Quote

“No people ever recognize their dictator in advance. He never stands for election on the platform of dictatorship. He always represents himself as the instrument of the Incorporated National Will. When our dictator turns up you can depend on it that he will be one of the boys, and he will stand for everything traditionally American.” - Dorothy Thompson

May 23, 2017 in Current Affairs, History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Quote

"Work is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying." - Studs Terkel

Yesterday was the 105th anniversary of Studs' birth. I've long been a great admirer of his, and wish he was still with us - I can only imagine what his take would be on the current political situation. Maybe we should honor him by commemorating May 16 as Studsday - we could each take aside one person (someone we don't know well, or even a complete stranger) and simply ask them to talk about their life. 

May 17, 2017 in Books, History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Quote

"With laws shall our land be built up, but with lawlessness laid waste." - from an Icelandic saga, quoted by Nancy Marie Brown in Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths

May 4, 2017 in Books, History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Quote

"There is no such thing as a crime as the word is generally understood. I do not believe there is any sort of distinction between the real moral condition of the people in and out of jail. One is just as good as the other. The people here can no more help being here than the people outside can avoid being outside." - Clarence Darrow

April 17, 2017 in Current Affairs, History | Permalink | Comments (0)

"...inflated language and other windy humbuggeries..."

Mark Twain, on the chivalric novels of Sir Walter Scott:

The South has not yet recovered from the debilitating influence of his books. Admiration of his fantastic heroes and their grotesque “chivalry” doings and romantic juvenilities still survives here, in an atmosphere in which is already perceptible the wholesome and practical nineteenth-century smell of cotton-factories and locomotives; and traces of its inflated language and other windy humbuggeries survive along with it.

Of Twain's works, I am sorely under-read. I should do something about that. This passage reminds me a lot of Mencken, of whom I'm a big fan. 

April 15, 2017 in Books, History | Permalink | Comments (2)

Michael Brand Brewery, the epilogue

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Six years ago, I posted about the impending demise of the old Michael Brand Brewery complex on Elston Avenue in Chicago, which was about to be demolished for a new HH Gregg store. Which indeed happened, shortly after. And now comes the news that HH Gregg is bankrupt and is closing all of its stores. So, at the cost of an impressive relic of Chicago history (and buildings that could have easily undergone renovation and creative reuse) we got about five years of a crappy Indiana electronics chain. How stunningly short-sighted. 

April 8, 2017 in Chicago Observations, History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Quote

"One afternoon I was planting in the orchard under an apple-tree iris reticulata, those lovely violet flowers...Suddenly I heard Virginia’s voice calling to me from the sitting room window: 'Hitler is making a speech.' I shouted back, 'I shan’t come. I’m planting iris and they will be flowering long after he is dead.' Last March, twenty-one years after Hitler committed suicide in the bunker, a few of those violet flowers still flowered under the apple-tree in the orchard." - Leonard Woolf

March 19, 2017 in Books, History | Permalink | Comments (0)

"You can't force a boat through it."

Chicago tour guides often marvel at the epic engineering feat of the late 19th Century that reversed the course of the Chicago River, diverting its noxious flow away from Lake Michigan (the city's source of drinking water). But what those guides never tell you is where all of that sewage went. In short, it was flushed down the I&M Canal and the Des Plaines River, to Joliet

The water is nastier here than it is in Chicago. They have as much sewage there, but the putrefaction is well under way when it gets down here. Down on Lake Joliet it is thick; you can’t force a boat through it.

Thank goodness for modern sewage treatment technology. 

February 11, 2017 in Chicago Observations, History, Joliet | Permalink | Comments (0)

Grand and humble

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Snapseed

I love this undated photograph of the Stratford Hotel, on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, but only partly for the hotel's 19th Century grandeur. What really strikes me is the tiny white storefront at the far left, which is dwarfed by the surrounding structures. I can't tell what the building was, but I'd guess it was a cigar shop or newsstand, even though the hotel would surely have had both of those amenities within its own building.

The photo is taken from Chicago at the Turn of the Century in Photographs: 122 Historic Views from the Collections of the Chicago Historical Society, edited by Larry Viskochil.

February 5, 2017 in Chicago Observations, History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fading Ad: Graham Bros. Soap Co.

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Graham Bros. Soap Co., makers of toilet soaps, shampoo, talcum powder and laundry soaps. 1423 W. Lake Street, Chicago. The name is mostly gone, but I was able to find it by searching on the street address. Below is a fine example of one of the company's talcum tins. 

 
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January 18, 2017 in History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

“We were very lucky to have lived down there to bring up the family."

Spitalfields Life shares some charming remembrances of Joan Naylor, the last resident of the Bellevue Cottages in Stepney, London, from the era when the cottages housed the workers of the adjacent Charrington Brewery. Naylor's husband was a clerk at the brewery, and her stories of the boisterous social life there are warm and inviting.

When all the children were safely tucked up asleep (“We had children, we couldn’t go out“), the residents of Bellevue Place enjoyed lively fancy dress parties, in and out of the gardens, and each other’s houses too. “The word would go around from Stan and we would go round the charity shops to see what we could find, but no-one would tell anyone what their outfit was going to be. It was lovely. Everybody had fun and nobody carried on with each other’s wives.” Joan assured me.

I'm obsessive about this sort of thing, so I couldn't help hunting down the locale on Google Maps. You can see the roofs of the cottages in the image below, between two bands of greenery, just behind the commercial buildings at the corner of Mile End Road and Cleveland Way. (The cottages are on an unmarked street, so Google Street View didn't go there to provide a ground-level view.)

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The brewery (which was located to the east of the cottages) must have been a huge complex. The building that housed the company offices still stands, at the northwest corner of Mile End and Cephas Avenue, but the rest of the brewery has been demolished, with a shopping center and its parking lot now taking up most of the space. Lost London, sigh. 

December 7, 2016 in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Madison and Halsted, 1959

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This 1959 photo looks east, toward the corner of Madison and Halsted. The buildings in the left foreground are where my office building now stands. (I guarantee you that the goings-on at the Elite Hotel and Little Max's Clothing - the only two signs I can read in full - were a lot more interesting than what happens there now.) The only building in the photo that's still standing is the long one on the right, between the theater and the corner - the old Mid City National Bank, now vacant. 

December 6, 2016 in Chicago Observations, History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Debs for President

Always nice to see a modern reference to Eugene Debs. Roll Call's Walter Shapiro:

During the same answer, Trump rediscovered his authoritarian side by dramatically announcing that his Democratic opponent “shouldn’t be allowed to run. It’s crooked.” That’s right — because of charges about her homebrew email server that the FBI director said did not warrant prosecution — Trump would have banned Hillary Clinton from the ballot.

It is worth recalling that in 1920, Eugene Debs, as the Socialist candidate for president, received nearly 1 million votes while serving as Prisoner 9653 in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary. Debs’ conviction for opposing American entry into World War I was unjust. But back in 1920, no one suggested that he should be banned from the ballot in a democracy.

October 21, 2016 in Current Affairs, History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Boy's gotta have it.

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A gorgeous pen, made of wood reclaimed from an 1874 Chicago building, Brand's Hall. Perfect. And then I saw the price. Boy's not gonna have it.

October 18, 2016 in Chicago Observations, History | Permalink | Comments (0)

"...leaving not a trace behind."

Spitalfields Life, on London's first underground railway:
"...the ancient ways upon which our forefathers stood, made bargains, drank, feasted, and trained their children, are to be deserted, closed, built upon, transformed or utterly destroyed…plastered over with the bills of some authorised auctioneer to be sold as ‘old rubbish’…carted off in a hundred wagons leaving not a trace behind.”
I can't help thinking of old photographs I've seen of the Chicago neighborhoods that were leveled - a two-block-wide span, from downtown to the city limits - in the fifties and sixties to make way for the expressways. Transformed or utterly destroyed, indeed.

September 4, 2016 in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Quote

"If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else." - Booker T. Washington

May 29, 2016 in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Turk's Head, City Bicycle School, Singer

image from http://www.boogaj.com/.a/6a00d83451ce9f69e201bb08c73029970d-pi

There's so much to love in this 1883 photograph from Aldgate, London: the quaint, gritty buildings (now long gone), the moody fog, the blur of passing traffic, the barrels being delivered by a team of horses. And looking even closer, the signage for Turk's Head Imperial Wine & Spirit Warehouse and the City Bicycle School at Chequer Yard...

image from http://www.boogaj.com/.a/6a00d83451ce9f69e201b8d1acd201970c-pi

...and this fantastic ad for Singer's Sewing Machines...

image from http://www.boogaj.com/.a/6a00d83451ce9f69e201bb08c7315f970d-pi

That's just perfect, how the name is curved into a big S.

March 11, 2016 in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Labor Day

Haymarket

"City of the big shoulders" was how the white-haired poet put it. Maybe meaning that the shoulders had to get that wide because they had so many bone-deep grudges to settle. The big dark grudge cast by the four standing in white muslin robes, hands cuffed behind, at the gallows’ head. For the hope of the eight-hour day.

The grudge between Grover Cleveland and John Peter Altgeld. The long deep grudges still borne for McCormick the Reaper, for Pullman and Pullman’s Gary. Grudges like heavy hangovers from men and women whose fathers were not yet born when the bomb was thrown, the court was rigged, and the deed was done.

- Nelson Algren, CHICAGO: CITY ON THE MAKE

(Photo: Haymarket Memorial, Desplaines Street, Chicago. Sculpture by Mary Brogger, photo by me.)

September 7, 2015 in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fading Ad: Red Cross Pharmacy, Antimigraine

Anti-migraine (small)

This fading ad (in Savannah, Georgia, at the corner of Broughton and Habersham Streets) appears to actually be two ads, of two different but related businesses that once occupied the building: the lower ad ("Antimigraine Cures Headaches") must have been from the The Antimigraine Company, which was here from 1891 to 1892, while the upper ad ("Red Cross Pharmacy", with a faint yellow background), from 1904-05. The building has undergone an extensive restoration by the Savannah College of Art and Design; until recently, the ad was hidden by a coat of white paint, and was only painstakingly recovered:

When work began the entire building was painted white. There was no evidence of a commercial sign though students thought it might be "neat" if there was a Coke sign under the paint. To remove the white paint a chemical and power washer (hot water) were used. One day as Jim was inspecting the project he saw the letter "A" begin to unveil itself in the paint removal process. He immediately stopped the workmen. He did not want to strip away any of the historical evidence of the commercial sign. To uncover the sign, which must have been painted with lead-based paint, the paint stripper was diluted and the power on the washer was turned down. What eventually was revealed are the words "Anti-migrane Cures Headaches" of the original 1890 business of the Anti-migrane Pharmacy. The round disks shown simulate pills. Also revealed was "Red Cross Pharmacy" which was what the name of the pharmacy was at some point during its history. And, if you look closely to the south end of the sign you might see lady looking toward you in profile.

That lady isn't visible in this photo, and while I did take another that captures that section, the image is badly deteriorated and the lady can now be seen only with a great deal of imagination. How wonderful that the preservationist took such care to save this ad. If that is at all suggestive of the work that has been done on the interior of the building, it must be a lovely restoration indeed.

June 1, 2015 in History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (2)

"So this is the end. Is this what peace looks like?"

In the Guardian, contemporary accounts of the final days of World War II, seventy years ago this week.

May 8, 2015 in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Relic

Marseilles


In Marseilles, Illinois, there is a canal lock without a canal. The Illinois and Michigan Canal fell into disuse in the early 20th Century, having been supplanted by railroads and bigger canals, and while most of its original 96 miles still exists as stream and marsh, some sections have been filled in, as shown here in Marseilles. (And more notably on the southwest side of Chicago, where the Stevenson Expressway follows the old canal bed.) I frequently ride alongside the canal on my Saturday morning bike treks, and quite of the few old locks still exist in the Joliet area. I haven't seen the dry Marseilles lock myself, but will hunt for it next time I'm around there.

(Photo by The American Canal Society.)

May 3, 2015 in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Guitars! Hamsters!

Guitar hamster


While searching for history on a faded ad that I photographed this week, I came across this 1951 issue of Popular Mechanics. I find these classifieds - play guitar! raise hamsters! - simply fascinating. And reassuring in how they make you realize that human dissatisfaction is by no means just a 21st Century condition. We've always been looking for something, or something else, to do with our lives.

March 29, 2015 in Ephemera, History | Permalink | Comments (2)

Cass Street

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Great photo of Cass Street in Joliet from the mid 1950s, looking west across the Chicago Street intersection. All of these buildings are still standing (remarkable, given the city's fondness for parking garages and surface lots), though not as thriving as they once were. The jewelry store on the corner had a beautiful gut rehab a few years ago (here are some photos from early in the renovation), but the first restaurant there closed last year and a second restaurant is now giving it a try. Panning left, the white-front building (a Goldblatt's department store back then) has been vacant for at least ten years. Next is the former Ottawa Street Methodist Church (a very odd church building - it looks more like a bank) which is now the Joliet Area Historical Museum. The last building (with the angled corner) is the former Al Baskin clothing store (forerunner of Mark Shale) which this century had three restaurants come and go in a span of just two or three years and has been vacant for quite some time.


I thought about posting a current photo of this same block, but the sight would be too depressing. Other than a steady stream of cars passing through without stopping, there are few signs of life - no cars parked while their drivers patronize local businesses, and almost no pedestrians. This should be the most bustling corner downtown, but the area continues to struggle.

March 22, 2015 in History, Joliet | Permalink | Comments (0)

Heinz strained beets! Swan's soap! Public telephones!

Parks

I love this detail from Gordon Parks' 1943 photograph of a Harlem street scene.

February 22, 2015 in History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

McKinley Park

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I love this 1906 image of the McKinley Park swimming pool in Chicago, and particularly the fact that something as mundane as a public pool could have had such grandeur (and white-uniformed attendants). The park still has a pool, but the neo-classical structures are long gone.

(Actually, the building on the left still stands, though in sadly degraded form. The other structures and pool are gone.)

July 11, 2014 in Chicago Observations, History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Clark and Madison

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Lively image of the bustling (northeast) corner of Clark and Madison, in 1948. Ah, to be able to take in a show at the Clark Theater, followed by some liquid refreshment at the Bamboo Inn or Kozer's Tap, and then an afternoon nap in an air-conditioned room at the Planters. None of which, sadly, is possible at that same corner today.

June 27, 2014 in Chicago Observations, History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Haskell, Barker, Sullivan

Sullivan

Detail of Louis Sullivan's gorgeous cast-iron facades on the Haskell and Barker Buildings, at 18-22 S. Wabash. The facades were rediscovered during a 2009 renovation, under twenty coats of paint. Alas, the exposure meter on my iPhone wasn't quite up to task; capturing the black detail resulted in the white detail being partly washed out.

June 19, 2014 in Chicago Observations, History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fading Ad: Dexter Folder Company

Dexter

Fading ad for Dexter Folder Company, on Harrison Street in the South Loop. At first I assumed that Dexter once made folders of the manila file variety, but I subsequently learned that its folders were actually automatic folding machines that were used to assemble newspapers, books and magazines. Which makes perfect sense: this building is immediately adjacent to Printer's Row, the city's old publishing district.

June 10, 2014 in Chicago Observations, History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Vienna Sausage

Vienna

A true Chicago icon: the Vienna Sausage Company (now "Vienna Beef") at its grand opening in 1894. The building was at Halsted Street and 12th Street (now Roosevelt Road) near the legendary Maxwell Street open market, but no longer exists after the entire neighborhood was redeveloped as University Village during the early 2000s. Although the sign claims the company's products as "celebrated" and thus indicates the company was already in existence at this time, this may have been its first permanent location. The company first rose to fame during the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

June 6, 2014 in Chicago Observations, History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fading Ad: Schmitz & Gretencort

Schmitz

I strongly prefer to find fading ads on my own, finding much more pleasure in unexpected discovery than taking the shortcut of an Internet search. But yesterday, for some reason, I happened to google "ghost sign" (the more common term for fading ads) and "Joliet" and came across a Flickr photo of an ad in Rockdale, a tiny factory town that is almost completely surrounded by Joliet. I was surprised, as I had hunted in Rockdale in the past but hadn't found anything; apparently I must have always driven west down Moen Avenue, and thus missed seeing this west-facing ad.

Last night, after picking Maddie up from her guitar lesson, we swung down to Rockdale and found the ad, and that's my photograph above. Though the ad is in poor condition and hard to read, my knowledge of local history helped me immediately recognize the name "Schmitz & Gretencort", an old department store in downtown Joliet. (Here's an earlier blog post I did about the store.) There's additional wording above the name, the only clear part of which reads "The Boys." Oddly enough, the white van in the photo also appears in the exact same location in the Flickr photo. Possibly belongs to the owner, though, sadly, more likely a regular.

May 16, 2014 in History, Joliet, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

E.J. Brach

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Brach

The photo at the top is an early home of E.J. Brach & Sons, on the northeast corner of LaSalle and Illinois, circa 1909. After seeing this online and, on a whim, doing a Google Street View of the address, I was delighted to see that the building is still standing. I took the lower photo today during my afternoon walk. Most of Chicago's once-thriving candy industry is now gone, so sadly this building now only houses nothing more unique than yet another Jimmy John's outpost, plus whatever happens to be upstairs.

May 15, 2014 in Chicago Observations, History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (1)

19 S. Peoria Street, then and now

Waller

19 south peoria

Sure, that parking lot is convenient and the employee picnic table looks inviting, but, still, I'm sure things were a lot more lively at Waller's Public Bath.

April 23, 2014 in Chicago Observations, History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fading Ad: A.C. McClurg & Co.

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I was quite pleased to suddenly discover this fading ad during my afternoon walk last Friday. I was strolling west on Adams, approaching Wabash, and happened to glance up, above the El tracks, where I saw the ad high up on a building at 218 S. Wabash. Because of where the ad is situated (facing a narrow gap over a small four-story building, next to which was a tall parking garage) the exact spot where I happened to be at that moment is essentially the only point where the ad can be seen from the street. I rode the elevator to the top level of the garage, walked past the cars and to the edge, where I was able to take this shot.

The ad is for A.C. McClurg & Company (you can see all but the "A.C." and the "Mc"), once one of the most prominent publishers in Chicago; McClurg most notably published Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan books as well as The Dial, one of the most prominent literary journals of its day. McClurg also operated a major book store which eventually morphed into the legendary Kroch's & Brentano's. In an interesting twist, this photo actually includes a second ad: in the upper left corner you can see an ad for Lyon & Healy, which I have previously documented.

Parking garages are a great place to photograph from, or just to take in unique views. Most of what we see downtown is either from street level or from high up in tall buildings. But garages provide an interesting middle ground: five to ten stories high, with the uncovered top level providing an open, panoramic view. Especially on the streets along the El tracks (Wabash, Van Buren, Wells, Lake) where redevelopment has come slower than the more marquee streets of the Loop, garages provide a rare glimpse of scruffier and (to me) more charming older buildings. And since they're open to the public, garages are easily accessible without having to navigate through security.

March 24, 2014 in Chicago Observations, History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (1)

Henrici's at the Merchandise Mart

Henrici-Mural

Now, that was a bar: the lounge of the Henrici's in the Merchandise Mart, which opened in 1948. (Not to be confused, however, with the Henrici's flagship location on Randolph Street.) The Merchandise Mart location was designed by James Eppenstein (the subject of this long feature at Forgotten Chicago, where I got the photo; scroll way down in the article for much more on this Henrici's), and that fantastic mural was by Frank Ruvolo. It almost makes me feel like I could slide onto a stool at that glorious curving bar and order an Old Fashioned. Sadly, all tangible vestiges of Henrici's are now long gone.

February 20, 2014 in Chicago Observations, History | Permalink | Comments (0)

The imaginary libraries of Old London

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This is wonderful: British artist Adam Dant has created a series of illustrations that fancifully imagine old London as being full of arcane libraries. The illustration above is his "The Subterranean Bovine Archive," followed by a current photograph of the same street. (Note that the building on the left is identical in both the illustration and photo. The implication is that the newer buildings on the right in the photo were built on the site of the Archive.) More pairings are on display at Spitalfields Life, from Dant's new book, Bibliopolis: Imaginary Libraries in the City of London. The spirit of these illustrations, and especially the quirky names of the libraries, remind me of Ben Katchor's not-quite-New York City; "Library on a Pole" could easily have come, in more modernized form, straight from Katchor's pen.

February 19, 2014 in Art, Books, History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Blymyer Building, Cincinnati

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This 1912 photo of downtown Cincinnati is very cool in general (such bustling energy!), but even cooler is this inset photo of the top of the Blymyer Buidling and this glorious ad:

Blymyer

Unfortunately, it's not a fading ad now, since the building no longer exists - still, this is the most extensive "building directory" ad I've ever seen. That building apparently was quite the mecca of the writing trade - two typewriter dealers, a printer and a stationer.

January 31, 2014 in History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Lake Chicago

Lakechicago

Wow, this is so cool: this map depicts the Chicago area at the end of the last ice age, around 14,000 years ago. (I knew about Lake Chicago - the predecessor of Lake Michigan - and was aware of its general environs, but had never seen an actual map.) The shaded portions are the land areas that existed back then, while the dotted lines show the modern-day Chicago River and shoreline of Lake Michigan. What is now the city of Blue Island was indeed an island back then, and even today with the waters having receded, it's an unusually elevated area in an otherwise flat landscape. Same thing for Mount Forest Island, which is between Lemont and Willow Springs; I ride right past there every day on my train.

What's really interesting to me about Mount Forest Island is the two outlets that are shown: the Sag Outlet, the low-lying ground where the Cal-Sag Channel was dug during the early 1900s; and the Desplaines Outlet, which is the current course of the Des Plaines River. As Lake Chicago receded, the Des Plaines formed into a river, bending to the north near McCook Station and roughly following the course of the old shoreline shown in the map.

January 24, 2014 in Chicago Observations, History | Permalink | Comments (1)

Fading Ad: Boston Store redux

Bostonstore

My good friend Frank Jump was kind enough to repost this photo that I put up last week on Facebook, where I've been running an album called "Photo a Day", of photographs that I've taken each day this year. One afternoon last week, I was walking down Washington Street and looking for a subject, and happened to look across the street at the Block 37 office building, and was very pleased to see the old Boston Store fading ad reflected in the glass. (I had previously photographed the ad - posted here - and inevitably look for it every time I'm walking nearby.) In his post Frank provides more background on the Boston Store, including a great old newspaper ad. I really like the photo, particularly its juxtaposition of modern and aged.

January 22, 2014 in Chicago Observations, History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

"The Character of a Coffee-House"

Batsons

Spitalfields Life presents a lovely map, by Adam Dant, of 17th Century London coffeehouses, including interesting factoids on each, like the one shown above for Batson's.

"And it wasn’t just coffee they sold but alcohol too," he added, fleshing out the historical background as he sipped his glass, "so you could get drunk in one corner and sober up with coffee in another."

Sounds like my kind of place.

January 21, 2014 in Food and Drink, History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Michelangelo's grocery list

MichelangelosGroceries

This is pretty wonderful: Michelangelo's handwritten, illustrated grocery list. Illustrated, because his servants were illiterate, and couldn't read the words. I often joke about favorite writers, saying I'd gladly read anything of theirs, even their grocery lists. But Michelangelo's list is surely one of the few that qualifies as a priceless relic.

(Via Austin Kleon.)

January 10, 2014 in Art, History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Quote

"These are the times that try men's souls."
- Thomas Paine

As Goodreads notes, Paine's (literally) revolutionary pamphlet Common Sense was published on this date in 1776. The manifesto ultimately provide some of the most influential moral and philosophical underpinnings for the American Revolution. No less an authority than John Adams once said, "Without the pen of the author of Common Sense, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain." Sadly, his later years were marked by obscurity, and only six mourners attended his funeral. He was one of the greatest of our country's founders, but history has largely ignored him, at least compared to the deified Washington, Jefferson and Adams.

I've certainly been no help to Paine's legacy, having never read any of his writings. I hope to finally read Common Sense this year, probably sometime around Independence Day.

January 10, 2014 in Books, History | Permalink | Comments (2)

Catholics and girlies and air raids, oh my!

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Southington_inset

Love this 1942 photograph by Fenno Jacobs of a magazine stand in Southington, Connecticut. If you click here for the full-sized image, you can zoom in on the various covers. I particularly like how randomly the publications are arranged - that inset photo shows, all within a few inches, Catholic International, Smiles (based on the cover, some sort of girlie/lingerie pulp?), Little Oscar's First (Air) Raid and an astrology magazine.

January 2, 2014 in History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

"The Cries of London"

Walnuts

Spitalfields Life presents a charming 19th Century pamphlet, titled "The Cries of London", which displays the cries of various London street merchants. Though I wonder why someone ever published this in the first place - maybe for tourists? - it's a lovely relic that I'd love to own.

December 6, 2013 in Ephemera, History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Stearns Quarry

Stearns

It's pretty astounding that this 400-foot-deep hole once existed in the middle of a busy city neighborhood on the Southwest Side. If you look at the lower edge of the quarry in this photo, you can see there were houses right across the street. The quarry still exists (though, I assume, at much shallower depths) and has been redeveloped into Palmisano Park.

October 24, 2013 in Chicago Observations, History | Permalink | Comments (1)

Smoothest

Henderson

Love this 1907 ad, which apparently appeared in Chicago theater programs. (I wonder how many people waited until the show was over, and how many snuck out for a quick nip during intermission.) Wonderful graphics, but oh, such shoddy punctuation: the incorrect usage of "it's", and the accent mark placed above the S instead of the E in "cafés."

October 11, 2013 in Chicago Observations, Ephemera, History | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Step high, stoop low, leave your dignity outside."

DilPickle-600

Aimee Leavitt has a terrific piece, "The migration of the hipster", in the Chicago Reader which surveys the city's primary artist/bohemian/hipster neighborhoods since the end of the 19th Century. This quote, from an unidentified University of Chicago student, is nearly perfect:
"This is no place for a beatnik, and the weather is the principal reason. If you want to lie around like a beachcomber in Chicago, contemplating your navel and grumbling about the uselessness of it all, you're out of luck. It gets cold here in the winter time, and you might have to go to work. And that would spoil everything."
And I admire Leavitt's observation that Nelson Algren, while admittedly a Wicker Park hipster of the 1940s, probably would have beat the crap out of the wimpy Wicker Park hipster/musicians of the 1990s.

October 3, 2013 in Chicago Observations, History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hanson Gregory, inventor of the doughnut?

Someone here at the office wondered aloud if doughnuts are an American invention, and a quick check of Wikipedia indicates they probably are. Of course, fried dough has been around for a long time, and no single individual could reasonably claim to have thought up the original concept. However, a little online digging unearthed a 1916 article from the Washington Post, in which an old sailor, Hanson Gregory, claimed to have been the first to cut a hole in the center, sometime around 1847, which would make him the inventor of what we now know as the doughnut. Here's the full, charming article. I love how he compares himself to Columbus and Admiral Peary.


'OLD SALT' DOUGHNUT HOLE INVENTOR TELLS JUST HOW DISCOVERY WAS MADE AND STOMACH OF EARTHS SAVED; Special to The Washington Post.; The Washington Post (1877-1954), Washington, D.C.; Mar 26, 1916

Boston, March 25. — The man who invented the hole in the doughnut has been found. He is Capt. Hanson Gregory, at present an inmate in Sailor's Snug Harbor, at Quincy, Mass. Doughnut cutters have made fortunes for men; millions eat doughnuts for breakfast and feel satisfied. Doctors do not assail the doughnut. And all of this owes its being to Capt. Gregory, who made the doughnut a safe, sane and hygienic food.

It's a long story, mates; but as the 85-year-old chap relates it, it's only too short. Outside the fact that Capt. Gregory is a bit hard of hearing, he's as sound as new timber.

He's a product of Maine; and so Maine can lay claim to the discoverer of the hole in the doughnut, along with the discoverer of new ways to evade the prohibition laws. But Capt. Gregory's discovery is of real use in the world; millions have risen, and millions more shall rise up, and call him blessed.

"It was way back—oh, I don't know just what year—let me see—born in '31, shipped when I was 13—well, I guess it was about '47, when I was 16, that I was aboard ship and discovered the hole which was later to revolutionize the doughnut industry.

"I first shipped aboard the Isaac Achorn, three-masted schooner, Capt. Rhodes, in the lime trade. Later I joined other crews and other captains, and it was on one of these cruises that I was mawing doughnuts.

"Now in them days we used to cut the doughnuts into diamond shapes, and also into long strips, bent in half, and then twisted. I don't think we called them doughnuts then—they was just 'fried cakes' and 'twisters.'

"Well, sir, they used to fry all right around the edges, but when you had the edges done the insides was all raw dough. And the twisters used to sop up all the grease just where they bent, and they were tough on the digestion."

"Pretty d—d tough, too!" profanely agreed one of the dozen pipe-smoking fellows who were all eyes and ears, taking in their comrade's interview by The Post reporter.

With a glance at the perfervid interrupter, the discoverer continued:

"Well, I says to myself, 'Why wouldn't a space inside solve the difficulty?' I thought at first I'd take one of the strips and roll it around, then I got an inspiration, a great inspiration.

"I took the cover off the ship's tin pepper box, and—I cut into the middle of that doughnut the first hole ever seen by mortal eyes!"

"Were you pleased?"

"Was Columbus pleased? Well, sir, them doughnuts was the finest I ever tasted. No more indigestion—no more greasy sinkers—but just well-done, fried-through doughnuts.

"That cruise over, I went home to my old mother and father in Camden, Me., where I was born. My father, Hanson Gregory, sr., lived to be 93, and my mother lived to be 79. She was a pretty old lady then. I saw her making doughnuts in the kitchen—I can see her now, and as fine a woman as ever-lived, was my mother.

"I says to her: 'Let me make some doughnuts for you.' She says all right, so I made her one or two and then showed her how.

"She then made several panfuls and sent them down to Rockland, just outside Camden. Everybody was delighted and they never made doughnuts any other way except the way I showed my mother.

"Well, I never took out a patent on it; I don't suppose any one can patent anything he discovers; I don't suppose Peary could patent the north pole or Columbus patent America. But I thought I'd get out a doughnut cutter—but somebody got in ahead of me.

"Of course a hole ain't so much; but it's the best part of the doughnut—you'd think so if you had ever tasted the doughnuts we used to eat in '31. Of course, lots of people joke about the hole in the doughnut. I've got a joke myself: Whenever anybody says to me: 'Where's the hole in the doughnut?' I always answer: 'It's been cut out!'" and the old chap laughed loud and longat his little sally, while the rest joined in.

So there he sits—in the Snug Harbor by the sea. And whenever there's doughnuts on the day's fare, Capt. Gregory takes a personal pride trying to do what nobody's succeeded in doing yet—in trying to find the hole in the doughnut. And whenever the old salts rally him about it, he always springs his little joke:

"The hole's been cut out, I guess!" to the delight of the whole shipful.

August 23, 2013 in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

A tale of two buildings

Waterman1

The photo above shows the top floors of the Waterman Building at 127 S. State Street, right next door to the Palmer House Hilton. Designed by Holabird & Roche and built in 1920, the building originally housed the Chicago branch of the Waterman fountain pen company, with a luxurious street-level retail showroom and assembly/warehousing operations upstairs. The building is now considerably worn and showing its age, but still retains a sort of muscular elegance.

Waterman2

Meanwhile, this photo shows the Beef & Brandy Restaurant, also on State, which dates from the 1960s and is also showing its age. The ugly maroon awning, atrium-like front windows (which always remind me of a 1980s-vintage Wendy's) and pseudo-Colonial upper windows add little to the aesthetics of State Street, which itself has been aesthetically challenged for decades.

The strange thing is that both of these photos are of the same building. Here's the full view:

Waterman3

This might be the Loop's most comically incongruous building. Designslinger has much more about the building. As that site notes, the blank white area in the middle floors was once an enamel background for a two-story-high sign; for some reason when the sign was removed the enamel panels were left behind, and are still pockmarked by holes from the sign's former mountings. I'd love to see the latter-day embellishments of the bottom four floors totally stripped away, and the building restored to some semblance of its former luster. Perhaps for a high-end jeweler, condominiums or a boutique hotel. But I'm probably just dreaming.

August 21, 2013 in Chicago Observations, History | Permalink | Comments (4)

Cocktails at Henrici's

Henrici

I'd love to have a framed original of this cocktail menu from Chicago's legendary Henrici's, circa 1945. Having it would probably inspire me to finally find a vintage cocktail cabinet for our living room, which it would hang directly above. Until I saw this, I didn't realize that a Cuba Libre is basically the same as a rum and coke, but with a much better name. I'd guess it became known as the more generic "rum and coke" during the Cold War, when making any sort of tribute to Cuba would have been a major no-no.

Incidentally, if you've ever been to Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, you may remember Yesterday's Main Street, a re-creation of a Chicago street, circa 1910. For many years, one storefront was made up to look like Henrici's. But with that restaurant now long gone, presumably along with any potential benefactors to the museum, that space now depicts the still-thriving Berghoff, whose family owners undoubtedly made a generous donation to the museum to make this happen. I preferred the Henrici's.

August 18, 2013 in Chicago Observations, History | Permalink | Comments (1)

Fading Ad: W.W. Kimball

Kimball

This fading ad is pretty tough to read. Running vertically down the right side of this building, you can just barely see the name "Kimball", with the "K" being even more faded than the rest. This was the former home of W.W. Kimball and Company, the famous manufacturer of pianos and organs, at the corner of Jackson and Wabash. (And, incidentally, right across the street is the old Lyon-Healy building; Wabash was once Chicago's Music Row.) Both the Kimball and Lyon-Healy buildings are now owned by DePaul University as part of its downtown campus.

August 16, 2013 in Chicago Observations, History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)