This land, this heritage, this people; Chicago
I guess. That's the chorus of a song written in 1871 following the Great Chicago Fire. The music on today's program was composed between 1858 and 1892 and was made available to us from the archives of the Chicago Historical Society. This land this heritage this people a series of radio programs tracing in word and music the footprints of America the turns we took the tales we spread narratives letters diaries and songs have been adapted from primary source materials by Professor Robert Gardner director of the Wisconsin idea theater programs were produced a W A-J at the University
of Wisconsin for national educational radio under a grant from the National Library Foundation. Significant a friend of mine had told me that we should
bring a speculators to the place. It was even so. I never saw a busier place than Chicago was at the time of our arrival. The streets were crowded with Len speculators. How do you from one sale to another a negro dressed up in scarlet bearing a scarlet flag and riding a white horse with housings of scarlet announced the times of sale and every street corner where he stopped the crowd flocked around him and it seemed as if some prevalent mania infected the whole people. The rage for speculation might fairly be so regarded as the gentlemen of our party walked the streets storekeepers hailed them from their doors with offers of farms and all manner of landlords advising them to speculate before the price of land rose higher. A young lawyer of my acquaintance and realized $500 per day by merely making out titles to land
others besides lawyers and speculators by trade make a fortune in such extraordinary times. A poor man at Chicago had a preemption right to some land for which he paid in the morning one hundred and fifty dollars in the afternoon. He sold it to a friend of mine for $5000. The poor Frenchman married to a school had a suit pending when I was there which he was likely to gain for the right of purchasing some land by the lake for one hundred dollars which would immediately become worth one million dollars. Lake Shore sand being the best material available was rarely
employed to top dress the principal business street. And for a few moments made a neat and attractive appearance. But it was a delusion and a snare being wholly insufficient to support any weight. The loaded vehicles cut through and mixed the yielding sand with the yielding mud. The signs of the times placed in all the thoroughfares in spring and fall were no bottom team underneath the road to China. Stage dropped through an old hat placed upon top of the mud to indicate where the wearer was last seen and the placard of man lost above it. The familiar warnings where not to go but where the drive could only be ascertained by repeating experiments like others with probably similar results. In a general common council order past December 14th 1840. Two inch plank walks four feet wide on three by four scantlings were ordered on quite a number of downtown streets. Sometimes a recalcitrant
block would tip over as it was stepped upon. Or are sliding under the feet would precipitate its disconsolate victim in the muddy abyss he was so laboriously striving to avoid. It was one of these accidents frequently be falling away. There. That one point to the joking remark of our esteemed friend Thomas Church that he picked his second wife out of the gutter the first time he saw me. During the mid century the mud was becoming too much push of Coughlan's. Something would have to be done about it. Carts and carriages would be my ladies swinging a graceful hand to the rear to gather up their full skirts would adventure fought at a crossing walking tiptoe only to sink deeply closing a slip or crying out for rescue. The jests no longer brought a laugh not even the favorite one about the man who seeing a
hat lying in the mud bent down to pick it up and on lifting the hat saw a man's face staring up at him. Say stranger you're stuck in the mud going to give you a hand to pull you out. Oh no thanks the face replied. I'm riding a good horse he's got me out of war spots. And some of the buildings were actually going down sinking slowly by their own weight into the mire. The new tree Mont hotel built of brick four stories high which had replaced the old one when it was burned down was on the way to China. They had tried planking the streets in 49 but that proved a failure. Boards would teeter and come up and strike you in the face cobble stones or even more disappointing. They sank heavily into the ohs and disappeared. After some prolonged and worrisome speculation a bold idea was hit upon nothing for it but to raise the level of the street all of them just hoist up the land make it higher so it would drain off properly. Cover up the slews pile on more or
shore that would mean lifting the whole city but what of it Chicago had to have good streets didn't she. Until about 1880 the bulk of the city's buildings were four or five stories high. They might have been stretched two or three storeys higher without any changes in building method. But five story was about the limit to which any ordinary man could lift himself on a hot day. Some time just before the Civil War or some other genius had invented an elevator to help lift parts for his factory. After the war added a device to keep it from falling with the power cut off and the world began to talk about a safe elevator for passengers in the middle eighties it attracted the attention of Chicago architect Daniel and
John W.. Before Roach death in 1901 the 21 storey Masonic temple to the clouds for many years it was to remain the tallest building in the world. The elevators worked perfectly. The building of the first skyscraper not only in Chicago but in the growing cities of the United States and the hammering of steel and the piling of brick and stone has gone on ever since. Why don't they just spread it with love. There is a right and there
was ice. There's. Chicago October 9th 1871. Dear Mother this is been an eventful day. Last night about nine and a half o'clock a fire broke out here. And from that time to this it has raged fearfully. We are in ruins. All the business portion of the city has fallen a prey to the fiery fiend our magnificent streets for acres and acres lined with elegant structures or a heap of cyclists rubbish cannot be described. One needs to see the wreck to appreciate it. And then he cannot believe that such havoc could be wrought in so short a time. What a
sight. A sea of fire. The heavens all ablaze the air filled with burning embers. The wind blowing fiercely and tossing fire brands in all directions thousands upon thousands of people rushing frantically about burned out of shelter without food. The rich of yesterday poor today. Destruction everywhere. Is it not awful. It makes me sick. One could but exclaim My God when will it end. The end is not yet terribly as the fire now burning. That is five miles from where I write so I'm in no danger. Though our family dare not go to bed they are camped on the floor. It's midnight and I'm keeping watch. Everything is gone. All our public buildings and massive blocks all the hotels except one and that a minor one. The courthouse and records post office in United States courthouse all all are gone. The fire extended over acres of ground and it left nothing intact. Our banks are all included in this heart rending catastrophe.
I had a few hundred dollars in the merchants and this is lost. I'm discouraged and what to do I know not. My office burned about 3 o'clock this morning I barely got out with a few papers and just escaped with my life. Our house tonight is like the house of death 30 years of prosperity cannot restore us. It looks as though I must leave here. What to do I know not. Possibly I may come home. All newspaper offices are destroyed when we get papers. I have sent them. I'm going to try and sleep a little if possible now my boy join us. P.S. We have no gas or water. We have to bail water from the lake and use condos bridges burnt.
News was a. Los Lobos. It's right close to the Great question was this. I know you will be in Chicago. I'll begin at the beginning so you will understand how it all happened. October 7th. On the south side and we had
been a good. So we retired Sunday night about 10 o'clock just as we were settling ourselves to rest and looking out to the southwest I saw an ominous red glare in the sky. I called and we both dressed hastily. We must go down to the office and get some valuable papers from the safe. And off he went running as hard as he could. Soon after he had gone people began to the house I got. Martha up dressed her in her new plaid Marina packed my silver in a trunk and went out to learn what I could from passers by. Everyone was so excited. It was hard to get advice but there seemed to be a definite movement to the north and west. So I returned to the House wrote a note to Weil telling him I should try to find some friends on the street and prepared to leave. Packing a few things in a bag I turned down the gas to save
expense in case we should be gone some hours and taking little Martha's hand. I went forth into the street now lighted as brightly as if it had been in the early out of the fire. Where are we to have it with our lives. We're hopeful of the future. He thinks the city will be rebuilt and that we shall come out of this disaster with stores are already being opened on the scarcely cool of downtown lots. We are on the street today Governor bras or deacon bras as everyone calls him is one of the city's most enthusiastic citizens trumpeting its glories. Why his beautiful house went with all that blood. But his spirit rose above the loss. He said
you were my son. This seeming disaster is a blessing in disguise and we all replied perfect. Our house is rebuilding with love. As men. A great and interesting throng that labor while others sleep are to be found by standing at Clark and Madison streets after midnight. You have no idea the number of persons who look upon midnight as the world does upon noon.
It's a vast army that toil while others sleep. And it keeps busy a great number of attendants dozens of stores are kept open nights. Restaurants drugstores and saloons of course these are not patronized exclusively by the all night workers. They catch the transient trade of that big community that loves to roam when other folks are in bed. It's a queer community they say crowd first comes the actor fresh from his night's Labor deserved to be classed with a night worker though he disappears at 1:00 or 2:00 o'clock. The men of the boards are followed by the men of the tables the waiters of the big downtown restaurants which closed between twelve and one. By the time these are well on their way home from the first day lengths of the newspaper Brigade the day reporters for the morning papers. These linger a little and give way to the first batch of printers the printers straggle along all through the night where they get off in gangs increasing as the night
advances with them two comes a portion of the night editorial force. The men who have remained after the departure of the reporters to edit the work of the latter. These all gather by ones and twos and by four o'clock in the night reporters cease their labors. Then the throng the printers of editors of reporters is a great one. They are lovers of gossip and good fellowship and gather in the various downtown resorts to break bread or glass previous to a tedious journey in a horse car. Then comes the crowd of knights Ramblers men about town gamblers thugs drunks and people who attend dances all these furnish a living to the fruit vendors hot tamales and red hot man etc. as well as the storekeeper. A vast multitude of early risers the dinner pail brigade are hurrying to
their places of daily labor. When the last of the night workers leave for home these are the newspaper office stereotype prison pressmen the bakers the telephone girls and those who work in the stores. They've been in darkest Chicago and seen how the other half lives very much as it pleases the cynic will say. Becoming. Rich.
Who could be. Both.
People wonder at the rapid increase in the price of real estate out here in the West. But it bears no comparison with the increase in the price of gospel privileges. A good clergyman is well worth all that liberal hearted congregation. But the people ought to cry out against the reckless waste of money that is steadily increasing in the erection of extravagant church at Ephesus. It.
Was. During the recent band Christian city with a large family of children whose husband was suddenly reduced to penury astonished me by observing with tears in her eyes that her most grievous affliction was that she would be compelled to give up her church which was the most expensive in the city and take one in a cheaper edifice. People sang in every church. God is present everywhere.
Well at the close of service one parson thought Chicago people ought to know more about the devil than they did. Therefore take up his history for lectures. First give the origin of the second state what the devil has done what the devil is now doing and for it to prescribe how to destroy these lectures with a sensation for the next four weeks. The House cannot contain the masses that flock to hear the third never to be forgotten in this city. As Mr. Hinton undertook to tell us what the devil is doing in this. The drift of his discourse was to prove that everybody had a devil that the devil didn't accept even the church. He had the devil on the outside and up the middle of every day. And the ladies in the gentleman's whiskers
in fact proved conclusively that they were just about as many devils as there were persons in it. When the people came out of church they'd ask each other brother and they'd stop one another in the streets during the week and ask what is a parson. Now the fourth lecture contained his prescription for destroying the devil. I remember his closing prayer on brother and friends as well as pray prayer and fight until the devil was dead. The world the flesh the devil will prove a fatal snare unless we resist him by faith in the humble prayer. On this ground contest with His Majesty he fought gloriously early in the strife. We have his ears kept up a gallant five to this day but
judging by our morning papers the devil was far from being dead and Chicago as a dog with tongue lapping for action. Cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness bare headed shoveling wrecking planning building breaking rebuilding under the smoke dust all over his mouth laughing with white teeth under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse and under his ribs the heart of the people laughing laughing the stormy husky brawling laughter of you half naked sweating proud to be hog butcher
toolmaker stacker of wheat player with railroads and freight handlers of the nation. This land this heritage this people a series of radio programs tracing in word and music the footprints of America the turns we took the tales we spread narratives letters diaries and songs have been adapted from primary source materials by Professor Robert E. Gard director of the Wisconsin idea theater programs were produced at the University of Wisconsin for national educational radio under a grant from the National Library Foundation.
- Producing Organization
- University of Wisconsin
- WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
Producing Organization: University of Wisconsin
Producing Organization: WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-17-3 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “This land, this heritage, this people; Chicago,” 1968-04-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 7, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-jw86nk8q.
- MLA: “This land, this heritage, this people; Chicago.” 1968-04-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 7, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-jw86nk8q>.
- APA: This land, this heritage, this people; Chicago. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-jw86nk8q