JUNE 2017

JUNE  2017
J.P. Morgan as a young man in his own words - "The Public Be Damned."

Translate

Amazon Contextual Product Ads

Friday, December 16, 2011

WARD HEELERS

I think the end of the Good Times began on a Sunday, November 22, 1905. Marshall Field Jr, was 38 years old at the time, but that was as old as he would ever get. He was the eldest son and heir of one of America’s greatest fortunes when he appeared at Chicago’s Mercy hospital that morning with a gunshot wound to the abdomen. He would die there, just after five o’clock in the evening, five days later. And there has never been a good explanation as to how it had happened.
The official story was that while in his bedroom that morning Marshall (above) had been cleaning his gun, dropped it and the gun had gone off. The butler and a nurse said they had immediately rushed to his aide. But a reporter for the Daily News tried to replicate the accident and an identical weapon refused to discharge. The papers were afraid of losing advertising from the Marshall Field Department stores, the largest retail chain in America, so the public questions  stopped there - for the time being.
The Field’s mansions, father’s and son’s, stood next to each other on “Millionaires Row” - Prairie Avenue on Chicago’s south side. The row was home to Pullman, Armour, Sears, and Field, in fact 70 of the most powerful families in the Midwest lived within a square mile of each other, and this was not a place usually visited by public scandal. After the funeral, Marshall’s widow and three children moved in with his father. But it stood no chance of being a happy home. The very next year the elder Field died of pneumonia, and the widow returned to her native England, leaving behind an open wound - caused, many thought, by a section of Chicago called the Levee
Less than a half mile away from the Field’s mansions was the Levee District, home to sin and vice of unsurpassed depravity and popularity, bordered by 18th street on the north, 23rd street on the south, South Clark on the west and South Wabash Avenue on the east. And at its immoral center was the Everleigh Club.
For eight years Ada and Minna Everleigh were “Queens of the Levee”, running one of the most popular brothels in the Chicago. Minna (right) famously greeted each customer with a delightfully wicked, “How’s my boy?”
Their thirty girls catered to an upscale clientele, charging $50 just to get in the front door of 2131-2133 South Dearborn. Once inside the plush parlor, extras were extra. It was common knowledge that Marshall Fields Jr. had been a regular at the Everleigh Club for years, and the rumor was that Marshall had been shot at the club by one of the girls, or had shot himself because he was being blackmailed by one of the "ladies".
To the south of the Club was Ed Weiss’s bawdy house, "The Capital", and to the north was "The Sapphro", run by brother Lou Weiss. In fact, jammed into the Levee were dozens of such houses of prostitution; Dago Franks, French Em’s, Old 92, and in cutthroat competition with the Everleigh sisters was Madam Vic Shaw’s house at Dearborn and Cullerton. In between the houses were opium dens, cocaine factories, gambling joints, peep shows and bars - lots and lots of bars.
Ringmasters of this sin circus, Princes of the Levee, were two men; the big, blustery city alderman, John J. Coughlin (right), and his diminutive doppelganger, Michael "Hinky Dink" Kenna (left).
The gimlet eyed “Hinky Dink” (above) received his nickname because he stood just 5 feet tall. He was normally “…glum and quietly dressed”, and usually chewing on a cigar. He was a teetotaler, and his wife was temperance worker. He also was an Alderman, as well as owning and operating several bars and gambling houses in the Levee, the most famous of which was The Workingman’s Exchange on Clark Street.
Here barflies, bums, tramps and the homeless could find beer for a nickel, a free lunch and come election day, a job as a “repeater”. Given pre-marked ballots by “Ward Heelers” who walked the district, these men spread out to various polling places, where they would trade their pre-marked ballots for blanks. They then returned to the Exchange and handed in their blanks for a payment of fifty cents each. While they drank a free beer, their new ballots would be marked and the game would go another round. In twenty years neither "Hinky Dink" nor "Bathhouse" John Coughlin ever lost an election.
“Bathhouse” earned his nickname because he began as an attendant at a bath house, a Levee euphemism for a gambling joint. Coughlin was oversized and overdressed and prone to outbursts of poetry, such as his infamous “She sleeps by the Drainage Canal” and “Why did they build the lovely lake so close to the horrible shore?” His typical “Signs of Spring “concluded, “There are many other signs of spring which come by wireless wire; One of which is Yours Sincerely, who is tuning up his lyre. Just to twang a song to nature 'bout the brooks and fields of green; O, I wonder if I'm understood; I wonder, yes, I ween.”
One of Chicago’s mayors asked Hinky Dink if Bathhouse was just crazy or a drug addict. Hinky Dink replied, “To tell you the god’s truth, Mayor, they ain’t found a name for it yet.” These two men had a genius for skimming protection money from the Levee. Their enforcement arm was the Chicago Police, and in addition to their weekly take of up to a thousand dollars per establishment, they sold tickets to the annual First Ward Ball. In the words of one web site, “Every employee of a house of ill-repute or gambling den, every robber, pickpocket, safe-cracker, and streetwalker, and every bartender, bawdy house entertainer, and low groggery proprietor, all were required to buy tickets…”
The Ball was held each December, and Ike Bloom, owner of “Freiberg’s Dance Hall”, was responsible for selling the tickets. Ike was half clown and half cold blooded killer, whose club was “the most notorious place in Chicago”, which was quite a charge, considering. The ball was billed as a charity, and in 1906, as the press began to unearth the Levee on their front pages, a reporter from the Tribune asked Hinky Dink where all money went. Hinky Dink replied, “Charity, education, burying the dead, and general ward benefits for the people” Asked what he meant by ‘education’, Hinky got a little testy. “It consists of hiring good halls and good speakers to teach the people of the First ward to vote the straight Democratic ticket.” And that was the end of that interview.
Each year the First Ward Ball grew in size and sank in reputation. The 1908 festivity attracted “20,000 drunken, yelling, brawling revelers” who filled the Chicago Coliseum on South Wabash Avenue and clogged the streets outside. When the Law And Order League tried to stop the orgy, they inspired Bathhouse to write, “Strike up the march, professor, and I will lead the way; We'll trip the light fantastic too, until the break of day. Who knows that ere another ball, we'll be outside the city hall; Be gay, but not too gay.” And Hinky Dink groused, “But whenever you hear one of them fellows shouting that Hinky Dink is a menace to society and that he has horns, just keep your hand on your watch. Savvy?”
One newspaper  attempted to describe the scene inside the Coliseum. “The crowd was so enormous that when women fainted – a common occurrence – they had to be passed overhead from hand to hand towards the exits. Cigar smoke settled on the floor in such thick fogs that visibility was no greater than 30 feet in any direction. The noise of shuffling feet and murmuring overpowered the sound of the dance band, and fist-fights and shoving erupted in all quarters. When Lyman Atwell, photographer for the Tribune…began setting up his flash and tripod, security notified (Bathhouse) who…personally jumped on Atwell, breaking his camera and knocking him to the ground…
"As usual, things started to get interesting at midnight, when the regiments of madams and their inmates showed up, led by the Everleigh Sisters. This caused another influx of thousands of men to attempt to enter the building…”  Hinky Dink lorded over the affair from a table off the main floor. Then, at midnight, Bathhouse, wearing a green jacket, a mauve vest, lavender pants and a stove pipe silk hat led a winding Conga Line called The Grand March. Said the newspsper, “The most infamous party in Chicago history lasted until 5 a.m., when the last drunken revelers staggered out…”
But, since the death of the Fields, the millionaires were speaking with their feet, abandoning their mansions, and moving to the safer Gold Coast and later to the northern suburbs. One newspaper observed that Prairie  Avenue had become undesirable to those for whom it was affordable, and unaffordable to those for whom it was desirable. At the same time it seemed the reformers were gaining power. The establishments in the Levee began to scatter. The 1908 First Ward Ball would prove to be the last.
The mayor finally ordered the Everleigh club (above) closed in October of 1911. The sisters walked away with $1,000,000 in cash. Minna took the change philosophically. “If it weren't for married men”, she admitted, “we couldn't have carried on at all, and if it weren't for cheating married women we could have made another million.” Minna died in 1948, Ada died in 1960. She was 93.
Bathhouse John Coughlin served 46 years as a Chicago Alderman. He died in 1938, $50,000 in debt. “Hinky Dink” Kenna spent the last years of his life alienated from his family, living in a suite in the Blackstone hotel, cared for only by a male nurse. He died in 1946. He left behind a million dollars…in cash. His will stipulated that $33,000 of it should be set aside to construct a mausoleum for his grave. His survivors had Hinky’s the will set aside. Instead they marked his passing with an $85 wooden tombstone.
At Hinky’s funeral, half the pews were empty, and few sent flowers. As one old First Ward lobbygog (Ward Heeler) put it, “If you don't go to other people's funerals, they won't go to yours.”
In truth it was not the reformers or the Law and Order League that put the Levee out of business. Few were foolish enough to believe that all those sinners had repented. What killed the sin of the Levee was the coming of Prohibition, which freed the Levee from its confinement, and let it spread out and multiply. The new Prince of Chicago sin was “Big Jim” Colosimo, the man who brought Al Capone to Chicago and who married Victoria Shaw. As Hinky Dink explained, “Chicago ain't no sissy town.” And Marshall Fields Jr. would have certainly agreed.
- 30 -

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

IN THE NAME OF FANNY ADAMS

I am not surprised the killer apologized. And on that Christmas Eve morning, when “short drop” Calcraft slipped the noose around his neck, twenty-four year old Frederick Baker probably took comfort from having made the apology. He probably thought he had earnned some credit to carry on his way to meet his final reward. He should not have. The hangman, Mr. William Calcraft, had ushered some 450 souls to their final reward over his fifty year career, and Frederick would be far from his last job, although he would be one of the last public ones. But Calcraft’s technique of dropping his subjects no more than 18 inches insured that Frederick, like all the others, would take from three to four minutes to slowly strangle to death, kicking and writhing in full view of the 5,000 people (mostly women) gathered to witness his well earned demise. And the confession he had made and the denial it included was simply final proof that Fredrick Baker was a liar to the very last moment of his life.
On Tan House Lane in the “…pleasant little market town…” of Alton, stood the modest home of bricklayer George Adams, his wife Harriet (above) and their seven children. You can see the hardness of their lives on their worn faces. And perhaps the terrible grief, too.
Tan House Lane ("x" above) was a back street off the main road (the High Street) which led north from Alton to London, 45 miles distant. The Lane was just 400 yards long and terminated in a flood meadow owned by a man named Hobbs who used to grow leeks there. Beyond, crisscrossing foot paths bisected the hops fields that supported Alton's half dozen breweries and their pubs. One of those footpaths, known as the Hollow, led across fields and farms to the even smaller village of Shalden, some three miles away.
On one hot lazy Saturday afternoon, August 24, 1867, sometime after one thirty, seven year old Lizzie Adams and her year eight year old sister Fanny were playing with their neighbor, eight year old Minnie Warner, in the flood meadow, when a man appeared. He was dressed in a black frock coat, light colored waistcoat and trousers and wore a top hat. The girls immediately realized he had been drinking. Still, the man seemed pleasant enough, and offered Minnie and Lizzie a half penny each if they would run a race to The Hollow, while he and Fanny followed. The two older girls agreed and scampered off. When they were all rejoined at the Hollow the man congratulated the girls and paid them.
He then offered them a full penny if they would go into a nearby field with him and eat some berries. Again, the offer of a penny was strong inducement and the three girls opened the gate and went into the  field with the man. They spent some time eating berries, before the man offered Fanny a half penny if she would walk with him to Shalden. Fanny took the coin, but something made her refuse to take the man’s hand. He paid the other two girls their last penny and told them to go home. Then he swept up little Fanny in his arms and carried her away.
We have gained some small insight into the fate of "Sweet" Fanny Adams (above) in the 150 years since her ordeal. The lessons were paid for by the thousands of those innocents who have followed her. According to a study released by Washington state, USA, 44 % of child victims were killed by strangers and 42% by family or acquaintances. Two thirds of the perpetrators had prior arrests for violent crimes, but just half had prior arrests for crimes against children. In 76% of homicide cases involving child abduction, the child was dead within three hours. And in 74% of the cases, the victim was a female under the age of 11. Of course none of this insight explains why Frederick Baker, the drunk man in the frock coat and top hat sexually assaulted 8 year old Fanny Adams, then killed her and then butchered her corpse. The crime itself may be beyond explanation or understanding. And that may be the saddest thing of all about Fanny's brutal death; the idea that there is little we can do or have done to prevent it from happening again and again and again.
Later testimony from his co-workers suggested that Fredrick Baker caved in Fanny’s head with a stone, and by three o’clock had returned to his job as a clerk in the office of Mr. William Clement. Later, around five o’clock, Frederick allegedly walked back to the murder scene and butchered and dismembered the little girl’s corpse. It was done quickly and clumsily. She was decapitated. Her legs and internal organs were scattered in the tall grass, haphazardly. And for some reason Frederick carried her eyes all the way to the River Wye before throwing them in. Did he really think hiding her eyes was going to keep anyone from seeing what he had done?
During the inquest at the Alton Old Town Hall (above) Minnie Warner and Lizzie Adams identified Frederick as the man who had carried Fanny off. Mrs. Harriet Adams and their neighbor, Mrs. Gardner, testified they had met Frederick coming out of the meadow when they first went to look for Fanny, sometime after five. When Alton Police arrested him the next day at his workplace, Frederick’s wristbands were still spotted with blood. It was noted that his pant legs and socks had been wet when he had returned after lunch the day of the murder. And a diary entry found in his desk, read, “24th August, Saturday; killed a young girl. It was fine and hot.”
The Alton Police (standing in front of their station on the High Street, above) knew Frederick from pervious arrests for drunkeness and fighting. It would be testified in his defense that Frederick’s father had “shown an inclination to assault even to kill, his children.” It was also alleged that Frederick had recently attempted suicide after a girl had rejected him, that his sister had died of a “brain fever”, and that a cousin had been in mental asylums on four separate occasions. None of that made a difference. The jury convicted Frederick in just fifteen minutes.
The night before his execution, Christmas eve-eve, Frederick Baker wrote to George and Harriet Adams. He wrote that he was sorry for murdering their Fanny, and had done it in “an unguarded hour” only because she would not stop crying. It was done, he insisted without “malice aforethought” and without “…pain or struggle”. Frederick assured the grieving parents he had not molested Fanny, but he offered no other explanation as to why she had been crying when he had murdered her.
The execution of Frederick Baker, as gruesome as any parent of a murdered child might wish for, did nothing to save the lives of the uncounted children who have followed Fanny. But every child saved during the vital first three hours of an abduction by an Amber Alert, must thank Donna and Jimmy Hagerman, who in 1996 pushed to change the way U.S. police respond to child abductions, after their daughter, Amber Hagerman (below) was murdered. And those children saved by Amber's sacrifice can also thank those who ask questions about these monsters in our midst, rather than simply calling for their blood. Spilling blood may be a just punishment, but it never saved a life.
- 30 -

Sunday, December 11, 2011

AIR HEADS Part Six Beauty In Motion

I suppose you thought she was just a model – I did - or an image without a reality. But she was a real person, a self made woman, and her own invention - a latter day Maria Sharapova in high button shoes; intelligent, talented, ambitious, an author, a dare devil, an adrenaline junkie and a hustler par excellence. You must always remember that she was a hustler to understand how she came to be the personification for a grape flavored syrup that, mixed with soda water, processed “a certain laxative effect”, and had a taste “You have to sneak up on, to get it down,”.
She was the official “Vin Fiz” girl, and that at the age of 36. And if that were her only claim to fame, then hers’ would be a mundane tale indeed. But she was so much more than just a girl on a poster. She was  Harriet Quimby (above); theatre critic, photojournalist, screenwriter, film actor, first licensed female pilot in America, the first woman to fly across the English Channel, and yes, she was even sexier in person than the girl on the poster. But who was she really?
The sexy leather outfit was born out of necessity. The Wright Brothers were Midwestern stick-in-the-muds who did not approve of teaching women to fly, and who strongly disapproved of anybody who did. And there were darn few people in the flying business in 1911 who did not pay attention to what the Wright brothers disapproved of. So when Harriet Quimby convinced John Moisant to give her flight lessons, John  insisted on secrecy. Whenever they took off she wore a hooded leather suit to hide her femininity.
Of course it did no such thing. There was no way to hide her sex. But when the secret was out, instead of discarding the suit, the usually penurious Harriet turned it into a custom-made icon; “…thick wool-backed satin, without lining. It is all of one piece, including the hood”, as she described it.
Or as a friend noted, “She had the most beautiful blue eyes, and when she wore that long cape over her satin, plum-colored flying suit, she was a real head-turner.” Plumb colored, then; but who was Harriet Quimby, really?
Her family had owned a rock farm in upper Michigan in the 1870’s, and her mother, Ursula (above, center), had supplemented their income by selling “Quimby’s Liver Invigorator” by mail, complete with imaginary testimonials. In the 1880’s the family farm went bust and the family moved to the central coast of California, and then in the 1890’s they moved again to San Francisco. There her father, William (above, left), dispensed herbs and twenty-something Harriet (above, right) re-invented herself as an “actress”, in the nineteenth century definition of that term, as a beautiful bobble on the arm of men who could afford her.
People asked her mother where Hariet had received her education. Ursula alsways said Harriet had been college educated "back east". But no college had a record of her ever attending. Still people wanted to know, because she was famous. Her nude portrait even hung in the sophisticated “Bohemian Club”, until it was destroyed in the San Fransico earthquake of 1906.
But by then Harriet (above) had reinvented her self again; writing articles for the “San Francisco Bulletin”, and, in 1903, moving east to New York City to become a theatre critic, feature writer and photojournalist for “Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly”. But who was Harriet Quimby, really?
She wrote the odd and off-beat stories; “A Woman’s Moose Hunt” and “Hints to Stage Struck Girls”, and wrote on the habits of Chinatown, the life of acrobats and comics and the evils of childhood labor. Over a decade she wrote more than 250 stories, many under nom de plumes. She even wrote screenplay melodramas  for D.W. Griffith’s “Biograph Studios” in New Jersey; “Sunshine Through the Dark” (a blind princess has her sight restored by a poet’s kiss), “His Mother’s Scarf” (Two brothers battle over a girl), “The Broken Cross” (boy finds girl, tramp tricks boy, boy goes back to girl) and “Fisher Folks” (a crippled girl marries a fisherman, and heartache ensues.) None of these were cinema masterpieces, or would make film history. But they paid the bills. And they gave Harriet a taste of the movie business. She even acted in one film for D.W. But who was Harriet Quimby, really?
She was vivacious, ambitious, alive and enchanting. Bonnie Ginger, a friend and fan, wrote, “Miss Quimby has…a low voice and a brilliant smile and she runs strongly to overhung bonnets and antique ornaments…She probably wears this sort of thing because she can do it so well”. Harriet lived in a suite at the Victoria Hotel in New York, and kept a suite for her parents there as well. She bought a powerful yellow sports car (her one ostentatious purchase) and sped around town in it.
When she completed her flight training, Harriet wrote that she “…walked over to one of the officials, looked him in the eye, and said ‘Well, I guess I get my license”.  And she did, License Number 37. It was, she said, “Easier than voting”, which was quite a joke since women did not yet have the vote. “Was it worth the effort?”, she would write for Leslies, “Absolutely. I didn’t want to make myself conspicuous, I just wanted to be first, that’s all, and I am honestly and frankly delighted.” Was this who Harriet Quimby really was?
As for the romance of flight, Harriet was brutally honest in describing the experience to her Lesilie’s readers… “Not only the chassis of the machine, but all the fixtures are slippery with lubricating oil, and when the engine is speeded a shower of this oil is thrown back directly into the driver’s face.”
Harriet plotted carefully to be the first woman to fly the English Channel, but on the morning after her flight word of the Titanic sinking drove her adventure out of the headlines. So she came home to participate in an air show in Boston, and it was there she took a passenger for a ride in her new French built two seat monoplane.
Near the end if their flight for some reason the passanger stood up and leaned forward in his seat (seat belts being frowned upon as too restrictive). The plane hit an air pocket and the passanger was pitched out of the plane.
Harriet was unaware of this, as he had been sitting behind her. But suddenly she found the planes’ center of gravity had been drastically altered. She fought for control, and for a few seconds she almost succeeded. And then the plane pitched forward and she too was thrown out. The horrified crowd watched as the two bodies tumbled into the mudflats of Dorchester Bay, one in a plum colored flying suit. The passenger died of drowning, face down in the mud of Dorchester Bay. But the girl, the slender, tiny girl...
A man ran into the water, pulled her broken body from the mud flats, and ran ashore (above). But it was too late. Harriet had died on impact; July 1, 1912. The Vin Fiz girl was dead, five months after the plane that had  immortalized her image ended its endeavor. But who had she been, really?
We will probably never know. She and her mother had concocted so many stories over so many years that they left the real Harriet in their shadow. And that seems to have been the way that the real Harriet Quimby wanted it.
- 30 -

Blog Archive

Amazon Deals