Friday, November 17, 2017

Lee's Place / Hardscrabble, Illinois, today's Bridgeport community of Chicago.

A settler, Charles Lee (or Leigh), had come to the Chicago area about 1804 with his family and had preempted a large tract of land. Charles Lee owned a farm on the South Branch about four miles from its mouth; his house stood on the northwest side of the river in a grove and was first called "Lee's Place," and later "Hardscrabble."
Lee and his family built a residence near Fort Dearborn (the fort was built during the summer and fall of 1803) and were thus residents of Chicago very early. Farm products such as cabbage and other vegetables, livestock, and hay were known to be produced here.

At the time of the Fort Dearborn Massacre of 1812 the families of John Kinzie, Lee, Burns, and Antoine Ouilmette (who was the first permanent white settler of Chicago in July of 1790), lived close to the fort. Charles Lee also had a cabin at the mouth of the Chicago River. The Lee house at "Hardscrabble" was occupied by Lee's employees or tenants; Liberty White, a Canadian Frenchman named John B. Cardin, a discharged soldier named John Kelso (or Kelson), a man named Debou, and a boy whose name no one has taken the trouble to record

The Fort Dearborn Massacre of 1812 was partially due to the attack of the Indians at Lee's Place. On April 6, 1812, a party of eleven Winnebagoes, dressed and painted, arrived at the house, and, according to the custom among savages[1], entered and seated themselves without ceremony. 

Something in their appearance and manner excited their suspicions. One remarked "I do not like the appearance of these Indians - they are none of our folks. I know by their dress and paint that they are not Potawatomi."
Kelso then said to the boy who was present, "If that is the case, we had better get away from them if we can. Say nothing, but do as you see me do."
As the afternoon was far advanced, Kelso walked leisurely towards the canoes, of which there were two tied near the bank. Some of the Indians inquired where he was going. He pointed to the cattle which were standing among the haystacks on the opposite [right/south] bank and made signs that they must go and fodder them, and then they should return and get their supper.
Kelso got into one canoe, and the boy into the other. The stream was narrow, and they were soon across. When they had gained the opposite side, they pulled some hay for the cattle - made a show of collecting them - and when they had gradually made a circuit, so that their movements were concealed by the haystacks, they took to the woods, which were close at hand, and made for the fort.
They had run about a quarter of a mile, when they heard the discharge of two guns successively, which they supposed to have been leveled at White and Debou that they had left behind. On their way to the fort, they notified the family of Burns, living on the river at what is now North State Street, of their danger, and a squad of soldiers was sent to escort them to the fort. 

All of the families gathered in the fort and the Indians left the neighborhood. Later, news reached the fort about White and Debou being stabbed, scalped, shot and mutilated.

This was the precursor to the Fort Dearborn Massacre later that summer. The Lee farm was abandoned following the Fort Dearborn massacre in August of 1812. While fur traders were thought to have still traversed the area, American activity did not resume until after federal troops returned (July 4, 1816) to rebuild Fort Dearborn.

1816 was also a new beginning for Lee's Place, though the name would be changed to Hardscrabble. Until roughly the Black Hawk War of 1832, Hardscrabble served as a fur-trading outpost consisting of several cabins, a trading post, and a lodging house.

Mack & Conant, extensive merchants at Detroit, in the Indian trade, became the owners of this property about the year 1816. They sent Mr. John Craft with a large supply of Indian goods to take possession of it, and establish a branch of their house there, the principal object is to sell goods to such traders as they could residing throughout this country, without interfering with the interests of those traders who purchased goods from him. 

Mr. Craft repaired the dilapidated building, adding thereto, and erecting others necessary for the convenience of business. He named it 'Hardscrabble;' whether he or someone else, it bore that name in 1818. 

Chief Alexander Robinson owned a cabin at Hardscrabble, and several members of the La Framboise family, who were French-Indian, lived there. Robinson had put up the Galloway family at his cabin when they were coldly received by agents of the American Fur Company at Chicago in 1826. One of the girls of the family later became the wife of Archibald Clyborne. She recalled five or six cabins of the several persons living nearby.

Another early settler was Russell Heacock. He took up land on the South Fork of the South Branch of the Chicago River near what is today Thirty-Fifth Street. Heacock was staunchly independent, which is probably the reason he had moved to the Hardscrabble area in the first place. He found it necessary to move closer to Chicago so that his children could attend school, himself becoming one of Chicago's early school teachers. In spite of moving to Chicago, he retained his property on the South Fork. Heacock is notable for two other reasons. First, he was the sole dissenter when a vote was called to incorporate the Town of Chicago (1833). The second thing he was noted for was his promotion of the Illinois and Michigan Canal. Because funds to build the canal were scarce, a plan was devised to make it less expensive by reducing the intended depth of the canal. Russell Heacock was perhaps the most vocal proponent of the plan - which earned him the nickname of Shallow-Cut. Maybe he hated the nickname, but the shallow cut plan was ultimately successful.
Even before the canal construction was begun, Hardscrabble became the site of a quarry, which was opened in 1833 in order to cut stone needed to improve the Chicago harbor. And because of the relentless pounding of Lake Michigan waters, the harbor improvement project dragged on for many years. Later the stone quarry became known as Stearns' Quarry. The opening of the quarry and the construction of the canal mark the transition from the frontier outpost of Hardscrabble to the Bridgeport that we know today. 
What came to be known as the town of Bridgeport was platted by the canal commissioners in 1836; although it was not yet going by the name of Bridgeport. Canalport or (Canal Port) was platted by private interests in 1835 in one of the even-numbered sections not controlled by the canal commissioners. The beginnings of the settlement are somewhat obscure since it is so old and because many of the records pertaining to that period, such as those kept by the county, burned in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The origin of the name Bridgeport is shrouded in myth, purportedly owing to a low bridge spanning one of the waterways which forced a transfer of cargo from larger to smaller vessels. Some sources say this bridge was "at Ashland avenue," others say "near Ashland avenue." It should be noted that there was no bridge at Ashland avenue, nor was there an 'Ashland avenue' per se. 

The nearby settlement named Canalport would also indicate that the site was foreseen as a cargo transfer point. The forks had already been marked as the 'Head of Navigation' in the 1821 survey. The bridge[2] in question was presumably the bridge at the lock. Aside from the bridge altogether, the narrow width of the canal lock made cargo transfer necessary. A very low bridge would have at the most compounded this fact, and if it were built low enough to impede traffic, the canal commissioners probably did so by design. The reason is simple; being that the commissioners held the land in the odd-numbered sections (here Section Twenty-nine), they naturally would prefer that the highest valued lots fall on canal lands rather than to those (like Canalport in section 30) promoted by private speculators. 

According to Michael Conzen, this is what the commissioners were doing in places like Lockport (vying with Joliet) and La Salle (in competition with Peru). The naming of Bridgeport probably had as much to do with the commissioner's efforts to distinguish their platting from Canalport as it had with any physical bridge. Moreover, the 1840 federal census information in A. T. Andreas' History of Cook County (1884) mentions the Bridgeport precinct of Cook County. There was no water in the canal at the time. In any event, whoever named it, Bridgeport became the real town, while Canalport remained a paper dream. A street by the name of Canalport  Avenue is the only remnant left of the "town."

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

[1] "SAVAGE" is a word defined in U.S. dictionaries as a Noun, Verb, Adjective, and Adverb. Definitions include:
  • a person belonging to a primitive society
  • malicious, lacking complex or advanced culture
  • a brutal person
  • a rude, boorish or unmannerly person
  • to attack or treat brutally
  • lacking the restraints normal to civilized human beings
Unlike the term "RED MEN," dictionaries like Merriam-Webster define this term, its one-and-only definition, as a Noun meaning: AMERICAN INDIAN (historically dated, offensive today).

The term Red Men is used often in historical books, biographies, letters, and articles written in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries.

I change this derogatory term to "INDIANS" to keep with the terminology of the time period I'm writing about. 9999

[2] The first bridge built in Bridgeport was a small (unknown type) bridge over the South Fork of the South Branch of the Chicago River, which may have been for the crossing of a road that had come before Archer Road was built. When the canal opened in 1848, the first bridge over the canal (at the lock) was washed away by the Flood of 1849 but was rebuilt. The street leading to the lock site bridge was called Post street, eventually, which connected to Lisle Street (also known as Reuben Street) -- later renamed Ashland Avenue.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Superdawg at Devon, Milwaukee and Nagle Avenues, Chicago, Illinois. A true 1950s dashboard dining classic drive-in.

I am addressing some comments from many people: 
"Superdawg is too expensive!"
Superdawg has their own secret recipe for their Superdawgs, which are 6 to a pound hot dogs. No other hot dog stand, anywhere, serves a Superdawg - it's one-of-a-kind and is 100% pure beef.
Other famous hot dog joints like Gene & Jude's use Vienna's mass-produced hot dogs but they are only 10 or 12 to a pound. Half the size of a Superdawg. I've heard people over the years saying that Superdawg is too expensive... so I personally called a dozen famous Vienna hot dog joints in the Chicago area (North, South, and West) and they all use 10 or 12 to a pound dog. 

Considering that you would need to buy two hot dogs from Gene & Jude's to equal one Superdawg, it makes Superdawg a few cents cheaper! Don't forget that Superdawg also includes an order of fries, as do some other hot dog joints, but not all of the others I called did. 
FYI: Vienna NEVER produced Superdawg's Hot Dogs.

Steaming a hot dog is the original and only way to cook a Vienna Chicago Hot Dog.

A Chicago-style hot dog doesn't dictate how the hot dog is cooked. As long as the hot dog contains ALL of these ingredients:

An all-beef hot dog on a poppy seed bun, top with yellow mustard, chopped white onions, green sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, fresh tomato slices or wedges, sport peppers, and a dash of celery salt.

NOTE: Superdawg DOES NOT serve the traditional "Chicago Dog." It's missing the celery salt and has a pickled green tomato wedge instead of fresh red tomatoes slices. 

Drive in, park, and order from your car. You press the button on the menu board and the control tower inside will answer to take your food order. When the meal is ready, a carhop comes out and delivers your food to your car on a tray that hangs from the glass of your side windows that is partially opened. It's just some awesome fun. Of course "rookies" have the option of going inside to order and then sitting at a table inside or at one of the canopy tables outside.

When you are finished eating and wish to have the tray and your garbage taken away so you can leave, you flip a switch on the menu board and the car-hop comes back to get the tray. I personally tip the carhop when my food order is brought out to my car, ensuring a quick tray pickup.

On most weekends, you'll find antique, vintage, and old muscle cars parked in the lot. Totally worth the trip!

Superdawg does bring a red ketchup squeeze bottle on their tray along with salt and napkins to your car's window. 

In May of 1948, Superdawg was established at the corner of Milwaukee, Devon, and Nagle in Chicago. Superdawg continues to be family-owned and operated in the same location today.
Superdawg was under construction in 1948.
Maurie & Flaurie
Superdawg - August 20, 1963.
Maurie Berman, a recently returned G.I. from World War II, married his high school sweetheart Florence (Flaurie), in August of 1947. Maurie was attending Northwestern University, studying to be a CPA, while recent Northwestern grad Flaurie was teaching in the Chicago Public Schools. With their "school-year" schedules, the newlyweds wanted to open a business that they could operate during the summer months. Many other returning G.I.'s were opening roadside hot dog carts and Maurie and Flaurie decided to open their own roadside hot dog stand, one that would be as unique and distinctive as they were.
Maurie designed an architecturally distinct, 20' x 12' building topped with two 12 foot hot dog icons to beckon hungry passersby with their winking and blinking eyes. Maurie and Flaurie then created a proprietary, secret recipe to set themselves apart from the other hot dog stands that pop up around the city. With a distinctive look and delicious recipe, they were almost ready to open. All they needed was a name. Inspired by the superheroes featured in the newly-created, popular comics of the 1940s, Maurie and Flaurie named their signature product and restaurant.
It was not a wiener — not a frankfurter — not a red hot — but their own exclusive SUPERDAWG. On a poppy seed bun, they place the hot dog {no pork, no veal, no cereal, no fillers}, formally dressed with all the trimmings {golden mustard, tangy piccalilli, kosher dill pickle, sour green tomato wedge, chopped Spanish onions and memorable hot peppers}, escorted by their often imitated, but never equaled, Superfries.
In 1948, the Milwaukee and Devon store opened at the end of the streetcar line. With the forest preserve and Whealan Pool across the street, the area was a great destination for swimming families and cruisin' teens. Kids could ride the streetcar for a nickel and stop at Superdawg where a Superdawg sandwich and drink cost only 32¢. Many times, on their way home, they would stop and ask what they could buy for a dime. If they were a few cents short, Maurie and Flaurie would give them what they wanted and told them to bring the money back the next time they stopped, which they never failed to do.
In 1950 Maurie passed the CPA exam, but he and Flaurie decided to keep operating Superdawg and to open year-round in order to retain the outstanding personnel that had become so invaluable to fulfilling the Superdawg ideals. When Superdawg first opened, the electronic speaker system had not been invented. Carhops went out to the cars to take orders and customers signaled that they were ready for their trays to be picked up by turning on their headlights.

In the early 1950s, the "carhop in a wire" electronic speaker system was installed, and Maurie designed the glowing blue "control tower" where the carhop sits to answer the switchboard and take orders. As Superdawg grew into a successful business, Maurie and Flaurie found time to raise their family of three children (although not on Whoopercheesies alone).

Superdawg Drive-In opened a restaurant at 5110 N Western, Chicago in the 1950.
The Superdawg trademark was registered in 1984. Throughout the years, small changes have been made to the menu, like the addition of the Whoopskidawg in 1989 and the Superchic in 1991. However, the Superdawg recipe, the original trademark figures (continuing to flirtatiously wink at each other), and the drive-in concept have not changed. Customers can still order from their car and have a carhop deliver their order on a tray. Maurie and Flaurie's attention to quality products and service, preparing each customer's meal to order, affirming the belief that the customer is always right, and insisting that the customer should always be treated like family, continues today.
Even the Oscar Meyer guys know where to get the best hot dogs!
In 1999, Superdawg underwent a makeover while retaining the original building and spirit. The classic '40's drive-in was updated with the addition of neon-studded canopies across the parking lot, a crisp new speaker system, and a cozy, indoor dining room. The original rooftop figures were refurbished so that they can continue to serve as a Chicago landmark for years to come.
In May of 2009 ground was broken for a second location 11 miles north on Milwaukee Avenue in Wheeling, IL. Every effort was taken to recreate the look and feel of the Milwaukee and Devon location. The blue tower, the canopies on the parking lot along with the ordering speakers, the neon and diamonds along the building and canopies, the tile inside and most importantly, the trademark Maurie and Flaurie figures on the roof all were painstakingly incorporated into the plans. Much of the equipment was custom built as well. Over the next six months, anticipation grew for a new Superdawg to open. In January of 2010, Maurie, Flaurie, and the rest of the family were proud to open the Wheeling, Illinois restaurant.
Since 1948, Maurie, Flaurie, their children and grandchildren have scrupulously adhered to one goal: "always to serve you in a manner that will make you want to return – and bring your friends, and new generations, with you". From the bottom of our pure beef hearts... THANKS FOR STOPPING®.

Maurie Berman died from heart issues on May 17, 2015, at 89 years old. 

Superdawg Chicago on the Travel Channel's Hot Dog Paradise  

by Superdawg
Edited by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

The story of Charles Birger, a Southern Illinois mobster and bootlegger. He was the last public hanging in Illinois.

Charleston Birger (1881-1928) was an American mobster during the Prohibition period in southern Illinois. His real name was Shachna Itzik Birger, and he was born in Russia. His Jewish parents, Louis and Mary (Weilansky) Birger, emigrated to the U.S. when Charlie was about 8 years old.

The Birger family settled near East St. Louis, Illinois in Glen Carbon, Illinois, where Charlie attended school. Though he is sometimes said to have been a Rough Rider with Teddy Roosevelt in the Spanish American War, Birger's name does not appear on the roster. Instead, Army records show he enlisted in St. Louis on July 5, 1901, and was assigned to Company 'G' of the newly formed 13th Cavalry Regiment, which was stationed in South Dakota. Birger was described as a good soldier and was honorably discharged on July 4, 1904, at Fort Mead, South Dakota. When he left the army, he became a cowboy. However, he eventually returned to Illinois, where he married and became first a miner, then a saloon keeper.

Following World War I, the United States adopted national prohibition, which banned the sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages in the entire country. Charlie saw this as a business opportunity. He became a bootlegger, allegedly with $100 he borrowed from Teddy Roosevelt (though this is likely an urban myth).

Charlie's initial base of operation was Harrisburg, in the Little Egypt region of Illinois. The authorities in Saline County eventually invited him to leave, after which he built a fortified speakeasy named Shady Rest just across the line in Williamson County. Shady Rest was located off old Highway 13, halfway between Harrisburg and Marion. A small barbecue stand just off the highway served as the guard shack.

Charlie Birger and the rival Shelton Brothers Gang fought for control of the coalfields of Southern Illinois, but their attention was soon diverted by a common enemy. In the 1920s the Ku Klux Klan supported prohibition. Alcohol was viewed as an "un-American" vice practiced by immigrants, many of whom belonged to the Catholic Church and other religions. Many immigrants worked in the coal mines of southern Illinois, living mainly in very small towns with a strong ethnic identity. Alcohol was a part of their life, and bootlegging came naturally to them.
In the spring of 1923, the Klan began organizing in Williamson County, holding meetings attended by more than 5000 people. The Klan drew its support from both the farming community and people in the larger towns, the latter mainly of southern origin and belonging to the Baptist and other traditional Protestant churches.

The Klan soon found a charismatic leader in S. Glenn Young, who was a former federal law enforcement officer. Large mobs began going door to door forcibly searching houses for alcohol. If alcohol was found, the occupants were taken to Klan "prisons". Federal authorities apparently had deputized the Klansmen to aid in the enforcement of Prohibition.

Many elected public officials of Williamson County were viewed as being allies of the bootleggers, perhaps correctly. These elected public officials were driven from office and replaced by Klan members. The state government was either unable or unwilling to reestablish lawful authority.

On January 24, 1925, a shot was fired in the street in Herrin, Illinois. Deputy Sheriff Omar Thomas responded and walked into a cigar store, where he saw Klan leader Young. Thomas drew his pistol and shot Young twice. Young was able to shoot Thomas once before falling to the floor. Two of Young's companions also joined in the melee, and all four men were fatally wounded. The Klan held a public funeral for Young that was attended by more than 15,000 people.

In April 1926, Charlie Birger and the Shelton Brothers joined forces to attack the remaining Klan leaders in Herrin, using Tommy guns and shotguns. The police were called repeatedly, but did not respond. The Klan buried its dead and the coroner ruled that the deaths were homicides "by parties unknown."

Although the Klan's losses were not large, the Herrin attack broke the back of the local KKK. Lawfully elected officials returned to their offices, and Birger and the Shelton Brothers went back into the business.

Charlie Birger regarded Harrisburg as his town. He would not tolerate crime in Harrisburg. When a small shop was robbed, Birger publicly made good the owner's losses and the suspected thief was found shot dead a few days later. This incident coincided with the beginning of his war with the Shelton Brothers Gang. It would be fought over control of bootlegging in the area.

By October 1926, the Birger and Shelton gangs were in open conflict. Both gangs built "tanks" - trucks converted into makeshift armored vehicles from which they could shoot. The Shelton Gang even tried to bomb Shady Rest from the air. The dynamite they dropped missed. Many were killed during the war and it was sometimes not clear which side they were on. Three deaths became important in ending Birger's own life.
Joseph Adams was the mayor of West City, Illinois, a village near Benton, Illinois. Birger learned that the Sheltons' tank was in Joe Adams's garage for repairs. Charlie demanded the tank. When Adams failed to surrender it, Birger's men burned the garage.

In December 1926, two men appeared at Joe Adams's house, announcing that they "had a letter from Carl [Shelton]". They handed a letter to Adams. As he started to read it, they drew their pistols and shot him dead.

The following month, the Shady Rest was destroyed by a series of large explosions and an ensuing fire. Four bodies, one a woman, were found in the ruins, charred beyond recognition. This was widely seen as a decisive blow struck by the Sheltons.

At about the same time, Illinois state trooper Lory Price and his wife went missing. Price was widely believed to be associated with the Birger gang. He had been running a scam in which Birger would steal cars and hide them until a reward was offered. Then the trooper would pretend to find the cars and split the reward with Birger.

Allegedly, Birger's men kidnapped the trooper and his wife. Two of the men shot the wife, threw her body down an abandoned mine shaft, and tossed in debris to cover her body.

Birger took Price to the ruins of Shady Rest and accused him of helping in the attack. Birger shot the trooper three times and he was placed, still alive, in the back of a car. Price came to several times and begged for mercy. Birger had to get out of the car at one point to vomit. He remarked, "I don't know what in the hell's the matter with me. Every time I kill a man, it makes me sick afterward. I guess it's my stomach." They then dragged the trooper into a field and shot him dead.

When the story broke five months later, coal miners gathered at the mine shaft to search for the dead woman. They worked in relays for two and a half days until they finally found the body. Even though Price had been regarded as a gangster, the killing of his wife and the manner of disposal of her body went beyond the standards of decency. Public opinion now turned against Charlie Birger.

In June 1927, Birger was arrested on a charge of ordering the murder of Joe Adams. Birger allowed himself to be taken into custody without a fight. He had been arrested many times, and had always been released a few days later. He may not have realized he would be tried in Franklin County, one that he did not control.

Birger and the two men who did the killing were convicted. However, only Birger was sentenced to hang. Birger objected that it was unfair he should hang while the confessed trigger man was only sentenced to prison. Nevertheless, Birger was hanged for the murder of Joe Adams on April 19, 1928, at the Franklin County Jail in Benton. At Birger's request, he was accompanied to the gallows by a Rabbi and wore a black hood rather than a white one, since he did not want to be mistaken for a Klansman. Charlie Birger was the last man to be executed in a public hanging in Illinois. He shook hands with the hangman, and his final words were, "It's a wonderful world."

Charlie Birger is buried in Chesed Shel Emeth Jewish Cemetery in the University Park area of St. Louis, Missouri. His marker bears his real name of Shachna Itzik Birger. His sister (Mrs. Rachel Shamsky) and one of his two daughters are buried nearby.

Birger was in the news again in 2006, when the granddaughter of the sheriff who had supervised the execution sued the local historical museum in an attempt to regain possession of the noose used in the hanging.

Compiled and edited by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Interesting article: Legal Alcohol During the Prohibition Years in Illinois and the Country.