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The Last Time a Republican Reigned in Big Business - 1903

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Friday, August 24, 2012

WARD HEELERS

 I think the first act curtain fell on Chicago's innocence just after five on Monday afternoon, 27 November, 1905. That was when 38 year old Marshall Field  Jr, the eldest son of MarshalI Field and heir to $150 millions (about $10 billion today),  died at Chicago’s Mercy hospital. He had been admitted five days earlier with a gunshot wound to the abdomen, and now he was dead. And there has never been a good explanation as to just how he had been shot.
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 with an identical weapon, but it  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 the Fields. In fact 70 of the most powerful families in America lived within a square mile of each other on Chicago's south side, 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 believed, by a section of Chicago called the Levee
Less than a half mile from the Field mansions, the Levee District was home to sin and vice of unsurpassed depravity and popularity. It was 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 for years Marshall Field Jr. had been a regular at the Everleigh Club, 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".  Those kinds of things were not unheard of in The Levee.
To the south of the Club was Ed Weiss’s bawdy house, "The Capital", and to the north was "The Sapphro", run by his 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 direct cutthroat competition with the Everleigh sisters was Madam Vic Shaw’s house at Dearborn and Cullerton. In between the whore houses were opium dens, cocaine factories, gambling joints, peep shows and bars - lots and lots of bars.
Ringmasters of this sin circus, the 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 a 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”, for this was where politics and vice crossed paths. Given pre-marked ballots by “Ward Heelers” who walked the district, these "repeaters" 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 worked as an attendant at a bath house, a Levee euphemism for a gambling joint. Coughlin was over sized 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 Chicago. 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 newspaper, “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 along the lake and other 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. With each wave of press coverage 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 his last years alienated from his family, living in a suite in the Blackstone hotel and cared for only by a male nurse. He died in 1946 and 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 will set aside. Instead they marked his passing with an $85.00 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 Levee was the arrival of Prohibition in 1920, 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 Madam Victoria Shaw. As Hinky Dink explained, “Chicago ain't no sissy town.” And Marshall Field Jr. would have certainly agreed.
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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

KLUGE HANS

I can always tell which is the front end of a horse, but beyond that, my art is not above the ordinary.
Mark Twain
I retain a few doubts about Hans. I agree that he was clever, but how clever was he, really? Hans willingly cooperated with the man who proved he was as dumb as a horse. That was not very smart. And if Hans could actually preform basic math, why don't we see more horses working in banks? Sure, Hans might have been an equine genius, even capable of reading human minds, but what are the odds the only genius human- mind-reading horse would be bought by a retired gym teacher who just happened to be anxious to prove that horses could memorize the multiplication tables? Perhaps I should rein myself in here, and start at the beginning.
"Horses do think. Not very deeply, perhaps, but enough to get you into a lot of trouble."
Patricia Jacobson and Marcia Hayes - "A Horse Around the House"
Right out of the gate, Hans just looked smart (above). He was handsome, sleek, athletic and big, almost a thousand pounds and five and a half feet high at the shoulders. His breed had been founded by Count Orlov who crossed Russian mares with Arabian stallions, to produce spirited trotters. And then Count Rostophin threw in three oriental stallions to breed gentle, empathetic riding horses. So popular was the breed that by 1866 nearly half of all horses on Russian stud farms were Orlovs. And by the end of the 19th century, they were even being sold in Europe.
Small children are convinced that ponies deserve to see the inside of the house.
Maya Patel
The popularity of the Orlov is explained by the web site, InfoHorse.com (http://www.infohorse.com/ShowAd.asp?id=3693) ; “Possessed of amazing intelligence, they learn quickly and remember easily with few repetitions. There is often an uncanny understanding of what is wanted and needed of them....They can become extremely sensitive to the moods and emotions of their riders/owners, even reflecting them in self-carriage. Under saddle this makes for a partner of such willingness and awareness that traditional (dressage) exercises become poetry.”
Horses are uncomfortable in the middle and dangerous at both ends.
Ian Fleming - Sunday Times of London, October 9, 1966
Which brings us to Wilhelm von Osten (above), a retired, grouchy, grumpy Berlin prep school mathematics teacher who believed that animal intelligence was sorely underrated. Beginning in the 1880's he attempted to teach simple math to a cat. The feline did not care scratch for his efforts, so von Osten switched his subject to a bear. The Ursula proved a bear market for von Osten's educational techniques. So in 1888 he bought a pony, whom he named Hans. Von Osten was giddy when, after a few weeks effort, when he wrote the number three on a blackboard, Hans tapped his right hoof three times. It seemed clear, to him at least, that he had harnessed the genius in the young stallion.
It's always been and always will be the same in the world: The horse does the work and the coachman is tipped
Old proverb
Von Osten now had the bit between his teeth. He asked Hans for the sum of three plus two, and the black beauty tapped his hoof five times. Eventually Hans was even figuring square roots and working with fractions. Hans even read a calendar, answering “, "If the eighth day of the month comes on a Tuesday, what is the date of the following Friday?” - something I would have trouble with. But there was more. Asked to identify a member of the crowd , Hans was able to tap out a name, using a complicated code chart, even though no one had told the horse. But after years giving such public demonstrations before enthusiastic crowds, von Osten grew frustrated by official indifference. So, in the summer of 1902, he advertised for sale his “beautiful, gentle 7 year old stallion”, in a military newspaper. In fact Hans was not seven, and he was not really for sale, but the ad did mention, “He distinguishes ten colors, reads, knows the four arithmetic operations, etc.” That elicited the sought after response from cavalry officers, who stampeded to von Osten's house. They came prepared to mock but left impressed. Because of this growing support by such a respected segment  of German society, within two years even the Minister for Education was singing Han's (and of course, von Osten's) praises.
“You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him participate in synchronized diving.”
Cuthbert Soup - “Another Whole 'Nother Story”
The mockery poured upon the Minister for those statements finally achieved Von Osten's goal. A panel of 13 “experts” was herded together; a veterinarian, a circus manager, a Cavalry officer, the Director of the Berlin Zoo, some school teachers and the psychologist Carl Stumpf, The panel ran Hans through his paces, and when faced with Han's 89.9% accuracy, came to the unanimous conclusion there were no tricks involved. That declaration even made the New York Times chuckle (“Berlin’s Wonderful Horse. He Can Do Almost Everything but Talk.”) The German government was now facing a night-mare of public humiliation. So before declaring himself mentally un-stable, Stumpf decided to go one step further. He asked his assistant, Oskar Pfungst, to put Hans through his paces.
I'd rather have a goddamn horse. A horse is at least human, for God's sake.
J.D. Salinger - “The Catcher in the Rye”
Pfungst designed experiments for Dr. Stumpf, and he now laid down four restrictions to begin a series of tests for Hans, to be conducted in the courtyard of the Psychological Institute of the University of Berlin. First Pfungst cut von Osten right out the herd. Then he put blinders on Hans, so he could only see the human asking the question. And then he varied whether the questioner knew the answer or not. The key turned out to this last bit. When the human was ignorant of the correct answer, Han's winning percentage dropped to just 6%. So Hans was only as smart as the human asking the question. That lead to testing the questioner. By closely watching the humans and not the horse, Pfungst found they were subtly and unconsciously tensing their muscles as Han's approached the correct answer, and showed a similar relaxation immediately afterward. Pfungst's theory was that Hans was watching for the same muscle clues he expected when a human was riding on his back. In his December 1904 report – Clever Hans (the horse of Mr. von Osten) A Contribution To Experimental Animal And Human Psychology - Plungst revealed, he could now “call forth at will all the various reactions of the horse by making the proper kind of voluntary movements, without asking the relevant question.” .
Horse sense is the thing a horse has, which keeps it from betting on people.
W.C. Fields
But for me, von Osten's mane arguments were finally reduced to horse d'oeuvres when Pfungst used von Osten's techniques to train his own dog, Nora, to duplicate all of Hans' feats. Of course, having hitched his reputation to his halter-ego Hans, Von Osten bridled at the suggestion he was not a genius horse – Hans, that is. So he bolted for the exit - von Osten did, that is. He told a newspaper “one can hardly see in these experiments more than a kind of scholarly jest....” He retreated to his families' estate in Prussia. And there the bitter old man died, on July 3, 1909. He was buried at the Church of Zion (Zionskirchhof) back in Berlin
If the world was truly a rational place, men would ride sidesaddle.
Rita Mae Brown
Hans, still as clever as ever, was adopted by Karl Krall, a wealthy jeweler in the west German town of Elberfeld. Krall was determined to prove Hans a genius, and the stallion continued to spend hours each day, now with two stall mates,  standing through interminable instruction and testing sessions. The horse genius was last heard of in 1916 when he was drafted, and probably died pulling wagons in World War One. Meanwhile, the Clever Hans (in German “Kluge Hans”) Effect, still plagues researchers by producing false positive results by search, drug and bomb sniffing dogs, dolphins and primates used in language research and even human sufferers of autism. And I suspect it also occurs in contestants on American Idol.
"There are only two emotions that belong in the saddle; one is a sense of humor and the other is patience."
John Lyons
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Sunday, August 19, 2012

COXEY'S ARMY Pt Four REBELLION

I suspect there were growing murmurings amongst the rank and file of Coxey’s Army as they breached the mountain ramparts southwest of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Each night the men formed a picket line around the encampment while a circus tent was erected as their shelter. Then, each Group would build a cooking fire, while their leaders would collect and distribute rations either bought by Coxey or donated by sympathetic locals. After an early meal, designated groups would canvass the area for more donations of food, clothing and money. But the vast majority of the men stayed in camp, where they had little to do but talk.
"Well," said the Head, "I will give you my answer. You have no right to expect me to send you back to Kansas unless you do something for me in return. In this country everyone must pay for everything he gets. If you wish me to use my magic power to send you home again you must do something for me first. Help me and I will help you."
1900  L. Frank Baum  "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz"
It became evident while April proceeded what the members of The Army were talking about – their leadership. Many nights and every Sunday Carl Browne would berate the men with ideological harangues, selling his vision of the unity of all working and unemployed men along with his version of Christianity mixed with a little reincarnation. Most of the Army had long since stopped listening to his speeches, referring to him in private as the “Great humbug.” But they also noticed that after the oration, while they settled into their bed rolls on the cold ground, Browne and Coxey spent every night in warm soft beds in local hotels. And should they ever forget to notice this disparity in creature comforts, The Great Unknown Smith was always careful to point out that he was sharing all the discomforts of the march with them, unlike Mr. Browne.
Remember, The Great Unknown Smith had been recruited by Carl Browne (above) and had been his partner in the patent “Blood Purefyer” business before Coxey had even appeared. Browne even knew The Great’s Unknown Smith's real name, A.B.P. Bazarro, and that the silent veiled lady who always followed him around was Bizarro's wife. The press, particularly those from Chicago, had known The Great’s real identity all along, but he was such good copy as The Great Uknown Smith, that they had not shared this information with their readers, or the Army. In fact there was an outragous rumor running about camp that the Great Unknown Smith was in fact a Pinkerton spy - and by his later actions, he may have been.
In the teeth of a snowstorm, on April 11th 1894, the Army made the hard march spouthwest out of Uniontown, Pennsylvania. They were following the old National Highway, which had first been created by President Thomas Jefferson. That had been the last significant road improvement project the Federal Government had undertaken, over ninety years earlier.
Now this motley Army was petitioning their government for a new, larger investment in national infrastructure. They were speaking with their boots, as they struggled past Fort Necessity, built by George Washington, the construction of which had set off the French and Indian War in North America. They plodded in the snow past the grave of the British General Braddock, who had been ambushed on the road to Pittsburgh. Coxey's Army, speaking for the vast armies of unemployed, trudged step by step over the 2,000 foot high Big Savage Mountain. Every man was cold, wet and exhausted. Patience was in short supply. Reason was absent. It was a bad time for a fight, so of course they had one.
As they reached the peak the Great Unknown Smith – who was mounted this day – rode back to the commissary wagons to grab a snack. Carl Browne saw him do this and was infuriated. He rode up to Smith and berated him, and then returned to the lead. After smoldering over the insult for a mile or so on the down slope, Smith rode back to the lead and unloaded on the buckskinned duomo, calling him a “fat faced fake” and threatening that if Browne ever spoke to him like that again he would “make a punching bag out of your face.” “I found you on your uppers in Chicago” Smith shouted. “I picked you out of the mud.”
Browne immediately ordered the marchers to halt. They stopped. Smith responded by commanding the Army to “Forward March”. The army hesitated, but enough men automatically leaned forward, that Smith (actually Bazarro) sensed an advantage and seized the moment.
He turned his horse and rode back amongst the men. “You and I have roughed it together,” he reminded them. “You know I have been with you…while others were enjoying their ease. It is for you to say men, who shall command you…Will you have Smith …or this leather coated polecat?” It was a loaded question, and the Army responded as expected,  with chants of “Smith, Smith , Smith!” Even Coxey’s eldest son, Jesse, joined the mutineers. With that,  Smith (actually Bazarro) led the army down the slope, while Browne, now bereft of command, galloped to the nearest telegraph office.
Jacob Coxey was in Cumberland, Maryland, arranging supplies and support in advance of the Army when Browne's desperate telegram reached him. He immediatly hired a carriage and drove all night to intercept his Army at dawn, Saturday April 14th, in the well named town of Frostburg (above), just over the Maryland state line. In a perfect bit of historical staging, the Army’s headquarters for the night were in the town’s opera house (below), one of the few buildings not damaged by a tornado which had struck Frostburg the year before.
After listening to everybody’s version of what had happened on the road, Coxey stood on a box on the stage (he was not a tall man), and called for a vote. The results were not what he had hoped for; 158 for The Great Unknown Smith, and just four for Browne. There was an uncomfortable pause, and then Coxey did the greatest thing - the thing that proved him to be a real leader. He said to the men, “I cast 154 votes for Mr. Browne.” It was a clever move, a clear statement of intent to the men of the Army from the very man paying for the food in their bellies, and the shoes and the socks these men were now wearing. But it took a few moments for the Army to realize the choice they now had to make; give up the march, or give up the Great Unknown Smith. And just as that realization dawned on the men, into the stunned silence Coxey added, “I further order that the Unknown Smith be forever expelled from the Army.” And he called for an immediate vote of agreement.
A few voices were raised in protest that if The Great Unknown Smith should be expelled then so should Jesse Coxey, their leader's son. But even they were disarmed when Coxey reluctantly agreed to the logic. And thus so did the Army. The Great Unknown Smith was out. Across the street from the opera house the Great Unknown Smith unloaded again, this time to the press. “I have been deposed by a patent medicine shark, a greasy-coated hypocrite, a seeker for personal advancement.” Like all those caught in the act, Smith’s (actually Bazarro’s) accusations might have been better used as a self portrait.
The next morning Carl Browne called a press conference of his own and revealed what everybody there already knew, that the Great Unknown Smith was actually A.P. B. Bazarro, a patent medicine salesman and hypocrite. And with that weight lifted, the Army moved on 14 miles to Addison, Maryland.
Twenty years later, Jacob Coxey would explain why he stood up for Carl Browne (above) that cold morning in a half empty opera house, and why he had tolerated the bombast and pretense which Carl Browne exhibited, and why he trusted him dispite the man’s less than sterling past. Coxey called Browne “…the most unselfish man of my entire life’s acquaintance. He never gave a thought to pecuniary gain. His whole heart was in the movement to emancipate labor."
The next day, as the march continued into Maryland, the eldest son Jesse Coxey was reinstated on the one condition that “he not sulk anymore”. The day after that Coxey’s Army acquired a navy.
Don't speak so loud, or you will be overheard--and I should be ruined. I'm supposed to be a Great Wizard."
"And aren't you?" she asked.
"Not a bit of it, my dear; I'm just a common man."
"You're more than that," said the Scarecrow, in a grieved tone; "you're a humbug."
"Exactly so!" declared the little man, rubbing his hands together as if it pleased him. "I am a humbug."
1900  L. Frank Baum  "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz"
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