Chicago stories

Special Episode: Don’t Sneeze, Cough or Spit!

It began suddenly in the northern suburbs of Chicago and the contagion floated south toward the city like an invisible cloud.  Soon restaurants, saloons, and theaters were closed and police were given the power to break up crowds of ten persons or more.  Spitting, coughing and sneezing on the street could put you in jail.  Public Funerals were forbidden and elective surgeries canceled.  Everyone wore face masks. Was this Spring, 2020? No, it was Chicago in the Autumn of 1918.

Join the Windy City Historians for this special episode as we step away from the chronological telling of Chicago history of our ongoing “Laying the Foundation” series, and instead chart the course of epidemics and outbreaks in Chicago history. In particular, we dig into the, so called, Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918. This pandemic reveals many parallels between the events of 1918 and today’s struggle with the novel coronavirus (SARS Cov-2, its new official name) in 2020.  

In this episode we interview historian Joseph Gustaitis, author of Chicago’s Greatest Year, 1893 and Chicago Transformed: World War I and the Windy City to learn about Chicago’s the first health crisis in 1835 and subsequent outbreaks and diseases plaguing the young city leading up to the Spanish Influenza outbreak of 1918.

A cataclysmic event in 1918 and 1919 this epidemic infected one-third of the world’s population, over 500 million people and killing approximately 1% of the human population on earth, an estimated 20-to-50-million people.  In the United States alone approximately 675,000 citizens died — more Americans than were killed in WWI and WWII combined. The pandemic affected the way Americans and Chicagoan’s live and work today and was particularly lethal to people in the prime of their life.  Learn more about this incredible story 100+ years ago and the parallels and differences with today’s pandemic.

Links to Research and History Documents

We mention in this episode one known documented account of whites giving smallpox infected blankets to Native Americans. This is attributed to the letters of Jeffery Amherst a British officer stationed at Fort Pitt in later day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who under siege in 1763 during the French and Indian War (1754 – 1763) writes to Colonel Henry Bouquet. Much has been written of this legend this so a variety of sources are cited on the topic below:

Please note Ward Churchill mentioned above sadly perpetuated the myth of the U.S. Army spreading smallpox to First Nations in at least six publications between 1994 and 2003. Churchill entirely fabricated incidents which never occurred, about individuals who never existed. His sources were completely falsified, and talk about fake news, he repeatedly concealed evidence in his possession discrediting his falsified version of events.

Below are additional links and research we touch upon in this episode:


Episode 10: The First Murder

Founded in 1803, Chicago’s Fort Dearborn is the western most outpost on the frontier, and by 1812 still the most isolated fort in Indian Country. The garrison and few settlers are outnumbered five-to-one by the neighboring tribes within a day’s ride. A pivotal year in Chicago history the corner of today’s Wacker Drive and Michigan Avenue is the site of Chicago’s first murder on June 17. At that point tensions are already high and this killing comes one day before Congress declares war on Great Britain. Although, the approximately 100 residents of Chicago will have no idea war is declared until mid- to late-July.

Just why trader John Kinzie stabbed fort interpreter Jean Lalime to death is a two-centuries’ old Chicago mystery. Was it jealousy, a trade dispute, bad blood? Listen in as we set the scene of Chicago on the cusp of the War of 1812, weight the accounts, motivations, and events surrounding this gruesome murder on the banks of the Chicago River. We hope you enjoy this fascinating slice of Chicago history and interview with writer Paul Dailing who authored the Chicago Reader article “The long death of Jean Lalime“.

Links to Research and History Documents

Episode 9: The First Scandal

Early settlement of Chicago begins, Fort Dearborn is established at this outpost in Indian Country and it gets entangled in Chicago’s first scandal.

Episode 2: The Place Called Chicagoua

Listening to the first episode you learned the ground-breaking, new story of Chicago’s discovery and who truly was the first European to pass through Chicago.  In this second part of our interview with historian John Swenson, he says, “if you know where the portage is, then Marquette tells you where he was,” and that is place the Indians called “Chicagoua.”  And this place Chicagoua has nothing to do with the city of today.  Adding the account of Henri Joutel (La Salle’s chronicler) he confirms where this place is.

The Windy City Historian’s interview with retired attorney and historian John Swenson will make Chicago history. 

 

Links to Research and History Documents

In the second Episode – The Place Called Chicagoua we continue our interview with retired lawyer and historian John Swenson about the place the Indians called Chicagoua. Below are links to historic items we discussed and some additional relevant research for those interested in a deeper dive into the history.