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Showing posts from May, 2020

Postcard Spotlight: Cows Under the Elevated Train Tracks

It may seem a bit bizarre to observe a group of cows underneath an elevated train station. The adults and children in the postcard also seem awestruck as they watch the animals. These animals were probably waiting to enter the gates of the Union Stock Yards for meat processing. There was a Stock Yards "L" train branch that served the area from 1908 to 1957. It was 2.9 miles long and had eight stops. It closed down due to lack of ridership. The stockyards at one time received 1,000 carloads of livestock per day from 22 states. This postcard was published around 1910 by V.O. Hammon of Chicago. 

Postcard Spotlight: Sin at the Sweet Shop

This confectionery, with its multi-color d├ęcor, light bulbs, and polka dot flooring, must have made for an exciting experience for those who went there.  Postcard printed before 1907 in Germany . Some American purists in the early 1900s denounced confectionery stores that served ice cream and sweet drinks because they were damaging the morals of young boys and girls. They also blamed Greek immigrants – who owned and operated many of the shops at the time – for engaging in unlawful activities to make money. “The men who own the ‘joints’ are as a rule rascals, and stop at nothing short of murder to gain wealth,” according to Samuel Paynter Wilson, the author of the 1910 book Chicago By Gaslight. Wilson wrote that some of the shops had private quarters for boys and girls to engage in romantic activities. He also believed that the ice cream and drinks were spiked with liquor. In one example detailed in the book, Wilson and a friend ordered a popular drink at one of these

Sleeping and Bathing in Douglas Park

Young Bathers in Douglas Park. Postcard published by Acmegraph Co. of Chicago. Trying to sleep on hot and humid summer nights in the 1920s and 1930s was unbearable at times for my grandfather and his eight siblings who resided in a tenement house in Chicago’s Little Italy neighborhood. While some nights the family would sleep on the floor to cool down, other nights they would head to Douglas Park to sleep under the stars.  This wasn’t an uncommon practice at the time, as many other people would gather in the park on hot nights. It also offered an opportunity to have a little fun and play games outdoors before going to sleep.  My grandfather would also talk about a bathhouse at the park. At the time, I really didn’t understand what a bathhouse was, nor was I interested in learning more about it. I did, however, recently find some beautiful postcards of a Roman-style bathing area in the park. The first postcard here shows the bath and people bathing in the water. 

Early Chicago Streetlife: Congestion Everywhere

Horse-drawn vehicles, streetcars and people clash at a busy intersection at Dearborn and Randolph Streets. Several readers pointed out that this image is actually from a 1911/1912 Chicago street study where police halted directing traffic for 15 minutes. Postcard published by V.O. Hammon Publishing Co. of Chicago. At the turn of the twentieth century, mayhem defined downtown Chicago’s streets, as horse-drawn vehicles clogged up roads and pedestrians jammed together on sidewalks. Scores of people were hurt and killed each day from simply trying to cross the street, which required most people to dart out into traffic before dodging horse-drawn vehicles and streetcars. Street life had actually improved a bit by this point in history. According to the Encyclopedia of Chicago, the lack of effective paving and sidewalks around 1850 made it difficult to use the streets for any purposes. People tolerated the mud and dust. Dead horses and other animals on the streets made cond