Sadly, The Chinese-American Museum of Chicago (238 West 23rd Street) suffered a devastating fire in September and is temporarily closed. But, their website is open and filled with information on the Chinese in early Chicago history. Here's an example:
Hinky Dink Kenna and Bathhouse John Coughlin ran the First Ward -- the Loop and the area just south of it, including the Archer/Cermak Chinatown -- from 1897 to 1938. Not only were the two politicians famed for graft and other crooked dealings but they also oversaw one of the most notorious vice districts in America. In 1905 Hinky Dink, insulted when a Republican mayoral candidate attacked a Democratic rival for associating with Kenna, "got old King Yen Lo, the manager of the Chink joint on top of my place [a famous saloon] on Van Buren Street, to write the answer. I don't know what he said [in Chinese] but if it is anything like I told him it's a peacherino"
The man who Hinky Dink called "old King Yen Lo" was the youthful manager of the King Yen Lo restaurant, the talented restaurateur Chin Foin. In later years Chin Foin would go on first to manage the famed King Joy Lo and then to found and run the very successful Mandarin Inn, which brought him a substantial fortune as well as respectability in the eyes of the European-American establishment.
What interests us [the museum] here is not just that Chin Foin composed a political pamphlet for Hinky Dink but that the incident, related with gusto in Adam McKeown's excellent book, shows that early Chinese immigrants, although not allowed to become citizens or vote, nonetheless had real influence in Chicago politics. The main issue, after all, was not votes but money -- what was then called "boodle" and now, campaign contributions. Because they were generous with boodle, the leaders of the Chinese community seem to have been on excellent terms with local politicians. This may explain why Chinese-Americans were never openly persecuted in the Chicago area: by the police, by organized crime, or by the political clubs that spearheaded most ethnic violence.
The section on Chinese-Americans at the 1893 Chicago World Fair is also of particular note, but explore the entire website. There were three Chinese people living in Chicago as early as 1858 so there is a lot to tell of their story in the city.
The Chicagoan Book-Signing
Author Neil Harris will be available to sign copies of The Chicagoan: A Lost Magazine of the Jazz Age at Borders (150 N. State St.) on October 28th at Noon. The book is not scheduled for release until next month so this is a cool way to get an early copy.
A New Primary Source...Source
Making of America is a digital library of primary sources in American social history primarily from the post Civil War era through reconstruction. Complete books are available for viewing such as Chicago: Past, Present, Future: Relations to the Great Interior, and to the Continentand The Lakeside Memorial of the Burning of Chicago, A. D. 1871.
The Weird Chicago Tours Blog has some perfect Halloween reading. Lots about the Resurrection Mary lore, updates on Chicago's favorite seriel killer H. H. Holms, and murders at the Congress Hotel. Fun stuff.
White City Picture Set on flickr
The Brooklyn Museum has a great set of photos from the Columbian Exposition on flickr. They are from the Goodyear Archival Collection and can also be viewed on that site. Be sure to read A Pictoral Walking Tour of the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago from Brian Karpuk (a.k.a. Newsburglar).
And, just in case you STILL haven't had enough of the Fair, A Digital Archive of American Architecture from Boston College also has a great set of pictures.
A Word of Thanks
"Chicago History" has been enjoying a surge in visitors lately. I'd like to thank Gapers Block, Weird Chicago Tours, My Al Capone Museum, the Pensacola Beach Blog, Elvis Lover, The Virtual Dime Museum, Scandalous Women and The Pen and the Spindle. It seems like every time I contemplate pulling the plug on this blog, something happens to at least postpone my decision. My sincere thanks to all.
While I'm talking about my blog...it seems the darn thing has gotten away from me lately. Geeze, it's a mess. I can't even find anything on it. So, I'll be doing some house cleaning the next couple of weeks. It's about time!