Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The Brief History of Mickelberry's Log Cabin Restaurant (1933-1964) at 2300 W. 95th Street in Chicago, including the 1964 restaurant bombing.

Mickelberry's Log Cabin restaurant first opened in 1933. The original restaurant design was based on the Mickelberry plantation home built in Spaulding, Colorado, in the 1830s. The restaurant was divided into three rooms - the "Main Dining Room," the "Lincoln Room," and the cozy little "Blue Room."
Campbell Wallace Mickelberry, along with his oldest brother Charles, and Jay Adler were partners in the restaurant. Adler was a horse lover-owner, a true Civil War buff, an authority on Indian history, and an antique collector. Mrs. Mickelberry ran the restaurant along with Mr. Adler for several years after Campbell and Charles died in the 1940s. 
They served dishes like buckwheat cakes, fresh-made sausages, home-made breads, southern fried chicken, bar-b-cued pit spare ribs, veal and lamb chops, fresh seafood, true old-French Quarter style Jambalaya, and hominy grits. Mickelberry's made their own salad dressings and ice creams.
They also packaged the sausages and sold them to restaurant customers. For after dinner they had fresh-from-the-oven fruit pies and custards. Mickelberry's was a true family restaurant because there were no alcoholic beverages served. The Mickelberry's brought their old family recipes with them to Chicago from Georgia in the 1890s. 
Much of the Confederate artifacts were Mickelberry family possessions brought north from Georgia. Mr. Adler was responsible for contributing most of the incredible pictures, etc. from the "Old West" where he must have lived at one time. It is believed that most of the items were sold at auction after the restaurant closed.

Mystery Blasts Baffle Chicago; 46 in the Area in 18 Months—None Has Been Solved.
The New York Times - August 2, 1964.

CHICAGO, Saturday, August 1, 1964 — Four bombings this week raised to 46 the number of bomb or arson attacks on Chicago area businesses in the last 18 months. Twenty‐two of the targets has been restaurants. Two restaurants were bombed last weekend, the damage at one estimated at $40,000. The third bombing in a 24-hour period occurred at an automobile plating plant. The fourth bombing in three days was at a trucking terminal.

None of the crimes has been solved, and all of those concerned—the victims and the authorities—profess to have no idea of either the motive or the possible identity of the perpetrators. Law enforcement agents and insurance investigators say they wish they knew.

William J. Cowhey, the Illinois State Fire Marshal, who investigates all such incidents outside of the city, where most of them have occurred, said: “There's just no rhyme or reason for them. I wouldn’t know what the motives are.” He suggested, as possible motives, extortion, insurance, competition, business failure. But he acknowledged that he was only guessing.

Chicago Detective Sergeant Edward Neville, who investigated the recent bombing of Mickelberry's Log Cabin Restaurant on Chicago's Southside, said: “There doesn’t seem to be any motive at all.” He said the manager of the restaurant insisted he had had no trouble with unions, customers, suppliers or competition.

Sgt. Drew Brown, who heads the Chicago police bomb and arson detail, suggested that the bombers “are just picking these places at random.”

Robert May, chief special agent in charge of the Chicago office of the National Board of Fire Underwriters, said he doubted if there was any single motive for the bombings and arson fires.

“We’ve found a few that may be fraud and insurance fires,” he said. “But they were very few. Most of them were not. I have no idea what's behind them.”

While law enforcement investigators reported repeatedly that owners of places bombed or burned could give no reason for the attacks, at least a dozen restaurateurs interviewed by newsmen expressed fear that the wave of restaurant bombings might be the prelude to a campaign of extortion and terrorism by crime syndicate hoodlums.

The owners, who asked that their names and establishments not be identified for fear that “something might happen,” expressed belief the bombings are “a message to get others inline” to pay protection money to syndicate extortionists or to force the sale of products and supplies from hoodlum‐owned purveying firms.
Mickelberry's Log Cabin restaurant was razed shortly after the bombing in 1964.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Tom Howard Jr., Chicago Tribune photographer, took one of the most famous photos in newspaper history. The shocking story behind Ruth Snyder's execution and Howard's famous photograph.

During the 1920s, a daily newspaper would go to outlandish lengths to top its rivals. If you were the first one with the big story, you sold more papers. Ditto if you had an exclusive story—a “scoop.”  Ditto again if you had an exclusive photo.

Thomas James "Tom" Howard Jr. was part of this milieu. In 1928 the young Chicago Tribune photographer took one of the most famous photos in newspaper history. And it all began with a scruffy little murder in Queens, New York.

Who Was Ruth Snyder?
Ruth Snyder
Ruth Snyder knew she wanted to kill her husband almost from the moment she met him.

Albert Snyder seemed to be continuously and hopelessly devoted to his late fiancee Jessie Guishard. Even after marrying Ruth, he proclaimed Guishard (who had been dead for 10 years) to be the finest woman he had ever met. At one point, he hung a picture of her on the wall of their home and then insisted upon naming his boat after her.

So Ruth, shunned by a man in love with a dead woman, took a lover by the name of Henry Judd Gray. Gray was a corset salesman who lived in Queens Village, where the Snyders made their home, and the two had met in town. Shortly after meeting, the two began to plot Albert’s murder.

First, Ruth persuaded Albert to purchase life insurance, a $48,000 policy ($704,000 today) that had a double indemnity clause, meaning that even if Albert died from an unexpected act of violence (say, murder), Ruth would still get her money. Then, Ruth and Gray began to plot.

According to testimony Gray gave after he was arrested, the couple tried to kill Albert seven times before they actually succeeded. Finally, on March 20, 1927, they managed to kill him. After garrotting him, and stuffing his nose with chloroform-soaked rags, they staged his death and the home to appear as if it had been burgled.

The police quickly saw through her lies, after a hastily constructed tale of the so-called burglary fell through. A few days after Albert’s death, both Gray and Ruth were arrested. Though Ruth maintained her silence throughout questioning, Gray folded almost immediately under pressure, fessing up to the entire crime. Upon hearing Gray had confessed, Ruth turned on him, claiming it was his idea from the start.

Both of them were found guilty and sentenced to die in the electric chair at the New York State prison, Sing Sing, in Ossining, New York.

The press coverage of Ruth Snyder’s trial had been covered by the biggest names in crime reporting, such as James M. Cain. Cain would later write a novella that would be turned into the film “Double Indemnity,” which loosely mirrors the Snyder case.

The attention given to the case by reporters had successfully turned it from a small town murder into a sensational nationwide crime. As soon as the people heard there would be an execution, the first woman’s in 30 years, everyone wanted a piece of the action.

However, when the police heard that everyone wanted coverage, they shut it down. While photography was usually prohibited in executions, Sing Sing guards took it especially seriously in Ruth’s case. No member of the media would get in with a camera, that much the guards were sure of.

Little did they know what Tom Howard had up his sleeve – or up his pant leg, to be exact.

The New York Daily News was a tabloid that had built its reputation on sensational news photos. Ruth Snyder was going to be the first woman executed in several years, and publisher Joseph Medill Patterson wanted a picture of the execution. Trouble was, photographing an execution was not allowed, and prison authorities knew all of the Daily News photographers. So Patterson phoned his cousin, Chicago Tribune publisher Robert R. McCormick who agreed to lend Tom Howard to the Daily News. In New York, Howard obtained press credentials to attend the executions as a writer.

On January 12, 1928, he arrived at the prison with a miniature single-shot camera strapped to his ankle. A wire attached to the shutter ran up his trouser leg to a trigger-release concealed in his coat.
Tom Howard’s ankle camera.
Howard waited while Henry Judd Gray was executed. Then came Ruth Snyder’s turn. Howard edged forward. As the current surged through her body, Howard squeezed the trigger release. Then it was over, and he rushed back to the Daily News offices in Manhattan. The photo he took was angled slightly and blurry, but nonetheless priceless. Despite not being able to even see what he was taking a photo of, and having to guess his aim by using the toe of his shoe as a pointer, the photo was ultimately a good one. 

Howard had no way of knowing if the plan had worked until the photographic plate was actually developed. But it had worked. Four hours after Ruth Snyder’s execution, Daily News extras were on the street, the entire front page filled with Howard’s photo of her death throes. The headline simply read “DEAD!
The front page of the New York Daily News the day after Ruth Snyder’s execution.
Tom Howard Jr. was paid $100 ($1,500 today) extra for his photograph.

Prison officials were outraged by the picture. They talked about bringing charges against Howard and the Daily News. But since no laws had actually been broken, the matter was dropped. Still, in the decades since, anyone admitted to an execution site undergoes a thorough search for concealed cameras.

The photo was instantly hailed as the most famous tabloid photo of the decade, and indeed, it was. The photo itself — as hazy it was — was shocking. The image of Ruth Snyder’s fingers curled around the arms of the electric chair haunted audiences for years.
The camera Howard used to snap the shot is part of the collection of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.

Tom Howard returned to his career in Chicago. When he died in 1961, he was the chief photographer at the Chicago Sun-Times Newspaper.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.