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A Not So Perfect Crime
On May 24, 1924 14 year old Bobby Franks was walking home from school when he was kidnapped and killed by Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, who were looking to commit the perfect crime. Bobby Franks could have been anyone, he wasn't their particular target, just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Leopold and Loeb were wealthy, they were young, 19 and 18 at the time of the kidnapping, they were both exceptionally bright, both having graduated from high school and college much earlier than normal.
Franks, Leopold and Loeb all lived in the affluent Kenwood neighborhood of Chicago and Franks was kidnapped in broad daylight, murdered, and finally deposited in Wolf Lake. Their plan was to collect a ransom from the family although neither of them needed the money, they must have assumed it would be the perfect crime because who would suspect them of kidnapping? Their plan unraveled fairly quickly as the body was discovered before the ransom could be delivered and they quickly came under scrutiny when Leopold's glasses were discovered near the body.
The case became even more famous when their families hired Clarence Darrow to defend them, since they had confessed, his mission was to spare them the death penalty which he did by having them plead guilty to avoid a jury trial and then tried to reason that they were not competent. They both received life in prison, Loeb was stabbed and killed in prison, Leopold was paroled and moved to Puerto Rico.
At least two movies are loosely based on the crime, Alfred Hitchcock's Rope starring Jimmy Stewart and Compulsion starring Orson Welles as the criminal defense attorney
Maybe Mrs. O'Leary's cow knew what she was doing
Although the 300 Chicagoans who died and all of those who lost property didn't see the Chicago fire as a blessing, it did do wonders for the city of Chicago. The fire cleared the city of it's old wooden sidewalks and wooden buildings, wood construction was banned after the fire and there are few wood structures left in the city of Chicago.
Land prices increased forcing architects to start thinking vertically which eventually gave birth to the Chicago style of architecture and skyscrapers. The swampy land forced architects and engineers to develop new methods of construction.
The new street system was developed on a grid pattern, to this day it makes Chicago easy to navigate since few streets are not straight east-west or north-south and an extremely logical numbering system was put into place.
The website listed below has a tour of early skyscrapers and their significance.
1893 Columbian Exposition
I just finished reading a wonderful book, "Devil in the White City" on the 1893 Columbian Exposition, held 400 years after Columbus discovered America (actually 401 years since Columbus passed thru in 1492).
The Exposition was in partly in response to the Paris Exposition held in 1889 at which was introduced the Eiffel Tower. One of the goals of the fair was to "out Eiffel" Eiffel and a man named Ferris was the one to give it a shot building the first Ferris wheel, a main attraction of all carnivals even to this day. The original ferris wheel had 36 cars holding 60 riders each, the wheel section had a diameter of 250 feet and a circumference of 825 feet. The ferris wheel at Navy Pier is not the original but a smaller replica, holding only 240 people.
There is little left of the fair in Chicago now as the "White City" was destroyed by fire after the Exposition. The Palace of Fine Arts nows houses the Museum of Science and Industry (although largely reconstructed) and a replica of Statue of the Republic stands on the former site of the Administration Building.
There are two buildings that were removed from the Exposition that are now in other cities, the Norway pavilion is in Blue Mounds, Wisconsin and the Maine State Buildingis in Poland Spring, Maine. The are also two murals at the University of Michigan in the graduate library
Many things are attributed to the fair, among them are:
-the decision to go with ac current instead of dc (ac was much cheaper)
-the introduction of Cracker Jack, Shredded Wheat, Aunt Jemima's, Juicy fruit gum and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer
-the establishment of Columbus Day as a holiday
-every carnival includes a midway and a ferris wheel
In 'the Promised Land' of...
In 'the Promised Land' of Chicago, many Black migrants still had to join picket lines to fight for fair wages. Some foremen in various companies discriminated by placing restrictions upon the promotion and advancement of black workers, frequently preventing them from earning higher wages.
I love being from this Chicagoland area with inhabitants of nearly 9.5 million! I've always lived here. Yes, the City of Chicago is segregated in it's own way (it's very apparent) to this day. There are a lot of negative politics and politicians and oppression is still felt amongst African Americans and the poor.
Lincoln Square's European Heritage
Each time that I visit Lincoln Square, I learn something new about its history and heritage. I already knew that it was once a German enclave. Those German influences are still evident today.
I also knew that it was named after Abraham Lincoln
Just recently I found out about two other items, both located in Giddings Plaza, which is an adorable square right in the middle of Lincoln Square.
I was attracted to the beautiful large lamp at the far back of the plaza, nearest to Giddings Street.
It is called The Lombard Lamp because the city of Hamburg, Germany presented this lamp to the city of Chicago as a goodwill gesture. This took place in 1979 when Michael Bilandic was mayor of Chicago. He decided to place it in the Lincoln Square neighborhood since it was a German neighborhood. This Lamp is of Baroque style and is made of black cast iron and brass [similar to those on the Lombard Bridge in Hamburg]. The Lombard Lamp used to be located at Western and Lawrence [alongside the Lincoln Statue]. That is a much busier spot with lots of traffic; thus, it suffered from weather and auto emission damage. Thanks goodness, the Lincoln Square community restored the lamp. Then, in 1994, Mayor Daley and Mayor Voscherrat [Hamburg] signed a "sister cities agreement". The community of Lincoln Square celebrated this agreement by having the lamp moved to its present location in Giddings Plaza. [See Photos #1 & 2].
Also in Giddings Plaza in Lincoln Square is a bronze tiered fountain whose design was inspired by the great Louis Sullivan and his building at 4811 N. Lincoln [now the Museum of Decorative Arts]. My granddaughter, Sabrina Dee, loves this fountain. She calls it a "waterfall" and can spend a half an hour at a time playing around it.
I hope to add to this tip as I discover more about this wonderful neighborhood called Lincoln Square.
- Historical Travel
Raise the W Flag when the Cubs Win
Enjoying a ball game at Wrigley field is a wonderful time, however experiencing a walkoff homerun in the bottom of the ninth is even more fun. Then I was introduced to something I had not seen in most of baseball. Every fan in the stands getting up and singing a song while they raised the W for a Cubs win in center field.
Steve Goodman, a Chicago Folk Legend, created the song "Go Cubs Go" with the catchy chorus:
Go, Cubs, go
Go, Cubs, go
Hey, Chicago, what do you say
The Cubs are gonna win today.
The nice part about the flag out in centerfield is that if you had to miss the day game because of work, you could quickly see who won!
- Adventure Travel
- Road Trip
- Budget Travel
I imagine when foreign visitors to London ask about Jack the Ripper, Londoners have a similar reaction to that question as Chicagoans do about Chicago's gangster past. Every time I see a question on a forum inquiring about gangster tours or Al Capone or John Dillinger I'm sure to roll my eyeballs, sigh audibly and shake my head. It's not that I'm not interested in the history, it's just that I don't like that it defines our city for so many people. It was a long time ago and there's just so much more to Chicago and quite honestly there's just not that much left to see *sigh*
But if you're going to ask the question anyway, here's what I can tell you
if you want to see where John Dillinger was shot after being turned in by the "Lady in Red" (no, not the one in the smarmy song by Chris DeBurgh), head to the Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln, he was shot in the alley next to the theater.
if you want to see where the St. Valentine's Day Massacre took place, there's not much to see, the garage at 2122 N. Clark was torn down many years ago
North Side gang leader Dion O'Banion was gunned down in his flower shop across from Holy Name Cathedral at 735 N. State. His successor, Hymie Weiss, met a similar fate across the street, I hear the facade of the Cathedral still shows chips or bullet holes.
Do you want to hang out where Capone hung out? Try the Green Mill jazz club or Klas Restaurant in Cicero.
Or if you really want the full gangster experience, you can even go on the Untouchables Tour, a bus trip with your guide dressed up like a mobster. Don't expect to see a lot of locals doing this though....
The curse of the Billy Goat
The Chicago Cubs didn't have much luck during the 20th century. The last time the team won the World Series was 1908. According to local legend, the team was cursed by a man who wanted to bring a billy goat into the stadium. When refused entrance, it was stated that the Cubs would never win the World Series.
In an amazing gesture of loyalty to their team and in dubious superstitious belief buoyed by many years of being just that close, the city has embraced goats like no other. Still, the curse lives on. For example, in 2003, the Cubs were again, just that close. One game away from being in the World Series. With the city poised to celebrate, the Florida Marlins came to town. In one crazy play, a fan reached out and touched a pop up ball which, according to loyal Cubs fans, would have been caught for an out. As a result, the Marlins scored and the fan was removed from the stadium under police protection. He later received death threats and the good folks of my hometown offered him asylum.
Despite the fact that the Marlins had to win two games after this one, and this one wasn't even decided on this play, many loyal Cubs fans blame the curse of the billy goat. That and the fan who made such a serious error in judgment. The Marlins went on to win the World Series and the Cubs fans could only wait until next year.
Cursed or not? No one knows. But the Cubs remain pennant-less.
Mrs. O' Leary's cow gets framed
If you ask any Chicagoan about the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, it's almost certain that they will tell you about Mrs. O'Leary's cow that kicked over a lantern and started a fire that destroyed most of Chicago and claimed 300 lives.
But was the poor cow framed? Another popular theory has Daniel "Peg Leg" Sullivan as the culprit, perhaps dropping a cigarette or match in the barn.
However it was started, the Great Chicago Fire started on Sunday October 9, 1871 around 9 pm near Mrs. O' Leary's barn on De Koven St. (Taylor & Jefferson). The summer had been dry and many of the city's structures, including houses, streets, sidewalks and bridges, were made out of wood.
There were a couple of significant benefits to the Great Chicago fire. The first is that you will not see many structures made out of wood in Chicago today due to building codes enacted after the fire that prohibited it. Those you do find were likely built after the fire and before the building codes were enacted. The second is that the haphazard nature of Chicago's streets was erased since most of the city was wiped out so the city was laid out in a grid with a logical numbering system making Chicago incredibly easy to navigate.
Goats and other goat resembling livestock
Do not underestimate the power of the goat. And no i am not talking about the recorded message played in the O'Hare customs hall reminding all of us that have 'hiked in the countryside recently' to come on in for a 'foot and mouth disease' test. I'm talking about when some foolish Cubs steward crossed a goat back in 1954 by not letting him into a game. (Remember this was many years before the Equal rights for hoofed cattle movement kids!). The owner of the goat then cursed the Cubs by stating that they would never win the World (albeit that a World consisting of the USA & Canada) Series again. And guess what they have not won since!
America's first serial killer
H.H. Holmes (aka Herman Mudgett) should have hired Jack the Ripper's publicist! Until the recent publication of Erik Larson's "Devil in the White City" he was largely unknown even in Chicago.
Holmes was a real ladies man, capitalizing on the influx of young ladies coming into Chicago for the 1893 Columbian Exposition looking for work and not to be missed right away by their families. It's unknown exactly how many people he killed, he confessed to killing 28 people but there is speculation that he killed even more.
"Devil in the White City" is a great read is you enjoy history or architecture.
On July 24, 1915, somewhere between 2,500 and 3,500 people, most of them employees of Western Electric Co. and their families, were on board the excursion steamer Eastland, bound for a company picnic across Lake Michigan in Michigan City, when it rolled over in the Chicago River killing 844 people, many just a few feet from shore or in the flooded lower decks of the boat. The Eastland disaster killed three times as many people as the Great Chicago Fire yet it is a largely unknown part of Chicago history.
The ship was top-heavy from the addition of lifeboats and rafts, required by law following the sinking of the Titanic three years earlier. The story has it that passengers crowded on the port side to look at other boats, causing the ship to roll over, eventually settling on the river bottom.
The bodies were removed and taken to a warehouse on W. Randolph St., to be laid out for identification. This building later became Harpo Studios, where the Oprah Winfrey Show is produced.
Many of the victims are buried in the Bohemian National Cemetery at 5255 N. Pulaski.
A plaque was erected in 1989 and subsequently stolen. A new plaque, which sits on the bridge at LaSalle and Wacker, was dedicated in 2003.
Origin of Windy City
Although I've recently seen some debate over the origin of the nickname Windy City, it's long been thought that it's origin is not based on the wind velocity (although it does get quite windy esp. near Lake Michigan and the Chicago River) but on "windy" boosterism.
According to popular myth, Chicago and New York were competing to hold the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. Charles A. Dana, editor of the New York Sun, wrote an editorial advising against the "nonsensical claims of that windy city. Its people could not hold a world's fair even if they won it." This editorial is widely credited with popularizing the "Windy City" nickname.
The history of this city is...
The history of this city is fascinating, the picture shows the Water Tower wich is one of the few buildings that survived the fire that distroyed Chicago lin the late 19th Century, next to the impressive John Handcock Building.
Wrigley Field's Green Ivy
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