August 26, 2010
You can consider this a sidebar to today's featured book over at the Chicago History Online Library: Own Your Own Home by Ring Lardner (1919)I thought the illustrations were terrific; reminiscent of John T. McCutcheon's Bird Center cartoons.
Anyone remember the Toonerville Folks? It was an extremely popular newspaper cartoon series drawn by Fontaine Fox which ran from 1908 to 1955. Hugely popular during WWI, the cartoons featured the humorous daily lives of the fictional suburban folks. It was so popular that in the 1920s it spawned a series of films from Sigmund Lubin's Betzwood Film Company, characters were used to pitch numerous products and like today, tie-in merchandising hit the stores with a bang!And, be sure to check out the animated Toonerville toon showing on CHJ YouTube at the right --->
And it began in Chicago at the Chicago Evening Post; the illustrator of Ring Lardner's satirical take on suburban life. Lardner and Fox had previously joined talents in 1915 on Bib Ballads.
Fontaine Fox (Wikipedia)
Toonerville Folks (Toonopedia)
Selection of ads featuring Fontaine Fox cartoons
Toonerville Folks (Wikipedia)
August 21, 2010
A Packinghouse Worker's Job
Margaret Hawley was 25 years old when she was interviewed in 1939 by Betty Burke for the Federal Writers' Project. Keep in mind that Upton Sinclair's gritty novel, The Jungle, exposing the exploitation and working conditions of stock yard workers, was published in 1906. The result was the Pure Food and Drug Act (now the Food and Drug Administration)and the Meat Inspection Act of 1906. Those two pieces of legislation were supposed to make food safer and conditions better.
I work in Armour's sausage department. They make all different kinds of sausages. Making capicola, that's a hot Italian sausage, lots of spices and garlic in it, well, it has to be skivered. That lets the excess water out of it so that it won't spoil. Well, I do the skivering. I get all wet and greasy and sloppy. Everybody does, working on sausage.
They have sausage that they treat specially so it will have a green, fuzzy mold all over it. I don't know how anybody could want to eat it but it's made specially for Italian stores, so I guess people order it.[see the selection from Armour's, The Business of Being a Housewife at the Chicago History Online Library]
One thing, we're supposed to have trucks that we load the capicola in when it's ready for a different part of the floor, but they never have enough trucks, and we'll have our work tables stacked a mile high with finished work without being able to get rid of it. Then they come around and yell at us because we can't put the work out. It's us girls who lose time and pay, and they act like it's our fault that the company don't furnish the department with enough trucks to keep the place going.
They have the old women hauling on the trucks. The young ones wouldn't do that heavy work, most of them aren't even strong enough to do it if they wanted to, and they sure don't want to.
I worked in there where they put up pressed ham in cans. I packed pressed ham that was full of worms. They know. But I once said something about it to the boss and just got bawled out for not 'minding my own job better' and talking too much. So I shut up. I was glad when they transferred me to sausages again, though. That wormy stuff made me sick through. Sure, it's dirties and wet there where I work now, but there's no worms in the sausage meat. Or if there is, at least I don't have to see them, and then pretend I don't.
American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940
Chicago Union Stock Yards
"The Jungle" 1914 silent film poster The Chicago Stock Yards on the Eve of the CIO (1936) this film is presumed lost
August 14, 2010
It was reported that the 12,000,000 tons of dirt fell. It drifted like snow against homes and buildings. 50 m.p.h winds coupled with scorching temperatures in the 90s and only 13% humidity added to the misery. Trees were stripped of branches and leaves. Tulip beds withered. Housewives who had just completed their spring cleaning now had to fight back the dust and dirt that found every available crack. Street lights and electrical wires were down and one report stated the the clouds of dust reached two miles into the air. Airplanes were grounded because of poor visibility
Today we recall the effects of this Depression era event as happening in "The Dust Bowl." But, this storm was different. It was early May of 1934; the 10th and 11th to be exact. But, it wasn't Iowa, or Kansas or Nebraska (although they suffered too). It wasn't even Oklahoma. It was Chicago.
On May 12th the storm would reach the eastern seaboard and the sun would be blotted out in Washington, DC.
Drought in the Dust Bowl Years
The Days the Dust Bowl Came to the Garden State
The Dust Bowl, 1934-1938
Photo credit: Chicago Tribune, May 11, 1934
August 9, 2010
Andrew Carnegie: Godfather of Pullman, Illinois
By Gregg McPherson
To understand the impact of Andrew Carnegie (left, circa 1878) on the founding of Pullman, IL, we need to go back to just before the Civil War and the beginnings of the sleeping car industry. Contrary to so much popular culture, George Pullman did not invent the sleeping car. He wasn’t even the first successful businessman promoting sleeping cars. That honor belongs to Theodore Tuttle Woodruff, an Upstate New York inventor and craftsman who conceived and patented a form of sleeping car berth in 1856. Even at that date many other designs were already known, the earliest dating back to the early 1840s, but sleeping cars had never been a commercial success.
Woodruff and three investors formed T.T. Woodruff & Company and he began the process of trying to get his cars on the newly-emerging longer-distance railroad lines. With his investor’s money, he had a sample car built for demonstrations. He started his pitch with the New York Central and the Lakeshore Railroads. These first contracts were simply licenses of his patents to other entrepreneurs who built and operated the cars. When he approached the next big prospect, the Pennsylvania Railroad, he wanted a direct contract to run his sleeping cars himself.
Woodruff eventually got his contract but one of the caveats was that the president and superintendent of the railroad wanted stock in Woodruff’s company so that they could share the profits of the lucrative contract. To keep their stake hidden, they had their shares put in the name of the superintendent’s assistant - Andrew Carnegie. The business was splendidly successful and by Carnegie’s own words in his later autobiography, the sleeping car business was the start of his fortune. He became more and more active in guiding the company and in 1862 forced a reorganization of T.T. Woodruff into a new company named the Central Transportation Company. By this time, Woodruff, never the natural businessman, was starting to bow out of operations.
Carnegie left the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1865 to pursue the next new thing, iron bridge building contracts for railroads. He kept his stock in the Central Transportation Company and pushed their managers to aggressively expand the business. The next big prize was the sleeping car contracts for the trans-continental railroad. Carnegie, with his greater business acumen, acted as the negotiator for the CTC in its dealings with the Union Pacific Railroad. Also pursuing this juicy contract was George M. Pullman, the head of the newly-formed Pullman Palace Car Company of Chicago.
Carnegie was impressed with Pullman’s drive and business savvy. He saw in him something of himself. Carnegie, ever the opportunist, ditched his allegiance to the CTC and wooed Pullman into partnering with him individually to obtain the trans-continental deal. They named the company the Pullman Pacific Palace Car Company on Carnegie’s suggestion. Carnegie knew how to appeal to Pullman’s vanity to close the deal.
The trans-continental contract was never very successful as a business proposition. While there was a lot of press about the railroad connection, there were simply not that many travelers to pay the sleeping car fares. But part of the trans-continental deal that Carnegie had negotiated with the CTC was that they would license Pullman to their dominating patents for a nice license fee. Pullman, busy expanding his other business in the Midwest, had no intention of paying the fees any time soon. He needed every dime for new cars. CTC sued Pullman and a long series of negotiations began between Carnegie and Pullman to get the license fees paid.
Finally in 1870, Carnegie made a bold proposition to the CTC shareholders that they lease their entire operation to Pullman and simply collect royalties. They would become simply a holding company for the patents that collected fat checks but didn’t have to worry any longer about building and operating the cars. Pullman would have it all. The CTC shareholders, never ones to turn down a sure thing, agreed and overnight Pullman became the dominant force in the sleeping car business.
Pullman worked hard to continue to build his business and by the end of the 1870s the business needed even more capacity to manufacture cars than he could get out of contract car builders. It was at this point that he conceived of his model town of Pullman, Illinois. The town would not only be his base of manufacturing but it would embody all the amenities that would prevent his workers from succumbing to the troubling forces of “the labor problem” that was rampant in Chicago and across the country.
While successful for a decade, the paternalistic governance Pullman provided to his company town eventually came back to bite him in the vicious Pullman Strike of 1894. Nevertheless, the town survived until it was eventually annexed into Chicago. But for Andrew Carnegie’s more-or-less giving the sleeping car monopoly to George Pullman, the town might not exist at all. Carnegie quoted Sancho Panza (Don Quixote’s sidekick) in his book Triumphant Democracy, “Blessed is the man who invented sleep.” Pullman, Illinois should feel blessed for Andrew Carnegie’s indirect role in the founding of their town.
Gregg McPherson writes the Technology Almanac Blog. He is a life-long student of innovation and the history of technology. Professionally, Gregg was an R&D executive at a Fortune 50 company and holds a Ph.D in bioengineering. Gregg's particular focus has been 19th Century technology and he is researching a book on George Pullman.
Silver Palace Car (Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum)
Car Builder's Dictionary, 1884 (Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum)
Andrew Carnegie, circa 1878 (Wikipedia)
Theodore Tuttle Woodruff (The Growth of a Century: as Illustrated in the History of Jefferson County By John A. Haddock, 1894)
Woodruff sleeping car diagram (Woodruff -- Central Transportation)
August 7, 2010
Let's be honest. Chicago was the poster child of industrial revolution pollution at the end of the nineteenth century; dirty streets, dirty air, dirty water and summer heat compounded the unpleasant situation. Northern winters provided little attraction either. What's a millionaire to do?
A few of Chicago's elite found respite on the beaches of Jekyll Island, one of four barrier islands off the coast of Georgia. It was there that the Jekyll Island Club was established in 1886 with Cyrus McCormick, Jr., Marshall Field and Nathaniel K. Fairbank eventually joining J. P. Morgan, William Rockefeller and Joseph Pulitzer for a little fun in the sun. Fairbank, who had made his fortune as a lard processor and soap maker, was one of the founding members of Chicago's elite Chicago Club and was invited to join the Jekyll Island Club during its inaugural season in 1886. The family first visited the island in 1888 and almost immediately began construction on their cottage. It was completed in 1890 on lot 15, on the west side facing the Jekyll River and would later be referred to as "the most convenient and desirable site on the island." It was right next door to the Jekyll Island Club House.
The two story home boasted six bedrooms, two bathrooms, a library, living room, kitchen, and, of course, a servant's quarters. Completely surrounded by porches, it made for a comfortable refuge and beautifully exemplifies many of the architectural characteristics of shingle homes of the 1890s.
For the most part, Fairbank enjoyed his days on Jekyll Island. Activities on the Island centered around the family and hunting, fishing, swimming and boating filled the days. But these were also difficult years for Fairbank: he suffered a terrible financial loss in 1893, the loss of his wife in 1895, and the verdict of a highly publicized trial in 1896 (which will be covered in another post. In 1903, Fairbank passed away. After Fairbank's death, the home was later purchased by Walton Ferguson, Ralph Strassburger and Marjorie Thayer and finally demolished in 1944.
The Jekyll Island Cottage Colony by June Hall McCash
The Jekyll Island Club: Southern Haven for America's Millionaires by William Barton McCash and June Hall McCash
Their Gilded Cage: The Jekyll Island Club Members by Richard Jay Hutto, June Hall McCash, Stillman Rockefeller
"This Little Piggie Went to Market: The Advertising of N. K. Fairbank & Co."
Photo Credit: Fairbank Cottage, Jekyll Island Museum