Saturday, January 23, 2021

Abraham Lincoln and the Second Portuguese Church.

See footnote about The Marine and Fire Insurance Company.
Pictured here is a check for $5 ($150 today) payable to the Second Portuguese Church, written and signed by Abraham Lincoln on July 16, 1860. The Second Portuguese Church? Abraham Lincoln? What could have been the connection?

The saga unfolds in Madeira, the Portuguese islands off the coast of Africa, in 1838. Doctor Robert Reid Kalley, a wealthy physician, and minister of the Free Church of Scotland, en route to missionary work in China, stopped at Funchal, Madeira, when his wife became ill.

As she convalesced, the couple decided that this lovely island would be a fine place to dispense free medical care, plus the Scotch Presbyterian interpretation of the scriptures. As a man of means, Dr. Kalley was able not only to maintain his free dispensary and hospital but to establish schools and hire teachers so the natives could learn English (and he, Portuguese).

The predominant religious authority in the Portuguese islands was the Roman Catholic Church. For a couple of years, Kalley avoided their displeasure. But when his church began attracting to open-air Sunday Calvinist services some 1,000 to 3,000 people, the Catholic powers, represented by the Bishop of Madeira, intervened.

Arrests and ex-communications began. Kalley protested to the archbishop in Lisbon, and orders were sent from there to halt the persecution. That did not deter the local clergy and courts. They persisted with arrests and imprisonment. Kalley himself spent five months in jail in 1845. 

That prompted his return to Scotland, but other missionaries arrived. The religious conflict intensified, culminating in riots in 1846. With this unrest came a worsening economy. The combination drove 1,000 Portuguese to leave Madeira on English ships. They stopped in Trinidad, where they worked on sugar and cocoa plantations. The women became housemaids and seamstresses. But as a group, they were not happy with the climate and overall environment.

To the rescue came an organized Christian coalition. The American Protestant Society rook an interest and made plans to bring the displaced people to America. The American Hemp Company agreed to settle 131 families between Jacksonville and Springfield, Illinois, each family with 10 acres of land. The Missionary Society raised the money and transported the immigrants from Trinidad to New York and then Illinois.

At the critical moment, when it was time to settle the families on the farms, American Hemp was unable or unwilling to proceed. Now another rescue effort was organized. All the Protestant churches in Jacksonville and Springfield joined forces. With great generosity, they provided the essentials to launch the newcomers. The grateful Portuguese became model residents, integrating with the business and professional life of the community.

By 1855, there were 350 Portuguese in Springfield, and for several years they continued to arrive from Trinidad and Madeira. In the first generation, socially, they maintained their ethnic culture. They formed three Portuguese Presbyterian churches in Jacksonville and two in Springfield. Some 17 Madeirans later saw service for the North in the Vicksburg campaign and the siege of Atlanta.

Lincoln's awareness of the Second Portuguese Church could have originated from Portuguese clients of the law firm of Lincoln and Herndon, but his more personal interest probably stemmed from the family's employment of young Frances Affonsa. Frances, a dark-skinned, black-eyed Portuguese girl, came to the house sometime between Lincoln's defeat for the U.S. Senate in 1858 and his presidential nomination. She is reponed to have declared simply, "I wash clothes, Mrs. Lincum."

The girl's conscientious work and good nature made a favorable impression on Mary Lincoln, who was known to be hard on household help. Frances, as a laundress, was junior in the household to Mariah Vance, a pipe-smoking black woman, 10 years older than Lincoln, who served the family from 1850, first as a laundress, maid, then general housekeeper. Mariah did not live with the Lincolns—she had I2 children and a husband in the town. Her son Billie became a close friend of Robert Todd, who taught him to read and write.

It is from Mariah that we learn most about the private lives of the Lincolns, for her remembrances were written in Black English by Adah Sutton. About Abe, Mariah said, "Dat man was a man of Gawd and he was crucified every day of his life." And about Mary, "Honey chile, ef ah wah good 'nough fah dah Missy Lincolumn, ah shuh and be good 'nough fah mose anyone. Dae woman wah shuhb 'ticklah."
Portrait of Abraham Lincoln by Leopold Grozelier, 1960.

May of 1860 was a time of great excitement for the Lincoln household. The Republican nominating convention began in Chicago on May 16. One hundred and fifty railroad trains a day brought 40,000 curious strangers and 500 delegates to the city. The old Sauganash Hotel at the corner of Lake and Market streets had been torn down and replaced with a barn-like wooden structure called The Wigwam.
Ten thousand people crowded into a vast interior, festooned with flags and streamers of red, white, and blue. Norman Judd, a railroad lawyer, stood before the huge assemblage and delivered one brief line. "I desire, on behalf of the delegation from Illinois, to put in nomination, as a candidate for president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln of Illinois."

"Five thousand people leaped from their seats, women not wanting," a Lincoln supporter reported, "and the wild yell made vesper breathings of all that had preceded. A thousand steam whistles, 10 acres of hotel gongs, a tribe of Comanches might have mingled in the scene unnoticed." 

"Old Abe," "Honest Abe," "The Backwoodsman," "The Rail Splitter" defeated the favored William Seward for the nomination. (Horace Greeley had wired his New York Tribune that Seward seemed sure to win). 

Two months after the nomination, Lincoln made his $5 contribution to the Second Portuguese Church... at the request of Frances Affonsa? Mary? A congregant who dutifully came to the door seeking donations? Or was it just Old Abe's kindly charitable inspiration?

On November 6, Lincoln won the presidency, polling 1.8 million votes to 1.3 for Democrat Stephen Douglas. Amidst the jubilation, back in Springfield, the president-elect received a stately black silk hat as a gift. He said simply to Mary, "Well, wife, if nothing else comes of this scrape, we're going to have some new clothes."

By Sanford J. Mock
Edited by Dr. NeilGale, Ph.D.

When Lincoln opened his account with $310 ($7,890 today), the company had been in business for nearly two years. Lincoln was a bank depositor from March 1, 1853, until his death on April 15, 1865. Its improbable name in a landlocked town reflected how goods reached Springfield in the nineteenth century -- partly on the Illinois River. The company dropped marine insurance from its business after railroad shipping replaced waterway transportation, but retained the "marine" part of its name for many years.
The original Lincoln family account ledger with the Marine and Fire Insurance Company, which is now JP Morgan Chase Bank, 6th & Washington Streets, Springfield, Illinois. (1853-1867)
Today you can see the Lincoln ledger in the bank lobby preserved in a custom-built case decorated with bas relief sculpture on three sides. The case depicts Lincoln as his friends in central Illinois knew him: pioneer rail-splitter, storekeeper and law student, and state representative. The ledger book is opened to the Lincoln account, where "A. Lincoln" appears at the top, written by his banker, Robert Irwin. When Lincoln left Springfield as president-elect, Irwin made transactions as his local agent. After Lincoln's death, the account continued in the name of David Davis, administrator of the Lincoln estate, until May 27, 1867.
Photograph of The Marine and Fire Insurance Company on the East Side of the Public Square, Springfield, Illinois. Circa 1860s

Friday, January 22, 2021

Did John Wilkes Booth Break his Leg Jumping from Lincoln's Box at Ford's Theatre? I Think Not.

History says Presidential Assassin John Wilkes Booth broke his leg as he made the jump from the President’s Box to the stage, claiming Booth’s spur was caught on the red, white, and blue flag that draped the front of the area where the Lincoln party sat. In the 21st century, however, historiography must go toe-to-toe with forensic history. 
Actor/Assassin John Wilkes Booth

Upon a closer examination of primary sources, including letters from both Booth and the doctor who treated him, there is now a greater possibility of creating doubt over when Booth actually broke his leg: was it as he landed on the stage at Ford’s Theatre, or later in the evening as he raced away from the scene of the crime?
President Abraham Lincoln's box at Ford's Theater, Washington DC, April 1865. 

President Lincoln, his wife Mary, and two guests, Major Henry Rathbone and his fiancée Clara Harris, were late arriving at the theatre for the start of the play. The Lincoln party made its way to the Presidential Box, on the right-hand side of and elevated from the stage. Unbeknown to any of them, a man by the name of John Wilkes Booth, a well-known actor was approaching the Presidential Box as well.
In 1968, Ford's Theatre officially reopened as a national historic site and theatre producing live performances.

John Wilkes Booth was born on May 10, 1838, near Bel Air, Maryland. Booth was the second youngest of ten children. His father, Junius Brutus Booth, was a famous actor and was eccentric, with a reputation for heavy drinking. John and his siblings were raised on a farm, which was worked by the family’s slaves. As a child, Booth attended the Milton Boarding School for Boys and later St. Timothy’s Hall. To those who knew him, it seemed only natural that he would follow in his father’s footsteps by being on stage.

As Booth neared the Presidential Box, Charles Forbes, a personal assistant to the President, stopped him. Booth calmly showed Forbes something, but what exactly is unknown.

He was allowed to pass, where he entered the Presidential Box as quietly as he could and wedged a piece of wood between the door and the wall. This would prevent anyone from entering.

Booth then crept up behind Abraham Lincoln and raised his .44 caliber pistol to the back of the President’s head. He shot at point-blank range, and then sprang toward the front of the box. But before Booth could make good his escape, Major Rathbone sprang from his seat and was able to get a momentary grasp on Booth. Booth began slashing at Rathbone with a large knife he had also carried into the Presidential Box. Major Rathbone received a bone-deep wound to his left arm and fell to the floor, bleeding copiously. Booth was then able to break free. He jumped over the railing of the Presidential Box and landed on the main stage.

In his diary, Booth recorded his thoughts and descriptions of that night. To better illustrate some possible discrepancies among versions of events, these should be examined one claim at a time. Once in the Presidential Box—just before Booth pulled the trigger—he wrote, “I shouted "Sic Semper Tyrannis" (Latin phrase meaning "thus always to tyrants") before I fired.” There are several witnesses that claim not to have heard anything before the shot was fired, including those in the box with the President. One eyewitness, James P. Ferguson, was located in the Dress Circle of the theatre. Ferguson claimed that Booth yelled “Sic Semper Tyrannis” after firing the shot and jumping out of the box.

Therefore, according to Ferguson, it was while on stage that Booth yelled out and not while in the Presidential Box. Another eyewitness confirmed Ferguson’s account. Samuel Koontz also claims to have seen Booth as he was running across the stage, exclaiming "Sic Semper Tyrannis.”

Booth then made the claim, “in jumping broke my leg” when he leaped from the Presidential Box to the stage. But did he? This claim by Booth is also different from what eyewitnesses’ saw. The first witness, Lieutenant A.M.S. Crawford of the Volunteer Reserve Corps, was also seated in the Dress Circle part of the theatre. Crawford stated that on the night of the assassination, “I saw him [Booth] as he ran across the stage.” Actor Harry Hawk, who was on the stage when Booth jumped, observed Booth, “as he was rushing towards me with a dagger” in his hand. There were other people in the theatre that night who also claim to have seen Booth run, not limp, across the stage. These witnesses included William Withers, Sheldon P. McIntyre, John Downing Jr, Dr. Charles Sabin Taft, Major General B.F. Butler and Samuel Koontz, who was mentioned above. These people made statements that, after landing on the stage, John Wilkes Booth ran out of the theatre. None of them described Booth limping or seeming to be in the slightest bit of pain.

First Eyewitness Accounts
The first eyewitness accounts of Lincoln’s assassination are considered to be the most
accurate as they were taken while still fresh in people’s memories. I have isolated the
accounts focusing on Booth’s reaction after he jumped to the stage. Thirteen people described
Booth as either running or rushing for the exit. Some even stated that he sprang to his
feet after jumping to the stage. Others said he “came across the stage” or “fled behind the


Lieutenant A.M.S Crawford – “I saw him as he RAN across the stage”
Harry Hawk – “as he was RUSHING towards me with a dagger”
James P. Ferguson – “as he came across the stage”
Basset – “RAN across the stage”
Edwin Bates – “RUSHED RAPIDLY across the stage”
Frederick A. Sawyer – “RAN with lightning speed across the stage”
Jason S. Knox – “RUSHED across the stage”
Harry Hawk (in a letter to his parents) – “RAN towards me”
Helen DuBarry – “as he crossed the stage”
Julie Adeline Shepherd – “RUSHES through the scenery”
Spencer Bronson – “and RAPIDLY left the stage”
Major General Butler – “RAN to the opposite side of the stage”
Dr. Charles Sabin Taft – “Springing quickly to his feet with the suppleness of an                                                         athlete,” “RAPID stage stride”
Samuel Koontz – “RUNNING across the stage”
John Downing Jr. – “striding across the stage”
G.B. Todd – “fled behind the scenes”
Sheldon P. McIntyre – “SPRANG to his feet," “RAN across the stage” 

The account of the man who held Booth’s horse outside the back door to Ford’s Theatre should be examined as well. His name was Joseph “Peanuts” Burroughs, and he was a stagehand at Ford’s Theatre. Ned Spangler, another stagehand and one of the men involved in the plan to kill the President, gave him the job of holding Booth’s horse. Spangler was later arrested and charged with conspiracy. Initially, Spangler held Booth’s horse but was called to do some work during the play. Spangler asked Burroughs to take over holding the horse. “Peanuts” Burroughs stated that, as Booth came racing out the back door of the theatre “he struck me with the butt of a knife, and knocked me down. He did this as he was mounting his horse, with one foot in the stirrup.”

While Burroughs did not mention which leg Booth placed in the stirrup, one has to assume he mounted his horse on the left side, which would require Booth to use his left leg. Had Booth actually broken his left leg in the theatre as he claimed, he would not have been able to use his left leg to hoist himself into the saddle. Nowhere in Burroughs’s statement is the claim made that Booth appeared to be in pain when mounting his horse. Mary Jane Anderson lived behind Ford’s Theatre and was looking out the window and had a clear view of the back alley of Ford’s Theatre, said in her statement on May 16, 1865, “I saw Booth come out of the door with something in his hand, glittering. He came out of the theatre so quick that it seemed as if he but touched the horse and it was gone like a flash of lighting.” Both Burroughs and Anderson gave a description of someone who appeared to be in no sort of discomfort whatsoever, much less a person with a broken leg.

Author and historian Michael W. Kauffman noted in his book American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies that “almost all eyewitnesses at Ford’s reported seeing Booth crouch or stagger… but they noticed no sign of pain, in movement or expression.” Sergeant Silas Cobb, who was placed in charge of guarding the Navy Yard Bridge that led out of Washington toward Virginia, confirmed the previous eyewitness accounts when he said that he did not notice Booth to be in any type of discomfort when he crossed the bridge. So if Booth did not break his leg at the theatre, when exactly did he?

As Booth made his way across the Navy Yard Bridge, his fellow co-conspirator, David Herold, crossed shortly after Booth without any trouble from Sergeant Cobb. The plan Booth made was to meet up with his fellow conspirators just outside Washington and ride south into Virginia, where he thought he would be safe. However, due to unforeseen problems, Booth would not be able to make the distances he so badly wanted.
Once David Herold was over the Navy Yard Bridge he continued to riding south into Maryland, where he met up with John Wilkes Booth. At this time, according to Herold, Booth said: “that his horse had fallen or he was thrown off, and his ankle sprained.” To back up what Booth told Herold, when the two men arrived at John M. Lloyd’s house at Surrattsville in Prince George County Maryland, where they were supposed to pick up supplies that were left for them, Booth told Lloyd that he broke his leg when his horse fell. Lloyd stated he “seemed to be in great pain.” Lloyd also mentioned that Booth did not dismount, unlike Herold, who was the one that knocked on his door to wake him. Just before Booth and Herold rode off, Booth said to Lloyd “we have killed President Lincoln and Secretary Seward.”

Booth and Herold then went looking for a doctor to tend to Booth’s injured leg. Booth wrote in his diary that he “rode sixty miles that night, with the bones of my leg tearing the flesh at every jump.” The doctor the two men were looking for was Dr. Samuel Mudd, who was about thirty miles away, not sixty as Booth claimed. When the two men arrived at the Mudd farm in Charles County, Maryland, it was around four o'clock in the morning on April 15th. Herold dismounted and knocked loudly on the doctor’s front door. When Dr. Mudd answered, he observed the two men, who he claimed appeared to be in distress and in need of assistance.

Mudd then invited the men in and had the injured one lie on the sofa in the parlor; when Dr. Mudd later retold this story, he claimed not to have known either man. Dr. Mudd, in his statement of May 16th, 1865, described Booth’s leg “as slight a breaking as it could possibly be.” The doctor continued on and said, “the patient complained also of a pain in his back.” Although Mudd examined Booth, he could see no reason for his back pain “unless it might have been in consequence of his falling from, his horse, as he said he had done.” This was one of the few times Booth told the truth and if Booth did in fact have a slight back injury, it backs up the claim he did, in fact, fall from his horse.

When Dr. Mudd finished setting Booth’s fractured fibula (broken left leg, per Booth's diary), he allowed him to rest in an upstairs bedroom where Booth would have some privacy. Dr. Mudd then gave instructions to his hired help to care for the two horses. It was the statement of one of the farmhands, Thomas Davis, which helps back up the claim of an accident with the horse. Thomas Davis noticed that one horse “had been hurt; his shoulder was swelled right smart.”

Davis also said the small bay had a “piece of skin off on the inside of the left foreleg about as big as a silver dollar.” Another comment Davis made was that Mrs. Mudd told him the injured man had fallen from his horse in Beantown and would be on their way now that Dr. Mudd fixed him up.

It seems very possible from what has been presented above that what we all assumed to know about the events following Booth’s shooting of President Lincoln could be, in fact, wrong. From middle school onward, we have read about John Wilkes Booth jumping from the President’s Box at Ford’s Theatre and allegedly breaking his leg. Could it be that history has been presented to us incorrectly? As time passes, more information and theories continue to be brought forward. To the best of my ability, I have tried to avoid giving wild speculation about Booth. I have simply examined what people of the time said, including Booth. However, what would be the point of Booth claiming he broke his leg in the Theater if, in fact, he broke it when he fell from his horse? One reason would be because of the embarrassment Booth felt from falling. Can one imagine the humiliation Booth would have felt if people would have known the famous assassin of the “tyrant” Lincoln had fallen off his horse? I think Booth felt it sounded a lot more heroic when he made the claim “in jumping, broke my leg” after shooting Lincoln.

This is what is considered to be solid evidence that Booth did not break his leg at Ford’s Theatre, but while he was riding to meet up with his fellow conspirator, David Herold, when his horse fell. Also, Booth did have a small broken bone in his left leg and complained to Dr. Mudd that not only was his leg injured, but so was his back.

This is consistent with a riding accident. Additionally, the story of the fall from the horse was told to more than one person, including Herold. There is also a confirmed report of an injured horse. Booth would have no reason to lie at this point, and with the statements above, it seems we now have the true way John Wilkes Booth broke his leg.
Dr. Samuel Mudd claimed not to recognize the two men who appeared at his home the morning of April 15, 1865.

On their escape from Washington, John Wilkes Booth and David Herold arrived at Mudd's house at about 4 o'colck on the morning of April 15, 1865. Mudd used his medical kit to treat Booth's broken leg and allowed the two men to sleep in his home. He later told investigators that he did not recognize Booth, although they met numerous times before.

Mudd's medical kit, as well as Booth's boot and spur found in Mudd's house, became evidence in the trial of Mudd and seven other conspirators. The military tribunal convicted Mudd, sentencing him to life in prison at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas (a small group of islands, located in the Gulf of Mexico) at the end of the Florida Keys. Mudd was handcuffed and shackled for the journey there.

In 1867 there was an outbreak of yellow fever at the prison. When the prison doctor died, Mudd took over the position, halting the spread of the disease. In 1869 President Andrew Johnson pardoned Mudd, Edman Spangler, and Samuel Arnold.
Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

What Were President Abraham Lincoln's Last Words?

Rumors of President Lincoln's last words spoken in Ford's Theatre led to consulting the experts at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Springfield, Illinois
President Abraham Lincoln's box at Ford's Theater, Washington DC, April 1865.

Abraham Lincoln’s last words have been the subject of debate among scholars for well over a century. The 16th president of the United States was shot on April 14, 1865, and died on the 15th. He was shot by Confederate sympathizer and stage actor John Wilkes Booth while sitting in Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.

Reportedly, Lincoln’s “likely last words” were published as: “We will visit the Holy Land, and see those places hallowed by the footsteps of the Savior. There is no city on earth I so much desire to see as Jerusalem.

It would be difficult to confirm the last words of someone who died over 155 years ago, to say the least. In order to establish authenticity, we would need to see official records that left no doubt of their genuine nature. Unfortunately, no solid evidence exists in the case of Abraham Lincoln. However, this does not mean that no records exist at all.

We consulted about the former president’s last words with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Lincoln was born in Kentucky, but he began his political career in Illinois. He also met his future wife, Mary Todd (marriage), in the Prairie State.

Christian McWhirter is a Lincoln historian at the museum. We asked him about the “Holy Land” quote. He told us that the quote “originates from an unpublished 1882 manuscript by the Rev. Noyes Miner, a Springfield neighbor, and friend of the Lincolns.” The manuscript resides in the museum’s collection.
The two sentences are actually lifted from two different parts of the same paragraph, in which Miner discusses things Mary Lincoln (life history) has told him about her husband’s plans for his post-presidential life. The first part about the “Holy Land” is from a more general description and the second sentence is actually paraphrased in the quote.

Miner’s actual quote reads: “He was saying there was no city on Earth he so much desired to see as Jerusalem; and with that word half spoken on his tongue, the bullet from the pistol of the [assassin] entered his brain.

Many Lincoln scholars, however, are skeptical of this story. That it first appeared almost two decades after the fact and at least three steps removed from the source provides some reason for doubt. It also seems like an odd thing to say in the middle of enjoying a stage comedy.

More likely, Lincoln conveyed these sentiments during a better-documented carriage ride with Mary earlier that day, during which Mary herself recalls he was especially cheerful and spoke of their future.
In fact, Lincoln’s last words can’t be confirmed with certainty but there is a more reliable account from another Springfield friend, Dr. Anson Henry, who wrote on April 19, 1865 (only 4 days after Lincoln died):
She [Mary] sat close to him and was leaning on his lap looking up at his face when the fatal shot was fired, his last words being in answer to her question ‘What will Miss Harris [one of their guests in the presidential box] think of my hanging on to you so?’—’She won’t think anything about it.'
McWhirter said that this is still secondhand and should be handled with care. However, he continued, it is close enough to the event and the people involved that it can be said that Lincoln likely said it during the play, possibly as his last words.

Lincoln’s last words will likely be debated forever without coming to a definitive answer.

By Jordan Liles
Edited by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Chez Paul French Restaurant at 660 North Rush Street in Chicago.

Chez Paul was a French restaurant in Chicago, Illinois, established in 1945 by Paul Contos. Chez Paul became famous under Bill Contos, Paul's son. It was the oldest French restaurant in Chicago and was only exceeded in prestige by Le Francais at 269 South Milwaukee Avenue in Wheeling, Illinois (1973-2001).

Paul Contos opened Chez Paul at 180 East Delaware Place, just east of Michigan Avenue in Chicago in 1945.

Leander McCormick
Chez Paul occupied a mansion built in 1875 for industrialists Leander J. McCormick and his son Robert Hall McCormick (no connection to Robert Hall stores) and was originally constructed as two-side-by-side homes. They lived across the street from Leander’s brother and business partner Cyrus McCormick, whose even grander home filled an entire city block.

Chez Paul moved into the Robert Hall McCormick II mansion in 1964 at 660 North Rush Street, after refurbishing the building. From 1965 to 1995, one of Chicago’s most elegant restaurants served up both French cuisine and glamour in what had formerly been one of Chicago’s fanciest private homes. The steps and pillars are marble, as is the mantel in the Louis Room, which was presented to McCormick when he was Ambassador to Italy by Victor Emannuel III, King of Italy.

In 1976, Bill Contos opened "Chez Paul Country House" at Rt.53 & Euclid, 1900 Hicks Road, Rolling Meadows. It was closed in 1986.

A replica of the restaurant's interior was used for a scene in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers. A similar set was used in the 1986 movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Both movies filmed on the West Coast. Bill Contos said of the replica, "It was either that [replica] or ship the McCormick mansion to the West Coast, and this just seemed easier."

Bill Contos died in April 1993 and though the restaurant was struggling, his wife, Regina kept it open for a few more years, long enough to see its 50th anniversary. 

Chez Paul closed in 1995, the building is currently used for office space.


Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Airport Homes Race Riots of 1946. Whites Protested Negroes Moving Into New Temporary Housing Projects.

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.

NOTE: I present articles without regard to race, color, political party, religion, national origin, citizenship status, gender, age, disability, or military status. What I present are facts — NOT ALTERNATIVE FACTS — about the subject.
 What you won't find are rumors, lies, unfounded claims, character assassinations, hateful statements, insults, or attempts at being funny.

Faced with millions of returning veterans after WWII and the ''baby boomer'' families they were beginning, housing became Chicago's first priority. It was estimated that 375,000 negroes were living in the South Side 'black belt' in housing designed to accommodate only 110,000. They had to move out, and the only place to go was to previously all-white, working-class neighborhoods.
Example of post-WW II prefab aluminum and steel houses.

"Airport Homes" was the name of the site, near Midway Airport, established by the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) to provide temporary housing during the postwar housing shortage. Residents of West Lawn and West Elsdon rioted and succeeded in intimidating negro war veterans from joining white veterans in the homes. The upheaval against negroes happened during the working hours while the white men were at work, which meant that the elderly and the women were the ones who started the riot.

On a cold afternoon on December 5, 1946, Vernon D. Jarrett, a young reporter on his first assignment with the Chicago Defender, one of the most prominent Negro newspapers in the nation, drove across Chicago’s South Side to the mundane residential neighborhood of West Lawn to cover an extraordinary event. That day, the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) attempted to move two negro families into the Airport Homes housing project, a collection of temporary shelters erected on an open field at 60th Street and Karlov Avenue for veteran soldiers returning from World War II. For the CHA, Defender reporters, and hundreds of thousands of other negroes inhumanely crammed into a narrow ghetto located farther east, the integration of the project marked a tentative, yet hopeful step in addressing Chicago’s severe racial segregation.

The residents of West Lawn and other white neighborhoods on the Southwest Side, however, had a different reaction. They saw the arrival of the first negro residents as an invasion to be repelled by any means necessary. A large, vicious mob formed around the housing project, shouting “Ni**ers, go home” and “Kill the dirty communists.” They also promised to honor the newcomers with a lynching. The priorities of Jarrett and other members of the media, negro and white alike, quickly changed from covering the chaotic scene to self-preservation when the wild crowd identified them as “white ni**er-lovers” to be punished. Unable to safely retreat to their cars, they ducked into one of the project’s homes. The shoddy construction of the unit spared their lives. The wet, damp unit prevented a group of teenagers from succeeding in their attempt to, in their words, “barbecue all you ni**ers and white ni**er lovers.” Eventually, the Chicago Police Department escorted Jarrett and his trapped companions to safety.

Preying on racial fears, real estate speculators began to turn entire neighborhoods from white to negro virtually overnight. In the bargain, they turned handsome profits for themselves, scaring white families into selling their homes far below market values, and turning around to sell them to negroes at highly inflated prices. It was a situation intolerably inhumane both to negroes and whites.

Chicago's major newspapers published very few details about the riots at the recommendation of the city's Commission on Human Relations (CHR), who feared that excessive coverage would make the riots worse. As a result, there is very little information available on the riots. 

The riots were large-scale, with thousands of whites attacking negro-owned or rented homes in their neighborhoods, stoning police, and beating hapless negro and white passersby. After the Airport Homes riot other riots occurred in the Fernwood Park area on the Southwest Side in 1947, and in Englewood, Park Manor, and Trumbull Park areas on the South Side in 1949 and 1953, also spilling over into suburban Cicero in 1951. Those were the big riots, but the Human Relations Commission reported a total of 357 serious racial incidents between 1945 and 1950 over negroes moving into previously white enclaves.

With the power to veto placement of public housing in white neighborhoods, the city council effectively defeated any integration efforts attempted by the CHA. If an alderman in a white ward thought the CHA was going to try to bring blacks into one of his neighborhoods with a proposed project, he simply had the council deny the CHA permission to acquire the site.

Given the council's veto power, the whole CHA policy quickly shifted to contain the city's black population in its already overcrowded ghetto neighborhoods. Land in the ghettoes was at a premium, and it soon became apparent that the only way to build the numbers of cheap rental units that were needed was to build up — to go into high-rise construction.

The 1946 riots were the worst episode of racially inspired violence that the city faced since the 1919 Chicago Race Riots.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.


Thursday, January 7, 2021

The Great Epizootic; an equine influenza in 1872-1873 starting in Canada, and killed horses all over North America.

Bloomington, Illinois’ streets were eerily quiet for several weeks in late November and early December 1872. Missing from the normally bustling downtown and surrounding neighborhoods were horses, and in the age before the internal combustion engine and the automobile, it was difficult to get from here to there without flesh-and-blood horsepower.

The Great Epizootic, which had already ravaged the East Coast and major inland cities such as Chicago, had finally reached Bloomington. Nearly every horse, mule, or donkey for miles around was sick or dying, relegated to barn or stable until the highly communicable strain of equine influenza burned through the area.

Until it was over, it was difficult to shuttle passengers and goods from railroad depot to factory, store, or home, since dray and omnibus lines (respectively, delivery trucks and taxis of the day) had no healthy animals. Public transportation also came to a halt, given that horses in Bloomington-Normal and hundreds of other communities were needed to pull street railway cars. (This was before the electric era.)

The equine influenza was known as the horse flu or, more popularly, the horse epizootic (a word for a non-human epidemic). Symptoms included fever and shivering, a nasty cough, while a yellowish discharge dripped from their nostrils and mouths. For several days or more, infected horses would be listless, with heads cast down and little interest in either food or water, unable to pull or carry loads.

The 1872 North America epizootic was the largest recorded outbreak of its kind in history.

The equine influenza first appeared in late September in horses pastured outside of Toronto. Within days most animals in the city’s crowded stables caught the virus. The U.S. government tried to ban Canadian horses but acted too late. Within a month border towns were infected, and the “Canadian horse disease” became a North American epidemic. By December the virus reached the U.S. Gulf Coast, and in early 1873 outbreaks occurred in West Coast cities. It was still sweeping through Arizona Territory settlements as late as March 1873. The epizootic eventually reached Cuba, Mexico, and Central America.

At this time the germ theory of disease was still controversial, and scientists were 20 years away from identifying viruses. Horse owners had few good options for staving off infection. They disinfected their stables, improved the animals’ feed, and covered them in new blankets. One wag wrote in the Chicago Tribune that the nation’s many abused and overworked horses were bound to die of shock from this sudden outpouring of kindness. At a time when veterinary care was still primitive, others promoted more dubious remedies: gin and ginger, tinctures of arsenic, and even a bit of faith healing.

The percentage of horses infected in the continental U.S. is placed anywhere from 80 percent to the high 90s. Mortality rates were highest in urban environments, reaching 10 percent in some cities, though more often than not the 1872 outbreak killed between 1 and 2 percent of the horse population in any given community.
In the absence of horses and vehicles, the streets of Chicago were saved from utter desertion by vehicles drawn by hardy humans, or oxen.

Every aspect of life was disrupted. Saloons ran dry without beer deliveries, and postmen relied on “wheelbarrow express” to carry the mail. Forced to travel on foot, fewer people attended weddings and funerals. Desperate companies hired human crews to pull their wagons to market. Worst of all, firemen could no longer rely on horses to pull their heavy pump wagons.
Post-fire, Field, Leiter & Co. Store in the Singer Building, Northeast Corner of State and Washington Streets, Chicago, 1873.

When equine influenza decimated Chicago's horses in 1872, Field, Leiter & Co. (Marshall Field and Levi Ziegler Leiter) used oxen. "All orders filled promptly and shipped the same day!" they boasted.

The epizootic reached Bloomington the third full week of November. The Daily Leader, a long-defunct Bloomington newspaper, reported Nov. 22 that nearly all the horses in the downtown Ashley House stable had a “suspicious cough.” There were other ominous signs as well. “One of General [Asahel] Gridley’s horses is down and is pronounced a clear case [of the epizootic],” added the paper. “Dr. [Asa P.] Tenney, also, has a horse that is not expected to live.”

The Pantagraph agreed with its competitor that the epizootic was here. “It is now estimated that about 200 horses have been attacked in this city within three days,” announced the paper’s November 23rd edition.

Oxen, unaffected by the epizootic, were drafted into service, and for two long weeks, human muscle often supplanted horsepower. “Many of the grocery merchants are delivering groceries with wheelbarrows and handcarts,” commented the Nov. 29 Leader, “and in some instances, wagons are hauled through the streets by men.” Marion Chuse, the chief engineer of the Bloomington Fire Department, announced that horses of engine company No. 1 were out of commission, and in the event of a fire, he called for volunteers to “man the ropes.”

Clover Lawn, the residence of David and Sarah Davis on the city’s east side (now the David Davis Mansion state historic site) was completed in the year of the Great Epizootic. On Nov. 29, Sarah Davis mentioned the outbreak in a letter to her husband David, then a U.S. Supreme Court justice. “The sickness of the horses makes it inconvenient to get coal hauled — and to save the coal we have on hand — we burn large logs in the furnace,” she wrote.

Yet within a week of that letter, influenza’s grip on the local horse population began to loosen. Street railway service was up and running by December 7, and once again the horse enjoyed dominion over Bloomington’s thoroughfares. Thankfully, local fatalities were few, probably numbering no more than a few dozen in the city.

During the early days of the outbreak, the Daily Leader Newspaper commented on the prospect of life — if only for a week or two — without horses. “The people of this city,” the paper stated, “will have an opportunity to learn the real value of the noble horse, and how much we are all dependent upon ‘man’s best friend’ among the brute creation for comfort and convenience.”

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Lincoln test-fired muskets and repeating rifles on the grassy expanses around the White House, now known as the Ellipse and the National Mall.

Abraham Lincoln's log cabin “rail-splitter” provenance was well known, and it helped make him hugely popular with average voters hungry for a new political hero. Despite his lack of family pedigree, fortune, or schooling, Lincoln made a career of being underestimated, overcompensating with a brilliant, active intellect. The farmboy turned president especially loved innovations and inventions. Lincoln is the only U.S. president to win a patent – No. 6469, issued in May 1849 for a “Method of Buoying Vessels Over Shoals.”

Lincoln’s natural interest in things mechanical would come to be tested — and celebrated — in the Civil War. The North’s huge advantage in men and technology was only as good as the tools of war that Lincoln’s Bureau of Ordnance was able to place into those men’s hands.

The president took a particular interest in rifles and ammunition as well. Infantry warfare was quickly making the transition from the smoothbore muskets that won the Revolutionary War to “rifled” weapons that were more accurate, with greater range and firepower. While the smoothbores could still be effective in close quarters, inventors and arms manufacturers sought ways to increase the distance and speed with which soldiers could fight more effectively.

One such inventor was Christopher Miner Spence of Connecticut. Spencer learned the machinist’s trade as a 14-year-old apprentice at a silk manufacturing company and later worked at the Samuel Colt factory in Hartford, where he learned how to make fire-arms. The Colt factory was famous for pistols and other sidearms, but Spencer became convinced of the feasibility of designing a breech-loaded repeating rifle that could be reloaded easily and rapidly.
Christopher Miner Spencer, Magazine Gun, U.S. patent number 27,393, March 6, 1860

A Spencer Model 1860 repeating rifle.
At the time, a single-shot, muzzle-loaded gun could be fired perhaps three times a minute by an experienced rifleman. Spencer conceived of loading the weapon instead through the rifle breech (thus eliminating the need for ramming the round down the barrel), and created a magazine capable of storing seven shells, which could be sequentially spring-loaded and fired by simply cocking and replacing the trigger-guard lever. The “Spencer Repeating Rifle” was capable of firing 15 to 20 rounds a minute. Though his was not the first breech-loaded weapon, his improvements to the existing art justified a government patent, which he received in 1860.

Christopher Miner Spencer
Spencer’s first government order, in mid-1861, was 700 rifles to the Union Navy. His financial partner Charles Cheney was able to secure for Spencer an audience with the Navy’s director of ordnance, John Dahlgren, in June 1861, through the assistance of Cheney’s friend Gideon Welles, the secretary of the Navy. During two days of rigorous testing (including burying the rifle in sand, and immersing it overnight in saltwater), the Spencer rifle fired successfully over 250 times, reportedly with only one misfire.

Spencer’s company had early production and financing problems — he was, after all, an inventor and not a businessman — and was unable to meet even the modest Navy Department order in a timely fashion. But the real roadblock to wider military acceptance and development of the Spencer rifle was the Department of War Chief of Ordnance, Gen. James Ripley, who dismissed the Spencer and similar breechloaders as just “newfangled gimcracks,” and he refused to authorize their purchase.

After two years of personally demonstrating the Spencer to Army and Navy commanders in the field, including General Ulysses S. Grant (who reportedly pronounced it “the best breechloading arms available”), Spencer finally decided to take his case to the top. Again with Cheney’s aid, Spencer was able to secure a meeting with President Lincoln.

Security not being quite what it is today, Spencer recalled in his memoirs that:
on August 17, 1863, I arrived at the White House with the rifle in hand, and was immediately ushered into the executive room, where I found the President alone. After a brief introduction, I took the rifle from its cloth case and handed it to him. Examining it carefully, and handling it as one familiar with firearms, Mr. Lincoln requested me to take it apart ‘and show the inwardness of the thing.’ The separate parts were soon laid on the table before him. It was the simplicity of the gun which appealed to President Lincoln, and he was greatly impressed with the fact that all that was needed to take it apart was a screw driver. With this implement he bared the vitals of the gun and replaced them so that the gun was ready to shoot in a few minutes.
Impressed with its design, the president invited Spencer to meet him the next day to test the weapon himself.

Lincoln’s personal participation in the procurement process was not always supported by his appointees. Even Welles, one of the president’s fiercest and most loyal defenders, complained in his personal diary that the president was too involved in ordnance procurement. When Lincoln championed a new type of gunpowder to Dahlgren, Welles confided in his diary that he “cautioned [Dahlgren], as I have had occasion to do repeatedly, against encouraging the President in these well-intentioned but irregular proceedings. He assures me he does restrain the President as far as respect will permit, but his ‘restraints’ are impotent, valueless. He is no check on the President, who has a propensity to engage in matters of this kind and is liable to be constantly imposed upon by sharpers and adventurers. Finding the heads of Departments opposed to these schemes, the President goes often behind them, as in this instance; and subordinates, flattered by his notice, encourage him.”

True to form, Lincoln prepared to personally test the Spencer. At the appointed time on August 18, Spencer arrived at the White House and accompanied the president, his son Robert and an official from the Navy Department, who carried the rifle, target, and ammunition, for a short walk to the Mall, near the site of the unfinished Washington Monument. Lincoln stopped by the War Department on the way and his son Robert invited War Secretary Edwin M. Stanton to accompany the party for the test, but the secretary declined due to the press of business. “They do pretty much as they have a mind to over there,” mused the president philosophically. So, minus the hard-working secretary of war, the president’s party proceeded to the Mall to try out the Spencer Repeater.

This was not Lincoln’s only trip to the makeshift shooting range near the White House. One of his private secretaries, William O. Stoddard, recalled accompanying Lincoln on similar occasions: “On the grounds near the Potomac, south of the White House, was a huge pile of old lumber, not to be damaged by balls, and a good many mornings I have been out there with the President, by the previous appointment, to try such rifles as were sent in. There was no danger of hitting anyone, and the President, who was a very good shot, enjoyed the relaxation very much.” Another secretary, John Hay, reported that on these excursions Lincoln “used to quote with much merriment the solemn dictum of one rural inventor that ‘a gun ought not to rekyle; if it rekyled at all, it ought to rekyle a little forrid.’

On this occasion though, the President was all business. Spencer recalled:
The target was a board about six inches wide and three feet high, with a black spot on each end, about forty yards away. The rifle contained seven cartridges. Mr. Lincoln’s first shot was about five inches low, but the next shot hit the bull’s-eye and the other five were close around it. ‘Now,’ said Mr. Lincoln, ‘we will see the inventor try it.’ The board was reversed and I fired at the other bull’s-eye, beating the President a little. ‘Well,’ said he, ‘you are younger than I am and have a better eye and a steadier nerve.’
At the conclusion of the day’s shooting, Spencer was presented with the half of the target used by the president as a souvenir of his visit, which many years later he donated to the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois. The president meanwhile must have enjoyed the outing, and the uncommonly pleasant August weather, as he went out again the next day with his “Spencer” for another hour’s shooting with Hay.
Inscription on Lincoln Target Board. 7 consecutive shots made by the President of the United States with Spencer at a distance of forty yards, Washington D.C. August 18, 1863.

For Christopher Spencer and his fledgling company, the time spent at target practice with the president was well worth it. Less than a month after their meeting, the incorrigible and aging General Ripley was forcibly retired from active duty by Secretary Stanton, and assigned to be inspector of forts in New England. The Bureau of Ordnance soon after placed additional orders for the Spencer Repeaters, and by the end of the Civil War, some 85,000 of them (both rifles and carbines) had been put in service. (Rifle-like weapons with a barrel length of less than 20 inches are typically considered to be carbines. Weapons with barrels greater than 20 inches are usually called rifles unless specifically called carbines by the manufacturer.)
Spencer Model 1863 Carbine repeating rifle.

And only a month after Spencer’s outing with Lincoln, the Spencers proved their mettle. At the Battle of Chickamauga, a Union brigade under Col. John Wilder, all equipped with Spencers, held off and virtually destroyed a much larger Confederate regiment of Gen. John Bell Hood as it breached the Union lines and threatened to collapse the entire northern flank of the Union line’s southern branch.

The Spencer Repeater had only one stain on its record. In April 1865, less than two weeks after Lincoln’s assassination, Union soldiers searched for and surrounded a fugitive from justice in the Virginia countryside. As he lay dying in a barn on Garrett’s Farm, John Wilkes Booth was found armed with a large bowie knife, two pistols – and a Spencer carbine.

Jed Morrison, New York Times
Edited by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

A Replica Lincoln Statue is Removed in Boston, Massachusetts. The Original Statue Remains in Washington D.C.

In historical writing and analysis, PRESENTISM is the introduction of present-day ideals 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.

NOTE: I present articles without regard to race, color, political party, religion, national origin, citizenship status, gender, age, disability, or military status. What I present are facts — NOT ALTERNATIVE FACTS — about the subject.
 What you won't find are rumors, lies, unfounded claims, character assassinations, hateful statements, insults, or attempts at being funny.

A replica of a controversial statue of Abraham Lincoln standing over a newly emancipated Black man—the figure modeled on Archer Alexander, the last man recaptured under the Fugitive Slave Act—has been removed from Park Square in Boston, Massachusetts. The original statue in Washington’s Capitol Hill neighborhood at Lincoln Park was also criticized over the summer during demonstrations following the police killing of George Floyd on May 25, 2020.

Officials placed the statue under police guard and surrounded it with protective barriers after a group of demonstrators tore down a statue of former Confederate Albert Pike a few blocks away and threatened to do the same with the Lincoln statue.

The statue by Thomas Ball depicts a shirtless Black man, on his knees, in front of a clothed and standing Abraham Lincoln. Ball called his artwork “Emancipation Group.” In one hand, Lincoln holds a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, while the other arm is stretched out over the Black man. Ball intended it to look as though the man were rising to freedom, but to many, it looks like he is bowing down or supplicating to Abraham Lincoln.

Archer Alexander, who modeled for Ball, was not originally freed by Lincoln but by his own actions. He escaped his bondage in the middle of the night in 1861 and repeatedly evaded capture by his former enslavers.
A statue of Abraham Lincoln and a formerly enslaved negro man has been taken down in Park Square in Boston, Massachusett, after an intense debate and a petition to remove the work.

Boston Museum founder Moses Kimball donated the bronze recasting of the original Ball statue in Washington D.C. to the city of Boston in 1879. The replica will be placed in temporary storage while the city figures out “a new publicly accessible location [i.e. a museum] where it could be better explained.”
The Emancipation statue is driven away on a flatbed truck after it was removed from its location in Park Square in Boston, Massachusetts, on December 29, 2020.

The Emancipation Memorial statue was commissioned and paid for by a group of Black Americans, many of whom were formerly enslaved. But the group did not have a say in the design of the statue; that distinction went to an all-White committee and the artist, Ball, who was White.

The original statue was dedicated on April 14, 1876, the 11th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination, before a crowd of 25,000 that included then-President Ulysses S. Grant. Abolitionist Frederick Douglass spoke at the unveiling, noting that the “Great Emancipator” Lincoln was reluctant to free enslaved people, and when he did so, it applied only to enslaved people in Confederate states. Enslaved people in most Union states were not freed until December 1865.

Days after the unveiling, Douglass was the first to criticize the monument and suggest an additional monument be placed in the same park, to better represent negroes, in a letter to the editor of the National Republican Newspaper.

The letter below, written by Frederick Douglass in 1876, was published in the National Republican Newspaper just days after the monument ceremony in Washington D.C.

A Suggestion.

To the Editors of the National Republican:

Admirable as is the monument by Mr. Ball in Lincoln Park, it does not, as it seems to me, tell the whole truth, and perhaps no one monument could be made to tell the whole truth of any subject which it might be designed to illustrate. The mere act of breaking the negro's chains was the act of Abraham Lincoln and is beautifully expressed in this monument. But the act by which the negro was made a citizen of the United States and invested with the elective franchise was pre-eminently the act of President Ulysses S. Grant, and this is nowhere seen in the Lincoln monument. The negro here, though rising, is still on his knees and nude. What I want to see before I die is a monument representing the negro, not couchant (body resting on the legs/knees and the head raised) on his knees like a four-footed animal, but erect on his feet like a man. There is room in Lincoln Park for another monument, and I throw out this suggestion to the end that it may be taken up and acted upon.

Frederick Douglass       

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.