continued to run the restaurant until 1911 when Allie passed away. Shortly after Allie’s death Ike sold the restaurant and moved back to Boston, Massachusetts.

Ike returned to Bloomington around 1915 and opened another restaurant. This lunch room, the "Cafe and Pool Hall," was located at 410 South Main Street. In February of 1916 an advertisement appears in The Weekly Advertiser (a local black publication) that lists Ike’s pool hall and café at 107 South Main Street in Bloomington, in the central business district. 
Ike Sanders (left) and another man in front of Cafe and Pool Hall at 103 S. Main St., Bloomington, Illinois.
Note the Ringling Brothers circus posters in the windows.
A few months later during the summer of 1916, Ike opened the last restaurant he would operate, "The Workingman’s Club" (also known as the Colored Men’s Club) of the City of Bloomington. The restaurant was first located at 408 South Main Street. In order to open his restaurant at that location, Ike (because he was a Negro) had to get permission from the citizens and businessmen in the 400 block of South Main Street. In the statement, the people who lived and worked on that block stated that they were willing to allow Ike’s Workingman’s Club to open.

The club was at this location for a short time until Ike moved the club to 1101 West Washington Street around 1917 where it remained until he was forced to close in late 1919.  His second wife, Lue Anna Brown, and Ike worked as equal partners at the Workingman’s Club.
Owners Ike and Lue Anna Brown Sanders and the interior of the Working Men's Club located at 1101 W. Washington Street, Bloomington, Illinois at 11:25am. Circa 1917
The Workingman’s Club was open 7 days a week from 7:00am to midnight. The Club “provided rooms, recreation, and food for the working man.” At first the Club was a “private affair.” Men who wished to come in would sign their name in the book and give a $1.00 per year membership fee. However, Lue Anna recalled that after awhile everybody came in. She said “you know how people are. They just rush in whether it’s private or not.” Not only did the Workingman’s Club have a restaurant, but it also had a pool hall, barbershop, and rooms for working men to stay in overnight. While Ike was the President of the Workingman’s Club (managing the pool hall, the barbershop, the drinks, and all of the finances) he gave Lue Anna control over the restaurant.

Lue Anna recalled that meals were served whenever anyone came in, including breakfast. She said there were three small tables in the restaurant and she helped cook and serve customers. Lue Anna remembered that they did not serve “fancy foods” such as greens, chitilins, barbeque ribs, or potato pie. Pig feet and pig ears were favorite menu items, but they “served most anything customers wanted including beef stew, hamburgers, neckbones,” and fish every Friday. They also served Bohemian, Crown, and Budweiser beers.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

The Cicero, Illinois Race Riot of 1951.


In historical writing and analysis, PRESENTISM is the introduction of present-day ideas and perspectives into depictions or interpretations of the past. I believe presentism is a form of cultural bias, and it creates a distorted understanding of the subject matter. Reading modern notions of morality into the past is committing the error of presentism. I'm well aware that historical accounts are written by people and can be slanted, so I try my hardest to present articles that are fact based and well researched, without interjecting any of my personal opinions.


The Cicero, Illinois race riot of 1951 occurred July 11th & 12th of 1951, when a mob of about 4,000 whites attacked an apartment building that rented an apartment to a single black family.

In early June of 1951, Mrs. Camille DeRose, who owned an apartment building at 6139–43 West 19th Street in Cicero, Illinois, got into a controversy with her tenants and was ordered to refund a portion of the rent. Afterwards, out of anger and/or profit, she rented an apartment to Harvey E. Clark Jr., a Black World War II veteran and graduate of Fisk University, and his family in the all-white neighborhood.
Mr. and Mrs. Harvey E. Clark Jr.
A high Cicero official learned that a Black family was moving into a Cicero apartment and warned Mrs. DeRose that there would be "trouble" if he moved in.

At 2:30 pm, on June 8th, a moving van containing $2,000 worth of Clark's furniture was stopped by the police. The rental agent was ushered out with a drawn revolver at his back. A jeering crowd gathered and Clark was told by the police to get out or he would be arrested "for protective custody." A detective warned Clark that, "I'll bust your damned head if you don't move." At 6:00 pm, Clark was grabbed by 20 police officers. The chief of police told him, "Get out of here fast. There will be no moving into this building." Clark was hit eight times as he was pushed towards a car which was parked across the street and was shoved inside the car. The police told him, "Get out of Cicero and don't come back in town or you'll get a bullet through you."

A suit was filed by the NAACP against the Cicero Police Department on June 26th, and the Clark family moved in.

With the Clarks now living in the apartment, word was passed along that there would be "fun" at the apartment. Twenty-one family members fled before the rioting. On July 11, 1951, at dusk, a crowd of 4,000 whites attacked the apartment building that housed Clark's family and possessions. Only 60 police officers were assigned to the scene and did little to control the rioting. Women carried stones from a nearby rock pile to bombard Clark's windows. Another tossed firebrands (a piece of burning wood) into windows and onto the rooftop of the building. The mob also destroyed a bathtub, woodworks, plaster, doors, windows, and set fires to the place. Most of the whites who joined in the rioting were teenagers.
Firemen who rushed to the building were met with showers of bricks and stones from the mob. Sheriff's deputies asked the firemen to turn their hoses on the rioters, who refused to do so without their lieutenant, who was unavailable.

The situation appeared to be out of control and County Sheriff John E. Babbs asked Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson to send in the Illinois National Guard. As troops arrived at the scene, the rioters fought with them. Armed with bayonets, rifle butts, and tear gas, the troops ended the riot by setting a 300-yard perimeter around the apartment block in which the rioting was in progress.
By July 14th, most of the violence had ended. When the riot was over, $20,000 in damage had been done to the building.

The Cook County grand jury failed to indict any of the accused rioters, instead indicting Clark's attorney from the NAACP, the owner of the apartment building, and the owner's rental agent and lawyer on charges of inciting a riot and conspiracy to damage property. The charges were dropped after widespread criticism.

A federal grand jury then indicted four Cicero officials and three police officers on charges of violating Clark's rights in connection with the race riots after the United States Attorney General launched an investigation of the incident. Charges were dropped against the fire chief, whose firefighters refused to direct their water hoses at the rioters when requested by the police, and the town's president. The police chief and two police officer were fined a total of $2,500 for violating Clark's civil rights. Of the 120 mobsters arrested, two were convicted and fined $10 each. The federal prosecution was hailed as a courageous achievement, since it was rare that civil rights in housing had stirred action by federal officials.

The Cicero Race Riot of 1951 lasted several nights, involved 2,000 to 5,000 white rioters, and received worldwide condemnation. It was the first race riot to be broadcast on local television. Most viewed the rioting in Cicero from the comfort of their living rooms on television sets before they read it in the papers. The press in 1940s Chicago housing attacks was largely ignored, but when the eruption occurred in Cicero in 1951, it brought worldwide condemnation for the first time and a dramatic climax to an era of large-scale residential change.
6139–43 West 19th Street, Cicero, Illinois.
The black population continued to increase in Chicago despite the incident, and the Chicago Housing Authority reported a decrease in the number of black families requesting police protection. Although the housing assaults did not end, they became less frequent than in the immediate aftermath of World War II. 

NOTE: On Aug. 5, 1966, in Chicago's Marquette, Martin Luther King Jr., was physically assulted by white counter-protestors.
The Camille DeRose Story (PDF), written by Camille DeRose and published in 1953; in my Digital Research Library of Illinois History®

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Lost Towns of Illinois - Africa, a settlement in Williamson County, Illinois.


In historical writing and analysis, PRESENTISM is the introduction of present-day ideas and perspectives into depictions or interpretations of the past. I believe presentism is a form of cultural bias, and it creates a distorted understanding of the subject matter. Reading modern notions of morality into the past is committing the error of presentism. I'm well aware that historical accounts are written by people and can be slanted, so I try my hardest to present articles that are fact based and well researched, without interjecting any of my personal opinions.


Africa was a Negro settlement in the northeast corner of Williamson County. It all began when Alexander McCreery came from Kentucky to Thomas Jordan's Settlement, also called Jordan's Fort. which was southeast of modern Thompsonville, Illinois, in 1812, when he was 14 years old. The following year John McCreery, Alexander’s father, followed his son to Illinois.
There are no regular services at the church now, but once a year,
on Memorial Day, it is the sight of the communty's homecoming.
John brought a number of family slaves to the territory and settled in what became known as Fancy Farms, in Franklin County. The Negros were valued at $10,000 and were held as indentured servants. Under these terms they were to be freed when they had worked out their worth which complied with the law of the Northwest Territory.
Robert McCreery bought land from the government at twelve and one-half cents an acre, in what was then the southeast corner of Franklin County. On this land, Robert McCreery built homes for the Negroes, and started "Africa". In 1839, the county was divided, and Williamson County established from the southern half of Franklin County. This put "Africa" in Williamson County.

In 1818, when Illinois Territory became the State of Illinois, there was much opposition to slavery: so much, that slavery was barred from the new state by the Constitution. John McCreery decided to take his slaves to Missouri, then a slave sate. In 1821, he died. His widow inherited the slaves and they remained her property until her death in 1844.

Alexander McCreery, one of her sons, then inherited the slaves. A resident of Illinois, he went to Missouri to take possession. Upon arrival, he learned that all but one had been kidnapped and hidden in the woods. Their captors were keeping them hidden and watching the road for a chance to run them out of the country and sell them in the South.

With the help of friends, McCreery found his slaves, and brought them back from the woods. He found that one of the woman was married to Richard Inge, a slave who belonged to a neighbor. Not wanting to separate man and wife, Alexander McCreery purchased Inge for three hundred dollars, and brought him along with the others to Illinois.

Upon their arrival in Williamson County, McCreery gave all of them their freedom. They settled in "Africa," where he provided them with land from which to make their living.

In time, the Negroes who were living in Africa." Decided to build a church of their own. Before this they had attended church at Liberty, a Methodist Church three miles southeast of Thompsonville. They named their new church Locust Grove and affiliated with the Southern Methodist organization.

Later, these inhabitants of "Africa" built a small schoolhouse, and employed white teachers to instruct their children. Walter Kent and Miss Annie Simmons were among the white teachers who taught in the school. In later years, Negro teachers were employed, two of whom were William Harrison and John Patton. A lack of funds caused the discontinuance of the school in 1908. The district then was split up and combined with surrounding districts. Now the children go to school with their white neighbors. Later, funds were raised and the district indebtedness was paid, but the Negro school never has been re-established.

One of the freed slaves, Richard Inge, was a shoemaker. He went to Old Frankfort, nearby, and "hired himself" to Ralph Elstum. His shoes were made by hand, of course, and wooden pegs used. The customer stood on a piece of leather, and Inge marked around his feet to get the size.

Inge was industrious and a good workman. When he had saved enough money, he repaid McCreery for the sum spent to buy his freedom from his Missouri owner. Later, he saved enough to buy eighty acres of land near the Negro settlement.

A woman from Indiana with a small son came to "Africa." Unable to support the boy, she gave him to Inge and his wife, who raised him. Jimmy Hargraves, this boy, still lives in "Africa." He does not know his exact age, but believes he is more than ninety years old.

Hargraves proved to his foster parents that he appreciated all that they did for him. A good workers, he took care of them as long as they lived. He was a good cook, serving as camp cook for the railroad construction crews that built the road from Benton to Thompsonville. For twenty-five years he was a chef in a large Chicago hotel. Many wedding cakes and special dinners were prepared by him for the white residents of the communities around "Africa."

Just prior to the Civil War, feeling ran high, and some Southern sympathizers warned the Negroes of "Africa" to leave their homes. Frightened, three wagon loads of them, with most of their family possessions, started up the old Sarahsville road, past Liberty Church, on their way out of the region.

It was Sunday morning, and the church members gathered for Sunday School found out what was taking place. They persuaded the Negroes to return to their homes, promising that they would not be molested. The Negroes turned back, and the Southern sympathizers were not heard from again.

These Negroes of "Africa" never have been a detriment to the communities around them. They have been self-supporting and have attended to their own affairs. Some have taken advantage of all the opportunities that have come their way. Several had finished high school, and a few have attended college. Miss Ary Dimple Bean completed her high school work at Marion, and was graduated, in 1924, from a two-year college at Southern Illinois Normal University.

The settlement was not as large as it once was, but at the present time it covers 540 acres, with about forty persons living there. In all the years of its existence it never was Incorporated as a town. The inhabitants being almost universally farmers. Their economic status is now, and always has been up to the level of white citizens. Jerry Bean was the most progressive farmer in the settlement at this time.

Today three farms are owned by Negro people but none live in the community. These farms are owned by Allens, Adams and Dipples Bean Cregg. The church is still standing but it has been vandalized by inconsiderate people many times. There are no regular services at the church but once a year, on Memorial Day, it is the sight of a homecoming. This is a day when friends meet, when graves of loved ones are decorated with flowers, and barbequed meat is prepared and sold to raise money for the church and cemetery upkeep.

The churchyard grave markers bear the names of old pioneers of the settlement — Stewart, Harrison, and Martin. Morris Stewart, buried in 1890 seems to be the first burial. However, there is an older burial ground southeast of the church.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Monday, April 15, 2019

Anton (Tony) Joseph Cermák, Chicago Mayor, Biography, Assassination and Alternate Theory.

One of the most mysterious political assassinations ever taken place occurred on February 15, 1933, when the Czech-born mayor of Chicago, Anton Cermak, was mortally wounded. Anton, or Tony Cermak as he was known by, was the 34th Mayor of Chicago, in office from April 7, 1931 to March 6, 1933.
Mayor Anton Cermak is sworn into office in April 7, 1931.
Biography of Anton Cermak.
Anton Cermak was born in Kladno, Austria-Hungary (now Czech Republic), on May 9, 1873. The following year his parents emigrated to the United States. After six years of formal schooling, Cermak, at the age of twelve, joined his father as a coal miner in Braidwood, Illinois. 

Cermak developed a reputation for having strong views and he was selected to be the miner's spokesman in a demand for higher wages. This resulted in him losing his job and he decided to move to Chicago. He found work on the railways before starting his own business selling firewood. With his heavy-set physique and frightening temper he was an imposing man and was considered to have leadership qualities. 

Cermak became active in the Democratic Party and in 1902 was elected to the state legislature. Seven years later he became a Chicago City Council alderman. Cermak was able to use his inside knowledge of proposed government land purchase to speculate on real estate. He was also the founder of the Lawndale Building and Loan Association, director of the Lawndale National Bank and a partner in a real estate company Cermak and Serhant. 

Cermak became extremely wealthy and soon became leader of the party in the city. His main opponent was William Hale Thompson, the leader of the Republican Party in Chicago, and a man who was a close associate of Al Capone. Cermak maintained a reasonable relationship with Thompson, which allowed him to keep his patronage jobs and influence in the city. Even his enemies agreed that he was a hard-working politician who was "keenly aware of the most intricate details of the issues of the day."

In 1928 Cermak was selected as the Democrat candidate for the Senate. Although he ran a vigorous campaign, he was defeated. It was a good year for the Republicans and Herbert Hoover had a landslide victory. Several states that had previously voted Democrat, such as Texas, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia voted Republican for the first time. Al Smith won 40.8% of the vote compared to Hoover's 58.2%.

The Wall Street Crash in 1929 changed the political direction of the country. Cermak created what became known as the "Chicago Democratic Machine." It is claimed that Cermak was probably the first politicians to use statistical analysis to evaluate political performance and develop strategy. Members of the different wards were encouraged to compete with each other and success was rewarded with patronage jobs. Paul M. Green has argued that "never before had Chicagoans seen a political party so organized for battle."
Anton Cermak campaigning in the final days of April of 1931.
In 1931 Cermak challenged William Hale Thompson, the Republican mayor of Chicago. Cermak accused Thompson of being under the control of Al Capone and other gangsters in the city. He campaigned for social reform and an end to prohibition. Thompson responded by calling Cermak a low-class foreigner. This was a dangerous tactic as at that this time two out of every three Chicagoans was either foreign born or the child of foreign born immigrants. In one speech Cermak commented: "Of course we couldn't all come over on the Mayflower... But I got here as soon as I could, and I never wanted to go back, because to me it is a great privilege to be an American citizen."

On April 7, 1931, Cermak defeated Thompson, by nearly 200,000 votes. This included winning 45 of the city's 50 wards and this gave Cermak the largest victory in Chicago's history. During his time as mayor Cermak spent most of his time dealing with the consequences of the Great Depression. This included cutting services, laying off thousands of workers, and taking away vacation and sick pay from those who remained. To defend his policies Cermak conducted weekly radio talks that he called "Intimate Chats."

Cermak appointed James Allman as Chief of Police. He had been in the force for 30 years and enjoyed a reputation of being untainted by corruption being described as "clean as a whistle." The Chicago Crime Commission reported: "During the 12 years that the Chicago Crime Commission has been observing the Police Department there has not come to the notice a single adverse word as to Captain Allman's integrity, ability, efficiency, or independence." Allman was a great success and Chicago's murder rate actually dropped in 1931 and 1932, whereas most other major cities saw their rates rise.

The 1932 Presidential Election.
Cermak attended the 1932 Democratic National Convention, that was held to select the presidential candidate. Cermak favored Al Smith, mainly because he was opposed to Prohibition. This issue was a problem for Franklin D. Roosevelt because much of his support came from traditionally dry areas in the South and West whereas most party members and the general public favored repeal. Roosevelt told his supporters to "vote as you wish" and that he would be happy to run on whatever platform the convention adopted. In the vote for repeal 934-213. Arthur Krock reported that "the Democratic party went as wet as the seven seas."

The first ballot showed Roosevelt with 666 votes - more than three times as many as his nearest rival but 104 short of victory. Roosevelt's campaign manager, James Farley, approached Cermak, who controlled most of Illinois delegation, about changing his vote. Cermak refused, because he was aware that if he abandoned the Irish-Catholic candidate, he would have trouble from his supporters in Chicago.

Roosevelt won the nomination on the fourth ballot when he won 945 votes. William E. Leuchtenburg, the author of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal (1963) summed up the situation that the Democratic Party found itself in: "Liberal Democrats were somewhat uneasy about Roosevelt's reputation as a trimmer, and disturbed by the vagueness of his formulas for recovery, but no other serious candidate had such good claims on progressive support. as governor of New York, he had created the first comprehensive system of unemployment relief, sponsored an extensive program for industrial welfare, and won western progressives by expanding the work Al Smith had begun in conservation and public power."

Anton Cermak
Anton Cermak campaigned vigorously for Roosevelt in the the 1932 Presidential Election and delivered a 330,000 vote majority in Cook County. The turnout, almost 40 million, was the largest in American history. Roosevelt received 22,825,016 votes to Hoover's 15,758,397. With a 472-59 margin in the Electoral College, he captured every state south and west of Pennsylvania. Roosevelt carried more counties than a presidential candidate had ever won before, including 282 that had never gone Democratic. Of the forty states in Hoover's victory coalition four years before, the President held but six. Hoover received 6 million fewer votes than he had in 1928. The Democrats gained ninety seats in the House of Representatives to give them a large majority (310-117) and won control of the Senate (60-36).

Roosevelt was elected on 8th November, 1932, but the inauguration was not until 4th March, 1933. While he waited to take power, the economic situation became worse. Three years of depression had cut national income in half. Five thousand bank failures had wiped out 9 million savings accounts. By the end of 1932, 15 million workers, one out of every three, had lost their jobs. When the Soviet Union's trade office in New York issued a call for 6,000 skilled workers to go to Russia, more than 100,000 applied.

The Traditional Assassination Story.
Cermak traveled to Miami on February 7th to have a meeting to discuss who was going to be appointed to Roosevelt's government. Cermak did not want a job for himself but was keen to get some of his followers to have good jobs. He also wanted to make sure Chicago got a share of Roosevelt's promised New Deal. Negotiations with James Farley went well and it was arranged that Roosevelt would meet with Cermak on February 15th at Bayfront Park. 

Anton Cermak went to the meeting with James Bowler, another senior politician from Chicago. He later recalled: "Mayor Cermak and I had gone to the park twenty minutes before the President elect was due to arrive, and we sat in the band shell together. When Mr. Roosevelt's car came along the President elect saw the mayor and called to him to come down. Mr. Cermak called back that he would wait until after Mr. Roosevelt had made his speech. Then Roosevelt spoke, and he waited until the mayor came down from the platform to go to the side of the automobile."

Roosevelt explained how after the speech "I slid off the back of the car into my seat. Just then Mayor Cermak came forward. I shook hands and talked with him for nearly a minute. Then he moved off around the back of the car. Bob Clark (one of the Secret Servicemen) was standing right behind him to the right. As he moved off a man came forward with a telegram... and started telling me what it contained. While he was talking to me, I was leaning forward to the left side of the car."

At that moment an Italian immigrant, Giuseppe Zangara, pointed his gun at Roosevelt. At the critical moment an alert spectator, Lillian Cross, hit the assassin's arm with her handbag and spoiled his aim. Zangara fired five shots and they all missed Roosevelt, but did hit others. This included Cermak who received a serious wound in the abdomen. Rex Schaeffer, a journalist working for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported: "I stood twenty-feet behind the car of the President-elect. Suddenly - I had given my attention to Mr. Roosevelt - a pistol blasted over my shoulder... Four more shots were fired and at the left of the car of Mr. Roosevelt I saw Mr. Cermak slump down."

Zangara was attacked by the crowd. "He was seized by men and women, dragged between the rows of seats, and then a policeman rushed through the crowd and swung on him with his blackjack. The Sheriff of Dade County, Dan Hardie, was on the platform and as the shots rang out he plunged into the crowd after the shooter, and with the policeman, jerked him erect and threw him on the trunk rack of an automobile which was carrying one of the wounded out of the park." Another witness remembers shouts of "Kill that man!" and "Don't let him get away."

L.L. Lee was standing next to Cermak when he was shot. He claimed that his only words were, "The president! Get him away!" Lee and W.W. Wood, a Democratic county committee member, grabbed his arms and walked him towards the president's car." The chauffeur decided to get away from the scene as quickly as possible. Lee then heard Roosevelt shout "For God's sake a man has been shot" and the "car jerked to a sudden stop."

Roosevelt told the New York Times: "I called to the chauffeur to stop. He did - about fifteen feet from where we started. The Secret Service man shouted to him to get out of the crowd and he started forward again. I stopped him a second time, this time at the corner of the bandstand, about thirty feet further on. I saw Mayor Cermak being carried."
Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak is helped after being shot in a Miami,
Florida park while talking to President-elect Franklin Roosevelt.
"I motioned to have him put in the back of the car... Cermak was half dragged across the few feet into the waiting car and pushed in next to Roosevelt. Mayor Cermak was alive but I didn't think he was going to last. I put my left arm around him and my hand on his pulse, but I couldn't find any pulse... For three blocks I believed his heart had stopped. I held him all the way to the hospital and his pulse constantly improved."

After the shooting Roosevelt remained at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami until Cermak was brought out of the emergency room. He spoke with him for several minutes and then visited the other shooting victims. According to the New York Tribune, an unnamed witness heard Cermak tell Roosevelt: "I'm glad it was me and not you, Mr. President."

On March 4th, Roosevelt was inaugurated. He called Cermak on the telephone immediately after the ceremony. “Tell Chicago I’ll pull through,” Cermak said from his hospital bed. “This is a tough old body of mine and a mere bullet isn’t going to pull me down. I was elected to be World’s Fair mayor and that’s what I’m going to be.”

Doctors thought the mayor would recover, but Cermak died at 5:57 a.m. Chicago time on March 6th, two days after Roosevelt took the first of his four oaths of office.

Giuseppe Zangara, an unemployed thirty-two-year-old bricklayer, claimed he acted alone. "I have always hated the rich and powerful. I do not hate Mr. Roosevelt personally. I hate all presidents, no matter from what country they come." After being found guilty was sentenced to death in the electric chair at the Florida State Penitentiary. When he heard his sentence he yelled at the judge, "You give me electric chair. I no afraid of that chair! You're one of capitalists. You is crook man too. Put me in electric chair. I no care!" Guiseppe Zangara was executed on March 20, 1933.

The end came peacefully, the Tribune reported, with Cermak surrounded by members of his family, three daughters, their husbands and children.
On March 6, 1933, Chicago Mayor Anton Ceermak died weeks after being shot during an assassination attempt on President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The outpouring of public grief and respect in the following week was immense. Crowds met Cermak’s funeral train at stops all the way from Florida to Chicago. Back home, thousands solemnly marched through the Cermak home at 2348 South Millard Avenue to view the mayor’s body.
The scene inside the mayor's residence at 2348 South Millard Avenue as mourners file past the bronze casket holding Mayor Anton Cermak in March 1933. Thousands entered the home during the afternoon and evening.
Then tens of thousands waited in line for hours in the bitter cold to pay their respects while his body lay in state in City Hall. Many had to be turned away then as mourners escorted his coffin to a packed Chicago Stadium for the service.
Flowers marking a large cross shape on the floor of the Chicago Stadium during Mayor Anton J. Cermak's funeral, full view including mourners in the seating area.
Two lines of soldiers standing on either side of Mayor Anton J. Cermak's coffin during his funeral at the Chicago Stadium, within a large cross shape made with flowers on the floor.
Then the final march began.
Horse-drawn wagon carrying Mayor Anton J. Cermak's coffin accompanied by two police during his funeral procession.
About 30,000 joined a somber procession from the stadium to Bohemian National Cemetery at Foster Avenue and Crawford Avenue (now Pulaski Road) on the North Side of Chicago.
A crowd of 50,000 attends the burial services for Chicago Mayor Anton J. Cermak on May 10, 1933.
A crowd of 50,000 was estimated at the cemetery. The Tribune summed it up: “Mayor Anton J. Cermak was buried yesterday after the most spectacular funeral demonstration ever seen in Chicago.” He was buried in the Bohemian National Cemetery.
Five days later, the Chicago City Council voted to change the name of 22nd Street to Cermak Road. And less than a week after that, Zangara was executed in Florida’s electric chair.
Giuseppe Zangara sitting in court in 1933, charged with the assassination of Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak and the attempted assassination of President Roosevelt.
Zangara told officials: "I want to kill the president because I no like the capitalists. I have the gun in my hand, I kill kings and presidents first and next all capitalists."

But... there is another version of the story which says that the Al Capone mob orchestrated the plot to assassinate Cermak (not Roosevelt) because he was trying to kick out the Capone gang.

The Crime Syndicate Theory.
Giuseppe Zangara deliberately fired wildly over FDR’s head to distract security guards while another hit man got in close and fatally wounded the mayor. The bullets that struck Cermak came from a .45-caliber weapon whereas the gun taken from Zangara was a .38-caliber pistol.
Assassin Giuseppe Zangara, an Italian immigrant with a ferocious hatred for politicians, strikes a defiant pose in a Miami jail. He was executed two weeks after the death of Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak, who he killed intending to shoot Franklin Roosevelt.
Zangara was executed in Florida’s electric chair five weeks after the shooting. 
Giuseppe Zangara in custody at Dade County Jail in Florida. When strapped in the electric chair at Florida's Raiford prison, he was asked by Sheriff Dan Hardie if he had any last words, Zangara replied "Viva Italia! Goodbye to all poor peoples everywhere!... Pusha da button!"
But what about the other weapon, and the other shooter?

It’s been said that Zangara allowed himself to be used as a decoy in Cermak’s murder because he was dying of cancer and wanted to provide for his family after his death. Supposedly the Capone gang cut a deal saying if Zangara would take the rap, the mob would take care of his family after his death.
Al Capone
Zangara insisted to the end that he wasn’t shooting at Cermak. But the rumors continued that in fact it was Cermak, and not Roosevelt, who had been the intended target.

Cermak’s promise to clean up Chicago’s rampant lawlessness did pose a serious threat to Al Capone and the Chicago organized crime syndicate. One of the first people to suggest the organized crime theory was reporter Walter Winchell, who also happened to be in Miami the evening of the shooting.

Both Alphonse Capone and Anton Cermak came from families of the Old World. Capone, the son of a barber born in Sicily, and Cermak, the son of a coal miner from Bohemia. Both men were reared on the tough streets of big cities: Capone, the Five Points of New York, Cermak, the southwest side of Chicago.

There the similarities ended, despite their common origins. Capone chose a life of crime, learning from and serving mentors that regarded all persons as expendable to their desires, while Cermak became a soul of industry and public service.

If Al Capone was a devil, Anton Cermak was certainly no angel, but assumed and affirmed an ideal that Capone would scoff at; there were solutions to problems that would not be found by a physical threat or the point of a gun.

Some political commentators such as Walter Winchell believed that Cermak was the real target. It was argued that Al Capone or William Hale Thompson had hired Zangara to assassinate Cermak. However, Blaise Picchi, the author of "The Five Weeks of Giuseppe Zangara: The Man Who Would Assassinate FDR" (2003) argued: "Federal agents conducted an exhaustive investigation of the shooting and could not find no link between Zangara and the Chicago mob."

Cermak's biographer, Alex Gottfried, is also convinced that Zangara was not an hired gunman: "What actually seems to be the case, is that, regardless of what connections might have existed between Cermak and Chicago gangs, the shooting was neither planned nor executed by gangsters. The one way ride, the machine gun tattoo, the shotgun blast - these are their customary and foolproof methods. No plot similar to this shooting is recorded in the annals of gang murder."

Did the Mob Order the Hit on Cermak?
In his book Frank Nitti: The True Story of Chicago’s Notorious Enforcer, Humble contends that Cermak was as corrupt as Thompson and that the Chicago Outfit hired Zangara to kill Cermak in retaliation for Cermak’s attempt to murder Frank Nitti.

Frank “The Enforcer” Nitti is arguably the most glamorized gangster in history. He was an infamous Chicago wiseguy who eventually rose to command the city’s premier underworld organization, The Outfit. Though he has been widely mentioned in fictional works, Humble’s is the first book to document Nitti’s real-life criminal career alongside his pop culture persona, with special chapters devoted to the many television shows, movies, and songs featuring Nitti. Author Ronald Humble chronicles The Enforcer’s beginnings in New York’s Navy Street Boys to his position as Al Capone’s second-in-command and eventual leadership of the outfit, with bodies piling up along the way.

Was it Nitti versus Cermak? Humble seems to believe so.

There are a lot of conflicting stories and testimonials and over the decades, there has been much speculation, misinformation, and even outright fabrications regarding the shooting of Anton Cermak. Several of the versions including statements from President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt, L.L. Lee, Miami City Manager, Chicago Alderman James Bowler, Mrs. Walter Wright, and Reporter Rex Schaeffer.

Gunshot Wound, Injury and Complications.
Cermak died on March 6, partly because of his wounds. On March 30, however, his personal physician, Dr. Karl A. Meyer, said that Cermak’s primary cause of death was ulcerative colitis, commenting, “The mayor would have recovered from the bullet wound had it not been for the complication of colitis.” The autopsy disclosed the wound had healed, adding, “the other complications were not directly due to the bullet wound.”

In near zero-degree temperatures, half a million people stood along the street lines to watch Cermak’s body pass on its way to the old Chicago Stadium. Never in history of the city has there been a funeral procession so grand. The service in the stadium was non-partisan and non-religious. 

Tributes came from around the country.

Chicago committeeman T.J. Bowler described Cermak as the “the greatest leader the Democratic party ever had,” and World Fair President D.F. Kelly stated, “Chicago has never had a man whose passing will be felt in so many directions.”

In the end, Mayor Cermak’s legacy was felt most intimately on the streets of the city he had devoted his life to and the place he loved the most, Chicago. In this true American city, Cermak was a true American. An immigrant, a worker, and a leader. Upon his death, his city remembered him as their greatest benefactor, a champion of public service and civic pride.

In 1950 J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI, was asked to report on the original investigation into the case: "The Secret Service files reflected that there were many allegations, most of which were in the form of anonymous letters, that the attempted assassination was planned by gangsters or some organized criminal group, and that Zangara had been sent to Miami expressly for that purpose. Subsequent investigation, however, indicated that he had been in Miami for several months prior to the incident. There is no indication that Zangara had any knowledge as to the identity of Mayor Cermak of Chicago. There was no evidence that Zangara had been in Chicago nor had any relatives or associates in the city."
“I work from the same desk that Mayor Cermak sat at over eighty years ago. And a day does not go by that I don’t think about Tony Cermak’s legacy and what he did for his city.” – Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.