Narrator: Europeans who had flocked to 19th Century Chicago for jobs crouched together for survival. They created ethnic enclaves little Germanys, Italy's, Warsaws, and Pragues, glowering at each other with suspicion
Douglas Bukowski, Writer: I think the best way to look at late 19th century Chicago is to think of it as a great boxing ring by the lake. People just didn't get along here. Nobody who was Polish wanted to have an Irish priest. Nobody who was Irish wanted to go to a German church. This whole notion of tolerance for other groups was foreign to people who didn't know any other groups in the old country.
Narrator: They made Chicago the most American city as they clawed their way toward the American dream. When they saw the dream vanish, they turned to anarchy.And met a fate that seemed less like justice than revenge. Chicago had grown so fast in the 19th Century that it became unmanageable - the most corrupt, crime-ridden city in America. After the bombing at Haymarket Square, the union movement was crushed, workers exploited. Government was limited - no safety nets, no standards for housing, public health or job safety. People had to cope on their own.
Donald L. Miller, Author: When you talk about what I call buccaneering capitalism, you're talking about Chicago. It's just explosive, reckless growth. And it turned Chicago into a tremendous opportunity center and a place of just boiling creativity. But it also turns it into an almost unlivable city, because there were no restraints or regulations on anything.
Narrator: The world looked at Chicago with fear and wonder - and saw the future.
Chicago: City of the Century
Part III: Battle for Chicago
Narrator: It was a utopian vision. A city with broad streets shaded by trees and lined with fine buildings. Statues glistened and fountains flashed in the late afternoon sun. Public buildings were of unparalleled grandeur. Everyone had work. There were no strikes. No anarchy. And - no freedom. Workers were regimented like an army. Boston novelist Edward Bellamy published Looking Backward in 1887, a year after Haymarket. His utopian city was an uncanny foreshadowing of the fantasy city Chicago would create for its World's Fair six years later.
Donald L. Miller, Author: The book was enormously popular. Next to Uncle Tom's Cabin and the Bible, it's the third most popular book in the 19th century. Why? It hit a nerve. And this is the nerve. How can we end this labor discord? How can we turn cities around? This is an age that still believes in cities. Isn't it interesting that the utopia is a city? In England, Robert Morris is writing at the same time and utopia is in the countryside. But this is a city. And Americans still have this faith in cities.
Narrator: Despite the difficulties they would face, immigrants saw in Chicago not problems but opportunity. When they arrived from New York, many walked from Dearborn Station to the Near West Side. It became the city's most famous neighborhood. America's most famous after New York's Lower East Side.
Paul Green, Political Scientist: Famous because they had the worst housing, the worst schools, the worst crime, but it was a place where poor people could find a place to live. Probably on Halsted and Maxwell Street, that area there would be a place in which most newcomers at the bottom would start. Most of the people couldn't wait to get out, and most of them did.
Peggy Glowacki, Historian: This was a neighborhood that was tremendously active, in which people were very transitory. They moved in and out of the neighborhood as they had money, they moved around within the neighborhood as they lost jobs and gained jobs.
Narrator: Landlords turned two story houses into four story tenements, and packed the newcomers into squalid backyard outbuildings with little or no plumbing. This is where Hilda Satt settled at age 10 in 1892 when her parents emigrated from a town on the Vistula River in Poland.
Dena Epstein, Hilda Satt's Daughter: They settled on the Near West Side near Halstead Street in a largely Russian-Jewish neighborhood. There were blocks and blocks of stores with signs in Hebrew or Yiddish, and, uh, you could walk for miles and not hear a word of English spoken.
Narrator: Hilda's father easily found work engraving tombstones. He could write Polish, Russian, and German as well as Hebrew and Yiddish. After a year, he died of a heart attack. His wife went to work peddling food door-to-door. Along with her sister, Hilda found work - at age 13 - running one of 400 sewing machines in a sweat-shop on a sordid block on South State Street, a mile from Marshall Field's elegant store. She never had the money or the time to shop there.
Epstein: She operated a sewing machine. And the thing that impressed me--of course, I had never heard of such things--they were charged rent for the machines they operated, they were charged for needles that broke, oil to oil the machine--that was all taken out of their paychecks, which were pretty small to begin with.
Narrator: Hilda Satt's four dollars a week helped feed her mother and four young siblings. For others less fortunate, Chicago provided no safety net or welfare programs. Help, if any, came from the local ward politician. Johnny Powers, the most powerful alderman in the City Council, represented the Near West Side. As the neighborhood become more Italian than Irish, he became known as Johnny de Pow. Or "the Great Mourner" for all the wakes he attended.
Green: Funeral's a good place to go to meet people. You could show your compassion. I believe the phrase today would be, you could feel their pain, and share it with them. Occasional tear, you say a little prayer, you move on. Sometimes you'd do six, seven funerals a night. You know, wakes were very important. But he had food to give out, he had favors to give out. People get in trouble with the law, he could get them out of jail.
Narrator: One Christmas, Powers gave away six tons of turkeys and more than four tons of ducks and geese. All he wanted from his constituents was their vote. He got it.
Perry Duis, Historian: Politics, you have to understand, at this time for a lot of people was purely an economic phenomenon. You sold your vote because that was one of the few things that you had to sell. And the matter of morality, the idea of, political participation or citizenship as an abstract phenomenon was simply not a part of their world.
Narrator: Powers paid for the turkeys - as well as a large house, two saloons and flashy diamonds - with kickbacks called "boodle". Street car tycoon Charles Tyson Yerkes and others who needed licenses for utilities paid "boodle" to each alderman for the use of streets in his ward. As head of the City Council, Johnny Powers was "Prince of the Boodlers." Yerkes played the game.
Miller: Yerkes put it like this: This is a deal maker's town. This is a hustler's city. They're selling the city streets here, to the highest bidder. And guess what? I'll be the highest bidder. Powers would say to Yerkes, "I not only," you know, "want a payoff; what I want is, when the line's up, if it's through an Irish neighborhood, I want all Irish conductors on those lines." So Powers could stand there on the sidewalk and say, "Look at that streetcar line. It's all our boys on there that are running the thing." Yerkes, yeah, he's corrupt as hell. But he feels that he's come into a city that is the most corrupt he's ever seen.
Duis: Mayor Carter Harrison lecturing at Harvard once said that someone came in to take a picture of the city council and all the aldermen ducked under the desks because they thought it was a police identification photograph.
Narrator: Though outnumbered by Germans two to on, the Irish controlled ward politics - and benefited from its patronage. Walking a police beat was a step up from building railroads. The system was sustained through corrupt elections. In the 1883 municipal elections George Washington cast his ballot in the Ninth Ward, as did Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. The police once locked up 25 Polish Republicans until the polls closed. To thwart Germans voting on their way to work, the Irish changed voting places at night. Germans supporting anti-machine candidates were driven from the polls by Irish police.
Green: It was a rough business. Uh, you didn't hire too many college graduates. The term right-hand man I really believe started in Chicago, because you wanted someone who had a good right.
Edward M. Burke, Alderman: There was kidnappings, there were murders, there were bombings, there were ballot irregularities. I'm reminded of that old story about the lady that lived her whole life in Vincenz, Indiana, and she was a loyal, committed Democrat. And she provided in her will that when she died, she wanted to be buried in Chicago, because she wanted to remain active in the party. (laughs)
Narrator: Not far from the Near West Side, close to the train stations and hotels, was the red light and gambling district known as the Levee. It was a paradise for pleasure seekers -- and for hustlers.
Thomas J. O'Gorman, Writer: Rubes from Iowa would come in with their pockets filled with money and they'd go into some bordello, and the next thing you'd know they'd be standing out in the street in their long underwear, and they wouldn't even have the hat they came in with.
Duis: Mickey Finn was a bartender who operated a place in the Levee district and allegedly placed knockout drops in the drinks of unfortunate strangers who were, came into his place, and they would be relieved of their valuables, sometimes their clothing, and cast out into an alley.
Miller: There were a number of types of houses of prostitution. There were cribs. They were awful places. You could get sex for a nickel in a crib. They were usually women who were opium addicts. And then you moved up the scale as it were.
Narrator: The Sporting and Club House Directory pointed men to the upscale bordellos. Carrie Watson's in the 1880s and the Everleigh Club at the end of the century were run like regal men's clubs with luxurious parlors where guests were served chilled wine in silver goblets by silk-gowned women. The walls of bedrooms were covered with expensive paintings and tapestries.
O'Gorman: Well the Everleigh Club was probably the most prestigious bordello in Chicago. The story goes that one of Marshall Field's sons, who supposedly died at home, actually died at the Everleigh Club, and they dressed him and got him back to the big mansion on the South Side so he could be found dead there. But the Everleigh sisters ran this kind of gilded bordello. They wouldn't slip you a Mickey Finn, and you'd come out with your clothes on. They were really the grand madams of Chicago.
Narrator: The madams contributed generously to the campaigns of the First Ward's aldermen. One was "Bathhouse" John Coughlin, a cheerful outgoing Irishman who perfected his massaging skills as chief rubber in the Turkish bath at the Palmer House. There was no better place for a bath after a riotous evening in the Levee. When he won re-election in 1893, Mayor Carter Harrison closed down some gambling dens in the First Ward, including the dice game over the saloon of Michael Kenna. A quiet, unsmiling political wizard, Kenna, only five feet one inch, was known as "Hinky Dink". Hinky Dink called "Bathhouse" Coughlin. John," he growled to The Bath, who had not supported Harrison...we ain't getting the dough... We got a good thing, and we want to hold on." "Now...behave and soft-soap Carter." Bath House Coughlin made peace with the Mayor. "'I promise loyalty to you, Mr. Maar. We're getting an organization that's the best...The organization is all yours, Mr. Maar.'" The Bath and Hinky Dink muscled out King Mike McDonald and became for forty years "the Lords of the Levee." They protected the gambling dens after taking their cut. "Never take anything big," Congressman William Mason advised "the Bath" at Billy Boyle's chophouse. "Stick to the little stuff. It's safer."
Miller: Carter Harrison was lenient about this. There's a great story about him. A group of ministers came to his house, a true story, and complained about that there were 6 or 7 "gambling hells" as they called them operating last night, full blast, all night, on Clark Street. He goes, "I know. I was down there and it was great." [laughs]
Green: He had the ability to deal with the gamblers and the people running the First Ward. And he would also have the ability to deal with the people who were building the symphony. Potter Palmer, one of the wealthiest men in Chicago, and his wife were big Carter Harrison supporters. They would open up the Palmer House for election night for Carter Harrison so the unwashed could drink at the famous Potter Palmer House bar.
Narrator: Harrison was a distant relative of two presidents and a Yale graduate. He had come to Chicago from Kentucky in 1855 "for a few years," he said, "until I can make enough...to grease my own and my children's wheels for all time to come." He never left .He made money in real estate, then entered politics and tried to bridge the gap between labor and capital, between Protestant industrialists and the largely Catholic immigrants. "Ours is a cosmopolitan city...aggregated from many nationalities," he told the City Council when he first became Mayor in 1879. " The failure to recognize that "each...has...its own civilization," he said, "would be both ungenerous and unwise." On September 18, 1889 an aristocratic young women moved into a house in the Near West Side, the neighborhood of Johnny Powers, Prince of the Boodlers, to see if she could help. The work she did would make Jane Addams the most famous woman in America, the most famous woman in the world after Queen Victoria. The press would call her "Saint Jane." Addams was born in Cedarville, an Illinois prairie town, the pampered daughter of its wealthiest merchant. She was among the first generation of women to graduate from college.
Peggy Glowacki, Historian: She graduated with energy and enthusiasm, and nowhere to expend it. As a young, single woman at the time, she was expected to either marry or stay home and become everyone's favorite aunt and take care of the family. And she wanted more from her life.
Narrator: She took two grand tours of Europe, and when she tired of the galleries, she wandered into White Chapel, a slum in London's East End. There she found her calling.
Dominic Pacyga, Historian: She goes through an epiphinal experience. It's a slap in the face. She writes something like, "You know, there were these prostitutes in White Chapel." This is Jack the Ripper time, right? These 12-year-old, 13-year-old prostitutes. And she says, "There but for the grace of God go I. Those people look like little Janey. Uh, so why is, you know, back home we're saying, Well, that's those people who do that, those people from eastern Europe, or southern Europe, or Black people." But here's a white, Anglo-Saxon protestant prostitute that could be Jane Addams. So what's the difference between me and that girl?"
Narrator: Jane Addams visited Toynbee Hall in the East End, the world's first settlement house, established by Oxford graduates. To break down class barriers, they taught art and literature to the poor. In Chicago she bought the run-down mansion of Charles Hull, now surrounded by a sea of immigrants in the city's worst neighborhood. At age 29 Jane Addams established Hull-House, her own settlement house, in the Near West Side. She recruited about 20 upper class white women and moved in.
Pacyga: She decided to move into the community, because she'd learned from the boys at Toynbee Hall that the only way to understand poverty was to live the life of poverty, was to move into it.
Victoria Brown, Historian: What Jane Addams originally hoped to accomplish sounds quite humble. It was a desire to create mutual social relations between working class and the steward class, or the more blessed members of society. Her belief was that democracy is enhanced if every member of the democracy understands the point of view of other members of the democracy.
Narrator: She began by offering her poor neighbors, as Toynbee Hall had, upper class culture - including classes in Shakespeare.
Douglas Bukowski, Writer: Now, imagine this: Shakespeare on the West Side, in the middle of the West Side. These people are poor. They don't necessarily know where their next meal's coming from. But the crazy lady who opened what looked to be a whore house but it's really something called a settlement house, wants them to sit around and have tea and discuss somebody named Shakespeare. I would have loved to have been there for that first meeting of the Shakespeare club at Hull-House.
Brown: She was attracting a working class population of what I might call strivers, who aspired to middle-class status. And they did attend these classes because that was an avenue of survival, and very popular English classes were taught at Hull-House. People were not conscripted to take those classes, people were grateful for an opportunity to have somebody teach them English for free, and in a setting in which they were going to be treated with dignity.
Narrator: Addams believed in the refining power of art. Near West Side visitors were treated to reproductions of the European masters. She soon learned her neighbors had more basic needs. "We were ready to perform the humblest neighborhood services," she later wrote. "We were asked to wash the newborn babies, and to prepare the dead for burial, to nurse the sick and to 'mind the children.'" Supported by wealthy patrons, Hull-House ran a nursery, kindergarten classes, clubs for older children, and night classes for adults. It offered people who could not bathe all winter public baths, a gymnasium, a swimming pool and the city's first public playground. When a local synagogue could no longer support its orchestra, Russian immigrants brought their eleven year-old son - and his clarinet - to Hull-House. Benny Goodman joined the Hull-House band. When Hilda Satt dropped out of the Jewish Training School to sew cuffs in a sweat-shop, she took evening classes at Hull-House
Epstein: And one of the courses she took was in creative writing, and the man who taught that course was the secretary to the President of the University of Chicago. Apparently, he was so impressed by what she produced that he arranged for her to get a scholarship to the University of Chicago for one quarter, that's all. But she went from 4th grade to the University of Chicago, which in itself is kind of remarkable, and she placed out of freshman English. I was just astonished at that.
Narrator: Hull-House helped Hilda Satt escape the poverty of the Near West Side. She met a young man who liked the theater, married him and moved to Wisconsin. Her daughter Dena grew up in a working class area in Wisconsin and went to the University of Chicago on a scholarship. Her granddaughter Suzanne Epstein got her doctorate at MIT, runs a lab for the Food and Drug Administration and lives in upscale Bethesda, Maryland. Many of the 9,000 visitors a week that Hull-House would come to attract came to hearlectures on the pressing issues of the day.
Glowacki: Jane Addams was a great believer in free speech. Hull-House had socialists come and talk here, they had anarchists come and talk here--they even had vegetarians come and talk here. So they were open to ideas, they wanted them to be out in the public.
Narrator: Some Hull-House projects were more successful than others. Tearing down a tenement to build a playground was not a success.
Bukowski: People were really hostile for a reason no one in the settlement house ever thought about. And it was that by having this tenement torn down, they had in effect reduced the number of apartments available. And what they learned is that a ratty apartment is better than no apartment at all.
Narrator: Another project was to provide ready-made meals for women to take home to their families.
Glowacki: Sounds like a great idea. People stayed away in droves. There was a lot of creamed codfish on the menu, and mutton stew, no spaghetti, no kielbasa, people in this neighborhood were not interested in Hull-House's sort of sanitized version of good food. They also may have offended the sensibilities of the women in this neighborhood. The role of cooking for your family was considered a very primary role for most women. And who were these young women? How dare they try to cook for people's families. So the public kitchen was never much of a success.
Narrator: Jane Addams had more success when she tackled the garbage problem. The alleyways of the Near West Side were piled high with garbage - infested with maggots.
Brown: Children were playing with maggots as if they were little pets. And she recognized that this was tremendously dangerous for the health of the community. There was diphtheria in this community, there was typhoid in this community, there was a high death rate of children below the age of five.
Leon Despres, Former Alderman: The ward bosses just didn't care about such things. They didn't care about health measures. The positions were a political patronage positions, the people in charge of getting rid of the garbage were not interested in their task, and the ward bosses were interested in the patronage, not in the cleaning of garbage.
Narrator: Jane Addams tried to unseat Johnny Powers as alderman and lost. He could get voters jobs. She could not. She did get herself appointed the ward's garbage inspector, at $1000 a year, the only paying job she ever had.
Peggy Glowacki, Hull House Museum: Jane Addams got up every morning at the crack of dawn, and followed the garbage wagons through this neighborhood. Garbage was put into wooden boxes that were basically nailed to the wooden sidewalks, and so it wasn't simply a matter of sort of picking up the box and throwing it into the back of a wagon--you had to shovel this garbage out. Now, if you were a political patronage appointee, chances are you didn't feel much incentive to dig too deep into the garbage boxes, and she made sure they hit bottom.
Narrator: Most immigrants survived without the benefit of settlement houses. Reporter Theodore Dreiser wrote of a "hard, constructive animality" as he walked the streets of Chicago. In the can-cluttered yards of broken-down cottages, "you could find men who were tanning dog or cat hides, or making soap, or sorting rags, or picking chickens... In some neighborhoods the rancidity of dirt or the bony stark bleakness of poverty fairly shouted, but if such neighborhoods were here," he wrote, "they were never still, decaying pools of misery.
Dan Rostenkowski, Former Congressman: There was opportunity here and if you worked hard you could make it. They didn't view it as poverty. It was struggling to make a living, to give your kids an education, to enjoy the benefits of freedom.
Narrator: To survive, immigrants banded together in a defensive communalism. They created neighborhoods. A little Ireland, a little Germany, a little Poland.
Rostenkowski: My grandfather on my mother's side was driving a team of horses for the streetcar. My mother used to tell me that if you were going that way you'd put your shoe on the window sill, point the shoe that way, and the conductor would stop and ring the bell until you came down and got on the street car, to go that way. If you were going the other way you pointed the shoe that way and the conductor stopped, looked up at the window. Everybody felt that they lived in a community.
Narrator: Communities were anchored by churches. St. Stanislaus Kostka in "Polish Downtown" became by the end of the 19th Century one of the largest Catholic parishes in the world. In 1871 the Irish bishop appointed a Lithuanian as its first priest. After six Poles beat him senseless, he scurried back to Pennsylvania. The bishop replaced him with a Polish priest.
Green: This was not a politically correct city. We had people in the same religion refusing to go to some other nationality's church. You had all this ethnic diversity within the boundaries of a city, but certainly not working on diversity issues. People write about Chicago being this most racially segregated city. Before there was a race issue, Chicago was the most ethnically segregated city.
Narrator: Communities developed their own institutions. Building and loan associations provided mortgages. Peter Rostenkowski, Dan's grandfather, established one in his house after he arrived in Chicago in 1868.
Rostenkowski: I remember it being called the Home Loan Bank, and people came in, put the 75 cents in and took the receipt out, and there was nobody in the office, the office was left unattended. And at the end of the day my grandfather would come back from whatever he was doing and take out the change, and noticed that the receipts were gone, knowing that the home loan was, was reinstated.
Bukowski: It was a kind of club. You pay into the club and eventually, if you're there long enough and you've put in enough money, you qualify for a mortgage and you can buy your house. So what you get here is a very strong example of community self-reliance. Now, imagine a bank, you're a peasant five years removed from Galesia. You come downtown, you go on LaSalle Street, you walk into a bank, and you see this beautiful marble room where people do business. You're scared out of your wits. So what they do instead is they rely on this cultural tradition, the building and loan.
Narrator: Ethnic saloons were more than places to drink. They were places to gather, read a newspaper, deposit valuables in a safe. For people who moved or were evicted, they became a permanent address.
Duis: There are many stories where someone arriving from the Old Country would be clutching an address of a saloon, and someone would have to be sent from the saloon to the relative's house in order to greet them. And then often their trunks would end up in the basement of the saloon, being stored there.
Narrator: Church schools gave immigrant children a sense of community while they eased the transition into American life.
O'Gorman: You went to the Catholic school and they'd tell you, "Wash your hands and face. Put on a clean shirt. Stand up when a woman walks in the room." I mean, they reinforced social behavior, you know, in many ways it's the stuff Jesse Jackson and leaders within the African-American community know. How do you connect people to opportunity? How do you connect people to power? Well, I believe this is really a strong component of Catholic education. You might have had a Polish order of nuns teaching you, but you had to learn English and you had to speak it. You might not speak it at home, but you had to speak it at school. There was no romantic reverence for language. And so within a generation you could-- you could leave behind the baggage that kept you, for the most part, a peasant, and move on
Pacyga: It's an ironic kind of way, those churches and those institutions and those schools were most successful when they allowed people the mobility to leave those neighborhoods. You do see a very slow, but obvious generational mobility. If you didn't, people wouldn't come. And that's important.
Narrator: Charles Larson, a blacksmith, left Sweden in 1890 at age 21. He settled in Chicago and forged parts for police and fire wagons. He bought a steam hammer. His sons bought one of the largest in Chicago. In World War II, they forged parts for the 16 inch guns of battleships. His grandsons fashion titanium components for the space shuttle. A minister in the early 1880s noted that Chicago was the only city of its size in the world with not "a single structure built by local benevolence." It was so dirty and barren of culture that no one vacationed there. In the decade after Haymarket, the sons of Chicago's business elite showed the world their city was about more than bomb throwers and pig stickers. They built cultural institutions that would uplift the city as churches uplifted the neighborhoods. In 1887 Charles Hutchinson, son of a pork packer, opened the Art Institute. He rushed to Tuscany to snap up a Rembrandt and other treasures from a widowed princess. He "probably paid $1,000 a foot for his Rubenses, Rembrandts and Van Dykes, " New York reporters scoffed, and will be led on a float through the streets "by a team of milk white Berkshire hogs." "We have made our money in pigs," Hutchinson retorted, "is that any reason why we should not spend it on paintings?" Hutchinson wanted to raise the cultural level of hard driving business men like his father, who he said were in "a state of slavery...mere machines devoted to business." His father was dismayed.
Helen L. Horowitz, Historian: Charles Hutchinson bought a French painting of a sheep meadow, a pastoral scene, and his father looked at it, and he said, Think of it, my son paid $500 a piece for five sheep, when I could have bought each one of them, live, for $2 a head.
Narrator: Charles Hutchinson was another who believed in the refining power of beauty.
Horowitz: No modernist carries around this notion of art, but in this period, art was meant to elevate, to refine. The word refine was a very clear metaphor for what they wanted in the human self. The body was filled with all sorts of urges and desires and material wishes, and you take that dross and you take it through the prism of art and you refine that into a more elevated self.
Narrator: By the early 20th Century the Art Institute was drawing more visitors than Boston's Museum of Fine Arts or New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. It charged no admission on Sundays, the workingman's day off. One regular visitor was a Polish immigrant from Packingtown. "We have built this institution for the public not for a few," Hutchinson said. "We want the people of Chicago to feel it is their property."
Neil Harris, Historian: Did people give to the art museum or support the public library movement to provide distraction, to avoid concentration on the economic differences, which separated the haves or have-nots? Were these instruments of social control? Or are they instruments actually of inspirational uplift? Historians have spilled a lot of ink on these questions. Uplift has, at-- At its center, I think, the notion that institutions could improve the spiritual welfare of the population as a whole.
Narrator: Another who tried to improve the welfare of the people was Montgomery Ward. He looked down from his towering mail order headquarters on Michigan Avenue and saw Grant Park and a waterfront despoiled by the Illinois Central tracks. Battling developers who valued the land, Ward led a 13 year campaign to enforce the decision made in 1836 that the lakefront remain "forever open...free of any buildings or obstruction." He even opposed Marshall Field for wanting to build a museum in the park. "I fought for the poor people," he said, "not the millionaires."
Despres: He had to fight everyone. The Tribune a powerful newspaper in the nineteenth century was against him. The other owners on Michigan Avenue were against him. He had very little support. The Field family threatened not to give money for the Field Museum if he prevailed. But he kept on to save the lakefront for Chicago, and finally the Supreme Court of Illinois upheld him.
Narrator: The Field family agreed to build a Museum of Natural History, one of the landmarks on Chicago's lakefront, south of Grant Park. The park remains "forever open, free of any obstruction." In November 1889, Chicago unveiled a new music hall, the Auditorium Theater. Bankrolled by businessmen rallied by Ferdinand Peck, it was the first major commission for Louie Sullivan, the young partner of an established acoustical engineer.
Tim Samuelson, Chicago Historical Society: Dankmar Adler and Louie Sullivan were given the job to do it. Why? Not because of Sullivan, but because they knew that Dankmar Adler could give them the best possible theatre. Sullivan just kind of came along as part of the package.
Narrator: Like the poet Walt Whitman whom he admired, Sullivan was obsessed with the idea of democracy.
Harris: One of Sullivan's notions about the Auditorium was that it was democratic because it didn't have the boxes that the European opera houses did. The purchase of a box and the presence in a certain box of the wealthy was part of the opera ritual.
Studs Terkel, Writer: The old concert halls were hierarchical--you know, one box on top, on top, and kings and queens sat at one, and all, boxes were separated by class. The Auditorium was democratic. You could see from every seat. You could hear from every seat. Caruso sang there and said you could hear a pin-a drop. That was the Auditorium.
Samuelson: When the theater first opened up, there was going to be a special concert for the working people of Chicago. And some on the Auditorium board had suggested that they should put some kind of covering over the seats, so that the workmen's dirty clothing would not soil the seats. And there are stories of Ferdinand Peck stomping his foot and saying no, that if he was going to cover them with anything, he would cover them with even finer velvets than were on there. And I think this kind of gives you an idea of the democratic ideals that were very much a part of the Auditorium project.
Narrator: At the opening banquet, the mayor praised the businessmen who had backed it - not for money but for "public spirit", for "the honor and glory of their city." In a city of talented, music loving Germans, the Chicago Symphony, which performed in the Auditorium Theater, never advertised in German language newspapers. The democratic ideals had their limits. The theater was part of the Auditorium Building, at the time the largest building in the world, the tallest structure in North America. To help pay for the theater, it included a hotel and an office building.
Duis: The idea that the tallest building should be in Chicago rather than in New York is something that for them is-- It's physical, you can't argue with it. So that if you have a great orchestra or a great artist and Eastern critics are dismissive, then, well, how are you going to argue back and forth? Maybe they know more, or whatever. But the building is there, and by golly you can't argue with something physical. And I think that obsession with architecture really has to do with the city's desire to be a world class city.
Narrator: The men who built the Auditorium Building featured it in an ad in Harper's in 1889 as they made their case for Chicago as the site for the 1892 World's Fair. They also trumpeted their stock yards.
Harris: This was the four hundredth anniversary of the Colombian voyage. didn't get to Chicago, although you wouldn't have known that from, um, the way Chicagoans talked.
Narrator: "The men who have helped build Chicago want this fair," their resolution read, " and...they intend to get it."
Miller: Their argument was: We're the center of gravity in the country. Power and population is shifting gradually to the Midwest. And a train ride from New York to Chicago is a train ride to the heart of the country. You can see America. You just come into New York, you won't see America. It's also, they said, a train ride into the future, because you'll see the city of the future, a city built completely from scratch, from the ground up.
Narrator: In two and one half years, Frederick Law Olmsted, America's most famous landscape architect, working with architects Daniel Burnham and John Wellborn Root 6 converted a swamp on the shore of Lake Michigan into an American Venice with inter-linked canals, basins and lagoons It was the most gigantic landscape scheme ever attempted in the country. "It is safe to say," the Hartford Courant reported "that no other community in all history except the Chicago community could have done it. In no other city is there the requisite public spirit, generosity, and headlong energy." The opening ball was held on time in the Auditorium Theater in October 1892. Harriet Pullman organized the dancing lessons; George went through the motions. He once wrote his daughter Florence: "You provide the sort of family happiness I don't get from your mother. Marshall Field could "give the lady what she wants" at work, not at night. He was on the verge of a divorce. Phillip Armour was up way past his bed time. Hostess Bertha Palmer featured a gown of yellow satin with puffs of velvet from Worth's in Paris. Potter tagged along. There were no sightings of Gustavus Swift. He may have been inspecting the sewer at Bubbly Creek. The Prairie Avenue crowd took its dancing lessons at Bournique's on 23rd Street. General Phil Sheridan advanced with military single mindedness and "stepped on my toes," one partner sighed, "and did not reverse until I was dizzy." This elite group controlled Chicago's commerce, its culture. Now the Fair. The world would descend on their city in May. They had time to regain control of its politics. Tribune editor Joseph Medill would see to that. It meant defeating Carter Harrison in his bid for a fifth term as mayor. Harrison who put on Polish costumes for Polish festivals. Who accepted the neighborhoods in all their unruliness. Harrison who tolerated gambling and prostitution. Who supported labor unions. Who had even allowed the anarchists to rally.
Miller: And Medill is just hammering away at him in the press. He's on his editors all the time, "Get this guy." Even though he respected him in private, but "Get him." And it's easily the most vituperative campaign in Chicago history. They went at him hammer and tong, and-mostly on the anarchist issue. "He's the guy who let them march in the streets. He's the guy who encouraged the 8-hour day. He's the guy who encouraged the violence, and testified at the Haymarket case that there was no violence when he left the Haymarket Square."
Narrator: The businessmen ran one of their own, Samuel Allerton, a millionaire pork packer.
Miller: He says, "I am a businessman, not a politician." Medill says, "Fine. We'll push him as a businessman. This is a business city. It's the second largest corporation in the country," he said. New York's the first. And this guy will run it like a business corporation, with efficiency and elan and leadership.
Narrator: The Tribune and the businessmen could not match Harrison's support in the ethnic neighborhoods. Carter Henry Harrison won the battle for the soul of Chicago by the largest margin of his five campaigns. The celebration in neighborhood saloons lasted all night. It was then that Bathhouse Coughlin soft soaped the mayor - pledging his support, for a price. "You take the fair now, Mr. Maar. I ain't on a single Fair committee. I'm used to meeting people down here in the First, and I ought to be on some of them reception committees.''' "'I'll see that you get on some committees,' Harrison replied. 'I welcome your support.'" As the New York press trumpeted the view that Chicago would "put on a cattle show on the shores of Lake Michigan," The Honorable John "Bathhouse" Coughlin took his turn at Central Station, greeting visitors from around the world. The business elite was dealt a further blow when a monument to the anarchists was unveiled. The next day Governor John Peter Altgeld pardoned the three who were in prison and denounced the trial. No matter how fanatical their beliefs, Altgeld said, "no greater damage could possible threaten our institutions than to have the courts of justice run wild or to give way to popular clamor." The pardon made Altgeld the most hated man in America. The press charged him with encouraging anarchy. The Tribune attacked his German birth: "He does not reason like an American, nor feel like one, and consequently does not behave like one." On May 1, 1893, Chicago's elite offered the world what they wanted the world to see. Two hundred thousand people were on hand when President Grover Cleveland opened the Fair. The fair's buildings were temporary structures coated with plaster. Called The White City, it was the businessmen's idea of civic order -white, clean and safe - everything Chicago was not.
Miller: It's an imaging thing. The fair is an imaging thing. Chicago hated this image of the black city, the city of smoke, soot, dirt, pollution, and gambling houses, and whatever. So the idea is, you bring them into the first class hotels. And Olmsted set this up beautifully. They would take excursion boats from downtown and sweep across the magnificent skyline and land at the fair, and take a moveable sidewalk and go into the Court of Honor, and here's the new Chicago. It provided just the things that- to settle, I think, the nerve a little bit after Haymarket.
Narrator: This utopian world was reflected by the fair's official photography. All is orderly; the weather, perfect; people, lifeless.
Harris: They presented pictures of these European-like boulevards, canals with gondolas and gondoliers, escorting elegantly dressed ladies and gentlemen. It was presented as an upper middle class festival. Safe, clean, lots of music, lots of art.
Despres: Well my parents spoke about the World's Fair with the greatest enthusiasm and interest. It made a tremendous impression on them. My mother was 17. And my father was 31. They spoke about the Palace of Fine Arts. They had the idea that this was the greatest art in the world that was brought to Chicago for the World's Fair. They talked about a painting, "Breaking Home Ties", of a young boy leaving home to go to work, and that was the experience of my father.
Narrator: The fair's architecture reflected not the innovation that inspired the new downtown, but classical Greece and Rome.
Harris: The Fair certainly was orthodoxy in action. That is, it said, "We admire what you have done, and we can reproduce it only on an even better and grander scale." For Americans like Sullivan this represented a defeat rather than a victory for native traditions. And in that sense, you could argue the Fair was a defeat.
Narrator: Louie Sullivan was in despair. The fair, he wrote, set American architecture back 50 years. George Pullman was ecstatic. He ran special trains so fairgoers could visit his utopian town.
William Adelman, Historian: The town became almost a part of the World's Fair of 1893. It was Epcot, the Epcot of that time Epcot meaning experimental prototype community of tomorrow. This was the community of tomorrow, with hot and cold water in the homes, and bathrooms, and paved streets, and trees and flowers and things like that. And people stayed overnight to more fully enjoy it. But, they never really talked to the people.
Narrator: Those who looked beneath the surface at Pullman found that all was not well.
Pacyga: Pullman owns everything. You can't own your own home in Pullman. Pullman managers can enter your house, and tell your wife that the kitchen is painted the wrong color. That the curtains clash with the décor that is expected of a Pullman house. The Pullman manager can come in and say, "Mrs. Jones, you have a very dirty kitchen. We will force you to move unless you do-- You know, do this, that, and that." And you can be evicted. So the man has lost control over even his private life.
Narrator: A writer for Harper's came to the "unavoidable conclusion" that the "idea of Pullman is un-American...it is benevolent, well-wishing feudalism."
Duis: The fair is America's window into the future. Fairs generally function as this. It is a place where people put out outlandish ideas which can in a sense be trial balloons as to whether or not they're going to work in society as a whole. One of the most important for the Colombian Exposition was the many uses of electricity. You have an all-electric kitchen, you have electric lighting, electric elevators, electricity doing almost every kind of job in the factory or in the home. That's a very advanced idea for a lot of people.
Narrator: The lights illuminating the Court of Honor at night impressed Hilda Satt, the young immigrant from Poland. She called them "a sudden vision of Heaven."
Epstein: She was about ten at the time that was the first time she'd ever seen electric lights. It was like magic to her. Just thrilling. She never forgot it.
Narrator: At the mile-long Midway, fairgoers delighted in Pittsburgh bridge designerGeorge Ferris's 250 foot high wheel. It was his response to the fair's challenge to outdo the Eiffel Tower, the chief exhibit of the Paris world's fair. Hawkers pushed the wonders of a young escape artist. And international beauties. Immigrants who could not afford to return to Europe found a piece of home. There were exhibits from cultures all over the world.
Duis: People said that basically this was wonderful. You created kind of a human museum. Maybe the natives of those countries learned more about Americans andpeople in Western Europe learned more about those natives.
Despres: My mother spoke about the month of September. She said the Africans from Dahomey were suffering terribly from the chill in September, and the Eskimos who were there were suffering from the heat.
Narrator: To civil rights leader Frederick Douglass it was racist. The fair presented no accomplishments of more than eight million black Americans, Douglass charged, only "African savages brought here to act the monkey." As a marketing device the fair held special days for various ethnic groups - Germans, Poles, Irish, Bohemians. There was also a Colored Peoples Day. Douglas helped organize it. Ida B. Wells, his young militant friend, boycotted the day as racist. Douglass used it as a pulpit. "We Negroes love our country," he thundered. "We fought for it. We ask only that we be treated as well as those who fought against it."
Christopher Reed, Historian: She was very critical of Frederick Douglass, but she relented after the event to say, I think I was wrong. A more mature, a seasoned civil rights veteran knew how to take advantage of an opportunity.
Narrator: Tens of thousands of African Americans from across the country attended the fair.
Reed: They not only enjoyed listening to great speakers, of their groups and other groups, for example at the World Parliament of Religion or the Congress of Representative Women, but they toured the fairgrounds, looking at the different exhibits from around the world. And they thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
Narrator: Bertha Palmer, as head of the Board of Lady Managers, insisted on a separate building celebrating the accomplishments of women. A woman designed it. Bertha Palmer was not only the most powerful woman at the fair, but Chicago's hostess to the world.
O'Gorman: There's a great story. You know, the Infanta of Spain came to represent her brother, the King, at the Columbian Exposition.
Nancy Koehn, Historian: The Infanta was staying at the Palmer House, in one of the nicest suites of rooms, in what was an extraordinarily elegant hotel.
Miller: She received an invitation from the queen bee of Chicago, Bertha Palmer, who's the hostess to the World's Fair, to join her for dinner at this sumptuous mansion up on Lake Shore Drive.
O'Gorman: And when the Infanta found out that Mrs. Palmer, who lived in the castle, was the wife of the man who owned the hotel she was staying in, she decided not to go to the thing.
Miller: She asked with a scowl, "Am I to have dinner with the wife of my innkeeper?"
O'Gorman: The Spanish ambassador told her she had to make an appearance, so she showed up for a very short time and she snubbed Mrs. Palmer.
Koehn: Came late, left early.
Narrator: Bertha Palmer got her revenge in 1899 when America had gone to war with Spain. She refused an invitation to a reception in Paris for the Infanta. "I can not have dinner," she replied curtly, "with the bibulous representative of a degenerate monarch."
Koehn: And so Bertha had her revenge.
Narrator: The fair was a smashing success. New York's Harper's Weekly called it "the greatest event in the history of the country since the Civil War." It drew 27 million people, 14 million from abroad, the greatest tourist attraction in American history. On October 28, two days before the fair closed, Carter Harrison welcomed America's mayors to The White City. "When the fire swept over our city and laid it in ashes," he boasted, "the world said: 'Chicago and its boasting is now gone forever,' but Chicago said, 'We will rebuild the city better than ever,' and Chicago has done it." "Two years ago this thousand acres covered by these palaces...was the home of the muskrat. Look at it now! " He invited the mayors to "come out of this White City...into our black city. Then he went home. To be summoned to his door a few hours later. Summoned by a half-mad illiterate rejected for work at City Hall.Harrison's funeral was the most impressive in the young city's history. Two hundred thousand mourners paid their respects in City Hall. The procession to Graceland Cemetery was led by Chicago's titans of industry. Next came the aldermen and then Harrison's supporters - Irish, German, Polish, Bohemian, Italian, Greek, policemen, union leaders and socialists.
Miller: There's this tremendous outpouring for Harrison as this unifying type of figure because everyone was saying at the time that industrial cities are the scourge of the land, and they're flying apart as fast as they're built up. And they're filled with anarchists and socialists and unacceptable aliens. And is this the American future? And Harrison was the guy in Chicago that could cool that kind of stuff down.
Narrator: The next July a reporter looked up the tracks and witnessed another dark moment for the Black City. A strike at Pullman had led to a national railway strike. When this sidelined trains carrying the US mail, President Cleveland dispatched federal troops. Thirty-four people died in Chicago's bloodiest labor uprising. A Presidential commission was critical of George Pullman. In the terrible depression of 1893 he had slashed wages but not rents. Some paychecks were as little as 12 cents. He guaranteed his stockholders an 8% return.
Brown: Even the U.S. commissioners, suggested that he wasn't really playing by the rules of open capitalism, which claimed that the reason that investors were supposed to get a profit is because they took a risk. And the commissions came to the point of view of the workers, which was, where's the risk? They're not taking any risk. They've got a guaranteed 8% dividend, you know, rain or shine. Whereas the workers are having to take a big hit during this very tough times, and, in fact, suffering from starvation as a result of this.
Narrator: Renowned the world over as a symbol of social responsibility, the town of Pullman was considered by the Illinois Supreme Court an agent of social control. The court forced the company to divest it, and Pullman was absorbed by Chicago. An elusive utopia became an ordinary industrial town. Within a generation, The Florence Hotel, named after Pullman's beloved daughter, was a whore house. George Pullman's Corinthian column in Graceland Cemetery is remarkable for its beauty - and its weight. When he died brokenhearted in 1897, his casket was enshrouded in tons of reinforced cement to prevent desecration by labor activists. George Pullman had tried to speak to Chicago's labor problem, the big issue of the age, through social engineering - and failed. Others in the 1890s planted seeds of labor and social reform. In the hard soil of 19th Century capitalism, they bore no fruit. Writer Henry Demarest Lloyd championed labor unions and the 8 hour day - to no avail. He railed against the unfairness of Haymarket Judge Joseph Gary and tried - without success -to prevent his re-election in 1893. Married to the daughter of William Bross, publisher of the Tribune, Lloyd was dropped from clubs, snubbed by patrician friends and disinherited. Florence Kelly, a socialist firebrand, changed the agenda of Hull-House. She convinced Jane Addams the poor would be better served by social change, not tea parties.
Miller: Kelley is urging her to get out of Hull-House. Instead of having people come to Hull-House, you've got to go into the neighborhoods, and you've got to expose first. Because people have to know how horrid conditions are and how extensive these horrific conditions are in the city. And the only way we can do that is publicity. And we have to do it with hard statistics. This is the age of science and statistics and the beginnings of social science. So she urged these social science techniques of surveying and map-making and in this way alert a nation and try to prick the conscience of a nation.
Narrator: When Hull-House finished its elaborate survey of the Near West Side, it had a hard time finding a publisher who could handle the 14 color codes that identified each ethnic group crammed in its tenements. A vast number of families, it found, had incomes of $5 or less a week. The first systematic study of a working class neighborhood in America, the survey brought fame to Hull-House. It called attention to the Near West Side, but little changed. Kelly wrote a searing report on sweat shops which led to an Illinois law for an eight-hour day for women and children and banned child labor under 14. She was appointed Illinois's first factory inspector. Some parents bribed employers to hire their children who provided one-third of their income. Although the Illinois Supreme Court overruled the Factory Labor Law as an infringement on property rights, it would become in future decades a model of a new liberalism.
Richard Schneirov, Historian: Before this period of time reform was associated with getting corrupt politicians from the lower classes out of office and putting the quote-unquote, the best men in their place. Now you began to get a new kind of reform, which is much more closely associated with modern liberalism of the 20th century variety. In fact, this period of time is really the birth of that whole approach.
Narrator: The winter after the fair closed, arsonists burned the remains of a decaying White City. It seemed to symbolize the illusion of the urban ideal. To Ida B. Wells, Chicago's problems were overshadowed by possibilities. She found a haven she could not have found in the South for her campaign for civil rights. She remained after the fair. In coming decades Black Americans would follow her, migrating from the South by the tens of thousands in search of work. They came because they saw in Chicago not problems. They saw opportunity. Like the Irish, Germans, Scandinavians, Bohemians, Poles, Russians, Jews, and Lithuanians before them. And the Yankee speculators before them. And the French explorers who first saw the potential of the stinking river by the portage.