The Man of the Future (10-8-1933)

What will human beings be like a hundred years into the future–in the year 2033?  That’s what a group of famous physicians was talking about on this date in 1933.

The World’s Fair in Burnham Park was drawing to a close.  Fair officials had asked the doctors to present a discussion about new trends in medical science.  Though the weather was chilly, over 4,000 people came to the open-air meeting.

Dr. George Washington Crile

Dr. George Washington Crile

The lead speaker was Dr. George Washington Crile, founder of the Cleveland Clinic.  Looking forward a hundred years, he predicted that some diseases would be eliminated.  In 2033 there would be no tuberculosis, and no diabetes.  Since the public was becoming more aware of personal hygiene, there would be hardly any infectious diseases.

On the other hand, the stresses of modern life might lead to an increase in kidney and heart ailments.  And cancer would continue to claim too many victims.

But the general trend was positive.  Dr. Charles H. Mayo of the Mayo Clinic said that the human life span would continue to grow longer.  In the time of Columbus, with infant mortality high, the average person lived to be 18 years old.  Now in 1933, a person could expect to reach the ripe old age of 58.  By 2033, the typical human life might be as long as 77 years.
Man of the Future?

Man of the Future?

Physicians were teaching their patients how to take better care of themselves.  “The doctors in this country are in a peculiar situation,” Dr. Mayo laughed.  “They are talking themselves out of jobs.”

Human psychology was also being studied–and that would effect education.  “The brain itself and the character and the emotional life of the child and of man are constructed by the environment,” Dr. Crile said, “by parents, by teachers, by society.”  He promised that further research would reveal more about the mechanism that operates a person’s brain.  That would provide “an accurate knowledge of what patterns of action should be placed on the brain.”  Then teaching methods would no longer be “haphazard.”
Chef of the Future

Chef of the Future

A musical performance by a chorus of a thousand singing nurses brought the day’s program to a close.
That was 82 years ago.  Only 18 more years to go until 2033.  And by way of a statistic, the current life expectancy in the United States is 79.4 years.


Then and Now, 103rd-Eggleston

1905--103rd Street @ Parnell, view west

1905–103rd Street @ Eggleston, view east

2015--the same location

2015–the same location

We are on 103rd Street at the railroad crossing, midway between Halsted and State. In 1905 this was the site of the Chicago & Western Indiana Railroad’s Fernwood station, so various businesses had been established in the immediate vicinity. Yet traffic along the street was so light that people commonly walked down the middle.

Today the former C&WI tracks carry only freight. Most of the old buildings are gone.  And in 2015, hardly any pedestrians can be found in the middle of 103rd Street—except when they’re taking pictures.



The Wrigley Himself

Wrigley Field.  The Wrigley Building.

Two of Chicago’s most famous landmarks are named Wrigley.  If you’re into architecture, you probably know about the Wrigley Mansion, too.

Wrigley is a gum company.  But the word has become so identified with a product that we forget there was somebody named Wrigley who started it all.  After all, when you hear “Disney” or “Ford,” do you first think of Walt or Henry?William Wrigley

Older Cub fans remember long-time team owner Phil Wrigley.  The man we’re talking about here is his father, William Wrigley, Jr.

He was born in Philadelphia in 1861.  The Wrigleys of that era made soap.  William moved to Chicago when he was 30, planning to operate a branch of the family business.

“Everybody likes something for nothing,” he said.  So along with each can of scouring soap he sold, Wrigley included some baking powder as a bonus.  The baking powder soon proved more popular than the soap.

What would you do?  Wrigley switched over and made baking powder his primary product.  That meant he needed a new bonus item to go with the baking powder.

Now Wrigley began giving way two sticks of chewing gum with each box of baking powder.  And once again, the bonus became more popular than the original product.  So much for baking powder.  Wrigley started making gum.

In the 1890s, chewing gum was just catching on in America.  Wrigley had many competitors, but he was a born marketer.  “[William Wrigley] was the last of the super-salesmen,” Bill Veeck later wrote.  “He was a well-upholstered, jovial man who liked people and knew what made them tick.”

Wrigley enjoyed his work, saying that nothing great was ever done without enthusiasm.  In the early years he did most of the selling himself.  Even when the company became a global success, he never quit pushing forward.  New flavors were always being tried.

Wrigley ad

The promotion never stopped.  When he moved into a new market, he hired attractive women to walking around passing out free samples.  Merchants who sold the most Wrigley gum were given free gifts–lamps, razors, fishing tackles, cookbooks, and whatever.  And he advertised everywhere.

By 1910 millions of people were chewing gum.  If you asked them why, they probably couldn’t have explained it.  William Wrigley had become one of the richest men in America.  He began branching off into other fields.  One of his projects was Catalina Island, off the coast of Los Angeles, which he made into a renowned resort.

With his nose for publicity, Wrigley decided his gum company needed a headquarters building that people would talk about.  In 1921 he bought a site next to the new Michigan Avenue Bridge, and erected the magnificent terra-cotta wedding cake we all know so well.  It was the first major office building on what was to become the Magnificent Mile.

And the Cubs!  All his life, Wrigley had been a baseball fan.  When he got a chance to buy stock in the team in 1916, he jumped at it.  A few years later he had the controlling interest.

Wrigley--ball game

He renamed the ballpark Wrigley Field, spruced it up, and added an upper deck–the vines came later.  He also spent money on the finest available players.  The Cubs won the pennant in 1929 and set a major league attendance record.

As Wrigley grew older, he devoted more of his time to his Western operations.  Son Phil took over the gum company.  The Cubs were run by William Veeck Sr.  His last business venture was the Arizona Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix.

William Wrigley Jr. died in 1932.  If you seek his monument, there are some dandy ones around Chicago.



The Black Sox (9-28-1920)

The little boy is waiting outside the court house for his hero, the big league baseball player.  The player emerges.  Tears in his eyes, the boy approaches the man.  “Say it ain’t so, Joe!” the kid pleads.  The player says nothing.

If that familiar bit of folklore ever happened, this was the day it did.  This was the day that the Black Sox scandal broke.

In 1919 the Chicago White Sox had entered the World Series as heavy favorites.  When they were upset by the Cincinnati Reds, rumors spread that the series had been fixed.  Most of the public refused to believe it, and the whispers died down.

1919 Chicago White Sox

1919 Chicago White Sox

Then, in the summer of 1920, a Cook County grand jury began investigating a supposed fix in a Cubs-Phillies game.  Various baseball people testified.  The recent World Series came up, and Sox pitcher Eddie Cicotte was summoned.

On the stand, Cicotte admitted to taking $10,000 from gamblers to throw the series.  Other players were called.  Eight White Sox were indicted by the grand jury.  The charges involved such things as running a confidence game, and conspiracy to defraud teammates out of  $1784—the difference between winners’ and losers’ shares in the World Series.

Team owner Charles Comiskey suspended the indicted players.  They became known as the Black Sox.  One of them was star outfielder Shoeless Joe Jackson.  After his confession to the grand jury, a local paper ran the story about the tearful boy confronting him in disbelief.  Jackson always denied it happened.


The “Black Sox” and their lawyers in court

The Black Sox case dragged on into 1921.  Somewhere along the way, the players’ confessions mysteriously disappeared.  The eight players and assorted gamblers were eventually brought to trial, and all of them pleaded “Not Guilty.”  It took a jury two hours to acquit everyone.

Faced with a monumental P-R problem, the baseball club owners had hired federal judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis as their commissioner.  He was given wide powers to clean up the game.  The day after the players were acquitted, Landis banned all eight of them for life—“regardless of the verdict of juries,” he said.

None of the eight Black Sox ever again played major league baseball.


Then and Now, Illinois-State

1954--Illinois Street @ State, view east

1954–Illinois Street @ State, view east

2015--the same locationj

2015–the same location

In 1954 Illinois Street was a nondescript little Near North Side street. Many of the buildings here dated from the years immediately after the Great Fire of 1871, and were seldom more than three stories tall. In the distance at Michigan Avenue, the Inter-Continental Hotel towers over the neighborhood.

Today the Near North Side is densely built. Here the old walk-ups have been replaced by high-rises, blocking out the hotel. Illinois Street has been converted to one-way eastbound and paired with Grand Avenue. As a major route into Navy Pier, traffic is usually heavy—but not so much on Sunday morning, when I took the picture.


A Businessman For President?


Before there was Donald Trump, there was Wendell Willkie.

I tell Willkie’s story on my “Not So Past” spot on Rivet News Radio today.  To get this and lots more, now is the time to sign up.  And it’s all free!

Here’s the link–

Mahalia Jackson’s Home

Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972) was one of the thousands of black Southerners moving north to Chicago during the 1920s. She opened both a beauty salon and a flower shop, but her real talent was in singing. Over the course of forty years she became the most celebrated Gospel singer in the world.

The Chicago Tribute marker in front of her home at 8358 South Indiana Avenue tells us a much. What it doesn’t tell us about is the struggles Jackson had merely to live there.

8358 S. Indiana Ave.

8358 S. Indiana Ave.

Jackson liked to practice her singing at night while she cooked and cleaned her flat. The landlord complained about the noise, so Jackson saved her money and bought her own apartment building. That didn’t work, either—now her tenants were saying she was too loud.

In 1956 Jackson decided the only solution was to buy a house for herself. Driving around the Chatham neighborhood on the South Side, she stopped at a number of homes with “For Sale” signs out front. At each one, she was told that the property had just been sold.

Chatham was an all-white area. Though restrictive covenants had been outlawed by the U.S. Supreme Court, that didn’t seem to matter. “The attention I had been getting from white people for my singing had sort of confused me,” Jackson wrote later. “They still didn’t want me as their neighbor.”

Jackson then went to a real estate agent. A white surgeon had a house on the market at 84th and Indiana. When told the identity of the prospective buyer, the surgeon said he was “proud to sell my house to [Mahalia Jackson].”

The news of Jackson’s purchase sent the neighborhood into a frenzy. A local Catholic priest who tried to calm things was ignored. Protest meetings were held. Jackson received hostile phone calls at all hours of the night, threatening to dynamite the house.

Mahalia Jackson at the 1963 March on Washington

Mahalia Jackson at the 1963 March on Washington

The situation didn’t improve when she moved in. Rifle bullets were fired through her window. A police guard was posted, and remained in front of the house for nearly a year. “I hadn’t intended to start a crusade,” Jackson recalled. “All I wanted was a quiet, pretty home to live in.”

Early in 1958 Edward R. Murrow brought his Person-to-Person interview program to Jackson’s home. Jackson used the occasion to invite the local kids over for ice cream and cake, and a chance to appear on TV. When many of the children did show up, Jackson thought she was finally being accepted.

A cynic once described integration as “the time between the first black family moving in, and the last white family moving out.” Jackson’s neighborhood followed that course. Scared by panic-peddling realtors and afflicted by their own prejudice, all the whites eventually cleared out.

“The white people swore we would ruin it,” Jackson wrote about the neighborhood in her 1966 autobiography. “They said it would be a slum overnight. But it hasn’t changed. The grass is still green. The lawns are as neat as ever. Children still whiz up and down on their bikes.”

So it was in 1966. And so it still is today.



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