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Jane Addams's Hull House

A message on the back of this postcard says the image is of the first playground built by Jane Addams. The postcard was sent on July 8, 1910 to Buckeye, IL from Chicago. The postcard was printed in Germany.

Life was difficult for the many poor immigrants who settled on Chicago’s West Side. Not only was the neighborhood very dirty, it was also congested and dangerous at times. Jane Addams’s Hull House brought hope to the neighborhood.

Hull House offered an array of activities like swimming, art and English classes, employment services, and the opportunity to meet others. Hull House ous offered many activities for children and incorporated a child day care center to allow more women the ability to work.  

The story of Hull House began in 1889 when Jane Addams and her friend Ellen Starr leased a large home built by Charles Hull at 800 S. Halsted, near Polk Street. Their intention was to set up a settlement house like one they had previously visited in London to help Chicago’s immigrant community.

The neighborhood surrounding Hull House in the early 20th century was home to Italian, German, Polish, Jewish, and Irish immigrants. Later, Mexicans and African-Americans would also put down roots in and around the neighborhood. 

Children of the Ghetto (as stated on the postcard) surround the ice cream man while being idle and having nothing to do. Postcard was published by V.O. Hammond Publishing Co. of Chicago.

Hull House became a vibrant community and cultural center. The center grew to become a complex of thirteen buildings that included a public kitchen, an art studio and gallery, a gymnasium and pool, a music school, a drama group, and a library. 

Jane Addams is known as a trailblazer in the field of social work, but she took on many roles from fundraiser, volunteer coordinator, and political activist to postmaster of her local post office and even garbage inspector of Chicago’s Nineteenth Ward.  

Addams didn’t receive support from everyone and was targeted by some who accused her of being a Communist and Socialist. People even tried to damper the image of Hull House with rumors that it was haunted by a cursed “devil baby” who was fathered by Satan, born to a local woman, and hidden away in the settlement house. While visitors wanting to see this “devil baby” were politely turned away and told that no such child existed, Addams observed that the urban legend especially resonated with women who struggled with poverty and domestic violence and perhaps saw the baby as a reflection of their own suffering. 

Today, the original Hull House building and Residents’ Dining Hall are a museum and testament to Addams’ legacy. While not many postcards depicting the West Side neighborhood have been printed, several postcards of the exterior of Hull House became popular. One postcard featuring a playground named after Addams near the Hull House site was distributed at the time. More postcards depicting Jane Addams were probably printed in small quantities by historical groups and organizations. 

Written by Emily Ruzich

 Hull House grew substantially over the years. Postcard published by Max Riggot Selling Co. of Chicago.

Hull House provides immigrants and children with a place to learn. Postcard published by Curt Teich & Co. of Chicago.


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