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CHICAGO HISTORY-

_ _ __T_h_e_M_agazine of the Chicago Historical Socie~- - -

EDITOR

Fall 1989

R USSELL L EWIS

Vo lume XVIII, Number 3

ASSOCIATE EDITOR

M EG M oss ASSISTANT EDITORS A L ETA Z AK

M ARGARET W ELS H

CONTENTS

DESIGNER

BILL V A

N 1M WEGEN

4

JAMES G SCHNEIDER

DESIGN ASSISTANT

T ED GmBS

The Battle of the Two Colonels

J OHN ALDERSON

A Taxing Dilemma: Early Lake Shore Protection

J AY C RAWFO RD

ROBIN L. EINHORN

PHOTOGRAPHY

Co pytight 1989 by the Chi cago Hi sto rica l Society Clark Street a t North Ave nue Chi cago, lL 606 14

34

52

68

ISSN 0272-8540 Articl es appearing in this j ou rn al are absu·acted a nd indexed in Historical Abstracts a nd America: History and Life. Footn oted man uscripts o f the articles appearing in this issue are ava ilab le from the Chi cago Histo rica l Society's Publicati ons O ffi ce. Cover: fnfrared high altitude aircraft view of Chicago, 1984. Project N HP 8 1, roll 783,frame 79, U.S. Department of /he fnterior, EROS Data Center, Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The Big Picture Packinghouse Blues PA UL STREET

DEPARTMENTS 3

From the Editor

86

Yesterday's City


Chicago Historical Society OFFICERS Philip D. Block Ill, Chairman Philip W. Hummer, Treasurer W. Paul Krauss, Vice-Chairman Mrs. ewton N. Minow, Secretary Richard H. Needham, Vice-Chairman Stewart S. Dixon, Immediate Past Chairman Ellsworth H. Brown, President and Director

TRUSTEES Lerone Bennett,Jr. Mrs. Brooks McCormick Philip D. Block Ill William]. McDonough Laurence Booth Robert Meers Charles T. Brumback Mrs. Newton N. Minow Richard H. Needham Mrs. Emmett Dedmon Stewart S. Dixon Potter Palmer Philip W. Hummer Bryan S. Reid,Jr. EdgarD.Jannotta Edward Byron Sm ith ,Jr. Philip E. Kelley Dempsey J. Travis W. Paul Krauss John R. Walter Mrs. Abra Prentice Wilkin

LIFE TRUSTEES Bowen Blair John T. McCutcheon,Jr. Andrew McNally III Mrs. Frank D. Mayer Gardner H. Stern Theodore Tieken

HONORARY TRUSTEES Richard M. Daley, Mayor, City of Chicago William C. Bartholomay, President, Chicago Park District The Chicago Historical Society is a privately endowed, independent institution devoted to co llecting, interpreting, and presenting the rich multicultural history of Chicago and Illinois, as well as selected areas of American history, to the public through exhibitions, programs, research co ll ections, and publications. It must look to its members and friends for continuing financial support. Contributions to the Society are tax-deductible, and appropriate recognition is accorded major gifts. Membership Membership is open to anyone interested in the Society's goals and activities. Classes of annual membership and dues are as follows: Individual, $30; Family, $35; Studenl/Senior Citizen , $25. Member·s receive the Society's quarterly magazine, Chicago History; a quarterly newsletter, Past-Times; a quarterly Calendar listing Society programs; invitations to special events; free admission to the building at all times; reserved seats at films and concerts in our auditorium; a nd a 10 percent discount on books and other merchandise purchased in the Museum Store. Hours The Museum is open daily from 9:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M.; Sunday from 12:00 NOON to 5:00 l~M. The Library and Manuscripts Collection are open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.~1. All other research collections are open by appointment. The Society is closed on Christmas, ew Year's, and Thanksgiving days. Education and Public Programs Guided tours, slide lecture , gallery talks, craft demonstrations, and a variety of special programs for all ages, from preschool through senior citizen, are offered. Admission Fees for Nonmembers Adults, $1.50; Children (6-17), 50¢; Senior Citize ns, 50¢. Admission is free on Mondays.

Chicago Historical Society

Clark Street at North Avenue

Chicago, Illinois 60614

312-642-4600


FROM THE EDITOR "Knowledge is power," the English philosopher Francis Bacon wrote in the last decade of the sixteenth century. Bacon's devotion to learning and knowledge inspired him to devise a new encyclopedia. Although the idea of encyclopedias as complete systems oflearning had existed for more than 1,500 years, Bacon's revolutionary plan to comprehensively survey the scope of human knowledge ensured that no field of human activity or endeavor would be overlooked. Unfinished at the time of his death in 1626, Bacon's Instauratio Magna served as the inspiration and model for the modern encyclopedia. In Chicago, the conventional wisdom of the day tells us that power is something else: it is not what you know, but who you know. For years Chicagoans have followed this tough, no-nonsense maxim of urban life religiously and achieved great success. But strangely enough, for more than seventy years Chicago has also been a center for the Baconesque pursuit of knowledge; here we publish World Book and Encyclopaedia Britannica, the world's leading encyclopedias. For more than 2,000 years, Chinese, Arabic,Japanese, Greek, Roman, and other European scholars synthesized knowledge in single and multivolume works. In the West, encyclopedias first appeared in ancient Greece, and they flourished under Roman rule. Religion pervaded texts written between the fifth and twelfth centuries A.O. By 1250 encyclopedias deemphasized religious knowledge in favor of humanism, science, and more practical matters that appealed to a rising mercantile class. One of the most famous encyclopedias to follow Bacon' precedent, and certainly the most controversial in history, was Denis Diderot's L'Encyclopedie ( 1751-72). With seventeen volumes of text and eleven additional volumes of plates, it was a monumental work that was flawed on an equally grand scale. Scholars criticized its biased polemics against church and state and its promotion of radical and revolutionary opinions. It spawned a number of encyclopedias that sought to restore the traditional -standards of accuracy and objectivity that Diderot had rejected. The Scottish three-volume Encyclopaedia Britannica ( 1768- 71), Freidrich Arnold Brockhaus's German Konversations-Lexikon (1796-1811), and Pierre Larousse's fifteen-volume Grand Dictionnaire Universel du XIX Siecle ( 1865-76) reestablished accuracy, and they became leading models for nineteenth- and twentieth-century encyclopedias. Chicago's history as a major manufacturing and distribution center, more than its intellectual climate, has made it an ideal place to make encyclopedias. World Book (founded in 1915) and Encyclopaedia Britannica (purchased and brought to Chicago in 1920 by Sears, Roebuck and Company) were not the first encyclopedic works produced in Chicago. Like other urban centers, Chicago published all-inclusive city directories beginning in the 1830s followed by telephone directories in the 1880s. But the truly original Chicago creation was the mail order catalog. Pioneered by Montgomery Ward and Sears, Roebuck and Company, these "wish books" included every imaginable manufactured product. Distributed nationwide, the mail order catalog linked people together through shared knowledge about the material world. The encyclopedia industry in Chicago followed a similar pattern; knowledge was a product to be packaged and distributed to the nation . Chicago may never challenge cities like 1ew York and Los Angeles as a trendsetter in fashion, arts, or intellectual discourse. But after the glitz has died down and the hype is silenced, the editors of World Book and Encyclopaedia Britannica will have the final say. Eschewing passing fads in favor of people and events oflasting significance, Chicagoans in the end will determine what is truly in and what is out-at least what is in or out of encyclopedias. RL


The Battle of the Two Colonels by James C. Schneider

In the pages of Chicago '.s- two daily newspapers, publishers Robert R . McCormick and Frank Knox waged a public debate over America'.s- entry into World War II.

4


Two Colonels

Though both Republicans, Col. Robert R. McCormick (opposite) and Col. Frank Knox (above) held opposite stances on the issue of intervention.

Editor's note: It is hard to imagi,ne an America reluctant to accept its status as a world power or to remember an outcry for pacifism as loud as that against the Vietnam War: Mil in September 1939, when a barrage of Nazi tanks, troops, and planes stormed into Poland and started the Second World War, America pledged to keep her funds, her weapons, and her sons safely at home. Neutrality acts passed by Congress in 1935 were securely in place, and the fighting in Europe seemed comfortably Jar away. But as Hitler's Third Reich continued its blitzkreig across the Continent, American foreign policy evolved from neutrality to belligerence to full participation. Each step of the way, Americans debated fiercely over the degree of our involvement. Our knowledge of Hitler's atrocities makes America's eventual entry into the "Good War" seem obvious today.

James C. Schneider is associate professor of history at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

li!t America did not relinquish its isolationist ideology until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor-when Hitler, ironically, declared war on the United States. Until that time, the primary concern of most Americans was to keep out of war: Following World War I, America had turned in on itself After more than a decade of prosperity during the 1920s, the nation entered an economic crisi,s ofunprecedented proportion. Americans gave their attention almost exclusively to the massive effort to rebuild the country through the programs of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. In foreign affairs, America Jell back on its traditional noninterventionist policy as prescribed in the Monroe Doct-rine of 1823. Both legi,slators and citizens felt that participation in World War I had been a mistake. Congress bitterly condemned European leaders for refusing to pay their war debts. The American people, on the other hand, were more concerned with the moral corruption of war itself Almost everyone felt that European affairs were none of their concern; a dispute an ocean away posed little threat to national well being. 5


Chicago History, Fall 1989

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BERLIN, Sept. 1 (Friday) (A.P.) Adolf Hitler today ordered the German army to met force with force. His order of the day to th e army read: "T~1e Polish state has rejected my efforts to establish neighborly relations, and instead as appealed to weapons. Germans in Poland arc victims of a bloody terror, driven from house and horn . A series of border violations unbearable for a great power show that the Poles no longer are willing to respect the German border. "To put an end to these insane incitations, nothing remains but for me to meet force ·th force from now on. The German army will conduct a fight for honor and the right to the life of the re urrected Gt?rman people with firm determination. I expect that every soldier, mindful of the great tr ditions of the eternal German military, will do his duty to the last. "R~member always that you are representatives of the National Socialist great Germa y. Long live our people and our reich!"

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gaming. An ardent Republican, he made no secret of his hatred of Franklin Roosevelt nor his suspicion that the president plotted intervention in the war to get a tighter grip on the country and tum the spotlight away from his failing New Deal programs. When the president proposed "cash and carry" and lend-lease, McCormick lambasted him with criticism and accused him of putting his own interests ahead of the nation's. McCormick believed that these policies, while claiming to preserve

Should America Go to War? examines what Chica-

goans called the "battle of the two colonels."

From Should America Go to War? The Debate over Foreign Policy in Chicago, 1939-1941, by James C. Schneider. Copyright 1989 The University of North Carolina Press. Used with permission of the publisher. 7


Chicago History, Fall 1989 The German army took just e leven weeks to smash six European nations and American complacency. Beginning on April 9, 1940, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg fell in rapid success ion to the Nazi onslaught. Hitler's crowning achievement came

when his legions knifed through France, slashing her from the war and forcing the dazed formations of Britain's exped iti onary forces to flee continental Europe shorn of their equipment. The French collapse reordered the balance of military power in Europe and tJ1e world. The

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Tribune cartoonist john T McCutcheon expressed the sentiments many Americans had in 1937 about foreign entanglements.

8


Two Colonel~ impact of this shift was magnified because the events unfolded as high drama. Quiescent months of Phony War provided a stark backdrop to the sudden flurry of activity. Hitler's methods underscored his reputation for moral bankruptcy. Without warning or provocation he attacked a succession of neutral nations. The new German method of warfare, the blitzkrieg, was unprecedented in its ruthlessness toward civilian populations and its effectiveness against opposing armies. Like a well-crafted stage play, the fall of France lasted long enough to enthrall and impress the audience without numbing it. The drama even provided a surprise ending, for few had anticipated that the French would collapse. This unexpected turn shattered the implicitanalogy to World War I that many Americans had used in appraising the new conflict and justifying the limitations to American involvement. The massive German success created a palpable sense of danger among the public, but it left the overwhelming American resolve to remain at peace largely intact. By early 1941 more people cited international affairs as their greatest worry than mentioned personal finances or any other factor. The war was also by far the biggest single topic of conversation, though men discussed it with significantly more frequency than women did. ational opinion polls showed that only a small minority favored an immediate declaration of war, while a slight majority favored war if it could be proven that Germany would eventually attack the United States. Preparedness was another matter. A Fortune survey revealed that almost 94 percent of the public was willing to spend whatever was necessary to build up American defenses. The fall of France also produced two important shifts in American policy. Each reflected the perception that the Axis powers in some way menaced the security and well-being of the United States; each respected the continuing desire for peace. As the scale of German success became clear, the Roosevelt administration proposed enormous increases in the level of American military preparedness. Almost without opposition, Congress approved a series ofappropriations for the expansion and modernization of the armed forces. Only a bill to institute the first peacetime conscription in the nation's history provoked serious controversy, due in large part to congressional fears that the men might be

sent abroad. So powerful was entiment favoring preparedness that Congress passed the conscription bill in an election year. The second departure from the existing American position came on the issue of economic aid to Great Britain. The British uffered from a critical shortage of many types of war materials and weaponry. From August onward, England endured a heavy aerial bombardment while German submarines continued to menace her ocean lifelines. British industrial capacity, moreover, could not match that of a German-dominated Europe. London bought massive quantities of supplies from the United States under the "cash and carry" formula, supplemented by purchases of weapons that Roosevelt made available from America's own scanty supply. The most important of these transactions came in September, when the president authorized transfer of fifty destroyers to Britain in exchange for rights to bases in the Western Hemisphere. The destroyer deal and similar efforts lent important material and symbolic support to the British, but in a legal sense they represented discrete responses to specific needs. Agreement by Washington to furnish one batch of weapons guaranteed nothing about the fate of future requests. By December 1940 the British had almost exhausted their ability to pay for American supplies. In response to an urgent appeal from Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Roosevelt submitted to Congress his lend-lease plan. The president proposed that the United States now pay for continuing aid to Britain. Lend-lease constituted an enduring commitment of America's full economic power to the struggle against Nazi aggression. Passage of the bill ended the political question of whether or not to furnish material aid to Britain. Such a momentous measure provoked an intense national debate-far more bitter, more sustained, and more inclusive of the population than anything the country had seen previously. The press made clear that issues of profound importance were at stake. How those issues were defined, however, varied considerably according to the source. Readers of Chicago's two leading dailies, for example, received quite different pictures of the foreign policy situation. The Daily News and the Tribune disagreed over the seriousness of the German menace, the wisdom of the administration's foreign policy, and the funda9


Chicago History, Fall 1989

Many believed that European leade,l were morally con-upt, as this McCutcheon cartoon symbolius.

mental goal of that policy. The Daily News argued that Hitlerian Germany menaced American security and needed to be stopped. The Tribune held that Roosevelt was advocating unneutral and unnecessary action in a disguised but deliberate auempt to provoke full American participation in the fighting. Their differences in viewpoint soon spread off the editoria l page and came to infuse the entire content of each ne\\'spaper. By early 1941 readers often received nearly opposite treatments of news in the Tribune and the Daily News. Bias and emotionalism on both sides cheapened the debate, obscuring issu es of fundamental importance to the determination of foreign policy and contributing to the growth of bitter divisions within the American public. As the German storm rolled westward, few could doubt the seriousness of events in Europe. The clash in Europe dominated the headlines and filled the airwaves from mid-April onward. Nothing but war news appeared on the front page of either Chicago daily in late May and early June. One Tribune editorial read: "Everyth ing at Stake in Europe." The campaign developing in 10

the Low Countries, it said, would determine who would dominate the Continent. The ed itorial noted that the spectacle overseas was having effects on American sentiment and extended sympathy for the plight of the Dutch and Belgians. The Daily News a lready had voiced similar opinions. Coverage in the Defender and the journal of Commerce was much less extensive , but no attentive reader of either paper could fail to grasp the importance of the Nazi onslaught. 'i'\.merica today is facing the greatest crisis in its history," the Defender told its readers. azi success brought hitherto dormant divisions over foreign policy into stark relief. The controversy raged nationwide, but nowhere was it more sharply drawn than between the two leading dailies in Chicago. Initially the Tribune worried about the temptation to invo lve America more deeply in the European struggle, while the Daily News began to contend that the outcome would affect the nation's vital interests. Their respective editorials on the plight of the Low Countries suggested the emerging differences. In saddened tones, the Tribune pleaded with Americans to restrain their sympathies for the unfortunates of the Old World. McCormick continued to insist on the imperative need to preserve civil ization in this hemisphere by remaining at peace. The Daily News waffled in its initial editorial policy. On May 6 the paper emphasized that German domination of Europe would pose a grave threat to American security. Hitler eventually would covet the Western Hemisphere and war would result. Thus, said the Daily News, the United States should prevent Nazi expansion-while major a lli es existed. The editorial did not specify a form of appropriate action. Although vague, this position placed the paper in the forefront of those advocating a stern policy against Germany. Reiterated throughout the summer, the theme anticipated the paper's later stance. However, the Daily News often adopted an inward-looking posture and implied that Ame1¡ica ought really to concentrate on its own affa irs. Both dailies stressed the urgent need to boost American military preparedness. The Daily News placed more emphasis on preparedness than on aid to the Allies. The United States was doing all it could to help in the struggle against Hitler, the News contended, but arms production for its own


Two Colonels use remained by all measures inadequate. As late as August 28, with France surrendered and Britain reeling under the Luftwaffe's bombs, the paper would urge the United States to look to its own defenses. "Is it not ... our most urgent duty to put ourselves in a position to meet the worst, if it comes, rather than take the desperate chance that it. may not come?" The Daily News supported each of Roosevelt's emergency requests for increases in military appropriations. The Tribune was equally vocal in backing preparedness, but used its support to attack the administration and to deter efforts to escalate aid to the Allies. McCormick charged that Roosevelt had squandered billions on defense and had produced only an anemic military force. The Tribune hoped citizens would remember this and vote Republican in November. Meanwhile the defense effort should be turned over to private industry and experts like Charles Lindbergh and Edward Rickenbacker. In the Tribune's view, American weakness made it foolhardy to risk war with Germany or to deplete slender U.S. stockpiles by sending arms abroad. These positions were staples among Roosevelt's Republican critics everywhere in 1940. The Chicago journal of Commerce, for exam pie, flayed the cw Deal almost every week for mishandling defense funds. More than mere Republican loyalty and a dislike of the president underlay McCormick's attack on the Roosevelt defense record. Military matters fascinated him, and he read widely on the subject. In his view, simple expansion of the armed forces was not the proper remedy for defense shortcomings. The colonel advocated tailoring the American military establishment to the tasks it was designated to fulfill. He called on the administration to declare what specific th reals to the nation it foresaw and to gear the expansion program toward dealing with them. McCormick himself favored a modestly sized, highly trained, and heavily mechanized force designed to operate in North America. Given American naval strength and the enormous difficulties any opponent would face in attempting a cross-ocean invasion, he thought such an army could adequately defend the continent. McCormick further believed that a force of more than half a million trainees would swamp existing facilities and delay the creation ofa via-

'Lost In The Scuffle'

This October 5, 1940, Defender cartoon epitomized the irony that America was more concmied with defending dmwcracy in Europe than with stopping thr unfair treatment of buuks at home; Congress had recently failed to pass an anti-lynching bill.

ble defensive force. Mass conscription was therefore counterproductive. Roosevelt wanted so many men in order to build a new expeditionary force for use in Europe, not for purposes of defense. Such measured criticism of the preparedness drive was quite rare in the summer of 1940. Columnist Boake Carter adopted a stance similar to McCormick's, but most Americans seemed willing to leave defense planning to the government. The nation's black press also supported the need for preparedness, though at times with misgivings. The Cleveland Guide endorsed proposed defense increases without reservation . The Defender agreed that Hitler menaced the Western Hemisphere, but continued to give highest priority to the grievances of American blacks. In fact the paper sought to turn the crisis atmosphere to its own ends. Arms alone were insufficient to prepare America, declared one editorial. Fascism fed on public discontent. Therefore the United States needed to build popular loyalty by perfecting genuine democracy for citizens of all races. The Chicago weekly was the only black newspaper in the country to oppose the conscription bill. Until the military abandoned Jim Crow, it said, blacks must 11


Chicago History, Fall 1989

IR COMMITTEE

12


Two Colonels consider their government unworthy of sacrifice. The Pittsburgh Courier supported the draft but pondered the less obvious costs of the preparedness effort. The Courier anticipated the diversion of resources from pressing social needs and the increased militarization of American life. As always, it said, blacks would bear a disproportionate share of the burden. Stances on preparedness necessarily involved evaluations of the larger international situation. Here both the Defender and the Tribune retained their views of the previous autumn almost intact, while the Daily News gave evidence of considerable evolution in its thinking. In the wake of the fall of France, the Daily News put forth a case for the existence of what it called the ''Atlantic Civilization." This was a "tightly woven net of mutual exchanges, values and interests" that had grown up during the nineteenth century and embraced every American. Hitler threatened both the values and the interests. Britain was the nexus of international commerce. Her fall, maintained the Daily News, "would call fora radical readjustment of the business life of every American citizen and community." Foreign staff editor Carroll Binder called the collapse of France "nothing short.of a disaster for the values we cherish and an immense boon to those who aim at the destruction of our political and economic order." For the Daily News, as for many others, the war had ceased to be yet another exercise in the recurring feuds between rival European powers and had emerged as a defense of all that was good in Western life. Said one July editorial, "the people know the choice. It is religion, justice, moral decency, courage 'to speak out and act' versus godlessness, brute force, the firing squad, and the false lullaby of appeasement." This conviction of a "civilization imperiled" underpinned the paper's position on foreign policy for the duration of World War II. Variations on this theme appeared in scores of articles, editorials, and broadcasts following the azi conquest of France. Most agreed that a community of values existed and that fascism threatened to destroy it. The two ideas in fact formed the basis of Walter Lippmann's foreign The /\ merirn First Commillee, the fornnost l'itiu11J' isolationist group, was founded and headq,wrtered in Chicago.

policy prescriptions, though in public Lippmann tended to emphasize factors of power, especially sea power, as the key determinants in the present war. Others were less reticent about openly proclaiming the moral dimension of the struggle. Archibald MacLeish chided American young people for their alleged failure to appreciate the cynicism and brutality of the aggressor nations. It was vital, MacLeish wrote to the New >vrk Times, for Americans to regain the conviction that "there are final things for which democracy will fight." Two days later in the Times, Allan evins advanced similar themes in a review of Raymond L. Euell's Isolated America and Charles A. Beard's A Foreign Policy for Americans. Nevins praised Buell for demonstrating the links that bound America to foreign nations. Beard received criticism for an excessive materialism that blinded him to the moral nature of the present conflict. The Times itself denounced "the complete recklessness and irresponsibility, the moral insanity of Nazi leaders." The Chicago journal of Commerce argued that the danger to democracy posed by fascism was what differentiated the new world war from its predecessor. The message to readers from this line of argument was clear. The United States ought not to remain aloof from a conflict that would affect the future of civilization itself. The Defender evidenced little sympathy for the concept of an ''Atlantic civilization." The paper spoke with many voices, but they united on this point. One editorial on the fall of France dealt as harshly with the victims of aggression as with the victors. The current conflict was in no sense a people's war. "Hitler is reaching for loot, as France and Britain reached for loot in 1918." Moreover, France's fall and Britain's danger were due largely to the misguided and self-serving policies of their respective ruling elites. "The political bankruptcy of the leadership of France and Britain has never been equalled," declared the Defender. Similar sentiments appeared in Lucius Harper's column. Harper viewed the war as just another clash among rival groups of white exploiters, whose outcome would make little difference to the world's blacks. Incoming editor John H. Sengstacke echoed Harper's views. "The prize of this war," he wrote, "is the colonial world, the enslavement of small nations, and the control of waterways." The 13


Chicago History, Fall 1989 NOT THE MOST COMFORTABLE SEAT

As the Nazi threat grew in American minds, Hitler's image in political cartoons grew from a funny Chaplinesque figure in the February 2, 1933, Daily News (above) to a menacing and powerful giant in the December I, 1939, issue (below).

paper's foreign editor, Metz T. P. Lochard, came closest to accepting the "civilization imperiled" argument. But Lochard used the concept to make a different point than the Daily News was trying to establish. Lochard focused blame for the debacle in western Europe on the Allies for failing to enforce the Versailles treaty. Moreover, his account made war itself seem the greatest danger to civilization. Defender articles continued to spotlight racial injustice in Britain and the evils of imperialism. The paper suggested that because Britain and France had practiced appeasement during the Ethiopian war the man in the street had little sympathy for their present p light. Certainly they received very little in the Defender, whose coverage of the Soviet Union was far more favorable. The Tribune dismissed the "world civilization" argument as mere "emotionalism" and "hysteria." Roosevelt at once preyed on such emotionalism and suffered from it himself. "He couldn't keep his shirt on if it was buttoned to his pants and weighted down with lead," grumb led one Tribune editorial. Rejecting any concept of a 14

world civilization, the Tribune desired that calculations of the world balance of power serve as the basis for United States policy. Such views were rare in the heated atmosphere created by the success of the German blitz. The Boston Globe was one of the few papers to decry alarm ism and belittle the military danger to the United States in words similar to those of McCormick. Never one to fear taking an unpopular stance, the colonel continued his attack on the "civilization imperiled" argument by recalling America's last great international adventure. The Tribune denied that the present conflict was unique and traced its origins to resentments lefi. over from World War I. This was but another entry into an endless ledger of quaJTels. The Tribune reminded its readers that American intervention in the last war had resolved few European tensions. The United States could not control the course of affairs on tl1e continent, nor should it try to do so. The paper attacked the logic of the "common foe" theory with what proved to be one of the most widely used challenges to the "aid short of war" formu la. "If the welfare of the United States is wholly dependent upon an allied victory ... then it is both cowardly and absurd to withhold an ounce of our power from the battlefields of Europe ." The logic and public appeal of this

BLOW UPON BLOW


7ivo Colonels argument were of such strength that few of the paper's opponents in Chicago were ever willing to debate the point directly. Other aspects of the Tribune position provided critics with more inviting targets. McCormick stated that, regardless of who won the war, the dominant power t.o emerge in Europe would be unfriendly to the United States. He may have meant that Britain's clays of supremacy were over and that either Germany or the Soviet Union was bound lO replace her. If such was his meaning, however, his wording was ambiguous and misleading. The editorial instead implied that Nazi Germany was no more hostile or dangerous than Great Britain, a view that the Tribune's own calls for preparedness belied. Arguably McCormick's concentration on a balance-of-power interpretation of world politics was just as sound as the advocacy of world civilization appearing in the Daily News, which also included some hardheaded calculation of economic interest. But McCormick's balance-of-power approach could also he turned to favor some form of intervention, as Lippmann and others had in fact clone. If a successful German invasion of the Western 1lemisphere was possible, America might very well choose to fight in Europe. Indeed, on June lO the Tribune admitted that Britain's Royal Navy had kept the United States insulated from foreign troubles since 1820. Should that fleet be taken or destroyed, the paper declared, America would face a drastic refr>rmulation of her own role in world affairs. This startling and atypical admission appeared as France's doom was becoming clear. It showed how deeply the course of events had shaken Americans. But the .June IO piece stood in sharp contrast to other Tribune editorials of the same period. The nub of the difference between the two newspapers lay in their assessments of Germany's potential to do harm LO the United States. During May and June, a portrait of an unrelenting and immensely powerful foe took form in the Daily News and elsewhere. Eyewitness reports from France emphasized the size of the German am1y and the revolutionary superiority of its striking power. Cartoon imagery changed. Huge hobnailed boots and gigantic tanks replaced the earlier symbol of the funny little dictator with the Charlie Chaplin mustache. As its visual imagery shifted from clown to juggernaut, in

print the Daily News pcrsonali1.ecl the enemy and magnified Hitler's individual influence. References such as "those who were fighting Ilitler, and all that he stood for" became increasingly common. Hitler was "the only man in the world" who conceivably could induce Congress to declare wa1~ Americans who opposed preparedness became his "dupes and stooges:â&#x20AC;˘ This picture of an awesome military machine, absolutely subject to the will of an evil mastermind, remained a fixture in the Daily News and other forums until the final defeat of Germany. As with so many other issues, the black perspective was filtered through the lens of racial discrimination in America. Defender cartoonist Jay Jackson also utilized the image or the huge hobnailed boots, but his drawing put them on the British and American armies to symbolize the oppressive treatment. blacks were receiving. A most elaborate and unusual expression of this special perspective came in a lengthy Defender feature story about a hypothetical Nazi invasion of Georgia. Written by Violet Moten Foster, St. Clair Drake, and Enoc P. Waters, Jr., the piece illustrated many favorite Defender themes in fictional form. Stormtroopers landed in Savannah "because white landlords, businessmen, and politicians sold out the South and opened the gate to Hitler." The Nazis overwhelmed local resistance, despite a uicidal assault by a Jim Crow construction battalion armed only with shovels. When the German commander asked why such troops attacked unarmed, their colonel confessed, "No Negro troops have guns, especially in the South." Segregation also harmed the civilian population when blacks were slaughtered in inferior Jim Crow air raid shelters . Southern congressmen obstructed effective countermeasures in their determination to preserve segregation. The story ended with the blitzkrieg advancing in triumph. The message here, and throughout the Defender, was that blacks faced even more pressing menaces than the azis. The fight against segregation had to come first. Those forces that did assign the German menace an overriding priority had an additional case to prove. However hostile and powerful, did Berlin intend to menace the United States, and did it have the means to do so? The Daily News found clues in fascist ideology which 15


Chicago History, Fall 1989 revealed that Germany and Italy would threaten America in due course. A series of reports by several members of the Daily News foreign staff developed this theme. Early in June, M. W. Fodor wrote that the dictatorships' own ideology compelled them to strike at democracy because freedom was an intolerable affront to the fascist system of slave labor. The most detailed analysis came from John T. Whitaker in Rome. A series of his articles pictured fascism as a bid for world revolution. "To the fascists such a conflict is rudimentary, not merely because of ideological differences, but because as realists they have always said that economically and socially it must be 'we or they."' Whitaker contended that the forces that impelled fascist expansion were too dynamic to rest content with even the conquest of Europe. While the American republics squandered their time with "oratorical breast beatings," he wrote, Nazi agents were plotting a campaign to undermine hemispheric solidarity. Other correspondents echoed Fodor and Whitaker. During the height of the lend-lease debate in January 1941, Wallace R. Deuel wrote a series of articles entitled "Where Hitler Stands." Reprising many of Whitaker's earlier themes, Deuel began his series by saying, "If Adolf Hitler wins the war, sooner or later he will force the issue with the United States." The litany of Nazi conquests proved it. The views of all these foreign correspondents ran in the regular news columns and often received front-page exposure. Well-written and vigorously argued by eyewitnesses in Europe, they formed a persuasive and frightening pictw-e. Most American correspondents were anti-fascist, but seldom were they granted so much space in which to present their analysis. Few forums could match the depth of foreign coverage found in the Daily News. Despite the tremendous unease that swept Chicago and the country as the blitzkrieg routed the Allies, the Tribune maintained a measured skepticism regarding the German threat. McCormick avoided the issue of Hitler's intentions, concentrating instead on the capabilities of the German war machine. He stressed the very short operating ranges of many of its key elements, especially the air corps. In June the paper cited the opinions of several unnamed American military experts who discounted the likelihood of a successful invasion of North America. These 16


Two Colonels

Though throngs flocked to hear Charles Lindbergh speak for non-intervention at America flrst rallies such as this one in Minneapolis, many otheÂť belil'ved him to be a H itler supporter who advocated Amn'ican neutrality as a backhanded form of aid to the Nazis.

17


Chicago Hi,story, Fall 1989 men contended that existing U.S. naval strength and the anticipated increase in her air power would enable a modestly sized, mechanized army of the type envisioned by McCormick to defeat any invader. The colonel broadcast his own case over the Mutual radio network on June 9, assuring listeners that a prepared America would be thoroughly safe. He was anything but sanguine about the state of American defenses, as the Tribune's support for increased defense spending proved , yet McCormick's analysis of the shortcomings of the German armed forces holds up rather well in light of modern knowledge. On the national scene, Colonel Charles Lindbergh was saying much the same thing. But June of 1940 was not a time to voice restraint. The thunder of Nazi successes drowned out both colonels. Hitler had designed his war machine to overawe as well as to conquer, and it did both. Evidence indicating McCormick's views about Hitler's long-term intentions is sparse. An August editorial contended that the Fuhrer desired those parts of Europe that had at any time been German, but it made no mention of whether he might reach beyond Europe. Opponents like Adlai Stevenson, Chicago leader of the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies [CDAAA], challenged the Tribune in public on this issue. The paper responded by claiming ignorance concerning Berlin's ultimate designs, but insisted that America could defeat the Nazis if the necessity arose. The especially tinging abuse leveled at the CDAAA in this editorial perhaps indicated how defensive the Tribune felt on this subject. Latin America appeared to be a likely arena for Nazi aggression. The frequency and diversity of warnings about clanger there reflected an anxiety widespread across the nation. Even the Tribune's panel of nameless military experts worried about the safety of Brazil and her neighbors. In order to deter efforts to send American military equipment to Britain, McCormick at first attempted to arouse fears that Mexico might invade the southwest. This argument proved unavailing, and by August the Tribune was issuing earnest warnings of azi "fifth column" activity in Mexico and other nations. The Daily News carried similar reports. These fears were endemic in 1940. Citizens of the region bordering on Mexico seemed 18

especially concerned. San Antonio mayor Maury Maverick declared that the clanger of subversive activity in Mexico was so serious that the southwest lay under the threat of invasion. In an effort to protect the Alamo City, Maverick issued submachine guns to city policemen. Residents of nearby Del Rio came close to rioting when they mistook three Jehovah's Witnesses for Nazis. The trio had been passing out pamphlets on which swastika symbols appeared, and only vigorous efforts by the town sheriff and members of the American Legion prevented violence. A second fear common to both Chicago dailies, as well as the Roosevelt administration and other Americans, was of German economic penetration of Latin America. In mid-August a Daily News editorial contended that Hitler desired a major air base in Dakar, West Africa, for use as a commercial springboard to South America. Tribune correspondent Wayne Thomas described vigorous German activity aimed at undercutting U.S.-Latin American trade and cornering the market on several strategic commodities. These dual themes of trade war coupled with covert influence recurred throughout 1940 and 1941. Toward Germany's remaining foe, Great Britain, the Chicago papers remained ambivalent, though there were clear differences in the nature of Lheir positions. As we have seen, the Defender held the British to account for their imperialism, segregationist poli cies , and their record of appeasement. The pa per applauded signs of racial progress, such as the decision to drop the color bar in the Royal Air Force. Later in the year it cheered British forces as they helped restore Emperor Haile Selassie to his throne in Ethiopia. But overall the Defender remained wary of Britain's war aim . Knox was far friendlier, but he took care to insist that aid to Britain served American vital interests and deserved support primarily on that basis. In fact, the Daily News tended to phrase its appeals in terms of help for Hitler's foes rather than as aid for America's friends. Even during the depths of the blitz, the British received little outright praise. The News seemed determined to insure itself against charges of anglophilia. Other papers were less circumspect. Even the Tribune was far more outspoken in its praise for Britain's courage and perseverance , though also in its scorn for her alleged pretensions to democracy.


Two Colonels

In mailers offoreign policy Col. Frmik Knox supf1orted FD.R., who appointed him Secretmy of the Navy on July 11, 1940.

Commenting on Winston Churchill's formation of a war government, the Tribune said, "The country's con tituLional transition into 100 pe1-cent dictatorship was accomplished by a regimented parliament this afternoon in two hours and fifty minutes." While the Defender echoed this charge, it met with ridicule in the journal of Commerce. Britain's emergency measures were purely temporary, the journal emphasized, and unlike Nazi totalitarianism they would never out last the war. Neither did the British glorify their government or its leader in the German fashion. The New York Times applauded the measure as evidence that the British were getting serious about mobilizing their power for war. Virtually all the papers, including the Tribune, united in paying Churchill and his nation glowing tribute fr.ff their defense of the homeland. On many occasions McCormick also praised with evident sincerity Britain's determined

defense of her own interests and set this as a goal for the American government to emulate. The colonel's support for the British was confined to a verbal level, for he balked at every administration initiative to supply material to the beleaguered island. The most important of these initial efforts came in early September, when the United States transferred fifty obsolescent destroyers to Britain in return for the use of British bases in the Western Hem isphere. The reaction of both the Tribune and the Daily News to this destroyer deal epitomized their attitudes in the broader issue of aid to the Allies . Knox had left Chicago by th is Lime to join the administration as secretary of the navy. He remained in almost daily contact with the Daily News staff, howeve1~ and the paper continued its support for aid to Britain. An editorial on August 22 summarized its stance. Britain badly needed the ships. They were unnecessary for our own 19


Chicago History, Fall 1989 defense. Washington and London favored the transfer and Gallup polls indicated majority support among the American public. What then was delaying the deal? It was ludicrous to become entangled in "the fine points of international law" in light of the present world crisis. When official announcement of the transfer came two weeks later, the paper reported without question Roosevelt's assertion that the exchange boosted hemispheric defense and did not constitute a provocation for war. Thus the Daily News sometimes prodded the government to act with greater swiftness and decision. At the first hint that such a deal was in the offing, the Tribune began to attack. McCormick had long wished to obtain use of the bases, but he wished to acquire them as payment of Britain's war debts to America. The current arrangement was altogether different. "The sale of the navy's ships to a nation at war would be an act of war," an editorial bristled, even though an article in the same issue reported that legal experts in Chicago disagreed on the matter. The editorial also cast doubt on Britain's need for the destroyers. Several times during August the paper returned to its charge that the proposed deal represented a serious risk of wa1~ Yet when the exchange went through on September 4, the Tribune congratulated itself for first raising tl1e idea of acquiring the British bases and only mildly demurred at the method employed to obtain them. This rather surprising stance was surely dictated by the circumstances of party politics. Had McCormick simply denounced the agreement he would have broken openly with his party's nominee for president. The campaigns of 1940 had not gone well for McCormick. Almost within eyesight of the Tribune Tower, the Democratic national convention nominated the despised Franklin Roosevelt for a precedent-shattering third term. Then his own Republican party had been captured by Wendell Willkie, a man almost as suspect in his foreign policy views as FDR. Gone were tl1e days when the Tribune and the Daily News, Republican organs both, had yearned to suppress foreign policy issues in order to turn the 1940 election into a massive popular rebuke to the New Deal. Like so much else, these hopes became casualties of Hitler's success. By midsummer both papers, along with many others, 20

saw foreign policy as the decisive issue of the 1940 campaign. Each scrutinized the unfolding political drama, altl1ough their reviews predictably conflicted . The Tribune endorsed-in fact demandedpartisan differences over foreign policy. Convinced that the public's desire for peace would overwhelm all otl1er considerations, the paper hoped Republicans could tap this sentiment lo unseat Roosevelt. Consequently, the Tribune highlighted the issues of peace and preparedness. Under the title "Our Mr. Chamberlain Should Retire," a May 16 editorial deplored the meager allotments given defense. The 1ew Deal instead had "lavished millions on boondoggling." This criticism also surfaced frequently in the journal of Commerce and other antiadministration media. Having failed to prepare the nation for the current emergency, said the critics, Roosevelt was nonetheless bent on war. From Washington, Arthur Sears Henning reported in the Tribune that Democratic leaders lived in fear that the administration's secret commitments to enter the war would surface before the election. A cartoon portrayed the president slogging down me "Wilsonian Road to War" under me banner of "aid to the Allies." In the background the mass of citizens followed the GOP standard in the opposite direction. An editorial me same day charged that Roosevelt "is hell bent for war, as everybody with a shred of sense all over the world now recognizes." When Knox and Henry Stimson entered the cabinet, Henning maintained mat mis move completed the Democrats' conversion into tl1e party of war. The omer prong of the Tribune's campaign was to establish the Republicans as the party of peace. In mis endeavor the presidential candidate would be of prime importance. Both Arthur Vandenberg and Robert Taft were outspoken noninterventionists, but neither took hold with the party faithful. By the eve of the Republican national convention, McCormick had turned to Thomas E. Dewey. The Tribune portrayed Dewey as a champion of its favorite themes. To a Tribune reader, Dewey appeared to be running because Roosevelt had squandered American weaponry and was now trying to provoke war in order to disguise his domestic failures. In reality, Dewey's candidacy suffered from his relative youth and his inexperience wim foreign affairs. He too


'frvo Colonels [ailed lo gain the nomination. McCormick could al least rake pleasure in the party plaLform. His protegc, C. Wayland Brooks, led the Illinois caucus in a vigorous and successful push for a

sLrong peace plank. On June 25 an editorial placed even more importance on the platform than on the candidate. By now the Tribunt' had read the signs, for the convention had turned

HEAR THE TRUTH about

l

f

COL. McCORMICK o~1~:~a:;~)

Orchestra Hall

â&#x20AC;¢

Tuesday Evening. July 29th

EDMOND TAYLOR ] t"")

!

former correspo~dent in Europe for the Chicago Tribune, author of the best-seller, "The Strategy of Terror" will speak on

f

f '

fi-

"Whal's Wrong wilh lhe Chicago Tribune?" Mr. Taylor will answer questions from the audience

ALSO music and entertainment

ADMISSION FREE

Place-ORCHESTRA HALL, air-cooled. 216 S. Michigan Ave. Day-Tuesday, July 29th Time-8 p.m. (doors open 7 p.m.) JOINT AUSPICES OF

FIGHT FOR FREEDOM and HYDE PARK COMMITTEE TO DEFEHD AMERICA Room 1362, 111 West Washington St. Chicago, Ill. Telephone ANDover 5747

1303 East 53rd Street

Chicago, Ill. Telephone PLAza 8834

In 1941 proinlervenlion committees urged the public to come and "hear the lmlh" about Col. McCormick's noninlerventionisl bent.


----

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, YlJUNG . . -CDMMUNl5T

. LEADLJE '


Chicago History, Fall 1989 to Wendell Willkie , Lhe only outspoken advocate of aid to the Allies among the leading Republican contenders. Steadfast to the end, delegate McCormick refused to vote for Willkie and denied him a unanimous nomination. Willkie's success saved the Daily News from a dilemma of great potential difficulty. As the Republican convention approached, the paper interpreted the bind in which the GOP found itself. While even Ls demanded that all Americans support the administration's foreign policy, party identity required Republicans to differ. A temporary solution was to Lake refuge in advocacy ofa strong national defense, bul eventually the issue of partisanship versus national interest would have to be faced. Knox himself was pulled in both directions. In June, the colonel resolved his own personal dilemma in favor of national unity and joined the administration. Then the nomination ofWillkie robbed the campaign of any clear distinctions between the candidates on the aid issue. The Daily News even accepted the GOP's foreign policy plank, forged by Brooks and the Illinoisans, as "harmless." For the remainder of the campaign the Daily News endorsed both Roosevelt's aid program and Willkie's support of that program, all the while pleading for political unity on foreign policy. The paper did fret about the ambiguity of the caveat, "except in case of attack," attached to the Democratic party's antiwar plank. Those Willkie supporters who proclaimed their overriding desire to stay out of the war also worried the News. More bothersome still was a late campaign effort by Willkie and Roosevelt to outdo each other in making sweeping pledges of peace. The paper labeled these claims "bunk." National policy was already set. The nation was arming feverishly and increasing its aid to Great Britain and China. Fixation on the concept of peace was misguided and naive, the News insisted, a single-minded attachment to political catch-words. True to the heritage of TR [Teddy Roosevelt], Knox held that national self-interest was the only proper basis for policy. The issue of war or peace depended on events rather than wishful thinking. Vague as the paper's prescriptions often were, they did at least attempt to offset the increasingly strident rhetoric coming from the two candidates. A few other advocates of aid echoed the Daily News in denouncing the trend 24

The University of Chicago campus, 1935.

in campaign rhetoric as unrealistic and misleading. Such comments were Lhe exception. Most of the media were content Lo leave unchallenged the candidates' unqualified promises of peace. McCormick blended program and partisanship into a different mixture. Such tepid support as Willkie got was based squarely on the candidate's professed devotion to the cause of peace. The title of one early editorial, "Willkie and Peace or Roosevelt and War," summed up much of Lhe Tribune's outlook. Coverage of Willkie emphasized his antiwar pledge and downplayed his stance in favor ofaid to Britain. Local Republicans, especially senatorial contender Brooks, did receive enthusiastic endorsement, but Willkie's chief attraction often seemed Lo be that he was not Roosevelt. The Tribune put its energy into flogging the incumbent president. Attacks of varying tone, insight, and honesty appeared throughout the paper. Arthur Henning opened one lead news story by saying, "The most arresting aspect of the situation in Washington is tJ1e widespread opinion in official circles that, if President Roosevelt is re-elected , it will not be long before the United Stales will be in the war." The officials in question remained anonymous, just as the "ample evidence on hand of a conspiracy, headed by Mr. Roosevelt, Lo get this country into war" never surfaced. Alongside these charges came pieces probing the extent to which the government had already abandoned neutrality and questioning how long the country could balance between peace and war. Amid the innuendo and vitriol, these sober articles


Two Colonel.1 ma) ha\'e seemed like more campaign chaff. ;-..;ot all obseners of the !~MO campaign ascribed paramoulll importance to foreign polin issues. This was pa r ticularh ll ue of antiRoose\'elt ne"·spapers, regardless of their \ iew about aid for Britain. The Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Dnzv,·r Po~l agreed that the third term issue should be decisi\e among rnters. Only unemplo~me11t outweighed the third term as an issue in the opinion of the San Franmro Chronicle. In Chicago, the journal of C:omm,'rct• denounced Rome\elt for almost e\er~1hing excep1 foreign poliq. about \,·hid1 i1 made no mention during the latter day of the am paign. The Plain DNiler and the Uzronirle upported the adminis1ration's foreign poliC) with emhusiasm, the jounw/ of Commnre did so grudgingh-, and the Post , while ome\, hat erratic in it. \·iews, most often opposed the president on foreign affairs matters. The Defender undenven1 a dramatic shift in it political po ture a. the election neared. Founding editor Robert .-\bbott was a staunch Republican. Cnder hi-, direction the paper had remained a GOP organ . Earh coverage of the 19 IO campaign continued this 1radition. Rmcoe Simmons, columni . 1 and principal political reporter~ was a :\fcConnick loyalis1. . immons gme extensi\e space to the colonel 's activities at the Philadelphia comention and spotlighted the clri\e to write a trong peace plank into the part) platform. An article on the COP slate in Illinois cmphasi1.ed the importance of fighting the Cook County machine and the need to keep ,\merica out of wa1. Substanti\ely, if not rhetoricalh, the Defender's cmerage could have come straight from the 7ribwze-until the twelfth of Octobe1. Readers must have been stunned to read 1hc strong endorsement of Roosevelt \ffitten b} ne\\ editor john engstacke. Hardly less surprising was hi reason for backing FDR, th.: inter national emergency. "The e\ idence is incontro,ertible," ran the endorsement, ·'that a crisis of titanic propo rti ons is rap id ly coming to our shores." The Defender ca ll ed Rooseve lt "a seasoned statesman" who e ree lectio n wou ld promote the u n ity necessary to meet the th reat from the Axis. Later ed itoria ls wou ld stress New Deal accomp li sh ments, but the ini tial endorseme nt dea lt on ly with fore ign po li cy. T he Defender's shi ft was part of a rea lign ment of' the black vote brought abo ut by th e Depres-

sion and the Ne\, Deal. l'liat it came with such suddenness no doubt renects the atcession of Sengstackc, bu1 the unclerh ing causes were profound and lasting. The Tribwu• soon had even more 10 won-y it than the defection of black \otcrs to the Democra1s. The "World's Greatest i ewspaper" invested heavi ly in the contention that the election was a refl'rendum between Wi ll kic's resolve for peace and Rooseve lt's yearning for war. When voters chose FDR, the paper scrambled to cut its losses. McCormick still maintained that foreign po licy had decided the election. State and local GOP candidates won \\here they had run hard on a strict noninterventionis1 p latfonn. Th, success in Illinoi!i of' Brooks and gubernatoria l contender Dwight Green, de pite Wi ll kie's loss 1here, satisfied the Tribune that non interve n tionism had i nclecd been the key. The nationa l ti cket had watered clown its commitment 10 peace and had fallen shor1 in consequence, Willkie's striden t peace pledges in late October notwithstanding. ln contrast, readers of the Daily News learned that the Republican loss represented a laudab le pub! ic r jection of a party increas ingly given over to "appeasement and defeatism." Unconvinced and unafraid, Americans had "emphasized by their votes that they are not i,riving way, backing up, or even fal ling il ent before the d ictators." Respons ibility for the misguided emphas is belonged less LO Wi ll kie, whom the paper contin ued lo praise, than 10 unnamed e lements withi n the part)'· Discerning reader sure ly guessed that one of those "clements" pub lished a morn ing new paper in Ch icago. By repudiating such foolish counse ls, the News rejoiced, voters h ad insured that the po licy of preparedness and a id to the Al lies wou ld continue unabated. In a very different way than the Tribune, the Daily News a lso turned the e lection into a mancla1e o n fore ign policy. While its evidence seemed much stronger, events would soon show how great the div isions over aid still were. T h e vast outpouring of words duri ng th e 1940 campaign in fact d id li ttle to clari fy the fo re ign policy of the Un ited States. Alm ost eve ryo n e supported peace; no major po litical figure h ad yet ca ll ed for war. Po lls sh owed that Rooseve lt co mmanded wide sup port for his a id po li cy. Bu t the pres ide n t had kept h is prescri p tions ch aracteristica ll y vague. Probab ly no one e lse was in a

25


Chicago Hi5tory, Fall 1989

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26


Two Colonels position to define policy. In any case, the boundaries of America's commitments to peace and to aid remained obscure. Many elements within American society, the Daily News among them, had already abandoned an unqualified devotion to peace. Yet few commentators had attempted to define with precision what would justify going to war. Only the absence of direct provocation by the Axis powers prevented a potentially explosive debate on this issue. Events did not extend similar protection to the clouclecl question ofaicl. Strictly speaking, FDR had established a pattern and not a policy. The destroyer deal had been only the most spectacular of several administration initiatives that had furnished war material to the British. The president had chosen not to consult Congress during the summer arms transfers in order to expedite the shipment of aid. The price of speed was to evade the process of formal decision making between the branches of government, which by tradition had served to sanction any new national policy. Now time was running out on an old policy. "cash and carry." London announced in December that funds to pay for American supplies would soon be drained. His hand forced, Roosevelt presented Congress with a plan, shortly to be laqelecl lencllease, under which America would pay for further material sent abroad. Passage would make the United States a full-fledged economic partner in the struggle against Hitler, the "arsenal of democracy" in Roo eve It's phrase. Thus by the encl of 1940 the elements were in place for the sort of cathartic debate on the direction of American involvement in the war that the presidential election had not provided. Lendlease served as the focal point. Unlike the adoption of "cash and carry," th is was not a return to an earlier program. Unlike the repeal of the arms embargo, lend-lease favored the Allies by open design rather than circumstance. Passage of Roosevelt's bill would signal a conscious rejection of the traditional strictures guiding neutrality, a move disturbing to many Americans even in the war-ravaged world of 1940. Backers and opponents of the measure each grasped the importance of the decision at hand. Both sides were now well organized, their arguments well rehearsed. The resulting clash was the fiercest and most pivotal of the 1939-41 period. Immediately after the election, items in the

Daily News began to hint that the basis of the

American aid program would have to be changed. Correspondent William Stoneman wrote from London that the British could not afford to pay for supplies indefinitely. Reporter Edgar Ansell Mowrer advised readers in midNovember to "cease worrying about outmoded legal concepts which we have already violated by the transfer of destroyers." When news of the British financial pinch began to break, the Daily News described Washington's response in carefully measured terms. Administration leaders were not about to let their concern blind them to the national interests of the United States or the public's desire to remain at peace. The economic situation of the British filled the Tribune with apprehension of a different sort. The paper noted that the protracted war envisioned by Churchill was bound to place strains on the American economy. Conversion to an all-out war footing would send taxes soaring, swell the national debt, and ultimately prove ruinous. To support its position, and also to argue against extending financial credits to London, the Tribune repeatedly invoked the experience of World War I. The munitions makers, it predicted, would soon be leading large eastern financial interests in a joint effort to ensnare the country in foreign entanglements once again. As rumors of Britain's financial straits proliferated, the paper at first denied that any stringency existed. Bowing finally to contrary evidence, the Tribune then sought to settle an old grudge. Before even considering credits, the United States ought to acquire various British islands in the Western Hemisphere, such as Jamaica, in lieu of debts unpaid from World War I. An editorial in mid-December cautiously reiterated American friendship toward the British, but by this time McCormick was convinced that alone they could never defeat the Nazi . With Russia still a nominal ally of Germany, the colonel's analysis suggested that victory would require American participation in the fighting. Instead, he favored a negotiated peace based on the status quo. This notion had been outmoded in the previous winter and was a political dinosaur by December 1940, though McCormick was far from being its only advocate. Administration forces introduced the Lenci-

27


Chicago History, Fall 1989 Lease Bill in Congress onjanuary JO, 1941. The Tribune's reaction was immediate and typified that of many opponents of the measure. Chesty Manly began his lead story on the proposal by writing: "Congress was stunned today by the unexampled enormity of powers requested by President Roosevelt in his bill." Tribune coverage emphasized the views of administration critics who charged that lend-lease "combined a declaration of war against Germany, Italy and Japan with the creation of a totalitarian dictatorship in the United States." On January 12, the paper ran one of its rare front-page editorials under the title "A Bill to Destroy the Republic." The piece introduced all future Tribune arguments, which centered on the broad powers granted the president. The paper soon dropped the term "lendlease" and substituted "war dictatorship bill" in all its editoria ls and news columns. This apocalyptic rhetoric was typ ical of the paper during the debate. Most of the initial editorials eschewed substantive argument in favor of ad hominem attacks against lend-lease proponents. Readers learned that backers of the plan fell into two broad categories . One group was willing to endure dictatorship in order to aid Britain; the other desired dictatorship for its own sake. The former were blinded by their own emotional anglophilia, while the latter yearned to put over what the New Dea l had failed to accomplish. Throughout the debate, which lasted until Roosevelt signed the Lend-Lease Bill on March 11, the Tribune slashed at the motives of aid proponents and the issue of expanding presidential power. Here McCormick's close identification with partisan politics and his well-known hatred of Franklin Roosevelt undercut the substance of his case. The powers authorized under the original lend-lease proposal were sweeping. Congressional debate focused on this issue at the outset. Administration opponents obtained a series of amendments designed to curtail presidential prerogatives somewhat. But the times lent themselves to extreme measures . Germany appeared irresistible. To date her opponents on both sides of the Atlantic had looked ineffectual by comparison. Americans had only to gaze overseas for contemporary examples of real dictatorships, against which FDR and lend-lease seemed benign indeed. The charge that FDR aspired to

28

dictatorship was an o ld one in antiadministration circles. Colonel McCormick and the others had cried wolf often, regarding New Deal efforts most citizens applauded. To veteran readers his philippics may now have sounded like efforts to refight lost elections. Another Tribune salvo became almost as ritualistic as the dictatorship theme: The paper also alleged that Roosevelt imended to use lend-lease as a springboard for war. FDR knew he could gain neither popular nor congressional approval for an open declaration of hostilities, so he concocted the Lend-Lease Bill as a subterfuge. McCormick here employed a tactic in wide use among all varieties of noninterventionists. By invoking the threat of war, they sought to enlist the popular desire for continued peace against a specific "short of war" measure . The Tribune seldom disparaged tJ1e benefits lend- lease seemed certain to provide and instead dwelt on its possible risks. As a debating strategy this had its merits. Berlin's likely response to lend-lease was a valid question to consider. Roosevelt's policy did entail risks, as the president admitted, and deserved careful scrutiny. But lcCormick diluted the point by compounding it with his conspiracy theory. The antiwar appeal was further weakened because, like the concept ofa negotiated peace, it implied a trust in Adolf Hitler. The logic of this argument suggested that the Fi.ihrer would be unlikely to attack America unless provoked . 1othing in Hitler's record seemed to justify such an assumption. Tribune opponents, the Daily News in particular, seized upon this point. Why worry about furnishing a pretext to a man who needed none? Advocates like the Daily News and the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies emphasized that Hitler's appetite for conquest was insatiable. What had Norway or Czechoslovakia clone to warrant azi aggression? Lend-lease entailed risks, they acknowledged, but at least the plan took the initiative against the 1azis. The Tribune was advocating a static and defensive strategy at a time when such a position had fallen into disrepute. Contemporaries like Adlai Stevenson scorned it as a "Maginot Line mentality," a reference to the imposing string of French fortifications that the blitzkrieg had circumvented with frightening ease. McCormick did


Two C:oloneL5 champion a policy that amounted to preparedness and pa si\ity, in effect a trategy of deterrence. For him the hazard of an activist foreign poliq remained uppermo t: "Ifwe are to dictate from time to time what shall be the course of en~nts abroad, " ·e shall see no encl to such an enterprise. It \,ould require continuous imervention in the affairs of the European continent and the [areast. If American m ilit ar\' forces cou ld again overthrow European gmernments an d scauer the present ru ler in night, what then? :\1ust our armies remain in Mrength to repeat th is 11 hene,er a S) mplom of the old troub le is rediscmered~" Hitler's imposing string of \'ictor ies had not O\'ercome :\fcCorm ick' conviction that the pre ent . truggle was but a continuation of an age-o ld contest for domination of Europe. He expected the pendu lum to swing back against the :--:,vis eventually wi thout bene fit ofan Ame rican push . The merit auached to the co lone l's \iew of the histmical ebb and flow of Eu ropean power politics, and to hi . seme of the p itfa ll s inherent in \,orldwicle militar} intenention , wa that his imights addressed potentia l dangers and long-term trends. But thee, idence for their existence \,·as necessari I} rngue and conjectural. His opponents possessed the considerab le advantage of basing their position on immed iate and concrete problem . . Thc sense of urgenq common among backers of lend-lease \,·as comeyecl b) the title ofa Daily .\'Pws front-page editorial. " H itler Won't Wait" auempted to rebut the 7hbunp's position almost point b, point. On th e i sue of the broad grant of presidential pm,er, the DmlJ .\'PW\ began b~ citing its 011 n record of opposition to such aggrandi7ement. The paper had denounced r DR\ p lan to pack the ~upreme Court and h is 10:·rn attemp t to purge his part\ of dissident consenat i,es. T he cliflerence now was that rapidly mo\'ing e, en ts made the grant of po\\er nccessar"} in order to Giff\ out an established national polic}. At whar tim e e ith e r th e publi c or its co ng ress io na l re pre se nta tives had eve r fo rm a ll y "establishe d " tha t po li cy th e Daily News did no t say. Ye t th e pa per was no t a lo ne in impl ying th a t Ame ri ca n interve nti o n in th e war was settl e d po li cy, a nd its co nt e nti o n th a t th e prese nt e me rge ncy justifi ed g ra ntin g Rooseve lt wid e discre tio na ry powe rs was echoed e lsewh e re. In d e nying th e Tribune's o th e r majo r po int, th at le nd -lease wo uld lead to

war, the .\'pivs was a lso le s th a n fu ll v for thcomi ng to its readers. T he paper chose to concentrate o n nar-row l} lega listic gro unds. Le nd -lease did not re prese nt a dec larati on of war beca use no America n perso nne l wou ld be sent O\'erseas. \,\'h ile . tric tl y acc u rate, thi s rejo in der ig n o re d th e blatan tl y u n neu tral a pects o f th e Rooseve lt p rogra m a nd th e co nsequ e nt risks th a t a ue nd ed its ado ptio n . Rh e to ri c in th e News was se ld o m so o,·erb lown as in th e Tribunf , but ne ith e r pa pe r contai ne d a full an d ba la nced acco unt o f th e poss ib le conseq uences th a t m ig ht res ult fro m adopting lend- lease. O th er lend- lease propo ne nts we re more fort hr igh t or m ore sop histicated in th e ir ana lys is. T h e l,ouisvillP Courier-Journal, le d by milit a nt edi tor Herbe rt Agar, o pen ly cha mpi o ned th e b ill as o ne exampl e of A me ri ca n resol ve to see l litl er d e feated a l a ny cos t. Co lumnist Do roth y T hompso n observed th a t le nd -lease showe d th at the Un ited Sta tes was "att e mp ting to win a war with ou t li ght ing it." She p ra ised this sta nce a one that a ll owed the cou ntr)' to pl ay a d ecisive ro le with o ut tying it to the a im s or o bliga ti o ns o f fore ig n nati ons. l loweve r, th e mos t wid es pread response to th e war cha rge was to co nt e nd th a t a ll cou rses fac in g th e nite d Sta tes in vo lved risk, an d th a t le nd -lease o ffered th e bes t cha nce for America to avo id wa r. Earl y in Fe bru a ry, th e Daily New.1 re turn e d to the iss ue of p res id e nti a l powe r in a pi ece th a t captured bot h th e cru x o f th e news pa pe r d e bate in C h icago a nd the bitterness it produ ced . Th e paper charged corTectl y th a t le nd -lease d e tractors ne\'er demo nstrated how th e bill wo uld up<,et the sys te m o f checks a nd ba la nces a mo ng th e branc hes o f gove rn me nt. Co ng ress re ta in e d con tro l of th e pu rse strings an d ma inta in ed its co n<, tituti o na l preroga ti ve to d ec la re wa r. T he i\'ew.1 imi sted th a t th e so le purpo. e o f th e bill was to ex pe dite a id. Oppo ne n ts reso rted to the co nsp iracy cha rge aga ins t Rooseve lt beca use th ey had no e ffective case aga inst th e a id po licy itself. The n th e Daily News we nt o n th e attack: Sure ly a craz ie r coa litio n was neve r asse mbl e d! Come la te ly Ge rm a n Naz is a nd Ita lia n Fasc ists, Communists, pacifists, pro fessi o na l An glo ph o bes, Socia lists, a nti -Se mites, rabid partisa ns wh o hate Rooseve lt m o re th a n they hate Hitl er~ ostrich iso la ti o nists a nd a scatte rin g of timid citize ns afra id of th ey d o n't kn o w

29


Chicago History, Fall 1989

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30

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what-all rally around a few vociferous anti-Roosevelt Democrats and a band of squaw Republicans to attack and calumniate the United States governme111 in a moment of national crisis. These people, whether they know it or not-and some of them do-are performing Hitler's work in America. Hitler's one aim here is to so co nfuse and befuddle public opinion that aid to Britain will be hampered and delayed.

The paper closed by repeating the assertion that national policy was already resolved on the issue ofaid. Lend-lease merely implemented that policy. Unity among all citizens to deal with the Axis menace was the nation's vital need. The Defender continued throughout the lendlease debate to contain more diversity than either of the leading Chicago dailies. Columnist Roscoe Conkling Simmons remained faithful to the gospel according to the Tribune. Reporting on congressional testimony against the bill, Simmons wrote, "In came Robert R. McCormick, bravest American editor, likewise ablest Republican." His columns supplied the only continuing account of the controversy to be found in the Defender, and he mirrored the Tribune on every count. Simmons's use of the term "dictator bill" was only part of the emphasis he placed on the issue of presidential powers, and he insisted Roosevelt was bent on war. Otherwise the Defender largely ignored the lend-lease debate, though it did endorse the bill. Germany had to be stopped, declared one of the paper's two eel itorials on the measure, and the administration's proposal was the only chance to do so short of war. The same piece also reflected the growing bitterness of the debate. "The opponents of aid to Britain are either ignorant of the Gargantuan appetite of the Fascist powers or are serving some clandestine interest which they camouflage in the guise of neutrality." The only time the paper returned to the subject of lend-lease, it was largely to flay opponents for their pointless struggle to delay the bill. In a twist, the Defender accused the bill's critics of risking war by stalling a measure necessary to sustain America's foreign shield, Great Britain. The enactment of lend-lease gratified proponents like the Daily News, but success masked a larger disappointment. As knowledgeable observers had always expected, the bill received 31


Chicago History, Fall 1989

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32


Two Colonels huge m~jont1es in both houses of Congress. A vital step in the defeat of Nazi Germany, the full harnessing of the world's mightiest industrial power to the struggle against Hitler, was now mandated. A working majority in Congress and across the land had abandoned economic neutrality and rejected moderation in the level of American aid to Britain. Yet a broader purpose had not been achieved . In calling for national unity, the Daily News meant to solicit recognition that defeat of the Axis powers had become the overriding American goal. It was a plea for opponents to set aside their doubts about the government and its record and to eliminate all priorities conflicting with prosecution of the war-to do in short what Frank Knox had done. The loyal opposition should cease opposing and become simply loyal. This bid failed. Perhaps a third of the population remained unreconciled. Economic involvement with Great Britain began with repeal of the arms embargo. Initiatives such as the destroyer deal eventually followed. The logical capstone of this pattern was lend-lease. Aid to Britain became established national policy. But adoption did not necessarily signify the acceptance ofanything more extreme. In particular, lend-lease by no means guaranteed American intervention in the war beyond the sphere of economics. As shrewd observers noted at the time, the bill's congressional advocates refused to engage their opponents in debates on wider questions of foreign policy. Proponents confined their testimony to the merits of the lend-lease plan and the mechanics of its operation. This tactic may have eased the bill's passage, but it precluded development of the kind of open-ended endorsement that the Daily News envisioned. A popular majority was not ready to make victory a higher priority than peace. A sizable, vocal, and determined minority remained opposed to the administration's program. By the later stages of the debate they were already being attacked for obstructionism by Walter Lippmann and others. Bitterness on both sides became intense. Attention to issues gave way to charges that were often ad hominem in nature. The major Chicago dailies reflected this trend, which the Tribune had probably helped to start. By early 1941, as exemplified by the Chicago press, fundamentally differing views of the

challenges facing American foreign policy had taken shape. Each newspaper tended to interpret developments in light of its established position. Each paper's ideas were reflected in its news columns as well as its editorial pages. In the Tribune such coloration was overt, even ostentatious. But it could be found in the Daily News, the Defender, and in papers around the nation as well. Those long reports from Europe in the Daily News, to cite one example, filled as they were with grave accounts of an implacable fascist menace, represented messages as surely as the Tribune's use of the term "war dictatorship bill." By 1941 the differences in outlook between the Daily News and the Tribune extended to virtually every facet of the foreign policy situation. Perhaps the only point of agreement was that the consequences of a mistaken policy would be ruinous. To the extent that readers derived their own views from the way news was presented, the press divisions contributed to deep schisms within the attentive public. The resulting bitterness testified that polarization rather than unity was the real product of the lend-lease debate. For Further Reading For biographies of the two colonels see Joseph Gies, The Colonel of Chicago (New York: Dutton, 1979) and Norman Beasley, Frank Knox, American (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran & Co ., 1936). For an analysis of McCormick's newspaper see Jerome E. Edwards, The Foreign Policy of Col. Robert McCormick's Tribune, 1929-1941 (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1971). The best political biography of F.D .R. is James MacGregor Bums's two-volume set, Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox ( 1ew York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1956) and Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom, 1940-1945 ( 1ew York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, lnc., 1970).

Illustrations 4, CHS, ICHi-20098; 5, CHS, ICHi-21478; 6, Tribune Company Archives; 7, CHS, DNA-9513; 8, CHS, ICHi21425; 10, CHS, ICHi-21422; 11, Chicago Defender; 12, Ame1ica First Committee Collection, Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford University; 14, CHS Library; 16-17, America First Committee Collection, Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford University; 19, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library; 21, Fight For Freedom Archives, Princeton University Library; 22-23, CHS, DNB-2526; 24, The University of Chicago Archives; 26, Papers of Ad lai E. Stevenson, Princeton University Library; 30-31, CHS, ICHi-21479; 32, Tribune Company Archives. 33


A Taxing Dilemma: Early Lake Shore Protection by Robin L. Einhorn

Financing effective Lake Michigan breakwaters and protective structures has always been more difficult than engineering them.

Protecting homes perched along the lakefrontfrom the vagaries of Lake Michigan is a constant in Chicago shistory. This retouched 195 J photograph of East Lake Terrace dramatizes the destructive power of waves pounding shoreline residences.

34


A 'fhxinK f)ilnnmn In 1986, when th e ri sing leve l of Lake Mi chi ga n th rea te ne d to des troy th e hi gh-ri se co nd o min iu m b uil dings a lo ng the No rth Side lakefro ntsome of th e mos t val uabl e res id e nti a l property in C hi cago - a commiss ion ap po in te d by Mayor 1laro ld Was hin gton recom me nded th a t th e city seek fe d eral fun ds for a syste m of lake shore protecti o n. O flc re d as th e Reagan ad m ini stra ti on was curta ilin g fe d 'ra l a id to citi es, th e pl a n was p ro ba bl y un rea li sti c. Ye t, in th e 1980s, it seemed th e mos t obv io us so lu ti o n to a cos tly pro bl em, es pecia ll y sin ce th e on ly we ll -publ icized a lternative was loca l fin ancing th ro ug h a po liti ca ll y d evas ta tin g p roper ty tax hike. No bo d y serio usly sugges te d th at th e onh Side co nd om inium owners pay fo r th e ir own protecti o n. Ind eed , two ass umpti o ns gu id ed a lm os t a ll p u b li c deba te a bou t th e eros ion o r th e lake fron t: th at it was a publi c prob lem a ffectin g th e who le city a nd th a t th e cost o f so lving it , th e refore, was a pu bli c res po nsibility. But C hi cagoa ns have no t a lways co nsid e red la ke fro n t ma inte na nce a p ubli c p roble m . In th e 1840s a nd early 1850s, C hi cago's firs t ge nera tion ofse ltl ers a tt em pt â&#x20AC;˘cl to so lve a simi lar p hys ica l prob lem-eros io n of th e Sou th Side lake shore- mak ing very differe nt assu m p tions a bo ut th e "pu bli c" na tu re o f pu bli c wo rks. Be twee n 18-10 a nd 1852 th e cit y tried three ti mes to b u ild a "la k ' shore pro tecti o n," a brea kwa te r strong no ug h to shi e ld th e So uth Side sho re lin e (th e n loca ted a t Michi ga n Ave nu e) aga inst eros ion by th e lake. Engi 11 eni 11g p ro blems p lagued th e cons truction cCfo rts, but the p roject's main obstacle was a protracted co nt roversy over it~ fin ancing. Span ning a period when C h icagoa ns were re th ink ing a nd r orga ni zi ng th e ir system of p u bli c works fin a nci ng, the lake sho re d eba te revea ls much abo ut h ow mi dnin c 1ec nth -ce n1u ry C hi cagmm s th o ug ht a bo ut gove rnm e nt. Fin a ll y, in 1852 th e cit y gran ted the Illin o is Cen tra l Ra il road Co m pany ( LC) a lake shore right or way in re tu rn for th e co mpa ny's co nstr u ction of a pe rm a n e n t brea kwa ter. Ye t interpre tatio ns of this gran t have bee n clo uded by a fa ilu re to un de rstand its context. Hi storia ns generall y have cast the IC grant in a ro le ana logous to fede ra l a id in th e 1980s-the on ly alte rnative to a d readed p ro peny tax hike. T hus Lo is Robin L. Einhorn is assistant professor of history at the University of California at Berkeley.

ViPw of ihP lllinoi..1 Cmtml '/hm11,al complex loo//mg nm lit Jmm !ht' vici111ly of Madi.ion Street mul the laile ,hore. In 1852 thl'nty gra11ted the ll/1110L, Cr11tml Htulrotul Company Litt' nght of way lo rmuln,r/ a tmlle 111 La/it' l\ltclugan .llYPlclung from 22nd S/rt'l'I to /{(,11dolph Sim'/ w rt/urn /m ro,ulnt.rtion of a Jwmunwnt brm/11oat1?; l'holor,rra.J1h by). (.'arlm/1.

Wi ll e, in her hi story o f th e la ke fro nt Forever Open, Clear and Free ( 1972), pa in ts a d ire pi ctu re of th e city's fin ances in 1852 and sy mpa th izes with the ago n izing cho ice it force d o n city o m cia ls. Bess ie Lo uise Pi e rce, whose hi story of C hi cago re ma ins th e sta ndard re fere nce, hi nted at th e im p ro p r ie ty with wh ic h a ldermen "y i Id ec! to th e press u re o f th e ra il road ," abe tted by C hi cagoa ns who we re "glad of rc li f of tax lev ies." In hindsight C h icagoa ns mi gh t wish th a t th e cit y had taxed it se lf ra th er th a n turn the So uth Side lake fro nt int o a ra il yard . In 1852, howeve r, taxa ti o n was no t a re leva nt a lte rn at ive. At th a t time, few C hi cagoa ns exce pt th ose who actu a ll y owned la ke fro nl property wo uld have agreed th at its protection was a p u b li c res po nsibility. By the late 1840s mos t o f th e city's res ide nts ass u med th a t the res po nsibi lit y for p ro tec ting a ny pa rti cular tract or real es ta te be lo nged so le ly 10 th e ow ners or th e trac t in q ues ti o n-and th e cit y's fund a m e nta l law cod es ("c it y cha rters") we re rew ritten in 1847 an d 185 1 to re fl ect thi s ass umpti o n. By 1852, however, it had beco m e cl ea r th a t th e owne rs of the fas hio nabl e ho m es o n So uth M ichigan Ave nue-th e la ke fro nt co ndo miniums o f th e ir d ay-would no t pay to p ro tect the ir own prop e rti es. T hey d id not wa nt a ra il road to sp o il th e ir views ofthe la ke, but th ey refused to pay any o th e r way, de ma nding instead th at a ll C hi cagoa ns co ntribu te th ro ug h the ir ge ne ral p ro perty taxes. Alth o ugh the city co un cil (th e n ca ll ed the "co mm o n co un cil ") h ad o ffered partial tax fundin g fo r

35


Chicago History, Fall 1989

Maintenance of breakwaters, such as this dilapidated 1914 wooden st111c/11re al -14th Street (above), required constant allrntion. Photograph by

J. Sherwin Murphy. "Cap. Allen's Mop of 1837"(right) charts t/U' north and south piers built wilhjednal fund,; to create a clear harbor f or the city. lake shore protection, no one except the Michigan Avenue property owners themselves ever considered general taxation a fair solution. Wh y, as some aldermen asked, should all Chicagoans subsidize benefits to be enjoyed chiefly by a few wealthy families? If the 1852 IC grant looks more reasonable in this context, of course, the long-lerm result was the same. General taxation might ha\'e prevented the South Side lake shore from becoming a rail yard. In the political culture of the midnineteenth century, however, such taxation was unthinkable. Urban historians are only beginning to explore the ideas , assumptions, and practices-the political culwre-that underlie the financing and execution of public works in mid-nineteenth-century American cities. Using long-neglected city records, they are reconstructing a forgotten world of political ideas and financial practices. This political culture differed substantially from that in which city governments operate today. The lake shore protection controversy in Chicago exemplifies this difference. In 36

the 1850s taxation was considered a grossly unfair and patently inequitable solution to the problem of lake shore erosion. As the city faces a imilar problem today, a property tax hike, though unpopular, seems inevitable and reasonable in the absence of federal aid. The lake shore controversy began almost th e moment that the city acquired title to the lakefront. Platted originally in 1833 with an eastern boundary at State Street, Chicago obtained its first lake frontage in 1839, when the War Department ceded it the land that contained the old Fort Dearborn. Known as the Fort Dearborn Addition to Chicago, this seventy-six-acre tract extended northeast from tJ1e corner of State and Madison streets to the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. The General Land Office plat of this tract dedicated the lakefront(soon Michigan Avenue) block between Randolph and Washington streets as a public park, "forever to remain vacant of buildings." The rest of the land was subdivided and sold to private buyers. While the 1839 grant was a boon to the young city, extending its


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The Fort Dearborn Addition, a seventy-six-acre tract of land bounded by State Street, the Chicago River, Lake Michigan, and J\lladison Street, was ceded to Chicago in 1839 by the U.S. War Department. Erosion of this land beginning in the 1840s forced property owners and the city to seek lake shore protection.

38


A. Taxing Dilemma boundaries and creating Dearborn Park, its first public ground, the grant also presented the city with a problem. When the federal government had dredged Chicago's harbor at the river's mouth in 1833, it had built two piers that extended several hundred feet into the lake. While the northern pier trapped sand on its north side, creating the new land that ultimately became Streeterville, the southern pier created an eddy that eroded land to the south, including the shoreline of Dearborn Park. Any breakwater that the federal government might have built had washed away by 1840. In the first suggestion for municipal action, one "Terra Firma" urged in a letter to the Chicago American that "the citizens first take hold and secure the bank, and afterwards look to the public for recompense." On September 26, 1840, the property owners of the Fort Dearborn Addition met to solicit subscriptions for a lake shore barrier. They raised $1,048, apparently the work's entire cost, and presented it to the common council, asking that the city build the project and reimburse them with interest in five years. The council voted to accept their loan, repayable from future tax levies, and to build a breakwater

that would protect the city's only park. othing more is known about Chicago's first attempt at lake shore protection, and no evidence exists to suggest that the effort was anything but successfu 1, politically if not technologically. In contrast to later years, Chicagoans in 1840 considered lake shore protection a public responsibility. At the time, most of the city's 4,000 residents were "city boosters"-businessmen who had migrated to this urban frontier in the mid1830s. They gambled that Chicago's growth would make them rich by raising the value of real estate that they bought, most of it heavi ly mortgaged, in a speculative land boom. No sooner had they made their gambles, however, than a national depression, the Panic of 1837, sent land values crashing down, bankrupting almost every businessman in Chicago. By 1840, in the depths of the depress ion, the very survival of the young city was an open question as its businessmen held on to whatever property they had been able to salvage in the hope that recovery and ultimately expansion would repair their fortunes. Chicago's growth, one booster later recalled, was a general obsession, the "theme of thought and conversation, and the inspiration of

Captain J. D. Websters plan for a lake shore breakwater and estimate of construction costs filed with the city of Chicago, September 6, 1850.

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39


Chicago History, Fall 1989

great plans and deeds." Although none of the boosters was yet in any position to turn great plans into great deeds, most recognized their "mutual dependence" on the "future greatness" of Chicago-and expressed it concretely by financing their few public works by general taxation. Yet even so, the Fort Dearborn owners, whose properties were most directly affected by lake shore protection, assumed its initial cost. They raised funds during the depression that t11e city would refund only after the real estate market recovered and taxation became less painful. By 1845, when the 1840 loan came due , the real estate market had indeed recovered but the breakwater the loan had financed was in shambles. The Michigan Avenue property owners had begun organizing the previous summer to build a second breakwater. Again , they decried the imminent destruction of Dearborn Park, and their concern now extended to a larger tract of

40

land east of Michigan Avenue between Madison and 12th streets (later named Lake Park) that the state of Illinois had granted to the city. The Michigan Avenue owners now could argue that wit11out lake shore protection , Chicago would be "deprived of one of the most extensive Public Parks that can be found in any American city." The council agreed to build anot11er breakwater. Of its estimated $7,000 cost, the city bon-owed $4,500 on the bond market to build the portion of breakwater directly in front of the public grounds, and the owners subscribed $2,500 for its construction in front of their own Michigan Avenue lots in the Fort Dearborn Addition. Yet this distribution did not reflect the public and private shares of the project's total cost because the bonds for the "city's share" were to be refunded not from a citywide property tax but from a special assessment levied only on the property oflakefront owners. Thus, the only cost


A Taxing Dilemma

Arguing that proteclirm of the lahejront wa.s a public re.iponsibility, ownen of fashionable Michigan Avenue homes like 1/w;e on 7;,,-race Row (opposite, /oohing southwest from i!lmkwatrr; c. 1855) demanded that the city use genPral tax revenues lo pay for a new breakwater. Above, a bird's-1,ye view of Chicago shows the J\llichigan Avm111, property that embroiled the city in debate over financing public worhs. Gift of Richard 7: Cmn1',}1:

the "p ublic" this time wa that of raising the initial capital-the only cost th e Michigan Avenue owners had paid in 1840. Clearly, Chicago's lakefront park no longer was considered a purely "public" property. By 1845 Chicagoans evaluated it with a new logic that they also had begun to apply to other public works projects: because the park raised the value of the real estate near it, the owners of that real estate should pay for its protection. This new logic replaced the pirit of "mutual dependen ce" with one of competition within the city. With the survival and future growth of Chicago now all but a sure thing-lingering doubts were banished in 1845 when the state resumed construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal that was uspended during the depression-Chicago's businessmen began to turn their attention away from the city's general growth and toward the values of the particular parts of it that they owned. Now, instead LO

of general property taxes, the city used special assessments to finance public works. Unlike property taxation, special assessments levied the costs of public works projects only on properties that gained "particular benefits" from them. Thus, when the city paved a street, it levied a special assessment on the owners of the properties abuuing that street because those owners gained the "particular benefit" of enhanced land value when their street was paved. When the lakefront owners demanded a new protection in 1845, therefore, an interpretation of the ownership of Dearborn Park and the open land to the south was crucial. Clearly-and legally-the city owned these tracts; they had been granted to the city by the government. It did not follow, however, that all Chicagoans owned them equally, especially as such ownership implied a financial obligation . Michigan Avenue property owners obviously enjoyed a "particular 41


View of South Michigan Avenue looking north from Congress Hall. Controlling the erosion of Dearborn Park, the city sfirst public park, was a central issue of the lake s/zorr protection debate. Lakefront re;idmts believed the city was responsible for protecting the park for all citizens. Others argued that the park raised adjacent property valw's and lakefront owners should therefore pay for its protection.


Chicago History, Fall 1989 benefit" in having parkland near their homes; this, as aldermen pointed out, was the reason they clamored so loudly for its protection. The council adopted a construction plan in July 1845, hired a contractor named Benjamin Tibbits in August, and accepted his completed work in November. So far, so good. The assessment levied to recover the $4,500 bond issue, however, caused problems. No sooner had the assessors completed their work than objections began to reach the council. Michigan Avenue property owners complained that their individual assessments were unfairly large, that public property (the park) gained particular benefits that should have been charged to the city, that the assessment had been made illegally, that the total amount assessed was too high, and that the use of special assessments at all violated the Illinois state constitution. Such laundry lists of objections were to become an integral part of the special assessment

process in the 1850s. As the state supreme court developed a special assessment case law and the city charter's assessment provisions grew more detailed, most of these objections lost their force-though property owners continued to invoke them, almost ritually, when attempting to evade assessment charges. In 1845, however, special assessment was still novel as both a Chicago practice and an Illinois law; the only relevant precedents for settling disputed details ofassessment procedure still had to be imported from the court reports of New York State. The Michigan Avenue property owners, therefore, were able to exploit both the local novelty in Chicago and the shaky legal foundation of special assessment in Illinois. They threatened to embroil the city in protracted litigation, and in the meantime they refused to pay. Benjamin Tibbits's protection survived only one month before it required its first repairs, but in December 1845, the council could not find a

-1

View of Grant Park from the si,xth floor of the Kimball Building, South Michigan Avenue and 1llh Street, 1891. Grant Park was built on landfill that extended the shoreline to the Illinois Central Railroad tracks.

44


A Ihxing DilPmma contractor to fix it who was willing to make his fee contingent on the successful collection of the assessment. Aldermen hired Tibbits and paid him from the general tax fund. By January l846 several Michigan Avenue owners had retained attorneys "to take steps to prevent the collection of the special tax assessed against them for what is known as the Lake Shore Protection." The council agreed to an early court test, but the property owners delayed. One contractor who was also a lakefront owner went so far as to bill the city after he built a breakwater in front of his own Michigan Avenue lots. Aldermen found this "absurd and preposterous," since he had gained twice his construction expenses when the accretion of sand between the breakwater and the shore enlarged his lots. By August 1846 both the protection and its finances were in jeopardy. The barrier had "been broken through by the Lake, and a part of it carried away." Judge Hugh T. Dickey had issued an

injunction against collecting the assessment on the grounds that the charter allowed the city to levy special assessments only for street improvements. Alderman George Manierre of the judiciary committee responded that the protection did indeed improve a street-Michigan Avenueand urged the council back to court. The 1845 bonds, moreover, were now past due and although some of the bondholders had agreed to extend them, the council finance committee found the trea ury unable to bear even the interest. Tibbits, who had been paid for his initial work in scrip redeemable only from the assessment, demanded to be paid from the city's general tax fund. The council obliged. In October 1846 it also paid lumber suppliers and other contract0rs from the general fund. Some aldermen were so frustrated by these proceeding. that the council considered a motion to dismantle the protection and sell the lumber to pay off the contractors. In another year, they refunded the assessments of those

I

The lllinoi.s Central Railroad's suburban station in Grant Park, c. /890.

45


Chicago History, Fall 1989 Michigan Avenue owners who had paid Lhem. The second aLLempt to build a lake shore protection had been an administrative nightmare and a failure by any standard. The Michigan Avenue property owners demanded that the lake shore be protected but refused to pay for it. In 1847, when special assessments were the norm, the city had to pay general funds for a protection that no longer existed. The property owners also consolidated their vicLory in Springfield, when Chicago representative Francis C. Sherman altered a pending charter amendment bill to add a clause banning special assessment for any future lake shore protection. By 1850, however, when aldermen embarked on their third attempt to build a¡ breakwater, the city had a counterweapon: several railroads had expressed interest in a right of way along Chicago's lakefront, preferably in Lake Park itself. Michigan Avenue landowners rejected this, of course, complaining as early as 1848 Lhat a railroad would lower the value of Michigan Avenue property and "greatly impair the beauty" of the park (not yet developed as a park, the Lract was anything but beautiful, being used chiefly as a city dump). The owners now had to be careful as the council renewed its attempt to get them to pay for their own protection. In September 1850John C. Dodge, North Side alderman and chairman of the council finance committee, took control of a special committee on the lake shore protecLion. Dodge wrote a report that clarified the project's differential benefits and proposed a complicated compromise scheme to build a consensus between the city and the Michigan Avenue owners. Dodge began with the public responsibility Lo protect the city's lakefront parklands. At least twenty of the tract's thirty-five acres had washed away, and in some places the lake had even encroached on Michigan Avenue itself. "This improvement," Dodge concluded after a paean to fresh air, "is for Lhe benefit of all the citizens, and all, though not equally, are interested in the protection and increase of the Public Grounds at this point." Witl1 more than $250,000 worth of public property already destroyed, Dodge urged immediate action. "Can there be any doubt as to the propriety and expediency of the City doing tl1at to this Property which for an individual to neglect, would authorize a Court of Chancery to appoint

46

a Guardian over his Estate, and take from him its control?" Yet Dodge also recognized the responsibility of the Michigan Avenue owners to contribute . Although ilie parklands were public, it could not "be disguised that the Lots upon Michigan Avenue would be much more benefitLed by such improvement than owners of Lands in oilier portions of the City." Even if the special clause in the 1847 charter amendment prohibited special assessment for lake shore protection, Dodge argued, the property owners should be reasonable and assume part of the cost anyway by making voluntary subscriptions. The counci I had levied a small citywide tax in 1849 that had yielded $6,500. Dodge had been negotiating with the Michigan Avenue owners, he reported to his colleagues, and most of them seemed willing to pay half of ilie prolection's cost-a distribution iliat both tile council and a meeting of the Michigan Avenue owners had endorsed. WiLh that cost now estimated at $!0,000, Dodge concluded, the city had collected its share. On Dodge's urging, the council passed two orders. First, it formally accepted tl1e proposal to split tl1e cost in half, with ilie stipulation that tl1e council would build the protection along tile public ground where abutting lot owners signed the cost-sharing agreement, but would not build in frontofany block until all of the block's owners signed. Secondly, the council created the Joint Committee on Lake Shore Protection. Composed of three aldermen and three representatives ofthe property owners, the joint committee acquired full power to adopt a construction plan, make contracts on the city's behalf, and superintend the work. A week later, also at Dodge's request, the council granted the joint committee the power to levy special assessments on Michigan Avenue property in order to apportion the owners' half of the cost among them and to collect these assessments as the work progressed. Because special assessments for lake shore protection were illegal under the 1847 charter, these assessments were described as subscriptions-voluntary payments that the Michigan Avenue owners agreed to make by signing tile cost-sharing pact. On September 30, 1850, with an initial appropriation of$1,500 from the city treasury, iliejoint committee commenced operation. The property


A Taxing Dilemma

The lakefronlfrom the Auditorium Building, 1907.

owners elected block captains to visit all lot owners who had not yet signed the cost-sharing agreement "and if possible to induce them to sign it:' By March 1851 the joint committee had built over half the protection and the work appeared able to withstand Lake Michigan's waves. The sediment that already had accumulated between the barrier and the shore convinced the optimistic committee that in the future the city might "repeat the process of pile driving still farther out in the Lake [and that] all the land which has been carried away may by this means be regained." The property owners already had been assessed for more than half of their share of the cost. Aldermen, meanwhile, drafted a new city charter that, when passed by the legislature in February 1851, repealed the 1847 ban on special assessments for lake shore protection. Dodge's solution seemed to be working. But one problem remained. The charter

authorized the city to levy the $6,500 tax for lake shore protection, but it did not empower any quasi-private body like the joint committee to spend city money. In February 1851 Mayor James Curtiss-then under attack from Dodge for mishandling police court funds-criticized city spending by a committee "with no legal official existence." "The sum of $6,500," Curtiss noted loftily, "has thus been illegally placed beyond the control of the city authorities." Dodge was furious. Curtiss had undermined his whole consensus-building effort, handing Michigan Avenue property owners the ammunition with which to challenge the joint committee's assessments in court. For if the committee could not handle any city funds, it certainly could not levy special assessments, especially those levied before the 1851 charter became law. Attempting to forestall these objections, aldermen ordered a new assessment in October 1851 to replace those

47


Chicago History, Fall 1989

Amos C. Throop, a lumber merchant and riverside ward aldennan, lobbied to have Michigan Avenue property holders shoulder the cost of lake shore protection. Photograph by Mosher.

levied illegally by I.he joint committee and, as a further concession to I.he Michigan Avenue owners, levied a special property tax on all South Side property to help pay for a project whose cost, predictably, now exceeded the original estimate. On December 31, 1851, the joint committee filed its final report. The lake shore protection had been completed for a total cost of just under $13,000 and the Michigan Avenue property owners had been assessed for all but$800 of their share. The council approved the report and dissolved the joint committee in February 1852. The city had improved on its 1845 performance by actually managing to construct the protection , but it still had to collect the assessment. Back in October the council's South Side streets committee had urged the joint committee to collect its assessments "while the proprietors on the Avenue are so zealous in their argument for the protection of the Lake shore." On December l

48

I.he South Side committee considered its first remonstrances from property owners trying lo resist paying the assessment and, three weeks later, rejected a plea that the assessment was "wrong in principle and unjust to the owners of real estate on Michigan Avenue." The collector returned his warrant in February 1852 and in May issued orders to sell lots for nonpayment. In June the property owners began holding protest meetings. "In what way," they asked, "are we interested in such protection that the whole south [side] is not interested: Only in this, I.hat the property on Michigan Avenue will be the first destroyed." Alderman Amos G. Throop, a member of the South Side streets committee from a riverside rather than a lakefronl ward-a man whose lasting reputation in Chicago would rest on his leadership of the antiliquor crusade of the 1850sanswered with the logic of special assessment: "How would these genllemen relish an assessment to repair the Banks of the South Branch [of the Chicago River], or for planking streets a long distance from I.hem?" Clearly I.hey would notand riverfront property owners had paid special assessments for improving the river. The entire South Side had been assessed twice for the lake shore protection, first in the citywide $6,500 tax and then again in l11e South Side special property lax. The Michigan Avenue owners should pay the balance not only because they had signed Dodge's cost-sharing agreement, but because they had a direct, "particular" interest in lake shore protection. "For without such protection," as Throop put it, "befo re this time L11e Lake would have reached I.he beautiful Mansions and Flower Gardens, of the petitioners." Throop argued in vain. Irregularities in the assessment procedure, wrangling over the issue, and unresolved ambiguity about I.he legal status of the parkland guaranteed co ntinued resistance by the Michigan Avenue owners. In June 1852 the council refused to authorize repairs to the protection while suits that the owners had brought against the assessment were still pending. In December, enjoined by the courts from collecting the assessment, the council began to refund portions that had been paid. How could they refuse a petitioner who, assessed a mere $28 (Michigan Avenue ringleaders estimated the average assessment at $93 per lot), questioned


A TcLXing Dilemma CURTIS , JA:. ES

;..

L

Mayor Jami's Curlis., questioned the legality of lhejoin.t _Commmitee on Lake Shore Protection spending city funds. Photograph by Mash.er.

the fairness "that those who are willing & have paid their assessment without contention should whilst others who are more able to contend are not compeled [sic] to pay now." In their third attempt to build the lake shore protection, aldermen had worked very hard -a nd tretched the law-to build a compromise that balanced public purpose and private interest. It didn't work. The Michigan Avenue property owners simply refused 10 pay. lf1he Michigan Avenue owners would not pay for lake shore protection in cash, they would be forced to pay some other way. The council wa every bit as adamant in its refusal to authorize more citywide tax funds. To put it simply, Chicago in 1852 was much larger, more diverse, and more divided than it had been in 1840, when a small group oflakefront owners identified their interests as the public interest of a struggling young city of 4,000. Chicago now was a city of nearly 40,000, a city with a large municipal debt,

a nd a city whose politics renected a consensus on low tax rates. Yet Chicago in 1852 was a city with a bargaining chip. Its rapid growth and strategic location encouraged railroad companies to clamor for entrance rights, competing with one another to gain the privilege. The lllinois Central , which had been chartered with a huge land grant in 185 I, sweelened its bid for a right of way by promising to build "such a wall of slone masonry . . . as wi II forever effectually protect the en1ire [South Side] against all damage or injury from the action of the water or Lake Mi chigan." City officials hastened to New York to negotiate with the company, aided by Congressman Stephen Douglas, who rushed up from Washington. Once the basic outline of the deal was set, a ldermen tried to placate Michigan Avenue owners by demanding that the IC push its track farther into the lake and fill the land between the wall and the shore in order to make "a convenient and safe public promenade," thus creating new parkland. Willing to compromise on the distance between wall and shore, IC officials rejected the landfill and promenade demand as "wholly inadmissable," lecturing Chicagoans on the difference between a private company and a government. "Railroads," as IC attorney Ma on Brayman explained, are not constructed for the purpose of building cities, nor of adorning cities, nor of repairing the damages they ma) have suffered from fire and water.... (These] are incid ents- inevitable and desirable incidents Lo such e merprises, but not the object of them .... [T]he Company propose Lo erect, at an extra cost ... of several hundred thousand Dollars, a permanent sea wall which will afford the City adequate security against the further advances of the Lake, rendering all further taxation for Lake shore protection unnecessary.

Beyond thi the Illinois Central would not go. "May not the Company be required to level the Hills of Galena, pave the streets of Bloomington, and fill up the low grounds of Cairo, as well as make a 'public promenade' at Chicago?" These, Brayman argued, were publ ic responsibilities. A promenade "would be as palpable a perversion of [company] funds, as though the same amount were donated to the city for planking streets or endowing institutions of Charity:'

49


Chicago History, Fall 1989

50


A Taxing Dilemma

This 19 28 view of the lake sh.ore isJar different from the shorP/ine of 1850. Breakwaters such. as this angkd structure are still used to control lakefront erosion.

Brayman understood a clear line to exist between public and private projects, but the ambiguity of this line was precisely what had prevented the city from protecting its own lake shore. In the end, the Michigan Avenue property owners paid for lake shore protection; they were forced to look at the railroad when they gazed at the lake, and their property values doubtless reflected this. The council had solved its problem by finding a single property owner-the Illinois Central-who gained enough from the project to be willing to pay for the whole thing. The 1852 IC gram did not reflect the conupt or even legitimate pressure of a powerful corporation. It reflected a political culture that rejected_.., the existence of a public interest in public works. More immediately, it reflected the frustration of city officials who had been trying for a decade to convince a recalcitrant group of property owners to finance their own "particular benefits"-as everyone else in Chicago did in the 1850s.

For Further Reading This paper draws ex tensively from the Chicago City Clerk Papers, documents that were thought to have burned in the Great Fire of 1871 until the Illinois Scace Archives discovered them in 1984. The author wishes to thank the Archives for their help in using the material prior to the completion of the catalogue by Robert E. Baily, et al., Chicago City Council Proceedings Files 1833-1871; An inventory (Springfield: Illinois State Archives, 1987). For modern treatments of nineteenth-century municipal finance see Jon C. Teaford , The Unheralded Triumph: City Government in America, 1870-1900 (Baltimore:Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984); Christine Meisner Rosen, The Limits of Power: Great Fires and the Process of City Growth in America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986); and Ann Durkin Keating, Building Chicago (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1988).

Illustrations 34, CHS, ICHi-21374; 35, CHS, ICHi-21402; 36, CHS, ICHi-21377; 37 and 38, CHS Library; 39, Illinois State Archives; 40, CHS, ICHi-21379; 41, CHS, ICHi-21375; 42-43, CHS, ICHi-04438; 44, CHS, ICHi-03150; 45, CHS Prints and Photographs Collection; 47, CHS, ON 4925; 48, CHS, ICHi-21364; 49, CHS, lCHi-21366; 50-51, CHS, ICHi-21380. 51


B

ird's-eye views of America-

from an imaginary or a real

perspective-grew out of the need to impose order on the chaotic, sprawling, and rapidly changing nineteenth-century American environment. The earliest bird's-eye

lithographs of American cities

Often idealized city-booster visions of urban order and economic opportumty, bird's-eye views captured the rapid growth of the nineteenth-century city. At first made only to astound, aerial views evolved into important tools for urban planning.

and towns during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In Chicago, more than eighty different ground-level and bird's-eye lithographic views appeared between 1849 and 1916. The

views were landscapes. Between

techniques employed by artists,

1825 and 1860, a group of Ameri-

lithographers, and printers to cre-

can painters, including Thomas Cole,

.

111tA,

ate these images made different

Asher B. Durand, Frederic E. Church,

cities across the nation seem

and Albert Bierstadt, enthralled the

strikingly similar. Publishers used

public with spellbinding, majestic

aggressive sales techniques to

visions of nature. These panor-

market their products. Sales repre-

amas of natural beauty served as realistic depictions of the landscape and as romantic expressions of beauty and lofty cosmic truth .

George R. Lawrence's balloon Zenith, from which he made aerial photographs, being prepared for launching at the Union Stock Yards. Photograph by George R. Lawrence, c. 1901. CHS, ICHi-11099.

The rise of the city as a new

sentatives promoted them as tools that city boosters could use to advertise their town's attractions, enhance its prestige, and thereby contribute to its growth and pros-

feature on the landscape demanded

dissent. But from his elevated point

perity. Thus was an otherwise rag-

its own romanticized depiction. As

of view, the artist could gloss over

ged frontier town transformed into

populations migrated westward,

the negative aspects of city life

a picturesque village nestled in a

towns sprouted from unincor-

and instead portray the grandeur

sweeping landscape.

porated settlements on the prairie;

of urban growth .

the towns soon became cities.

Recognizing a lucrative market

As the rapid growth of cities made accurate artistic represen-

Urbanization and industrialization

in the public's demand for attrac-

tations too expensive and time-

intensified chronic social problems:

tive, well-drawn panoramas, pub-

consuming, photographs replaced

crime, poverty, working-class

lishers produced thousands of

lithographs as the dominant


medium for bird's-eye views. Early panoramic photographers, without the same freedom to embellish that artists and lithographers had, nevertheless tried to interpret cityscapes in the same grand manner. In the early twentieth century, the aerial photograph

Niagara, painting by Frederic E. Church, 1857. The Corcoran Gallery of Arr.

was a new thrill. Chicago photographer George Lawrence (1869-

Works of International Harvester

1938). a pioneer in aerial and

Company. Among his best-known

panoramic photography, shot views

work is a series of images of San

more uses than did the primarily

from balloons, portable towers,

Francisco after the 1906 earth-

decorative prints of the nineteenth

and kites in addition to his air-

quake, showing the city's ruins

century. They are invaluable to

plane. Some of his Chicago sub-

and rebuilding .

urban planners, who rely on them

jects include the Union Stock Yards,

As city boundaries continued to

materials trumpeting the city. Today's aerial views have many

to help put their designs in proper

the International Balloon Race of

expand farther and farther from

perspective, and to cartographers,

July 4, 1908, and the McCormick

their civic and commercial centers,

who use them to make maps. But

the aerial view became more lim-

all bird's-eye views of the city, past

ited in scope. Photographers con-

and present, share one common

centrated on capturing selected

trait: they are fascinating historical

portions of the city rather than the

documents that reveal much about

entire metropolitan area . The Loop,

the changing urban landscape and

with its imposing skyline of sky-

our evolving perception of it. The

scrapers towering over Lake Mich-

following selection of views shows

igan , became Chicago's most

Chicago's progression from frontier

popular bird's-eye view, and it has

town to bustling industrial center

appeared on countless promotional

to the nation's second-largest city.

"Table-Rock, " Niagara Falls, wood engraving from Harper's Weekly, October 2, 1858, CHS Library.


Chicago History, Fall 1989

1111<1>-.1 · \ I \ II'\\ <ll '-,(ll 111 l 1 111< \(,<l

< \I l \II ·. ! II \l{ll<ll<

I. Above, "Birdseye View of South Chicago - Calumet Harbor," c. 1873. CHS, ICHi-20971. Below, "Birdseye View-lake Shore Drive, (from Water Tower}," early 1880s. CHS, ICHi-18886.

54


The Big Picture

Chicago, c. 1856, engraving by W Wellstoon after a drawing by G. J. Robertson. CHS, /CHi'.20965. Gift of Mrs. Emerson Hough.

55


I.

A

K

E

·''

('

II

BIRD'S-EYE VIEW' Of TttE 13 56


J,

DISTRIC,T "Bird's-Eye lflew of the Business District of Chicago," color lithograph, 1893. CHS, ICHi-14892.

57


Chicago History, Fall 1989


The Big Picture

-------~ ----¡--

"Panorama of Chicago. From Monadnock Block, Dearborn, Jackson, Van Buren Sts. and Custom House Place, "color lithograph by George W Melville, 1891. CHS, ICHi-05690.

59


Chicago History, Fall 1989


The Big Picture

Chicago stockyards, photograph by Kaufmann & Fabry, c. 1901. CHS, /CHt'. 04081.

61


Chicago History, Fall 1989

BIROS EYE VIEW BUSINESS DISTRICT .:lf" CHICAG NEW PA-.SEN

TER~A.l"-tl\L

NcRTH

We

TE

RY

NF

u

Above, post card view of central business district with imaginary airplanes, c. !91 !. CHS, ICHi-20969. Below, a !937 post card combines see-through and bird's-eye views to create a unique picture of Chicago Municipal Airport. Photograph by Kaufmann & Fabry.

CHICAGO MUNICIPAL AIRPORT

C

62

C,

T.

l CO

THE COllER OF AIR TRANSPORTATION OF THE NATION


The Big Picture

Chicago stockyards, photograph by Kaufmann & Fabry, 1924. CHS, /CHi-04090.

63


Chicago looking south, photograph by Chicago Aerial Survey Co., 1929. CHS, ICHi'.20958.


Chicago History, Fall 1989

Chicago looking southeast, photograph by Chicago Aerial Survey Co., 1935. CHS, ICHd5320.

66


The Big Picture

Chicago looking east, photograph by Chicago Aerial Survey Co., 1939. CHS, ICHi-20960. Gilt of Chicago Commons Association.

67


Packinghouse Blues by Paul Street

Lured to World War I Chicago by the promise of steady work in the meatpacking industry, blacks found themselves relegated to the most exhausting, filthy, and backbreaking jobs in the stockyards.

Upton Sinclair's Thejung/,e has introduced generations of readers to a central part of Chicago's history. The meat-packing industry and its workers of eastern European ancestry have held a special place in the city's historical record since Sinclair published his novel in 1905. Less appreciated is the important role of black workers in the packing plants and the centrality of the meatpacking industry to the development of black Chicago. The fault is hardly Sinclair's, for few blacks worked in Chicago meal packing al the time he wrote. By the end of World War I, however, black Chicagoans had truly become the heirs ofThejungle. Until the closing of the major packing plants in the 1950s and early 1960s, the packers were the single largest employer of black industrial workers in Chicago. Blacks more than any other group dominated the disagreeable and exhausting departments of a filthy and backbreaking industry.

The meat-packing industry employed more black workers than any other industry in Chicago, although few worked 111 the stockyards at the /urn oj the cenllll)'¡ These workers replaced whites who wa/1,ed off the job in the 1904 Stockyards Strike.

Paul StrPel is a doctoral candidate in history al the Stale University of New )1:>rk al Binghamton.

Blacks attained a permanent large-scale presence in the packinghouses during World War I. Restrictions on immigration and the loss of workers to European battlefields caused a shortage in the labor supply. Northern industrial employers found a new source of labor in the thousands of blacks seeking to escape racial oppression and economic disaster in the Sout11. Directly cultivated by packinghouse managers, government and private labor agents, and the black press, blacks making tJ1e "Great Migration" formed a black working class on Chicago's South Side. In 1915 about a thousand blacks worked in Chicago's packinghouses. Three years later, the meat-packing plants employed 12,000 black workers who at that time composed 20 percent of the work force at the giant Armour plant and as many as 80 percent in some of the smaller establishments. The meat packers sought more tJ1an new sets of hand . Wartime labor demands and government intervention to ensure steady defense production had fostered white labor militancy. During the war Chicago was home to the Stockyards Labor Council (SLC), led by William Z. Foster and Jack Johnstone a nd endorsed by the popular Polish leader John Kikulski. The SLC en li sted the mostly eastern European immigrant

69


Chicago History, Fall 1989 work force of the stockyards to extract unprecedented wage and hour concessions from the powerful meat trust. Like other employers, the packers saw blacks as especially valuable tools for dividing white ethnic workers. When the manager of Swift and Co.'s Denver plant faced labor trouble in the summer of 1917, the Chicago headquarters prescribed an increase of "colored help" to 15 percent. Swift managers had used the same tactic in their home city, employing blacks as strikebreakers in 1894 and 1904. Alma Herbst, a University of Chicago student, interviewed numerous Chicago packinghouse officials during the mid-1920s for her 1928 economics thesis on blacks in the local meat-packing industry. The chief reason cited by every establishment for employing blacks was fear of future strikes and attempts to unionize the butchers. In the event of such threats, managers expected blacks to be strikebreakers as they had been in the strikes of 1904 and 1921. Historically, blacks

had only increased their share of packinghouse jobs during strikes and when demand for white labor outstripped supply. During the 1920s, when payrolls were no longer swelled by war, industry decentralization and technical improvements reduced the numberofpackinghousejobs while the strike threat fell to almost nothing. White laborers were plentiful and eager to work in the stockyards, thanks to unemployment in other capital-intensive industries caused by dramatic technological improvements. Blacks' share of packinghouse jobs also rose 30 percent in 1922 and fluctuated around that figure for the rest of the decade. By 1930, 36 percent of the stockyards' male workers and 22 percent of female workers were black. Chicago packinghouse managers worked resolutely to keep their new black work force immune to the Iure of unionism. Through monetary contributions to black churches and associations, they purchased the public endorsement of black

A policeman controls a crowd of curious onlookers at the 1904 Stockyards Strike. Packinghouse managers used black:, as strikebreakers when white ethnic workers refused to cross picket lines.

72


Packinghouse Blues

During lhe "Great Migration" of World War I, thousands of blackslike lhis newly arrived family-moved to Chicago to escape racial oppresswn and economic hard times in lhe South.

comm unity leaders. They guaranteed jobs LO members of the "American Unity Labor Un ion ," led by prolific black labor agent Richard Parker, who warned blacks nol to join any "while man's union." They developed a direct cu ltural influence by sponsoring "Efficiency C lubs" al the al lblack Wabash Avenue YMCA. The clubs played a major role in the social lives of black migrants and preached plant loya lty and responsibility in the modern industrial world. The effort paid off. Despite an impressive interracial drive for 100 percent organ ization , the SLC failed to win over more than one-third of the black stockyards workers, and probably much less. Chicago's 1919 Race Riot ensured that failure and created an impossible environment for organizing workers aero racial lines for years to come. Yet the packers remained obsessed with the goal of racial "d ivide and conquer." On the eve of the 1921 meat-packing strike, a leading packer still felt compel led to meet occasionally with the staff of black community and church organirntions. "You think the Negro will stand by us if we have trouble in the yards, don't you?" he would ask, adding, "You know we always count on the Negro and would hate to be disappointed:' The packers were not disappointed. When black union organizers visited the city's fifteen leading black churches, they found that each pastor was "answering a call" to Armour and Company. Laid off in large numbers during the recession of early 192 1, blacks were rehired e n masse to

b1¡eak the strike of that year. Postwar quotas on European immigration and continuing migration from the South made black workers a relevant presence in the packinghouses, as did the persisting racial stereot-ype that blacks lacked the physical and intellectual abi lity for machine tasks. The same racial stereotype upheld the myth of blacks' superior ab ility to withstand heat and to perform heavy, exhausting work. Meat packing was a labor-intens ive industry with a n abundance of hot, difficult, and filthy common labor tasks typically cons idered "negro work." Racism shaped black positions in the plants. Until the Second World War, blacks-more than any previous newcomers to the stockyards-were the lowest paid workers with the least security. They worked in the dirtiest, wettest, and most disease-ridden departments of an unpleasa nt seasona l industry: th e gut shanties, hide ce llars, glue and freezer rooms, the killing floors, the wool and bone houses, and the fertilizer pl ants. Black women were banned from the clean and well-paid sliced bacon rooms because white plant visitors comp la ined about "co lored fingers" touching finished ed ibl e products. o blacks worked in remunerative aux iliary crafts responsible for maintenance of packinghouse facilities. By the depression years, if not earli er, emp loyers in the larger plants placed stars next to blacks' names on their time cards. This ensured that blacks were weeded out first during major layoffs

Picture of Loyalty

Although blacks remained loyal to lheir employers in times of labor dis/mies, they were the lowest paid and the first laid off. The faces of these black and white workers show lhe strain of decades spent on the shup killing floor of Swift & Co.

73


National Guardsmen ¡ patrolled the streets of Chicago during the bloody 1919 Race Riot and tried to prevent violence between blacks and whites. After the riot, union organiurs rould not unite black and white stockyards workers across racial lines.


Chicago History, Fall 1989

GREAT EDUCATIONAL

MEETING ======== BY =========

William Z.

FOSTER

.Tu:st returw~d fro m Enrooe wh ere he made an mtensive study of the labor movement in a ll of t he importan t capit alist cou ntries as well as in So\·iet Rw,sia. The man wh o knows more abou t the la bor move ment of the worl d t han any other American. The g reatest leader, organizer and teacher of t he American labor movement.

Labor· MovementinEngland, Germany, Italy and France ---The latest and most compr ehensive story of the world of labor- - The Britis h Miners strike. Why did the Triple Alliance succumb to disaster? The German Revolution, its present condition and where it is leading. The War between the radicals and conservatives of the French Trade Union Movement. The Italian Facisti, what they are, what they are doing and how the Italian workers are organizing to defend themselves.

Wednesday, Oct. 5, 1921 8 o'Clock Sharp

CARMEN'S HALL

AshlandBlvd.& Van Buren St.

Admis sion Only 25 Cents

AlTSPICES OF TRADE UNION Union Press, ........ 1ts:i

EDUCATION AL LEAGUE

2008 N . Caliiornia A ,·e.

William Z. Foster, a leader of the militant Stockyards Labor Council, woriled diligently to organiu black laborers but Jailed to enlist more than one-third of the black packinghouse workers.

76


Packinghouse Blues and no t give n j o bs tha t we re reserved fo r whites. T h e packingho use managers' co nce ntra ti o n of bl acks in undes ira bl e j o bs we n t beyo nd th e ir fear ofoffe nd ing white co nsum e rs a nd worke rs. Th e ir praise fo r bl ack loya lty did not preve nt th e m fro m e xpress ing co ntinu ed prefe re nce fo r white labo r beca use th ey be li eved bl acks we re natura ll y lazy. On e pla nt supe rinte nd e nt summ a ri zed co nve nti o nal managerial wisd o m in th e stockyards with a ha ndful of ch arges again st bl ack wo rke rs. "The Negro," h e ass ured Alm a He rbst, "d oes no t kn ow how to live dece ntl y": blacks di d no t eat the right foo d , we re always in tro u ble, a nd had mo re sex ua l irregul a ri ties. A no th e r sla ug h terho use criti cized bl ack fe males fo r shiftl essness, frequ e nt abse nce to ca re fo r sick childre n , a nd "loose li vin g." T he pres id e nt o f a C hi cago meat byprodu cts esta bli shm e nt e xpressed tim ewo rn ste reotypes of bl ack males as likeab le me n-childre n: T h e Negro me n a re ge ttin g lazy now th a t th e wea th er is ge tting wa rm e r.... The tro u b le with th e Negro is th at he is very lazy. Am b itio n is e mire ly lack ing. T h e o nl y way lo ge t wo rk o u l o f him is th e way th ey go t it o ul o f him in th e So u th -with a whi p . O n th e o th e r ha nd , he is so good na tu re d th a t yo u ca nn o t h e lp liking him a nd gc uin g a lo ng with him .

Blacks were well represented in most departments of the packinghouses like this soap-makingfactory at Swift & Co. (above), but black women were not allowed to work in tllR clean sliced bacon rooms (below) because whites complained about "colored fingers., touching finished edible products.

Pac king hou se supe rviso rs ass ured o utsid e rs tJ1at se ni o rity a nd fitn ess for th e j o b we re th e so le crite ri a for assig ning worke rs throu g h o ut th e pl a nts. Ye t fo re me n's labor requi siti o n form s during th e 1920s still includ ed a space for "racia l prefe re nce." Ma nage rs in th e stockyards unive rsa ll y co m pl ain ed a bo ut bl acks' high turn ove r a nd sho rt se r vice reco rds, but He rbst's a nalys is o f co mpa ny records sho wed that bl acks we re mu ch less like ly th an whi tes to vo luntaril y quit th e packingh o use . Bl ack turnove r was high e r because ,,rtâ&#x20AC;˘ .'

"'

.

77


Chicago History, Fall 1989 role in 1921 in terms of a persistent southern paternalist legacy. In the "co lored Southern workingmen's world," she wrote, . .. the boss had always been the possessor of power.... As long as [a black] remained humble, he had been taken care of. On the Southern plantation his alignment with wealth and power was traditional ; the size oflhe master's holdings was an opportunity for the expression of pride. His emotional response to orthern industry was similar. He looked upon his employer as his patron and in the Chicago stockyards the employer was kind to him.

they were more commonly fired and given jobs that were susceptible to seasonal layoff. The packers' criticism was part of a self-fulfulling racial prophecy. Blacks' apparent willingness to stand by the packers might at first seem sad or pathetic in light of clear managerial racism. So believed Alma Herbst, who explained their strikebreaking

78

Herbst felt that black packinghouse workers only vaguely perceived the notion of workingmen's rights or the racial prejudice of management. Although this analysis contained some truth, Herbst told only one side of the story. The limits of blacks' loyalty to management need to be understood in the proper northern context. After fleeing southern paternalism by moving north and then defending their neighborhoods in the bloody riots of 1919, Chicago's black workers were just as determined as their white immigrant counterparts to create decent lives for themselves and their families. But their options were much more limited. Many of Chicago's burgeoning postwar industries outside of meal packing and steel purposefully hired only a small number of blacks. Unions and employers in various mechanical and building trades all but excluded blacks from local craft labor markets.


Packinghouse Blues oL only did the packers employ a large number of black Chicagoans, but they also provided them access Lo positions beyond common labor, including the most well-paid and prestigious production jobs. For all their racist assumptions, packinghouse managers' divide-and-conquer approach placed a significant minority of blacks in skilled positions. Blacks' growing predominance on the kill ing noors in the interwar years (by th e mid-l930s Chicago's killing gangs were 90 perce nt black) certainly reflected the unpleasant and mosLly unskilled nature of work in those departments. But numerous key tasks on the killing noors required considerable skill. It also renected the trategic relationship ofthe killing gangs LO packinghouse work and to work place conflict. The slaughter of th e animal initiated the complex disassembly process and was vital LO the furious pursuit of uninten-upted production during the busy periods ofa highly seasonal industry. The killing beds and the acijacent cutting rooms

contained the most difficult, highly paid, and important positions. Plant visitors in the 1920s could still marvel at the cattle "Ooorman." The tloorman, with quicknes and precision, cul hide after hide from inside the hind legs and around the sides. One false slip of his long, sharp knife drastically reduced the packers' return on valuable skins. Yet the real "aristocrat of the Yards" was the cattle "s plitter," who cul vertebrae from hips to neck with a long, heavy cleaver. Without a "steady hand" and an "accurate eye," he could destroy the salability of later cuts.

Meal cleave,; c. /920. Gift of Lincoln M eal Co.

The killing floor was a hol, dirty, wel, and bloody working environment. Laborers club callle (opposite) to stun them before the "splitlers" (right) cul lhe animal's vertebrae from the hips to the neck wilh a long, hPavy cleave,: Drawings by Joseph PemiPll, 19 17.

79


Chicago History, Fall 1989 Blacks were present in cattle floorman and splitter positions as well as in numerous other strategic and skilled knife jobs. They worked as "headers," who cut through the neck and vertebrae in back of the head; as "rumpers," who skinned the hides from around the rump and top of the hips; as "hog splitters," who separated the pig by cutting through the center of the vertebrae; as "ham facers," who trimmed surplus fat from the insides of hams to show as much lean meat as possible; and as "sheep-facers," who ripped open the pelt from the crotch to the breast and skinned it from the belly by holding the pelt with one hand and punching it loose from the carcass with the other. These and other jobs on the "kill and cut" required strength, agility, and rare tolerance for hot, wet, and bloody conditions. The packers' extreme division and speedup of labor, as well as the sheer volume of

The hog wheel propelled a seemingly never ending supply ofpork carcasses along an assembly line where workers skinned and gutted them.

80

production during the busy season, put a premium on endurance. The daily killing capacity of Chicago's largest plant in the late 1920s was remarkable: 3,600 cattle, 10,800 hogs, 10,000 sheep, and 8,450 calves. Not surprisingly, since the industry's beginning skilled knifemen had frequently been the key workers determining the outcome of packinghouse labor conflicts, from small-scale work stoppages to full unionization campaigns. Because of blacks' loyalty, packers made a special effort to bring them into the most prestigious production jobs. Swift and Armour set up a butchering institute at the Wabash YMCA in 1919. By 1925 a leading packing corporation classified one fourth of the black workers in its larger U.S. plants as skilled. The percentages were probably higher in the firm's Chicago plants, according to Sterling Spero and Abram Harris in 1930. A few stockyards establishments even employed skilled blacks as supervisors. Though black foremen usually supervised black killing gangs, they occasionally led racially mixed work groups. "While most of the Negroes do the harder, less pleasant, and lower paid work," Spero and Harris concluded, many "hold some of the best paying and most highly skilled jobs in the Yards." Blacks inevitably compared their new northern situation with their former lives. Their lives in Chicago factories and ghettoes may have been broadly inferior to that of whites, but they could at least rise above paltry sharecropping incomes, debt peonage, menial service positions, and submission to white in the ex-slave states of the " ew South." The northern black worker who reached a skilled knife job could attain security and respectability even by white standards . Even the more typical black worker of common labor status attained a measure of freedom and respectability merely by working in the stockyards. From the packinghouses, white employees could realistically see themselves moving up to a cleaner, more remunerative , and higherstatus working environment. Blacks who left the stockyards would likely be relegated to a position as servant, porter, waiter, delivery man, or other position of domestic or personal service. Thus a stockyards manager in the 1920s noted a key racial difference among his subordinates: "White people, if they have any ambition, soon find there is easier work and better pay elsewhere and they


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lead ers told th e packers in 1921 that black public op inion supported strikebreaking o nl y to protest the th e n-cuffe nt manifestation of trade unionism in th e stoc kyards a nd not to reject th e labor movement per e. By th e late 1920s, loca l black leade rs could no longer co ndon e strikebreaking. The position of blacks in th e industry was by then so e ntrench e d that scabbing would unde rmine establish e d standards. By th e mid-1920s, black

'a, \1. L \. lfall Cluh

81


Chicago History, Fall 1989

THE LIVESTOCK PRODUCER AND

ARMOUR s7he success

if

capitallies in minisleriruJ to t/2e people, not in takin9 advanla~e them

o/

(PÂŁqÂŁ~

1920 ARMOUR

AND

COMPANY

CHICAGO

In this 1920 promotional brochure, Arnzour and Company assured farmers that it warked in the best interests of livestock producers.

about a job; they lay off on account of minor ailments ." either they nor Herbst thought to mention that blacks since slavery had protested racial inequality and resisted labor demands through indifference and fatalism at work that overseers chose to misinterpret as natural laziness. The behavior that irked packinghouse managers and reinforced their self-fulfilling racial stereotypes was largely an expression of the disappointment and anger blacks felt about their low status. Chicago's black workers were said to lack "hope on thejob."Thanks in large part to the false promises of northern labor agents and the b lack press, many migrants arrived with an exaggerated notion of freedom . Faced with persistent discrimination, they were not eager to abandon the informal work rhythms of agricultural life,

82

one positive aspect of the pre-industrial South, for the harsh discipline of the modern factory. Critique of the black work ethic was no mere racist invention. Chicago's militantly raceconscious black middle class also campaigned against the pre-industrial pattern of newcomers who crowded the Black Belt in the 1920s. Elite northern blacks felt somewhat ashamed by association with "Southern Negroes" and often railed at the lower- and working-class newcomers from Mississippi and Alabama, who they referred to as "peasants." In a typical 1923 news item entitled "Laborers From the South Fail to Deliver the Goods," Chicago Defender writer Eugene Brown claimed that black migration was bathing Chicago "in the practises and customs of the South, good and bad." Many black workers, he claimed, reasoned that their higher northern incomes entitled them to "lay-off three days a week,just for the fun of it, or to go on some pleasant excursion ." Brown felt the practice wa appropriate revenge for the "virtual slavery" and hopeless inefficiency of the South; but it was inappropriate in the industrial North where high wages, job security, and efficiency prevailed. If blacks were to lose their recently attained position in northern packinghouses, steel mills, and automobile plants, Brown felt, managerial prejudice would not be the reason. Ratl1er, the issue would be resolved through worker competency. Chicago packinghouse managers criticized black workers in terms hauntingly similar to those used by plantation overseers of the Old South. They confronted not merely the persistence of southern customs but also the proud "new [northern] Negro." Black packinghouse workers may have been less likely to quit than whites, but they exercised their right to stop the northern labor market to an impressive degree. In 1923, when job prospects for blacks were especially high in the steel industry, they left their packinghouse jobs behind at much higher rates than whites. The "new Negro" was present especially on tl1e killing floors, where workers toiled in water and

Packinghouse worker unions like the Amalgamated Meat Cu.tiers and Butcher Workmen of North America grew larger and stronger during the 1930s and 1940s as American labor became more tightly organi.ud.


Packinghouse Blues

Are Y

a

d Ind v

t T

• :~:~A~·•-. -,.,,·~-B__t___·--•~ T wo fo ol •1'•rt-Sayl

t•I ll,/1 doft•,

-~~.~~iiil,a Saitl ou,1 to tht· ot/ier, ''You come my way. 11'1,i/,• I takr o 11ihbl,• of this nrw 111ow11 ht1)•."

,,

d

~o they £M noU.'ht•rt•, just pawl'd up ,lirt, , I 11d, Oh! Hy Golly, hqu, that rope did hurt. This shQ\\ nevertheless. truli, "hot happens when you pull alone.

I

u p

I To

t

J[~

.

,,

11•

. ..

t

~

............ _ ...

'/ lwn 1'11·y /ac,,.J about, the$e stuhboru strers, , I nd said, '" Jl 'r'rr actiuf t he frost bit queer."

..~

.A J

,

"I.et', pull tocetli,•r . /' II J/0 you,· u·ai•,

mm,""' m, ""' ••'" ,.,, /,o<, , . , .

_;'~

c :.;;;:,M~~~~._.~.a~1.-•-'.t•~~_,.11, ::~ e__...,.__,.,.,__,11•~~-•,.t-esM1.i"i..•d~-••,.•;__J;,§,,.,._:G"'..~_, ~ Woll. tlwy got their hay a11d liked it , too,

1-1 nd swore to be co mrodts ~ood o,rd

t r 1H•,

.,.----~~-"-~

As til e sun went ilown th ey were heard Jo say: "' JJ/ c't.•c go t to co-ot,erate every da y.'' Now, io there any doubt in your mind that co-operation i1 not good?

JOIN TODAY!

Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America

100 No rth La Solle Street

A . fl' ,

o,-

L.

Ohlcago 1, Illlnols

83


Chicago History, Fall 1989 SAT\,RMY SEPTEMBER 23. 1939

What Goes

THI CMICAGO

On In PACKINGTOWN?

Black workers Have Learned These Men A~ In The Front Line Trenches To Raise Their Heads And ~-___..::,R-='llC;=k:::::in=g=t-O=W1:;'·=s=Greo=='=La=bo-r --=;;~G ~on=t.::;ro;;:.: ::~-------" To Act Unitedly For Their Full Rights In Industry HOW UNIONS DEFEAT PREJUDICE

In the 1930s blacks became the backbone of a new militant effort to unioniz.e Chica.go packinghouses through the biracial Packinghouse Workers Organizing Committee.

84


Packinghouse Blues blood amidst the shrieks of dying animals. Here the dangerous and exhausting speedup generated by plant managers was first and most devastatingly felt. The "natural [shop floor] leaders" first emerged on the killing floor, because from the head of the disassembly line they could most effectively slow it down. These workers, recalls Herbert March, a leading packinghouse union activist from the 1930s, were not timid. The skilled splitters, floormen, boners, and butchers in particular were conscious of their position and power. They were the chief bearers of a long tradition of stoppages in packing. Skilled and semiskilled workers on the ki 11 i ng gangs reserved their right to step down from raised platforms, leaving perishable carcasses dangling from the chain when the speed of work was too fast, when conditions were unsafe, or when the heat was too intense. Summer temperatures on th.e kill floors sometimes reached 120 degrees. By the mid-1930s Chicago's killing gangs were 90 percent black. They entered and came to dominate the key departments, initiating themselves in the rules of the game to obtain influence with supervisors and limit exploitation. ln the late 1930s, as before, the killing floors were the vital center of organized protest in the stockyards. Because of racially discriminatory firings and the emergence of a new militant biracial packinghouse union (the Packinghouse Workers Organizing Committee of the Congress oflndustrial Organizations), the mostly black killing floors became the first organized and most combative departments in the stockyards. Blacks became the backbone ofa new effort to unionize the large- and medium-sized Chicago packinghouses. Yet even before the union was formed, the skilled black knifemen on the killing gangs were outspoken in their demands for worker rights. The packers' racist divide-and-conquer personnel practices backfired; packinghouse managers felt threatened and confused by the rise of black militancy. They had taken black loyalty for granted, missing its conditional and calculated essence. The transition from mostly informal and passive resistance to active union militancy in the 1930s was no small breakthrough. Yet even in the 1920s, the heyday of company allegiance, Chicago's black packinghouse workers were more than tragic victims of exp loitation. Heirs of The jungle and "Hog Butchers of the World," they

stood proudly at the bloody center of a rugged, legendary industry. In the stockyards as in other settings between the wars, blacks made themselves into a distinctive segment of the American industrial working class.

For Further Reading A good source on black packinghouse workers is Alma Herbst, The Negro in the Slaughtering and Meatpacking Indmtry in Chicago (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1932). James Barrett documents the lives of packinghouse workers and their families in Work and Community in the jungle: Chicago 's Packinghome Workers, 1894-1922 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987). For more on packinghouse unions, see Samuel Joseph Naylor's 1935 master's thesis, "The history of labor organization in the slaughtering and meat-packing industry," and a transcribed interview with Packinghouse Workers Organizing Committee leader Herbert March, both in the CHS Library. For a look at life in the meat-packing industry from one company's perspective, see volumes 1-27 (1923-4 7) of The Swift Arrow, CHS Library.

II 1ustrations 68, CHS, ON 989; 70-71, CHS, DN 979; 72, CHS, ON 940; 73 top, from The Negro in Chicago (1921), CHS Libra1¡y; 73 bottom , from Swift Arrow, March 13, 1925, CHS Library; 74-75, CHS, ICHi-03623; 76, CHS, ICHi-21354; 77 top, from Swift Arrow, March 28, 1924, CHS Library; 77 bottom, CHS, ICHi-21351; 78, CHS, ICHi-14903; 79, CHS, ICHi-04109; 78-79, CHS Decorative and Industrial Arts Collection; 80, CHS, ICHi21350; 81 top, from Swift Arrow, June 20, 1924, CHS Library; 81 bottom, from Humanizing a Creal Industry (1919), CHS Library; 82, from The Livestock Producer and Armour(l920), CHS Library; 83, CHS, ICHi-14474; 84, Chicago Defender.

85


YESTERDAY'S CITY The Buzz Saw Reformer by George D. Bushnell

Tll E

HEFOR.J:vl

RlsAt>EH.

Newspapers made George£. Cole an icon and pictured him chopping down the "Council Gang·· al the roots. Chicago Times-Herald, March 29, 1896, CHS Library.

In the spring of 1894, Chicago's citizens were jolted out of their civic apathy by a 460-page book entitled If Christ Came to Chicago. British editor, author, and reformer William T. Stead had come to write about the city's dazzling World's Columbian Exposition expecting to find it the jewel in the crown of Chicago. Although he acknowledged Chicago's vitality and progress, Stead was shocked by Chicago's dark side, where political coITuption, vice, gambling, and human

George D. Bushnell is director of development and public relations at Ada S. McKinley Community Services, Chicago.

86

degradation nourished openly. His book wa a powerful indictment of the Levee, Chicago's red light, gambling, and saloon district stretching from South Wabash Avenue west to the river a nd south from Van Buren Street to 22nd Street. Stead had spent days and nights talking to derelicts, madams, prostitutes, a nd policemen in this warren of two hundred brothels, saloons, dance halls, and penny arcades, all of which operated openly. If Christ did, indeed, come to Chicago, claimed Stead, He would be horrified by what He saw. Stead 's book spared no one. Young men of Chicago, said Stead, admired business leaders


'n!sterday City

I,

IF- (t1R c;;Mc TO Ct=t ICAG) !

The cover of William T Stead's 1894 book on Chicago con-uption showed Christ throwing moneychangers Charles T Yerkes and "Rathhome"john Coughlin out of the proverbial templR-the city rouncil. The Chicago Public Library, Special Collections Division.

87


CARTER H. HARRISON ====ACAINST THE==-====-=

'I Every citize~ of Chicago should come down to the CITY HALL

MONDAY, DEC.12re, and EVERY MONDAY NIGHT THEREAFTER while the Street Car Franchises are under consideration and see that the interests of the City are protected against

BOODLEISMI . CITIZENS, AROUSE AND DEFEAT THE .BOODLERS !


Yesterdays City like Philip Da nforth Armour, Ma rsha ll Fi e ld , a nd Geo rge Pullman more th a n C hrist. Stead accused Chi cago's so cie ty wom e n o f lazy se lfishn ess, calling th e m "more disre puta bl e in th e eyes o f God and me n th an th e wo rst harl o ts o n Fo urth Avenu e ." H e charged th at re ligion h ad bee n re place d by th e De mocra ti c party, a new fa ith "built upo n bribe r y, intimida tion , bulldozing, knifing, shooting and th e whol e thing swimming in whiskey." Stead 's criti cs ca ll ed him a crank a nd a n a ll y of Chi cago's Re publi can pa rty, be nt o n d estroying th e De m ocrati c pa rty a nd its co ntrol o f th e city. Th e Chicago Tribune ca ll ed hi s boo k "a directo ry of sin" a nd urged its suppress io n. Pare nt s re fu sed to le t th e ir childre n read th e boo k. But th e maj o rity o f C hi cago's co nce rn e d citize ns ru shed to bu y Stead 's philippi c. An unh ea rd-o f 10,000 co pi es of th e book we re so ld during its first wee k o f publication , a nd it was later publishe d in Lond o n for British read e rs. On e of th e boo k's m os t powe rful cha pte rs was e ntitl e d "Boodl e rs and th e Bo o dl e d." It spo tlighte d th e corrupti o n o f C hi cago's a ld e rme n, wh o used th e ir po we r in th e city co un cil to co ll ect gra ft m o ney fro m th e sa le o f tr acti o n fra nchi ses th at e na bl ed pri va te ra il way co mpa ni es to lay trac ks in th e city. Stead d e fin ed bo<_1dl e as "a e uph e mism sig nifying th e co rrupt di posa l of publi c prop e rty by th e re prese nta tives of the peo pl e, in re turn for pri ce pa id not to th e publi c, but to th e ir dish o nest re prese nt a ti ves." Stead add e d , " King Boodl e is m o na rch o f a ll he surveys," a nd co un cil me mbe rs "wh e th e r Re publica n o r Democrat co uld e qu a ll y be re li e d upo n Lo act as hi s ve na l co uri e rs." Co nse rva ti ve ly esti mate d , fift y-seve n o f th e sixty-e ight e lected a ld e rme n had he lpe d re fin e th e boo dl e syste m to a hi gh leve l o f artistry. C hi cago's newspa pe rs lampoo ned th e corrupt city co un cil in stori es a nd cartoo ns , dubbin g th e a ld e rm e n th e "grey wo lves." Th e Chicago Record o f Fe brua ry 19, 1894, re ported th at "a n a lde rma n ge ts $3 a meeting a nd wh at h e ca n ma ke." Th e typi ca l a ld e rm a n earn ed abo ut 150 a year, sa id th e Record, but co uld "build a $30,000 Oat with a $ 10,000 clown pay m e nt." This wo uld have bee n "a suspi cio us circumsta nce we re it no t fo r th e fac t th a t th e a ld e rm a n's vo ice is a lways rai sed for Corru/1lio11 well so p,,rvasive that M ayor Carter 1/arr(wn called for the help 1if all Chicago citiz.ens. CIIS, IC! li-2139¡1.

As presidenl oflhe Municipal Voters League, George E. Coleformed a special Lask force Lo clean up the city council. CHS, ICH i-2 136 7.

ho nest gove rnm ent a nd th e best interests of his ward ," th e articl e o bserve d sa rcasti ca lly. This founta in of wealth , th e a rticle continu ed , sprang fro m "a d e ta il e d pri ce li st for p assing City Cou nc i I fr a n chi se o rdinances ." In th e 1890s C hi cago badl y need ed a n ad equa te transit system to tra nsp o rt its burgeo ning popul a ti o n to work a nd recreati o n. Alde rm e n found a ri ch so urce of boodl e gr a nting fra nchises th at a llowed railroad co mpa ni es to build tracks a long, across, o r above th e city stree ts . Su ch franchises we re granted by vo te o n individual o rdinances, and th e ald e rmen co ll ected boodl e fro m the railway compani es in re turn for favo ra bl e vo tes. Th e Record no ted th a t the coun cil 's pri ce to p ass a transit o rdinan ce vari ed according to its wo rth in d o ll ars. The high est recorded pri ce eve r pa id fo r vo tes, th e newspaper sa id , h ad been $25,000 to each o f four council me mbe rs instrum e nta l in pass ing th e ordinance. An additiona l $8,000 was paid to each of th e o th er ald e rm e n for th e ir vo tes . Ea ch transit o rdinance followe d a set of steps for passage. First, th e busin essma n wh o wanted

89


Chicago History, Fall 1989 the ordinance approached the alderman who was to handle the deal. After the negotiations, the alderman went to his associates on the council committee who would recommend passage. When the ordinance's passage was guaranteed, every alderman in on the deal learned the amount of the bribe and how it would be divided among them. To distribute the boodle, the council was divided into four or five blocks, and the leader of each block handled the distribution of the bribe in his own block. If an ordinance faced opposition, some aldermen became worth more than others. The man who merely voted was paid less than an active debater who spoke and made motions. All aldermanic participants were graded "one, oneand-one-half, and two." A typical payoff to a class two alderman, a money handler and speaker, was $2,000. Fifteen hundred dollars was paid to each of the class one-and-one-half aldermen, and $1,000 was paid to the class one councilmen, who merely voted yes. The council, said the Record, operated by two simple rules: "Never talk deals to more than one man at a time, or take money in the presence of a third person." In one meeting, an alderman could boost his $3 wage to match his year's salary, just by supporting a transit switch track or voting to vacate an alley for tracks. An average switch track to a coal yard cost $1,000 per alderman, and a track to a brewery cost $2,500. Even the most routine vote was worth at least $300 to $400. "In a fruitful year, the average crooked alderman has made $15,000 to $20,000," reported the Record, adding "when it becomes necessary to pass an ordinance over the mayor's veto, the cost is 25 percent more than usual." In his autobiography, Mayor Carter H. Harrison, Jr. denounced the council boodlers as "a motley crew . .. of saloon keepers, proprietors of gambling houses and undertakers." The citizens' lack of interest and lethargy allowed control of public affairs to be held exclusively by "a lowbrowed, dull-witted, base-minded gang of pluguglies with no outstanding characteristic beyond an unquenchable lust for money," he charged. The unofficial crown prince of the boodlers was John Powers, alderman of the Irish-Italian 19th Ward, who was nicknamed by his fellows 'Johnny de Pow." Not content with his share of boodle from the sale of franchises, Powers

90

devised an ingenious plan to set up dummy corporations for the aldermen. These corporations were granted dummy franchises that operating companies were forced to buy. Chicago's enterprising aldermen then pocketed the money.Just to be certain no opportunity for boodle escaped them, the aldermen decreed that if a transit company modernized its operation from horsecars to cable cars, or to the new electric trolley system, it must buy a new franchise. Behind the corruption was Chicago's undisputed traction magnate and chief boodle dispenser, Charles Tyson Yerkes. Philadelphiaborn Yerkes had made his fortune in his native city as a young flour commission merchant and an investor in street railways, demonstrating his genius for investment and financial manipulation. In 1882, after divorcing his wife and remarrying, Yerkes arrived in Chicago and opened a stock and grain brokerage house. In 1886 he bought control of the North Chicago City Railway Company and within a few years was a multi-millionaire with an extensive art collection and a $15 million house in 1ew York, in addition to his Chicago mansion. Yerkes bought up traction franchises at a fraction of their true value through his chief city council contact, Alderman John Powers. He then began to build the elevated railway that would circle the business district. Whatever his motives, Yerkes did make a major contribution to Chicago's growth, modernizing the transit system with electrified trains. In just a decade, Yerkes expanded the west and north divisions from 64 to 227 miles of track. By early 1896 Chicago's honest business and civic leaders had finally had enough of the council's flagrant corruption. At a January meeting of the Civic Federation, a citizen's organization devoted to fighting corruption, president Lyman J. Gage told the 250 members in attendancemost of them from leading men's organizations such as the Union League , Marquette, Commercial, Iroquois, and Hamilton clubs-that the federation was not accomplishing its primary goals of cleaning up municipal corruption. A new organization was needed to fight this battle. The clubs promptly chose a fifteen-member committee and organized the Municipal Voters League to spearhead the campaign. Its mission was to rescue Chicago from the band of corrupt aldermen known as the "Council Gang."


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Transit companies paid aldermen at least $JOO each per vote necessary to secure franchises. Charles T Yerkes's Chicago Electric 7imisit Company (above) had a special flair for bribery. CH S Archives and Manuscripts Collection. Below, the April 10, 1896, Chi cago T im es- H e ra lcl drew a connection between railroad rights of way and the "Council Gang." CH S Library.

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Chicago History, Fall 1989 A

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This March 28, 1896, Chicago Times-Herald cartoon pictured Cole blasting the city council with dynamite. Cf-IS Librmy.

The league then moved to find a president who in a few months could orchestrate the defeat of the boodlers in the April aldermanic elections. The league's first choices declined the seemingly impossible job, pleading lack of time or faith that the solidly entrenched aldermen could ever be dislodged. Then in February, the new Civic Federation president William T. Baker approached George E. Cole, a stationer and printer with offices at 86 Dearborn Street. Only five feet tall, with short legs and a bulldog jaw, Cole turned out to be the best possible choice to lead the campaign. A native of Jackson, Michigan, Cole had enlisted at age sixteen to serve in the Civil War~ After four years serving under General William T. Sherman in the Atlanta campaign, he was discharged in 1865 at the age of twenty. He returned home to find his father prematurely old and broken, having failed in business. Cole then left town for three years and worked at various jobs. In his stint as a day laborer, he learned that the workingman thought for himself and could vote as intelligently as the professional man. In 1868 Cole came to Chicago to work in his uncle's carpet store, then set up his own stationery and printing business. In June 92

1878 he married Chicagoan Lois Milnes and later became the father of two sons. Cole had gained first hand experience battling crooked aldermen when he served as president of his 4th Ward Council. With a citizens' committee, he worked to find honest judges, made polling places accessible , and secured police protection during elections. Finding the aldermen uninterested in cleaning up the filthy streets and alleys, Cole and his group raised money to remedy conditions themselves. He soon realized that he and his fellow ward residents were simply perpetuating the problem by doing the garbage inspector's work. But Cole's determination had established his reputation for a no-nonsense approach to civic reform. By 1894 George Cole had learned that "the fifteen percent of the City's residents who were on the City payroll, with their families and contractors, were allowed through the lethargy of the voters to grow rich." And he felt a strong obligation to serve and repay his adopted city for his success. Now fifty years old , Cole's hour to lead the campaign had come. He accepted the presidency of the Municipal Voters League with just fifty-two days until the council elections.


Yesterday '.s City On March 16, 1896, an overflow crowd packed the Central Music Hall as the distinguished white-haired judge Murray F. Turley stepped to the podium. "We are trying to rescue the city from a band of conspirators known as the Council 'gang' which is degrading Chicago before all the world," Judge Turley began. Worse, he said, "No city council ever before known in Chicago has attained the degredation of the present one:' Quoting from the league's platform, Judge Turley noted that the Municipal Voters League had no machinery to accomplish its goal. Then looking at George Cole, he corrected himself: "We have this little sawed-off giant of reform .... He has x-ray eyes and can look right through a candidate and see if he is a boodler or not." The meeting was Cole's first introduction to the city's leaders since he had accepted the league presidency. Cole knew he had not been the first choice. "But I made up my mind a year ago that I would act the coward no longer," he declared to the audience. Cole had accepted the league presidency with several conditions. He was to have a free hand in setting up an executive committee completely independent of the league's 40,000 members. The committee would operate as the spearhead of the reform campaign, working as an effective fighting force. Cole was to run the campaign without interference, and the executive committee was to be given $10,000 to use as needed without Cole knowing where the money came from. Cole handpicked his committee, whose members would work closely with him in the

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campaign. Hoyt King, former assistant secretary to police chief Maj. Robert McLaughry and Cole's biographer thirty-five years later, was appointed secretary. Besides King, Cole enlisted fellow Union League Club members William H. Colvin, Edwin Burritt Smith, R. R. Donnelley, James L. Houghteling, Francis Lackne1~ Allen B. Pond, M. J- Carroll, and Frank Wells. The task force was small but tough and streamlined. The campaign strategy reflected Cole's direct efficiency. "Now let's get down to brass tacks," he said. "God helps those who fight like the devil and to hell with the libel suits. We'll make this fight with facts alone. Take nothing for granted. 'I think' and 'I guess' are taboo here." Cole's first move was to ask the committeemen of both the Republican and Democratic parties to nominate honest aldermanic candidates by March 9. If nominations were not submitted, said Cole, the league would name its own candidates. When both parties ignored the request, the league quickly picked candidates for twenty-four of the thirty-four expiring aldermanic positions. With the league's slate announced, Cole and his committee investigated each candidate's personal and public life. Thousands of letters were sent to citizens, clergymen, and professional and civic associations asking for information about each candidate's character. The committee reviewed each dossier to choose those men who deserved support. Candidates elected were called to Cole's campaign office at 126 Washington Street, across from city hall, and asked seven specific questions about where they

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Cole targeted twentyjour of the thirtyjour alderrnanic candidates who deserved omtingfrom office. Chicago Times-Herald, April I, 1896,

CHS Library.

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Chicago History, Fall 1989

, "Council Gang" members Robert J\/ulcahy (above), CyrllS Howell (below), Jolm Powers(opposile, above), and j ohn Coughlin (opposite, below) were too pownful, even for the "Refomin¡ with Bu.u Saw Action." Chicago Times-Herald, April 5, 1896, CHS Library.

stood on public compensation for private use of public property; on the twenty-year limit on ordinances granting franchises to the civil service merit system; and on the need to look after the physical and sanitary needs of Chicago's wards. Candidates who answered the questions satisfactorily were asked to sign the league's pledge, which stipulated that Chicago receive adequate compensation for all grants of the use of public highways and property; that franchises for street railways and utilities be limited to twenty years; and that a ll ordinances for the same company expire at the same time. From the start, Co le's short stature, goatee, and heavy jaw made him a media favorite. Chicago papers eagerly embraced the campaign, depicting Cole as a stray cat catcher, as a lion tamer, as a human buzz saw, or destroying the city. council with dynamite. With the exception of the Inter Ocean (which Yerkes had bought), the city papers gave the reform campaign powerful support. Herman H. Kohlsaat's Chicago Times-Herald and Victor F Lawson's Daily News were particularly active supporters. The March 16, 1896, Times

94

ran a three-column drawing of Cole, under the heading "Reformer with Buzz Saw Action." "Boodlers and their backers pay but little attention to the ordinary reformer.... " the article noted. "They don't scoff or jeer at Mr. Cole but they hate him." The article also observed that Cole was not well known in public affairs, but that he "does not know what fear is ... his eyes can be mild or terrible." Led by Yerkes , Co le's entrenched opposition counterattacked. In one of the Municipal Voters League's public campaign reports, Cole called Alderman James L. Campbell "a menace to the community." Yerkes pounced on the charge and persuaded Campbell to sue Cole for $75,000, hoping to put Cole out of business and cripple the campaign. Cole's printing customers were pressured to abandon him, and his wife and sons received thinly vei led threats. Cole ignored the threats and countered Campbell's suit in court with the legal principle that truth spoken for good motives is not libel. The suit was later dropped, as were 987 other libel suits brought against the league during the reform campaign. The campaign was not without its lighter moments. One day during the last weeks, 1st Ward alderman "Bathhouse" John J. Coughlin and his ally Michael "Hinky Dink" Kenna walked into the league office asking to speak to Cole.

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Yesterday '.s City

Coughlin complained that Cole had done him "a great injustice" in a league campaign report that listed him as "proprietor, Turkish bath establishment, owner of the Silver Dollar; voted for nearly every questionable measure that has come before the Council ... " When Cole defended the report, Coughlin brushed aside the charges and complained that the report had mistakenly said he was born in Waukegan, when he was actually born in Chicago. Cole finally launched the third and most important campaign phase: to inform the public about the boodlers and the league's alternative candidates. Reports about the qualifications of every aldermanic candidate were circulated, and the league's recommendations were published in newspapers, circulars, pamphlets, and letters to registered voters. Voters were asked to sign pocket-size pledge cards; in the 23rd Ward, 50,000 cards were circulated stating, "Whereas C. H. Howell, Alderman of the 23rd Ward, has been nominated for another term, Resolved, that his record on the Council does not justify his re-election." Cole noted that Alderman John Powers's Christmas turkey largess was no substitute for honest representation and called "Bathhouse"John Coughlin a "gambler, thug and thief who has used his Council position to receive boodle." The league even published a "Roll of

Dishono,~" printed with a black border, that listed the coJTupt aldennen by wards. With a few days left before the April 7, 1896, election, Cole's small office bustled with reporters, politicians, reformers, messenger boys, and men seeking favors. Cole stepped up hi campaign, pouring circulars into the wards, sending out door-to-door canvassers, and holding torchlight parades and rallies. On Tuesday, April 7, as Chicago voters went to the polls, the Chicago Record ran a front page five-column cartoon entitled, "Which?" The cartoon showed the honest Chicago voter between two candidates. One who claimed to belong to the voter's party caJTied a sign proclaiming him a machine politician . The other candidate's sign noted his disagreement on some national issues but his clean record and integrity with public property. George Cole's hard work paid off. On Apri l 8 the Record headline proclaimed the victory of Cole and the league: "Gang on the Run-Many Malodorous Aldermanic Candidates Go Down to Gloomy Defeat." Of thirty-six aldermen elected, "at least 26 will be aggressively honest men in the City Council," Cole stated. The independent vote won the clay for the honest candidate. Yerkes's absolute control of the council was destroyed, although he did not leave Chicago until 1898. But it was not a completely clean sweep.

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Chicago History, Fall 1989

Rrprmt fr c-1n Cl11c;ii:o Rrrord , Ap n l l'I . 18W,

THE Rou-CALL AFTER THE BATTLE john McCutcheon's cartoon in the April 14, 1896, Chi cago Re cord showed a battlefzeld strewn with the bodies of defeated aldennen. Cl-IS Library.

Boodling "gang" members Coughlin , Powers, Charles Martin, Robert Mulcahey, and Cyrus H . Howell were re-elected. Also re-elected were "Blind Billy" Kart and Daniel W. Ackerman , two aldermen opposed by the league. On April 14, John T. McCutcheon's cartoon in the Record showed a battlefield strewn with the bodies of the defeated aldermen. Four survivors stood in dirtstained uniforms: Coughlin, Howell, Mulcahey, and Martin, and in the front John Powers calling the roll of what was left of the pre-election council. On April 9 Cole allowed himself a satisfied comment in the Record: "We have broken down the two-thirds majority in the City Council." He then warned that the league intended to go to Mayor George B. Swift, point out the changed council, and hold the mayor "personally responsible for any vicious legislation that is enacted." The battle for an honest Chicago City Council did not end with George Cole's election victory of 1896. In an election night interview Cole announced he had retired from active politics, but within the week he changed his mind. Reform had only administered a setback to organized graft, and Cole returned to fight. A streetcar company had put up boodle for a line on Jackson Street (now Boulevard), the

96

only downtown east-west stree t th e n without a line. Before the newly elected reform aldermen could be seated on April 13, the old gang planned to pass the enabling ordinance over Mayor Swift's veto. Cole quickly contacted the honest holdovers and new aldermen . On Sunday, April 12, twentynine aldermen met at the Union League Club to ask to be sworn in before the council meeting the next day so they could support th e mayor's veto. The city clerk attempted to stall the move , claiming he did not have the proper forms. Cole himself printed up the forms, and the aldermen were sworn in before the meeting. That evening they voted to support the veto, saving Jackson Street from the proposed streetcar line. George Cole continued to work actively the rest of his life for honest government, both in Chicago and in Illinois. His fight for constitutional conventions in 1919 and 1920 brought him tributes from newspapers throughout the state. Shortly after his death at age eighty-five on August 18, 1930, he was praised for his dedication and courage by Chicago leaders and friends. Frank J. Aldrich , a close friend from the 1896 campaign, summed it up: "What a masterpiece of God was he!"


Chicago History | Fall 1989  
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