Saturday, October 16, 2021

The History of E.J. Korvette Department Stores.

“E.J. Korvette” was not a person, but rather an acronym that stood for “Eight Jewish Korean Veterans,” who started the chain stores after they were discharged and returned home.
THE TRUTH IS that E.J. Korvette (initially a retailer of leather goods) was founded in 1948, two years before the Korean War (1950-1953) began, by a Jewish World War II veteran named Eugene Ferkauf and his friend, Joe Zwillenberg.

Ferkauf explained the nomenclature thusly: "I had a name picked out for the store, E.J. Korvette. “E” is for Eugene, my first name, and “J” stands for Joe Swillenberg, my associate, and my pal. As for “Korvette,” it was originally meant to be spelled with a “C” after the Canadian marine sub-destroyer, simply because I thought the name had a euphonious ring. When it came time to register the name, we found it was illegal to use a naval class identity, so we had to change the spelling to 'K'."
The history of E. J. Korvette, also known as Korvettes, was a chain of discount department stores, founded in 1948 in New York City. It was one of the first department stores to challenge the suggested retail price provisions of anti-discounting statutes. Founded by World War II veteran Eugene Ferkauf and his friend, Joe Zwillenberg, E.J. Korvette did much to define the idea of a discount department store. The Chicago area had many stores. 
It displaced earlier five and dime retailers and preceded later discount stores, like Walmart, and warehouse clubs such as Costco. The company failed to properly manage its business success, which led to the decline and its 1980 bankruptcy and closure.

NOTE: In 1953, when GM executives were looking to name the new Chevrolet sports car, assistant director for the Public Relations department Myron Scott suggested Corvette after the small maneuverable warship—the name was approved. A little start-up company vs. G.M.? Less naming restrictions 5 years later? You figure it out.
Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Monday, October 11, 2021

The History of the Screw Club in Chicago.

The Screw Club was a republican political machine that was brought into existence to elect William Boldenweck Mayor of the City of Lake View. Boldenweck was the last Supervisor of Cook County's Lake View Township (1857-1887) and was then elected as the first and only Mayor of the City of Lake View from 1887 to 1889. The Lake View Screw Club had initiated the movement against Chicago annexation, which happened on June 29, 1889. 

Boldenweck was born in Gottingen, Germany on August 9, 1852. The family moved to Chicago in 1854. During that year both, his father and mother died of cholera [1], a disease then raging throughout America. William attended school at a building, located at that time on Madison Street, between State and Dearborn Streets. 

William Boldenweck attended the Dyrenfurth Commercial College, Chicago's first business school founded in 1857 by Julius Dyrenfurth. Dyrenfurth Commercial College was Chicago's first business school. Julius was known as the "Father of Music in Chicago." He was a violinist and the Director of Chicago's first orchestra, the Philharmonic Society in 1850. (Surname is also spelled Dyhrenfurth and Dyrenforth.) 

NOTE: Harold (Son of Julius) and Emily (Mendroth) Dyrenfurth had three children, a son, and daughters, but the son died of diphtheria in childhood, and the two girls, 14-year-old Ruth and 19-year-old Helen lost their lives in the Iroquois Theatre Fire on December 30,1903. Ruth and Helen were accompanied to the theatre by the family's Swedish nanny, 24-year-old Alma Josephina Erland. The evening of the Iroquois fire Ruth and Helen's cousin, 31-year-old Arthur Dyrenfurth, found Ruth's body at Rolston's funeral home and took her to her parent's home.  A police officer, Albert F. Sinsrott, found Helen's body on a stairwell outside the auditorium, the second of only two victim identifications known to have been made at the theater. Ruth and Helen are buried in a family plot at Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago

After graduating from Dyrenfurth Commercial College, Boldenweck worked at different trades until 1871 when he joined his brother in the cut-stone and contracting business as a bookkeeper. In 1875, Mr. Boldenweck purchased the business from his brother and associated himself with Mr. P. Heine, under the firm name of Boldenweck & Henne, and ran the contracting business with him until 1883, when Boldenweck partnered with Mr. Ernest Haldeman forming the firm of Boldenweck & Heldmaier. 
William Boldenweck
Boldenweck resided in Cook County's Lake View Township since July 1876. He was a member of the Lake Shore Club, Knights of Honor, Lake View Singing Society, and the Screw Club. He married Miss Adelheid G. Samme on March 25, 1873, daughter of Frederick Samme who settled in Chicago in 1847.

Boldenweck retired in 1887. He ran for and was elected to the office of Supervisor of Lake View, then under a village organization. He was next elected the first Mayor of the city of Lake View on the Republican ticket. Boldenweck was re-elected Mayor until that suburb was annexed by the city of Chicago in 1889.

The last mention in the Chicago Tribune of the Screw Club was on February 3, 1889, ordering new uniforms to attend the inauguration of President-elect Benjamin Harrison.

In 1891, Mr. Boldenweck was appointed a member of the Board of Education by Mayor Hempstead Washburne (1891-1893), for a term of four years.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

[1] Cholera was a disease of conquest in Chicago, making its first known appearance in 1832 with Winfield Scott’s troops who had been sent to subdue Black Hawk and his allies. This swift-moving disease could kill within hours of contraction. Victims felt sudden cramps, followed by vomiting, diarrhea, and often death due to dehydration.

While cholera was present in Chicago across its history, it was particularly virulent every summer between 1848 and 1855. By then, Chicagoans purchased their water from private vendors who delivered casks of Lake Michigan water or drew water directly from area waterways. While it was clear that cholera was highly contagious and traveled easily with humans, it was not until 1849 that a London physician made a direct connection between a contaminated water source and the disease. In response, Chicagoans organized the Chicago City Hydraulic Company in 1851 to provide a safe drinking supply. With ongoing improvements to water provisions, cholera’s threat lessened but did not disappear. One reason was that as Chicago established a ready reliable water supply system, wastewater overwhelmed the region. Not until the 1880s, when residents were required to connect to an expanding sewerage system, did cholera firmly recede. But cholera was under control in Chicago before the disease-causing bacteria were identified in 1883 and before the development of antibiotics that could cure it. Prevention saved the day.

Monday, October 4, 2021

The Amazing History of The Toy Tinkers Company, the Makers of Tinkertoys, in Evanston, Illinois.

Tinkertoys were one of many building/construction-type toys invented in the early 1900s. 

The Meccano-Erector set was developed by Frank Hornby of Liverpool, United Kingdom, in 1898. (National Toy Hall of Fame 1998)

Tinkertoys' first product design was released in 1914 by Charles H. Pajeau, a stonemason. He got the idea for the toy, presented the idea to Robert Pettit, a trader with the Chicago Board of Trade, on a commuter train in Chicago, and started the Toy Tinker Company in Evanston, Illinois, to manufacture them. The toys were developed to help children develop fine motor skills, improve math skills, boost creativity and imagination, and enhance problem-solving skills through play. (National Toy Hall of Fame 1998)

And Lincoln Logs, which was invented in Chicago in 1916 by John Lloyd Wright, the son of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. (National Toy Hall of Fame 1999)

The manufacturing location for The Toy Tinkers, Inc., was a 65,000 square-foot four-story plant at 2012 Ridge Avenue in Evanston, Illinois.
2012 Ridge Avenue in Evanston, Illinois.

Pajeau and Pettit had presented the toys at the 1914 American Toy Fair in New York City, but no one was interested. On the way back to the hotel, Pajeau convinced a few toys stores to let him set up elaborate displays for a hefty commission, but the toy sets were slow to take off.

The business partners then decided to try a new marketing tactic when they returned home to Chicago. Around Christmas time, they set up displays in a select few Chicago area toy stores. This time they hired midgets, whom they dressed as elves, to sit in the store windows and play with the toys. This publicity stunt made all the difference. Within a year, Tinker Toys had produced over a million sets.

The cornerstone of the Tinkertoy set is a wooden spool roughly two inches in diameter, with holes drilled every 45° around the perimeter and one through the center. Unlike the center, the perimeter holes do not go all the way through. With the differing-length sticks, the set was intended to be based on the Pythagorean progressive right triangle. [ The "Pythagoras' Theorem" and can be written in one short equation: a² + b² = c²
Flying Tinker (1918-1921) 'Pilot of the Sky' propeller toy.
"The outdoor toy, for girl or boy."

Advertising for the Flying Tinker pledged "Flying Tinker teaches the first principles of aviation, while the operator remains safely on the ground." Additional flying yellow propellers could be purchased from the company at a price of six blades for 12¢.
The sets were introduced to the public through displays in and around Chicago, which included the popular model Ferris wheels. 

One of Tinkertoy's distinctive features is the toy's packaging. The original toys were made from wood that was left in its natural state. In 1919, the company added an electric motor to the set. 

In the early 1920s, Toy Tinkers started branching out into other toy designs, including pull toys. 
This is an original Wood Horse & Rider Pull Toy, officially known as the "Pony Tinker," manufactured by The Toy Tinkers, Inc. of Evanston, Illinois, from 1924 into the early '30s. As it is pulled, the rider bounces up and down to simulate actual horse riding. The head and hat can be turned in any direction.
NOTE: the above pullcord length had been cropped to highlight the red wood ball grip-handle.

To assist buyers in differentiating between the various offerings, sets were placed in different size mailing tubes labeled with a number (e.g., 116, 136) and a name (e.g., major, prep, big boy, junior, grad).
Tinkertoy Wonder Builder Set, 1929

A colorful "how-to" instruction guide accompanied each set. 

In the 1950s, color was added, and the wooden sticks appeared in red, green, blue, and peach.

Tinkertoys have been used to construct complex machines, including W. Daniel "Danny" Hillis's Tic-Tac-Toe playing computer from 1978. It is on display at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.
TEN THOUSAND wooden parts contain the rules for Tic-Tac-Toe. On the front are 9 flags. A human player moves one flag to make his move. Mechanical linkages cause the machine to respond with its answer almost immediately.
The manufacturers of the Tinkertoy Computer are Danny Hillis and Brian Silverman. On the left is Mitch Kapor, Chairman of the Board of Lotus, and on the right is Danny Hillis. Circa 1978.

HOW IT WORKS. (8 pgs - PDF)

Questor Educational Products Co. bought out Spalding in 1969, and move all operations out of Evanston by 1973. In 1985, Playskool acquired the Tinkertoy line (Tinkertoy Plastic and Tinkertoy Classic 'wood' sets and parts). Currently, Odds On Toys, a division of Hasbro, is distributing Tinkertoys. The US rights are owned by Basic Fun!.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Friday, October 1, 2021

The Goals of the Excessive Number of Negro Woman's Clubs in 1890-1920 Chicago.

From 1890 to 1920, there were over one-hundred-fifty negro women's clubs in Chicago. Although that period is typically characterized as the "women's club era," that does not serve as an adequate explanation for why so many clubs developed in the negro neighborhoods of Chicago. Why did negro women create so many clubs? What political and social purposes did they serve? Which women joined these clubs? And how might we assess their contributions today? 
Ida Bell Wells-Barnett
The first negro women's club, the "Ida B. Wells Club," was created in 1893. The need for its establishment arose from several circumstances. First, during the 1890s, there was an emergent middle-class negro population to which most club women belonged. Ida B. Wells was indicative of such social-class standing. A former schoolteacher in Memphis, Wells had married a prominent negro lawyer, Ferdinand Barnett. Like other middle-class negroes, Wells subscribed to W.E.B. DuBois's model of leadership, which called for the "talented tenth," those few negroes who had the relative privilege of education and comparative wealth to assist those less fortunate. As early as 1893, Wells perceived the need for a kindergarten for negro children and so established a club that, in turn, sponsored a kindergarten. Although some negroes criticized her as a segregationist, Wells was swift in her rebuttal: If negro children had been admitted to other kindergartens, there would have been no need to create a separate one.
A Colored Women's Club in Chicago.

Given the increased segregation of negro communities in the early twentieth century, negro club women created kindergartens and day nurseries. They also opened social settlements, reading rooms, youth clubs, children's camps, homes for dependent and orphaned children, and the elderly and infirm. 

Club members also studied literature, art, drama, and municipal reform. Working in conjunction with other negro community institutions, club women were deeply involved in politics, advocating for suffrage, fighting discrimination in movie theatres and other public facilities, and promoting the passage of an anti-lynching law. They also raised much-needed monies to support those community institutions by sponsoring debates, theatre and musical presentations, picnics and raffles, and extravagant charity balls, dances, and promenades. These occasions served two ends: to assist the poor and disenfranchised and to demonstrate the club women's own status and prestige. These ends were not contradictory but instead pointed to the richness and complexity of the club women's lives. Additionally, club women supported negro milliners, dressmakers, hairdressers, and manicurists for their grand balls and dances. This in itself was significant because employment was quite limited for negro women.

The ideology of most of the negro women's clubs reflected that of the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs (NACWC), founded in 1896, in response to a white journalist's insulting letter about negro women. Club women, who subscribed to the strictest model of respectability, believed it was incumbent upon them to respond by forming clubs that would teach and model middle-class respectable home life, child care, and proper codes of social behavior for poorer negro women. The national motto, "lifting as we climb," spoke to these issues of social class and social uplift. However, the club women's concept of motherhood was not limited to the Home. Unlike white club women's and social settlement founders' ideas of "social motherhood," negro women extended their roles as mothers into the community to enact municipal, civic, and educational reform. After all, they reasoned, any environment that affected children required the agency of women. Further, these activities coalesced with their desire for increased political visibility and the vote.

Indeed, most of the female political clubs in Chicago focused on suffrage. However, even before they had the right to vote, negro women were well aware that they could influence their husbands. As early as 1900, one member of the Phyllis Wheatley Club spoke about the crowded tenements on Chicago's south side and urged her club members to influence their husbands to vote for aldermen who would improve this situation. One of Chicago's first women's clubs to promote suffrage was the Frederick Douglass Woman's Club, founded in 1906. This club was noteworthy because it was one of the few interracial women's clubs in Chicago. Women became acquainted with political candidates' platforms and discussed community issues from various angles.

Not surprisingly, one of the most prominent negro suffragists in Chicago was Ida B. Wells, who organized several suffrage clubs, including the Women's Second Ward Republican Club (1910) and the Alpha Suffrage Club (1913). The latter club sponsored Wells's participation in the national suffrage parade in 1913. Although she was ordered to march in the "colored section," Wells refused and marched alongside prominent white Illinois suffragists.

The Alpha Suffrage Club distributed a newsletter, "The Alpha Suffrage Record," that included information about various candidates, recommended candidates, and provided a directory of voting locations in each Chicago ward. When women were granted the right to vote for city commissioner in 1915, the Alpha Suffrage Club banded together with other negro women's clubs to form a voting bloc. And they continued, as did many other negro women's clubs, to agitate for the vote on the national level. They sponsored a speakers' series, participated in suffrage parades, wrote editorials, debated issues, and educated others.

Negro club women also protested discrimination in the Chicago schools, employment, and public institutions. They were active in securing legal representation for negros in court cases, in fighting legislation that outlawed interracial marriages, in protesting Marshall Field & Company's refusal to hire negro women along with other retail companies, and in writing editorials about racist movies, such as "The Birth of a Nation," (full movie) shown in Chicago theaters in 1915. In some cases, the women were successful in procuring office-type employment for a few negro women. In other cases, their success was not so evident, although one could argue that their activism brought publicity to the pervasive problems of discrimination.

In the creation of social welfare institutions, the success of negro women was evident. These women organized and sustained community institutions for poor children, working mothers, working women, and the elderly. Again, club women enlarged their visions of family and Home to create the Louise Juvenile Home for dependent and orphaned boys; the Amanda Smith Home for dependent and orphaned girls; the Phyllis Wheatley Home for single working girls; the Home for the Aged and Infirm; Colored People Home for the elderly; several social settlements, day nurseries, Kindergartens and after-school programs for children. Club women provided toys, food, clothing, and monies for coal for the facilities. They also performed plays and sponsored musicals, raffles, picnics, and grand balls to raise funds for building repairs, furniture, groceries, and other necessities. Lastly, they volunteered their time organizing Christmas parties for the orphaned children, cleaning the facilities each spring, visiting the elderly, and supervising after-school programs. When one considers the prodigious amount of resources and volunteerism required for the sustenance of these facilities and the large amount of time to complete the necessary collaboration among the many clubs. The contributions these women made were formidable.

In addition to building community institutions, club women were interested in various forms of self-improvement and education. Higher education was increasingly accessible to women during the late 1800s, primarily through women's colleges, land-grant institutions, and historically negro colleges. However, given their age, life circumstances (many were married, with children), and the discrimination of some higher educational institutions, many negro club women in Chicago had limited access to a college education. Still, some club women were doctors, lawyers, social workers, and teachers and so had been professionally trained. But by and large, many club women had to continue their education through more informal means, such as the literary clubs. These clubs provided opportunities for reading classical and negro literature and papers about philosophy, sociology, religion, travel, and political thought. Furthermore, those women improved their literary skills through discussion, critiquing, debating, interpreting, presenting original poems and essays, and performing plays, often written by talented club members. Indeed, some club women were known for their writing, including journalist Ida B. Wells, poet Bettiola Fortson, and essayists Fannie Barrier Williams and Irene McCoy Gaines.

Once again, these literary clubs were selective. It was not sufficient to be literate; one had to be literary. Club women discussed Shakespeare and Emerson in the privacy of their home parlors but sponsored forums for the general public in churches, where youth might participate in oratory or essay contests. Similarly, club women invited prominent speakers to their meetings, including negro intellectuals; W.E.B. DuBois, historian Carter G. Woodson, and Booker T. Washington, founder of the industrial school, Tuskegee Institute. The club women interspersed literary study with musical recitals at their meetings. Again, the club women's tastes were diverse. They listened to classical music on a Victrola and the indigenous spirituals and negro jubilee singing performed by Fisk University students. Similarly, they studied classical art and the artwork of little-known negro artists such as Henry O. Tanner.
"The Thankful Poor," Henry Ossawa Tanner, shown at the American Negro Exposition.

As mothers do, the club women reached out to children and youth by sponsoring their academic programs. In particular, the club women supervised many lyceums (halls for public lectures or discussions) in negro churches that featured debates and essay and oratory contests. One topic for a 1913 essay contest was "What Has the Negro Contributed to the World for the Advancement of Civilization?" Miss Leonora T. Curtis, representing the Negro Fellowship League, was awarded the first-place prize, a lavallière necklace set with diamonds. 
A Lavallière Necklace
Mr. Joseph A. Marshall, representing the Bethel Literary Club, won the second prize, a gold scarf pin set with a diamond. The winning essay was published in the Chicago Defender, one of several Chicago negro newspapers, described ancient African civilizations and the accomplishments of negro inventors, scientists, authors, and musicians. Through such lyceums, youth were educated into future positions of leadership in the community. Additionally, children were educated by speakers that the club women sponsored.

In some cases, prominent club women spoke on the importance of women's work. In other cases, local or national politicians spoke about "Race progress." The last type of clubs are social and card clubs that are usually not studied by scholars. But they were not frivolous and self-serving, despite such depictions of them. Instead, they presented the same opportunities as other negro clubs for social status and fundraising. For example, there were many card-playing clubs, especially whist (a classic English trick-taking card game) and progressive whist games. The descriptions of their events emphasized their six-course luncheons, the women's outfits, the decor, and the prizes they won. In the latter case, winners of the whist tournaments received prizes such as cut-glass sherbet glasses, sterling silver hat pins, and gold cuff buttons. But not all of these social clubs were devoted solely to entertainment. Club fees were collected for charity or other worthy causes.

Perhaps the most exciting types of social clubs were the matrimony clubs. Although few in number, their purpose was to assist young men and women in meeting marriage partners from similar social classes. Again, the issues of status, prestige, and social class were at play. The descriptions of social events were often humorous, including the reluctant bachelor, the "dashing" widow, and the "new stunts" tried by a young woman to persuade her boyfriend to propose,

Clearly, there were many kinds of women's clubs in the negro communities of Chicago. Most were involved in social uplifts, such as supporting kindergartens, nurseries, social settlements, and housing.

Read the first issue of the Alpha Suffrage Club Newsletter.
                                                                 Courtesy of the Digital Research Library of Illinois History®.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The Pullman Story; A Brief Overview.

The first Pullman sleeping car, the "Pioneer," was constructed in 1864. Although not an immediate success, the Pioneer received national attention when transporting President Lincoln's body from Washington D.C. to Springfield, Illinois.
President Abraham Lincoln's Pullman Funeral Railcar, 1865.

The high demand for his cars led George Pullman to incorporate the Pullman Palace Car Company in February of 1867. It was first located in the third Tremont House (1850-1871) at 92 West Lake Street at Dearborn Street, Chicago.

Employing a primarily white workforce, the Pullman car transformed the experience of passenger railroad travel, setting a new standard. The company produced various cars, including sleeping, hotel, parlor, and dining cars. These were too expensive for railroad companies to purchase outright, so Pullman built his business model around leasing the cars and providing the employees necessary to serve passengers.

Demand for Pullman cars and a growing workforce led Pullman to the development of his company town. 

Early in 1880, Pullman sent Colonel James to secretly purchase 4,000 acres of land between Lake Calumet and the Illinois Central rail line for $800,000 ($21.5 million today). The property was acquired from 75 different owners. The actual site of the town, including the Pullman shops, did not occupy more than 300 acres. Housing for workers was separated from the industrial areas and took shape primarily as row houses with streets in front and alleys in the rear for the daily trash collection. The streets were lit and had fire hydrants.

The original Town of Pullman was completed in 1884. The first permanent resident, the Benson family, moved into the town on January 1, 1881, at 11109 South St. Lawrence Avenue. By April, the Pullman car shops were in operation, and by May, more than 350 people lived in Pullman. 

Though Pullman provided a beautiful, sanitary, and orderly town for his workers and their families, George Pullman did not offer these accommodations freely because he believed that a person does not value those things for which they do not pay.

The average rent for three-room apartments was $8 to $8.50 ($172-$183 today). The rent for a five-room row house (with basement, bathroom, indoor toilet facilities, running water on two floors, gas, and sewers, advantages unheard of in other working-class areas of the city, was $18 per month ($387 today). 
The Town of Pullman Row Houses.

Larger homes for professionals and company officers began at $28 ($750 today). Rents were calculated to achieve a 6% return on the cost of the housing; however, the investment never earned more than 4½%.
The executive row was on 111th Street between St. Lawrence and Langley Avenues. Because the kind of housing and its location next to the plant were determined by status within the Pullman Company, these executive homes were nearest the plant. It also made it possible for the executives to reach work without having to pass through the more modest residential areas to the south. Exterior and interior detail not found in many other Pullman houses made this row a showplace. The houses consisted of eight and nine rooms renting for $28.00 to $50.00 ($750-$1,340 per month). All had a basement, several fireplaces, a dining room, and additional space in an attic.

Housing in the Town of Pullman was somewhat more expensive than in other parts of the city, but the housing quality was far superior to that available elsewhere.

By the fall of 1883, the population of Pullman topped 8,000. Ethnically diverse, less than half of Pullman residents in 1885 were native-born, most being immigrants from Scandinavia, Germany, England, and Ireland.

By 1885, 30,000 trees bordered the streets and parks  mostly white elm, maple, ash, and linden. To supply enough landscaping material for the community, six acres of land on the shores of Lake Calumet between 113th and 114th Streets were used for nursery and greenhouse space.

The Town of Pullman is distinct in that nearly all of this housing stands today more or less as it did initially.

Not all workers at the Pullman factories lived in Pullman. Out of necessity or choice, many moved out to the surrounding neighborhoods that developed. These neighborhoods provided places for single-denomination houses of worship, saloons, and property ownership that were not possible in Pullman.

The town attracted visitors, and during the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, visitors from near and far came to marvel at the town. Pullman did, however, have its detractors; labor leaders were mistrustful of the decidedly capitalist scheme, while other capitalists saw it as inviting trouble and doubted it could possibly be as profitable as George Pullman intended. It wasn't. Returns on the town never reached the six percent threshold promised to its investors. When one of the partners in Procter & Gamble approached George Pullman for advice on building a model town for a Cincinnati soap factory, he advised against the idea.

As Chicago was on display in the 1893 World's Fair, the grip of a financial crisis (the Panic of 1893) was closing around the country in general and the railroad industry in particular. Despite the stimulus provided by travelers from around the nation flocking to the fair itself, railroads had become mismanaged and overbuilt. Pullman exhibits in the Transportation Building at the World's Columbian Exposition helped spur fairgoers to visit the Pullman neighborhood, and most found cause to praise George Pullman's grand experiment.

The World's Fair visitors did not see the annoyance of Pullman workers and residents at company paternalism and the red tape that festered under the surface. As 1893 wore on, orders at the factory declined. George Pullman cut wages as demand for new passenger cars plummeted and the company's revenue dropped. A delegation of workers complained that wages had been cut but not rents at their company housing or other costs in the company town. Since rents were deducted from paychecks, workers were left with what amounted to starvation wages. Pullman refused to lower rents or go to arbitration.

The Pullman workers, who had formed a grievance committee to negotiate with the company, were getting nowhere. Though the newly formed American Railway Union (A.R.U.) leadership advised against it, a strike broke out at the Pullman factories on May 11,1894.

The timing was unfortunate since the company could financially withstand a work stoppage by relying on existing leases. Against the might of the Pullman Company, the cause of the workers seemed hopeless. The Pullman Company continued to resist any concessions in negotiations with the strikers, trying to wait them out. So the A.R.U. decided to take a genuinely injurious action against the Pullman Company on a national scale: a boycott of the handling of Pullman cars by all A.R.U. workers.

Because Pullman cars were in such wide use, the boycott crippled rail traffic nationwide. Workers across the country had also seen wage reductions and had cause to take action. The size and scope of the A.R.U. was threatening to railroads. In response, the General Managers' Association, an industry group representing 24 railroads with terminals in Chicago, organized measures against the boycott. Those who walked off the job were replaced with strikebreakers, and the association tried to sway public opinion against the boycott through methods such as encouraging Pullman cars to be hitched to mail cars to disrupt delivery.

Through disruption of the United States mail, the federal government was given an opening for intervention into the boycott and strike. The government was uncomfortable with the labor actions in general, part of growing apprehension about the laboring classes by those in the propertied class during the economic hardship. An injunction against the boycott was secured on the grounds of the violent nature of the strike and the threat to interstate commerce, citing the Sherman Anti-Trust Law of 1890, which ironically had been adopted to combat monopoly by big business.

Going over the head of Illinois Governor John Peter Altgeld, thousands of U.S. marshals and U.S. Army troops were deployed in what seemed an oversized response to the disturbance. In Chicago, mob activity increased with the military presence, with members from Pullman, but many more from other southside neighborhoods. Back in Pullman, the Pullman Company strikers' plight had been overshadowed on the national stage by the boycott. Fighting between the military and workers at rail yards in the Chicago area left dozens dead and more wounded. The injunction led to the jailing of key leaders, weakening the A.R.U. and the strike.

With the government working to the General Managers' Association's ends, Debs felt the only way to force the Pullman Company into arbitration was reaching out to other labor groups to join in a general strike, but his efforts did not succeed. The boycott dissolved in mid-July, and the A.R.U. was defeated. For refusal to obey the injunction, Debs and others in the A.R.U. were indicted for contempt. In late July, President Grover Cleveland appointed a commission to investigate the strike and boycott.

Though public sentiment had been against the boycott, George Pullman was roundly criticized for the policies that led to the strike and his refusal to enter into arbitration with his workers. The situation for those in Pullman remained dire, and while little effort was made to evict residents or collect rent in arrears, destitution was widespread. However, in his testimony before the investigative commission, George Pullman defended his model town and his decisions, though they had led to a strike that ultimately damaged the company and the strikers and tarnished his image irreparably.

If George Pullman entertained any doubts about the wisdom of continuing the company town experiment, they were not reflected in his actions. Company ownership and concern with the town's appearance continued under Pullman's direction until he died in 1897. Tons of steel and concrete was placed over his casket to prevent labor radicals from desecrating the grave.

The impacts of the Pullman Strike were national in scope. As a massive and truly national strike, it demonstrated the power of national labor and forced consideration about labor action and corporate paternalism. Legally, the injunction against the strike affirmed a broad power of the federal government to ensure the free flow of interstate commerce, essentially making national strikes illegal.

In October 1898, the Illinois Supreme Court ordered the Pullman Company to sell all non-industrial landholdings. Some holdings, such as the brickyard, sold quickly. The Illinois Central railroad had owned the right of way past the front of the factory; Lake Vista was filled and new tracks and a road installed. The company was granted a deferment on its deadline to sell most of the town, which mostly changed hands in 1907, with residents given the first option to buy.
When owner George Pullman died in 1897, Robert Todd Lincoln, Abraham's son, filled in as the acting president. His role transformed into a permanent one in 1901. He resigned in 1911, citing health concerns. Lincoln remained involved as the chairman of the board, a position he held until 1922.

The Pullman Company, no longer in the landlord business, returned to success under its second president, Robert Todd Lincoln. Union activity returned to Pullman, and just ten years after the explosive strike in 1904, the company locked out union workers, trouncing them without larger incident. In 1900, the company began using metal frames for its cars, and by 1908 the company had converted to all-steel construction. Over $5 million was invested in remodeling and enlarging the shops. As the company succeeded in the 20th century, the town it once supported floundered. As the housing stock uniformly aged and other neighborhoods grew around it, Pullman lost population and its community identity.

The 1894 Strike was not the last time the Pullman Company would be the epicenter of a contentious labor issue. In the early 20th century, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) strove for recognition of their union, a victory whose impact went beyond Pullman Porters to the Negro society on the whole.

The operation of railroads across the country relied on different classes of workers: conductors and engineers in the "operating trades," construction and laborers, and service positions like porters, dining car waiters, and station ushers. The classes of railway workers were segmented along racial and ethnic lines. Workers in the railroad trades began forming "brotherhoods" in the 1860s and 1870s to respond to health and safety issues. Many of these brotherhoods codified these racial divisions, barring non-whites from membership. In general, Negroes were confined to the service positions.

Thus it was in the service positions that black trade unionism on the railroads began. The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters was founded in 1925 in New York City, and for four decades, was led by A. Philip Randolph. From outside the Pullman Company, he was not susceptible to their reprisals, and his powerful public speaking and work editing the Harlem, New York monthly The Messenger helped prepare him for the task. Porters comprised 44 percent of the Pullman rail car operation workforce, and Pullman was the nation's largest employer of Negros. The porters, owing in part to their cosmopolitan experience, held positions of status and respect in the black community. The union faced tough opposition from a traditionally racist industry, an anti-union corporation, and initially from some in the black community. Many members of the Negro community feared economic reprisals since the Pullman Company offered jobs to Negroes and advertised in the black press.

In 1937, the Pullman Company signed a contract with the BSCP, leading to higher salaries, better job security, and increased protection for workers' rights through grievance procedures. It was the first major labor agreement between an Negro union and a corporation. The NAACP's Crisis credited the victory for broad influence, saying, "As important as is this lucrative contract as a labor victory to the Pullman porters, it is even more important to the Negro race as a whole, from the point of view of the Negro's uphill climb for respect, recognition and influence, and economic advance." The BSCP also functioned as a civil rights organization through the 1960s.

The Pullman Company factories consolidated and downsized through the 1940s, and the railroads discontinued sleeping car service in 1969. For short trips, cars and highway travel eclipsed passenger rail, and commercial aviation eclipsed passenger rail for long-distance travel. Although the company split apart and rail travel itself faded from prominence, the Pullman Company and the labor unrest it ignited remained prominent in the American memory of industrial and labor history. The causes of those developments and upheavals can still be seen in the architecture and landscape of Pullman's model town.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

The Town of Pullman Street Name Changes.

Pullman's avenues were initially named after inventors. Chicago annexed the Town of Pullman in 1907. In 1909, the street names should have been changed along with the rest of the city. However, many of the old names were still in use up until the 1930s.

Corliss Avenue is named after the inventor of the "Corliss Engine", George Henry Corliss (1817-1888). The Corliss Steam Engine originally powered the Pullman works and provided steam heat for the public buildings in the town.

Maryland Avenue is named for the state of Maryland. The state, in turn, is named the wife of King Charles I, Henrietta Maria. Charles was king at the time of the founding of the province in 1634. Maryland was originally named Ericsson Avenue (spelling varied on different maps). Ericsson is named after John Ericsson (1803-1889), inventor and engineer. He would have captured Mr. Pullman's attention because he developed and built the first ironclad, the U.S.S. Monitor, which famously saw action in the American Civil War.

Doty Avenue honors Duane Doty, original Pullman town manager.

Bessemer Avenue is a street that no longer exists in North Pullman, named after Henry Bessemer (1813-1898), the inventor of a revolutionary method of making steel. His system is still in use today.

Langley Avenue was probably named for Esther Langley, a relative of real estate developer, entrepreneur, and manufacturer Sivert Tobias Gunderson. Langley was originally Fulton Avenue, named for Robert Fulton (1765-1815). Fulton was an American engineer and inventor who developed the first commercially viable steamboat.

Champlain Avenue honors Samuel De Champlain (1567-1635), a French explorer and navigator who founded the city of Quebec. Champlain was originally Stephenson Avenue, named for George Stephenson (1781-1848). Stephenson Avenue occupied pride of place in the center spine of the town because the man the avenue honors built the first public railway line. All railways today are descended from this first railway; he also developed the standard gauge of railways (4 feet 8 and a half inches) still in use today.

St. Lawrence Avenue is named after the St. Lawrence River, which connects the great lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. St. Lawrence is named, in turn, after the early Christian Martyr St. Lawrence (225-258 AD), deacon of Rome. He was killed in the persecution of Christians by Emporer Valerian by roasting him to death over an open grate. Before 1907, St. Lawrence was Watt Avenue. James Watt (1736-1819) invented, among many other things, the first modern and efficient steam engine.

Forrestville Avenue - Forrestville was a small town on the south side in the 1850s. It was located near Hyde Park. The street name honors this now-vanished town. Forrestville was originally named Morse, named for Samuel Morse (1791-1872), developer of the single-wire telegraph system and famously the Morse code.

Cottage Grove Avenue has a long history. Charles Cleaver (1814-1893) developed a suburb south of Chicago on the Illinois Central line called Cleaverville in the 1850s. Cleaverville eventually became the Oakland neighborhood north and west of Hyde Park. Cleaver named the street after a grove of shady trees that surrounded a cottage in his development. The grove was a popular meeting spot for early settlers.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Barack Obama announces the groundbreaking ceremony for his presidential library in Chicago’s covenanted Jackson Park.

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Five years ago, then-President Barack Obama chose Chicago’s Jackson Park as the future site of his presidential center, stirring the South Side with the promise of long-overdue transformation and the distinction of being the place where the story of the nation’s first Black president and first lady is told.

On Tuesday, September 28, 2021, the Obamas will return to Chicago and at last kick off construction during a ceremonial groundbreaking with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, the Obama Foundation announced. The celebration follows a protracted journey that began in 2016 and, thanks to a confluence of obstacles, at times left supporters to wonder if dirt would ever be turned.

But with a date for the ceremony formally inked in, the Obama Presidential Center will take an important step toward its debut on the South Side, where Barack Obama was first elected to public office and Michelle Obama grew up.

“Michelle and I could not be more excited to break ground on the Obama Presidential Center in the community that we love,” Barack Obama said in a video posted Friday. “With your help, we can make the center a catalyst for economic opportunity, a new world-class destination on the South Side, and a platform for young people to drive change. So let’s celebrate Chicago.”

Obama Foundation President Valerie Jarrett agreed, saying next week’s ceremony also represents a milestone for the South Side.

“I spent my entire childhood and adulthood seeing the South Side overlooked,” Valerie Jarrett told the Tribune this past Monday. “For generations now, the South Side of Chicago hasn’t seen the kind of investment and attention that I think it deserves. So, long overdue, and I couldn’t be more proud that it is President and Mrs. Obama who decided to make this major investment in the South Side of Chicago.”

In pitching the vision of his presidential center, Obama sought to build a “living, breathing” campus that pays homage to the movement that made his historic presidency possible, Jarrett said — including in Chicago, where he served as a community organizer before finding his political star.

“This is not your parents’ or your grandparents’ presidential library,” Valerie Jarrett said. “This is a library of pointing really towards the future, that stands on the shoulders of our past.”

When Obama announced that historic Jackson Park, sandwiched between Lake Michigan and Woodlawn, would be the destination of his future presidential center, its opening day was scheduled for this year. But it would only be last month that shovels even hit the ground at the site, following a failed but lengthy legal effort to halt construction.

The hurdles to groundbreaking stemmed from Obama’s decision to place his presidential center at a park listed on the National Register of Historic Places and first mapped out in 1871 by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who also co-designed New York’s, Central Park. The Jackson Park location, as well as the need to close and expand major adjacent streets, prompted a yearslong federal review that concluded this February.

However, that would not be the last the city and the Obama Foundation would hear from those who oppose the Jackson Park location. Protect Our Parks, a park preservationist nonprofit that unsuccessfully sued the city in 2018 to block the project, filed a second legal challenge the same day pre-construction roadwork began in April, this time regarding the legality of the federal review.

That lawsuit recently led to an emergency bid to block construction that was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in August. Bulldozers soon descended on the site, though the plaintiffs maintain they still have legal options in their arsenal.

Amid the twists and turns that the decision to locate the campus at Jackson Park sparked, Jarrett, said the Obamas never doubted their choice.

“Hard things are hard,” said Jarrett, who has deep roots in Chicago and worked in the Obama White House. “The challenges presented were challenges that we were prepared to overcome, and we have. And so, no, I never heard a single time where President Obama wavered in his commitment to deliver this world-class center on this site and in this location.”

The $700 million presidential center is mostly dirt mounds now, but in four years there is to be a 235-foot-tall tower with a quote from Barack Obama’s speech marking the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery civil-rights marches carved on the exterior. There will be a forum building and a plaza with public artwork open to members of the community to gather, as well as an athletic and recreation center.

A new branch of the Chicago Public Library will include on its roof a garden resembling Michelle Obama’s fruit and vegetable garden at the White House. And a playground, walking paths, and a sledding hill will adorn the park area surrounding the buildings.

Meanwhile, Obama Presidential Center Museum Director Louise Bernard, who also helped design the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, said the team has been searching across the nation for the thousands of objects that will go into the artifact collection. But Bernard emphasized the artifacts are not a “time capsule” but a way to inspire future generations, including the young South Side visitors who might come to see themselves as a future president of the U.S.

“It’s not simply that the history is this thing that happened in the past to other people, or that the objects all live behind glass … but rather that the visitor feels themselves to be a social actor in the making of history,” Bernard said in a recent interview.

In newly revealed details, Bernard shared that the four floors of the museum will start with the first level portraying Obama’s childhood in Hawaii and Indonesia as well as his seminal years in Chicago with Michelle Obama and his first presidential campaign. The second floor will frame his administration’s tenure, beginning with its inheritance of an economic meltdown and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On the third floor will be a homage to the diversity of the different groups of people who worked at the Obama White House, and a full-scale replica of the Oval Office will be open for visitors to walk through. And finally, the last floor will symbolize Obama’s “passing of the baton” to the next generation of leaders in his farewell address in Chicago, Bernard said.

“It’s a story that’s connected, obviously, to Chicago,” Bernard said. “It’s really rooted in the South Side of Chicago broadly. … As much as the kind of central narrative arc is about the Obama presidency, it is also about all of the people who made his journey possible.”

By Alice Yin, Chicago Tribune, Sept 24, 2021
Edited by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Lost Towns of Illinois - Forrestville, Illinois.

Forrestville was a Hamlet (a small human settlement), founded in the 1850s, that had a somewhat indefinite boundary, like many other suburban villages. It is in today's Grand Boulevard community. 

It may be said at first to have been bounded as follows: Forty-third Street, Cottage Grove Avenue, Fortyseventh Street and Indiana Avenue.

Forrestville was in what was known as District № 7, which was taken from District № 2, in May 1873. 

A school of thirty-seven pupils was organized on May 19, 1873, in Miss Alice J. Quiner's house on Forty-fifth Street. In September 1873, Miss Alice Draper became principal, and Miss Quiner remained as the assistant. Nearly fifty children were in attendance within less than a year. 
Forestville School in Chicago.

The Springer school, built in 1873, became an important educational institution. In 1874 the school was moved to Cottage Grove Avenue, between forty-fourth and forty-fifth Streets. In 1875 the school was moved once again to the corner of forty-fifth Street and St. Lawrence Avenue. The Oak Ridge school was in the vicinity of Forty-seventh Street and Cottage Grove Avenue, but children attended from as far south as Sixty-third Street and as far west as Indiana Avenue.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.