WBEZ | Prohibition http://www.wbez.org/tags/prohibition Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en A shot of history: Ingredients of the Chicago speakeasy http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/shot-history-ingredients-chicago-speakeasy-110616 <p><p>Ask people around the world to play word association with &ldquo;Chicago,&rdquo; and you&rsquo;ll hear a few common responses. Modern architecture and bruising politics have nothing, it seems, on our Prohibition-era gangster reputation.</p><p>&ldquo;You go anywhere and it&rsquo;s Al Capone or Michael Jordan,&rdquo; says Liz Garibay, who runs the website <a href="http://www.talestavernsandtowns.com/" target="_blank">History on Tap</a>. &ldquo;In Chicago we have this love-hate relationship with gangsters. It&rsquo;s not the most pleasant side, but at the same time people love to talk about it.&rdquo;</p><p>To that end, Garibay says the bar owners around town with any connections to that era are happy to play it up. It&rsquo;s good for business.</p><p>Even modern bars are reappropriating that speakeasy vibe. Take <a href="http://theviolethour.com/" target="_blank">The Violet Hour</a>, a favorite spot of the recent University of Chicago alumna who asked our question.</p><p>&ldquo;I think the secrecy is interesting. There&rsquo;s something sort of cheekily illicit about [speakeasies] that I think is cool,&rdquo; says<a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/shot-history-ingredients-chicago-speakeasy-110616#elena"> Elena Hadjimichael</a>, who was part of a student team that<a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/history-and-mystery-behind-chicago%E2%80%99s-produce-market-107918" target="_blank"> tackled a Curious City question about Chicago&#39;s wholesale produce markets</a>. Her question for Curious City gets at what made the original original speakeasies successful:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>What sorts of buildings housed speakeasy bars in Chicago during the Prohibition era? What made these buildings particularly well suited for speakeasies?</em></p><p>It&rsquo;s hard to determine Chicago&rsquo;s ideal speakeasy building, since speakeasies came in almost as many varieties as there were speakeasies. (How many is that? It&rsquo;s hard to confirm an exact number, <a href="http://www.umich.edu/~eng217/student_projects/nkazmers/prohibition1.html" target="_blank">but probably thousands</a> &mdash; more than there are bars in the city today.) Illegal gatherings to drink in the back of a warehouse, a candy store or a backyard were all technically speakeasies. Still, a few common elements made it easy to get away with skirting this very unpopular law.</p><p>Here are a few things that most &mdash; if not all &mdash; Chicago speakeasies needed.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>1. Secrecy</strong></span></p><p>Speakeasies were common, but they still had to operate in the shadows, in the legal and sometimes literal sense. &ldquo;It was probably in a place where you could make a little noise and get away with it,&rdquo; says Craig Alton, who leads Chicago&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.gangstertour.com/" target="_blank">&quot;Untouchables&quot; gangster tour</a>. Some places boarded up their windows, or moved their saloons to back alleys. Gioco, an Italian restaurant in the South Loop, still has the back room where illegal booze was served to guests including Al Capone. The building, 1312 S. Wabash Ave., was a cold storage facility at the time. According to Alton, this made it easy to keep the beer cool. Thick vault doors prevented sound from escaping and tipping off authorities.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>2. A cover or front</strong></span></p><p>Sometimes being invisible from the street wasn&rsquo;t enough. To keep up appearances, a lot of speakeasies had legitimate businesses up front. Twin Anchors in Lincoln Park was across the street from a school (now the LaSalle Language Academy), so the adjacent building housed a school supplies store, as well as a shop selling soda and candy. The two buildings were eventually joined, and Mrs. Keefer&rsquo;s Schoolbook Store became Twin Anchor&rsquo;s kitchen. But between schoolbooks and Tante Lee&rsquo;s Soft Drinks (named after the tavern&rsquo;s original owner, Lee Tante), it was maybe the last place you&rsquo;d think to look for booze. &ldquo;Other than maybe putting in a church or a convent or something,&rdquo; says Paul Tuzi, one of Twin Anchor&rsquo;s owners, &ldquo;they probably couldn&rsquo;t have come up with anything more benign to hide the operation.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/alibi.jpg" style="height: 429px; width: 620px;" title="Bert Kelly’s Stables, 431 N. Rush St., was a famous jazz club and speakeasy. (Photo courtesy University of Chicago archives)" /></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>3. Access</strong></span></p><p>While you didn&rsquo;t want law enforcement to find its way to your speakeasy, you needed it to be accessible for patrons and the back-of-house help that would load in your illegal alcohol. Subterranean networks helped &mdash; sewers or access lanes under the street &mdash; and in older parts of Chicago these were common. <a href="http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/uptown-greenmilljazz-bar-history-owner-bartender-musicians/Content?oid=12784766" target="_blank">The Green Mill benefitted from tunnels</a> connecting the bar to neighboring establishments of their Uptown block. Likewise in Pilsen (a neighborhood partially spared by the Great Chicago Fire), speakeasies used basement connections to a subterranean network of access tunnels hidden beneath the city&rsquo;s original street grid. According to Craig Alton, one former funeral home on the 700 block of West 18th Street hosted wakes, parties and other get-togethers downstairs after their services, serving alcohol they ran through the underground tunnels. We couldn&rsquo;t verify that particular story, but it&rsquo;s true that in older neighborhoods like Pilsen, Chicago at one point raised sidewalks off the city&rsquo;s swampy foundations to make space for sewers and other infrastructure that could have been useful for illicit transport.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/drawings-at-gioco.jpg" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/gioco.jpg" style="height: 233px; width: 350px; float: right;" title="Top: Drawings on the wall at Gioco, an Italian restaurant in Chicago's west loop. Bottom: The back room at Gioco. The space hosted a speakeasy during prohibition, using its thick safe doors to shield the windowless back room from foot traffic on Wabash Avenue. The building was a cold storage facility during that time, so it was easy to keep the beer cool. (Photo by Chris Bentley)" /></div></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><strong style="font-size: 22px;">4. Connections</strong></div></div><p>Running a successful speakeasy was impossible without connections. Bar owners relied on a network of people to transport alcohol, pay off cops and bounce unruly patrons, among other things. That often involved the mob, but it didn&rsquo;t have to. As long as you were somewhat discreet and had a person who brought in regular shipments of alcohol, you could run a speakeasy. <a href="http://www.twinanchorsribs.com/" target="_blank">Twin Anchors</a> was so named because the owner during Prohibition, Captain Herb Eldean, was a harbor master at Chicago&rsquo;s Monroe Harbor. &ldquo;He had more access than most people would have to the possibility of acquiring liquor coming down from Canada into the port here,&rdquo; says co-owner Paul Tuzi.</p><p>That Great Lakes connection was critical to sustaining under-the-table taverns all over the city, according to <a href="http://www.talestavernsandtowns.com/" target="_blank">History on Tap</a>&rsquo;s Liz Garibay. &ldquo;Location, location, location. It&rsquo;s the whole reason Chicago is even here,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;The fact that we had access to a couple of waterways, and we&rsquo;re so close to Canada, was helpful.&rdquo;</p><p>Some tavern owners didn&rsquo;t have to look across the border for a reliable source of alcohol. Schaller&rsquo;s Pump in Bridgeport is considered by many to be the oldest bar in Chicago still serving drinks. Now it&rsquo;s flanked by parking lots and gravel, but during the early 20th century its neighbor was the South Side Brewing Company. Prohibition forced the brewery to boost production of low-alcohol &ldquo;near beer,&rdquo; but barrels of its more potent products found their way into Schaller&rsquo;s Pump.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/236180239/A-Mixologist-s-Guide-to-a-Chicago-Speakeasy" target="_blank">(Check out our mixologist&#39;s guide to a Chicago speakeasy).</a></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>5. Emergency precautions</strong></span></p><p>Even if you had a good cover and had paid off the right people, it didn&rsquo;t hurt to have a backup plan. At Schaller&rsquo;s Pump, there&rsquo;s still a peephole looking south from the bar area. That came in handy when patrons and barkeepers needed to keep an eye out for unwelcome visitors. Twin Anchors had a half-size door installed in the back of the saloon so drinkers could escape in a hurry, but Tuzi says he has no evidence the bar was ever raided. (Though he did use it to escape inclement weather outside when he was still living in the building above the bar.)</p><p>While secrecy and good connections were probably the most critical parts of any successful Chicago speakeasy, some bar owners added their own innovations. Simon&rsquo;s in Andersonville has a bank teller&rsquo;s window tucked under the stairs. &ldquo;In that day if you took your check to the hardware store or the butcher shop or the shoemaker,&rdquo; says owner Scott Martin, those people would cash your check for you, but would take a percentage of your check for the risk of cashing it, much like a currency exchange does today.&rdquo; So Swedish immigrant and World War I veteran Simon Lundberg installed a bullet-proof bank teller&rsquo;s window (in what today is storage space), offering to cash checks free of charge. He also advertised free sandwiches on Fridays. &ldquo;So you would get a free belly full of food and get all of your hard-earned money, which you&rsquo;d oblige by gettin&rsquo; a beer and a whisky.&rdquo; Of course, it rarely stopped at just one drink.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/twin anchors.jpg" title="Paul Tuzi, one of the owners of Lincoln Park's Twin Anchors Restaurant &amp; Tavern, shows off a half-size door at the back of the bar, which he says was installed during prohibition to enable quick escapes. (Photo by Chris Bentley)" /></div><p>That entrepreneurial spirit seems to fit with Simon&rsquo;s history. The bar began when Lundberg noticed the patrons of his cafe spiking their drinks with whisky, so once he&rsquo;d made enough money from legitimate business, the Swedish immigrant bought the building next door and turned its basement into the NN Club &mdash; the &ldquo;No Name&rdquo; Club or maybe the &ldquo;No Norwegians&rdquo; Club, jokes current owner Scott Martin. A spare and cramped basement now used to store liquor for Simon&rsquo;s bar, the N.N. Club still has its original hand-painted sign. Decorative Swedish wall painting known as rosemaling peeks out from behind racks of liquor bottles.</p><p>After prohibition, Lundberg brought his drinking club upstairs. Simon&rsquo;s Tavern still has its original 1933 mahogany bar, and the bank teller door lined with 12-gauge steel and three panes of bullet-proof glass. Now people cash their checks elsewhere, of course, but they still oblige themselves a beer and whisky. Or several.</p><p>&ldquo;My mother and her sisters used to have come every other Friday night to get my grandfather out of here,&rdquo; says Martin.</p><p>A faithful clientele creates a powerful profit motive &mdash; one worth skirting the law and going through all that trouble for.</p><p>So to answer Elena Hadjimichael&rsquo;s question about what buildings housed speakeasies, and what made them well-suited to be speakeasies, let&rsquo;s recap: Speakeasies need secrecy or privacy; they often used a cover or front to keep up appearances; and they needed access to shipments of alcohol.<a name="elena"></a></p><p>It&rsquo;s not the building itself that made a successful speakeasy, so much as its management and business savvy. And that much about running a bar hasn&rsquo;t changed &mdash; even if modern speakeasies, like the ones that inspired Elena&rsquo;s question, don&rsquo;t have to worry about hiding the booze.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/elena%20photo.jpg" style="height: 289px; width: 190px; float: left;" title="" /><span style="font-size:22px;">We&rsquo;ve got an answer. Who asked the question?</span></p><p>Our question about speakeasies comes from someone who has only been able to legally drink for two years. Elena Hadjimichael graduated in early June from the University of Chicago, where she majored in international studies. Now she&rsquo;s off to New York University, where she&rsquo;ll study law. But before she skipped town, Elena wanted to learn about the history of Chicago&rsquo;s prohibition-era watering holes.</p><p>&ldquo;One of my favorite bars in Chicago is The Violet Hour, which is kind of in the speakeasy style,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;So I was interested in what more original speakeasies might have been like in Chicago.&rdquo; Another &ldquo;modern speakeasy&rdquo; that comes to mind, she says, is <a href="http://nymag.com/listings/bar/angels_share/" target="_blank">Angel&rsquo;s Share</a> in New York&rsquo;s East Village. It&rsquo;s an exclusive whisky bar cached behind a Japanese restaurant.</p><p>Elena grew up in Reston, Virginia, near Washington, D.C. She spent three years in Paris before coming to Chicago. She also happens to be a member of the University of Chicago team that tackled a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/history-and-mystery-behind-chicago%E2%80%99s-produce-market-107918" target="_blank">Curious City question about Chicago&rsquo;s wholesale produce markets</a>.</p><p><em>Chris Bentley is a reporter for <a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/" target="_blank">WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City</a> and a <a href="http://cabentley.com/" target="_blank">freelance journalist</a>. Follow him at cabentley.com and on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>.</em></p><p><a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/236180239/A-Mixologist-s-Guide-to-a-Chicago-Speakeasy" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/speakeasy%20graphic%204.jpg" style="height: 906px; width: 620px;" title="" /></a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Thu, 07 Aug 2014 17:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/shot-history-ingredients-chicago-speakeasy-110616 Chicago goes dry http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-01/chicago-goes-dry-104886 <p><p>The year was 1920. At midnight, as the calendar clicked over onto January 17, Prohibition became the law of the land. Chicago&rsquo;s reaction was a big yawn.</p><p>Okay, we all know about Chicago in the Roaring Twenties. We know that the city became the bootlegging capital of America. We&rsquo;ve seen the gangster movies.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1-17--NY%20Trib-1.jpg" title="('New York Tribune'-January 20, 1920)" /></div><p>But that was all in the future on that January evening in 1920. The crowds at the taverns were no larger than on a typical Friday. When the clock struck 12, the patrons downed their drinks and left, the bartender locked up . . . and that was that.</p><p>The Prohibition law said that the manufacture, sale, or distribution of intoxicating beverages was illegal. However, people were allowed to have booze and beer in their own homes for their own use. They could keep all the beverage they wanted, as long as they bought it before January 17.</p><p>So Chicagoans began stocking up. Liquor stores had raised prices, but the public kept buying. In the final days, autos and trucks were also in demand&ndash;for some people, the first time they drove a car was the day they hauled their liquor home.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1-17--NY%20Trib-2.jpg" title="('New York Tribune'-January 20, 1920)" /></div><p>Major A.T. Dalrymple was the local head of Prohibition enforcement. He announced that people would have ten days to report the exact quantities of beverage they held in their homes. That was a matter of law. There should be no fear that government agents would raid a private residence.&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image ">Dalrymple said his men were ready to deal with any businesses that tried to evade the law. Enforcement would be strict. The major had vaults ready for storage of illegal beverage seized in raids. If the vaults weren&rsquo;t large enough, more would be built.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1-17--Dalrymple and aide (LofC).jpg" title="Major Dalrymple [left] after a raid (Library of Congress)" /></div></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">There were some exceptions to the law. Churches could use wine for religious services. Druggists might sell up to one pint of liquor to someone with a doctor&rsquo;s prescription. Hospitals could use liquor as part of the &ldquo;tapering off&rdquo; treatment for alcoholism.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Meanwhile, the evening&rsquo;s biggest party was at the Stevens Restaurant. A dry group, the Chicago Sunday School Association, was celebrating the new era of sobriety. They drank a series of toasts&ndash;with grape juice.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">But eventually, those private stocks of liquor would run out. And yes, we all know what happened after that.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></p> Thu, 17 Jan 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-01/chicago-goes-dry-104886 Booze in the news http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-12/booze-news-104185 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Old%20Town%20Ale%20House%20flickr.jpg" style="float: right; width: 422px; height: 316px;" title="(Flickr/Jenni Konrad)" />The bars of Division Street: where a man named Vanecko hit a man name Koschman. And in a Northwest Side bar, a policeman named Abbate beat a bartender named Karolina Obrycka.</div><p>Sorrowful, both, but the city has a rich and lengthy tradition of booze and taverns. It can be traced to early settler Marc Beaubien, who would enliven his Sauganash Inn with fine fiddle-playing in the 1830s.&nbsp;Ever since, the tavern has functioned as an important social focal point, though few have been willing to admit &mdash; or understand &mdash; its significance as a culturally enriching agent.&nbsp;</p><p>In <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Drink-A-Social-History-America/dp/0786707437" target="_blank"><em>Drink: A Social History of America</em></a>, Andrew Barr writes about taverns in the early years of this century: &quot;In a saloon every man was equal. The saloon provided newspapers, billiards, card tables, bowling alleys, lavatories and washing facilities. It provided information and company.&quot;&nbsp;</p><p>Chicago was never thirstier than a few minutes before 4:32 p.m. on December 5, 1933, as thousands waited for the repeal of the 18th Amendment to end a drought that had lasted &mdash; but who was counting? &mdash; 13 years, 10 months and 19 days.</p><p>Though a number of neighborhood taverns &mdash; former speakeasies mostly &mdash; jumped the gun by a few hours, many of the large downtown drinking establishments kept packs of patrons waiting until the appointed legal minute. Huge crowds lined up five and six deep along the bars, and they had stamina, staying into the early morning hours.&nbsp;</p><p>The celebration was relatively sedate: Only 27 people were arrested for intoxication. The Congress Hotel, emptied 100 cases of champagne, 75 cases of whiskey, 75 cases of gin and 100 cases of wine. The Sherman House served more than 10,000 people at its three bars and grand ballroom. A number of older bartenders complained about the increase in female customers, one of them worrying that &quot;If the talk gets rough, we&#39;ll have to defend the ladies.&quot;</p><p>Flash forward a couple of decades and writer A.J. Liebling spent some time here and wrote a series of articles for the <em>New Yorke r</em>&mdash; later collected in <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Chicago-Second-City-J-Liebling/dp/0803280351/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1354653542&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=aj+the+second+city" target="_blank">book form</a> &mdash; that would become famous for giving the city its Second City moniker.&nbsp;</p><p>Liebling observed this: &quot;A thing about Chicago that impressed me from the hour I got there was the saloons. New York bars operate on the principle that you want a drink or you wouldn&#39;t be there. If you are civil and don&#39;t mind waiting, they will sell you one when they get around to it. Chicago bars assume that nobody likes liquor, and that to induce the customers to purchase even a minute quantity, they have to provide a show.&rdquo;</p><p>That&rsquo;s nice (and true) but I still prefer the observation by the great late piano bar man Buddy Charles when he told me late one night at The Acorn on Oak: &ldquo;What makes taverns and saloons work is that people are inherently eager for intimacy.&quot;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 04 Dec 2012 14:06:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-12/booze-news-104185 'Afternoon Shift' #203: Prohibition playback http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift/2012-12-04/afternoon-shift-203-prohibition-playback-104182 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AfternoonShift_CMS_tile_1200x900_0.png" alt="" /><p><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/afternoon-shift-203-prohibition-playback.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/afternoon-shift-203-prohibition-playback" target="_blank">View the story "'Afternoon Shift' #203: Prohibition playback" on Storify</a>]<h1>'Afternoon Shift' #203: Prohibition playback</h1><h2>Classical chamber ensemble Axiom Brass performs. And on the eve of the 79th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition, the Chicago History Museum's Russell Lewis and Bruce Elliott of the Old Town Ale House discuss bar culture and the importance of taverns in Chicago.</h2><p>Storified by &middot; Tue, Dec 04 2012 11:01:17</p><div><i>Time Out Chicago's</i>&nbsp;Frank Sennett and comedic commentator Aaron Freeman tag team the day's news--the Vanecko indictment, collect calls from Cook County prisoners, massage parlors in Lakeview and much more.</div><div>Abbate trial aftermath: Rahm Emanuel wants 'code of silence' verdict set aside http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-bar-beating-cop-settlement-1204-20121204,0,6403944.storyDavid Heinzmann</div><div>Who Let This Man Die on the Subway?There's one big question about today's intense cover of the New York Post: Why didn't anyone help him? If there's enough time to capture ...</div><div>Tribune story on NYC subway platform push is thorough except it makes NO mention of controversial @NYPost cover: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/la-na-nn-subway-pushed-20121204,0,3645821.storyMarcus Gilmer</div><div>New Cook County phone contract will save families big cashCook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is signing a contract Tuesday that will drastically reduce the cost of phone calls for jail ...</div><div>Customer Reviews Say Sexual Favors Allegedly Offered In Neighborhood Massage ParlorsSix massage parlors in Lincoln Square, Northcenter, Roscoe Village and West Lakeview allegedly provide paid sexual favors, according to a...</div><div><b></b>Classical chamber ensemble <a href="http://axiombrass.com/" class="">Axiom Brass</a> join us to perform songs from their upcoming concert, Duke It Out,&nbsp;in which the canons of Duke Ellington and Tchaikovsky are put into a musical “thunder dome.” Two bands enter,&nbsp;one band leaves.</div><div>Axiom Brass New Standardsaxiombrass5</div><div>Wednesday marks the 79th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition. Rick is joined by the Chicago History Museum's Russell Lewis and Bruce Elliott of the <a href="http://www.oldtownalehouse.net/index.html" class="">Old Town Ale House</a> to discuss bar culture&nbsp;and importance of taverns in Chicago.</div><div>Old Towngetbiglittlekid</div><div>48 Hours in Chicago: Anthony Bourdain: The LayoverAnthony Bourdain has 48 hours to eat and drink his way through the Windy City. See where he stayed, and the bars and restaurants he visited.</div><div>In his 30-plus years working for the FBI, Royden “Ross” Rice wore many hats. The recently-retired special agent joins us to discuss his career, which involved everything from behind the scenes investigative work to public outreach. &nbsp;</div></noscript></p> Tue, 04 Dec 2012 13:08:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift/2012-12-04/afternoon-shift-203-prohibition-playback-104182 Mexican poet leads march against drug war http://www.wbez.org/news/mexican-poet-leads-march-against-drug-war-102148 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/JavierSiciliaCROP.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Led by a renowned Mexican poet, a four-mile march through Chicago&rsquo;s West Side on Monday evening called for an end to the U.S. war on drugs. Javier Sicilia, whose 24-year-old son was killed last year by Mexican drug traffickers in Cuernavaca, blames the drug war for tens of thousands of violent deaths in that country.</p><p>Sicilia says the war has been devastating north of the border too. To make that point, he is leading a month-long bus caravan through the United States. His group joined hundreds of Chicago activists on the march, which began in the city&rsquo;s Little Village neighborhood and ended in West Garfield Park.</p><p>&ldquo;These are African-Americans and Latinos who have been criminalized,&rdquo; he told WBEZ in Spanish, motioning to bystanders watching the march. &ldquo;They are more vulnerable because there is a drug war.&rdquo;</p><p>Sicilia said the war on drugs, which dates back to President Richard Nixon&rsquo;s administration, has fueled mass incarceration and street violence in the United States.</p><p>He compared that bloodshed to Chicago gangster violence during Prohibition almost a century ago. But the drug war has deeper effects, Sicilia said, &ldquo;because the scale is international and the weaponry is more powerful.&rdquo;</p><p>Sicilia said authorities should treat drug use as an issue of public health, not criminality.</p><p>The caravan is scheduled to wrap up in Washington next week.</p></p> Tue, 04 Sep 2012 00:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/mexican-poet-leads-march-against-drug-war-102148 The Municipal Razor: The story of Chicago and the guillotine http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2012-01-16/municipal-razor-story-chicago-and-guillotine-95475 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-January/2012-01-16/01-16--guillotine.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/blog/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-11/01-16--Dimnet%20%28L%20of%20C%29.jpg" style="width: 287px; height: 340px; margin: 8px; float: left;" title="Abbe Ernest Dimnet (Library of Congress)">Crime was on the minds of Chicagoans on this January 16th in 1925.</p><p>The city was earning a reputation as the wildest metropolis in the world. In the past five years robberies had gone up 35%, while the numbers of rapes, bombings, and arson cases were rising at an alarming rate. In just the last two years, murders had more than doubled.</p><p>Many experts blamed the crime problem on the Prohibition act. Alcoholic beverages had been banned, and bootlegger gangs now controlled the liquor trade. Violence was part of their business. Everyday citizens were losing respect for the law, too.</p><p>Still, Prohibition wasn't going to be junked any time soon. So what could be done about Chicago's crime? A visiting priest had one answer.</p><p>Abbe Ernest Dimnet was the canon of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. He was a respected French author whose books were becoming popular in English translation. The abbe was stopping in Chicago on a lecture tour.</p><p>Mayor Lewis Shank of Indianapolis was also in town to give a speech to a business breakfast. Shank had said the way to fix Chicago crime was to hire smarter policemen. Dimnet thought that was only part of the cure.</p><p>"In France," the abbe said, "we would be horrified at such a crime wave that has deluged dry Chicago." Besides good police, the city needed good judges who were not afraid to enforce the law. And there was one more thing.</p><p>Chicago needed a guillotine.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-11/01-16--guillotine.jpg" style="width: 485px; height: 353px; margin: 8px; float: right;" title="">Dimnet admitted that chopping off heads was not exactly civilized. "However," he went on, "there is something in the utter finality of the descending blade of a guillotine that inspires a healthy respect for the law."</p><p>This was a far better way to deal with criminals than putting them in prison. Because of bleeding-heart reformers, many prisons had become as posh as a bachelors' hotel.</p><p>To be an effective deterrent, Dimnet said that the executions must be public. He thought the best location for the "municipal razor" would be in Grant Park.</p><p>Abbe Ernest Dimnet returned to Paris unharmed by his visit to Chicago. A few years later he wrote a best-selling self-help book in English titled <em>The Art of Thinking.</em></p><p>Prohibition ended in 1933. Despite Dimnet's advice, Chicago never did erect a guillotine in Grant Park. Instead the city used the site for Buckingham Fountain.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 16 Jan 2012 13:15:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2012-01-16/municipal-razor-story-chicago-and-guillotine-95475 The Hotel Sherman Treaty http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2011-10-21/hotel-sherman-treaty-93222 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-October/2011-10-21/10-21--Capone.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The war has been getting out of hand. So Don Corleone calls for a summit meeting. All the gang chiefs sit down together and hammer out a truce.</p><p>It's a famous scene from "The Godfather." But it really did happen--here in Chicago, on October 21, 1926.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-18/10-21--Hotel Sherman view.JPG" style="width: 220px; height: 300px; margin: 8px; float: left;" title="Hotel Sherman--NW corner, Clark &amp; Randolph">Prohibition was the law of the land then, and the gangs of Chicago were supplying bootleg booze to thirsty citizens. In the fall of 1924, Warfare had erupted when the two biggest mobs began squabbling over territorial rights. This was another of those North Side vs. South Side conflicts--Dion's O'Banion's mostly-Irish Cub fans against Johnny Torrio's mostly-Italian Sox fans.</p><p>(<em>Okay, I don't know which baseball teams the boys followed, but you get the idea</em>.)</p><p>Anyway, the South Siders struck first, assassinating O'Banion in his florist shop. Naturally, the North Siders retaliated. Then, the South Siders re-retaliated. And so on, and so on.</p><p>By October 1926, Chicago had gotten a national reputation for gang mayhem. The South Side outfit was now being run by Al Capone. He realized all the outside attention could wreck business. The U.S. Senate had begun nosing around, conducting an investigation of the Prohibition law and its effects.</p><p>So Capone enlisted the aid of Maxie Eisen, a labor leader with wide contacts. Eisen arranged a general conference at the Hotel Sherman. All the gangs sent representatives, and the list reads like a Who's Who of the Chicago underworld--Capone, Bugs Moran, Klondyke O'Donnell, Schemer Drucci, to name a few.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-18/10-21--Capone.jpg" style="width: 199px; height: 249px; float: right; margin: 8px;" title="Diplomat Capone">Nobody tried to keep the meeting secret. The newspapers published reports on the conference, and a police detective attended as a neutral observer. The general tone was set by Maxie Eisen, who told the delegates: "Let's give each other a break. We're a bunch of saps, killing each other this way and giving the cops a laugh."</p><p>The result was the Hotel Sherman Treaty. Chicago gangs officially renounced violence as a matter of policy. All standing feuds were called off. The head of each gang would be responsible for disciplining his own people. Each gang would operate only within its designated territory.</p><p>The gangland truce lasted for less than a year. But then, have the diplomats of nations done much better in negotiating peace?</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 21 Oct 2011 12:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2011-10-21/hotel-sherman-treaty-93222 William E. Dever: The mayor who cleaned up Chicago http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2011-10-03/william-e-dever-mayor-who-cleaned-chicago-92024 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-October/2011-10-03/william dever_Chicago daily news.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Ken Burns has a new film about Prohibition. One of the forgotten players in that comedy-drama was a Chicago mayor. His name was William E. Dever.</p><p>Dever was born outside Boston in 1862. He came to Chicago at 25, worked as a tanner on Goose Island, and studied law at night. In 1890 he became a lawyer in the teaming West Town neighborhood.</p><p>Soon Dever was active in the clean-government wing of the Democratic party. He was elected 17th Ward alderman, and became one of the most visible and effective members of the City Council--even then, newspapers were touting him as a possible mayor. In 1910 he was elected to the Municipal Court.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-03/william dever_Chicago daily news.jpg" style="width: 400px; height: 325px; float: left; margin: 5px;" title="(Chicago Daily News)">Being a judge was a nice job, but it was a political dead end. The public forgot about Dever. Then, in 1923, Democratic leaders were looking for a squeaky-clean candidate to run for mayor against scandal-ridden Big Bill Thompson. They chose Judge Dever.</p><p>Thompson saw the way the wind was blowing and decided to retire. Dever won an easy victory. He took office saying he "wanted to be associated with something big in the history of Chicago."</p><p>He immediately launched a massive public works program. He built bridges, widened streets, straightened the Chicago River, opened Municipal airport, and replaced the decrepit South Water Market with double-decked Wacker Drive. The parks were spruced up and his school board constructed a record number of schools.</p><p>And most of these projects came in on-time, and within budget. Not once was there even the hint of scandal.</p><p>Dever's problem was the Prohibition law. The bootleggers were operating openly. Though Dever felt Prohibition was a silly law, the ex-judge thought it had to be enforced. He ordered a massive crackdown, the so-called "Beer War."</p><p>Within months the bootleggers were routed. News of the remarkable happenings in Chicago spread throughout the nation, and journalists descended on the city. Dever became the second-most-photographed person in America, trailing only President Coolidge. Many people began to speak of Chicago's mayor as the next President of the United States.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-September/2011-09-15/10-03--Dever Book.jpg" style="width: 266px; height: 416px; margin: 5px; float: left;" title="For further reading">But the bootleggers had not been conquered. They had simply moved their operations into the suburbs, out of Dever's reach. And within the city itself, the mayor's cleanup eventually brought on more violence.</p><p>Think of it this way. Dever was drying up the city. Business was down, so the bootleggers had to market their products more aggressively, to keep ahead of competitors and preserve their own profits. The result was a major gang war.</p><p>So the people of Chicago had gotten grand public works, efficient city government--and violence in the streets. And they were starting to get thirsty. As Dever's popularity rose nationally, it declined at home.</p><p>Big Bill Thompson was watching events closely. Seeing that Dever was vulnerable, he jumped into the 1927 mayoral race, declaring he would make Chicago "a wide-open town." Big Bill crushed Dever by a margin of 83,000 votes.</p><p>The nation was stunned. How could America's best mayor be beaten by a crooked buffoon? Humorist Will Rogers thought he had the answer. "They was trying to beat Bill [Thompson] with the Better Element vote," Rogers said. "Trouble is, in Chicago there <em>ain't</em> much Better Element."</p><p>William E. Dever died in 1929. Today he is remembered with a public school and a water intake crib three miles out in the lake. Perhaps most significantly, he is also remembered as the last Democratic candidate for Mayor of Chicago to lose.</p></p> Mon, 03 Oct 2011 12:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2011-10-03/william-e-dever-mayor-who-cleaned-chicago-92024 Prohibition’s doctor-sanctioned drunkenness http://www.wbez.org/story/alcohol/prohibition%E2%80%99s-doctor-sanctioned-drunkenness <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/champagne 2.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>As you raise your glass of champagne tonight, toast the fact that you&rsquo;re not celebrating New Year&rsquo;s Eve between 1919 and 1933. The &ldquo;Noble Experiment&rdquo; better known as Prohibition caused drinking rates to drop precipitously and made it a lot harder to get that precious glass of bubbly.&nbsp;</p> <div>Harder that is, but not impossible. Drinking didn&rsquo;t stop in the U.S. during Prohibition, nor was it technically illegal. (Only selling, making or transporting alcohol was.) We all know the legends of the speakeasies, those password-protected watering holes lousy with dolled-up dames and their mobster dates. But writer <a href="http://www.danielokrent.com/">Daniel Okrent</a> traces a less glamorous set of work-arounds in his book <em>Last Call: the Rise and Fall of Prohibition</em>. According to Okrent, you were just as likely to end up in the doctor&rsquo;s office or the pharmacy as the speakeasy. For $3, or about $37 in today&rsquo;s money, you could get a weekly prescription to keep the taps running.</div><div>&nbsp;</div> <div>In the audio excerpt above, Okrent describes how the medical establishment was in cahoots with the liquor biz, underground as it was. As you&rsquo;re listening, just be glad you can go to a bar this weekend. So much less romantic to steal a boozy New Year&rsquo;s kiss under the cold, unflattering fluorescent lights of a CVS. &nbsp;</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div><a href="../../../../../../series/dynamic-range"><em>Dynamic Range</em></a><em> showcases hidden gems unearthed from Chicago Amplified&rsquo;s vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. David Okrent&rsquo;s talk was presented by the </em><a href="http://www.chicagohs.org/"><em>Chicago History Museum</em></a><em> in May of 2010, and was recorded by </em><a href="../../../../../../amplified"><em>Chicago Amplified</em></a><em>. Click </em><a href="../../../../../../episode-segments/prohibition-seminar-way-we-drank"><em>here</em></a><em> to hear Okrent&rsquo;s talk in its entirety, and click </em><a href="http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/wbez/id364380278"><em>here</em></a><em> to subscribe to the Dynamic Range podcast.</em></div></p> Fri, 31 Dec 2010 18:22:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/alcohol/prohibition%E2%80%99s-doctor-sanctioned-drunkenness