I love the theater. I particularly love attending performances in Chicago. But, I must admit that every time I have visited The Oriental Theater I recall the horror of December 30, 1903 when the newly opened Iroquois Theater (which stood where The Oriental is today) burned, taking over 600 innocent souls. The new year saw a city in mourning. There are many great sites dedicated to the disaster and I have updated the link page. Also, the souvenir program from the Iroquois’ opening, just a few weeks earlier, is featured in the Online Library. The John T. McCutcheon editorial cartoon shown above, depicting the locked door of the theater, is from January 1, 1904
Some admired him for his shrewd business savvy and forward thinking. Others thought him a clever con man and scoundrel. But, whatever the opinion, Charles Tyson Yerkes left his mark on Chicago as the acknowledged father of the modern “L.” (“L” stands for “elevated train” not “larceny” as some would say.) Yerkes was born on June 25, 1837 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and as a young man was convicted of larceny. In a strange twist of fate, it was the Chicago fire that burned him: ” Yerkes risked public money in a colossal stock speculation. Unfortunately for Yerkes, this speculation ended [in calamity] when the Great Chicago Fire sparked a financial panic.” (Wikipedia) Yerkes wouldn’t arrive in Chicago until 1881. A new page of links to many articles about Yerkes has been posted and the page on the Railroads and Chicago “L” has been updated.
L. Frank Baum was born in May (1856), he died in May (1919), and The Wizard of Oz, probably the world’s most famous childrens story, was published in May (1900). Today Baum would have been 154 years old so we are taking a trip down the yellow brick road to celebrate. A new page dedicated to Baum has been added. Plus, all of The Journal sites are featuring information on the beloved writer. Hope you find something really “wicked!”
It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and time for the obligatory posts on the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and Al Capone. I’ve updated the Capone page and added a new one for the massacre itself under “Crime.” I prefer not to spend too much time on these two topics for two reasons: there is a great deal of information out there already and, more importantly to me, there are so many other Chicago history topics which far better exemplify the spirit of the city. But, for those interested, the links should provide plenty of reading. Enjoy.
I’ve just met Sherwood Anderson. It seems incredible that I have not read such an important writer of the Chicago Literary Renaissance, but, I’m embarrassed to say, that is the case. I don’t even have a copy of Winesburg, Ohio on my shelf; the situation will be remedied soon. What I have read about Anderson gives the impression that he was a dark souled man. Clyde, Ohio, which formed the backbone of his work, was where he grew up, but young Sherwood headed to Chicago in 1895 after the death of his mother and he is firmly ensconced as a member of its literary community. His relationships with women are notorious; he married four times, but, fortunately, Clarence Darrow was his Chicago lawyer. Intriguing man, this Sherwood Anderson. I look forward to becoming better acquainted. For links to some helpful websites, see Anderson’s page under “Literary Chicago.”
One hundred thirty-eight years ago today Chicago suffered a great disaster. The Great Chicago fire began on October 8, 1871 and did not burn itself out for two days. Hundreds were killed. Thousands lost their homes, businesses and belongings. I am updating the Internet links with information on the Great fire and will also be adding books available online that give a graphic picture of those horrific days. Note: all of my Chicago History sites will be providing information on the fire. Watch for updates over the next few days.
Chicago has had more than its shares of disasters and the sinking of the S. S. Eastland on July 24, 1915 was one of the worst. 845 crew and passengers lost their lives on a day that was supposed to be one of fun for the Western Electric Company employees. Many of the victims were women and children and, in some cases, whole families were drowned. Bodies were removed to a cold storage warehouse nearby which today is Harpo Studios.
Links to internet sites on The Eastland disaster have been updated. Be sure to view the postcards.