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June 15, 2016
Minna and Ada Simms Everleigh (Lester) Lived In Warrensburg, MO - Later Became Madams of the Most Famous Brothel in America, in Chicago
Chicago’s Everleigh Club is the most famous brothel in USA history. It was located in the notorious Levee district (Chicago, IL).
Sisters Minna (1866-1948) & Ada (1864-1960) Everleigh ran the “club”. They hosted senators, foreign dignitaries, literary icons, actors (big surprise there!), business moguls, and on and on. Prince Henry of Prussia, Theodore Dreiser, Diamond Jim Brady, and other celebrities of renown went to the Everleigh Club. The department store heir, Marshall Field Jr., was even shot there.
The Everleigh “butterflies” were expected to be well read and were even tutored in Balzac. Other requirements …
… look good in an evening gown
…be there of their own free will (they wanted nothing to do with parents selling their children, white slavers, etc.)
… be at least 18 years old
… visit their doctor (that they kept on retainer) at least 1x/month
… no drugs/alcohol
Such women included the legendary Suzy Poon Tang, one of the club’s most popular girls and big draws. Hailing from China, Poon Tang was infamously good at satisfying the clientele, so much so that her name would later become synonymous with the now sullied term of “gonna get me some poontang.” Needless to say, her name and the term still maintains a more dignified connotation than that of a “Rusty Venture.”
The Everleigh Club might be the only brothel in American history that enhanced, rather than diminished, a man’s reputation. Clients reportedly boasted, “I’m going to get Everleighed” tonight, which helped to popularize the phrase “get laid.” A man wouldn’t want to be seen at the “lower” houses, however.
The early history of the sisters is wrapped up in the War Between the States. The fortune of their family reflected what was happening financially to families all across the south.
Harold Woodward wrote, “a grim reality of poverty & decay … Once-fertile fields were covered with scrub oaks and stunted pines, the landscape dotted with decayed fences, half-starved cattle, ramshackle houses and the remnants of crumbling mansions.”
The sisters’ grandparents died. Their dad had to stop practicing law and farm the land. Agricultural prices were low. Taxes & interest were high. Income was scarce. Their father’s brother had stolen most of the family money secretly and moved to Missouri.
Their mother and little sister died when Ada was 12 & Minna was 10. Baby brother George was given to an aunt to raise. The sisters began to detach themselves from life. The family moved to Madison County (VA) where their neighbors were former Virginia governor & confederate general (with 5 children). Visits to his mansion reminded them of everything they lost.
Lula, another sister, died and the family moved from Virginia to Warrensburg, Missouri, where their father had relatives. They grew up believing daddy was the only man that mattered … why marry?
Minna & Ada did marry, but needed to flee for their lives because of physical abuse.
The sisters concluded from their experiences that men were greedy, brutal, spend thrifts, and not to be trusted. A niece, Evelyn Diment, would later write to Irving Wallace in 1989 about her great aunts,
“They were struggling because they were at the end of the Civil War and there were very few ways to make money. Their plantation was lost because they couldn’t pay taxes. They began as prostitutes and they became madams. Their father put them in the business, and then these women made a marvelous success out of it … Southern families have a way of keeping things very quiet. And if anyone knew anything, they kept their mouth shut.”
The sisters provided for their family in the only way they knew how. They changed their last name. Their grandmother signed all correspondence with “Everly Yours” and the name of their new club was established: Everleigh.
Everleigh Club Admission: $10
Bottle of Champagne : $12
At a time when the average wage per week was $6, those visiting the Everleigh Club found they were spending anywhere from $200-$1500 per visit. If a patron only spent $50, they were asked not to return.
Was it right? …. NO
Do I approve of it? … NO
Can I understand it? … YES!
The business management skills and acumen of the sisters is undebatable.
Yes, they did much better than other “wayward” women of the Victorian era whether they were located in Chicago, Philly, NYC, Washington DC, major European cities, etc.
Even though their “business” prospered beyond what they dreamed, they do represent an important aspect of the Victorian Era.
(Left)The Everleigh Club at 2131 South Dearborn.
(Right)The Everleigh Club just before demolition in July 1933.
The Everleigh sisters Minna and Ada—the madams of the Everleigh Club—carried out very different duties in the operation of the club. Ada, the soft-spoken sister, mainly focused on handling all the business transactions, which included handling the books and allocating finances. She did not only take care of the logistics the club required but she also was responsible for hiring new girls. On the other hand, Minna, the outgoing sister, was responsible for carrying out lessons to teach the new girls charm and culture. Her sass lent her the ability to effortlessly interact with guests. Often Minna was seen socializing with guests near the parlors or welcoming them with a friendly greeting into the club. Any duty that required personal interactions was handled by Minna.
The Everleigh "Pullman Room" Designed to Look like a Pullman Train car, Chicago, 1909
Ada and Minna Simms Lester were two very young women with a very fortunate career. In the early 1900's their stardom took off through their flourishing establishment called the Everleigh Club. Their creation was nothing less than luxurious with its spectacular furnishings and upscale requirements; they provided only the best for their customers. With that being said, it is safe to conclude that the Everleigh Club was an extravagant attraction for this time period. Prior to relocating to Chicago, the Everleigh sisters toured brothels in many cities, trying to find a location which had "plenty of wealthy men but no superior houses." They were directed to Chicago by Cleo Maitland, a madam in Washington, D.C., who suggested they contact Effie Hankins in Chicago. Prior to relocating to Chicago, the Everleigh sisters toured brothels in many cities, trying to find a location which had "plenty of wealthy men but no superior houses." After buying Hankins's brothel at 2131-2133 South Dearborn Street, they fired all the women and completely redecorated the entire building with the most luxurious appointments available. Silk curtains, damask easy chairs, oriental rugs, mahogany tables, gold rimmed china and silver dinner ware, and perfumed fountains in every room. A $15,000 gold-leafed piano (the price is the equivalent of $369,205 in 2007) stood in the Music Room, mirrored ceilings, a library filled with finely bound volumes, an art gallery featuring nudes in gold frames -- no expense was spared. While the heavyweight boxer Jack Johnson thought the $57 gold spittoons in his café were worth boasting about, the patrons of the Everleigh Club were obliged to expectorate in $650 gold cuspidors. The Everleigh Club was described by Chicago's Vice Commission as "the most famous and luxurious house of prostitution in the country.Prior to relocating to Chicago, the Everleigh sisters toured brothels in many cities, trying to find a location which had "plenty of wealthy men but no superior houses."
After buying Hankins's brothel at 2131-2133 South Dearborn Street, they fired all the women and completely redecorated the entire building with the most luxurious appointments available. Silk curtains, damask easy chairs, oriental rugs, mahogany tables, gold rimmed china and silver dinner ware, and perfumed fountains in every room. A $15,000 gold-leafed piano (the price is the equivalent of $369,205 in 2007) stood in the Music Room, mirrored ceilings, a library filled with finely bound volumes, an art gallery featuring nudes in gold frames -- no expense was spared. While the heavyweight boxer Jack Johnson thought the $57 gold spittoons in his café were worth boasting about, the patrons of the Everleigh Club were obliged to expectorate in $650 gold cuspidors. The Everleigh Club was described by Chicago's Vice Commission as "the most famous and luxurious house of prostitution in the country."
Prior to the opening of the Everleigh Club, Ada was responsible for recruiting talent for the club. She started by contacting her former employees in Omaha and spreading the word through brothels across the country. She conducted face-to-face interviews with all the applicants.
The Everleigh Club - America's Most Famous Brothel
On the other hand, not all women who participated in this sort business had it that easy. Prostitution during the early 1900's in Chicago was a very rough experience for the majority of these women. While the Everleigh Club charged men fifty dollars for secluded time with one of their women, most prostitutes were only paid about twenty-five cents for their work.
Everleigh Club, Rose Parlor Room, Chicago
Also, many of these young women were beaten and taken advantage of by the men who worked for them and sold them to different brothels. Even though some women were lucky enough to partake in the glamour that the Everleigh Club had to offer, the majority of prostitutes in this section of history in Chicago used this business as a way to get by during hard conditions in this time period. The clientele of the Everleigh House included captains of industry, important politicians and European nobility and royalty. Among them were Marshall Field, Jr., Edgar Lee Masters, Theodore Dreiser, Ring Lardner, John Warne Gates, Jack Johnson, and Prince Henry of Prussia.
Minna Everleigh (left) and Ada of the Everleigh Social Cluв Minna (1866-1948) and Ada (1865-1960) Everleigh, arrived in Chicago in 1899 from Omaha and the doors opened on 1 February 1900 what soon became the most famous brothel in America. Lavish rooms made their services seem respectable to many including the press. Regular patrons included Marshall Field, Jr., poet Edgar Lee Masters, author Theodore Dreiser, columnist Ring Lardner, industrialist John Warne Gates, boxer Jack Johnson, actor John Barrymore and Prince Heinrich of Prussia. Their corporate headquarters was located in the heart of the Levee District at 2131-2133 S. Dearborn Street. Their phone number was CALumet 412.
The $15,000 Gold-Leafed Piano at the Everleigh Social Club
The Everleigh sisters spared no expense in their redecoration of their brothel which they named the Everleigh Club. They replaced all old furnishings with new lavish furnishings including: Mahogany and walnut paneling, tapestries, oriental rugs, statuary, gold-nude paintings, gold-rim china and silver dinner ware, perfumed foundations in every room, a music parlor within a $15,000 gold-leafed piano, mirrored ceilings, and a library complete with finely bound volumes. A dozen parlors were orientated on the first floor.
The Grand Ballroom of the Everleigh Social Club
Each parlor consisted of a certain theme such as: the Silver Parlor, the Gold Parlor, the Rose Parlor, or the Japanese Throne Room-all of which appealed to the varying groups of clientele the club received. The upstairs of the Everleigh Club held the private bedrooms were clientele could experience enjoy a more personal encounter with the women of his choosing alongside luxurious divans, damask chairs, gilt bathtubs and warbling canaries. As luxurious, the dining room's design emulated a private Pullman cart with the corresponding ornate gold and mahogany trimmings. The menu featured only the finest entrees such as: duck, caviar, lobster, deviled crab, fried oysters, goose capton, and an excellent selection of wine. It is due to all these extravagant amenities the Everleigh Club was dubbed "probably the most famous and luxurious house of prostitution in the country" by the Chicago Vice Commission.
The Everleigh Social Club, Oriental Music Room
The Everleigh quickly gained a reputation as an upscale gentleman's club, so much so that the Everleigh sisters were forced to turn away prospective clients even on opening day on February 1, 1900. The club's extensive popularity afforded Minna and Ada the opportunity to select their clientele. Only those men deemed suitable by Minna and Ada gained admittance into the Everleigh Club. The Everleigh sisters deemed a prospective client "worthy" to be admitted into the club if: the prospective client provided a letter of recommendation from an existing member, an engraved card, or through a formal introduction by Minna or Ada. These standards made the club extremely exclusive, indulging the desires of only the wealthy and influential men. "The cachet of being able to go there, just because they turned down so many people..It became an exclusive badge of honor just be to admitted."
The Everleigh Blue Bedroom, Chicago ca 1900
By 1902, the club expanded and the sisters were making donations to the First Ward Aldermen, "Bathhouse" John Coughlin and Michael "Hinky-Dink" Kenna, to ensure their continued leeway. After the club was closed, Minna Everleigh claimed in testimony that she "always entertained state legislators free in the club."
Although the city had sponsored numerous events for Henry, his main interest was a visit to the club. The sisters planned a bacchanalia for the visiting prince, including dancing, dining and a recreation of the dismemberment of Zeus's son. During one of the dances, a prostitute's slipper came off and spilled champagne. When one of the prince's entourage drank the champagne, he started the trend of drinking champagne from a woman's shoe.
On November 22, 1905, Marshall Field, Jr. suffered a gunshot that would prove to be fatal. Although newspapers reported it was an accident and occurred at his home, there is some evidence that he was shot by a prostitute at the Everleigh Club.
On January 9, 1910, Nathaniel Moore died of natural causes in the Chez Shaw brothel in Chicago's Levee district after spending much of the previous night at the Everleigh Club.
The club employed 15 to 25 cooks and maids.Gourmet meals featured iced clam juice, caviar, pheasants, ducks, geese, artichokes, lobster, fried oysters, devilled crabs, pecans and bonbons. There were three orchestras, and musicians played constantly, usually on the piano accompanied by strings. Publishing houses would publicize new songs by having them played at the Everleigh Club. The house was heated with steam in the winter and cooled with electric fans in the summer.
One of the notorious scandals that surrounded the Everleigh Club concerned the questionable death of Marshall Fields, Jr. On November 22, 1905, Fields experienced a fatal gunshot wound. Different theories arose as to how Fields received the gunshot wound. It was reported that he shot himself accidentally while cleaning his gun before a hunting trip. However, rumors alleged that Fields was actually at the Everleigh Club when he was shot and murdered by an Everleigh butterfly. The actual events that led to the cause of his death still arise suspicion among people.
On January 3, 1910, Nathaniel Moore also died under suspicious circumstances. It was said that Moore died of natural causes after spending the previous night at the Everleigh Club. He was found dead at the Chez Shaw brothel, and the events leading to his death were also questionable. Their House: From its 1900 opening until a forced closing on Oct. 24, 1910, America's most famous (and sumptuous) brothel operated in two adjoining three-story stone mansions at 2132 South Dearborn Street, well within Chicago's famous red-light Levee District. The buildings provided 50 rooms, including 12 soundproof reception parlors where three orchestras played, 30 bedrooms, a library, an art gallery, a dining room, and a Turkish ballroom complete with a huge fountain and a parquet floor. The most famous of the parlors was called the Gold Room and featured gilt furniture, gold-trimmed fishbowls, $650 cuspidors, and a $15,000 gold piano. Upstairs in the boudoirs, guests found marble-inlaid brass beds, mirrored ceilings, gold bathtubs, fresh-cut roses, oil paintings, and push-buttons to ring for champagne. One room had an automatic perfume spray over the bed, another had a silver-white spotlight which focused on a divan, a third had the furniture of a Turkish harem. Spending an evening at the Everleigh Club was such a special occasion that many guests publicly boasted of their adventures. Prince Henry of Prussia enjoyed a memorable orgy there in 1902. Other delighted celebrities who visited at least once included writers Ring Lardner, George Ade, and Percy Hammond, boxer "Gentleman" Jim Corbett, actor John Barrymore, and gambler "Bet a Million" Gates. Chicago newspapermen made it their favorite watering and wenching place. (When a small fire occurred in the club one evening, three of the top reporters on the Chicago Tribune were on hand to cover it.) Newsman Jack Lait once insisted, "Minna and Aida Everleigh are to pleasure what Christ was to Christianity." Poet Edgar Lee Masters was also a devoted patron. He once described a typical arrival at the Everleigh Club. Minna ("somehow the larger personality, the more impressive figure") would come to the door, walking with a sort of "cater-pillar bend and hump. . . . She was remarkably thin. Her hair was dark and frizzled, her face thin and refined. 'How is my boy?" was her cordial salutation." Specialties and Eccentricities: Often on special occasions, Minna would set a number of butterflies loose to flit about the house. Madam Cleo Maitland, an old friend of the sisters, once remarked that "no man is going to forget he got his behind fanned by a butterfly at the Everleigh Club." Aida once told journalist Charles Washburn how she selected her "hostesses." "I talk with each applicant myself," she said. "She must have worked somewhere else before coming here. We do not like amateurs. . . . To get in, a girl must have a pretty face and figure, must be in perfect health, must look well in evening clothes. If she is addicted to drugs, or to drink, we do not want her. . . ." The girls received weekly instruction in makeup, dress, and Southern manners. They were required to read books from the Everleigh library. And Minna lectured them on general operating procedures. "Be polite, patient, and forget what you are here for," she said. "Gentlemen are only gentlemen when properly introduced. . . .No lineup for selection as in other houses. . . . It means, briefly, that your language will have to be ladylike and that you will forgo the entreaties you have used in the past. You have the whole night before you, and one $50 client is more desirable than five $10 ones. Less wear and tear. . . .Give, but give interestingly and with mystery. I want you girls to be proud that you are in the Everleigh Club." The rewards for such conduct were princely. The sisters made an annual profit of about $120,000 (despite the fact that expenses were high and that graft cost them over $10,000 a year). When a wave of reform forced them to close the club on Dearborn Street, Minna and Aida departed with a cool million in cash, furnishings worth $150,000, and about $200,000 in jewelry. They lost a hunk of it in an abortive attempt to reopen on Chicago's West Side in 1912, but they still were able to retreat into comfortable obscurity. Like most investors, they were hit hard by the stock market collapse of 1929, but they salvaged an expensive home off New York's Central Park, where they lived the life of genteel club women. "All they ask for the remainder of their lives," reported Charles Washburn, "is a roof and one quart of champagne a week."
Ada Everleigh Portrait Commissioned in Omaha, Nebraska
1895 Minna Everleigh Portrait Commissioned in Omaha, Nebraska
Ada and Minna Everleigh, born Ada and Minna Simms, were two sisters who operated the Everleigh Club, a high-priced brothel in the Levee District of Chicago during the first decade of the Twentieth Century. Ada, the eldest, was born in Greene County, Virginia on February 15, 1864, and died in Charlottesville, Virginia on January 5, 1960. Minna Sims was born in Greene County on July 13, 1866 and died in New York, New York on September 16, 1948.The 1870 census reveals that they were the daughters of a farmer named James Montgomery Simms of Greene County,
The sisters claimed an alternative biography, which has long been accepted as factual. Karen Abbott has debunked their story.
According to their story, Minna and Ada Sims were born outside of Louisville, Kentucky in 1876 to a wealthy lawyer who had fled to Kentucky from Virginia when Benedict Arnold invaded Virginia in 1781. The two sisters had been to finishing school and had proper social debuts. When Minna was seventeen, she says, she married a man whose last name was Lester who turned out to be abusive. Ada claimed to have been married to Lester's brother, who also turned out to be abusive. After both marriages had failed, they became actresses. Claiming their father died in the early 1890s, they said they came into a legacy of $35,000.
According to Abbott, whose research included an interview with the sisters' great niece, Minna and Ada were born in Greene County, Virginia to Montgomery Simms, the second and third of four daughters. Their mother died when they were young, as did their sisters. There were three brothers, who all survived to adulthood. Although the family was wealthy at the time of their birth, they lost much of their wealth during the Civil War and the family lost their plantation when they couldn't pay their taxes. There is no proof that either sister was ever married. Stranded by a theater company in Omaha, Nebraska, the sisters changed their last name to "Everleigh," adapted from their grandmother's habit of signing letters with "Everly Yours" and opened their first brothel in Omaha in 1895. When the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition was held in Omaha in 1898 they opened a second brothel in the vicinity of the event in Kountze Park and quickly doubled their investment. They then decided to close their brothels and seek out a more affluent city.
By 1900 they settled in Chicago and opened a high class brothel called the Everleigh Club which did good business until closed down in 1911. In 1911, after a vice commission report, Mayor Carter Harrison Jr., son of legendary Mayor Carter Harrison, ordered the club closed. Minna responded philosophically, "If the Mayor says we must close, that settles it.... I'll close up shop and walk out with a smile on my face." And so they did.
Ada was 35 years old, Minna 33. They took a trip to Europe. With $1,000,000 in cash, $200,000 in jewelry and a $15,000 gold piano, they returned to New York, changed their names back to Lester, and spent the rest of their days going to the theater and hosting poetry reading circles. Minna died in 1948, Ada in 1960.
Minna, the outspoken one, said, "If it weren't for married men, we couldn't have carried on at all, and if it weren't for cheating married women we could have made another million."
Although the Everleigh sisters and their employees earned good money in luxurious circumstances, most prostitutes worked in very different situations.
White slavers would bring teenage girls to Chicago where they would be repeatedly raped before being sold to a brothel. In 1907, an 18-year-old reported that she had been drugged and raped continuously for three days before she was sold for $50, the cost of a meal at Everleigh House.
Many whores worked for 25 cents at a time. Others were shop girls or factory workers who worked a few nights a week to pay their bills or to buy a few luxuries. The Everleigh sisters were savvy and lucky. Most others were not.
At the time it was closed by the city authorities Ada was 47 and Minna 45: they then retired and moved to New York.
The Everleigh Club
By Louise Kiernan Tribune staff reporter
Behind the doors of the twin brownstones at 2131-33 S. Dearborn St., Minna Everleigh gave her final instructions: "You have the whole night before you and one $50 client is more desirable than five $10 ones. Less wear and tear," she told the women assembled before her.
With that, Minna and her older sister, Ada, opened what would become the best little bordello in Chicago and, for a time, one of the best known in the world. Minna and Ada Everleigh, then 21 and 23, took their name from their grandmother's habit of signing her letters "Everly Yours." Raised in a prosperous Southern family, the sisters fled bad marriages to become touring actresses and ended up in Chicago after running a bagnio in Omaha during the Trans- Mississippi Exposition. Amid the grimier brothels of the Levee, Chicago's notorious vice district, the Everleigh Club sparkled like one of Minna's many diamond pins. The Tribune described the 50-room mansion as the world's most richly furnished house of courtesans. Guests were entertained in opulent parlors, among them the Gold Room, which featured gold-rimmed fishbowls, gold spittoons and a miniature gold piano, and the Chinese Room, where gentlemen could set off tiny firecrackers.
In an era when a beer cost a nickel, the Everleigh sisters charged $12 for a bottle of champagne. Dinners started at $50 a person--without female company. Gentlemen who left without spending at least $50 were advised not to return. Exempt from that rule were newspapermen, for whom the sisters professed a soft spot. If Tribune overnight clerks needed to round up reporters quickly, they were told to call Calumet 412, the club's famed telephone number.
Thanks to the protection money the sisters gave police and aldermen, the Everleigh Club operated freely. But its extraordinary success eventually led to its downfall. A brochure advertising the club fell into the hands of Mayor Carter Harrison Jr., and on Oct. 24, 1911, he ordered it shut down.
The sisters left with more than $1 million in cash, jewelry, stocks and bonds. Ada and Minna resettled on the West Side, but neighbors drove them out. They moved to New York City, and there they led quiet lives under assumed names and started a neighborhood poetry circle and came to New York and in 1913, using the name Lester, bought a brownstone at 20 West 71st Street and resided there for many years. Many people come to New York in search of opportunity and excitement, but the Everleigh/Lester/Simms sisters came to it for a quiet retirement and theater. And so, having left their glory days behind in Chicago, they lived quietly on West 71st Street for years, attending theater, joining some women’s organizations, presiding over a poetry reading group, and visiting relatives in Virginia once a year. Perhaps the only one who knew of their past was Charles Washburn, a Chicago Tribune reporter whom they had known back in Chicago, and who would visit them once a year to share a bottle of champagne and reminisce. Drawing on information gleaned from these sessions, in 1934 he published Come into My Parlor: A Biography of the Aristocratic Everleigh Sisters of Chicago, a readable but undocumented biography that presents uncritically whatever they told him and is therefore not too reliable a source. When Minna died in 1948 at age 82, Ada sold the brownstone and went to live with her nephew, James W. Simms, in Charlottesville, Virginia, taking with her some of the furniture from the Everleigh Club – “beautiful furniture,” the nephew assured me later in a letter. She died there in 1960 at age 96. When we corresponded in 1981, Mr. Simms assured me that his aunts, whom he had visited in New York, were “two of the kindest, most caring people I have ever known.”
After Minna died in 1948, Ada sold off most of their belongings, including the gold piano, and moved to Virginia. She died in 1960, at 93.
Angels Of The Line1905 "As soon as the bullet pierced Marshall Field Jr.—the only son and heir of Marshall Field, founder of the splendorous department store, the man who famously said, “Give the lady what she wants”— Chicago made the story even bigger than it really was. Amplifying things, good or bad, was what Chicago did best. In the days following November 22, 1905, rumors about the shooting spun through the city's streets. The fruit cart vendors whispered to the newsboys who shouted to the hansom drivers who murmured to the society women who were overheard by servants who gossiped with bartenders who bantered with pimps and whores and drunks. Did they hear the wound was just like the one that killed President McKinley? Tore through his abdomen, caught a corner of the liver, grazed the stomach and skidded to a halt outside the spinal cord—lucky for Marshall Junior. He was in his bedroom at the Prairie Avenue mansion, home alone with his son and the hired help, when a hollow boom split the air. A cry followed, thin and drawn out like taffy. The family nurse and the butler scaled the stairs in flying jumps and found him slumped in a chair, wan face seeking cover in the curve of his shoulder. Goodness, the blood—it was everywhere. Veining across his shirt, fissuring down the wall. His automatic revolver came to rest on the tip of his shoe. He tried to straighten, tread the air as if it were a lolling wave. "I shot myself," Marshall Junior said. "Accidentally." But it couldn't have been an accident. Who really believed that Field dropped his gun, and that the trigger could slam an armchair with sufficient force to explode a cartridge? A reporter at the Chicago Daily News said it was impossible—he took an identical, unloaded revolver, and hurled it several times to the floor. Not once did the thing go off. Marshall Junior must have pointed the gun at himself; it was the only way. And a suicide attempt made sense. He had suffered a nervous breakdown the year prior, in 1904—this act could be a decisive sequel. No, what really happened was sadder than suicide, more pitiful than a nervous breakdown: Field had sneaked off to the Levee district for a tryst at the Everleigh Club. So what if he was married, the father of three—he had money and status and power, and men with those things always went to the Everleigh Club. A prostitute shot him, maybe in the Gold Room or the Japanese Parlor or beneath the glass chandeliers suspended like stalactites from the ceiling. Later, as the sun deserted the sky and the streets gripped the fog, those Scarlet Sisters, Minna and Ada Everleigh, ordered his unconscious body smuggled out and planted in his home. Those Scarlet Sisters heard all about their alleged hand in the incident, how they stood idly by while one of their harlots blasted the poor man, then directed the covert removal of his bloody body. "We are a funeral parlor," Ada Everleigh said, "instead of a resort." Her younger sister, Minna, gave a blunt, trumpet-burst laugh. Ada parsed her words as if they were in limited supply, but damn if she didn't load each one before it left her mouth. The Chicago rumor mill operated as predictably as the Everleighs' regular clients; no matter how gossip began, or where it twisted and turned, it ended up, invariably, at the doorstep of 2131-2133 South Dearborn Street. Nonsense, every bit of it. The sisters had decided long ago to permit no stains, blood or otherwise, on their house. Neither would the Everleighs add their own voices to the din. Discretion paid—but also had its price. Even Chicago's newspapers kept their distance from the speculation for fear that Marshall Field Sr. would pull his advertising dollars. He certainly wouldn't appreciate reports that his son, currently laying in critical condition at Mercy Hospital, had visited a whorehouse, even one as dignified as the Everleigh Club. Still, journalists staked out the sisters all week, trying to score something—anything—that would be safe to print. Minna and Ada waited in the front parlor, expecting yet another newsman. All thirty Everleigh Club harlots remained upstairs in their boudoirs, preparing for the night ahead, running a razor under their arms, down and between their legs—clients didn't have a smooth woman at home. They packed themselves with sponges, made certain they had enough douche, checked cabinets for the little black pills that, along with three days of hot baths, usually "brought a girl around" from any unwanted condition. They yanked and tied each other's corsets, buttoned up gowns made of slippery silk, unrolled black stockings over long legs. Hair was wound tight with pins or left to fall in tousled waves, depending on the preference of their regulars. A dab of gasoline—the newest fad in perfume, if you couldn't afford an automobile—behind the ears, across the wrists and ankles, between the breasts. Eyes rimmed in black and lashes painted, standing stiffer than the prongs of a fork. Each courtesan had a name chosen by her peers. Once she entered this life—the life—she discarded all remnants of the one she'd left behind. Minna navigated the silk couches, the easy chairs and the grand piano, the statues of Greek goddesses peering through exotic palms, the bronze effigies of Cupid and Psyche, the imported rugs that swallowed footsteps. She had an odd walk, a sort of caterpillar bend and hump, pause and catch up, as friend and frequent client, the poet Edgar Lee Masters, described it. She came to rest before a wide-paneled window and swallowed, her throat squeezing behind a brooch of diamonds thick as a clenched fist. Holding back the curtain, she surveyed Dearborn Street. Arc lamps stretched up and out, unfurling bold ribbons of light. The air was thick and yellow, as if the varnish manufacturer on the next block had slathered his product across the sky. Visibility was reduced to the next street, or the next corner, or sometimes just the next step. No matter: Minna didn't have to see the Levee district to know what it was up to. Panders, an underworld term that served as both verb and noun, were outfitted in dandy ties and jaunty hats, lurking in corners and alleys. Eugene Hustion and his wife, Lottie, the "King and Queen of the Cokies," weighed thirty pounds of cocaine and half as much morphine. Soon their salesmen would make the rounds. Funny thing was, Minna knew, Lottie was a college graduate who spoke five languages, and in her spare time composed music and painted portraits. Down the street, at the House of All Nations, johns lined up at the $2 and $5 entrances—too bad the suckers didn't know that the same girls worked both sides. Blind men cranked hurdy gurdies, spinning tangled reams of melody. The air reeked of sweat and blood and swine entrails, drifting up from the Union Stock Yards just a few blocks southwest. Mickey Finn hawked his eponymous "Special" at his Dearborn Street bar. Merry Widdo Kiddo, the famous peep-show girl, warmed up her booth, breasts twirling like pinwheels behind the glass. Levee piano players—"professors," they were called—cracked their knuckles before plucking out the hiccupped notes of ragtime. Minna watched a figure turn the corner of 21st Street onto Dearborn, and waited for the solemn gong of the bell. She patted the dark, frizzed coil of hair at the nape of her neck, and reached for the door. From knuckle to wrist to elbow, waist to bodice to neck, she was ablaze in jewels. Diamonds played with the parlor light, tossing tiny rainbows against the wall. "How is my boy?" she said, her customary greeting for every caller. The boy this time was Frank Carson of the Chicago Inter Ocean, a once-respected newspaper that had declined in recent years. Minna invited him inside with a slow-motion sweep of her arm. He was no stranger to the Everleigh Club; every reporter in the city knew their phone number, Calumet 412, by heart. Carson saw precisely what the Everleighs wished him to see, and knew what they wished him to know. Both sisters had a prim, close-lipped smile, genuine but guarded, as if a full-on grin risked conveying complexities best left unmined. The younger one, Minna, was the talker. She spoke in clipped, staccato sentences, shooting words from her mouth—it was so good to see her boy, it had been far too long since his last visit, he should stop by more often. She broke occasionally for a frenetic drag of a gold-tipped, perfumed cigarette. Ada stood next to her sister, quiet. Her eyes were darker, her hair lighter, her figure fuller. Her hands were wind chill cold. Frank Carson knew they ran a clean place with clean girls; their house doctor never forged the reports. He knew that Sunday was "Beau Night" at the Everleigh Club, when girls were permitted to see their sweethearts, to accept flowers and hold hands, to experience all the thrills of dating as if they lived in homes. He knew there had been a shooting at the Club two years earlier, an unfortunate incident that was no fault of the sisters'. He knew the Everleighs brought a bit of decency to a profession rife with shame. He knew Prince Henry of Prussia had visited the Club three years earlier and sipped champagne from a courtesan's shoe. He knew they had the ear and the respect of the most powerful men not only in the Levee district, but the entire city: Big Jim Colosimo, Ike Bloom, Bathhouse John and Hinky Dink Kenna. He'd heard they'd come up from Virginia or Kentucky, or a farm someplace in Indiana—Minna insisted that their Southern accents were part of an act. They'd been married, the story went, to vicious, violent men. He knew a fellow Chicago journalist, Jack Lait, declared the sisters were "to pleasure what Christ was to Christianity." What the reporter didn't know was how avidly the sisters, generally speaking, disliked his gender. Minna took charge, ordering her boy to please sit and make himself comfortable. Yes—on that silk divan. She and Ada settled across from him. Edmund, the butler, appeared with a flute of champagne, which Carson downed in one zealous gulp. Minna signaled to keep the bubbly coming. Carson asked what they knew he would ask. If Marshall Field Jr. had indeed ventured into the Levee on the night before he was shot, where else would a man of his stature go but to the Everleigh Club? Minna and Ada smiled but said nothing. Had Field, as one nurse alleged, been pierced by a paper knife and not a bullet? The sisters replied that they had no idea. If the Everleighs really had no involvement in or knowledge of the tragedy, why not dispel the rumors and just say so? Edmund arrived on cue, offered their guest another drink. Carson, like all the others, left with a giddy champagne buzz but no story. But Marshall Field Jr. wasn't dead yet, not in any sense of the word. *** Chicago was changing. Every day it awoke a new city. Its leading citizens no longer recognized it as the place that had raised them. The stream of immigration that flowed in the 1890s became a deluge during the first decade of the new century. More arrived every day from Italy and Germany, France and China, Russia and Greece, bringing with them their odd customs and habits, their peculiar religions and strange tongues. They joined the thousands that had descended during the 1893 World's Fair, disreputable men and women who stayed long after the Ferris Wheel was dismantled and Buffalo Bill skipped town. Together these interlopers built their own cities within the city, block after block of gambling parlors and opium dens and brothels where inmates dangled bare breasts from windows and did unspeakable things with animals. What depravity went on inside a dive named the Bucket of Blood? Did a street called Bed Bug Row belong in a town like Chicago? The horrors were spreading to respectable neighborhoods and solid homes. Young women were no longer content to sit with suitors on front porches or in parlors. Ten months earlier, in January 1905, a teenage girl from a good family guzzled a mug of chloroform and died on the floor of 33rd Street's American Dance Hall. There were whispers about syndicates of evil men, foreign men, who lured girls to the city, drugged and raped them at "clearing houses," and sold them for fifty dollars to enterprising madams. Advertisements in newspapers seeking secretaries and clerks and leads for musical productions were best read skeptically. The taxi driver could deliver a girl straight to evil's door. The nickel theaters were moral suicide. Not even the ice cream parlors were safe. If things continued as they were, the Levee district would corner Chicago and swallow it whole, this fine, proud city that wielded its triumphs like a scepter and wore its reputation like a crown. Surely the rest of America would not be far behind. The Marshall Field Jr. shooting was a seismic boom with aftershocks that rattled the Everleigh Club. The sisters would be hit from both sides, the law and the outlaws, two diametrically opposed groups who disdained them for precisely the same reason. The Club was the gleaming symbol of the Levee district, shining too brightly on those who operated best in the dark. "They were the Angels of the Line," wrote journalist Charles Washburn, twenty-five years after the war over the Levee, "and, as angels, hated and persecuted." But on that fall night, as Minna Everleigh watched the reporter disappear into the murk of Dearborn Street, she did not fret about what trouble might come, or who would be behind it. She and Ada had work to do: keep books, prepare the courtesans and greet their boys, watching each man admire the seesaw sway of a girl's rear as he followed her up the stairs. Would he like a warm bath, or something scrumptious from the Pullman Buffet, or a favor far too naughty to say aloud? They ran the most successful—and respected—whorehouse in America, and had no reason, yet, to believe that would ever change."
Something "Hinky" about
Chicago Tribune archive photo
Michael "Hinky Dink" Kenna in an undated photograph. Kenna was alderman, and then committeeman, of Chicagos 1st Ward from 1897 to 1946. He shared the aldermanic seat with "Bathhouse" John Coughlin, and together they created a powerful political machine. Their area, known as the "Levee District", became a haven for tavern and brothels, including the Everleigh Social Club.
Chicago Tribune archive photo., Chicago Tribune archive photo.
"Bathhouse" John Coughlin in an undated photograph. Coughlin, together with Michael "Hinky Dink" Kenna, shared an alderman seat in the 1st Ward. Their area, known as the "Levee District", was notorious for its tavern and brothels, including the Everleigh Club.
Chicago Tribune archive photo
A man points out a "hidden" hallway in the dilapidated rooms of the former Everleigh Social Club in 1933. It was demolished shortly after this photograph was taken.
Chicago Tribune archive photo
The alcove of the Blue Bedroom at the Club.
Chicago Tribune archive photo
The Red Bedroom and parlor. From a brochure the sisters published.
Chicago Tribune archive photo
Ada Everleigh, one-time operator of the notorious Everleigh Social Club, the famed Chicago bordello. She ran it with her sister, Minna.
Chicago Tribune archive photo
Minna Everleigh of the Everleigh Social Club. The original caption from the Tribune archive reads: "These photos made in 1908 were presented to their legal advisor--and in solid gold frames. He still has the original frames in which these photos have remained through the years."
the Reverend Ernest Bell started preaching outside the brothels in 1902 after he was propositioned in front of the Chicago Theological Seminary. He admonished the district's sinners to repent despite being bashed and gassed by Levee pimps. Census 1900 What happens when the census taker comes to a whorehouse, especially the plushest one in the nation? Because I once did considerable research on the sisters, in preparation for a biography that I later gave up on, I can answer precisely, having combed the census records of 1900 until I found the entry for 2131 South Dearborn. When the enumerator called on June 6, 1900, Minna gave her age as 29 and Ada as 26, thus shaving 5 and 10 years off their ages respectively. As for the twelve “boarders” counted, not one confessed to being over 29. And their occupations? Artist, bookkeeper, cashier, seamstress, dressmaker, dry-goods clerk, milliner, saleslady, actress, cashier, and cook, plus one blank, probably the most honest answer of the bunch. Did the census taker know he was being lied to? Almost certainly , this being the city’s red-light district, with numerous “boarding houses” with only female boarders. The End The Everleigh Club achieved national, even international, fame, but in time all good things come to an end. Anti-vice crusaders had long campaigned to close not just the Everleigh Club but the entire Chicago red-light district, but the Club’s reputation, and the sisters’ generous pay-offs to local politicians, had protected it. Then, in 1911, the sisters published a brochure entitled The Everleigh Club Illustrated, describing the club and illustrating it with photographs of its sumptuous interior. The brochure came to the attention of Mayor Carter H. Harrison, who took offense at it and ordered the police chief to close the Club once and for all. Having amassed a fortune, the sisters accepted his decision and threw a wild closing-night party to end things with a bang. They then sold the place, traveled a bit, and in 1913 moved to New York, taking some of the furnishings with them. Gravesite Minna Lester Simms
COME INTO MY PARLOR
LIBRARY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT URBANA-CHAMPAIGN
IN MEMORY OF STEWART S. HOWE JOURNALISM CLASS OF 1928
COME INTO MY PARLOR
A BIOGRAPHY OF THE ARISTOCRATIC EVERLEIGH SISTERS OF CHICAGO
By Charles Washburn
Knickerbocker Publishing Co
NATIONAL LIBRARY PRESS
PRINTED IN U.S.A. BY HUDSON OFFSET CO., INC.— N.Y.C.
1. The Upward Path . _ 11
II. The First Night 21
III. Papillons de la Nun 31
IV. Bath-House John and a First Ward Ball.... 43
V. The Sideshow 55
VI. The Big Top .... r 65
VII. The Prince and the Pauper 77
VIII. Murder in The Rue Dearborn 83
IX. Growing Pains 103
X. Those Nineties in Chicago 117
XL Big Jim Colosimo 133
XII. Tinsel and Glitter 145
XIII. Calumet 412 159
XIV. The "Perfessor" 167
XV. Night Press Rakes 173
XVI. From Bawd to Worse 181
XVII. The Forces Mobilize 187
XVIII. Handwriting on the Wall 193
XIX. The Last Night 201
XX. Wayman and the Final Raids 213
XXI. Exit Madams 241
My grateful appreciation to
Lillian Roza, for checking dates
John Kelley, for early Chicago history
Ned Alvord, for data on brothels in general
The Chicago Public Library
The New York Public Library
and The Sisters Themselves
of The York Daily News WHO NEVER WAS IN ONE
THE EVERLEIGH SISTERS, should the name lack a familiar
ring, were definitely the most spectacular madams of the most spectacular bagnio
which millionaires of the early- twentieth century supped and sported. Grandpa
could tell you a few things about the Everleigh Sisters if he would. He would call
them the Ziegfeld of their profession, if he dared to speak. Instead, Grandpa will
fidget in his chair, blush, stammer and carry on something dreadfully if you bring
up the subject. It is advisable not to ask him any questions should any details
in this book lack clarity.
However, if the reader should forget himself and pester
the aging gentleman for a pointer here and there, don't let
him get away with the reply, "I wouldn't know. It was
before my time." Both the Everleighs were living and both
were about sixty years old when this chronicle was written —
in the summer of 1936.
Men of the world knew the Everleigh Sisters and boasted
of exploits in their resort. But most of the boasting was done
in the backroom of the corner saloon — to "the boys". "It cost
me a hundred smackers and what did I get?" Grandpa
would say. The jolly crowd laughed and some wisecracker
would reply : "If you only spent a hundred you were lucky you
got a kiss." Those were the happy hours. "Whatever became
of those two sisters?" became a common query.
All of which leads up to a problem that confronted the
Everleigh Sisters when they decided to shake of! an unholy
past. They bought a residence in Chicago's West Side, and
the neighbors yelped to the skies. They sold it at a sacrifice.
Next they moved to New York where they bought another
home, and again the neighbors registered a great hullabaloo.
But the sisters fought — and won. A book of verse finally
was dedicated to them under their assumed name. It wasn't
easy, climbing into a "respectable" bandwagon.
Grandpa, you see, wants no part of a retired madam.
Even so, he and too many puritanical disturbers opposed the
Everleigh right to live privately among the "nice folks".
The fact that the sisters had a million dollars, no mort-
gages on their residence and a matronly dignity did not
prevent the neighbors from lampooning them until time alone
healed the breach. It's an American custom and you cannot
This is mentioned principally to explain why no satis-
factory biography ever before has been available. The sisters,
having buried the past in 1911 when the Everleigh Club
of Chicago was bolted and shuttered, had refused to talk
about their night life. This is the first time they ever
"opened up". And, don't mistake, they wanted no book for
at least another five years — never, if possible. They "lived
down" their voracious vacation from a tedious treadmill and
today tremble at the thought: What would our friends say
if they knew? To have been a fallen woman is a blot, but
to have been a madam — horrors ! Nobody has yet discovered
what to do about a retired — or should we say reformed? —
The sisters are at last convinced that sooner or later a
report on their share of Chicago's social history was bound to
break the spell of silence. We hope and pray that no prying
eyes seek them out. They are regenerated souls and they
rate secrecy. One cannot say they are sorry for their "first
false step" because they are not. They merely did not wish to
be bothered; no longer have they the strength to combat
further annoyance. Live and let live and keep the hell out
is their slant.
The Everleigh Sisters gave more lustre to a shabby evil
than all the other madams in this country combined; they
uplifted a natural outlet and they paid the penalty of the
misunderstood. Madams, we bow and we are sorry — sorry
that you retired.
THE UPWARD PATH
"We are a part of all that we have met and we've met them all."
THE MISSES MINNA and Ada Everleigh were born in
Kentucky — in the blue grass regions of Kentucky. Benedict
Arnold, during the capture of Richmond, Virginia, in 1781,
compelled their antecedents along with the governor and
legislature to flee beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains, but a
hill-billy contagion never caught up with the sisters. They
were Big City girls from the start.
Their family finally settled in Kentucky. Minna was
born on July 13th, 1878, exactly nine days after George M.
Cohan first had fire-crackers in Providence, R. I. Phineas
Taylor Barnum came into this world on a July 5th and James
Anthony Baley, his partner in a noted circus merger, was
born on a July 4th. Joyce Heth, an aged freak who paved
the way for the Barnum fortune, gave her birth as July 15,
and the first Bearded Lady to attain acclaim was hauled
into court in July. Minna, one therefore learns without the
aid of a horoscope, was destined for the show business on
the grand scale.
Ada was about two and one-half years older than Minna,
which shall be illuminating to many because the latter always
was the ruling force in their enterprises as well as the spokes-
man. Ada was born in February, 1876.
The name of the home town is of little consequence and
is withheld principally because their brother was alive in
1936 and because several of their kin were doing right well
down among the magnolias. There is no particular point
in embarrassing those who did not interfere with the careers
of the sisters.
COME INTO MY PARLOR
As a matter of record, the general belief always has been
that they came from Evansville, Indiana, and that their
southern accent was part of an act. This conjecture emanated
from a carbon answer to a common question in houses of
ill-repute. A chump never failed to ask:
"What made you enter a life like this ?"
The Everleighs had a neat reply competently rehearsed:
"The farm in Evansville — we couldn't stand it. The
mortgage, or, that mortgage, and the suffering, the hardships.
We always liked nice things."
A few tears; wine for the house. A chump had been
admitted into their confidence. Three orchestras, scattered
in the various rooms, were bidden to strike-up "On the Banks
of the Wabash" (Evansville is on the Ohio) — geography
and dull care were obliterated. Two lost sisters were mak-
ing up for an unhappy childhood! Pop went the corks!
Lift that old mortgage, men! The furnishings in the Ever-
leigh Club could lift the mortgages on a half dozen farms.
A chump never thought of that.
The Everleigh father was a prosperous lawyer, affording
his two favorite children a finishing school and lessons in
elocution. "Born actresses," he used to say, which was nearer
to a summary of their talents than he suspected.
Their ancestry was a little mixed — Scotch, Irish and
English. There was patrician blood in it and a trace of
shepherd, so flighty were their notions. They were tutored
privately and properly, emerging as debutantes in a blaze
of pulchritudinous and social fireworks. Modistes of Paris
and New York created shimmering, mermaid-like gowns
for the girls so subtly lined that immediately their slim
figures shaped them into precise perfection the eligible males
came from miles around.
They were not boy crazy. Two alert girls, they doubted
if any husband could make them as contended as they were
at home. There were servants to answer their call and
their every wish was fulfilled. They had an aristocratic
heritage and they live up to it — even in Chicago.
They were devoted to each other. From the time they
were able to walk until this was written they were pals.
They grew up together and they remained together. After
mare than fifty-eight years they were willing to die for each
other. Such affection between sisters comes only from a
perfect understanding: Ada let Minna do all the talking.
Two distinctly different types : Minna the aggressor, Ada the
defender. Minna led and Ada followed, and never did their
lines cross. It was a powerful combination. On the battle-
field or in the quiet retirement of recent years the dominant
Minna was the general while Ada, the aide, listened patiently
to whatever coup de grace was brewing. Together theirs
was a shameless life in a "life of shame." They knew the
ropes but they never jumped them. Minna made the rules;
Ada acquiesced. Harsh words — never! They couldn't
In their coming out days Minna exercised a discreetly
feminine nineteenth century wit so graciously that she be-
came the center of every event. She was an unusual per-
sonality; a vibrant, forceful character with reddish hair and
grayish blue eyes. Her figure was boyish and she 'had a keen
mentality. Down Louisville way she was often referred to as
"Kentucky's most intelligent woman." She was a great
reader, avoiding fiction for the deeper things; psychology
and other cultural studies interested her deeply. Sex subjects
and love affairs held no definite attraction.
As for Ada, she had slightly darker eyes and slightly
less drive. Minna, to her, was the star turn and she let it
go at that. There was the family resemblance in her sweet,
round face and a simple charm than men remember. She
never weighed more than one hundred and thirty-five pounds
— trim and pretty always. Both were southern belles and
proud of it.
There were parties and more parties. At nineteen (1897)
Minna was wooed and won by a southern gentleman, whose
recommendations were altered en route. She had been ward-
ing off marriage for two years. Doubtful of men after dark,
she suggested a high-noon wedding.
Continental society had been giving first choice to mid-
day ceremony and the girls respected old formality. Issuing
breakfast invitations for one o'clock amused the carefree
bride. . Late rising was her principal weakness.
Going strong for smart elegance she ordered flossy invi-
tations, a wedding cake and simple refreshments consisting of
mushroom and clam bisque, broiled breast of boned chicken,
hominy pyramids with cheese, rolls, olives, nuts, ice cream and
champagne for the guests.
To assure eternal love, the cake's shape was circular.
The mere suggestion of an oblong one shocked her into
dismissing the caterer. There were lilies-of-the-valley on
the cake to match the bridal bouquet and blossoms carried
by the bride's attendants. Extravagant and correct in every
A rose motif was repeated on the damask tablecloth, the
rose petal candies, and in the cutting of the crystal goblets.
Sentiment and fortune were hidden in the bridal cake.
Under the ornamental icing it was a traditional lady's
cake. The first incision was made by the bride herself to
insure good fortune. Then, in turn, each member of the
bridal party cut his own slice, hoping to find a lucky piece.
Under the icing there were two sets of fortune's tokens;
for the girl were rings to prophesy the next to be married,
dimes to signify the wealthiest (possibly a custom from
which John D. Rockefeller, Sr., picked up an idea), a wishbone
for the luckiest and a thimble to foretell an old maid. The
ushers claimed a similar ring, a bright dime, wee dice for the
luck man and a button for a bachelor. Other guests received
The bridegroom — Minna checked out his name when
she checked him out — had his cake, too, which was dark
and rich with fruit. This served for souvenirs, wrapped
in paper napkins and enclosed in small, white boxes. There
was scarcely enough to go around.
The wedding as a performance received good notices.
Minna alone knew on the morning afterward that the show
was a flop. Her husband, to demonstrate his prowess in
case she wasn't true to him, put his powerful paws around
her pharynx and closed in. A playful master! Minna,
forgiving soul, acknowledged that men were supreme and
that wives were a pain in the neck. Shortly afterward Ada
married the brother of Minna's husband. He, too, proved
to be a pampered soul.
Minna confided in Ada, regretted her marriage and did
her best to please her mate. Her husband was a brute —
suspicious and jealous. So was Ada's. There was no sav-
ing the matrimonial ships. For several days before Minna's
separation the master would awaken first, repeat the chok-
ing interlude, and as a gentle reminder, remark: "No other
man shall ever take my place." Minna, still flaunting the
marks of a warm handclasp upon her pretty throat, finally
skipped on a late tram. Any Fate, she argued, was better
than a silenced windpipe. What she got she still regards
was a Fate better than death. Ada joined her several days
later in Washington. That was the end of their marital
problems — they have remained single ever since.
As far as the back home knew, the girls had entered
upon a theatrical career, which developed to be partly true.
They requested the-lamp-in-the- window be extinguished if
lit in their behalf.
They never went back.
In 1898, after a year of barnstorming engagements in
struggling repertory companies of the "East Lynne" vintage,
they drifted into Omaha. They were seeking a city in which
to settle down, a congenial community where they could
live happily ever afterward. They had approximately
$35,000, of which only a few hundred had been saved by
sheer thrift after trouping through the way posts from Wash-
ington to Waco. The remainder was their share from es-
tates in the south. Thirty-five thousand dollars was a heap
of money in those days. In Pennsylvania they had named
towns after people with a thousand dollars.
There was an exposition in Omaha; the city was awake
and there were heavy spenders ready for the gong. The
town needed showmanship.
In fun, an actress friend had once remarked: "My mother
would be angry if she knew I was on the stage. She thinks
I'm in a den of iniquity." This opened a new line of thought :
How about operating a high grade resort ? Men were brutes !
Make them pay! A form of vengeance with the comedy re-
lief. They saw the drama in everything.
A madam, after all, was the boss of the place. She
watched the money roll in. She kindled the fire; others
were burnt. The sisters laughed loudly as they contem-
plated their daring project. The stage, goodness knew,
had been remote enough, but a house of ill-repute — there
was the limit. However, it must be remembered they were
in Omaha and there was little one could do in Omaha.
As show folk, the sisters were invited to several homes,
but there were no second invitations. They exuded too
much charm to suit the local housewives. They gave a lunch-
eon party and only a few of the invited guests accepted.
That was the final blow. If the women wouldn't visit them
the husbands would. They quickly went about the details of
opening a home away from home. One city was as good
as the next in which to experiment. Somebody would pay
and pay dearly for slighting them. They chose a location
near the fair ground — the stage was set. One good patron
led to the next.
"What'll we do about wine?" asked Ada.
"Twelve dollars a bottle," returned Minna. "And no beer
at any price."
The Trans-Mississippi Exposition illustrating the pro-
gress and resources west of the Mississippi River as held in
Omaha in the year of 1898 had the added attraction of
the progress in bagnios as presented under the able man-
agement of the Everleigh Sisters, ex-actresses, ex-home-girls
and ex-officio greeters. The fair represented an investment
of $2,000,000 and in spite of financial depression and war-
time frenzy returned ninety percentage of its subscriptions
in dividends to the stockholders. The Everleigh exhibit
paid a net profit of one hundred percentage on the invest-
ment. Their $35,000 had increased to $70,000 by the time the
last out-of-town sporting men boarded the midnight choo
choo for Alabama.
"How long has this been going on ?" Ada inquired naively
as the sisters took stock of their exchequer. And then they
prepared for more fertile fields.
In Omaha was a large population of Germans, Swedes,
Danes and Bohemians, working men and not given to cham-
pagne and ten-dollar admission fees. In the cheaper joints
of the day beer sold for 50c to $1 a bottle, accounting for
the famous remark by a cheap sport: 'Til buy a bottle of
beer but I won't go upstairs." The local trade wasn't up
their street. Without the exposition the town had nothing
New York, Washington or Chicago struck their fancy.
However, they decided to look around. In San Francisco
they learned that Tessie Wall was the head madam (Frisco
Tessie), but was operating under old lines. This wasn't
their notion at all. Belle Anderson in New Orleans offered
mirrors and draped dancers, but hadn't quite, absorbed the
idea. Galena Street in Butte was just a camp; Hurley,
Wisconsin, with its sixty-three emporiums in a population
of 2,000, was entirely out of the question; Superior, Wis-
consin, with fifty houses built over a swamp on two avenues,
was hopeless and Duluth with its St. Croix Avenue and
its Madam Gaines, who later left her fortune to a church,
had a stench.
All were dives with none of the beauty so essential to
a paying clientele. There was "Babe" Connors (colored)
in St. Louis, who took credit for introducing the "Ta-Ra-Ra-
Boom-Dee-E" to her patrons and who had gone to New
York in 1894 to make a fuss about it because it was cred-
ited to English music halls; Rose Bailey was in New York
City, Rose Hicks in Philadelphia, "Lucky" Warren in Cin-
cinnati, Josie Arlington in New Orleans and Annie Cham-
bers in Kansas City.
Washington had its Mahogany Hall, under various regimes
since the Civil War; the House of All Nations, which netted
$1,500,000 for a Spanish madam, was in Seattle; Minnie
Stevens in Boston and Belle Stewart in Pittsburgh were
doing handsomely minus the carriage trade. Vina Fields
(colored), Carrie Watson and Effie Hankins were the head-
liners in Chicago, coming closer to Everleigh standards than
any of the others.
Madams, madams everywhere and not one with a cul-
tural viewpoint. It was quite discouraging to two ambitious
What had started out as a silly adventure proved to be
a worthwhile industry. All it needed was class. There were
too many rowdies contributing to the coarser features and
these were gumming the works. Too much graft. Not
knowing one iota at the start about the inner machinery of
the "profession", the Everleighs learned first hand and asked
few questions. Their aristocratic, old world dignity dis-
armed the hangers-on. They had the faces of princesses and
the hearts of business women.
The problem of supply and demand, known as white
slavery, was a false issue — this they were sure of. Girls
didn't have to be bought and white slavers were as a
matter of fact, came to their door begging for admittance.
The difficulty in learning their correct ages
and in guarding against minors — a matter of proper cast-
ing. The method was to engage them young, but not too
young. The police could be handled with smiles as deftly
as with perquisites.
Having mastered a new art, they concluded that the
surest way to avoid trouble was to avoid contacts with the
schemers. They were competently trained for greater con-
quests. There was no particular hurry.
During the winter of 1899-1900 they arrived in Chicago
after seeing Cleo Maitland in Washington, who came nearer
to perfection than any of the others. Miss Maitland sug-
gested they consider Chicago, a wide-open town and on
the upgrade. She gave it as hearty an endorsement as a
Chamber of Commerce secretary. Effie Hankins, who spon-
sored the resort at 2131-33 South Dearborn Street, was in
the market to sell — at a price. "See Effie," Miss Maitland
had said. "She'll listen."
The twin-stone building in South Dearborn Street, while
in the midst of shambling seraglios, was an imposing struc-
ture. Effie lived up to her recommendations.
"It's home to me and all I have," sobbed Effie. "For
$55,000 it is yours even though I hate to part with it.
Come, girls, let my guests see how nice you look." The
girls lined up.
There would have to be a change in the personnel, ran
through the minds of the tentative purchasers. The in-
mates were too hard for super-prices. But such details could
"Thanks," said Minna, and the staff fell out. "How
about the rent?"
"Five hundred a month," informed Effie. "Not high when
you consider there are two buildings."
A deal was made. The Everleighs advanced $20,000 and
agreed to pay the remaining $35,000 within six months.
The house, they were told, had been opened for pleas-
ture seekers during the World's Fair Exposition in 1893
by Lizzie Allen, who, in turn, had sold the furnishings and
lease in 1895 to Erne Hankins.
"We have catered only to the best people,'' insisted
"Oh, yeah," said Minna, originating a popular wise-
crack of twenty-five years later.
Effie Hankins, to complete the report, went to New
York. She was slightly lame and used a cane, should the
old-timers have a lapse in memory. She was the creator
of an attack that functioned beautifully at the turn of the
century. She built up an organization all her own, con-
sisting of head waiters and cashiers in the gay restaurants.
These satellites would inform her as to the blades who were
on the loose amid the bright lights and then she would
telephone the "prospects" directly, reminding them where
they had left their umbrellas. "I have a new girl for you,"
she would coo. It was perfect timing. And everybody took
All of which was all right for Effie but no dice for the
Everleighs. Such antics were of the old school. The new
school had its premiere on February 1, 1900, at 2131-33 South
Dearborn Street, Chicago, and bore the name of the Ever-
Christopher C. Crabb, who was said to have counseled
Lizzie Allen, the first madam of the Everleigh bagnio, was
listed as the owner of the property at 2131-33 South Dear-
born Street from May 19, 1896 until October 7, 1924, when
it was conveyed to one Isadore Simon. Madam Allen,
according to several stories that could not be verified, had
been a maid in a Loop hotel who was financed for the
original establishment by a Chicago millionaire. The Ever-
leighs, however, paid $500 a month rent during their re-
THE FIRST NIGHT
"From Minna to maximum." — Bath-house John Coughlin.
THE BIOGRAPHY of the Everleigh Sisters and the history
of the Everleigh Club rightfully begins on Thursday, Feb-
ruary 1, 1900, the night of the grand opening in Chicago.
Minna was 21 years old and Ada was soon to be 24. Until
then the sisters had chosen a nom de guerre lacking dis-
tinction and were not known as the Everleighs. The new
name, they said, figured in an obscure branch of the family
and was the prettiest nomenclature they had ever heard,
accounting, in a measure, for their appropriation of it. Sir
Walter Raleigh, who had browsed around the South, may
have been the inspiration somewhere along the line for the
last syllable. At any rate, the 'leigh' part intrigued them.
Their grandmother always concluded her letters with
"Everly yours," which had left an indelible impression in
their memories and which, no doubt, had much to do in
clinching a final decision for a popular trade-mark. Ac-
tresses at heart, they felt privileged to adopt the most pleas-
ing appellation lying around. Their most painful regret
upon retiring was the abandonment of the ever-fascinating,
The Everleigh Club opened cold in the full meaning
of the term. There were no engraved announcements, no
passes for the critics, no kleig lights in the street, no ad-
vertisements nor publicity in the newspapers and the weather
was eight below zero that morning. Telephone operators
at the various police stations found it almost impossible
to transmit or receive messages over the police wires, owing
to the fact that about nine out of ten of the batteries lo-
cated in the patrol boxes were frozen solid or so stiffened
as to render distinctness impossible. Street car lines were
delayed and several men were frozen to death.
George W. Hinman, editor of the Chicago Inter-Ocean,
charged with criminally libelling H. H. Kohlsaat, publisher
of The Chicago Times-Herald and The Evening Post, was called
to the stand to testify in his own defense. He was in the
witness chair for thirty minutes before the court adjourned
for the noon recess. Pleasantries such as this kept the spot-
light off of 2131 South Dearborn Street.
Samuel Gompers was starting for Cuba on a month's
leave of absence and a dispatch from New York informed
The Loop fisticuffs fraternity that Terry McGovern and
Eddie Santry were ready to battle for the featherweight
championship. In Philadelphia, reported The Chicago Daily
News, backers were found to support a team to represent
the City of Brotherly Love in a new American Association
of Baseball Clubs. Adrian C. Anson and John McGraw
had held a lengthy conference with several Philadelphians
and announced that their efforts had been successful. Other
clubs were already organized in Boston, Providence, Mil-
waukee, St. Louis and Chicago. A headline stated that
Alderman Goldzier was urging an underground railway sys-
tem for street cars.
Julia Arthur was appearing in "More Than Queen" at
the Grand Opera House; Mr. and Mrs. Kendal were in
"The Elder Miss Blossom" at Powers'; the Castle Square
Opera Company of Boston was at the Studebaker; there was
a stock company at the Dearborn (Garrick) ; Francis Wilson
was appearing in a Victory Herbert and Harry B. Smith pro-
duction, "Cyrano de Bergerac," with Pauline Hall, Lulu
Glaser, William Broderick and a company of sixty at the
Columbia and Paderewski announced a recital at the Aud-
itorium for Saturday, February 3rd.
"Quo Vadis" was at McVicker's; "Devil's Auction" at
the Great Northern; Digby Bell, Clayton and Clerice, The
Harts, Franklyn Wallace and "The County Fair" at Hop-
kins' and burlesque was thriving at Miaco's Trocadero
and at Sam T. Jack's. There was continuous vaudeville,
15-act bills, at the Olympic and Chicago Opera House at
ten, twenty and thirty cents. Annie Oakley, the crack shot,
was featured at the Big O (Olympic) and Chris Lane, a
noted parodist, was among the stars at the Chicago Opera
The Alhambra, bowing to the melodrama-minded and
located on the fringe of the South Side levee district, was
offering "The City of New York." Several of the Ever-
leigh charmers had dropped over that afternoon (matinees
daily) and were thrilled by the leading man, whom they
couldn't remember. They invited him to the premiere of
their resort that evening under the new management. Ap-
parently they hadn't believed that the revised scale of tariffs
of $10, $25 and $50 for a pleasant evening would go into
effect. A week's salary, about $40 for actors in the blood-
curdlers, hardly served to get even a hero beyond the first
sip of wine in the Everleigh Club.
Among themselves, none of the inmates expected their
capitalistic employers would get away with it. "Just a
bluff," sneered one trampled siren. "Who is going to pay
$50 for a good time? I've heard of Southern hospitality,
but not at these prices."
The sisters had changed everything since taking hold.
Effie Hankins' white help were switched to colored and
Southern dishes and Southern courtesies were observed
throughout the establishment immediately after they took
possession. The girls were told that they were ladies and
when they ceased to be ladies they would be asked to leave.
Evening gowns supplanted the abbreviated soubrette cos-
tumes worn in other resorts. There were daily drills in
conduct, a forerunner of the discipline given cine
ushers. A library was installed and the entertainers were
advised that a little reading would improve their technique.
The off-time atmosphere duplicated that of a young ladies'
seminary with two strict taskmasters.
"Be polite, patient and forget what you are here for,"
Minna had said in her final instructions. "Gentlemen are
only gentlemen when properly introduced. We shall see
that each girl is properly presented to each guest. No lining
up for selection as in other houses. There shall be no cry,
'In the parlor, girls/ when visitors arrive. Be patient is
all I ask. And remember that the Everleigh Club has no
time for the rough element, the clerk on a holiday or a
man without a check-book.
"It's going to be difficult, at first, I know. It means,
briefly, that your language will have to be lady-like and that
you will fore go the entreaties you have used in the past.
You have the whole night before you and one $50 client
is more desirable than five $10 ones. Less wear and tear.
You will thank me for this advice in later years. Your
youth and beauty are all you have. Preserve it. Stay re-
spectable by all means.
"We know men better than you do. Don't rush 'em or
roll 'em. We will permit no monkeyshines, no knockout
drops, no robberies, no crimes of any description. We'll
supply the clients; you amuse them in a way they've never
been amused before. Give, but give interestingly and with
mystery. I want you girls to be proud that you are in the
Everleigh Club. That is all. Now spruce up and look
At eight o'clock several customers sought admittance,
but their credentials didn't pass muster and they were turned
away. Ada could tell by their startled eyes and their ner-
vousness that they were in the wrong house.
Minna, taking a copy of The Chicago Daily News, went
into the Gold Room to read. Her attention was focused
on a heading : "Rites for P. D. Armour, Jr." She read the
entire account of the funeral services for Philip Danforth
Armour, Jr., son of the packer, which were held at his late
residence, 3700 Michigan Avenue. Men, whose lives had
been spent in connection with the great enterprises built
up by the young man's father and carried on in a large
part by his son, filed past a coffin almost hidden beneath the
masses of flowers, the newspaper reported.
All the packing houses were closed, there was a tribute
by Dr. Gunsaulus, a list of the pallbearers and a mention
of the burial at Graceland Cemetery, according to the long
account. Minna was so absorbed in the article that she gave little
notice to a passing sylph, who slyly looked over her shoulder.
The courtesan soon gathered some of the insurgents and
"We've got her all wrong. Minna knows the swells
all right. I caught her reading about the Armour funeral
and she acted like she had known him. She's been holding
out on us."
Minna had scored. Innocent of connivery she had planted
the seed of proper connections, which spread to all floors
of the twin building. It was a better sales-talk than any
she could have devised. Ten minutes later a servant relayed
the backstairs' conversation to the madam. Miss Minna
"I never heard of Armour until today," she said. "Don't
tell anyone I told you."
The servants, considering themselves part of the execu-
tive side, could be trusted. The pleasure girls to them
were like choristers in a play and, as in the show business,
there was a dividing line between the stage and the box
office. The servitors belonged to the "front of the house,"
considering themselves members of the family. Colored
employees with a Southern mistress were a safe bet, which
Minna had known all along.
That first evening, without the aid of ballyhoo, the
Everleigh Club played to a gross business of $1,000. Of
this the girls received approximately $700 or about $23 to
each of the thirty, quite satisfactory for an evening's lolling
about. As a friendly gesture, the house took no percentage
of their takings for the send-off. Most of the inmates had
been carried over from the former regime and for the sake
of the mouth-to-mouth advertising the sisters concluded
that the spirit of generosity, early in the game, would travel
quickly, resulting in an esprit de corps that would pay larger
dividends later. They always thought ahead.
The wine had been contributed for the gala opening by
champagne salesmen who were quick to catch on. The
dealers in foodstuffs, smart fellows, saw the set-up and they
came through with a bundle of steaks, chickens and the fix-
ings. Further, they dressed for the occasion and helped
to swell the intake. Several wine merchants, in bibs and
tuckers, paid for the very fluids they had donated.
The actual overhead for the opening was estimated at
$200, covering the wages for the colored staff, two four-'
piece orchestras and the rent. Interest on their investment,
possible tribute for protection and laundry bills were over-
looked for the Thursday premiere. Their idea was to give
a smooth performance in preference to accurate auditing.
If the show was good everybody would get a dollar before
long. Sound reasoning!
The tips to maids and waiters averaged $5 each, assur-
ing the colored forces that they had the best jobs on the
South Side. The score and ten nymphs, engaged to amuse
at a straight fifty-fifty split, were not a liability and the
very fact that they had exhibited to $700 without the bene-
fit of electric signs, red fire or a band in the lobby indicated
that a run was in sight.
After the final count-up, with one hundred dollars profit,
the Everleighs deemed their debut in Chicago a huge success.
Thursday always was an off-night in the show business.
There were fourteen sumptuous sequesteries, an art gallery,
a library and a spacious dining room in the double
three-story pleasure palace. There were quarters for a few
of the servants in the basement and the thirty beautiful
boarders were assigned private nooks. Minna and Ada had
The numerous parlors were called rooms, bearing the
titles of Moorish, Gold, Silver, Copper, Red, Rose, Green,
Blue, Oriental, Japanese, Egyptian, Chinese, Music and Ball-
room. They were designed for any mood and were burdened
with knick-knacks, cushions, divans, incense, sea shells, statu-
ary, expensive rugs — and push-buttons. When conversation
dragged there was the bell, properly concealed but never
failing to jingle when encouraged.
There were two mahogany staircases, one for each side
of the house. These were flanked by potted palms, a stray
shell and statues of Grecian goddesses. Heavy matted car-
pet deadened the footsteps of those inclined to explore the
After questioning fully two hundred acknowledged pa-
trons of the club as to what took place upstairs little was
learned and not one admitted first-hand experience. One
suspects that these clients sat on the parlor floor, admiring
the oils, buying wine, reading a detective story or pouting
in the corner. And yet the girls did a thriving climb nightly.
Certainly more frequenters than confess went for the works.
A broad-minded wife should be proud to have won a man
whose tasks were diverted from the siren call of the most
gorgeous, seductive salamanders in all creation. "But it
isn't the wife I'm thinking of," is the defense. "I have a
grown boy and what about him?"
Even the newspapermen who so kindly contributed to
this chronicle beg that their identities be omitted. The
Everleighs loved and still love the reporters. The gentle-
men of the press had the freedom of the house and while
the sisters preferred that they stay clear of upper-floor
adventure there was no iron-clad rule about it. What was
First, there were boudoirs in which lavishly decorated,
marble-inlaid brass beds held a place of honor. In some
of the rooms there were mirrors on the ceiling. A gentle-
man could take a nap if he so desired.
Second, there were assorted baths, showers and a golden
bathtub in which one could refresh himself. All very home-
like and convenient.
Are those annexes to wining and dining so horrible?
Hardly, yet depending entirely upon the viewpoint. Some
men are just naturally afraid to be alone in the dark. The
story is told that one night a slightly tipsy visitor was asked
if he cared to go to bed. "Why?" he inquired. "I'm not
Jack Lait, a former Chicago reporter and a champion of
the sisters, made an inspection of the premises one day and
issued a statement that is never forgotten. He declared:
"Minna and Ada Everleigh are to pleasure what Christ was
As for the ornate salons, these were intended for either
a tete-a-tete or for a party that did not wish to mingle
with the other guests. They were nearly soundproof and
were entered through old-fashioned folding doors, which slid
back and forth.
Reds and gold, exciting colors, splashed everywhere, mak-
ing no secret of their mission to stimulate passive natures
into carefree, pleasure-loving satyrs.
The Gold, Silver and Copper Rooms, of course, were
designed for the gold, silver and copper kings — plutocrats
were identified as kings in the 1900 headlines. The deco-
rations in these parlors were similar, excepting for the
coloring. There were no silver dollars in the floor, nor pen-
nies, nor glittering eagles. No commonplace come-ons of
the honky tonk. Golden chairs and golden hangings, for
example, were in the Gold Room, Everything was adapted
to kindle a flame in the coldest of mortals.
The Chinese Room held a charm particularly its own.
In this playground was an over-sized brass beaker and ad-
jacent to it were packages of tiny firecrackers. Jolly mil-
lionaires had the privilege of exploding the "bing-bangs,"
something they were not permitted to do at home and which
afforded a new betting game. A coy charmer would wager
that the pop of a champagne cork would make more noise
than a firecracker, offering a kiss if she lost. Her bit for
the wine sale made up for the smack — and she couldn't
lose because the crackers were constructed for laughs and
not for detonation. Clean, boyish fun! "Shoot 'em in the
bowl," was the sole request.
"And next week we are contemplating putting in a box
of sand for the kiddies," Minna used to say.
There was a golden piano of the midget variety, very
expensive ($15,000) and made to order, in the Gold Room.
Somebody always wanted to play. There were other ornate
pianos in case the demands were urgent.
As in Omaha, a minimum price of $12 (a nice, round
sum and easy to remember) was asked for champagne; a
half dozen brands were available. A little dinner or supper
party had no fixed charge. Usually a host would suggest
what he had in mind and the number of free-loaders. "A
dainty supper, you know, for ten," was the customary pre-
liminary, varying only as to the number of plates and the
cost. "Something simple for — say, $500." These meals
never were simple and were the greatest advertising medium
the club ever had.
Money was only mentioned when a patron started to
depart. He had, usually, hinted sometime during the eve-
ning how much he intended giving his bewitching vis-a-vis
and this was added to the check. There were no outright
gyps; the patron paid what he thought the celebration was
worth. Nobody ever expected to get out with less than
a hundred-dollar expense and there were many who paid
$1,000 in a single evening and thought the money well
The Everleigh was an exclusive club for men. Women
guests were excluded along with the slumming parties and
the sightseers. It took a letter of recommendation, an en-
graved card or a formal introduction to gain admittance
and the slightest gesture of gutter rowdyism was sufficient
reason to expel a member. Money wasn't everything, but
The opening, in comparison with subsequent evenings,
was not remarkable. Ike Bloom, who earned lasting fame
as the master of Frieberg's Hall, a free-for-all dancing pa-
villion where the girls worked the floors in Twenty-second
Street between Wabash and State, paid his respects and
departed early. There were flowers sent by Cleo Maitland
in Washington and there were a few telegrams from old
friends whom they had met in the west. Vic Shaw and
the other madams of the district were not heard from.
"Queer ducks, our neighbors," Madam Shaw told the cop
on the beat. "They've a pull somewhere, but it won't last.
We're not interested."
There was a jovial party of cattle men, friends of Madam
Hankins, who contributed $300 to the gross ; a group of ten
theatrical luminaries came in after the play and there was a
rich man's son, who was looking for his father, among the
merrymakers. Stragglers of no particular standing came and
Of that first night all that the sisters recalled distinctly
was the fact that Ada's hands were cold. They really were
cold and there was no accounting for it. Casually, Ada men-
tioned this to a Ranch King, who quickly ordered two bottles
of champagne. "It'll warm those pretty patties," he said,
Ever after this when the wine business wasn't hot Ada's
hands automatically became cold.
PAPILLONS DE LA NUIT
"Girls will be girls, but they should be restrained."
Lucy Page Gaston,
"PLEASURE," wrote Balzac in 1834, "is like certain drugs;
to continue to obtain the same results one must double
the dose, and death or brutalization is contained in the last
one." Realizing the- truth of this statement, the Everleigh
Sisters encouraged adroit schemes of subterfuge to conserve
the energies of their clientele as well as those of their nymphs.
They knew that their girls, up from the lower classes in
the majority of cases, would cower before the rich and closely
watch their tastes in order to make vices of them and exploit
them. Gluttony, they observed, was opium to a courtesan
and the balm consisted chiefly of allowing absolute freedom
in the boudoir — silks and satins to replace drugs and dissi-
Contemplation of devilment was more satisfactory than
the act itself. The build-up, as it came to be known in
advertising circles, often excelled the article. The Ever-
leighs believed their wealthy patrons had tastes, not pas-
sions or romantic fancies, and that bawdy love-affairs were
easily chilled. They sought to keep the ball rolling by
the clever ruse of "wait until I know you better," a classic
that has stood the test since the world began. Feminine
monkeyshines could begin in any one of a dozen parlors,
but the deft touch was required when once a couple mounted
a mahogany staircase.
This hollow life, this constant waiting for a pleasure
that never arrived, this permanent emptiness of mind, heart
and brain, this weariness of the great American hurly burly,
was reflected more upon men's features in the Everleigh
Club than in any single disorderly palace of the early twen-
tieth century. Impotence grinned hideously, amid the yel-
low reflection of gold, in too many of the aging faces.
The Everleighs had studied the frantic desires of their
guests, the voices of the great men and the caprices of the
novices. Supplying substitutes for morphine, cocaine and
outright depravity were so cleverly manipulated that none
suspected. The mesmerism was largely maneuvered in the
The most widely remembered feature of the Everleigh
Club was the profound silence in the outer halls, the smell
of flowers and the fragrance peculiar to trees and verdure.
The air was laden with perfume and one could not avoid
noticing the thick carpet under his feet. Phyllis augmented
the sweetness of the cove.
Phyllis, in all the glory of a beautiful passionate woman
came to the establishment a few days after the opening,'
having heard, en route from Kansas City, of the Turkish
divans, the exquisite tapestries and the golden hangings.
News of the Everleigh Club was swiftly reaching the far-
flung corners of the continent and the voluptuous Phyllis,
who brought glad tidings, was greeted as an old friend.
"I hope you like me," she said, adding simplicity to her
other virtues. "The man to whom I was engaged died
suddenly of heart failure — I just had to get away from un-
pleasant surroundings. I have no parents and here I am.
It's a strange adventure for me, but I am sure I could
learn. My betrothed betrayed me, which brings no regrets. |
From what I overheard on the train, a life of shame in this |
adorable house must be the most glorious existence imagin-
able. May I stay?"
Within a week the wealthy roues were battling over j
her. And why not? Intuitively she knew more about the
finesse of illicit romance than any girl in the house. She
would, for instance, blindfold a mortal, lead him to her bou-
doir and then, unmasked, permit him to gaze upon a har-
mony of colors to which the soul responded by seductive,
vague, wavering ideas. There were fresh cut red roses every-
where. Perfume and paradise !
There was a gold and marble mantel in the center of
the room. A circular window, partially concealed by hang-
ings of a red material, fluted like Corinthian pillars, with
a strip of brownish-lavender silken cloth at top and bottom,
was at the head of a genuine Turkish mattress, which lay
upon the floor and served as a bed. This divan was covered
with white cashmere, buttoned with tufts of black and puce-
colored silk, reminding one of a gaudy checkerboard.
There were blue curtains back of the window hangings
and several diffused lights gave the setting an amorous hue.
There were gilt bracket lamps affixed to the walls above
the mattress and shaded so as to throw their rays upon
the colorful cot. Silver lights came from a chandelier ot
silver gilt. The ceiling was dazzlingly whitе.
The large rug resembled an Oriental shawl, character-
istically reddish and of strange design, and the furniture
was covered with white cashmere, relieved by black and
red carvings. The clock on the mantel was of marble and
gold and the one table in the room had a marble top with
bright, red legs. Vases and dainty jardinieres, in which
the flowers dropped coquettishly, were carefully arranged.
The slightest detail seemed to have been the object of a
Phyllis also knew her Balzac. She had golden eyes in
a room to match. The furnishings were of her own se-
lection. Interior decorating was her art and she delivered
opulence, which concealed itself innocently, but which ex-
pressed the refinement of grace and the inspiration of pas-
sion. She made all there is of vagueness and mystery in
a man's being come leaping to the surface.
Her golden hair shone brilliantly in the light of her
own investiture. Response from her guest was inevitable.
Further, there were no bad after-effects. There wasn't a
male who would beg for a drug when surrounded with the
beauty of Phyllis and the beauty she provided. She be-
came the toast of the club. And the Everleigh Sisters ad-
mired her and they lent her $1,500. Phyllis was doing all
There came the day, however, when a millionaire bound
for Egypt thought that Phyllis would make a suitable com-
panion, and he spoke to the sisters about his trip, asking
permission to borrow her. She was released without a
struggle after he had paid what she owed the sisters.
"And you let such an adorable darling leave without
a whimper?" the Everleighs were asked.
"Yes, we thought it was the best way," they sighed.
Until 1936 few knew that Phyllis, about once a year,
had indulged in a very bad habit. She would become in-
tolerably drunk and while on the bender she would smash
the bottom of a water glass against the corner of a table.
Taking the rim of the goblet she would point the sharp, cut
edges toward the nearest person, usually slashing a victim
before he was able to ward her off. Sober, she blamed this
unbecoming antic onto hallucinations arising from her first
sweetheart's death. She did it to frighten the devil, who
was tormenting her loved one, she said.
"Her millionaire keeper died in the Orient in 1906, about
a year after she left the club," said Minna. "Phyllis re-
turned to America and kept on slipping until she slipped out
altogether — an overdose of veronal. Rather sad case, don't
Valerie, too, came out of the West. She was very dark
of eyes and hair and she clung to everything white. The
carpet in her boudoir was white, the coverlet on her bed
was ermine and the draperies were white. In the basement
of the Everleigh Club she fitted up a gymnasium, where
she exercised in white bloomers, using white dumb-bells and
even a white punching bag. "It's the hospital in me," she
would laugh. Her father was a doctor, but nobody ever
took time to investigate, nor cared.
Valerie wasn't the type. If she didn't like a man she
told him so. The "life" grated against her fine nature and
she didn't worry whether she earned her share of the big
stakes or not. She could sing in a peculiar husky voice and
she was a trained pianist. She belonged on the stage, so
the sisters made every effort to get her placed properly.
They knew a vaudeville headliner to whom they intro-
duced Valerie, carefully concealing any identity with their
resort. The actor immediately fell in love with her; they
were married and soon became internationally known stage
stars, the happiest couple in the theatre.
While touring in a Broadway production the dark-eyed
beauty adopted a homeless show girl — this befriended child
stole her husband.
There was a divorce, the break coming in Chicago. The
entire theatrical purlieu was shocked and only the few who
knew Valerie of the Everleigh could even conjure a reason
for the separation. As a matter of fact, the husband had
been too busy thinking of his own conquest to give a thought
to his wife. He went his way and she called on the Ever-
leigh Sisters. Valerie's heart was broken ; she wanted to
"What shall I do?" she sobbed. "I've tried so hard to
be clean and good and this had to happen to me. Re-
member, the white rug and everything? Little purity, that's
me, and this is what I'm handed. All right, where's the
old room? I'm ready, ermine coverlet and all — the sky's
the limit from now on."
She had a good, long cry.
Minna finally convinced her that she was a great artiste,
which she was. "We always said that," cheered the af-
"You'll make 'em all sit up and take notice — alone,"
And Valerie went back to the Stage, climbing to greater
heights than before. She died a few years ago and was
mourned by thousands. That wreath of white roses and
that black card on which was written "Two Lifelong Friends"
in white ink was sent by Minna and Ada Everleigh.
Ethel came from an Illinois farm and she chewed to-
bacco, of all things. She was a born actress, but too lazy
to do anything about it. Her big moment, when a party
was becoming dull, was to summon Edmund, who was pre-
pared for the surprise with a startling gay raiment of gold
and red braid.
"The tray, Edmund," Ethel would command.
The colored lackey disappeared for a moment, return-
ing with a silver tray on which was placed a huge plug of
chewing tobacco. Ethel took a big chaw just as a modern
girl would take a cigarette, Edmund bowed low as she
replaced the plug and the onlookers became hysterical from
laughing. The seriousness of the ritual was responsible
for its success.
"There really wasn't anything funny about it," said Ada.
"We didn't approve of her spitting on the Oriental rugs."
Ethel was married to a nice, fat boy in the oil business
and when last heard from was extremely happy. She had
two children and an attractive home. The sisters called
on her not long ago. The same Ethel! Another Edmund
came with the tray but this time there was a black cigar
in it, which the servant promptly lit for her.
"You know, my husband put a stop to my spitting around
the place — and what could I do?" she said, seriously.
Myrtle had the knack for stirring trouble. She was from
Iowa with none of the one-night-stand influence of Cedar
Rapids or Sioux City weighing her down. She held out for
metropolitan shooting or stabbing. Rubes, regardless of
their financial standing, were exiled from her attentions. She
played high, wide and handsome, but only with the city
chaps. If her picture was to get into the paper it was to
be alongside that of a Lake Shore millionaire or not at all.
One of her hobbies was gathering up small firearms, a
quirk that nearly ended in a tragedy one early evening about
a year after the sisters took over the club. Proudly she
would display these guns to those privileged to hike the
mahogany steps with her, telling in what pawnshop she
had found a trinket and what price she had paid for it.
"I think I'd be the happiest girl in town if I could find
a diamond studded revolver," she told a wealthy caller and
he, simpleton, had one made for her.
The sisters gave the firearms no particular thought,
knowing that high-class girls either went for horse-back
riding, long-distance telephone calls or some foolhardy di-
version. It kept them out of other mischief.
Myrtle was dashingly gorgeous and she knew it. Tall
and slender, slightly freckled, blue-eyed and crowned with
honest Titian hair, she was the girl that aging men like to
parade into a restaurant, theatre or ballroom. Her bottom
was of the slapping kind and millionaires had a difficult
struggle holding themselves in restraint. She had quite a
following. Hardly a week passed that some wealthy man
didn't ask the Everleighs if it wouldn't be quite all right
if they gave Myrtle an establishment (home, they called
it) and would $2,000 be acceptable !
Myrtle always managed to owe the sisters more than
$2,000, believing that sooner or later somebody would bail
her out. She had a business as well as a pretty head.
There were five upstanding males ready and eager to
abduct her from the Everleigh Club. And then came the
night for the showdown. Each in turn had been taken to
her boudoir and each had been told of the other offers.
Thoughtlessly perhaps, but nevertheless ajar, was the dresser
drawer in which the shooting tokens were kept. Whether
the men helped themselves or not isn't known, but it is
known that each held a revolver a few minutes after the
last swain had stopped off upstairs. Myrtle craved excite-
ment. And her picture in the newspapers. There couldn't
be a shooting without shooting irons and wisely she rea-
soned that her clientele didn't make a practice of carrying
revolvers to a festive evening. She should have been a
dramatist. She planted everything.
In the celebrated Gold Room there were Myrtle, her
loves and quart upon quart of wine. Also sour looks from
one man to the other.
"Fight over me, boys, I love it," she encouraged.
That touched off the flame.
"Well, Charlie will never have you again," said a blazing
blade. "Nor John, nor any of you. Myrtle, tell them your
choice and let's get it out of our systems."
There was some loud talk and the men, who were steamed
with alcohol, drew revolvers. Bloodshed seemed inevitable.
Minna, hearing the noise, hurried to the Gold Room and,
seeing the stupefied and angered condition of the quintette,
did the only smart thing she could think of. She snapped
out the lights. The sudden darkness stunned the assem-
"Gentlemen," she cried in the dark, "you are in the
most notorious w -house in America." Not given to
vulgar language, she knew that this was no moment for
fine words. "How would it look to your relatives and
friends to see your names splashed across the front pages
That was all. She turned up the lights. A certain
tragedy had been averted. She gathered up the revolvers
and left the room. One by one the contestants called for
their coats and hats. A month later Charlie was the sole
proprietor of Myrtle — as far as he knew. She had an
apartment and a dog.
"And what the hell good is all this? ,, she told one of
the girls who visited her. "I wanted my name in the paper.
Minna would have to spoil the only chance I ever had to get
Minna Everleigh loved her butterfies. Not alone the
spectacular moths who flitted from room to room in her
Babylonian temple, but the diamond variety that once were
so popular on chatelaine watches. Women were butterfly
crazy in the early 1900's. And Minna had butterfly pins
of all sizes and all studded with diamonds, which she wore
on the front of her gown, graduating from a small brooch
at her neck to a seven-inch clasp at her waist. Her dress
blinked like a Broadway electric sign.
One evening shortly after the opening a nervous stranger
made inquiry for her at the door, saying it was urgent business
and that he wanted to see her alone. He was admitted with-
out question. Minna asked him to step into a small alcove
near the door, a room that often served as a wardrobe.
A robbery was the last thing she ever expected.
"Off with the junk," said the man, losing no motion.
The door had been closed and they were alone. A re-
volver was poked into her ribs.
The hold-up person appeared to be a drug addict and
those fellows shoot first and think afterward. Minna started
to remove her jewelry when Ada, unconscious of what was
going on, opened the door. Quickly she appraised the situ-
ation. A scream might end in the killing of her sister.
"I thought you sent for me," she said sweetly. "I'm
sorry." And she left the room. The thief knew he was
"Tricks, eh?" he growled. "Fitted up like an arsenal,
too, I suppose? Well, what are you going to do with me?"
"Let you go, of course," said Minna, adding, "unless
you want to stay. We have a friendly house and friendly
The robber put his gun away, was shown to the door
and was seen no more. It was a breath-taking experience
and to this day Minna blesses Ada for saying the right
thing at the right time. The butterflies were safe and so
Word of the attempted robbery filtered into every dive
in the district. There were all sorts of versions, but the
best one was this:
"Nobody outguesses Minna Everleigh. Can you ima-
gine, a guy tried to hold her up and finished by buying her
a bottle of wine."
Butterflies in the Everleigh Club were like chorus girls
in a New York show in a single respect: Only one out of
several ensembles ever stood out. Not that coryphees and
courtesans have anything in common, which, of course, they
haven't, but few in either walk have that comedy quality
or that dramatic instinct which takes them apart from their
chosen endeavor. Only one of a hundred in both professions
finds her name in lasting print.
The Everleigh Sisters estimate that upwards of 600 girls
came and went during their eleven-year reign in Chicago
and yet they found it difficult in 1936 to recall more than
a dozen who left any sort of an exciting impression.
The comical girls and the villainesses were the featured
players. There was no role for the heroine. The ultra-
good, ultra-kindly and ultra-expert made no trouble and
are forgotten. Such is the price of sanctity in a sporting
"But we loved our butterflies, every one of them," said
both Minna and Ada. "Where would we have been with-
BATH-HOUSE JOHN AND A FIRST WARD BALL
"Whatever the endeavor, make of it a lallapalooza."
Hinky Dink Michael Kenna.
ATTIRED in his green dress suit with lavender trimmings
and carrying a copy of his sensational song, "Dear Mid-
night of Love," Alderman Bath-house John J. Coughlin
led the grand march at the annual masked ball given by the
First Ward Democratic Club at the First Regiment armory
on Wednesday evening, February 14th, 1900, two weeks
after the Everleigh Sisters had invaded Chicago with their
resplendent Home Away from Home. Following Bathhouse
John in the procession came Tom McNally, whose claim
to notoriety laid in the charge that he was drawing a large
salary from Collector Barnett's office. Every democratic
politician in the First Ward attended the ball and their con-
stituents were also present in large numbers.
Dozens of policemen and detectives were on the floor
during the evening, ready to suppress any demonstrations
which might be made by over-enthusiastic First Ward dem-
ocratic voters. Their services were not required, however,
for not a fight took place while the ball lasted.
Alderman Coughlin was, of course, the leading spirit
of the gathering. His evening dress-suit, which had caused
so much comment at Saratoga, was the object of open ad-
miration of the crowd. Just as the promenade was breaking
up the band began playing his song, to the music of which
a waltz was danced.
The Bath was not masked, although everybody else had
to wear a domino or keep off the floor, a rule that held good
until midnight and then it was a free-for-all. Beer was
sold in the cellar and on the dancing floor, while the boxes
in the gallery were reserved for parties opening wine, and
these parties kept within police regulations until after mid-
The ball was a sort of turning out event for Alderman
Coughlin, who held the sobriquet of Bath-house and en-
joyed the title even though it was a reminder of less fruitful
days in a bath-house. It was his turn to line up the First
Ward for aldermanic purposes. Hinky Dink (Michael Kenna)
so dubbed because of a rather diminutive stature, shared
honors as the other councilman in the central bailiwick.
It was, in a sense, the opening wedge in the Bath's cam-
paign. He stood near the door, shaking hands with those
who entered, smiling cordially. In addition to his green
shallow-tail-coat and lavender trousers, he wore a white
silk waistcoat, brocaded with heliotrope rosebuds and saff-
ron carnations. His gloves were pink. He said the ball was
a brilliant democratic occasion. He was, incidentally, the
only, person to take chances wearing a silk hat. Others
wore their working clothes and carried their money in their
The dancing didn't average up with the wine parties
in the galleries, although Waltz Number 11 on the pro-
gram was composed by the Bath-house in person. It was
called "Dear Midnight of Love" and those who did dance
gave preference to the "Loving Two Step," a First Ward
whirl-around. And those who saw it said it could stand
a whole lot of modification.
Most of the feminine element, including the Everleigh
group, were late in coming. In fact, it was after midnight
before the women arrived in large numbers. They said
they could not get there any sooner because the saloons and
the resorts did not shut down on their music until that hour.
Many of the democratic leaders in the South Town reached
the ballroom about the same time. They helped to keep
up the interest and spent money all the way from the cellar
BATH-HOUSE JOHN AND A FIRST WARD BALL
to the wine sections upstairs. In the language of Hinky
Dink the ball "don't never get good until three in the morn-
ing." The remark was quoted in The Tribune.
Alderman Coughlin bowed politely as Minna and Ada
Everleigh entered, welcoming them, so to speak, to his city.
He was so effective in his greeting that they suspected, had
he been the Mayor, he would have given them a key to the
metropolis. He sent up several quarts of wine to their
party and made himself quite a character in their esti-
mation. It was their first glimpse of the man. They were,
in truth, at the ball only because they had heard so much
about Bath-house John, who proved, after a first glimpse,
to be more of a leader than they suspected. Later they
were to learn exactly to what boundaries his power ex-
The Everleigh party departed early, having paid their
respects and feeling repaid for having called.
"An amusing city, Chicago, any way you look at it,"
said the sisters. "I'm afraid we are in for the time of our
Alderman Coughlin, poet "lariat" of Chicago, was cred-
ited in the months to follow with fifty compositions, which
were written by John Kelley, an Erie, Pa., lad, who worked
up from a society scribbler to the most famous police re-
porter in the town's history. Jakie Lingle of The Chicago Trib-
une, who was murdered during the Al Capone carnival, was
a cub compared to Kelley. Kelley could write and he could
invent, and the coppers, the underworld and the politicians
rounded corners to do him a favor. He was the boss of
the Harrison Street Police Station as well as in points south
of the Everleigh Club.
This writer was well acquainted with Kelly, worked
with him and in opposition to him. We were and are warm
friends. Night after night he would stroll from the City
Hall, at LaSalle and Randolph Streets, to Hinky Dink's
exclusive bar next door to the Princess Theatre in South
Clark near Van Buren Street, where we were treated to
whiskey that had the quality of olive oil and the bouquet
of a roomful of Everleigh filles de joie. The finest Ha-
vanas were ours and our money might just as well have
been counterfeit; there was none to accept it. Such was
the power of the press in Chicago.
Kelly and Walter Howey, later of the Hearst news-
papers, but while a budding reporter and afterward city
editor of The Chicago Tribune, had something in common.
They would sit in the Everleigh Club of a newsless eve-
ning and when Minna offered a soupcon of amorous relaxa-
tion "on the house" both held to the same retort:
"We'd rather listen to the music."
Smart reporters were cautious as well as smart.
Kelley, upon retirement, admitted publicly that the dog-
gerel rhymes attributed to Coughlin, with one exception
were his creations. They were widely reprinted, The New
York Sun particularly relishing each new effusion. "I found
solace in writing the ballads," said Kelley. "They took
me away from murders, fires and burglaries." Writing for
The Erie Daily Times on November 21st, 1932, he stated :
"I do not speak of this in a boastful spirit, but to remove
the stigma from Alderman Coughlin. In making this con-
fession I wish to say, not only in justice to myself, but to
the alderman, that I was not the author of 'Dear Midnight
of Love*. That beautiful ballad was written by Coughlin.
Far be it from me to take credit for another's literary
efforts. All the other 'Bath-house' productions were mine.
I tried to write them in Coughlinesque style, but I'm afraid
I never wrote anything quite as good (or quite as rotten)
as 'Dear Midnight of Love'."
The hit song of the 1900 First Ward ball was written
in the summer of 1899, while Coughlin was vacationing at
Colorado Springs, where he had an amusement park. In
October of that year it was given its premiere at the Chi-
cago Opera House, sung by Miss May DeSouza, who was
making her stage debut. The words of "Dear Midnight
of Love" are subjoined, but without the orchestral accom-
paniment they lose much of their charm. Stand by :
"DEAR MIDNIGHT OF LOVE"
When silence reigns supreme and midnight love foretells
If heart's love could be seen, there kindest thoughts do dwell.
In darkness fancies gleam, true loving hearts do swell ;
So far beyond a dream, true friendship never sell.
Dear Midnight of- Love, why did we meet?
Dear Midnight of Love, your face is so sweet.
Pure as the angels above, surely again we will speak;
Loving only as doves, Dear Midnight of Love.
When love hearts are serene, can waking be their knell?
Were midnight but between, sleep, night, but not farewll.
Stars! 0, what do thy mean? For you to wake 'tis well-
Look, mother, on the scene, for you my love will tell.
Your promise, love, redeem } your gentle words do thrill;
Live as the rippling stream, always your friend I will.
Now I must bid adieu so cruel, why did we meet?
Last! What shall we do? Pray, when do we eat?
The alderman and his song were the talk of Chicago.
Newspaper correspondents and press associations sent out
stones to all parts of the country and three orchestras
in the Everleigh Club played it as often as "Stay in Your
Own Back Yard," the most popular song in the resort.
Having boosted Coughlin's lyric in the Times-Herald before
it was sung in public, Kelley asked the alderman, after
everybody in town was humming the air, if he were going
to write any more ballads.
He was too busy, he said, to devote further time to
twanging the lyre, and the reporter suggested that he mount
Pegasus in his stead, crediting the stuff to him.
"Go as far as you like, Kelly," said the alderman. "I'll
stand for anything but murder."
That's how it came about. Kelley always tried to write
something which the reader would believe was a Coughlin
composition. This was not as easy as one might think.
If the poem possessed any literary merit the reader would
quickly detect the fraud, so the trick was to write as the
Bath-house would have written. Kelley fooled even his own
office at first. One of the sonnets to which The New York
Sun took particular fancy was reprinted with the following
"Of poems with a purpose the most skillful and effec-
tive are produced by the Chicago Laureate, the statesman
poet, Bath-house John. His muse is trained to high accom-
plishments. His versifying power is not wasted on the
trivialities of life. Love, he disposed of, finally and for
good, in one masterpiece. His 'Ode to a Bowl of Soup/
which was dedicated to his friend and co-worker, the Hon-
orable Michael Kenna, will not die. Now as Chicago feels
the enervating heat of summer, he gives his faithful fol-
lowers and the world, 'An Ode to a Bath-tub/ To those
familiar with Chicago, the appropriateness of a celebration
of the tub appeals with convincing force.
"From The Chicago Record-Herald we learn that Bath-
house John dashed off his latest and best poem after luncheon,
while in his office. His method of composition is not un-
interesting." Then followed a paragraph from the Record-
Herald, which Kelley had written as part of his introduc-
"The thermometer was at the sizzling point, and the
alderman, who longed for a plunge in the swimming-hole,
seized the pen and paper and gave free rein to his fancy.
An electric fan assisted in cooling the alderman's brow,
and he made frequent trips to the ice-water tank in the
next room." Continuing its pleasantry, the Sun went on to
"A method which the Woman's Christian Temperance
Union will approve without a moment's hesitation. 'The
poem,' says Alderman Coughlin, 'is the first I have written
that I considered good enough to divide off into cantos.'
The poet is too modest. All his productions are worthy
Because Minna Everleigh brought up the subject and
because, no doubt, there are many others who would like
to hear again from "An Ode to a Bath-tub" it is given in
"AN ODE TO A BATH-TUB"
Some find enjoyment in travel, others in kodaking views,
Some take to automobiling in order themselves to amuse.
But for me there is only one pleasure, although you may call me a dub.
There's nothing to my mind can equal a plunge in the porcelain tub.
Some go to ball games for pleasure, others go bobbing for eels;
Some find delight making money, especially in real estate deals.
I care not for ball games, nor fishing, or money unless to buy grub;
But I'd walk forty miles before breakfast to roll in the porcelain tub.
Some take a trolley to Hammond, others the boat to St. Joe;
Some can find sport on the golf links with mashies and foozie, I know.
The trolley and boat and the golf links are not one-two, nie with a rub.
Oh, what in the world is finer than a dip in the porcelain tub?
Some run a dairy for pleasure, others a violet farm;
Some turn their minds to bookbinding, and say it is life's dearest
But for daisies and sweet-scented posies, or old books I care not a nub;
I pass them all up, thank you kindly, for the little, old porcelain tub.
"Rich in local color," continued The New York Sun's
delightful comment. "Thick with Chicago realism, skill-
fully bringing into relief the habits and customs of patrician
and plebian, this is a photograph of Chicago, an epitome
of her multiform life. The gifted author calls it 'his best
piece of work.' With loving care he points out some of the
more obscure local allusions."
In the Record-Herald, written by Kelley, covering himself
completely as a ghost writer, appeared :
" 'In this latest effort of mine you will observe that I
have taken a rap at Chicago's 400/ said the alderman. 'The
dairies and the violet farms and the bookbinderies are treated
in that inimitable manner of mine.
" 'It is a satirical poem and undoubtedly will cause a
reformation in Chicago society. Whoever Riley thought
of writing an ode to a bath-tub? Whitecomb Riley wrote
a pretty fair poem about the old swimmin-hole, but he
couldn't write a sonnet on a bath-tub if he was paid a
million dollars. It comes natural to me — I dash it off
before I know it'."
Prefacing each poem there was a sackful or two of
matter explaining why and under what circumstances it was
written, and following the verses there was an "interview"
with the bard in which he never failed to throw bouquets
at himself. Those who are familiar with the alderman's
ballads will appreciate how cleverly Kelley concealed his
There followed "Strumming the Light Guitar," to which
the reported prefaced :
* "His latest effort shows that the alderman has been
devoting much of his time to research into Spanish history.
The senoritas and haciendas of old Castle appeal strongly
to the bard, and he has written of them in a most charming
Minna would laugh for ten minutes every Monday
when one of these poems with the comical introductions
appeared. She was one of the very few who knew the true
authorship and to her it was the grandest form of spoofing.
Kelley to her notion was a mightier man than Mark Twain,
or George Ade.
A Kelley stroke of genius was evidenced in the further
"interview" with the Bath-house regarding his guitar number.
In the Record-Herald was printed :
" 'This is the first of a series I am going to put over on
foreign countries/ said the bard, as he plowed his fingers
through his iron-gray pompadour. 'I have been sloshing
up a lot of stuff about Europe, and with the pointers my
colleague, Alderman Kenna, has given me from personal
observation abroad, I think I will be able to write some
" 'The reason I haven't done any literary work during
the last six months was on account of the street car fran-
chise matter, which required all my time. It is impossible
to court the muse and settle the municipal ownership prob-
lem at the same time. As there will be nothing doing along
that line until after election I shall devote all my spare
time to writing the series., which I trust will be received
with the same kind of criticism that my past efforts have met.
I modestly decline to say what I think of the light guitar.
Good wine, you know, needs no bushV
This little gem, supposed to have been written after
a visit to Mount Clemens, was first printed in The Chicago
Mount Clemens, Mount Clemens!
There people for their health do go,
To watch the wavelets ebb and flow.
0, if those waves could only speak
They'd tell of clandestine retreat
Beneath the leafy bowers sweet.
Mount Clemens, 0, Mount Clemens!
Where lovers wander to and fro
Along the beach at twilight's glow,
Caressed by gentle zephyrs blow.
There dancing sunbeams swiftly glide
Athwart the shack where fish is fried,
With cabbage salad on the side.
Mount Clemens, O, Mount Clemens!
The fairest spot in Michigan
And that is why I wish again
That I was basking in your smile.
Your sylvan glades and bosky dells,
Where once resounded warriors' ells
Are not surpassed by River Nile.
The nifty, "Michigan, I wish again," was a high spot
in a popular song, "Down on the Farm." (No credit was
ever given to Kelley.) However, among the best (or rather
the least) remembered poems attributed to Chicago's laureate
are: "They're Tearing Up Clark Street Again," "The Stove
Heated Flat," "Holding Hands in the Moonlight," "I Wish
I was a Bird," "On the Return of Two Dollars," "Why Did
They Dig Lake Michigan So Wide?", "On Seeing a Robin,"
"Welcome to the Press," "The First Ward Ball," "She Sleeps
by the Drainage Canal," "In the Twilight," "The Night After
Christmas," "Under the Moonbeams Kiss the Roses," "An
Ode to Spring," "Poetical Musings from an Office Window,"
"Jessie at the Old Oak Tree," "Ode to a Lower Berth,"
"Perhaps" and "Auf Wieder Sehn". The latter ballad was
written as an expression of the bard's sorrowful feelings
when his colleague, Alderman Kane, sailed from New York
for a jaunt in Europe.
Usually a' Bath-house ode was "sprung" on Monday
morning. There was a reason for this — in fact, a double
reason. In the first place, Sunday is a dull day in newspaper
offices and any kind of a story looks good to the city editor
on Sunday night. The other reason was that the regular
weekly meeting of the city council was held on Monday
night, and a poem assured an ovation when the bard entered
the council chamber.
The "poet lariat" enjoyed those boisterous welcomes as
much as any single honor the verse afforded. Kelley used
to wonder who derived the most pleasure from the Bath-house
productions, the alderman or himself. Hinky Dink knew the
source of supply and enjoyed pushing the Bath whenever a
jolly crowd of boys were whooping it up in his saloon. Cough-
lin would retaliate by telling his critics they were jealous
because he was "there with the William Cullen Bryant stuff."
Alderman Coughlin still represents the First Ward in Chi-
cago's city council, having held office continuously since 1892.
With Tennyson, of whom he is a great admirer, the Bard of
BouF Mich may well sing: "For men may come and men may
go, but I go on forever."
"Whatever difficulties arose, we were told to see Mr.
Coughlin," said Minna Everleigh. "He was the final word
even though Big Jim Colosimo, who was murdered, and
Ike Bloom, who operated Frieberg's Hall, had plenty to say.
'Shortly before the levee was closed and while we were
refusing to pay $40,000 for some sort of silly protection,
which we knew could not be delivered, Bloom insisted that we
lay our case before Coughlin.
"'Besides, he likes you, Min,' emphasized Bloom, with
sly meaning. Coughlin, however, never was the fellow to give
attentions to women.
"We never had resorted to romances, knowing from
experience what trouble they bring, and we didn't intend
to try our wiles on the alderman. The reformers were catch-
ing up to us and we knew that these same reformers were
holding the sledge over State's Attorney John E. W. Way-
man's head. Wayman would be the boss in the long run,
which he was."
(Wayman killed himself after the promised shut-down.
The details of the raids, the kindly state's attorney's death
and the Everleigh side shall be reserved for a later chapter.)
"We packed up and went away for six months," continued
Minna. "Upon our return Bloom again told us to chase
ourselves down to Bath-house John's office. He said we were
acting like a couple of loons. 'John's a set-up for you girls,'
encouraged Ike. But we didn't go.
"We had been outcasts in the scheme of things, anyway,
always defying the petty grafts and we decided to stand pat."
Ada, who has been sitting quietly during Minna's recital,
summed up the mental working for both sisters tersely :
"What would we have accomplished? How could we talk cold business to a man who was the most amusing char-
acter in town. His very name made us laugh. And there was
the danger of his reciting 'An Ode to a Bath-tub'."
"A good side-show often earns the expenses of the entire circus."
THE GREAT FEARLESSO, who accomplished a loop-
the-loop on bicycle after a sixty-foot ride down a narrow
incline, was for many years a circus headliner. But he could
only be found, excepting for the two minutes it took him to
perform his act, in the "kid tent" — the sideshow. "The freaks
are an important adjunct to amusement," he would say.
"Without the freaks there'd be no show." Laughs and the
cook-house (dining tent) were all the counted. He had a
Fearlesso has spoken, so therefore, ladies and gentlemen,
let us step into "The Everleigh Congress of Freaks" — there
is plenty of time before the big show begins. One admission
takes you all the way through. The band plays, the little
lady dances for you and there's the box office. Let's hurry and
get it over with.
The Everleigh sideshow was second to none It was
never out and never over, in the language of the spieler
if there had been a spieler. There was, for instance, Clar-
ence Clay, a gentlemanly cracksman, who would dart down
to the Cort Theatre in Dearborn near Randolph Streets, blow
open a safe, take out the contents and return to the club as
though he had slipped away for a chocolate soda.
The girls and the reporters knew what Clay was doing,
but the police, apparently, were in another city. Clarence
never carried a revolver and he never hurt anybody. He was
mild, handsome and a free-spender.
He would tell the police reporters in advance what jobs
were in sight; they never betrayed him. They were grate-
ful to get the story without the trouble of covering police
His platform in the Everleigh sideshow was empty one
night and not until the main tent was going full blast did
he put in an appearance. Breathlessly, like an actor missing
a cue, he dashed into the back room. ,
"They nearly had me," he apologized. "In a getaway
I left a set of tools and some soup (nitroglycerin) so they
tried to hang the job onto me. I've been in a police station
for hours. The cops asked me to identify the junk, insisting
it was mine, which it was."
"And how did you escape?" asked one of the girls.
"I told 'em I never had a set as good as that," beamed
A good time was had by all. No business giant with a
mahogany desk, brow-beaten employees and a phony, puri-
tanical prissiness who robbed widows and orphans by day
and then raised hell at the Everleigh Club by night was half
as respected as Clarence Clay. The sisters knew how Clay
earned a living. They weren't sure about many of the lace-
The bearded lady of the freaks was not half so exciting
as the bearded men in the Everleigh sideshow. Nightly,
especially early in the week when business was less brisk,
the nymphs would make a pool, each contributing 50 cents.
It wasn't the amount but the fun involved.
The winner took all. And the winner was the lassie who
had snared the man with the longest beard. A chap with
a close shave didn't have a chance until the pool was won.
If you question the facial adornment of the period and if you
think the walrus mustachios that blended into a Van Dyke
weren't fur rugs of side-splitting design just take a glance
into a work called "Men of Illinois." copyrighted by Halliday
Witherspoon of Chicago in 1902.
Never was a parlor contest more spirited — more laugh
provoking. Often a siren, popular among the bewhiskered
entries, would lose the stakes because, from laughter, she
was unable to compete in the stable of bearded beauties.
The expression, "he's my jockey," meaning the choice in
any sort of competition, is said to have originated at the
whiskers' game. Jockey was the sly word the girls used
as they escorted a possible winner up the steps to a boudoir,
thus calling attention to their selection in case there was a
doubt later as to the length of the man's beard. The male
players never suspected their important roles in this hilarious
The girls had rulers in their rooms with which to meas-
ure the face-pieces, paving the way to ward the actual lineage
with such remarks as : "Daddy has such a lovely beard.
Mind if Tootsie measures it? Tootsie loves long beards."
After that a chump would shave if the girl asked him.
There was a score-marker chosen, an outside buddy who
tabulated the hirsute trappings. Only one chance was allowed
each girl. The winner was given a rousing cheer after which
the evening progressed along the familiar lines of wine,
repartee and music.
£alse whiskers were introduced at Christmas when some
clown usually dragged in a corner Santa Claus with hair below
his knees. Poor Santa was immediately taken into one of the
parlors, stripped of all his clothes and shorn of his Hepner
disguise. It was his lesson for intruding on a sociable frolic.
The perpetrator of the hoax was forced to buy champagne
for the crowd.
The whiskers' game, you see, was on the level.
Another offshoot attraction was Lucy Page Gaston, a
wizened little woman obsessed with the idea that cigarette
smoking was the curse of the devil. She represented The
Anti-Cigarette League and made regular calls to the houses
in the levee. She was treated more respectfully at the
Everleigh Club than anywhere else. Everybody in the
There was mention in the newspapers about young Moore's
$20,000 dinner to chorus girls in New York and of his lavish
entertainments in the underworld of Chicago. Also, there
were hints that he had been drugged. The sisters, luckily for
them, were out of it.
The widow was the former Miss Helen Fargo, daughter of
William Congdell Fargo, to whom Moore had been married
It is quite possible that, after leaving the Everleigh Club,
the millionaire had gone downtown, where, according to Vic
Shaw, he was found at the College Inn. The Chicago Examiner
on January 11, 1910, told of paid agents who were on the
search for Mr. Moore for more than a day. The woman's
agent was said to have brought the wealthy man to her resort.
The fact that only $2.50 was found on the body and the mys-
tery enveloping the circumstances before the death was
responsible, and rightly so, for the suspicion of foul play.
According to Vic Shaw, Moore was dragged into her place,
"apparently under the influence of more than a apree." A lil
thrust at the sisters.
The Chicago Examiner's second-day account :
FIND NAT MOORE DIED OF HEART DISEASE
AND NOT DRUGS
Physicians Hold Post-Mortem Examination
Over Victim of Levee Debauch
FATHER NOT TO SEE BODY
Railway Magnate Wires from California He
Will Not Attend Funeral
James Hobart Moore, man of millions and a member
of one of the most powerful groups of financiers in the
country, will not see the body of his only son, "Nat" Moore,
who was found dead in the Dearborn Street resort of Vic
Shaw on Sunday afternoon, laid in the grave. From his
palatial winter home in Santa Barbara, Cal., the elder Mr.
Moore telegraphed the widow of the young man, whose ex-
cesses were responsible for an untimely death, that he would
not be able to come East at the present time.
The mystery surrounding the death of Nat Moore was
cleared up yesterday. He died from heart disease. A
coroner's jury rendered a formal verdict to this effect in the
afternoon. The young man who was heir to all of his father's
vast wealth, interests in the Rock Island System, in the
National Biscuit Company and other great corporations, died
as the result of a prolonged debauch.
The body lies in a darkened room in the luxuriously
furnished apartments of the Moores at 1100 Lake Shore Drive.
MURDER IN THE RUE DEARBORN
It is clad in a long robe of purple in response to a request
made by the young widow. Mrs. Moore, scarcely more than
a girl in years, is prostrated and refuses to be comforted.
All the facts were not brought out at yesterday's inquest.
It was told how paid agents of the keeper of the resort,
Vic Shaw, had searched for young Moore for more than a
day. The woman had heard that "Nat" was on one of his
"sprees", and was spending large sums of money. She wanted
some of that money for herself. Young Moore was practically
carried into her resort early Sunday morning. The woman's
agent had brought the man of money to her.
Pearl Lilian Moore, otherwise known as Pearl Dorset,
told her story:
"I first met Moore about six months ago," she said.
"Sunday morning, was the second time I had ever seen
him. He came in about 1 :30 o'clock and bought champagne
for me and the other girls. Later he went to a room on the
second floor. About two o'clock in the afternoon I awoke.
I went out for coffee. I asked Moore if he did not want some.
He did not answer. I tried to arouse him. I put my hand on
his face. It was cold. Then I knew that he was dead. I
called Vic Shaw and some one went for a doctor."
"Moore had no drugs in my place," Vic Shaw testified.
"All he had was wine. He had no money, but he could get
anything he wanted without money. He always paid me what
he owed. Several times he paid his bills with checks of the
First National Bank of New York. Once his check was for
$1,500. There have been others of large amounts."
The incident was closed and would be forgotten and
probably deleted from this report if it wasn't for the fact
that through the years there have been rumblings that Moore
received mistreatment in the Everleigh Club. The truth is:
He was such a free spender that the other madams vied for his
patronage. Whenever word went out on the levee that Mr.
Moore was in the Everleigh, Vic Shaw moved all the lines at
her command to bait the millionaire on her hooks. Pearl
Dorset disappeared and some say she is dead.
The Everleigh Club accepted any accusation without a^
whimper. It was bound to be blamed, sooner or later, for
In The Chicago Herald-Examiner of September 21st, 1923,
twelve years after its closing, was a headline :
EVERLEIGH CLUB PLOT CHARGED BY
Wife of Millionaire Says He Tried to
Show She Was Famous Resort Inmate
Could it have been possible that W. E. D. Stokes of New
York had intimated that his wife, in divorce proceedings, was
familiar with the Everleigh Club, which was always sure of
an editor's attention?
The Chicago American of December 12th, 1923. printed
the following headline:
FIND PART OF SKELETON AT ADDRESS
OF OLD EVERLEIGH CLUB
The story went on to say that part of a human skeleton
was found in an alley at the rear of what was once the
notorious Everleigh Club at 2129 South Dearborn Street
(actually one door north of the Everleigh). The discovery
was made by F. P. Cronican, 6428 Ingleside Avenue, city
The bones of the feet and hands and a part of a leg
composed the find. The police were notified as they always
were — too late. Another unsolved mystery. It was a stand-
ing joke among levee police reporters that all murder stories
should start with the phrase, "Mystery surrounds another
death attributed to the Everleigh Sisters."
Poison needles and death tunnels ! Verbiage of reformers,
but vibrant, nevertheless. When the crusaders tacked on
the Everleigh Club, the crimes in the Rue Dearborn flashed
across the continent.
There were so many murders placed at the door of the
sisters that Ada was aroused to remark:
"We are a funeral parlor instead of a resort."
Four houses in the district had duplicated some of the
Everleigh parlors for what was known as the "needle" trade.
The needle meant only one thing: mistreatment by means of
mixing morphine and beer, or morphine and champagne.
The deadly concoction put people to sleep but left no traces
of malicious intent — an improvement on the old-fashioned
hypodermic injection of the nineties although still carrying
the original nomenclature. It was easier for denizens of the
underworld to devise new knockout drops than to think up
appropriate labels. They had their own language and they
understood each other; they were not advertising a com-
modity. In fact, they wanted no advertising. Outlaw cabbies
would take a tipsy or a total stranger to the traps.
Celebrities arriving from New York would often ask for
the Everleigh Club before seeking the object of their mission
and in many circles the sisters were credited with causing
the fast train service between Gotham and Chicago.
All this had a tendency to attract imposters seeking some
of the silk-hat business, but much of this connivery was
obstructed by the very fact that a visitor to the city was
ushered to the club by somebody familiar with the genuine
"Rich millionaires" from all over the world knew and
respected the sisters. They cheerfully paid the fifty-dollar
fee to sequester a lonely sybarite; they gave $1,500 to
COME INTO MY PARLOR
$2,000 dinner parties and they came back for more. The
Everleigh Club had no duplicate, even in Paris. One had
his choice of the art gallery, the library, the dining room
or any of the dozen parlors. In case he felt himself slipping
he could always find a book.
There were always thirty of the most lovely courtesans
in all creation from whom a guest could take his choice.
Perfume, flowers, soft strains from stringed orchestras!
Wealthy dodos forgot home and mother. And they would
always have to be pretty far gone to mistake any resort
posing as the Everleigh.
The club was distinguished, its clientele aristocratic and
its proprietors cultured patrons of the arts. Blue-grass
madams with blue-blooded gentlemen friends.
The money rolled in and the crimes piled up. Yet,
with all the hysteria, few arrests were made. Strange city,
Chicago, between the years 1900 and 1912. And, stranger
still, is the fact that the talented Everleigh Sisters came
through it all in flying colors. As they say in the circus,
they never lost so much as a spangle. It cost them plenty,
they earned plenty and they had plenty of run.
They complained, naturally, to Chief of Police John Mc-
Weeney about the false accusations, about the imitation resorts
and about the "vile destructionists" all around them. Couldn't
he do something about it?
"Listen," said the head of Chicago's gendarmes, "the
sooner you get it into your pretty heads that it takes a little
killing and a little stealing to make a levee you'll do less
"You mean that many a man with rubbers on gets his feet
wet?" interposed Ada.
"Well, that's the general idea," said the policeman.
The sisters looked out of their windows. Their bitterest
rivals operated the resorts to the right and to the left of them.
These were Big Ed and Louis Weiss. Aimee Leslie, Big Ed's
sweetheart, was in charge of 2129 South Dearborn Street to
the right and the brothers in person conducted the dive at
2135 to the left. They had steered clients away from the
Everleigh and they never stopped thinking up ways and
means to embarrass the Angels.
"They have us in the middle," laughed Minna. "But
they've yet to get us in a corner."
"It is the courtesan who incarnates this fascination of the
city." — Havelock ELLia
MINNA and Ada Everleigh were convinced that their board-
ers represented the charm of the big city because they had
sacrificed their so-called honor in the effort to identify them-
selves with it. The girls unbridled their feminine instinct,
they were the mistresses of the feminine arts of adornment,
they could speak to the stranger concerning the mysteries
of womanhood and the luxuries of abandonment with an
immediate freedom and knowledge the innocent country lass
cloistered with only an occasional traveling man would be
The sirens appealed to metropolitan advancement because
they were expert in the art of feminine exploitation, leaders in
feminine appeal, and not because they were able to gratify the
baser natures in them. There are psychological reasons, too,
why they belonged to the city. Their uncertain social position
made all that is established and conventional hateful, while
their temperament made perpetual novelty delightful. The
big city needs surprises, novelties. The Everleigh girls were
cosmopolitan conquerors, maintaining the nervous pulse yet
concealing it. They gave to city men the relaxation that made
the builders able to go forward to bigger and greater achieve-
ment. They exuded freedom of speech, the spirit of the city.
While they appealed to the country youth as the embodiment
of many of the refinements and perversities of civilization,
on the many more complex and civilized men they exerted an
attraction of almost the reverse kind. They appealed by
their fresh and natural courseness, their frank familiarity
with the crudest facts of life; and so lifted them for the
evening out of the withering atmosphere of artificial thought
and unreal sentiment in which so many alleged civilized per-
sons are compelled to spend the greater part of their lives.
"The girls may have been vulgar," declared Minna, "but
they weren't hypocrites. ,, "They knew what kind of lives
they were leading," she said. "The visiting firemen never got
As the "forces for good" were gathering in numbers, the
sisters were quick on the trigger in defending their institution
and what it stood for — Progress in the Big City.
"A girl in our establishment is not a commodity with a
market-price, like a pound of butter or a leg of lamb," insisted
Minna. "She is much more on the same level with people
belonging to professional classes, who accept fees for services
rendered; she charges in accordance with the client's means.
She doesn't 'sell herself as these egg-heads keep shouting.
Such statements are unfair and unjust. As for the moral
and the aesthetic standpoint — who knows ! They write books
about it, but get nowhere.
"The plain, commercial, fish-face reformer, from the time
of Charlemagne onwards, has over and over again brought his
hooks into the evils of our generous catering to nerve-wracked
males and he has always made matters worse. It is only by
wisely working around the issue that we can hope to lessen
its sorrier side. A saner and truer conception of womanhood
and of the responsibilities of women is the only way I know of
that we can expect to take the sting out of 'slipping'."
Minna was always the one to avoid the uglier words.
"Don't forget," she would say, "entertaining most men at
dinner or in any one of our parlors is more tiring than what
the girls lose their social standing over."
She told of a well-publicized muck-raker, who, to better
judge conditions, decided to gather first-hand experience.
Known to the girls, but giving a phony pseudonym, which
fooled nobody, he quietly asked for attention one night.
"How much for a little party?" he inquired. "Special price
of $25 to you," said his consort. He offered a $50 bill
and was told he would get his change. Weakening, after
climbing the staircase to the boudoir, he asked the girl if
it would be all right if he just sat and talked. "In that case,"
said the siren, "you don't get any change."
There was the circus press agent with the fancy passes
on which were pictures of animals and quite ornate. "Sup-
posing I give you these passes to the show instead of money?"
he argued. Finally, after an hour, a deal was made to accept
the ducats. Later he gave his partner $10. "You are beauti-
ful," he said. "I'm sorry I tried to bargain with you."
What about the early days, long before the Everleighs
enlivened a drab profession? There may be some who would
like to know into what kind of a town two aristocrats had
plunged themselves. If it bores, just skip a chapter or two.
But the records, must, in any event, be complete.
Historically, sinful night life in Chicago followed the evo-
lutionary course that any great industry might have followed.
It began in a scattered, individual way with women practicing
the oldest of professions and keeping the rewards for them-
selves. It flourished because it grew with the city.
Free handed men, coming into the new center with carloads
of cattle and hogs, shiploads of grain and lumber, collected
the rewards of their labor and demanded wild flings at ele-
mentary pleasures. Drink and women were their desires.
Demand created supply — concentrated. Saloons began to
gather women for the convenience of the traffic in lust.
Through the 1860s and '70s and '80s the city's underworld
passed through an intermediary stage. Rows of saloons
grew up on certain streets, each with its vice res'ort upstairs
or around the corner.
It was a system so subversive of good order, so incon-
venient to the police, that segregation was suggested. So,
in 1903, the recognized resorts were concentrated into four
One was on the west side, one on the near north side,
one in South Chicago, and the fourth on the south side. The
last one was the real levee, the most populous and the
wealthiest, and the Everleigh Club was the house the visitor
The police asserted that there were only 1,012 women in
the city known as scarlet women. A citizens' group esti-
mated the number at 5,000 !
Any lively night the scene along the levee's streets would
have had its resemblance to a tawdry orgy. Noise blared
from the pianos. The red lights gleamed. Men, young and
middle-aged, reeled from saloon to bawdyhouse. Girls led
their customers from the dance halls to the ever ready hotels.
The situation called for stern action by decent men and
It was characteristic of Chicago, and perhape of all
America, that the movement to eradicate the red-light district
was started and carried through by private citizens. The
political powers sat on the sidelines and said it was no use
trying — if they were corrupt — or were openly hostile.
After 1905 clergymen constantly preached a crusade
against tolerated vice. A veteran police captain, now retired,
said the Everleigh Sisters bore the brunt of abuse. "Ironical
that the best should spoil the apples," he sighed.
On October 18th, 1909, the English evangelist, Gipsy
Smith, made a dramatic sally against the South Side levee.
He led a parade. His cohorts assembled at the old 7th
Regiment armory, and the number was variously estimated
from 2,000 to 12,000.
"A man who visits the red-light district at night has no
right to associate with decent people in the daylight,"
shouted the evangelist. "No ! Not even if he sits on the
throne of a millionaire !"
His words fired his audience. Then, singing, the thou-
sands moved off toward Twenty-second Street. A Salvation
Army band blared at the head of the column. The theme
song of the march was "Where Is My Wandering Boy
Tonight?" Many of those in line were so young they knew
of commercialized vice only by hearsay twice removed. But
about them must have been real fervor. The levee received
this army — in silence. No piano played. No women left
the houses. Every window was shuttered, every door closed.
Not a red light gleamed. To Evangelist Smith's young
crusaders it must have seemed that vice was a deadly dull
Still, they had come for a purpose and they carried it
out. They knelt in the street in front of the Everleigh
Club, and they prayed. They sang more hymns. And then
they went away.
Along with Gipsy Smith's earnest marchers had come
another throng. If he had 6,000 at an estimate, the scoffers
and idlers who went along just to see his show numbered
five, six, perhaps eight times as many. Prayers and laughter,
hymns and mockery, psalms and sneers were mingled in that
sordid haven of harlotry. Religion in the red light sector
It did seem so at the time. After the marchers departed,
the levee was a different place — its real self. Doors swung
open, lights gleamed, music resounded. In the Everleigh
Club a toast was drunk to the evangelist.
The night turned itself into the busiest one, by all odds,
that the district had ever known. Old-timers commented
on the number of very youthful men who seemed to be
making their first contact with vice on the grand scale.
"I am sorry to see so many nice young men coming down
here for the first time," commented Minna.
Perhaps she was ironic. But Gipsy Smith had a clearer
vision — or at least made a better guess — about the results.
"My experiment," he averred, "was worth while. Great
good has been done."
Many observers were inclined to look upon the marchers
as an assemblage of cranks attacking a fortified stronghold
with feather dusters. The observers were wrong. The march
was a manifestation of an awakening civic conscience. The
sisters had only two more years to reap their harvest. The
red-light district, as such, was to be crushed forever, three
years later by State's Attorney John E. W. Wayman.
On the night of Gipsy Smith's bold foray, the police raided
a few resorts on the West Side, carting their inmates in patrol
wagons to jail. That was the old and futile, tongue-in-the-
cheek manner of handling vice.
Mayor Fred A. Busse on March 5th, 1910, appointed
thirty persons to act on what was designated a vice com-
mission. Dean Sumner was made temporary chairman.
Exactly four months later the city council passed an ordi-
nance, giving the commission official status and appropri-
ating $5,000 for its expenses during the year 1910. Five
thousand for a year of snooping? Farcial ! Dearborn Street in
one block played to more than that in a single evening.
Dean Sumner became permanent chairman, United States
District Attorney Edwin W. Sime was made secretary, and
George J. Kneeland was chosen executive in charge of investi-
gations. The commission opened offices on July 15th and
went to work.
Detectives went into nearly every resort in the city,
into practically every flat used for immoral practices. They
laid bare the evil of segregated vice in all its ugly aspects.
They showed how the saloon had "painted women" for
its handmaiden, how girls were lured into lives of shame and
exploited by vicious employers.
When the commission, on April 5th, 1911, presented its
report to Mayor Busse, it required a book of 399 pages to
hold the information. That book was so stinging in detail,
despite its coldly scientific tone, that the United States gov-
ernment barred it from the mails.
Although the report decreed the fate of the levee and the
three smaller red-light districts, the resort keepers laughed
it off. They were rather proud when they read that the pro-
ceeds of their traffic were so great that the profits ran to
$15,699,499 a year.
Rentals of property and profits to keepers and inmates
ran to $8,476,689, said the report. Sales of liquor in disorderly
saloons reached a total of $4,307,000, and in houses and flats
Kneeland and his assistant investigators even estimated
the value of a young woman engaged in the business of prosti-
tution. She could earn, they said, at least $1,300 annually
and if capitalized at 20 times her earnings, her worth as
a chattel was $26,000. On the same basis of figuring, an
honest working girl would be worth only $6,000.
The more Machiavellian madams showed the girls that bit
of statistical work to prove how well off they were. The
Everleighs dismissed it by saying, "You cannot compare a
star to a chorus girl."
In the Club a young millionaire gave a gala party. He
"bought out the house" for a group of friends. The evening
cost him $1,400 and he gave Ada Everleigh his I. O. U. for
A few days later the millionaire sent an agent to the
house with $1,400 in currency. This agent was a stranger to
the sisters. When he proposed to redeem the I. O. U. they
politely informed him there was no I. O. U. and that the
millionaire had never been in the club. The millionaire had to
redeem his own informal note.
COME INTO MY PARLOR
The sisters never failed to protest the indiscretions of
About this time Ada granted an interview in which she
told how she recruited the young women who decorated her
"I talk with each applicant myself," she asserted. "She
must have worked somewhere else before coming here. We
do not like amateurs. Inexperienced girls and young widows
are too prone to accept offers of marriage and leave. We
always have a waiting list.
"To get in a girl must have a pretty face and figure,
must be in perfect health, must look well in evening clothes.
If she is addicted to drugs, or to drink, we do not want her.
There is no problem in keeping the club filled."
They were amused at the report of the vice commission:
"The [X523], at [X524], [X524a] Dearborn Street. This
is probably the most famous and luxurious house of its kind
in the country. The list received from the general superin-
tendent of police August 16th, 1910, did not give the address
of this house, nor of 11 other similar places on the street."
Those code numbers meant the Everleigh Club at 2131-33
South Dearborn Street. They appeared so well protected
the Chief of Police did not care to mention them.
Commercialized vice became a Chicago torment in the
1850's. In at least one instance it was dealt with vigorously.
On April 20th, 1857, a deputy sheriff accompanied by thirty
policemen, descended upon a district known as The Sands,
where vicious men mixed gin and women. The showing of
force was overwhelming and the inhabitants, who had the
reputation of being belligerent, were awed. They offered
"A large number of persons, mostly strangers in the
city, have been enticed into the dens there and robbed,"
asserted The Chicago Tribune* to whom we are grateful for
the greater part of this early history, "and this is but little
doubt that a number of murders have been committed by
the desperate characters who have made these dens their
homes. The most beastly sensuality and the darkest crimes
have had their homes in The Sands, so famous in Chicago
The police detail summarily ordered the occupants of
five of the houses — which were shacks of rough boards —
into the sandy streets. The houses were demolished.
By late afternoon a crowd had gathered. Available ac-
counts show that this mob had a merry time. It procured
buckets of water and poured them on the unfortunate women
inmates who were forced out. The sense of humor in early
Chicago was not delicate.
Buildings were burned by the "settlers", who declared, in
spite, that the police did it. It was the end of the district.
The Sands was north of the river on the lake front where
sand from Lake Michigan gave the squatters an ideal camping
ground. There were no legal rights in the matter.
In 1857 William B. Ogden, the wealthiest citizen of
the rapidly growing city, purchased the rights of some claim-
ants to the land and ordered trespassers off. The squat-
ters defied him. He persisted in his plans and purchased
the rights of such as would sell reasonably. For those who
declined offers he figured out the more drastic action.
Long John Wentworth was mayor. He agreed with Mr.
Ogden that The Sands constituted a challenge to good order,
and he furnished the policemen for the sensational raid.
The deputy sheriff carried a court order for the demolition.
He was accompanied to the scene of his task by Mr. Ogden's
real estate agent.
* The Chicago Sunday Tribune ran a series for several Sundays
on the Everleigh Sisters, starting Sunday, January 19, 1936
In those days, and for decades afterwards, dealing with
after-dark sins a civic problem followed a pattern of expedi-
ency. Since vice could not be abolished, reasoned the city
fathers, it was best to hide it where it couldn't be flaunted.
If wickedness kept to the background the police could be
the judges of its rights and of its morals. This loose rule
prevailed until the red-light had its final shutdown in 1912.
It was not to be expected that the looting, the mobbing,
and the burning of The Sands would reform the women
or drive to work the men they supported. They simply
moved to other places, other houses. Chicago still had to
contend with them.
The Sands was one vice section. There were others.
One was in the heart of the city, The Loop.
Along Wells Street was a row of resorts that became
so notorious the legitimate business men, to get rid of the
implications, had the name changed to 5th Avenue. Later,
when the houses ceased to exist, the name Wells Street, was
In Civil War times Conley's Patch at Adams and Franklin
Streets was the haunt of Negro nymphs bossed by a burly
black woman called the "Bengal Tigress," who seemed to
enjoy raiding parties. They gave her a chance to show her
animal strength. She would bite and scratch the raiders.
At &19 Monroe Street was Lou Harper's house, the
most lavishly furnished then of the city's vice dens, and as
such the forerunner of the Everleigh Club. Men of wealth
went to this place for their indiscretions.
Roger Plant's terrible "Under the Willows" at Wells
and Monroe Streets, doubled its saloon with a bagnio.
On the window shades in gold letters was the suggestive
message, "Why Not?" It was a famous advertising slogan.
The streets of the downtown section at the end of the
Civil War were the hunting grounds of women solicitors.
The Chicago Tribune estimated there were 2,000 of these
"chippies" constantly plying their trade in the business dis-
trict — among them many "war widows."
Their living arrangements were as interesting as they
were peculiar. Numerous four-story office buildings had been
built by the city's leaders, but they had no elevators, and
business men were averse to climbing three flights of stairs
for business. The idle top floors were rented to the women of
the streets. Paraphrasing a clothier's slogan, it was a case
of walk up and spend $10.
Carrie Watson, whom you shall hear about later, had as
her "man" one Al Smith, a saloonkeeper, and he furnished
the money with which she built a house that eclipsed Lou
Harper's. It was burned in the great fire of 1871, but Madam
Watson built another and grander one at 441 South Clark
Carrie bridged a historical gap from the Civil War up
to the turn of the century. During the World's Fair of
1893 her establishment achieved great notoriety. It was ten
years later when she was forced to move by edict of Mayor
Carter H. Harrison.
"I moved against her," he wrote in his book, "Stormy
Years," which was recently published, "from a wish to protect
the passengers in the Clark Street cars, compelled to use this
transportation to get downtown from Englewood and the
It required forty years for the public and the city's
administrations to reach the point where Carrie Watson
could be told to move from the immediate vicinity of the
Her Clark Street house had five parlors and a billiard
room. There is even a legend that there was a bowling
alley in the basement. Certainly great quantities of wine
were sold in this resort at high prices, and this, with her
other activities, built up a large fortune for Carrie.
In her more mature years she had a "man" whose name
was Christopher Columbus Crabb, whom former Mayor
Harrison described as "an imposing looking rooster." This
Crabb, an alert business man where his own interests were
involved, died in 1935 at the age of 85.
When Carrie Watson died Crabb became the consort of
Lizzie Allen, she who built the Everleigh Club at a cost of
$125,000 long before it was leased to the Everleighs. It was
Crabb, as proprietor, who aided in the final battles waged by
Lizzie Allen died in 1896, and it was discovered that she
had left her estate of $300,000 to Crabb.
Chicago, from 1857 to 1894, had little time for the solution
of sinister evils. There was the fire of 1871, the population
was rapidly increasing and the police were too busy with the
strange influx of foreign-born settlers to give undivided atten-
tion to sin and shame. Serious-minded men and women made
an effort to check the rowdy element without making any
particular headway. Opium dens and gambling houses, too,
were up and at 'em. Vice was operating high and wide in
scattered sections, which wasn't so good either because no
central force could keep its eyes everywhere. The shabbier
dens were on the West Side, where there were The Black
Hole, Hell's Half Acre and Coon Hollow — nice places. On
the North Side was a Bowery that thrived until well after
1900. The street solicitors were the curse of the outlying
districts away from the South Side.
White slavery became an issue when statements from
investigations were to the effect that agents met the trains
for country girls. Actually, the bordellos gave such fire-
side comforts to the wayward lassies that they were un-
willing to leave when found. During the thirty-six years
from the raids at The Sands to The World's Fair in 1893
the scarlet profession grew and thrived with only slight
interference. The Fair brought heavy spenders to town,
a boon to the underworld. And the overworked sirens took
to absinthe. "It was a monotonous routine," said one of the
old-time inmates. "What else could we do?" Morphine came
in later years. Faster action. Chicago never was a slow town.
THOSE NINETIES IN CHICAGO
"On with the dance, let joy be unrefined."
— Carrie Watson, star madam of the World's Fair.
INASMUCH as Carrie Watson, whose resort was the show-
place of the 1890's in Chicago, was sweetly southern and
never bitter toward the Everleighs for picking up where she
left off, and because of the colorful period during which she
sat upon the first levee throne, it shouldn't be out of order to
devote a single chapter to Chicago's night life for a few
years prior to the opening of the Everleigh Club. To Jawn
Kelley (Bert Leston Taylor's sobriquet for him), whose iden-
tity has been previously established, the writer is greatly
indebted for the accuracy of details.*
Carrie Watson's was located in South Clark Street, a
few doors south of Polk, and was noted for its grandeur of
furnishings and its lovely girls. William T. Stead, a London
editor, visited Chicago during a winter of tremendous suffer-
ing and hardship in 1893, following the closing of the World's
Columbian Exposition (World's Fair). Among those to re-
ceive his special attention was Madam Watson. Carrie was
coy and Carrie was cultured. She could write articles for the
papers, she was garrulous and she never was lost for an
explanation as to why girls went wrong, citing the familiar
dodges of drunken fathers and the longing for "nice things."
The reformers appreciated Carrie; so did Mr. Stead. The
London reporter gave her a puff in his "If Christ Came to
(Mr. Stead was one of the 1,517 persons who lost their
lives by the sinking of the steamship Titanic on its maiden
* John Kelley was a celebrated police reporter, now retired on a
pension by The Chicago Tribune. He lives in Erie, Pa.
voyage on April 15th, 1912. There is a copy of his "If Christ
Came to Chicago" at the New York Public Library).
There were two outstanding social functions in the '90s.
One was the testimonial benefit to Lame Johnny and the
other was the First Ward Democratic Bal-Masque.
Lame Johnny, who had only one leg and walked with
a crutch, thumped the piano in Carrie Watson's resort, a
levee temple that was known from coast to coast for its
luxurious appointments. All of the levee dives had red
glass in the transoms over the front entrance ; hence the name
"red light district/'
A parrot in its cage hung from the side of the portal of
the house and was taught to speak the name of its mistress —
Carrie Watson. The bird repeated the name over and over
again to the fond delight of the slumming parties. Lame
Johnny's favorite song was "The Palms" and his singing it
a dozen times a night always brought a generous response
when one of the boarders passed the hat.
Hundreds of men and women of the underworld attended
Lame Johnny's yearly benefit. Resort keepers vied with
each other in the purchase of champagne and the popping of
corks, which began at midnight, continued until along after
daybreak. Johnny stood at the door and greeted the guests as
they arrived. When the party was well under way he would
sing "The Palms" with more than his customary gusto. At
the last one of these celebrations a policeman was shot and
killed by another policeman. (Louis Arado, a detective out
of the Armory Station, was the one killed.) That put an
end to Lame Johnny's annual benefits.
About this time the ball of the First Ward Democratic
Club, otherwise known as the Kenna-Coughlin organization,
was inaugurated and for a dozen years was an annual event.
(The last First Ward Ball was held in the Coliseum in
1908.) No other city ever witnessed such a stupendous
terpischorean turn-out. From 15,000 to 20,000 persons at-
tended these revels. Many of the guests came from a distance
— New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, St. Louis and
San Francisco being represented. Boxes around the entire
arena were occupied by some of the city's leading business
and professional men. Enough champagne to sink a battle-
ship was consumed by the occupants of the boxes and great
quantities of beer and booze were dispensed by more than
two hundred waiters, who were kept on the jump from ten
o'clock at night until the festival broke up at dawn.
The levee of unsavory memories was between Van Buren
and Twelfth Streets and from State Street to Pacific Avenue.
Within the boundaries of this small district there were more
than two hundred dives, ranging from low brothels to extrava-
gantly furnished palaces. Saloons were run in connection
with many of the places.
The block in Clark Street, between Harrison and Polk,
was notorious for its "panel houses" no less than twenty-
seven of these going full swing during the World's Fair
(1892-93). To the uninitiated, a panel house was a robber's
rendezvous. Women and sometimes men garbed in female
attire lured the victims inside for their confederates to frisk.
A secret panel in a door or on the side of the room through
which a hand was thrust was what gave the dive its name.
Inmates saw to it that coats and often trousers were placed
conveniently near the panels.
Near Polk Street, in the east side of Clark, was the saloon
of Hank North. Above the saloon was the St. Lawrence
Hotel, of which North also was the proprietor It was
in Hank North's saloon that Mr. Stead gathered much of
the material for his book. Here it was that the London
journalist made the acquaintances of Edmund Browne, a
levee character better known as "The King of the Bums."
Several of the chapters were written in a stuffy little room
of the hotel over the saloon, which was occupied by Browne.
After his return to England, Mr. Stead occasionally wrote
to North. The last letter he received was framed and stood
on the sideboard of the bar. In concluding, Mr. Stead said :
"I shall send you next week a copy of my new annual
on The Americanization of the World/ which I hope you
will receive safely and accept as a reminiscence of my grati-
tude to you in the old days when I used to spend so many
hours in your saloon with our old friend, 'Father Jones'
(Browne), who is with us no more. I have always said
and I stick to it that I learned more of the inside track of
American city politics in your saloon than anywhere else in
"Stead was a man we are sorry not to have known,"
said Minna Everleigh. "He was just a little before our time.
There was a wide diversity of attractions on the levee.
Other than the resorts there were drug stores, blacksmith
shops, oyster bays, barrel house saloons, free-and-easies,
livery stables, gambling joints, dance halls, Chinese laundries,
pawn shops, flop houses, basement barber shops, tin-type
galleries, second-hand stores, undertaking establishments, hot
tamale stands, voodoo doctors, "fooey" lawyers (shysters),
penny arcades, fake auctions, shooting galleries and news-
stands selling obscene books.
The Pacific Garden Mission was at the corner of Fourth
Avenue and Van Buren Street, where Billy Sunday accepted
religion, quitting baseball to become a notorious free-and-easy.
A block west of the mission, in Clark Street, was the
Workingman's Exchange, a saloon in which "babies" (16-
ounce glasses of beer) could be had for a nickel and where
$65 a day was spent for free lunch by Michael Kenna, the
proprietor. There was 400 loaves of bread cut up daily,
which gives an idea of the drains on the provisions. And
cut by hand, too. The reformers said that the bar was
properly named because workingmen exchanged their good
money for foul drinks there. During the lean months fol-
lowing the World's Fair the Exchange was a godsend to
many a poor duffer. Nobody was ever turned down for a
meal. "Pitch in," was every bartender's greeting to a
stranger who hesitated over the free lunch. And legend
has it that Hinky Dink Kenna discharged a bartender be-
cause he asked that the mahogany be decorated with a
nickel before a customer tackled the fodder.
Cocaine addicts would congregate in the drug stores
and used the "gun" (hypodermic needle) openly. Often
a half dozen "coke" fiends would meet in a levee drug
store, "shooting" the drug into their arms and thinking
nothing of the gaping audience. These pharmacies also
sold a mixture called "luck" to negro purchasers. Pack-
ages of the stuff came in three sizes, 25c, 35c and $1. The
superstitious women took the powder to their rooms, where
they burned it in a pan, believing it would bring good-luck.
Chinatown, with its gambling and opium dens, was the
most respectable, or rather, the least disreputable, part of
the original Chicago bad-lands. Every basement in Clark
Street between Van Buren and Harrison, was a hop-joint,
and the stench of opium in its cooking process assailed the
nostrils of the passerby. Tong wars in Chicago were un-
heard of in those days. The Hep Sings and the On Leongs
played fan-tan and lived together in peace and harmony.
Sam Moy was the "mayor" of Chinatown and his word
was law. He spent $15 a day for whiskey over the bar.
His favorite haunts were Kenna's, Rafferty's, Lomax's, Law-
less, and Kavanaugh's. The day Sam Moy was buried
thousands of curious persons flocked to the levee. His
white widow rode alone in a carriage behind the hearse,
on the driver's seat of which sat a Mongolian flinging
bits of paper to the wind. It is the Chinese belief that the
devil follows a corpse to the cemetery, and that he must
gather up every little bit of paper strewn along the way —
in so doing, perhaps, he is liable to lose track of the de-
ceased, especially on a windy day.
After the South Side levee of the Everleigh regime was
closed, Chicago's Chinatown moved (in 1912) to the former
resort area, abandoning its former haunts entirely. It is
today a home-loving and business settlement.
It was in Chicago's downtown levee that Pat Crowe
began his career of crime. He robbed "Swede Annie,"
an inmate of one of the houses, of jewelry valued at sev-
eral thousand dollars. Crowe soon afterward became no-
torious as a train bandit and as the abductor of Edward
Cudahy, for whose return $25,000 was paid. He finished
on the Bowery in New York.
At Harrison Street and Pacifice Avenue was the Armory
Police Station, more famous than the Bow Street Station
of London, or the Mulberry Street Station of New York.
More than five hundred men and women were frequently
brought into that coop in a single evening. Today office
buildings and mammoth printing establishments occupy the
sites where vice once held sway, and nothing remains to
tell the wayfarer of the vileness that polluted the air.
The South Side segregated district had been, of course,
running quietly as early as 1893, but the more depraved
element kept to the southern skirts of The Loop, as the
central portion of the city is known. There were dives
west of Halsted Street in Morgan Street on the West
Side; and, on the North Side, from the Chicago River to
Chicago Avenue, to the west, and east of North Clark
Street were nondescript sinneries. These dives on the North
and West portions of The Loop were lowly, cheap resorts
with none of the glamour that was attached to South Clarl
Street and later to Twenty-second Street.
The South Side levee actually took on momentum with
the arrival of the Everleigh Sisters in 1900. They gave
new life to what was becoming a lost cause. The South
Side levee began on the north at Archer Avenue, a diagonal
thoroughfare, and extended south to Twenty-second Street,
about four blocks. The western boundary was South Clark
Street and the eastern deadline was Wabash, a matter of
three blocks. Frieberg's dance hall was in Twenty-second
Street just below State Street. In it were 119 houses with
a total of 686 women inmates. This district, the most
celebrated of all Chicago's vice sections, was approximately
two miles as the crow flies from the heart of The Loop,
State and Madison Streets, the latter diving the north and
The levee in the 90s, as in the 1900, had its sorrows
and its pleasures, its smiles and its tears. One of the sad-
dest incidents was the suicide of a fifteen-year-old boy. He
was a waif of the street and the only name by which he
was known was "Red Top" on account of his hair. Where
he came from nobody knew and cared less. He eked out a
miserable existence by running errands for the inmates of
the Clark Street bagnios.
Saving his nickels and dimes until he had $3, he spent
it for toys, which he gave to the children in the neighbor-
hood. The next day he hanged himself in a woodshed.
The police found a note in his pocket:
"They ain't no fun living this way and I'd sooner be
dead. I never had no father or no mother or no home.
I don't owe nobody nothing and I don't want nobody to
cry after me. So good-bye."
The note was written on a piece of wrapping paper and
signed "R. T."
The suicide of "Red Top" caused profound sorrow among
the women for whom he ran errands and they decided to
give him a "swell funeral." Carrie Watson's generous offer
to defray all expenses raised a storm of protests. As "Red
Top" was known and liked by all of the landladies in Clark
Street, they thought all should be given an opportunity of
helping to pay the funeral bill. It was agreed that no one
be allowed to chip in more than $5 toward the fund.
The body lay in a white plush casket, and loving hands
smoothed the carroty hair. There was a prolusion of flow-
ers, and women's tears fell upon the bier.
The superintendent of the Pacihc Garden Mission came
to the chapel and held a short service of prayer, after
which he sang, "In the Sweet By and By." It had been
years since many of the women mourners had heard the
beautiful old hymn, and, as the thoughts of happier days
came rushing back upon them, their suppressed sobs could
be plainly heard.
Hank North, who in his younger days played the cornet
with a circus, obliged with "Nearer My God, to Thee" in
true virtuoso style. Delia Mason, a Negress entertainer
at Vinie Fields' establishment, sang "Gwine to Get a Home
Bimeby," because it was deemed appropriate for the occa-
sion. By the request of all present Lame Johnny sang
Miss Eva Lowry and Miss Mollie Monroe, resort keepers
in Fourth Avenue, arrived at the chapel while the services
were in progress. Speaking for herself and her companion,
Miss Lowry apologized for what she termed "butting in,"
but she felt (as did also Miss Monroe, who bowed with
becoming dignity) that the decedent belonged to all, and
that Clark Street ladies should not monopolize the "sorrow-
When she sat down she whispered to Miss Monroe:
"I guess that'll hold 'em for awhile."
One of the boarders at Madam Ellison's house sang
"Au Revoir" to a banjo accompaniment played by a Negro
character known as "Banjo." Before the lid was fastened
down upon the casket the motley crowd took a last linger-
ing look upon the face of the dead. Several hackloads of
mourners followed the white hearse out to Oakwoods Ceme-
tery, where poor little "Red Top" was laid to rest.
Lawyers, whose practice was confined to police courts,
were mostly shysters. But a shyster, knowing the ropes,
could often win a case for his client, whereas, if a client
was represented by a highbrow attorney he would be found
One morning a highbrow mouthpiece was at the Armory
court to represent a girl who was charged with clouting a
man over the head with a croquet mallet. The case was
about to be called and several witnesses, who were to prove
an alibi for the levee lady, had not shown up. The high-
brow attorney was running here and there looking for his
witnesses when a shyster asked him what was the matter.
"My witnesses are not here," he said, "and my case
is the next on the call."
"Don't get excited, brother," said the obliging shyster.
"I've got a half dozen witnesses here in a street car acci-
dent case. Take mine."
An opium joint in a Clark Street basement was raided
one night and a score of Chinamen were carted of! to the
Armory station nearby. It was not positively known who
was the keeper. Before the case was called the next morn-
ing one of the reporters suggested to the captain of police
that those arrested be sworn according to the Chinese cus-
A policeman was sent to South Water Street for a live
chicken. Upon his return the captain explained to the
judge, before whom the case was called, that the only way
to drag the truth from a Chinaman was to make him dip
his fingers in the blood of a freshly killed chicken.
The judge demurred at what he termed a "heathen trav-
esty," but the reporters, looking for a colorful story, induced
him to let Sam Moy, who was delegated executioner of the
chicken, proceed with the Oriental custom of administering
One of the "pipe hitters," whom the police suspected of
being the keeper of the den, was the first to be called to
the witness box. Holding the chicken by its legs, Sam Moy,
assisted by a policeman cut off its head. The oath was ad-
ministered and the judge said to the interpreter:
"Ask him if he is the keeper of the resort."
The witness sat pigeon-toed in his chair with his hands
buried in the sleeves of .his jacket. Ranged in front of him,
around the judge's bench, were half a hundred of his coun-
trymen, gazing in slant-eyed awe.
"The witness began to chatter, and as he progressed he
swayed back and forth. His Celestial listeners were expres-
sionless. To the other spectators it seemed as if he were
saying something like this :
"Bow wo fung. Kwang he fat toy. Wah poor san toy.
Ing goo hip lung. Tom kee moy ging. Mong soo yet lee"
— and more.
After spilling enough words to fill a book, the witness
ceased abruptly. Although the scene was one to provoke
laughter, no one grasped the humor of it. Addressing the
interviewer, the judge asked: "What did he say?"
"He say no," was Sam Moy's reply, at which the court-
room burst into an uproar.
Now you know the origin of this standard bit of radio
Sam Moy, as interpreter of the Armory station, used
the phrase, "putting in the fix," should there be those to
doubt that certain expressions used herein were not of the
1890 period. He was, in short, the fixer as well as the
interpreter and the 'Mayor of Chinatown." His smile as
described by Bret Harte in one of his poems, was "child-
like and bland." Those were the days before John Chinaman
cut off his queue or adopted "Mexican" dress. His garb
consisted of a loose fitting brocaded blouse, baggy trousers
and sandals. His "pig tail" hung down his back. He had
a habit of getting into trouble and he earned a lucrative
living in the levee district.
Another expression that gained momentum during the
speakeasy days in America was "shakedown," a synonym
for graft. However, in Chicago in 1890 there was a levee
character known as "Bad Jimmy" Connerton, whose prin-
cipal weakness was saloon brawls. He had risen up from
the three-shell game (you know, guess which shell the pea
is under) and went into the newspaper business. His paper
was called The West Side Sittings, and was written for the
West Side underworld, but carried enough South Side gossip
to boost a Loop circulation. The sheet was nicknamed,
The West Side Shakedown, shakedown being a common noun
in the 90s, although it was abbreviated to "the shake" in
prohibition years. The gambling-house keepers claimed Jim-
my was "shaking" to suppress items.
I mention this because in a previous chapter I had
quoted Ike Bloom for using the expression "pancy," denot-
ing effeminate manners in a man. I changed the word to
rosey-posey" to satisfy the doubters, but as far back as
1903 I heard Bloom say pansy for a pansy and we all
seemed to understand what he meant. Yes, he said rosey-
posey, too, to indicate queer people.
There should be a word about newspapermen who arose
from the mire of early Chicago to lasting time. Among
these were Brand Whitlock, war-time Minister to Belgium ;
Willis J. Abbott, Samuel Travers Clover and James Keeley,
vice-president of the Pullman Company. These four died
within two weeks in 1934. Whitlock was the first to go,
dying in France on May 24th; Abbot died in Boston, Clover
in Los Angeles, and Keeley in Chicago.
Brand Whitlock went to work on the old Chicago Herald
in 1890 as a cub reporter for Charley Chapin, afterward
the autocratic city editor of The New York Evening World,
the Simon Legree of Park Row who earned a salary of
$25,000 a year and who went to Sing Sing for the murder
of his wife. (Chapin died in prison at the age of 72).
Whitlock covered general assignments, including the Clark
Street levee. "The Kid from Tillyido," the Loop characters
called him — he had come, as you know, from Toledo. Upon
visits to Chicago in later years he never failed to visit the
scribes at the South Clark Street Police Station.
Abbot was former managing editor of The Chicago Times,
afterward an editorial writer for Hearst in New York and
Chicago and from 1921 until he died he was an editorial
writer on The Christian Science Monitor. Sam Clover, born
in England, began newspaper work by making a trip around
the world in 1880 when he was 21 years old. In the 90s
he conducted a column called 'The Omnibus" for The Chicago
Herald and for the twelve years prior to his death he was
editor of The Los Angeles Saturday Night.
Keeley (known to hundreds of newspapermen as "J. K.",
the initials affixed to all his notes) was a former London
newsboy who, after ambling about America, started in Chi-
cago as a North Side police reporter. Keeley secretly cher-
ished the idea that some day he would be the "main squeeze."
His first desk job was reading copy. Three years later
(1892) he was appointed night city editor. Going up!
In 1898 he was made managing editor, and from 1910 until
1914 he was the general manager of The Chicago Tribune.
He left The Tribune in 1914 to merge the Inter-Ocean with the
Record-Herald, two morning newspapers, calling the com-
bined papers The Herald. The World War heavy costs of
operation caused The Herald to suspend publication, merging
with Hearst's Chicago Examiner. That was the end of Keeley's
You have heard of Chapin. Other famous journalists
who knew the town were George Ade, Finley Peter Dunne,
Charles B. Dillingham, Eugene Field, Ring Lardner, Percy
Hammond, Jack Lait, Franklin P. Adams and Frank Adams.
The last named should not be confused with Franklin Pearce
Adams, columnist on the New York Herald Tribune. Frank
Adams was a police reporter for the City Press Association
who, as co-author, wrote several musical comedies which were
produced at the La Salle Theatre.
E. S. ("Teddy") Beck was a copy reader on the old
Herald, the same Beck who today is managing editor of
The Tribune. He is recognized as one of the outstanding
figures in American journalism.
Others of importance in early reporting and later high
in executive positions were Robert Peattie, Edgar Sisson,
Tiffany Blake, Arthur Sears Henning, Mark Watson, Fred
Hall, William Hard and C. W. Taylor ("Old One Hun-
dred"), a humorist of the old school who wrote "In a
In the spring of 1890 a young man wearing a low
crowned "dicer" of the Weber and Fields variety made his
way into the reporters' room of the City Hall. He was
about 25 years old. He smoked a pipe and he said he was
not adverse to light wines and beer.
"My name is Ade," he said. "And I'd like somebody
to introduce me to Hinky Dink." John Kelley, then on
the old Herald, took the young man in tow.
"I'm on the Morning News," said young Ade.
On the way to the Harrison Street Police Station, called
the Armory in those days, George Ade told his new friend
that he had learned how to be a reporter by watching him
jot down notes on several assignments, but was timid about
making an introduction. They dropped off at Hinky Dink's
place in Clark Street. Two of those tall, cool ones were
passed over the bar as Kelley introduced the proprietor.
"You don't mean to tell me that this mild, little party
known far and wide as Hinky Dink is the person of whom
I have been reading all these years?" said Ade.
The "little fellow" enjoyed the observation as much as
Such was George Ade's first contact with the exciting
side of Chicago in the '90s. Nobody predicted a brilliant
future for him, but when he struck his gait with "Stories
of The Street and of The Town" even Hinky Dink as well
as all of the underworld began to sit up and listen.
There are no initials better known in newspaperdom than
F. P. A., which stand for Franklin P. Adams of New York.
Mr. Adams was a clerk and solicitor in a Chicago insurance
office when he was hired by the Journal to conduct "A Little
About Everything." Bert Leston Taylor had quit the Journal
for The Tribune and the "column" was edited by various per-
sons, including Barrett Eastman and Billy (W. A.) Phelon.
While Eastman was in charge, one of his contribs was
F. P. A. His identity was not known.
One day after the reporters and copy readers had left
the office a young man applied for * the position. Billy
McKay, managing editor, told him there was no vacancy.
The caller was persistent. He wanted a newspaper job and
he wasn't particular about the salary.
"Young man," said McKay, "if you were Horace Greeley,
Joe Medill and Charles A. Dana all rolled into one I couldn't
put you to work. The payroll is up to the limit."
The visitor was not going to be bluffed so easily. His
life's ambition, he said, was to be a newspaperman and he
was sure he would make good if given the chance.
"What do you think you would like to do on a paper?"
said McKay, in a kidding sort of way.
"I'd like to run that column 'Little About Everything p "
was the reply.
"Do you think you could sustain a column like that?"
queried the managing editor.
"Yes, sir, I am quite sure I could," answered Adams.
"I've been a contributor."
"All right," said McKay, "come around in the morning
at 7 o'clock and bring your tools with you. The column
closes at 10 :30 on the dot."
The young man was at the Journal office before the jan-
itor finished dusting off the desks. When McKay arrived
he found him grinding out his column, too busy to look up.
At 10 :15 he walked over to the managing editor's corner
and laid a wad of copy upon his desk. He had used a
fountain pen and green ink the chirography was small and
McKay read the first page of stuff and before he was
halfway into it began to chuckle. He was laughing aloud
when he got to the bottom of the page. The stuff was great.
At the bottom it was signed F. P. A.
Adams sat behind the Everleigh Sisters during the 1933-34
New York theatrical season at a play called "Mahogany
Hill", which aimed to tell thrilling drama behind the walls
of Washington's most popular bagnio. The sisters had been
the invited guests of your reporter. But they requested
incognito. Dozens of former Chicagoans were in the theatre
that night and the word oozed through the house that the
Everleighs were there. Walter Winchell, in fun, had spread
a telephone report that a noted New Yorker, once of Chi-
cago, was "to be exposed." Unfortunately, the play wasn't
up to the billing, yet an electrical spark of impending danger
kept everybody straining their necks, either to get a peek at
the famous sisters or to listen for an exposure upon the stage.
Nothing happened. The play didn't click and nobody rec-
ognized the Everleigh Sisters. Had the Everleighs been dis-
covered the show might have been a hit. Somebody surely
would have forgotten the demerits of the drama for the
merits of the sisters.
A press agent would have given his heart's blood to have
had either Minna or Ada cry out:
"Take me out of here. It's too real, it's too real. I
can't stand it." Such antics might have landed in the news
Instead, the Everleighs quietly left the theatre. The
"fast play" laid in a fast house turned out to be pretty
slow stuff. There wasn't sufficient action. Even the sisters
The next "day F. P. A. asked the writer :
"Where were the Everleighs sitting?"
"Right in front of you."
"Why didn't you introduce me?" he said.
He was the first old-time Chicagoan out of the first
hundred old-time Chicagoans questioned to admit he didn't
know the celebrated sisters. Conducting a Chicago column,
evidently, left little spare time for gallivanting.
"Circumstantial evidence is the best kind of evidence,
because you cannot manufacture circumstances."
— Luther Laflin Mills, noted old-time Chicago lawyer,
CHICAGO always favored pet names for its pet characters.
From the "Mocking Bird", who was Billy Whelan, Hinky
Dink's predecessor as a member of the city council from
the First Ward, up to the time of Mayor "Big Bill" Thompson
all gentlemen with an ounce of sporting blood in their veins
relished a pseudonym. Even this writer, whose only claim
to high-pressure was his passion for surveying the front
of the Everleigh Club after collecting some rents for his
grandmother in the colored settlement at Twenty-sixth and
South State Streets in 1903, was called "Smolon" by the
other kids in the neighborhood. Smolon Peterson was the
big sporting man in our precinct, a Swedish contractor with
plenty of visible cash, who won his way to new business
by treating purchasing agents to a night in the Everleigh
"I tank you better go home," as uttered by Minna Ever-
leigh, burlesqueing the accent of Smolon, on many a sun-up
long before Greta Garbo established the better portion of the
There were, for instance, "Izzy, the Rat", "Lovin* Putty",
"Monkey-Face", "Anixter", "Mike de Pike" Heitler of the
West Side, the "Blonde Boss", who was United States Sen-
ator William Lorimer (charges of buying his seat in Con-
gress was a national scandal and the "Blonde Boss" was
unseated), "Appetite Bill", "Docs" for dudes wearing Prince
Alberts and plug hats, "Big Steve" Rowan the stage door
bouncer at the Chicago Opera House), "Scrappy" Hogan
and "Big Jim" Colosimo among the politicians and levee
celebrities. There is still a "Sport" (U. J.) Herrmann of the
better-known Loop inhabitants. He had owned the Cort
Theatre (now demolished) and rates an entire book — "From
Billposter to Millionaire."
Long before Colosimo, a dictator in the Everleigh days,
came into power he was noted for popularizing quaint ex-
pressions. "Betsy", meaning a revolver, was one of these
and his "Remember the Maine", which meant to watch your
step, were picked up far and wide. When reporters went
on out-of-town assignments, managing and city editors would
often conclude a telegram of instructions by saying, "Re-
member the Maine". Both Minna and Ada Everleigh, even
to this day, say the three little words as warningly as
a mother telling her child to be careful in crossing the
Chicago loved its own language and its own Who's Who.
Charley Chapin dubbed the old First Ward alderman
the "Mocking Bird" because he had a singsong accent and
because he unconsciously mocked the last person with whom
he had been talking, picking up whole sentences and strange
words as though they were his very own.
There are some who are hazy about "Mocking Bird"
Whelan and many, perhaps, who may be concerned as to
what ever happened to him. Briefly, he was murdered.
Back in 1890, during the Everleighs' debutante parties in
Kentucky, the "Mocking Bird", who had been drinking
heavily, was eating an early breakfast in Matt Hogan's
all-night saloon. George Hatheway, a faro dealer in a nearby
gambling house, entered. He walked over to the table where
Whelan was seated and spoke to him, but the "Mocking
Bird" was in a quarrelsome mood and made an insulting
reply. Wishing to avoid trouble Hatheway walked away.
He was followed by Whelan, who attempted to strike him
with a cane.
"Drop that cane or I'll kill you," said the gambler, whipping
out a Betsy from his pocket.
With the cane raised above his head as if to strike,
Whelan advanced toward the frail gambler. Hatheway
pulled the trigger and a bullet struck the "Mocking Bird"
in a vital spot. He lived a few hours.
It was a page story. When Hatheway was brought to
trial, the lieutenant of police who handled the case tried to
suppress the fact about Whelan threatening to strike his
adversary with a cane. He had put the cane into the vault
at detective headquarters and "forgot that it was there."
Kelly of the old Herald knew about the stick and tipped
off Hatheway's lawyers. The cane was produced in court
and it probably saved Hatheway from the gallows.
The Everleigh Sisters had often overheard the old-line
reporters talking about the Whelan shooting and appro-
priated a moral from Exhibit A. If a stick could save
Hatheway it might, on occasion, save them. They planted
a cane in each of their twelve parlors for emergency pur-
"Good to knock a Betsy out of a hand, my dear," was
Big Jim Colosimo (quotes around Big Jim are unnec-
essary because he never was known by any other name)
was 49 years old when he was murdered in his famous
spaghetti restaurant at 2126 South Wabash Avenue at 4:25
o'clock on Tuesday afternoon, May 11th, 1920. The as-
sassin had hidden himself in the checkroom at one side of
the entrance, where the killing occurred.
Big Jim had come in a few minutes before the shooting,
going directly to his office in the rear of the cafe, where
Frank Camilla, the bookkeeper, was busy with the receipts
of the night before. Together they had called the res-
taurant's attorney, Rocco de Stefano. Unable to connect
with the lawyer, Colosimo walked out of the office, giving
a few curt orders to his waiters and pantrymen. He then
went to the front of the cafe, passing through the swinging
door into the entryway.
The assassin fired twice, the first bullet missing its mark.
Big Jim wheeled around for flight, but a second slug cut
through an artery in his neck and buried itself in his brain.
It was Camilla who found him lying on the floor, speech-
less and death only a few minutes away. The murderer
had already fled, stepping over the body and fleeing down-
stairs to the basement and out through a rear entrance.
An open door leading into the alley told the story of this
nimble flight from the death scene. The report: "They've
got Big Jim," spread through the former red-light section.
Seven years had passed since he issued orders to the madams,
but he was still a boss when killed.
The widowed bride, Miss Dale Winter, afterward the
Irene in one of the many companies playing "Irene", a
musical comedy, had been married to Big Jim more than
three weeks before, on April 17th, at Westbaden. On March
31st Colosimo obtained a divorce from his first wife before
Judge John P. McGoorty in the Circuit Court in Chicago.
His home was at 3156 Vernon Avenue, the funeral was on
May 15th and he was buried in Oakwood Cemetery.
The last friend the Everleighs had had in the old vice
district was dead. Big Jim of the "paper suits", so-called
because they were so thin that one could almost see through
them in the summer time, was a decent sort. Minna could
cry upon his shoulder, when in difficulties, and Jim loved
it. A mammoth man, as his name indicated, he had but to
push against a locked barrier and the bolt snapped. For
a girl or a madam in % trouble he stopped at nothing. A
powerful man — and kindly. Breaking down barriers was
only one of his attributes the other was cooking. His
enemies feared him and his associates loved him. And he
never complained when tears stained his seersucker suits,
often plain white and subject to the mascara blotches from
sobbing sybarites taken under his wing.
In the boom days of the levee he could be found at
almost any hour of the afternoon or evening at the south-
west corner of Twenty-first Street and Armour Avenue, his
resort, which boasted of a long bar, a back-room where
the maidens could be had or left alone and with all the ac-
commodations upstairs of a first-class dive. There was a
kitchen, equipped to cook the finest viands. At heart, Big
Jim was a restaurateur. Cooking a meal or spaghetti often
was his way of cheering a wayfarer whose outlook seemed
hopeless. Filled with the Italian dish, as he prepared it,
banished any torment. The "red ink" he served was the
Whenever Minna telephoned him that she was coming
over to see him about, for example, the reduction of pro-
tection fees, he would frequently tell her to "sit tight," add-
ing "forget it, I'll be along in a few minutes." He was
three blocks away, and, as the saying goes, he made it in
nothing. Armed with boxes of spaghetti, a jar of tomato
sauce of his own mixing and with plenty of grated par-
mesan cheese, he would rush through the portals of the
Everleigh Club, going straight to the kitchen.
"Draw up a couple of chairs," he would beckon to Minna
and Ada. "Where's them big boilers? Never mind, here's
A spaghetti meal was under way.
"What's up?" he would ask, donning an apron. "Ike
Bloom been bothering you again? What's eating Ike, any-
way? I always said he goes too far. McWeeny (the police
chief) has got Ike bluffed. I'd like to see the gent who
could bluff me. I think you'll like this sauce — I dug up a
guy to raise mushrooms for me. Can't beat 'em."
Pleasure and business.
"What's the squawk now?" Big Jim would ask.
"A $40,000 shake to keep open," Minna said at one
spaghetti session in the last days of the line. "I don't
think Bloom has anything to do with it. We want your
"That's what I'm here for," replied Colosimo, uncon-
scious of the grotesqueness of his remark. "I'll tell you
how to handle it. Tell the collectors that you'll give 'em
the dough in monthly payments of $5,000 a month. Stall
'em. After all, Johnny Wayman (state's attorney) will be
the guy in the big clean-up of the levee if there is one. The
idea is to get a fat pool together to square the North Side
(the state's attorney office). But why should you ladies
be the goat for the big end? Pardon me, for looking at
the clock. This stuff shouldn't be cooked over nine min-
With his own lily-white hands, Big Jim would arrange
the plates, doing all the honors of serving his Italian paste,
which was eaten in the kitchen, sans linen and trimmings.
"Pitch in," he would say. "That's a stiff touch — forty
thousand. Them are numbers that Bloom don't know, you can
bet your bottom dollar on that. Forty thousand — that's
a hunk of money, any way you look at it. Now where the
hell is Joey with the wine? I sent him home for it."
Within a few minutes the rear bell would jingle; Joey
was as prompt as could be expected. He delivered the
Chianti, chilled properly and ready for consumption.
"Good boy, Joey," Big Jim would say, handing him a
dollar even though he was on the regular payroll. "Taxi
fare," he always grinned, knowing that the boy had walked.
"Five thousand a month or nothing, that the ulti, ultimat —
that's your ultimat — "
"Ultimatum," said Ada, coming to his rescue.
"Take it or leave it, tell 'em," Big Jim went on. eating
ravenously regardless of the hour although these get-togethers
were usually about four in the afternoon. "It may be tea-
time in Boston but it's spaghetti time in Chicago," he once
remarked. "This is my idea of living."
His business and his pleasure finished, he Would excuse
himself and depart.
In the matter of the $40,000, the sisters did exactly as
Big Jim told them to do. It didn't work as well as expected,
but as the levee was doomed the sisters maneuvered a huge
saving even though they did have to choke down a dish
which they didn't particularly enjoy.
"And spoil our dinner, besides," Ada said.
Big Jim Colosimo went from scarlet to pink to black.
His rise from a ragged water-boy and street-sweeper, climb-
ing gradually through the lurid labyrinth of the underworld
to a cafe owner of international acquaintance, a power in
politics, a collector and fixer in the levee district and a
friend of others of the arts and professions, is unrivalled
in Chicago's mining-camp growth.
Big Jim is dead now and his remarkable life for the
first time is an open book, printed and reprinted thousands
of times in the sixteen years since a murderer, still unknown,
shot him down. His career was crowded with things scarlet
that gradually turned to the pink of romance with pretty
Dale Winter, his cabaret girl, whom he had married three
weeks before he was killed.
One of the most gripping pages is devoted to Mrs. Victoria
Moresco Colosimo, who is credited with having given Big
Jim his start in life, the woman he divorced six weeks before
Together Victoria and Big Jim worked for years, mak-
ing their business address the center of the old levee.
Throughout the days of the open district and down through
a more vicious era their new resort flourished, but their
romance paled. In 1913 Jack Lait, then a Chicago reporter,
"discovered" a young and vivacious girl singing in a church
choir. He told of his "find" to Big Jim and soon afterward
the newspapers blazed forth with the story of a church
oriole working in a notorious cafe. Dale Winter had made
good both in the choir and on the floor of Colosimo's, as
the cafe was known. Big Jim fell in love with her, sincerely
and secretly. For seven years he debated his problem.
There was Victoria who had warmed him to levee life
and it was Victoria who owned the dive at Twenty-first
Street and Armour Avenue. Even though Big Jim was fore-
man of her plant, an institution of diversified pleasures, he
was a faithful husband.
However, to start from the' beginning, Colosimo made
his first appearance in Chicago lugging a water pail to
quench the thirst of fellow countrymen section hands on
He was too big to remain a boy, so he strolled into the
First Ward when it was in its bloom and got a job pushing
a broom and cleaning the streets. He was now a "white
wing" with a white, if not a clean, suit. The other sweepers
grew to like him, resulting in an organization of cleaners
for political purposes. He met Hirky Dink and Bath-house
John; they helped him. He helped them.
Gradually, the sweepers grew into a union with Dago
Mike Carrozzo as the head. Carrozzo went to jail for
the alleged complicity in the Mossy Enright murder, a labor
case. Colosimo refused to hold office and was made a boss
of the sweepers. He blossomed into flashy clothes, but
sticking to white whenever the weather permitted. The
next step was the Everleigh Twenty-second Street country-
side. He met and impressed the sisters, who predicted a
glorious future for him. Victoria came next. Here was
a manager, a fixer, a personality and a likely bet for a
permanent mate rolled into one. Such men were hard to
find then and still are. Needless to say that he made a for-
tune in the resort — a dollar house, but always crowded.
After the levee was closed Mr. and Mrs. Big Jim opened
their Wabash Avenue cafe, which soon attained fame, the
underworld denizens giving way to a high-class patronage
until, at the time of the murder, men and women of prom-
inence visited it.
They liked the strains of the music, the songs and Big
Jim's highly-seasoned foods. They liked him. They came
back in such large numbers that men had to be employed
to take care of the automobiles parked along the curb.
Big Jim went to the opera and the opera stars went to
Big Jim's. Galli-Curci, Caruso, Tetrazzini, Campanini and
many others made Colosimo's their rendezvous while in Chi-
It was a popular restaurant with a popular proprietor.
Who wanted Big Jim killed? It remains as big a mystery
at ever. Jack Lait once laid it to the mobs coming into
strength with prohibition, saying Colosimo owned a secret
formula for making much bootleg whiskey from a little
genuine whiskey. His refusal to divulge his prescription
was given as a motive for the killing. If so, who did it?
There was no answer.
Al Capone was a budding hanger-on, ignored and un-
known in those days. His power took on strength with
the death of Colosimo. He was considered too friendly
with the cafe owner to be openly accused of having any-
thing to do with the crime. He went to prison for income
tax evasions and not for his skill with a shooting-iron.
The rumblings of an inner battle for the supremacy in the
new evil, bootlegging, which was getting a firm toe-hold in
1920, soon dwindled into a mild flash of heat-lightning.
There was a fight over the estate, Dale Winter asking
for nothing. This brought forth another angle. Why didn't
Miss Winter demand her widow's share? Death threats?
She said as much. One headline from a Chicago news-
paper in May, 1920, stated:
WIDOWED BRIDE BARES DOUBLE DEATH
THREAT OF COLOSIMO'S DIVORCED WIFE
Told Us She Would Kill Both
Similar intimations held the news columns for a month.
But these, too, drifted off into nothing tangible.
The Everleighs were questioned, but what did they have
to do with the crime? They had been away from Chicago
for eight years in 1920; they were in retirement and entirely
out of the local social life. Big Jim, to be sure, had been
their favorite counsellor and their most amusing chef, but
that was all. They could not hazard a guess as to the
probable murder and they didn't try.
"It surely wasn't a disappointed spaghetti eater," said
Minna, which was as near to a deduction as she could make.
Big Jim's private business affairs, it came out, were
too numerous and too involved for run-of-the-mine levee
sleuthing. He owed a legitimate debt to his divorced wife,
who had staked him to prominence and wealth, and her
claim for a share of his estate sifted down to a matter
of an honest deal. One by one the "leads" banged against
blank walls. As for Capone, his connection with the murder
was a bit ridiculous. His mob were never known as marks-
men who killed in two shots; they sprayed with a battery.
Colosimo was a levee character, going the way of the
majority of levee characters. He had plenty of "sorehead"
acquaintances, as he would have called them. He was ruth-
less, iron-fisted and strong-willed. He had a domineering
drive that could have induced any one of a hundred drug
addicts to take a pot-shot at him.
It was, after all, just another typical levee killing. And
the wise reporters, as usual, had the first sentence memo-
rized in advance:
"Mystery surrounds the latest levee slaying."
The text had been staple for thirty years. And, being
an Italian shooting, some of the news-chasers dragged out
another old standby — Black Hand murder. It was a sure-
fire "mystery surrounds" follow-up, good for all editions.
Arnold Rothstein, just before he was killed, summed it
all up by saying:
"The only way to beat the rap is to quit the racket."
But he didn't quit soon enough.
The Everleigh Sisters beat Rothstein as well as other
underworld leaders to the punch by saying nothing and
walking out. They lived happily ever since they quit in
TINSEL AND GLITTER
"Gambling diverts men faster than lechery."— Minna Everleigh.
ALL that glittered in the Gold Room of the Everleigh
Club may not have been the precious metal, but the gold-
rimmed goldfish bowls and the shiny cuspidors were 18-
karat and no questions asked. Every year the room itself
was done over in gold-leaf and every day it was polished like
the handles of the big front door. On one redecorating a
guest accidentally botched up a panel while the gilt was still
"Come, I'll show you where a man put his hand last
night," Minna told a painter.
"If it is all the same to you," replied the dauber, "I'd
rather have a glass of beer."
He fixed the panel, but he had to go to the corner saloon
for the beer.
As for the piscatory globes, these enhanced police lan-
guage with the term, Goldfish Bowl, a sweat-box where
prisoners were blackjacked into confessions.
"What chance has a goldfish?" a detective winked at
Minna. "Well, that's what we figured. The reformers think
the name is cute."
The gold gobboons, too, came in for a bit of heralding.
These were the envy of the levee, costing $600 each, which
was an inside price from a jeweler who sold trinkets to the
girls. There were four of these darlings invitingly ar-
ranged around the cove. Minna vehemently denied they
were serving as an advertisement for a chewing tobacco,
declaring she and her sister couldn't think of linking com-
mercial schemes with a social and artistic endeavor.
"Another false rumor," she would say. "Gentlemen
came to our club to forget the outside world. Imagine
how silly it would have looked seeing an inscription such
as 'Chew Mail Pouch and Spit Straight* engraved on our
lovely floor-all pieces. Banish the thought, my friend."
Jack Johnson, the colored pugilist, opened his Cafe de
Champion in Chicago, making more fuss over his gold-
plated pots than he did over the quality of his liquor. Far
and wide it was printed that the boxer's catch-alls (when
the aim was good) were a sight for dim eyes. The list
price of the Johnson buckets was given as $57.
"The rims on ours cost more than that," said Minna,
jealously. "I'm sorry we didn't know a way to protect the
The Gold Room, however, succeeded despite the copy-
ists. Its richness, especially when swarmed with beautiful
maidens who had no equal anywhere, dazzled the confirmed
roues and first-timers alike. That golden piano, a titian-
haired lassie, a glass-inclosed case filled with nude statues
and the added touch of a magnum of champagne were a
spellbinding combination, taking a fellow back more than
a few years.
When the other eleven parlors failed to register, there
still was the Gold Room. Sour-faced pilgrims, obsessed by
sex to a degree far beyond that which is observable in the
thoughts of even the lowest, loosest-thinking practicer of
perversities, waited in line for a crack at the glistening
parlor. It paid for the investment four-fold.
"We discovered," said Minna, "that the scrupulously strict
were correspondingly keen to discern suggestions of sex
where nobody else would think of looking for them. Such
men snorted whereas strong men were amused. We played
right into the tracks of unsound minds. We had the girls
in red gowns and we dimmed the lights — for the sancti-
monious persimmons. Such trade thrived on teasing. We
gave 'em 'the works' as it afterward became known, and it
"But none of the exciting elements was necessary for
the downright hungry male. He accepted his dish where
he found it, making no complaint. He paid promptly, which
is better than I can say for the mealy-mouthed."
Both sisters concluded there are only two kinds of men,
depraved blue-noses and regular fellows. Each caused his
share of trouble, but with entirely different gestures. The
witch-burners lied too much and the stalwart shot too straight.
Somebody was sure to get hit, especially as alcohol in
continuous doses brought out the coarser natures in both
group. Keeping a happy balance even among mild-man-
nered regulars with too much aboard never was an easy
task. Wine jags, it is generally conceded, are the most
provocative — and only wine belonged among the Everleigh
Club's gaudy garnishing. A blue-nose argued about the
cost and the regular doubled his fists.
It took two vocabularies to handle the assorted guests;
oil for the fanatics and hard words for the others. Ada
was expert at smoothing the conniptions of the "holier than
thou," exerting her sweetest and churchiest charms in a
treatment replete with expurgated denunciation. It was the
heat, an inferior grade of champagne — the wrong year, or
a girl's lack of refinement — never the man himself. She
helped him on with his stiff cuffs, straightened his bow tie
and pulled down the tails of his Henry Clay coat. And
off he toddled, his head bowed low — until he was safely dut-
side the levee district. Then he talked to himself.
Minna talked turkey to the hard-boiled. What kind of
a man are you? Brace up, pardner, you're not that sort,
and we are sure you can lick any man in the house, soothed
the he-man. Such palaver seldom failed, unless, of course,
the patient was too far gone. Then she had him put to
bed to sleep it off.
Had they discovered a method to suppress tantrum-
tempted tarts there would have been very little of a dis-
tressing element in the enterprise. Nobody, it appears, has
yet learned how to baffle a woman headed for the war-
"Real men, we found, would rather gamble any day
than gamble with women, which isn't as paradoxical as it
appears," said Minna. "Admitting that women are a risk,
which accounts for them getting away with so much, I still
say that men prefer dice, cards or a wheel of fortune to a
frolic with a charmer. I have watched men, embraced in
the arms of the most bewitching sirens in our club, dump
their feminine flesh from their laps for a roll of the dice.
"We never took any share or engaged in any of those
little impromptu diversions because, usually, they were en-
tered by our best spenders. Nevertheless, once the dice
started rolling the girls were abandoned by the players.
"Men had to be coaxed; that is, well-balanced men did
before warming up to a romance. Even if this fact was
well established — through history and literature we find De-
lilahs doing their utmost to fascinate men — it always amused
me to see potential Don Juans, who had deliberately visited
our club for biographical expression, becoming inarticulate
except for such phrases as 'come seven, baby needs a new
pair of shoes/ "
She saw to it, she said, that no gambling interlude lasted
for more than a half hour. Besides, there was a law against
"There was only one thing to me worse than games of
chance," interposed Ada. "That was the ring from a cham-
pagne glass on our gold piano. It was a happy day when
we conceived the idea of using rubber washers from Mason
jars on the bottoms of the glasses."
Tinsel and glitter! The Gold Room was certainly a
It is doubtful if Minna and Ada Everleigh ever forgave
the brutal treatment they had received from their husbands ;
theirs was a stored-up bitterness toward all males from which
they could not escape. Even though they refused to admit
it, their every action indicated a score to be settled. The
way they studied men, their insight into the whims of men
and their determination to make men pawns in their par-
lor were the antics of the spider and the fly. Their web
was spun to their liking; it was luxurious because they
were born to luxury — it was their home. They were enter-
taining themselves all the while, and yet the millionaires
were caught in the entanglements without suspecting a net
had been set for them.
The sisters were not vicious ; they were not greedy. They
were, simply, red-blooded human beings with a sore spot
that wouldn't heal. Fortunately, they were endowed with
a side-splitting sense of humor; otherwise their conduct
might not have been so exemplary.
They were hospitable southerners always and they were
proud. They had been raised to sleep as long as they
liked and they ate generous meals of very good foods. They
had been taught that honor must be spotless, for honor
counts a tremendous lot when one has long, empty hours
to brood in. It would not be hard, if one was inclined to
worry, to be worried into madness by a slight.
And money came so easily, so easily it was hardly worth
thinking of, there in those twelve parlors that reaped in a
$1,000 harvest nightly. It reminded them of the South;
the "slaves" did the work. Their house ran to palace size,
like their old home, and, like the planters of their child-
hood, they sent to Europe for whatever they wanted.
They longed for a photograph of Bernini's famous mas-
terpiece, Apollo and Daphne, which they were unable to
find in America. They learned that the original Bernini sta-
tue was at the Villa Borghese in Rome — they sent a photo-
grapher to Italy.
The picture, as described in a lccter to a friend, "shows
Daphne transformed into a laurel tree. The Greeks con-
strued Apollo's loss of Daphne as symbolizing that all
mortals shall be denied the Heart's Desire, ever the unat-
The friend, a retired actress, indicated a fondness for
the photograph and the sisters presented it to her. They
gave mementos unreservedly not so much to impress as to
give pleasure. Of all their trophies, Apollo and Daphne
was their favorite, typifying their own lives, the lives of
their frustrated clientele and the lives of everybody they
knew. They were positive that Heart's Desire was unat-
tainable; they weren't so sure that others were cognizant
of that fact — the photograph belonged in circulation where
all could see it.
Bernini's statue had consoled them for many years; it
was an inspiration in their darkest as well as their brightest
hours. Well they knew that there was a thorn in success,
romance, fame. They had met the successful, the famed
and yet neither was thoroughly contented. Romance had
failed them. They did not need words to convey thoughts;
why did those who were supposed to have everything worth
having come to the Everleigh Club?
It must be remembered that they were married in 1897,
in a decade filled with illusions and to have had the mirrors
shattered was a shock not easily dismissed. But they never
discussed their marital woes and to many they were only
a couple of "rebellious old maids" out for no good. Men
who came to their palace of sin were too busy trying to
forget to listen to the Everleighs even had they been in-
clined to tell about their "deep sorrow."
Every time the political and police powers clamped down
restrictions they could not help thinking of the strong
hands that once embraced Minna's snow-white neck. His-
tory repeating itself? No, men up to their baser mischiefs.
However, such language of the melodramas of the period
as "foul beasts", for instance, wasn't for their lips. They
were tolerant, with an understanding of the Jekyll-Hyde
natures of a large portion of their clientele, seeing a Dr.
Jekyll side up to a given point and then, when wine un-
covered Mr. Hyde, they moved every wile at their command
to restore a "gentleman" back into a gentleman.
Considering everything, the sisters were the most pa-
tient and forgiving madams in the country. They had poker
faces in time of direful stress. They "took it" bravely.
Their demeanor, even on the closing night, is a lesson in
conduct; their constant attempts to avoid rough-house and
their veneer of gaiety when their hearts were most heavy
are masterpieces on how the well-mannered woman should
behave in all crises.
A wealthy packer's son, who made no bones of his pro-
found thinking once told the sisters, quoting Balzac: "Wo-
men have no minds — all they can do is dance." How little
he knew, with all his wisdom.
And talk about calmness ! When daggers were being
hurled at them from all sides, this reporter called one day.
Where do you think he found Minna? She was in her li-
brary, reading a Life of Balzac. "I was curious to know
how the great interpreter of the human comedy lived and
loved," she said. "Honore descended, you know, on his
father's side from a line of common day-laborers. His
name was Balsa, but he changed it to Balzac, obviously
for social reasons. Later, for similar reasons, he completed
the evolution by prefixing, without license, the royal particle,
"Mayor Harrison threatens to close your establishment,"
was the rude interruption. "Let's get down to earth."
"When do I do that," smiled Minna, "I'll encourage a raid.
What do you say if I change our name to d'Everleigh? I
think Ada would approve."
No bitterness, no raving. This was in October, 1911,
a few days before the final shut-down, which Minna antici-
pated »and though she must have been boiling over within,
she appeared cool and comical. Rumbles of a dispossess
notice from the police and the dismantling of a $200,000
investment did not cause her to bat an eyelash.
Did you ever see big business men facing calamity ? They
have been known to jump out of windows, tear their hair
or slip out to Greece. John J. Garrity, for many years
general manager for the Shubert theatrical interests in Chi-
cago, turned all colors when he was told that actors were
going on strike and that his theatres would be darkened.
You know a hundred other examples of the distraught male.
"Funny thing," said Minna that October afternoon, "but
there are a thousand volumes of fiction, most of which I
"In event they do close you up, then what?" came the query.
"Don't be so serious."
"But you are the greatest in this industry," said the caller.
"Your associations ? You cannot forget them easily. You've
built a notable name because you are a student of personal
associations. Aren't you just a little worried over the
possibility of losing — all this and more?"
"My friend," drawled Minna, "greatness is an illusion.
I am not a student of personal associations. That is a
phrase that might be used with sense in reference to a
philosopher like Schopenhauer, an observer of life like Mon-
taigne, a psychologist like William James, but not to me.
I am a student of tinsel and glitter — nothing more. I have
nothing to lose and nothing to gain. When the band stops
playing I'm alone at the stage-door. I am no more a stu-
dent of human nature than is the wily politician who schemes
for votes or the actor with a sure-fire role. I know certain
formulas bring certain results — where the laughs are, for
"You'll need plenty of laughs to get out of this mess,"
volunteered the visitor.
"Come, I have something newsy for you," she said,
taking the reporter's hand. "Ada has had a love affair.
I just heard about it. She's dying to talk about it."
There was a wealthy young man, a frequent caller at
the Everleigh Club, whose business suddenly summoned him
to New York. Secretly, he was wildly infatuated with Ada
Everleigh, coyly holding her hand whenever he called and
going through the lovelorn motions of an 1890 romance.
Ada had her suspicions, but in a den of love, true love
Now it must be born in mind that neither of the madams
engaged in the affairs to which the club was dedicated.
A kiss on the cheek was the best the best customer ever
received — a good-night curtsy and that only for a favored few.
Ada's man had that longing look in his eyes, that ner-
vousness of the bashful swain with honest desires. He
brought her flowers, which was like bringing a glass of
water to a lake; he gave her a three-karat diamond ring
even though she had one necklace alone worth well over
$100,000. He gave her candy and he wrote love notes.
Ada was impressed.
But the young man went to New York. He wrote her
a long letter, inviting her East and promising wedding-
bells. Ada replied, saying she was tempted to accept his
offer. To her, it was a wholesome adventure.
However, she kept putting off the trip. Finally, the
wooer wrote to a newspaper friend, enclosing a copy of
Ada's missive. The newspaperman, now prominent in New
York, rushed to the Everleigh Club, putting in a strong
plea for his friend.
"Our letter to him plainly indicates how you feel," he
said. "I never read such a charming note. It's literature ;
it's sentimental — it's everything. What's the matter with
As Ada afterward said, she was tempted. The news-
paperman, a scholar whom she- respected, had almost con-
vinced her that romance, regardless of one crash, was still
the big thing in life. Twenty-five years after the Everleigh
Club was closed, Ada still thought of her "lover" and spoke
kindly of him.
"I really don't know why I didn't go to him," she said.
"I wasn't afraid and I liked him very much. He was nice,
the nicest man I ever knew."
Minna said that her sister had felt the touch of tinsel
and glitter and would not have felt easy in soft surround-
ings. "That wasn't the reason," came the quick response.
"Maybe you didn't care to leave your sister?" was the
"I don't think it was entirely that."
"There must have been some tangible reason?"
"There certainly was," stamped Ada. "My sweetheart
took a terrible dislike to our gold piano. He said it was
feverish and unbecoming. I couldn't forgive him for that.
I would have sacrificed my diamonds, anything, but not the
gold piano. If you only knew how I loved that beautiful
She sighed deeply. She still has the gold piano.
Nobody cares what became of the gold cuspidors; there
were no tears when they were sold at auction.
You know unsuccessful marriages motivated the destiny
of the sisters; you know they did everything on a lavish
scale; you've heard about some of the inmates and you
shall hear about a few more; you know Minna and Ada
were outcasts in an outcast society and you know they
fought side by side in every battle. But you haven't heard
a most interesting phase of their interesting lark — when
did they eat and what?
How does a madam, for instance, keep her trim figure
trim and how does she avoid wrinkles, crow's feet and gray
hairs? Does she have supper when others are having break-
fast and is a late dinner her principal meal?
First, dinner to the Everleigh Sisters was dinner at the
appointed hour, except that it was served usually at eight
o'clock. Chicken was Minna's favorite dish and vegetables
were Ada's. There was always a little light wine, brandy for
a topper with the customary soup and salad courses. Occa-
sionally Ada deviated from the vegetarian diet.
They enjoyed having guests at mealtime; they often
sat over dinner until after ten o'clock, and then arose only
because they were needed in the front rooms. They ob-
served Southern customs, serving fruits, salted pecans and
bon bons. Cigarettes, cigars and liqueurs were at the dis-
posal of all.
Instead of a damask cloth, the table coverings were of
Spanish drawn-work with napkins to match. The glassware
was gold-rimmed crystal.
To be a guest at the Everleigh table was considered by
many to be the equivalent of breaking bread with royalty,
except that nobody ever thought of bread or royalty.
A birthday, especially Minna's or Ada's, an inmate's be-
trothal, the return of a stray crony or word that one of the
Everleigh kin wasn't asking for a remittance were enough
excuse for an epicurean orgy. But this wasn't all. Some-
times as often as five times a week some millionaire would
sponsor a celebration. And you wonder why twenty-six
servitors were necessary? Not now you don't.
Incidentally, the inmates normally had their meals served
earlier than the sisters, usually at six o'clock, which allowed
time for primping before the nightly performance. The six
o'clock dinners were gay, biting affairs — the nymphs were
themselves among themselves.
For the special celebrations the host invited the courte-
sans he wanted and, as this came under the heading of busi-
ness, those excluded seldom felt slighted. In the long run
those who missed out in one special party made up for it in
Breakfasts were served at two in the afternoon, often
consisting of iced clam juice and an aspirin. However, for
those inclined to nibble at food there was the choice of eggs,
benedictine, kidney saute, clam cakes with bacon, planked
white fish, shad roe, breast of chicken with ham under glass,
buttered toast supreme and Turkish coffee. Minna and Ada
came downstairs for breakfast and the girls had their choice
of sitting at the table or having their breakfast served in their
As the Everleigh Club thrived before the common usage
of tomatoe juice, the girls would ask for iced canned tomatoes.
Some would just ask for a can of tomatoes and gulp down
the entire contents. Baked apples and plenty of applesauce
were consumed. Sliced oranges, stewed fruits and canned
peaches also were in demand.
The Everleighs appreciated the value of vital nourish-
ment long before the late Alfred W. McCann attended
to our vitamin needs. They talked of safer containers for
canned goods, and the whole grained cereals appealed to
them as protective foods. They ate the skins of the baked
potato and, like the French, saw to it that the water from
cooked vegetables was never wasted.
Whether this had anything to do with their good health
is open to debate, but the fact that they lived a strenuous
life and came through well and strong is ample testimony that
proper eating did them no harm. Further, as you shall hear
in the next chapter, two of the girls well over forty were dis-
covered in 1936 in China and still up to their old tricks —
they were kind enough to give credit for their virility to the
Everleigh Sisters' menus.
Of the many hundred persons who ate at their table
there was not one who failed to tell of the exquisite flavor
of the dishes — and I mean dishes.
Neither Minna nor Ada has the stereotyped physiognomy
expected of a woman who had lived through eleven years of
the fastest life in the fastest house this nation ever supported.
They both looked stunning in evening clothes in 1936.
As for those dinners, supreme of guinea-fowl, pheasant,
capon, broiled squab, roast turkey, duck and goose — a cold
bottle and a hot bird (quail on toast) were Minna's weak-
nesses. Au gratin cauliflower, spinach cups with creamed
peas, parmesan potato cubes, pear salad with sweet dressing,
artichokes, stuffed cucumber salad, asparagus, carrots candied
and plain, browned sweet potatoes, lettuce of all species and
celery coerced Ada.
Cheese dishes and plain cheese delighted both sisters ; they
could eat ice cream four times a day and did.
The suppers served after midnight included fried oysters,
Welsh rabbit, deviled crabs, lobster, caviar plain except for
a dash of lemon juice and scrambled eggs and bacon.
"In our day a quail was the equivalent of chippy," said
Ada. "Often when a guest asked for a quail we thought he
meant a girl instead of a bird, which may account for the term
'hot bird* to avoid confusion."
"Success depends upon knowing the right (telephone)
number." — Jimmy Duukin, Chicago Tribune Office Boy.
LET them deny it, but the fact remains that off-duty reporters
on The Chicago Tribune used to go to Stillson's, across the
street from The Tribune offices at Dearborn and Madison,
after eleven o'clock at night. Stillson's was a saloon with a
good restaurant. However, there was a closing law in Chi-
cago, which darkened honest places at one o'clock. And then
where did some reporters go? You guessed right the first
time — to the Everleigh Club.
In the summer of 1904 the writer, aged fourteen, became
a copy boy on The Chicago Tribune. James Aloysius Durkin,
an orphan who grew into manhood as the most famous of all
Chicago copy chasers, was the perpetual office boy. E. S.
("Teddy") Beck may have been the city editor, James Keeley
may have been the managing editor and Edgar Sisson may
have been the day chief, but Durkin gave the orders to the
boys. The highest honor for a youngster learning the
"Newspaper business" was to relieve Jimmy on his night off.
Your reporter fell heir to this role shortly after joining the
Jimmy explained the duties quickly and ungrammatically.
"You answer all them phones on the copy desk; you
tell reporters calling up about stories where to get off at;
you listen for the bells on the fire alarm, count 'em and
then look in this little red book to see where the fire is;
you pick up the copy from them copyreaders and you put
it under a hunk of lead on Mr. Beck's desk; after Mr. Beck
okays it you send it up them pneumatic tubes to the com-
posing room," said Durkin.
"About ten-thirty to eleven Mr. Beck bids good-night
to the reporters which means they can get the hell out of the
office. They've been working since one o'clock in the after-
noon and their day's work is over. But you stick around until
three-thirty in the morning when the city edition goes to
He gave me the key to his locker.
"A couple of rewrite guys hang around late if anything
breaks," he continued. "The police reporters phone in their
stuff. That's all there is to it."
He started for the door, turning suddenly. As an after-
"If a big yarn breaks after one o'clock and Mr. Beck goes
bugs asking for you to dig up some scribes call this number —
"Calumet 412, what's that?"
"The Everleigh Club, son, a whore house," snapped
Jimmy, and away he went, whistling.
On The Tribune in those days were Julian Mason, a copy
reader who afterward became editor successively of The
Chicago Evening Post, The New York Herald-Tribune and The
New York Evening Post; Walter Avery Washburne, also a
copy reader who became city editor of The Chicago Evening
Post; Hugh S. Fullerton, Joe Davis and George Siler.
One early morning there was a big fire in a warehouse
near the South Side levee district. First reports said several
were trapped in the burning building and that the flames
were spreading. A 4-11 alarm was sounded, calling out all
apparatus within five miles.
Mr. Beck yelled for reporters. The substitute copy boy
looked from The Tribune windows; the lights in Stillson's
were dark. He grabbed the telephone and called Calumet 412.
"There's a 4-11 fire over at Wabash Avenue near Eigh-
teenth Street," he cried into the receiver. "Any Tribune
"The house is overrun with 'em," said a sweet voice.
"Wait a minute, I'll put one on."
Needless to say the story was properly covered.
The next day Durkin asked his understudy how he was doing.
"You saw the paper this morning?"
"Yep, the fire story, you mean? Where did you find a staff?"
"It never failed yet," hummed Durkin.
They kept books at the Everleigh Club instead of using
brass checks, a customary method in resorts for calculating
a girl's earnings. Whenever there is bookkeeping there is
always somebody to outwit the system. Nellie of many
quirks not only had a good figure but was good at figures.
She devised some sort of an erasure combination that re-
sulted in the inmates getting more than they earned. And
she was caught at it.
"What are you going to do to me?" asked Nellie, defiantly.
"Nothing," said Minna. "If you had done to a church
or to a bank what you've done to me they'd have you locked
up — 2 horrible example. One of our girls had a father in
St. Louis who went to jail for helping himself to a collection
box in a church. They called it embezzlement and it was a
terrible disgrace. And you, Nellie, have brought disgrace
upon this house, but we won't go into legal bosh. Please leave
as quietly as possible."
The other girls who had participated in the false entries
Several months later Nellie's body was found floating in
the river. In her purse was a brief message. It said :
"I've made mistakes all my life and the only persons to
forgive me were two sisters in a sporting house. Kindly
tell, for me, all psalm-singers to go to hell and stick the
clergymen in an ash-can. That goes double for all the para-
sites who talk a lot but don't do a damn thing to help a girl in
trouble. Call Calumet 412. I'm sure of a decent burial if
Nellie, who had laid to rest those in whom she found noth-
ing, was laid to rest in style — by the Everleigh Sisters.
One received action by calling Calumet 412.
An alderman, showing the sights to a dapper stranger
insisted that Minna dance with his friend. It was a friendly
party, but after the councilman and his chum departed the
madam discovered that her diamond breast-pin was missing.
Several hours later the telephone rang; the alderman
wanted to speak to Minna.
"My friend stole your pin," he said. "I told him he
couldn't do that to you. It'll be along in a few minutes by
a special messenger. Sorry, but mistakes will happen."
He gushed a bit and then added :
When can I see you again?"
"Any time," laughed Minna. "Call Calumet 412, but
don't bring a pal."
Mamie Sherwood was a good girl, one of the best of
the lot. Her weakness was newspapermen. A simple soul,
she would confide in Minna, telling of the quaint traits of
the writers she had met.
"Do they have to do that?" she asked one day.
"Take strong drink to inspire them. Is writing so difficult?
Harry always seems so exhausted after a hard day at his
typewriter. I caught him taking a hypodermic injection, but
I cured him of that. I wish you would excuse me for a few
weeks because I intend to watch over him."
She did and the man became a noted essayist without the
stimulants of -drugs and drinks.
"How did you do it?" Minna inquired upon discovering
a new man in Harry.
"Very simply," said Mamie. "I told him that whenever
he felt himself slipping to call me at Calumet 412."
In the summer of 1936 two former inmates of the Everleigh
Club were located in China.
Their names are Margaret and Alma and they were found
at 473 Kiangse Road, Shanghai. They looked as gay and
chipper as when climbing the mahogany at 2131 South Dear-
born Street, Chicago.
"Thought we'd take a trip around the world," said Mar-
garet. "This is the only way to see the sights."
They laughed over the "old days," said a word of praise
for the Everleigh diet and admitted that nowhere were con-
ditions as pleasant as they had been "out in Chicago."
"Drop in again sometime," they said. "Our telephone
here is 12779. Not half as easy to remember as Calumet
Miss Margaret (Kennedy) gave the visitor a calling card
on which the new telephone number was printed. She was
George Warren, for many years manager of McVicker's
Theatre in Chicago and later a dramatic critic in San Fran-
cisco, faced the problem of all theatre managers — how to fill
a house for an attraction that was slow to catch on. Giving
away passes never was an easy task because everybody
expects a catch when given something for nothing. Warren
solved the torment satisfactorily.
"Where did you get all these people?" asked a visiting
producer one night, seeing McVicker's packed to the doors.
"I called Calumet 412," said George, quietly, as though
the whole town knew the terminus of that line.
Incidentally, the theatre was a commodity that was rel-
ished by inmates and madams alike. The denizens of the
levee district went after theatre tickets, even when paid
for, like throngs to a dirty play in Boston. The bartenders
had families and the corner grocer was willing to take a
night off — for a pass.
Whenever Warren had fifty or a hundred tickets to give
away it was no problem for the Everleighs to find takers for
them. Their recipients were good boosters and that was all
Warren cared about.
However, the sisters themselves, even to this day, prefer
matinees, which brings to mind the afternoon in the lobby
of the Studebaker Theatre in Michigan Avenue when two
well-dressed women drove up in their carriage. They went
directly to the box office and asked for two tickets.
Willie Newman, company manager for the show, was
standing alongside the box office wicket and, seeing two
"class* customers, approached the women.
"Beg your pardon," he said, "but I am the manager for
this production. It is a Frohman show and you know Mr.
Frohman is very careful to keep everything clean and re-
spectable. You could safely bring the children to this play."
"Thank you," smiled one of the women, asking for two
more seats. They returned to their carriage.
After they were out of hearing Newman scolded the
"See, what I did," he boasted. "I told 'em the play was
clean and they bought four tickets instead of two. Why don't
you do that? And what the hell are you laughing at? We
want that type of patron for this play — Frohman's orders.
Stop laughing, will you. What's so funny?"
"Call Calumet 412 and you'll find out," said the box office
Diamond Bertha had two inhibitions — sparklers and head-
cracking. She could wear a handful and a gownful of dia-
monds as graciously as she could wield a champagne bottle
over a gentleman's head. The Everleighs had to get rid of
Bertha, not because she used a bottle as a billy but because
her jewels were attracting a bad element — robbers.
So Bertha packed up and went to New Orleans. Six
wealthy roues, whose heads had been bandaged at one time
or another, but who were forgiving souls, saw her to the
train. She flaunted her gems all over the sleeper.
She had been an inmate of the Everleigh Club for six years,
but she was hardly in New Orleans six months when her
body was found, her hands and diamonds missing. Clues led
to Chicago. The Everleighs were questioned and several
wealthy men who had not done so well in the stock market
were under suspicion. While nothing came of the investiga-
tions, the number Calumet 412 kept bobbing up ; it was found
in the dead girl's note-book, on her calling cards and penciled
on several hotel envelopes.
The following year, 1910, Calumet 412 for the Everleighs
was missing among the listings in the Chicago telephone
book. Ada Everleigh, after whose name the number had
been given, concluded it has served well and long enough.
"How about a little something for the professor?"
— Old apothegm.
VAN, Van, the piano man, played the ivories as nobody can.
His name was Vanderpool, probably Vanderpool Vanderpool,
and he was the professor at the Everleigh Club. He gave
vitality to a keyboard, churning symphony out of chopsticks ;
he had wavy hair, jolly ways and a tuxedo that happened to
fit him, but he was "a fly on the wall" in the opinion of the
madams — a necessary adjunct, nothing more, to a resort.
"Those artistic souls think they are too good for a house
and that cramps their style," vouchsafed Minna. "I cannot
imagine any of the girls falling in love with a professor," a
statement that was verified in Charles Robinson's play,
"Mahogany Hall," in which the pianist of a resort was the
"love interest." Audiences refused to accept the character
as a hero, man, or beast and the play failed.
The girls and the proprietors of the Everleigh Club had
very little time for the "perfessor". He was amusing and he
was fairly reliable, but he seemed to lack stability; that is,
he never had any money.
"A bagnio pianist learns to play Toet and Peasant/ like a
vaudeville xylophonist, without stopping for twelve minutes,
and that about lets him out," said Ada.
Harsh words, yet ringing with truth. Eve so, Van was
a good sort. He did his best to cheer up the depressed
sirens, borrowing a ten-spot if a grievance was devastating
"Start worrying about getting the ten back," he would
grin. "It'll take your mind off your other troubles."
Van was Van to everybody; well, almost everybody. It
seems that he once placed tissue paper instead of bills in a
girl's stocking after she had granted him an evening and to
the insiders he answered to the name of "Tish" ever afterward.
"Tish is a gag," he alibied. "Minna told me to do it for a
kugh. I've been framed. Nix on that Tish stuff. Whatdaya
say. Chopin or tinpan alley?" He was off.
He had a Satanic sense of humor. One of the best jokes of
the club was his. There was an oil painting of a three-
quarter figure of a man in the vestibule. Always somebody
was asking as to its identity.
"That," said Van on one occasion, "is a painting of the
man who came here for an old-fashioned entertainment."
While a piano-player was a part of every brothel in folk-
lore, he was only a fill-in in Chicago. Banjos were the favorite
instruments in the South Side levee although the Everleigh
leaned toward stringed orchestras, embracing a violin, cello,
piano and harp. Van, the handyman, helped out between
He would breeze in and out of any of the rooms as silently
as a ghost, play a few bars and, if not encouraged, would
disappear as stealthily as he had entered. He knew his
place. Some liked his music and some didn't. Besides, he
had been told to make himself scarce unless requested.
When overboard from a strong drink and when inclined
to moan that he would be happier in a more rowdy resort,
the sisters would lose no motion in telling him to take his
hat and go. But Van, suspecting they meant it, had the
"How man I leave the gold piano?" he sobbed. "It inspires
me ; I love the little, gold piano. It's all I have in the world."
Knowing that Ada favored the glittering music-box, he
was secure in his job. Invariably he wound up with a drink
supplied by the house — all was forgiven.
He kept his cigarettes from burning the pianos, he had
beer mats for his classes and he was possibly the tidiest pro-
fessor "on the line."
*'Comes from my mother making me wash the dishes
when I was a kid," he explained. "And think of the hell I'd
get from the sisters if I burned these works of art. Then
they would fire me."
Among the professor's confidants was "Diamond Lil"
(long before Mae West created the role) over whom a police
lieutenant shot it out with another admirer in her apartment
one night. This was early in Lil's career, shortly before the
Everleigh Club opened. The sisters had forbidden the girl
to mention the subject, but it was the high spot in her other-
wise newsless existence and whenever the coast was clear she
would burden Van with all the details.
Mina caught her in the midst of telling "before I came
here" one evening and there was such a rumpus that Van
immediately provided what he called "music cues." In other
words, he said it with songs, like a code, serving as a warning
as well as tipping off secret information. The expression,
music cue, he appropriated from the theatre, the snapper
that put an orchestra into action.
Here are some of the songs with their hidden definitions:
"I'd Leave My Happy Home for You" — Be careful, Minna
or Ada is coming.
"I'm a Jonah Man" — Watch your step.
"I'm on the Water Wagon Now" — Hint to girl to encour-
age her friend to buy the professor a drink.
"Just Because She Made Dem Goo Goo Eyes — Keep your
eyes open ; your friend has his eyes on your jewels.
"Lazy Moon" — Everything is "hunky dory."
"Mansion of Aching Hearts" — Fourflusher.
"More Work for the Undertaker" — Danger.
"Oh, Didn't He Ramble"— Pass him up; waste of time.
"On the Banks of the Wabash"— Go the limit.
"Rip, Van Winkle Was a Lucky Man" — Flattery, he is a
"She Was Bred in Old Kentucky" — Minna or Ada in a
"Tell Me, Pretty Maiden"— Change the subject.
"Under the Bamboo Tree" — Rush him while he's hot.
"When It's All Going Out and Nothing Coming in"—
Lend me $10.
"Just a nut," said the courtesans who needed no help from
Van. "He never was right yet about anything."
"This is what I get for being a good fellow," he would
carry on. "Nobody appreciates me." He was right; nobody
Occasionally a new girl would be intrigued by his devil-
ishness, but finding him taken "with a grain of salt, by the
regulars she soon passed him up.
In a huff he quit one night, going to a colored resort. He
was the life of the party among the sepia lasses, who seemed
to be fascinated by his dinner clothes, his clean shaven face
and his gentlemanly manners. All the inmates sought his at-
tention. But he brushed them aside.
"What kind of a man are you ?" asked a dark-skinned imp.
"I'm a showman," said Van. "Baby, I've played for the
best of 'em."
"Well, then you ought to like me," cooed the sepia siren.
"I'se got show blood. I have a sister in the Williams and
Walker big colored show, 'In Dahomey'."
Two night later Van was back at the Everleigh Club.
There was no glamour to the role of professor. Van
tried to write in a better part for himself, but with little
success. He slinked into the club and he slinked out; there
were no high-powered cars waiting for him in his later days
and there were no liveried coachmen at the turn of the century.
He wasn't even permitted to live in the house.
Desperate attempts were made to locate a full-fledged pro-
fessor in after years for the simple reason that it might prove
interesting to know what becomes of a resort pianist. It is
all right for a neighborhood dentist, who is studying piano, to
say that a "perfessor" takes up dentistry. But what does he
really take up?
One fellow became a hotel clerk and another became a bus
driver, but both refused to tell about their early exploits.
They, too, were thinking of the wife and kiddies.
The chap on the bus summed it up tersely :
"I knew every Gilbert and Sullivan score by heart. And
what did it get me? Nothing but sore wrists. Whenever
I came to the rescue of a dame in a fight the best I got was
a bump on the ear. Tough racket. Too many good piano-
players on the radio. A professor wouldn't have a chance
Many vaudeville musicians used to tarry for a week in
resort, while appearing in a town, but these good-timers must
not be confused with the full-time key thumpers. The stage
Pans were thrifty schemers, trying to save a week's room rent.
The madam and her girls in the cheaper dives would attend
the Monday matinee performance of a new vaudeville bill
and if they took a fancy to a pianist, saxophonist or any instru-
mentalist they would invite him to "live" at their house during
his stay in their city. This kindness served two purposes:
first, it supplied a free entertainer and second, it encouraged
a few parties from the theatre.
One vaudevillian asserted with a straight face that this
taking musicians to resorts was the ruination of vaude-
ville. "It brought about the five-a-day programs," he said.
"It killed the good, old two-a-day. What happened? A
piano player would play for the matinee at the theatre,
then he would go to a joint and give another show after
which he played a performance at night in the theatre. After
the night frolic he would hop back to the dive, giving two
more encores — five performances daily, any way you figure it.
The vaudeville managers heard about, it and they argued that
if a guy could do five turns scattered about he could do five
in one place. It makes me sore when I think about it." ".
However, the Everleigh Club never engaged in this sort
of connivery. They paid the professor $50 a week and his
"cakes" — the food. He rang the time-clock at ten at night
and he was often compelled to pound away as late as seven
in the morning. The best he received from the house itself
was his weekly wage and a well-tuned piano for which he was
There were prerequisites, of course, and other than the tips
from patrons the most generous sums came from the music
publishers. Van was paid liberally to plug "After the Ball"
among the tear-jerkers, and the majority of the numbers in
his code system were "royalty" songs.
One publisher offered to reward him handsomely if he
could persuade the sisters into allowing illustrated songs to
be shown in one of the parlors. These were quite the thing
in those days — colored slides projected upon a screen from a
magic lantern as somebody warbled the refrain.
"Nothing doing," chorused the sisters. "We have too
many pictures in the club now."
Van sulked and may still be sulking. The professor was a
thing apart from the world in which he toiled. When the cur-
few rang he disappeared completely.
"Forget the professor," said Minna. "What made you
bring him up in the first place?"
NIGHT PRESS RAKES
"God watches over you, but he won't cash checks."
— "Pop" Faye, Chicago newspaperman.
THE late Victor Lawson, a great editor, a founder of the
Associated Press and publisher of The Chicago Daily News,
was a lover of Jesus and denouncer of the devil; he gave
to missionaries, churches and theological seminaries and he
shouted the word of God with an abandonment and ease that
would cause those of the Fourth Estate with a whisky breath
to hide behind desks. He paid salaries to his brilliant editorial
staff, including Eugene Field, on Tuesdays so that they
wouldn't spend it over the week-end. Worst of all, he paid
off in checks. But woe to the man whose vouchers were
cashed in a saloon.
"Aunt Hattie," the power behind the financial throne and
somewhere around ninety years old in the summer of 1936,
checked up on the checks and when the endorsements were
those of a grog shop the reporters were called upon the carpet.
But to no avail. "Aunt Hattie" clung to forms and lectures.
She was a stern creature, holding fast to the bible and com-
plicated auditing systems, having little understanding of the
stuff geniuses of journalism are made.
Newspapermen either go to the top or to the gutter and
saloons, in few cases, neither hinder nor improve their stand-
ing; they are practical men, knowing that a story must
be written, a picture must be photographed and that head-
lines depend upon hard work. They are loyal Pucks, God-
fearing and God-loving as a rule, with fewer illusions and
more spunk than many of the half-baked accidents in com-
mercial endeavors. As for accepting a Higher Being, they
do so without boasting about it, having seen too many
Dowies, revivalists and the hip hip hooray men of God in
action to take evangelists seriously.
"Aunt Hattie" and Victor Lawson overlooked the weekly
pleasure of turning slips of paper into money and all attempts
to make them aware that bar-rooms were havens in need
proved just so much waste of oratory. Old-timers recall
that a nickel would cash a check in the shop, but many pre-
ferred the gayer jingling of coins over the mahogany.
The reporters were loyal to "Pop" Charlie Faye, their
news editor, and they were grieved to see him taken to
task for the errors of his crew. Hardly a week passed that
Faye wasn't summoned to answer for "more of this saloon-
business" as the cancelled vouchers came back. He would
gather his staff and request that they "try a lunchroom for
a change. The Old Man is hot under the collar."
Ben Atwell, afterward editor of The Chicago Journal
(now Times) and later wed to a creature called Publicity,
gathered seven of the reporters one Tuesday afternoon to
outline a plan to stop further pay-aches. "We'll cash 'em in
the Everleigh Club," he said.
Mr. Faye spiked this bit of fun." "You'll all be fired and
then what'll I do about the Tome Edition?" he stormed. "Stay
away from the South Side." They did — for a few weeks.
The checks continued, but for several weeks the staff
hunted up respectable cashers — for Faye's sake.
However, they drank as they pleased and they worked
faithfully as loyal journalists always do. Malcolm McDowell
and Amy Leslie were among the "names" that kept "innocent
fun" spicing up the routine. There was a mild hub-hub in
the executive office when it was called to "Aunt Hattie's"
attention that a madman in the levee had appropriated Amy
NIGHT PRESS RAKES
Leslie's name to flaunt her nefarious profession, except that
she changed it to Aimee to avoid a damage suit.
"It's a madam's way of getting even because we threat-
ened to take our checks to the Everleigh Club instead of her
place," said Atwell, suppressing a smile. "Aunt Hattie"
said something to the effect that the devil would get him
and Madam Leslie. But Aimee Leslie of the levee, who gave
no thought to Amy Leslie of The News, went merrily along
regardless of the devil.
"Bring your checks down any time and I'll see that they
clear without any incriminating marks," said Minna Ever-
leigh. "My lawyer will put them through his bank. Now
what else can I do for you?"
The climax to "Aunt Hattie's" sorrows came on Thanks-
giving Eve. Turkeys were to bring more high blood-pressure
into the front offices than any single unholy action in the
history of The News.
It seems Lawson gave Thanksgiving turkeys to members
of the staff. Neat little blessing-cards were attached to each
of the birds and a little blah about "we have so much to be
thankful for" went with each gift.
The hard-boiled of the editorial room, especially the single
men, openly declared they didn't want a turkey, that the
glassy eyes and the long necks of the dead fowl gave them the
creeps and that, even if they didn't mind carting one through
the streets, they had no use for it.
"Lawson's orders," was the command. "You must accept it."
"Give 'em to the kneeling morons in Asia," said one insurgent.
But to keep peace he took the turkey. There was mischief
in his eyes, however, as he called two of his mates.
"Turkeys for the chickens," he chirped. "A chicken for
a turkey, if we get away with it. Let's go."
Carrying the birds under their arms, and holding their
hands over their mouths to conceal the fumes of rum as they
encountered Lawson in the elevator, three sturdy scribes
representing the paper with the "better-class circulation"
were enroute to circulate themselves in the Everleigh Club.
A cab took them to their destination, where a maid grinned
broadly as they entered.
"Meet Eenie, Meenie and Moe," chorused the mirthmakers,
patting their prizes.
"Birds for a gilded cage," laughed Minna.
"Throw 'em a party," said one of the boys. "They were
all right when they had it. But they got it in the neck."
Unconsciously, Minna placed a hand to her own throat ; for
a second she was thinking of what might have happened to
her in her godly days as a true and loyal wife.
It developed into a wild evening. The reporters put the
heads of the turkeys between the legs of the girls, they
danced, appropriately, to the tune of "Turkey in the Straw"
and they frightened the side-line fogies by sticking the heads
under their chins.
Somebody removed the "blessing cards" and when the mail
was placed before Lawson on the following day there was a
letter with a Twenty-second Street district postal mark on
the envelope. Inside were the cards. Whether there was a
mention that they had been picked up at the Everleigh Club
or not was known only to the publisher, but everybody on the
staff was in stitches over the revelation. The corridors were
buzzing with the latest Everleigh scandal.
"Aunt Hattie's" brother, a policeman with a god-like face
and a little whip with which to frighten newsboys in the alley
below, had heard about the satanic revelry in God-deserted
territory, and, if encouraged, would have knelt down to offer
a prayer for the healing of three scorched reporters.
The paper might just as well have printed an extra ; is was
a bigger and more amusing story than any in type.
There was hell popping in the front office. Faye was sent
for and somebody telephoned the Everleigh Club. Faye was
no detective and the sisters slammed down the receiver.
"What do you know about this, Faye?" shouted Lawson.
"Nothing, except what I overheard in the hallways," calm-
ly replied the editor.
"What did you hear?"
"That three men on a holiday went off on a lark."
"You have no control over the men," raved Lawson.
"Can I help it if the men don't like turkey?" answered
Faye, heatedly. He had stood for just about enough of these
foolish inquisitions. "I cannot understand the reason for all
this commotion. I'll fire the first man I discover in on it."
Ben Atwell, to save the day, made a confession.
"What is it?" demanded Lawson of Atwell. "The News
or the Everleigh Club ?"
"If you want to know, Mr. Lawson, its the Journal" said
Atwell. "I'm quitting. You do God's work and I'll continue
to be a newspaperman."
Minna Everleigh was still laughing over the frolic two
years later when Atwell met her in Paris.
"You know, Ben," she said, "we cooked those birds and
they were great eating. I wanted to call you but I didn't
have the heart. But for a joke I did telephone Lawson, invit-
"What did he say?"
"Well, he seemed on edge."
Victor Lawson, looking down from his grand stand seat
in heaven, may be justly proud of his graduating class. No
doubt he has long since told the angels that "boys will
be boys." It is likely that he and Eugene Field have talked
things over. Field, who had a limitless capacity for enjoy-
ment, has probably made it clear that the good men of the
Fourth Estate are at heart pixies, having seen the phonies
from all angles and therefore free from shackles that prevent
jolly times and happy moments. "Aunt Hattie" (Dewey),
too, looking back over a long and honest career, must condone
the sins of her scribes. Her "boys" are not on relief, they
have made outstanding niches for themselves and they have
proven to be good citizens. Few papers in fifty years have
contributed so many creative minds to the literary progress
of the nation as has The Chicago Daily News, a grand and
fearless newspaper. I trust the present regime isn't offended
at the turkey story. It was part and parcel of the Everleigh
Henry Justin Smith, who gave a free hand to Ben Hecht
in the writing of "1001 Afternoons in Chicago" in the early
1920's, is a fair sample of the brilliant editor who knows his
staff. Lloyd Lewis, its current sports editor, is a novelist and
a scholar, a critic and a grand person. Richard C. Burritt,
of the alumni, is in New York with a convention bureau. He
had been Samuel Insull's press agent for the Chicago Opera
Company, but when Insull built a new opera house alongside
the river, Burritt took it on the run. "I knew that wouldn't
do," he said, getting out before the crash. The training on
The News instilled men with a farseeing viewpoint.
Offhand and with no attempt to record the vast number of
important contributors to the paper come these names : George
Ade, Malcolm McDowell, Carl Sanburg, Harry Hansen, Bob
Casey, Junius Wood, Poul Scott Mowrer and Charles H.
Dennis, its longest editor. It was The Chicago Daily News
that cracked the Loeb-Leopold case. Jim Mulroy and Alvin
Goldstein fished the typewriter from the Jackson Park lagoon
upon which the boy criminals had written notes. For this
they were given a Pulitzer prize for good reporting.
Eugene Stinson, music critic, is remembered in Chicago
for his attack on Insull's dictatorial direction of grand opera
made at the height of Insull's power. Meyer Levin, as a
reporter, started the movie interviews at railroad stations.
This has become a Frankenstein monster. But don't blame
Levin; he's a swell guy. Paul Scott Mowrer received the
first Pulitzer prize ever given for foreign correspondents in
1927. His brother, Edgar Mowrer, took the same prize in
1934 for an expose of Hitlerism. Germany banned him. And
Malcolm McDowell, dating back to the '93 World's Fair, and
now nearing eighty, did the grand job of covering the recent
Century of Progress Exposition (1933). There is Kenneth
Harris and there is Sterling North and ever so many more.
Walter Strong took over the paper after Lawson's death
and its current owner is the progressive Colonel Frank Knox,
one of the most popular Republican publishers in America.
Even the Democrats on the staff love him. One of his stars
(Lloyd Lewis) wrote me recently declaring Knox to be "the
most generous, warm-hearted and likeable mortals alive." It
was Colonel Knox who gave free rein to the paper's columnist,
Howard Vincent O'Brien, permitting, in "All Things Consid-
ered," to say why he was for President Roosevelt. O'Brien
scored a bull's-eye for frankness. A fearless unbiased paper
with an unbiased staff made thousands of friends for the
Lawson and those who succeeded him, without question,
did more in modern journalism to develop foreign news
agencies than is generally known. With Melville Stone, for
many years head of the Associated Press and once his partner,
Lawson saw the need of world-coverage in news leaving
nothing unturned to accomplish this end.
Ogden Reid, publisher of the New York Herald-Tribune,
is also the proud possessor of a roomful of Pucks, whose pri-
vate shindigs are no concern of his. If the boys cared to sip
tea with the Everleighs, the chances are he would laugh it off.
With the closing of the Everleigh Club the sisters took
stock of the unpaid accounts and, among debts totalling well
over $25,000, not one penny was owed to them by newspaper
men. After the turkey episode it could be that reporters
stayed clear of the place.
FROM BAWD TO WORSE
"Everything that is unknown is taken to be grand."
— Caius Cornelius Tacitus.
AFTER spending ten years in Chicago's levee without so
much as passing the time of day with their neighbors the
Everleigh Sisters decided to cruise around their bailiwick.
Surely there must be some interesting sights or why would
the reformers be up in arms? Further, one should know
his own hunting-ground. After all, visitors did come to in-
spect the treasures at the Chicago Art Institute, sightseers in
New York made bee-lines for Grant's Tomb and in Boston
life wasn't complete unless it included a ride in a swan-boat
in The Common. Here on the South Side were thrilling sights
right under their noses and yet they had passed them by
during the years that strangers were paying sound money
for railroad fares just for the privilege of rubber-necking.
They had but to cross the street or stroll up the block and the
world was theirs.
Wasn't the South Side vice area a showplace? Didn't it
measure up to Paris by Night? Why be so exclusive? The
sisters were beginning to think they had missed something.
But how to make an inspection? They were generally known,
from the bestial bouncers to the miserable madams, and they
were generally disliked, principally because of their uppishness
and not for any direct injuries. For several days they pon-
dered, and, as they pondered, they became all the more curious.
Certainly they had experienced every known counter-attack
in their profession and now to be thwarted on how to go to
places disturbed them no end.
They talked of the tour at breakfast and they went to
sleep thinking of how it could be accomplished. Finally they
consulted a detective friend from the Twenty-second Street
Police Station. He solved the problem swiftly and without
"Where you are not known you are policewomen from the
chief's office," he said. "Where you are known you are mak-
ing a little visit as a favor to the chief to clear up some false
impressions he has received. Simple?"
"Quite simple," said Minna.
Diagonally across the street from the Everleigh Club was
a notorious establishment known as The Jap House, which
attracted the sex-seekers not only by its Oriental inmates but
with the ballyhoo of a huge Japanese lantern over its portals.
From the Everleigh windows the sisters had often speculated
as to what went on within those walls ; they had heard strange
tales and they had heard a heartless set of rules prevailed.
The Jap House would be their first stop.
A colored woman admitted the detective and the sisters.
As the Everleighs were not recognized, the officer presented
them as policewomen, saying, "They're okay. Just looking
Two bottles of beer were served the trio. The glasses
were "snits", four-ounce shells. As for the beer, it was a
brand that could be had in cases of twenty-four bottles for
90c. The Jap House charged $1 a clip for it. The lager
side-issue was the sure source of revenue. Nobody was per-
mitted to speak to any of the Oriental sirens until he had
purchased two bottles of beer, one for himself and one for
"Clever, these Japanese," mugged Minna.
"I'll say," returned the copper. "And it's $3 to go upstairs,
so the joint is good for a $5 gyp per chump."
The girls were heavily dressed, causing Ada to suspect
that they also wore underwear. She learned, however, that
they never seemed to get warm and that the only complaints
FROM BAWD TO WORSE
The Jap House received were from males who opposed love-making in a fur coat.
A trip through the resort left one impression — a Chinese
restaurant with Japanese trimmings. The whole place was
gaudy in a cheap fashion. And rather dull.
The next stop was The House of All Nations, up the
street and only a stone's throw from Everleigh Club. The
charm of this dive lay in its two entrances, one for the $5
clientele and one for the $2 yaps. The slummers entered,
of course, through the expensive door. They were recog-
nized, greeted warmly and were served with champagne.
The police escort was a popular fellow and the Everleighs
Other than being a commonplace dive, The House of All
Nations did leave a lasting lesson in business acumen. Re-
gardless of what entrance a patron entered he had the choice
of the same courtesans. If the $2 side had a number of
visitors and the $5 side had virtually none, the girls from the
$5 side would run over to the bargain counter and vice versa.
The "all nations" was partly true ; Polish, Bohemian,
Swedish girls and a motly assemblage, mostly American
born in the Chicago environs. And there was drama.
A pretty Polish lass recognized Minna, asking permission
to say a word or two. Minna listened attentively. The poor
dear, is seems, had been "working" the $5 side almost exclu-
sively ; she was engaged to be married to the janitor of a
church and "the life" was about to be banished when she
stepped into the $2 parlor only to be met face to face by her
future husband. In fact, the incident had occurred that very
evening. And the child was in tears.
"What made me do it, what made me do it?" she sobbed.
"Getting into this hole?" said the unimpressed, cold-
"No, no, not that," cried the miss. "Crossing over there."
She pointed to the cut-rate parlor. "My first mistake. And
I've tried to be so careful."
Minna and Ada were deeply sorry for the misguided
nymph. Ada gave her a sip of wine from her glass.
"Maybe he'll forgive you," she consoled. "After all, he is
as guilty as you are."
"What if he is?" said the girl, tears streaming down her
face. "He said it was off — our marriage. He slapped me in
the face and he called me a dirty tramp. He said I had ruined
two lives. He never wants to see me again. He wants to die.
He'll kill himself, I know he will."
There came a shout for girls as a party of five entered the
full-price parlor and the Polish faun adjusted herself hurriedly
— the entertainment must go on.
The Everleighs were not curious about the boudoirs, pre-
ferring the night air to further adventure in the smoke-laden
House of All Nations.
"She'll get over it by morning," said the detective, as
they were leaving. It was evident to him that the Everleighs
had been moved by the recital. "We need a laugh." So the
detective took them to Freiberg's Hall, where the laughs, if
any, were tragic.
Ike Bloom, the proprietor, was seated in a corner near
the entrance. He bowed, returned to his chair, and a waiter
escorted the party to a table about midway down the hall.
A huge dance floor occupied the center space, where couples
wiggled in the wildest fashion. The women were scarlet of
the deepest hue and the men were bozos fogged with alcohol.
The sisters were curious to know the methods employed
by Bloom, the accredited "master mind," and it would be
interesting to learn if he could protect himself as securely as
he aimed to protect contemporary dive-keepers. They soon
discovered that he had always to "get" his.
Between dances there were entertainers, whose popularity
depended upon how many coins were tossed at them. Bloom
saw to it that the singers were made popular by tossing silver
dollars onto the floor in order to start an avalanche of money
ringing in the ring. This tribute was gathered by female
entertainers in little baskets and then placed into what was
called a strong box on top of the piano. All of this cash
went to Bloom, about $1,500 nightly.
"What do you get?" the officer asked Ray Hibbeler, who
styled himself "one of America's popular song writers" but
who sang at Frieberg's for inspiration.
"A weekly salary," answered the singer. "We do not
share in the pick-ups."
With his "end" from the refreshments and a split from
the girls, who dashed in and out of the hall all evening with
their quarry, Ike fared very well.
It was just a dance hall with inducements and the Ever-
leighs welcomed the chance to get away, slipping through
an exit before Bloom could annoy them with insincere com-
"All amateurs so far," sighed Ada.
The California was a pretentious dump in the heart of
the levee, parading fifty "mamas" and conducted on the
one-arm lunch-room principle — keep moving. It was the
The California was rigged for speed, prices were a dollar
top, and they rushed 'em in one door and out another. The
inmates lined up, wearing the thinnest and fewest garments
of any place in the district. A big colored woman kept shout-
ing, "Take a baby. Don't be glued to your seats, boys."
"No wonder the reformers are after our hides," said Minna.
To her it was like cattle going to the butcher in the stock-
yards. Within ten minutes the group was out of The
Drunks were being waylaid in hallways and, in one resort,
they witnessed a waiter hitting a man over the head with a
"Why did he do that?" asked the detective.
"He's been here all night drinking one bottle of beer,"
came the reply. "He's been sucking up our heat."
That was enough. They were ready for home and sorry
they had ventured into their own realm. Poor peasants!
Simple folk ! They saw a simpleton with a big diamond horse-
shoe pin in his tie ready for the slaughter. No law and no
order. The chump would have a bruised head in the morning,
no pin and be back for more punishment within a month.
"There's no way to regulate this thing," confided the
guide. "Saps are saps and to hell with them. Hope you en-
joyed the sights. Good-night."
It was heavenly to return to the Everleigh Club. Here
were gentlemen in evening clothes, an air of refinement — the
levee seemed far away.
Two mornings later the sisters were startled when they
read in the paper that a Polish janitor and a Polish girl had
committed suicide in the basement of a church. Gas hoses
were in their mouths. In Polish, two notes were found.
Translated, the one written by the man said : "We discovered
each other's sins before it was too late." The girl's: "Please
destroy my photographs at the House of All Nations." Her
picture in the paper showed the enterprise of some reporter,
who had overtaken the police to the levee.
THE FORCES MOBILIZE
"A Broad at Home should be your title."
— Bill Houghton of the N. Y, Herald Tribune.
''UPON what meat did the crusaders feed that they could
call us insurgents and witches ?" Minna said recently. "They
not only filled us with embarrassment and shame, but they
made fools of themselves. In 1910 Chicago was, we admit,
a city, yet, while apart from the vile element, we
were heralded as the real instigators of all that was wrong. It
was like a gourmand lifting the ceiling and swearing to never
again touch caviar because his hamburger sandwich was
bad. Our feelings were hurt.
"We little resistance to the rebels. Truthfully, we
were open to offers. We believed we could have adjusted an
age-old problem if given half the chance to supervise its oper-
ation. We weren't consulted. In fact, we never were con-
sulted about anything constructive. It was a personal crusade
against us. We were touted as the forces of evil invading a
God-fearing community to lure the innocent to perdition.
Give the weeds a chance and destroy the flowers seemed to be
the hymn — hallelujah !
"We were solvent and we were experienced in the finer
shames, exactly what it takes to conduct a going concern.
The agitators, if they gave it a thought, kept it to them-
selves. Our sweeter side was a deep secret. Nobody praised
us for such noble gestures as donating our Sunday nights to
old-fashioned romance. We made Sunday 'Beau Night/
permitting our girls to see their sweethearts as they would
have seen them had they lived in homes. It was a glorious
sight to see them holding hands and gushing terms of endear-
ment. How proudly the swains entered our house, bringing
candy, perfume and flowers. You cannot imagine the heavenly
atmosphere that pervaded our home on Sabbath evenings. I'm
afraid we were misjudged on many counts. How about
another helping of chicken salad ?"
Minna enjoyed her reverie. So many years had passed
since, in 1910, the storm broke with a mighty clash. In that
year Mayor Fred A. Busse went out of office as the report
of the vice commission came in. The data was ready for the
police. Mayor Carter H. Harrison stepped into the chair,
focusing a direct shaft at the underworld to begin at the
Everleigh Club. The commission was said to have accom-
plished its task more fully than anybody expected, recom-
mending ways and means for vice alleviation.
"No house of ill-repute in the world is so richly furnished,
so continuously patronized by men of wealth and slight of
morals as the Everleigh Club," reported an investigator. "It
is so well protected that the police do not carry it on their
lists. It seems to be above the law. It is so well advertised."
Ada and Minna, apparently, had made the mistake of
getting out a brochure, which stressed "steam heat throughout
in the winter and electric fans in the summer." The booklet
irked the invaders beyond endurance.
"They had little fountains squirting perfume in the various
rooms," declared a warrior, "but the aroma isn't sufficient to
remove the moral stench from the nostrils of a law-abiding
city." Harsh words, those.
Not to digress for more than a paragraph, but, in the
winter of 1934-35, this writer witnessed as low a dive as ever
existed in the heyday of the Everleighs within a block and a
half from the City Hall (heart of the town) in North Clark
Street. They had no fountains of perfume, which may have
been the reason for immunity. However, let's return to the
more hysterical era of 1910.
The vice commission, appointed by Mayor Busse, had
as its chairman Dean Walter T. Sumner of the Cathedral
of SS. Peter and Paul. Among its members were Julius
Rosenwald, the Rev. Frank W. Gunsaulus; Prof. Graham
Taylor, head of Chicago Commons; Chief Justice Harry
Olsin of the Municipal Court, and Dr. W. A. Evans, who
for many years was health editor of The Tribune. United
States District Attorney Edwin W. Sims was chosen secretary
of the body.
In July 1st, 1910, the city council granted the commission
$5,000 for its work. Later another $5,000 was appropriated.
George J. Kneeland was engaged as chief investigator, and
the work of investigation started in mid- July.
Few inquiries into social waywardness have been so
searching. The commission held 98 special meetings. They
interviewed prominent citizens, representatives of reform
organizations, police officers and patrolmen, keepers of resorts,
and women of the streets. Facts were placed in the record
just as they were. No names were mentioned, but code num-
bers denominating persons and places were keyed. The com-
mission, which insisted that it was not a prosecuting agency,
kept the key — to prove, its chairman said, that the instances
quoted were actual truth, not guesses.
The estimate of 5,000 engaged in illicit love was the
commission's guess against the police number of 1,880. It's
a better guess that both were wrong. Also, the police number
of recognized resorts was half of the actual count. However,
all side-line clandestine romancing was professed to be known
to both commission and police. The love affairs in the flats,
as apartments were called, confused sound compiling. There
were also Turkish baths, massage parlors and manicuring
establishments with a doubtful side. Three excursion boats
were under suspicion as were dance halls, saloons and a girl
with an eye affliction that caused her to wink despite herself.
It all intended to prove that segregated districts were the
parent plants scattering seeds of sin over the waters of Lake
Michigan as well as to all corners of the metropolis.
Incidentally, the commission was assured that resorts
were a profitable business, that the madam came in for
from $100 to $500 per week. The commission came near to a
good survey by giving the Everleigh Club $100,000 as its
yearly share. The right number was $120,000 — and net, my
dears. Mind you, there weren't income tax laws those days.
The gross intake in most cases wasn't even estimated,
but the total profits from dens of shame was cited as $15,000,-
000 annually. Four-cent beer was sold from 25c to a dollar,
champagne brought a 400 per cent profit and the average age
of the girls was 23 years. The best leg the commission had
to stand on was that children were debauched, considering
that messenger boys, newsboys and delivery boys were daily
brought into contact with the brothels. As for the inmates,
it was declared they were recruited from the ranks of
domestics, waitresses, store clerks and saleswomen. No men-
tion was made of the girls who wanted "nice things."
The report went on to say:
"That there must be constant repression of this curse on
human society is the conclusion of this commission after
months of exhaustive study and investigation — a study which
has included the academic with the practical ; moral ideals with
human weaknesses; honesty of administration with corrup-
tion ; the possible with the impossible. . . .
"We believe that Chicago has a public conscience which
when aroused cannot be easily stilled — a conscience built
upon moral and ethical teachings of the purest American type,
which when aroused to the truth will instantly rebel against
the social evil in all its phases. . . .
"We may enact laws; we may appoint commissions; we
may abuse civic administrations for their handling of the
problem; but the problem will remain as long as the public
conscience is dead to the issue or is indifferent to its solution.
The law is only so powerful as the public opinion which
THE FORCES MOBILIZE
The vice commissioners were intellectually honest men.
They declared that they had considered segregation as a
solution and had discarded it solely because as a method it
was wholly ineffective.
Mayor Harrison handed the report over to the city council,
which treated it with respect — and reserve. Nothing so forth-
right had been expected.
A resolution was passed ordering the report placed on file.
The vice commission was empowered to remain in existence
until June 1st, 1911, and to print and distribute copies of its
report, provided this would cost the city nothing.
The commission had laid the problem of vice squarely in
the hands of public opinion. Politics had little to say inasmuch
as the press gave columns to the many-sided issues. Sumer-
time came and Ada drove about town in a carriage with a
parasol shielding her from the sun, unmindful of reports and
investigations. Meanwhile Minna improved the advertising
brochure by urging visitors to see the stock-yards, another
HANDWRITING ON THE WALL
"Silence is louder than a brass band." — Madam Vic Shaw.
IN October, 1911, there occurred an "accident" on a railroad
train near Chicago, that sent powerful emissaries gunning for
the sisters. There was no visible reason for this scampering,
nothing openly tangible. Important people seemed to be
aroused — and the listeners listened. Besides, it was a propi-
tious moment to "cover up" an obscure reason for a raid. The
newspapers had just mentioned the brochure issued by the
Everleigh Club, a nifty pamphlet that rubes in neighboring
cities were saying made Chicago a modern Babylon — a good
excuse to close in. Here was perfect timing. Nobody sus-
pected deeper motives.
The booklet, as matter of fact, was no more harmful than
an illustrated travel guide. There were pictures of the various
parlors, the hallways and the front of the building — nothing
Frenchy. But it was 1911 ; nudist magazines were unknown on
The Mayor, it so happened, had attended a banquet out
of town. While talking to a towner he was shown the Ever-
"Looks like you have Babylon in its wildest days in your
city, Mr. Mayor," beamed a local boy yet to make good.
"Pretty snappy town, yours isn't it?" Most likely he said
"ain't", forgetting English entirely while in ecstasy over the
scarlet women of an early twentieth century Apocalypse.
The story went the rounds. Gossip spread to the effect
that thousands upon thousands of the brochures had been
distributed far and wide as an advertising medium. Actually,
only a few hundred were in circulation. The Everleigh Club,
said the godly, was giving Chicago a bad name. Speaking
plainly, there was hell to pay.
About this time a wealthy man died on a train. An effort
was made to keep the death a secret. No one knew the
identity of the dead man at the station except a friend, and
he was so grief-stricken he refused to talk. Heart failure
was given as the cause.
What had that to do with the Everleigh Club? Nothing.
A girl of the house had said she was going away on a visit,
but no mention of the girl's name was made openly. The
Chicago police, however, were put on the scent. They pes-
tered the sisters with questions such as :
"Did one of your girls hit a guest with a champagne
bottle? Had a certain patron promised to take one of your
inmates away with him? What's been going on here that we
don't know about?"
"We do not know what you are talking about?" said Minna.
"Who were your prominent guests the last few nights?"
ranted a detective.
"We do not know the names of our guests," replied Minna,
The next warning came when they were told by Chief of
Police John McWeeney that he had received instructions
"straight" from the Mayor to shut their house "because of an
unpleasant happening." They told the police chief to "jump
into the river" and "to mind his own business."
"Pretty flimsy threat, this one," said Ada.
"I'm afraid they mean business," returned Minna.
However, with no further danger signal, the Mayor issued
a mandate to close the Everleigh Club on Tuesday, October
24th. The brochure was given as a satisfactory excuse — the
sisters had over-reached with their "unseemly" literature.
"Such folders are a blight on our fair city," said a sober
HANDWRITING ON THE WALL
A sword of Damocles had been dangling too long over
the heads of the Everleigh Sisters for them not to appre-
ciate the insecurity of the pleasures dof their kingly estate,
but to have the single hair severed over a work of art
just too ridiculous. They kept a stiff upper lip, bearing
up bravely and trying hard to laugh.
"What does the bad bandit say when shot to death?" asked Minna.
" 'They got me, pal* " chuckled Minna.
"Let's say something different when they get us," joked Ada, gaily.
"We could say that we did it all for our little brochure,"
clowned the other. "Who shoots these old titian heads
dies like a dog." She burst into song.
If the sisters felt omens of disaster they didn't show it.
The telephones rang when the afternoon closing re-ports reached
the street. Cheerfully the madams told the
callers that "you mustn't believe all you read in the papers.
Come on over tonight and see for yourself."
They were going to play to a capacity house on the last
night regardless of what happened. Showmen to the very
The club had earned a net profit, just as regularly as
clock-work, of $10,000 a month. No matter what it had
cost to operate there was still $120,000 "velvet" every
year. They were in a position to pay and pay dearly to
remain open. But paying was getting beyond control. Com-
mittees of Fifteen were being organized, suffragettes were
becoming militant and crusaders were harping on vice con-
ditions. Not alone Chicago, but everywhere in the country
a war was being waged to wipe out the red-light districts.
The Everleighs were reconciled to defeat well in advance.
At Springfield, Illinois, the capital, the salons were
talking of wiping out the red-light districts of the state in
a bill to be introduced in the Senate by Senator Lundberg.
The bill declared all persons who owned buildings used
for immoral purposes guilty of maintaining a nuisance, per-
mitting the State's Attorney (the equivalent of the District
Attorney in New York) to begin action by seizing the fur-
niture and contents of such buildings and selling them at
public sale. A perpetual injunction against the owners of
the place could be issued, restraining them from operating
within the court's jurisdiction. A violation of the injunc-
tion would lay the violator open to a fine not exceeding
$2,000. This bill afterward became a law.
Meanwhile there was a general clean-up. Hotels were
also hit as the reformers were gradually getting the upper
hand. From the Record-Herald of October 13th, 1911, we
BEGIN WAR ON VICE IN MICHIGAN AVE.
Police Acting Under Direct Order of the
Mayor Warn Disreputables to Move
Women of Evil Repute and Their Companions
Already Seeking Other Locations
Michigan Avenue from Twelfth to Thirty-first Streets
is in the midst of a "house-cleaning", as a result of a secret
order sent out by Mayor Harrison to the 22nd. Street and
Cottage Grove Avenue Police Stations.
"Move all disreputable women from Michigan Avenue
at once and close all disorderly flats," was the order sent
out by the Mayor.
Acting on this command and with speed greatly accen-
tuated by the activities of the civil service commission, the
police are carrying out the order.
HANDWRITING ON THE WALL
Three days ago a "census" of all the inhabitants between
Twelfth and Thirty-first Streets in Michigan Avenue was
begun by police investigators.
Detectives from the 22nd Street and Cottage Grove Av-
enue Stations were sent to the "avenue" district last night
to give orders and assist in the hurried moving of un-
Hotels along the avenues as well as the disorderly flats,
Among the places ordered to "clean up" were:
THE ARENA, notorious disorderly house operated under
the guise of a hotel at 1340 Michigan Ave.
NETHERLAND HOTEL— 22nd St. and Michigan, where
many of the "red-light" district characters live.
NEW MORTON HOTEL— 18th and Michigan, which
houses numerous women of evil-repute.
NEW BRADFORD HOTEL— 30th and Michigan, where
live many women who frequent the 31st St. "red-light" and
22nd St. districts.
Even the Lexington Hotel and other of the more respec-
table hostelries along the avenue were given instructions
to take a census of their patrons.
For three years frequent complaints have been made by
the many property owners along the avenue regarding the
encroachment of the South Side levee upon that thorough-
At present the avenue is honeycombed with disreputable
dives. The police estimate that no fewer than 1,000 women
of evil-repute at present live between 12th and 31st Sts.
From 11 o'clock until the early hours of the morning the
electric piano music mingles with the more raucous shouts
and screams of the persons who patronize the dives.
The police orders are said to extend to a former notorious
South Side resort-keeper who maintains a white-stone front
mansion at 25th and Michigan. This woman, who is reputed
to be a close friend, of an influential alderman, formerly
was president of the "Friendly Friends", a "red-light" organ-
ization composed of women who operate illegal places in the
On Sunday, October 22nd, the Catherwood Block, a
building owned by the wife of the head of the Civil Service
Commission, was caught in a gambling raid. In the Record-
Herald of Monday, October 23rd, appeared the story and
also one with the following headline
OUSTING OF McWEENY RUMORED
Chief of Police McWeeny is to be requested to
resign and failing will be removed and a man who can
be depended upon to keep the lid on the gambling
appointed in his place. Such was the rumor circu-
lated last night after it, became known that the Civil
Service Commission has held a secret meeting in
the Brevoort Hotel.
On Tuesday, the day Mayor Harrison ordered the Ever-
leigh Club bolted, the newspapers bunched the gambling
and vice stories. The Council Finance Committee recom-
mended an additional appropriation of $15,000 for the Civil
Service Commission's work; a gambling squad arrested a
number of handbook makers and players ; Thomas J. Howard,
lieutenant of the Lake Street Police Station, was questioned
by the Commission as to vice conditions on the West Side
and the saloon license of Mike de Pike Heitler, a picturesque
levee character on the West Side, was revoked by the
The news of the day bristled with levee activities. On
the surface it seemed as though there were more reformers
than there were underworld habitues.
When the foes of evil could not think of anything else
HANDWRITING ON THE WALL
they lampooned the First Ward Ball, a dead issue because
those festivals had been abandoned several years before.
"Stop further First Ward Balls, which have been a disgrace
to the city," shouted Gypsy Smith, a "scientific investigator."
"Reports" by reform bodies were being issued thick and
One committee declared: "No class is overlooked. Houses
of prostitution by the lowly are closed at various times for
various reasons, but the golden palaces of sin patronized
by the wealthy are immune from punishment, even to the
extent of being saved the humiliation of appearing upon
a police list."
"Wipe out the levee" was the universal cry. Arthur
Burrage Farwell had his Chicago Law and Order League,
The Committee of Fifteen was working overtime and none
other than Mayor K. M. Woszcznski of West Hammond,
Illinois, a border town, was making a "vice inquiry." It
was a banner day for both the sincere and silly saviours.
Mayor Harrison and Chief of Police McWeeny were
charged with being responsible for vice conditions by Mr.
Farwell and the Mayor replied: "Mr. Farwell would say
anybody was responsible, everybody except himself."
State's Attorney Wayman was accused of neglecting to
investigate the levee situation on one side and was "white-
washed" on the other. Such headlines as "Wayman Starts
Own War to Rid Chicago of Vice" and "All Dives Must
Go Is Answer to Reformers' Charges" hogged the news.
There was a "tissue of lies" hurled by the state's at-
torney's assistants when Louis Weiss, charged with harbor-
ing a girl under age, was assailed for having arranged "a
fix." Charges and counter-charges!
The Everleigh Sisters read between the lines. They
were well aware that the end was drawing near ; there were
too many slumming parties to suit them. On the night that
Lucy Page Gaston and Arthur Burrage Farwell were en-
snared in a levee raid, Mr. Farwell cried: "Don't be afraid,
Lucy, I'll protect you." It was amusing but not good for
"Fools," shouted Minna Everleigh. "But fools win these
The sisters saw the handwriting long before the other
madams. They refused to "kick in" toward the pools to
fight the reformers and they kept the militant crusaders out
of their parlors.
"I guess you don't like me," said Mr. Farwell. There
was no answer a proper lady could give.
Then in October 24th, 1911, came word from the Twenty-
second Street Police Station that; a closing order was defin-
itely on the way. "Only the Everleigh," said a sympathetic
voice. "The others are immune for the present."
THE LAST NIGHT
"Farewell to arms — and legs." — Richard Watts, Jr.
THE order closing the Everleigh Club furnished the South
Side vice district with the biggest sensation that had been
exploded there in years. It was supposed to be immune from
Although Mayor Harrison's order, issued before noon
on Tuesday, October 24th, 1911, called for immediate ac-
tion, the institution was still wide open and crowded at
midnight. Lights blazed in every parlor, music rang through
the richly tapestried corridors, wine popped in all the rooms.
Minna Everleigh, the "speaking" partner for the sis-
ters, had been notified, however, that she could expect to
have her establishment closed without notice.
"Yes," she said, "I know the Mayor's order is on the
square. When my maid brought me the afternoon papers
I got Captain Harding of the Twenty-second Street Police
Station on the telephone and asked him if the report that
my place was to be closed was correct.
"He said the command had not come to him from the
Chief of Police, but that he expected it every minute. Ordi-
narily when orders affecting the Twenty-second Street Po-
lice Station are issued from police headquarters in the after-
noon, they reach the district before eight o'clock in the
evening. It is after that hour now, so it may not come to
me until morning."
Minna did not seem to be depressed by the knowledge
that the Mayor had decided to drive her out of business.
"I don't worry about anything," she continued, when
queried on this point. "You get everything in a lifetime."
She invited old friends to share champagne with her.
"Happy days," toasted a newspaperman.
"Happy nights," corrected Ada. The group raised their
glasses and drank heartily.
Couples were dashing up and down the mahogany stair-
case, the stringed orchestras were playing louder and the
crowd was more boisterous than ever.
"It may be their last chance," said Ada. "Let 'em go
as far as they like. More wine for the reporters, Dora."
Minna, jewelled from head to hem and smoking a gold-
tipped, perfumed cigarette, drew up a chair.
"Well, boys, we've had good times, haven't we," she
smiled. "You have all been darlings. You've played square.
And we thank you sincerely. Just think — our last night."
There was a silence for a few seconds. The reporters
knew the resort was doomed, but they were not the ones
to break the news. They could see that Minna had hopes
of remaining open; the delayed raid was giving her false
"Of course, if the Mayor says we must close, that
settles it," she went on. "What the Mayor says goes, so
far as I am concerned. I'm not going to be sore about it,
either. I never was a knocker and nothing the police of
this town can do to me will change my disposition. I'll
close up the shop and walk out of the place with a smile on
"Do you mind if I call the Mayor from here?" asked
an old friend.
"You know the place is always yours," replied Minna.
At ten o'clock an effort was made to reach Mayor
Harrison by telephone in an attempt to learn whether his
order was to be carried out.
"It's only ten," the servant was told. "Perhaps the
Mayor hasn't gone to sleep yet."
THE LAST NIGHT
The maid was gone a minute or two; then she returned
to the phone, saying:
"Mayor Harrison is sound asleep, I don't want to take
the responsibility of waking him up."
The reporter returned to the Moorish Room, where the
press-men were assembled. He imparted the information
about the Mayor being in slumberland. Up to midnight
Chief of Police McWeeny could not be located.
"So far so good," cheered Minna. "No reason for any
of us around here to be worried," waving a hand, literally
coruscated with diamonds, toward the Gold Room, from
which came sounds of music and bursts of laughter. "If
the ship sinks we're going down with a cheer and a good
drink under our .belts, anyway."
At one o'clock on Wednesday morning, October 25th,
1911, several squads of police served the closing order on
the Everleigh Sisters.
"From downtown," said a lieutenant. "Nothing we can
do about it."
"We've been expecting it," returned Minna. "What would
you advise us to do?"
"Clear out the house. Get rid of all the guests."
There was no confusion; the patrons had been fore-
warned and they departed quietly. Great crowds hovered
in front of 2131-33 South Dearborn Street, some booing
the police. Cabs and carriages were lined up like they are
a few minutes before a play rings down in New York; the
cabbies, too, had read the afternoon newspapers. Silk-
hatted gentlemen lingered over farewells, but, in truth, they
never believed that the final night had come.
"You'll be going strong within a week," was the usual
Minna was not so optimistic. She knew that stronger
chains than the thin links of a levee raid were joined to
put her out of the running.
She telephoned to Ike Bloom. If she had to pay and
he could offer sound proof that there was even a slim
chance of continuing she would wage a last stand.
"Go away for a few months/' consoled Ike. "There's
a nasty rap against the place and it may take six months
for the smoke to clear. Nobody else was closed, which is
the tip-off — they were gunning for you and they've clipped
you. Nothing we can do this morning. It's one of those
things — what the hell. We stalled the order all day, didn't
we? I did all I could. I'm licked on this one. Call me
in the afternoon. But make up your mind it will cost you
forty g's. Worth it, ain't it, — what good are them oil
paintings if the joint is shut? Hock one of 'em if you're
short. Things aren't as simple as they used to be. Now
go to bed and -forget it."
But Minna couldn't go to bed. Her nymphs were cry-
ing and the servants were like so many lost sheep.
"What do you think?" she was asked fifty times.
At one-thirty the lights were out, the first time in eleven
years that the lights in the Everleigh Club were dimmed
before eight in the morning. Two policemen were stationed
at the front door.
"Let's go to Europe," said Ada, as the servitors and
the girls huddled in a rear room.
"What about us?" cried a courtesan. "Where can we go?"
"There are plenty of houses," answered Minna.
"Not like this one."
"I'm afraid there never will be one like the E. C,"
said Minna, slowly. "You all have a little money due you,
enough to last a month or two. I would suggest that you
clear out from the levee entirely. It has nothing substantial
to offer. The reformers got us and within a year they'll
get the others. Find a job, a husband, anything, but don't
depend upon this life for a career. It's washed up as we
THE LAST NIGHT
used to say in the theatre. It's done for, good and done
for. I've felt it coming for several months."
The laughter and the music were gone. The Everleigh
Club had become a crypt within an hour. Nobody wanted
a drink; nobody wanted food. Everybody wanted to cry,
everybody except the sisters. Minna wanted to laugh. If
her business was breaking the law, why weren't other sim-
ilar businesses closed? She hadn't committed a crime; there
was no warrant for her arrest.
"We'll go to Europe and forget it," she told Ada.
Minna laughed softly. She rambled:
"In this town they have been known to rob a man of
thousands of dollars, toss his body into the lake and forget
it. We get into a little mess and they call out the cops.
You figure it out. I'm going to get some sleep."
"Supposing we take a little walk," offered Ada. "The
morning air will cheer us up."
"Not me," smiled Minna. "The law on the door-step
might not let us back in. I'm taking no more chances."
The courtesans just sat and stared at the madams.
Their powdered and painted faces, streaked from tears,
were now dry. The first shock had subsided and now they
were inwardly blaming their employers for letting the po-
lice wreck their "old Kentucky home." One girl tore her
dress from her shoulders. "Why not?" she blurted, when
one of the others gave her an ugly glance. "I won't need
it any more. A hell of a manicurist or a waitress I'd make
in this get-up." She became hysterical, tearing her gown
to shreds. Nobody made any attempt to stop her. "And
neither of you did a damn thing to stop 'em," she screamed,
pointing a finger first at Ada and then at Minna. With
that she picked up a drinking glass, throwing it against the
wall. The crash brought a policeman from the front of
"Want me to lock you all up?" said the bluecoat with
the gusto of a man who couldn't lose.
"Brave, ain't you?" cried the raving girl. "Who do
you think you're scaring, you big bum?" She grabbed
a bottle and was about to throw it when Minna took her into
"Poor kid," said the madam, motioning to the police-
man to leave the room. "Leave her to me, please."
The officer grumbled and strolled away.
The girl sobbed on Minna's shoulder. "I'm sorry," she said.
"We're all nervous and unstrung," soother Minna. "I
understand just how you feel. It's a terrible shock to all
of us. And there is nothing any of us can do about it.
I think we better all start packing."
One by one the girls slipped away to their rooms; the
funeral services were over.
The sisters went to Ada's boudoir to discuss an attack.
First, they concluded there was little chance for succor from
Bloom; second, it was best to go away for six months.
Meanwhile they would pull down the shutters and let the
establishment remain intact. They took stock of their be-
longings — almost a million dollars in cash, diamonds es-
timated in the market-place at $200,000 and possibly $150,000
invested in books, oil paintings, tapestries, Oriental rugs,
statues and general furnishings. Their clients owed them
$25,000 and still do.
It was eight o'clock in the morning when they called
for a cup of coffee. They were wide awake with no thought
of sleeping. Several reporters from the afternoon news-
papers dropped in, sharing breakfast with the sisters.
"Have you a statement to make?" asked a youngster.
"We never make statements," returned Minna.
"Aren't you going to put up a battle? It isn't fair that
they make you sisters the goat. You could lick 'em in the
courts. What are your plans?"
"Well," said Ada, simply, "we were seriously thinking
of going to a matinee."
It was a busy morning; girls were writing letters and
sending telegrams. Several trunks were removed before ten
Some had offers "up the street/' which they accepted.
Grace Monroe, always a staunch defender of the Ever-
leigh Club, was one of these. She went to a dive at 2034
South Dearborn Street, operated by Zoe Millard.
"Until I get something better," she apologized.
The majority of the filles de joie, however, were no
hurry about securing other employment. Telegrams were
already coming from out-of-town, offering choice berths for
those "trained for the better houses."
Actually, the scene now reminds one of the night that
William Randolph Hearst bought The Chicago Herald. On
that occasion there came telegrams from the Omaha Bee and
other papers stating that they could use a good reporter
or an excellent copy reader. In the case of the Everleigh
Club the wires guaranteed positions for "two French blondes,"
"can use two all-around brunettes," "best five-dollar house
in New Orleans with positive security and hundred dollars
weekly for five girls under twenty-five stop will advance
railroad fare" and "can use three good-lookers." Some of
these messages, of course, needed decoding to become under-
The telegrams were passed around for all to read.
"Don't they need no maids?" inquired a colored ser-
vant. If they did they were not wiring for them.
At nine o'clock Minna began reading the newspaper ac-
counts. The Chicago Record-Herald's obituary was complete.
HARRISON ORDERS LEVEE DIVE SHUT;
Chief Holds Up 12 Hours Mandate of
Mayor to Close Everleigh Club
INVESTIGATORS IN MOVE
Demand Vice Papers of Police and Question Witnesses
on Conditions in City
Mayor Harrison issued an order to the General
Superintendent of Police yesterday afternoon to close
the Everleigh Club, the most notorious dive in the
South Side levee.
The order was ignored by the Chief of Police until
12 :45 o'clock this morning, when the place was closed
and a policeman stationed in front of the building.
The failure to carry out the Mayor's order is up to
Chief McWeeny personally.
Last night the Everleigh Club was open as usual.
The lights were as bright as ever and the sounds of
revelry within could be heard on the street. The pro-
prietors had no official knowledge of the closing
Neither had the police of the Twenty-second Street
Station, although it was common report all day yes-
terday that Mayor Harrison had doomed the dive.
CHIEF SENDS ORDER
It was not until early this morning that Chief
McWeeny finally awakened to the force of the May-
or's mandate and ordered the dive closed.
He telephoned the Twenty-second Street Station
from his home over the police wire at 12 :45 o'clock
to send detectives to 2131 Dearborn Street to shut
the place. This was almost 12 hours after Mayor
Harrison issued his order.
The tardy action of Chief McWeeny was coupled
with the statement of Minna Everleigh, last night,
when asked if she had been ordered to close the
"club." She replied she had received no order but be-
lieved it would come the first thing in the morning.
It is thought that Chief McWeeny planned to with-
hold the issuance of the closing order until today.
The chief, exasperated by frequent inquiries why
he had not obeyed the Mayor's order, finally trans-
mitted it. Capt. Harding was not at the station. The
lieutenant was also absent and the sergeant sent de-
tectives to enforce the mandate.
MC WEENY IS ANGRY
Chief McWeeny was tired and angry when called
out of bed at 1 o'clock this morning to answer ques-
"Ever so much obliged," he said in a sleepy voice
when he finally answered the phone.
"Why hasn't Mayor Harrison's order to close the
Everleigh Club been obeyed?" he was asked.
"That's just what I'd like to know and I'm going to
find out in the morning."
"Mayor Harrison ordered the place closed many
hours ago and the women running the place say they
have received no instructions to that effect yet."
"Well, I intend to find out why in the morning,"
was all McWeeny would say, and he hung up the re-
While the police waited, habitues of the "red-light"
district celebrated. Every dive in Armour Avenue and
Dearborn Street was wide open. Women stood at the
No inkling of the Mayor's action was presaged,
although he said during the day that for several months
he had considered closing this dive.
"Vice in Chicago can exist only under the most strin-
gent regulations," the Mayor said. "The Everleigh
Club has been advertised far and wide. I am against
this advertisement of Chicago's dives and intend to
close up all such places."
"Proprietors of dives must remain in certain re-
stricted districts. They will not be permitted to move
into residence portions of the city. It is my wish that
the general public notify me of any such attempts. The
information will be treated confidentially and I will
see that these persons are forced back into the restricted
DIVE WAS LANDMARK
The dive ordered closed by the Mayor was a land-
mark in the South Side underworld. It was on South
Dearborn Street and was conducted by two sisters.
Thousands of dollars were reported to have been spent
in furnishings. Rich tapestries and costly paintings
made it the "show place" of the vice district.
"I had planned," the Mayor said after issuing the
order to close the place, "to begin first in the outlying
districts to improve conditions. That would have a
tendency to drive all undesirables into the restricted
parts. Then I intended to take drastic action toward
all flaunting of vice in the segregated districts.
"The more I heard of the Everleigh Club, however,
the more I realized that it must be done away with
without waiting longer. The place will not be per-
mitted to re-open either by the present proprietors or
HOTELS UNDER FIRE
Mayor Harrison admitted that he had private in-
vestigators report general vice conditions to him. He
mentioned the names of several proprietors of dives
whose activities shortly will be curbed. Several hotels
also are under suspicion and will be required to cater
to patrons of an entirely different character than at
present or will be closed. These are on ^Michigan
Avenue, the Mayor said.
A feeling of uneasiness spread throughout the South
Side vice district when the denizens were informed of
the Mayor's action. Because of the Everleigh Club's
apparent immunity from police molestation, its closing
was regarded as significant by proprietors of other
Shortly after the Mayor's action another shock was
given the city's vice districts. This occurred when
N. W. Wheelock, special counsel for the Civil Service
Commission sent for the police department's records
of dives and questionable hotels and their inmates.
John McWeeny, General Euperintendent of Police,
testified before the commission that such records are
kept in all police precincts.
On Thursday, October 26th, the Record-Herald cleared up
the delayed police order:
FAULTS OF POLICE VICE BOOMERANG
Mr. McWeeny Shifts Blame
John McWeeny, General Superintendent of Police,
demanded an explanation from John Wheeler, inspec-
tor in charge of the Harrison Street Station as to why
Mayor Harrison's order to close the Everleigh Club
Tuesday was not transmitted to the Twenty-second Street
Station until yesterday morning.
McWeeny got a report from Wheeler which ap-
parently places the entire blame on John Martin, lieu-
tenant at Wheeler's headquarters.
Martin received the order about 7 o'clock Tuesday
night. Instead of notifying his superior of the impor-
tance of the mandate, he placed it in Wheeler's desk,
where it remained until Wheeler arrived yesterday.
"The place was not closed until I called up the
Twenty-second Street station at 12 :45 o'clock Wednes-
day morning," McWeeny said. "I have Wheeler's re-
port regarding the matter, but will investigate further."
"I think the delay was due to the 'red tape' methods
of the department," Mayor Harrison said. "I don't
think it was intentional."
Within a week the Everleigh Sisters had cleared out
every "living soul". The furniture was covered and they
were prepared to depart for Rome, Italy. Their old friend,
Big Jim Colosimo, assured them they would "be going
strong" upon their return; Ike Bloom promised to "work
on" Bath-house John and two millionaires determined to
"fix things with the Mayor."
"Do the best you can, boys," shouted Minna from the
observation platform of the Twentieth Century as the train
pulled out of Chicago. "We wish you luck. We've had
WAYMAN AND THE FINAL RAIDS
"Have patience, my friend, for sooner or later you, too,
will get sore at everybody." — State's Attorney Wayman.
THE Everleigh Sisters quietly returned to Chicago after
six months in Europe. They arranged to buy a home in
an exclusive section of the West Side and they concluded
to make a "final stab" toward re-opening their resort. It
was late in August, 1912, when they were asked to sub-
scribe $40,000 toward the pool to not only re-light their
own club but to forestall the raids in general. Ike Bloom
was in complete charge of the details, saying that he was
"acting on orders from Chief of Police McWeeny."
The sisters, having read the newspapers, were doubtful
that anything could be done to save the levee, regardless
of the price they paid. On all sides they were blamed for
the hullabaloo, madams and their emissaries cursing them
for starting the reform wave.
"If there had been no Everleigh Club there would have
been none of this," said Zoe Millard, reputed owner of a dive
at 2034 South Dearborn Street. "The Everleighs were too
damned exclusive even to be nice to the reformers."
Grace Monroe, an inmate of the place who had come
there after the Everleigh Club was closed, defended the
sisters. "They are clean and good," she insisted.
There was foul language and Grace was badly beaten.
Madam Millard and a neighboring madam almost tore the
poor girl to pieces. Minna, of course, heard about the attack
and went to the rescue of her former courtesan with the
result that more black eyes followed, but not for Minna.
Word of this reached Captain Ryan, commanding the Twenty-
second Street Police Station and on Thursday, September
5th, 1912, Chicago awoke to read in The Record-Herald that
Madam Millard's resort had been closed because of the
All of which wasn't in favor of the Everleigh Sisters.
The "line" was more bitter than ever, demanding their
extermination for all time.
"We're getting nowhere," boomed Bloom, when Minna
sought his further advice. "You have the knack for mak-
ing everybody sore. I'm surprised somebody hasn't taken
a shot at you. The levee has it in their minds that your
obstinacy is the reason for the clean-up. Why don't you
see Bath-house John, make a deal, be a good fellow and
play ball with the rest of us? We're all in the same boat.
We've got to organize our forces. Supposing I call a
meeting? You make a speech, say you're sorry — anything.
They'll be tickled to death to find you a regular. C'mon,
what do you say?"
"I could throw a party for some of these law and order
leagues," she said. "But as for the levee, I'll go my way
and the rest can go hang."
She left Bloom swearing to himself.
The Friendly Friends, as the society of madams called
their unit, held a meeting, but there were no Everleighs
present. And the largest pool they could subscribe was
"Pikers," said Ada, when told about it. "It'll take a
million to grease the ring-leaders against vice."
On Wednesday, September 25th, 1912, five dive-owners
were indicted among whom was A. E. Harris, Democratic
precinct committeeman of the First Ward, upon evidence
gathered by the Committee of Fifteen. It was the second
victory of the committee in its campaign of six weeks to
rid the district of girls under age. Mayor Harrison was
asked to revoke the saloon license held by Harris, the
"right bower" of Alderman Hinky Dink Kenna of the First
There followed a general vice inquiry; subpoenas were
ordered issued and served for those interested in reform.
The move was heralded as a surprise for State's Attorney
John E. W. Wayman. He was quoted as saying: "The
grand jury took up the matter itself at the request, I think,
of various reform organizations."
On Friday, October 4th, came the first definite blow to
wipe out the levee entirely. The crusaders had made it so
unpleasant for Wayman, who plainly had been fencing with
the issue, that he decided to defy the city police in a positive
drive to rid the town of "stink pots." Warrants were issued
for one hundred and thirty-five resorts.
Minna and Ada Everleigh, now in retirement for al-
most a year, but still in their armored suits, refused to
further discuss the payment of tribute to anybody. The
newspapers were giving too much space to the "clean-up";
the town was too much aroused. The ship was swiftly
sinking. They were planning an auction sale to dispose
of the furnishings of the club and all cajoling from Bloom
and Colosimo went into one ear and out the other. They
alone had come through without a scratch.
The Record-Herald on October 4th told too much for
the sisters to even think of loading their rifles. The heading:
WAYMAN STARTS OWN WAR TO RID CHICAGO OF VICE
Declaration All Dives Must Go Is Answer to Reformers' Charges
GETS WARRANTS ON ONE HUNDRED THIRTY-FIVE
State's Attorney Promises to Prosecute
Property Owners with Others
"Looks like we saved $40,000," said Minna as the sisters
read the morning papers.
Chicago's underworld was to be wiped off the map; se-
gregated districts are to go and downtown dives closed forever.
Such was the edict issued by Wayman.
The warrants for the dive-keepers were sworn out in
Municipal Judge Jacob Hopkins' Court and more were threat-
ened. Owners and agents of the property in which houses
of prostitution were running were to be arrested within the
Chicago, declared Wayman, is to be raked from exclu-
sive Edgewater to the more prosaic "strand" in South
Chicago and from Oak Park to the lake. "The City will
be under a stick blue-law rule and the effacement of all vice,
gambling and saloon violations is to be a repetition of New
York's famous municipal clean-up," he asserted.
Such was Wayman's answer to the reform element of
the city. Smarting under the imputations cast upon his
administration regarding vice prosecutions, the state's at-
torney "passed the buck" to the police and the reformers
by starting proceedings which he intended to include every
dive-keeper and every owner and agent of property where
alleged disorderly resorts are situated.
" will go as far as the courts will go and the courts, I
have no doubt, will go as far as the public will sustain
them," was the ultimatum.
To "go the limit" the state's attorney held a levee "court"
from 9 to 10 o'clock each morning at his office in the
Criminal Courts building. Each man or woman who had
knowledge of the name of a keeper of a house of prostitution
or the name of the owner or agent of the building was
heard. They were asked to swear to complaints to be filed
in the Municipal Court. The state's attorney agreed to
The state law under which the prosecutions were brought
appeared under the heading "disorderly conduct." It follows:
"Whoever keeps or maintains a house of ill-fame or
shall keep a common ill-governed and disorderly house to
the encouragement of idleness, gaming, drinking or other
misbehavior, shall be fined not exceeding $200. A similar
penalty is fixed for agents and owners of buildings occupied
by the disorderly resorts."
There was pandemonium in the red-light district when
the police began serving warrants. The work was not started
until after darkness had fallen. It was near midnight on
October 3rd when the full import of the state's attorney's
order was realized by the dive-keepers. With the grand
jury adjourned they had felt secure from molestation.
Electric pianos jangled away their tunes up until 1
o'clock and then things in both the North and South Side
levee districts were paralyzed. Numerous dive-keepers and
inmates who escaped arrest prepared to leave the city before
morning, fearing that the next batch of warrants would in-
The blow to the vice districts fell unannounced. For
two weeks Wayman had been battling admittedly to head
off the "runaway" September grand jury, which was bent
upon investigating vice. Carl A. Waldron, attorney for the
Committee of Fifteen, and numerous others made charges
reflecting on the prosecutor's sincerity.
Wayman declared the jury could not investigate vice;
that it was a city problem, not a state one. He had said
that the only way he could proceed was by information filed
in the courts, based on previous investigation.
To show his sincerity, the state's attorney had the 135
warrants drawn up and shown to the grand jury. With
these warrants as proof of his determination the jury and
Wayman reached an amicable understanding and the jury
adjourned. "Mr. Wayman promised us," E. Percy War-
ner, the foreman, said, "to 'prosecute all vice to the limit.' "
The reformers, however, were not satisfied with Mr. Way-
man's mere promise. The Committee of Fifteen and also
the Chicago Council. of Federated Churches had openly an-
nounced they would petition a court before the week had
ended for a special grand jury to investigate vice and pos-
sibly for a special state's attorney.
To checkmate such plans, the prosecutor took the bur-
den of "cleaning-up" Chicago upon his own shoulders. He
said that his action was premeditated, and that for the last
three months he has had a force of investigators raking the
city fore and aft for evidence.
The investigators were directed by Nicholas Hunt, for-
mer police inspector and in charge of the Detective Bureau,
a close friend of Wayman. They were said to have collected
evidence against more than 350 dive-keepers.
In spite of the secrecy there was a "tip off" in the
South Side levee district. Only ten alleged dive owners
of the hundred or more were found and placed under bond
during the night. Six plainclothesmen were scouring the
district for those wanted. They were confused because of
the large number of "John Doe" and "Mary Doe" war-
rants issued and the wrong addresses and misinformation
in the warrants. Detectives said that the information was
inaccurate and that much of it was misleading.
"We are doing everything in our power to find the people
wanted, but most of them seem to be under cover," said
Lieutenant William Russell of the Twenty-second Street
Station. "They apparently were tipped off by someone."
Big Jim Colosimo, Roy Jones, Vic Shaw and Ed Weiss
were the only widely-known persons named in the warrants.
Some surprise was occasioned when Ed Weiss was dragged
intc the net. He and his brother, Louis, were the men
whom Carl A. Waldron charged Assistant State's Attorney
Charles V. Barrett with having tried to protect.
Harry Kizick, alias Harry Cusick and Leo Bernstein
were also named in warrants. They, with Weiss, had been
arrested at the instigation of Mr. Waldron on charges of
harboring girls under age.
The Chicago Record-Herald on Saturday, October 5th,
ALL LEVEE FLEES AS POLICE
START RAIDS UPON DIVES
Instead of the prosecutor wiping out the tenderloin, the
tenderloin wiped out itself — momentarily. More than a month
was yet to pass before the district was to be totally vacated.
Madam Vic Shaw was visited on the night before by
a patrol-wagon loaded with police, driving up unannounced
to her parlors at 2014 South Dearborn Street. The blue-
coats scrambled out of the conveyance and soon twenty young
women and one lone man shoved into the bus.
Almost coincident with the raid the mysterious grape-
vine of the underworld started working. "The district is
pinched," flashed the word. Within a few minutes, Armour
Avenue and Dearborn Streets, from Twenty-second Street
to Archer Avenue became one scene of wild disorder. Only
another Johnstown flood, the approach of an invading army
or a plague might have caused a similar havoc. In front
of a few of the more pretentious establishments automo-
biles suddenly appeared. Women soon crowded into them
and the cars raced away.
The second invasion was at Annie De Muncy's, 2004
South Dearborn Street, where sixteen women and twenty-
five men, a majority of the former still in their 'teens, were
put aboard patrol-wagons and taken to the South Clark
Street Station downtown.
Up and down the levee streets a dozen police patrols
jogged, the thousand or more sightseers tagging along be-
hind. At 2129 South Dearborn Street, a dive conducted
by Madam Amy, ten girls were found hurriedly packing
their belongings for the getaway. They were hustled into
Then the police gave up. It was the first time in the
history of the South Side levee that "not a wheel turned."
At one o'clock news of the raids had spread to other parts
of the city, causing a rush of slumming parties for that
section. The streets were crowded with men and parties
in automobiles darted hither and thither to see the sights.
On the corners more than 500 men were congregated, the
police being unable to induce them to "move on."
The Chicago Record-Herald said on October 6th :
WOMEN OF DIVES EJECTED ;
PARADE IN BEST SECTIONS
Vice Brought Home to Residence Districts
in Way Never Known two thousand apply for rooms
Dressed in Gaudy Attire and Painted, Levee
Denizens Shock Housewives
Something more for the reformers to worry about. When
Wayman was asked what he intended doing about homes for
the fallen women he evaded the question by saying: "I'm
going the full route." He might better have said: "Well,
you asked for it."
At Thirty-fifth Street and Michigan Avenue an aston-
ished woman saw six scarlet damsels stop and light cigar-
ettes — right on the street. She called a police station. Scores
of other women reported they had been insulted by strange
Into the rooming-houses several miles from the levee
streamed an assemblage not wholly composed of the silken
dress, willow plume variety. From the lower dives came
former inmates who, for months, had not been on the
streets in daylight. Some wore only walking skirts pulled
over a flaring colored kimona with a scarf for headgear.
Wrapped up in a piece of cloth they carried their belong-
ings. Without money, clothes or a place to call home, they
were in a plight. Michigan Avenue had never witnessed
such a sorrowful parade.
The outlying neighborhoods refused to harbor the "sports"
and the old "life" was barred to them. The police came
into action by deciding to drive the fallen ones back to the
dives ; the undesirables were more confused than ever. The
reform forces, too, were a bit dazed. While the mighty
police machine was planning to route the vice army out
of the residence sections the state's attorney clean-up was
continuing the onslaught. Three thousand persons watched
the raids nightly while three million natives were denouncing
the police, Wayman, the reformers and the town in general.
Miss Kate Adams, a welfare worker, was authorized by
the Vigilance Committee to accommodate all the ladies
of the evening who applied at her "home", 2119 Calumet
Avenue. She wasn't overburdened with requests. The out-
casts were not asking for charity and certainly not for lec-
Wayman, well aware that the closing of the resorts had
brought other cares, passed the buck to Chief of Police
McWeeny. "I've closed the levee; let the police keep it
shut," he declared.
Owners of the resort property arose in protest, some
seeking immunity from arrest and others defying the whole
shebang. They just couldn't get-together. Then the realty
men in the residence sections began a fight to prevent unde-
sirables from invading their domain. Finally two groups
of realtors organized to open two levees, one in South Mich-
igan Avenue and the other in Clark Street's downtown
Chinatown, a portion of the old badlands of Carrie Wat-
son's day, but for many years law-abiding. Nothing came
However, the old levee was replete with "cappers", telling
prospective customers where to go. "Buffet flats" in quiet
quarters were opened over night.
Print-crazed clergymen had the time of their lives. Five
"city leaders" charged graft before a crowd that packed
Orchestra Hall, the sanctum of symphony concerts and where
Theodore Roosevelt became the Bull Moose candidate for
president. A Dr. Boynton stated that $5,000 to $30,000
a month was "paid to city authorities or someone else in
political power" as vice tribute. He and the others just
talked, saying little to back up their statements. Who col-
lected the money? Who got it? That would have been
hotter than hysterics. Most vice reformers are about as
hazy when it comes to actual facts as the denizens of the
underworld are at a murder trial. Ike Bloom collected the
money. Why didn't Dr. Boynton say so? He didn't know.
Why didn't he come right out and shout that the city
authorities and the county authorities clashed over the spoils
— hence the raids. The reformers, taking bows, were as
fanatic and as selfish as they always are and always will be.
In plain language, they wanted their names in the paper.
They were "the ones". And they had won for the same
reason that an opposing political party wins when the
logical winner is divided into two factions.
One has only to read the headlines to realize that the
police (the city authority) and Wayman (the county au-
thority) were not pals.
Here are three samples:
From the Record-Herald of October 15th, 1912—
WAYMAN AND THE FINAL RAIDS COUNCIL FIGHTS VICE
Mayor Names Committee of Nine Headed
by Emerson to Make Inquiry
WAYMAN GIVES UP
It seems there was a Vice Commission's report and Way-
man sought to obtain the "key" to it by a motion for a
subpoenas duces tecum before Municipal Judge Cottrell. The
motion was later withdrawn.
And in The Record-Herald of October 18th:
WAYMAN REFUSES PLEA TO OPEN VICE DISTRICT
Tells Aldermen of Investigating Committee
That Dives Must Remain Closed
In short there were raids by Wayman and ye£ many
of the resorts kept open. The police department in one
swoop could have closed and kept closed the entire South
Side area if it had so desired. It was all confined to a
few blocks. The heading in The Record-Herald of October
7th shows how much harmony existed between the "North
Side" (Wayman's office) and The Loop:
POLICE PREPARE TO DRIVE WOMEN BACK TO DIVES
Everybody was plain mad. As has been said previously:
the levee was to close itself. It ought to have laid down its
own law, attempted to operate without crime and have fixed
a definite payment to those contributing services, whether
the administrative powers or the police. It needed a leader.
And maybe it wasn't a sound business ; those engaged in it
I proved they were unsound. The Everleigh Sisters had found
that out years before. Too many mitts for the spoils !
A month and a half was taken to barricade a small cluster
of dives; rather farcical when one looks back to those
hysterical hours. The poor, misguided habitues gave little
battle, they ran like rats from a sinking ship. But the
opposing forces of the law, the owners of the property and
a stray vice overlord kept the guns loaded.
During the remainder of October these headlines ap-
peared in The Record-Herald. On October 21st :
WAYMAN SEES AS BOON BLOW STRUCK AT VICE
State's Attorney, Speaking in Pulpit, Declares
Crusade Will Revivify City
Prosecutor and Pastors Assail Council for Ordering
(Again in that last bank we find evidence of friction be-
tween the county and city powers).
On October 28th :
DISTRICT OF VICE FINDS ADVOCATE IN ONE MINISTER
Rev. Frederick E. Hopkins Opposes Scattering
of Evil in City
DECRIES OPEN AGITATION
How Much Good Has Been Accomplished by
All Discussion? He Asks
WAYMAN AND THE FINAL RAIDS
On October 29th:
GIRL DISAPPEARS— PASTOR MENACED IN WAR ON VICE
Rev. E. L. Williams Tells of Many Death
Threats Received by Him
woman's case a mystery
Maid at Church Home Vanishes, Leaving Bank
Book, Money and Clothing
On October 30th:
PARTISANS WAGE ALL-DAY BATTLE ON SEGREGATION
Bitter Charges and Attacks Mark Session
Before Committee of Nine
KATE ADAMS MAKES STIR
Asserts "Vice Trusts" Is to Raise $30,000 to Boost Favorable Legislation
There came the month of November and, despite all the
agitation, Bloom told the Everleigh Sisters to prepare for
a Grand Re-opening. Fortunately for them, he reminded,
they had not appeared in the current fireworks display. "We'll
make everything clean and respectable," said Bloom. "We'll
give the whole line your treatment. How's that? Who is
that guy, O, yes, Dr. Hopkins, the preacher? He's on our
side. We're a necessary evil. We'll line up a few more
ministers. It's a cinch." The sisters only shrugged their
COME INTO MY PARLOR
"It can't be done," insisted Minna.
"The hell it can't," pursued Bloom. "We'll give gener-
ously to the churches ; we'll make all the gals say their
prayers and sit in them god-damned pews. Don't tell me it
can't be done. Preachers got to be greased the same as bulls.
What dy'a say? What the hell — you and I will go to church
"Ike, you're getting hot, but not hot enough," said Minna,
amused. "To square the bible brothers will take more cash
than you'll ever be able to subscribe. The idea is gorgeous
but the cost is prohibitive. I'm auctioning off the stuff for
sure now. And in the future you'll find me in a little, gray
home in the West — over in the West Side."
They parted for the last time. Ike Bloom was plainly
"You're sure you won't fight it out ?" he called after Minna.
"I'm through," came the reply. "It's a garden and a
private home from no won. I want trees in the backyard and
sunshine — mostly sunshine. S'long, Ike."
Bloom continued his Frieberg's Hall in some fashion for
several years afterward. He died on December 15th, 1930.
The hall was known in later years as The Midnight Frolic,
was the scene of many fights, and finally was torn down.
Bloom suffered a painful end ; both his legs were said to have
been amputated and that diabetes ultimately destroyed him.
Poor Ike. He never quite got the right idea.
November, 1912, came with a succession of headlines
concerning the levee, which, despite the Wayman raids,
went merrily about its sinful business. To add to the South
Side torments the election commissioners, in a decision, dis-
franchised every man claiming residence in the tenderloin.
The commissioners ruled: "No voter can claim legal resi-
dence in a place of known ill-repute, because such a place
is illegal and contrary to the law."
Underworld denizens were further irritated when the
police card-index lists of the chippies in the district were
placed in the hands of election commissioners by Captain
Michael Ryan of the Twenty-second Street Police Station.
(There were constant changes, one will notice, in the com-
manders of the police district.)
On Election Day, Tuesday, November 5th , the male
denizens of the redlight district, many of whom were listed
by the police, were challenged by representatives of the
Election Board. As the disorderly houses were accused of
harboring hundreds of dummy voters in past elections and
inasmuch as these dummies were said to have helped swing
an election the First Ward aldermen, the Bath and Hinky
Dink, were reported as doubtful of another victory. Who-
ever of the two was running won hands down and probably
laughed at the monkeyshines of an Election Board.
Woodrow Wilson was elected President of these United
States that same day. The Bath and Hinky Dink, Democrats,
had to think of Wilson. They did.
An excited preacher named E. L. Williams was saying
the "commercialized" social evil should be treated as murder,
thus crashing the news-columns, instead of the comic section,
with the heading: "To Stamp Out Vice."
On November 9th, one Louis M. Quitman, who withheld
a "mystery man" from the town because that was the surest
way of landing in print, was accused of having levee-backing
to assure the continuance of the district. He was supposed to
be the friend of the down-trodden, but the reformers were
dubious. The Record-Herald banged out this classic :
"MAN OF MYSTERY" NOW FACTOR IN VICE FIGHT
'I Will Tell Names of All My Backers 'But
One," Is Quitman's Reply to Reformers
EXPLAINS POLICE GUARD
Says He Was Bluffing Dive-Keepers in Listing
Women and Needed Protection
Louis M. Quitman of the Woman's Protective League
will disclose the names of all the men but one back of his
undertaking on Monday, if the person to whom he gives the
names will hold them in confidence. Quitman was accused of
being in league with the "kings of the levee," and of providing
false to the anti-vice commission when he gave testimony
before the aldermanic committee that he favored segregation
of vice. . . .
On Sunday, November 10th, The Record-Herald stated:
VICE "MAN OF MYSTERY" REVEALED BY QUITMAN
Secretary of Woman's Protective League
Gives Name of "Phantom Philanthropist"
EMERSON TO KEEP SECRET
Chairman of Council Committee Convinced
That Movement Is "On the Square"
Quitman was maintaining rooms at 108 West Twenty-
second Street. The closing of the district took much work
away from the League, but its room remained open.
On Tuesday, November 12th, The Record-Herald declared :
PRODUCE QUITMAN NOTE IN "VICE KING" CHARGE
Reform Workers Show Alleged Loan of $100
from Mike de Pike Heitler
"FORGERY !" CRIES THE ACCUSED
Last Day of Council Hearing on Segregation
Marked by Dramatic Climax
An all-day battle between forces for and against segrega-
tion of vice culminated yesterday afternoon in a fresh attack
upon the integrity and good faith of Louis Quitman, secretary
of the Chicago Protective League for Women.
It has been repeatedly charged by persons opposed to
segregation that Quitman has been using the league's institu-
tion to further the interests of the "vice kings" of the levee dis-
trict rather than to assist fallen women. One of the strongest*
arguments used against the young secretary was the fact
that he has fought consistently for the re-establishment of the
While the aldermen were suggesting laws to regulate vice
and while they were asking for a moral commission, Quitman
slipped out of the news and out of the picture. Mike De Pike
of the great West Side again stepped forward and was found
guilty as a Vice King. He was fined the large and handsome
sum of $50, a pretty small dish with which to annoy a King.
"You wanted the West Side levee open?" he was asked.
"Yes, I made money when it was open," said the frank
Mike De Pike.
"How?" interrogated a brilliant lawyer.
"By collecting money from Barney Grogan for police
protection," said the simple Mike De Pike. "That is, I
collected money from resort-owners so that they could run
without interference from the police." He admitted' the
"takes" ran from $50 to $150 a month for each "joint". Fur-
ther, the madams came to his saloon to make the payments.
"You don't think I'm goin' to tucker myself chasing a lot
of skirts, do you?" he added.
He said he was paid commissions as the collector and that
he split with a police official.
The noose was drawing near. On Tuesday, November
19th, this glaring tid-bit appeared in The Record-Herald :
DIVES RUN WIDE OPEN, DEFYING REGULATIONS
Investigators Find Disreputable Levee
Resorts Boldly Disregarding Police Orders
NOTORIOUS PLACES BUSY
Tip to Women That Return to Vice Dilstrict Is
Safe; Report Sent Broadcast
VIOLATIONS ARE REPORTED
Twenty women were arrested in Big Jim Colosimo's, Bux-
baum's and in the Weiss Bagnios. All had saloons in con-nection
with the other conveniences.
On Wednesday, November 20th, The Record-Herald reported :
DIVES SCORN ORDER BY MAYOR TO CLOSE
Harrison Instructs Police to Put Lid on Levee
But Meets Defiance lights bright as ever
Women Arrested on Streets, but Noisy Drinking
Places Operate in Safety
There followed :
Chicago's underworld flung a challenge at Mayor Harrison last night.
"The South side 'red-light* district must be closed
and kept closed until further notice," was the Mayor's
order to Chief of Police McWeeney.
It was the first time in the history of the city that a
Mayor had issued such an order.
The Chief of Police called in Captain Michael
Ryan of the Twenty-second Street Police Station and
repeated the order to him, with instructions to enforce it.
DIVES WIDE OPEN
The Frisco — a notorious dive at 1915 Armour Avenue was running full blast,
with a woman
The Casino — Armour and W. 21st St.
Dreamland — W. 19th St. and Armour Ave.
The Mint— 2004: Armour Ave.
The Bon Ton— 2006 Armour Ave.
Rosenberis — W. 19th and South Dearborn St.
The Capital— Ed. Weiss' dive at W. 12th St. and
South Dearborn St.
On Thursday in The Record-Herald :
VICE DEFI STIRS MAYOR—WILL ORDER AN INQUIRY
Police Chief McWeeney Is to Investigate
Re-opening of the Segregated District
WAYMAN DODGES QUESTIONS
State's Attorney Found in- New Offices (Criminal
Court Bldg.) Refuses to Make Any Statement
And on Friday in The Record-Herald :
LEVEE WIPED OUT IN FIVE MINUTES
WHEN POLICE ACT
Order by Mayor Starts Move on Dives
and Denizens Flee vice district deserted
Five minutes of real police activity, which gives a rough
idea of how such matters can be handled when they want
them handled, wiped out the South Side levee district in
Chicago. It ceased to exist as if by magic, not because of
enforcement of the law but because of the apprehension of it.
A few minutes before six o'clock on Thursday evening
policemen began nailing the doors of Tommy Owen' "cafe"
at 2033-35 Armour Avenue. They were acting on the orders
of Mayor Harrison, delivered at last in an unmistakable man-
ner. Echoes of the blows of their hammers hard hardly died
away before the entire district was deserted. By six o'clock
not a woman was to be found in it.
Frieberg's Hall and some of the cafes on the fringe of
the segregated territory escaped, but the levee itself was dark-
ened for all time.
WAYMAN AND THE FINAL RAIDS
The Chicago Daily Tribune on Friday, April 18th, 1913,
shocked its readers with the story of Wayman's death. The
headline and the lead to the account follow :
JOHN E. WAYMAN DEAD FROM SHOT . SELF-INFLICTED
Former State's Attorney Passes Away at
1 :30 A.M. After Hours of Consciousness
HIS WIFE SUMMONS HELP
Was Confined to Residence Under Treatment
for Nervous Breakdown
WEAPON USED IN PREVIOUS TRAGEDY
John E. W. Wayman, former state's attorney of
Cook County, shot himself twice below the heart yes-
terday afternoon at his residence, 6832 Constance
He died at 1 :20 o'clock this morning.
At midnight he awakened from a short sleep, his
lungs congested and suffering from internal hemor-
At 12:15 o'clock Dr. W. K. Murray issued the
Mr. Wayman is sinking rapidly and may
die at any moment. He is unconscious and
is suffering from an internal hemorrhage.
His lungs are filling with blood.
Dr. W. K. Murray.
An hour of suspense followed. Then the physician
emerged to say : "He is dead."
The paralysis which followed his self-inflicted shot
had the effect of leaving Mr. Wayman conscious and
comparatively free from pain, although knowing that
he might die any minute. Consequently he discussed
his injuries and how they were received in a calm,
dispassionate manner with those who visited him.
"Boys, I guess I must have had a little sand in my
gear box when I did this thing," was the quaint way
in which he answered the questions of Attorneys Otto
Schram and Claude F. Smith, former assistants, who
were permitted to visit him for a minute.
"I am sorry. I hope I will live," he said to Mrs.
UNDER GREAT MENTAL STRAIN
Mr. Wayman had been under a terrific mental
strain. In winding up his career as state's attorney,
so that his office might be turned over to his successor
in an orderly manner, he had labored days and nights
with but little sleep. He went out of office after clos-
ing the vice districts of Chicago, a work to which he
devoted his heart and soul.
His campaign as a candidate for the governorship
nomination had sapped his vitality. He had opened a
private office to again practice law and was flooded
with clients he attempted to serve in spite of advice
from friends and physicians that he needed a long
INVENTS APPENDICITIS SUBTERFUGE
Finally in a heroic attempt to force Mr. Wayman
to rest, Dr. EJ. C. Williams, the family physician,
invented the subterfuge of appendicitis. The patient
was told he must cease mental and physical exertion
in order to premit of a successful operation. He went
to Excelsior Springs, but stayed only a short time.
WAYMAN AND THE FINAL RAIDS
On Wednesday morning Mr. Wayman was told the
condition was so grave he must be taken to a hospital.
He went to the Streator Hospital, spent a part of the
day, and left it. He was taken for an automobile ride
and back to the hospital again. Again he insisted
upon leaving, saying that if he had to be operated on
he preferred to be at home near his wife and babies.
With Mr. Wayman at the time of the shooting were
Mrs. Wayman, the three children, Annajane Wayman, 6
years old ; John E. W. Wayman, Jr., 4 years old ; Calef, three
years old, and two maids.
J. C. Wayman, a brother, had had luncheon with the family
at 1 o'clock and smoked a cigar with the former state's
attorney after the meal. The brother left at 2 o'clock and
Mr. Wayman went upstairs, saying that he was tired and
would rest. At 3 o'clock he told Mrs. Wayman that he was
going to retire and went into the bedroom.
It was while the children were playing with roller skates
and tricycles in front of the house and Mrs. Wayman in the
rooms below, believing her husband to be peacefully asleep,
that the shots were heard.
About twenty minutes before 4 o'clock in the afternoon,
the maid from the Wayman home rushed into the residence of
Mrs. J. C. Farwell, 6848 Constance Avenue, the next house.
"Come, quick, Mr. Wayman has tried to shoot himself,"
was the maid's message, according to Mrs. Farwell, who had
as guests a number of women friends.
"I ran across the yard with the maid," said Mrs. Farwell.
"Mrs. Wayman was in the front room on the first floor. She
was crying and wringing her hands. She said: 'Get help
"I ran out on the front porch and saw a man driving
to bring a physician quickly, as Mr. Wayman had shot him-
self. Then I told some of the men over at the house to go
over and see if they could be of any assistance."
Within half an hour after the shooting, Dr. W. O. Krohn,
a specialist in nervous diseases, arrived and made an examina-
tion of the wounds. He had been treating Mr. Wayman for
nervousness. At 5 o'clock he emerged and made this state-
"One bullet entered an inch and a half below the apex of
the heart. Its course was downward and to the back. In
passing out at the back it severed several principal arteries
controlling the lower limbs and organs. The arteries were
severed near the spine. I found him paralyzed below the
arms. The other bullet entered about three inches below the
heart with the same course as the first. It lodged in the
back, not quite an inch from the surface. We extracted it.
Mr. Wayman suffered from internal hemorrhages."
Dr. James L. Hively, a chiropractor, said he was the first
physician to arrive at the Wayman residence. He said that
Mr. Wayman was lying partly in the closet.
"Mr. Wayman was conscious," he commented, "and was
able to talk. He remarked : 'I was a fool for, doing it. I
don't know what made me do it. What are my chances of
living, doctor? I am sorry, old man, if I have caused you
George C. Bour, a real estate man living at 6840 Euclid
Avenue, asserted he was the first man to arrive at the Way-
"I was walking along the sidewalk when Mr. Farwell ran
out to stop a man in an auto. I ran in and met Mrs. Wayman
in the front room on the first floor. Together we ran upstairs.
Mr. Wayman was lying in the clothes closet. The pistol was
on the flood beside him. We lifted him up and put him on
Dr. E. C. Williams, the family physician, and Dr. Carl
Langer of the Englewood Hospital, were hurriedly sum-
moned, the former from the Chicago Beach Hotel and with
Dr. Krohn of the Hotel Del Prado and Dr. Murray, they
worked over the unconscious man and succeeded in stopping
the internal hemorrhages.
The weapon used was an automatic Colt, carrying a maga-
zine with seven shots. It had a "hair trigger" so adjusted
that the pistol would empty itself with one long pressure on
the trigger. It was not necessary to press the trigger for
each shot. The weapon would repeat as long as the trigger
was pressed and cartridges remained in the magazine.
Tom Marshall, law partner of Mr. Wayman, said the
revolver was the property of Dr. Charles Lund, 3167 Pine
Grove Avenue, and was the same used in the fatal shooting
of Edward Paul of 1739 Addison Street.
"Dr. Lund came to Mr. Wayman for advice after the Paul
shooting," said Mr. Marshall. "Mr. Wayman advised him to
leave the revolver with him and then give himself up to the
police. Dr. Lund did so. Mr. Wayman was retained to
defend the doctor.
"Dr. Lund explained the circumstances of the shooting
to Mr. Wayman, declaring he had pointed the pistol for the
purpose of threatening, and not with the intention of firing it,
when the sensitive weapon was discharged. He explained
how easily every shot could be fired unintentionally.
"Mr. Wayman took the pistol home with him on Tuesday
and I told him to be careful of it. He carried it in his overcoat
pocket. He had thoroughly decided upon Dr. Lund's defense.
It was to be that of accidental discharge of the pistol."
Dr. Krohn issued a second statement to the effect:
"Mr. Wayman has told us how it happened. He says
that when he got undressed and had donned his pajamas,
he felt better, and decided to work up his defense on the
Dr. Lund case. He says he went into the closet, where
he had placed the automatic pistol on a top shelf to keep
it out of the way of the children. He took the gun down,
holding it in his right hand, and intended to examine the
mechanism so that he could build the defense on facts.
"It was while holding the gun in his right hand, he said,
that his finger accidentally pressed the trigger and the first
shot was fired.
"This shot must have gone wild. He thinks the recoil
from the first shot pulled the barrel of the pistol around
in such' a manner that it pointed at his body. The second
and third shots followed in rapid succession and entered the
body. It all happened to quickly and all with one pressure of
John Eucell Wilson Wayman was born on a farm near
Glen Easton, West Virginia. He was 41 years old.
At 36 Mr. Wayman entered the lists in the contest for
the Republican nomination for state's attorney of Cook
County. His principal opponent in the primary was former
State's Attorney John J. Healy. Mr. Wayman won to the
surprise of his opponents, and probably of himself. Healy
demanded a recount, was beaten, took it to court, and was
He was looked on as the United Societies' candidate and
the dry and religious elements lined up against him in his
campaign for re-election. But these foes were quite as
staunchly opposed to his Democratic opponent, Jacob J.
Kern. Again Wayman won, and the young criminal lawyer
who had been unknown a year before became the principal
prosecutor of the Middle West.
During his term Wayman prosecuted and convicted Police
Inspector McCann in a protracted battle, in which he es-
tranged many of his old friends. He prosecuted Lee O'Neil
Browne, but in a second trial Browne got an acquittal. He
sought to have the jury system changed, and vehemently
attacked the parole system. His last big feat was the closing
of the South Side levee district.
WAYMAN AND THE FINAL RAIDS
Reformers who had assisted materially in the police regu-
lation and improvement of social conditions declared the levee
could not be closed. Mr. Wayman did not order the places to
bolt their doors. He had the inmates and patrons arrested
and taken to the nearest stations and booked. As fast as the
houses filled up he had them raided again. Whether the
closing was wise or not the reformers could not agree, but
Mr. Wayman demonstrated it could be done and left his
successor and the police the job of keeping the district dark.
He made an unsuccessful campaign for governor, in the spring
of 1913. On the expiration of his term as state's attorney he
entered private practice with his former assistant, Thomas
Marshall. He continued to make public addresses and was
scheduled to speak on the night after his death at the dinner
of the Sons of St. George. Burial was at Mount Greenwood.
The levee was done for; Wayman was dead. A scandalous
epoch had rung down its curtain. Wayman had needed
money, which he could have received from the very resorts
he closed, but he played on the level. He was an outcast
same as the Everleighs were outcasts. The reformers knifed
him ; the police knifed him. He sat on a keg of dynamite.
Had he taken one cent of tribute somebody would have heard
about it and somebody would have belched to the limit.
Wayman died an honest man. That was his greatest mistake
in an era of corrupt inner political machinery. He was too
busy righting his enemies to relax long enough to figure out
a way to beat the game, a game that has been better played
since he passed on. Had Wayman had sufficient oil and a
radio voice he would still be a headliner. The Everleigh
Sisters appreciated his faults and were, outside of the imme-
diate family, his most sincere mourners. They had won ;
Wayman had lost. And they alone understood.
Chief McWeeny retired ; Mayor Harrison was in the
Internal Revenue Service; Bath-house John was still alder-
man in the First Ward and Hinky Dink was a ward com-
mitteeman in the winter of 1936.
"If it weren't for the married men we couldn't have carried
on at all and if it weren't for the cheating married women
we would have earned another million."
— The Everleigh Sisters..
IN the spring of 1913 there loomed upon the theatrical
horizon a gimcrack called "Little Lost Sister/* which was
made from a series of episodes purporting to expose Chicago's
lost levee district and which had appeared in The Chicago
American. The author was Virginia Brooks but the fellow
who wrote the articles was Arthur James Pegler, father of
Westbrook and Jack of The American. Charles Michelson, after-
ward prominent in the Democratic National Party, was then
an editor of The American and he not only concocted the title
but made possible a stage property that ultimately brought
home enough bacon for one of the producers to buy the private
home of the Everleigh Sisters.
Miss Brooks had been a crusader against Wayman ; single-
handed she had fought vice in West Hammond, Illinois, a town
bordering on Hammond, Indiana, and she had figured in
various battles against Chicago's underworld. She was in
the news, but she couldn't write. Pegler's series of exposures
ran in double-column measure on page one of The American
and bore such chapter headings as "Queer Fish in the Depths,"
"The Poison Needle" and "The Death Tunnel." It was hot
stuff, but not the material of which plays are made — no con-
tinuity. Pegler, no doubt, and rightly so, saw little in it
for the rostrums and accepted a flat sum of $500 to fashion the
stage work. Paul Armstrong wanted to do it, but disappeared
while the producers, Frank A. P. Gazolo and Robert Ricksen,
were eagerly planning a premiere.
The Pegler version was dumped after the spring try-out
and Edward E. Rose, long identified with Charles Frohman
as a "play doctor," did the re-write with a little help from
this writer. "Little Lost Sister" made a fortune; five com-
panies toured in it during the season of 1913-14. It is still
played on the show-boats, according to Richard Watts, Jr.,
of the New York Her old-Tribune.
So much for the history of the play, except that Mr.
Michelson, while seeking a title for the newspaper series
picked up a copy of the book, "My Little Sister," lying on
his desk, remarking: "If we can get Little Sister into a title
we have something." He added the Lost, a stroke of genius
and befitting the era.
The show officially opened, with the Rose flourishes, at the
beginning of the 1913-14 season at the Lyceum Theatre in
Detroit. It sold out at every performance. It was the first
of the "white slave" plays, timely, open-faced, and popular-
priced — one dollar for the best seats. It had cost, actually,
counting the scenery and the printing (printing was the big-
gest item), less than $3,000 to produce. The actors received
$40 salaries and a stage carpenter portrayed one of the four
villains, also hogging the mash notes. It exhibited to $6,800
in its first week in Detroit, almost clearing in profit the cost of
production. For publicity, there was police interference, local
exposures by Miss Brooks, and there was the "dirty play"
It had the greatest third act opening of all "white slave"
dramas. The scene began with the villains talking over
the "protection" for their new dive; the scene was a cabaret
and there were red lamps on the tables. Off-stage a girl
was heard screaming. There was the crack of a whip and
"What's he doing to the gal, Martin?" growled a villain.
"He's beatin' her and he's goin' to keep beatin' her until
she gives in to him," "hissed" his companion.
Another crack of the whip ; another piercing scream from
the off-stage heroine. How could the play fail?
And when the innocent courtesan, .who was engaged to
the millionaire's son, called off the wedding by saying to the
"I'm giving you back your son, John Boland, I'm not
selling him to you," as she tore up the check, nothing could
halt the line at the box-office wicket.
It was gallery stuff. A maid from the country had been
lured in Act One to the Big City, where she was betrayed.
She went the route in Act Two. But when "the devils in
human form" tried to make her a "bad girl" out of her
sister in Act Three she rebelled, resulting in a fiery climax.
There was the lamp-in-the-window in Act Four for the final
curtain; the fallen heroine was embraced by her country-boy
sweetheart. Happy ending. It was all show, all 1913, all
"The Traffic" and "The Lure" came shortly afterward.
Miss Brooks died in 1929. Frank A. P. (Apple Pie) Gazzolo,
the enthusiastic sponsor, along with Robert Ricksen, had
"mopped up." Gazzolo, having risen from "On the Bridge
at Midnight" of the 10-20-30c melodramas and having longed
all his life for a real theatrical hit, was now ready to purchase
a home for his family. He heard that at 5536 Washington
Boulevard in Chicago's West Side was a residence hi which
the Everleighs were living, but which could be had "for a
song" because some of the residents were suspicious.
Gazzolo bought the house and has lived there ever since.
However, the sisters later preferred not to mention the
subject. They had tried to live privately in Chicago, but
their past trailed them, causing so much unpleasantness that
they finally migrated to New York, where they have remained
COME INTO MY PARLOR
A letter from Gazzolo in 1934 stated :
"It being generally understood that the E. S. owned this
building (5536 Washington Boulevard) I will relate our exper-
ience. There were no irregularities practiced around here and
the neighbors never got through telling us what ideal persons
they were. You never could convince anybody in Chicago
except the nearby neighbors that both the E. S. did own
and had planned to erect this place for an ulterior motive. I
can say truthfully that this is just idle talk. They came
here to rest and to enjoy a quiet, peaceful life. I can testify
and so can my wife that all of us have certainly enjoyed what
is going on to 21 years of residence in this household and I
don't know what any of us would do if dispossessed. I thank
the E. S." Mrs. Gazzolo died in 1935.
Both sisters refused to enter into that episode in their lives,
if true that it was an episode. Even so : it is somewhat ironic
to find the profits of a play exposing levee conditions paying
for the property of levee queens.
On July 25th, 1914, almost three years after the Everleigh
Club was abandoned, The Chicago Examiner, using pictures
of the sisters, came forth with the headline :
HOYNE WILL USE EVERLEIGH DATA FOR GRAND JURY
How Ike Bloom Displaced Little as Levee
Ruler Is Told in This Installment
The Examiner, it seems, had received letters from Minna
Everleigh, "former queen of Chicago's underworld," which
went on to say that a 'certain amount of money from the
resorts would permit them to go on in full blast without fear
of the police" because a certain official could be fixed.
'art of one letter:
'Ike Bloom ordered six of the biggest saloon and resort-
keepers to send in their coin to the City Hall . . . Ike began
to assume the role of levee king."
There was talk of "sweeping investigations" — but the
boat had sailed. The City Hall could mean anything because
police officials as well as underlings had offices there. State's
Attorney Macley Hoyne was gathering evidence against dive-
keepers, corrupt politicians in the First Ward, crooked attor-
neys and bondsmen in an effort to clean up a dirty mess for
all time. He did very well, considering that nothing is ever
tangible in underworld revelations. Either important persons
are involved in scandal and, to protect them, much is thrown
out or the testimony is unreliable and more often untruthful.
Minna had no desire to return to Chicago at that time. What
for? She was courting peace and retirement. She was sorry
for having written letters.
At a 'quiet fireside in 1936, the sisters sit back and, like
the late Will Rogers, all they know is what" they read in the
papers. They've made up a game. What do favorite news-
paper writers look like? What kind can they be? It is good
fun, whetting the imagination and embarrassing nobody.
Often they've declared that some of the boys would con-
sider breaking bread with them, but when the time came to
issue invitations they backed out. They intend to continue
playing a lone hand, painting mind pictures, living in dream-
land. Many of the writers have confessed a longing to meet
them on equal ground, which pleases the sisters but has yet
to break down the barriers. Here are some of their mental
pictures of outstanding New York reporters :
Stanley Walker, wiry cuss who does as he pleases ; Alva
Johnston, in the city for fun and in the country to work;
Richard Watts, Jr., blue-blood in a blue shirt ; Alexander
Woolcott, roly poly and not ashamed of it ; Brooks Atkinson,
enjoys puns but isn't sure what to do about 'em; Burns
Mantle, still has Chicago in his hair; Westbrook Pegler, gay
dog with Chicago slant on modern hokus pokus ; John Ander-
son, happy days are here again; Geoffrey Parsons, who likes
to sing; Harry Staton, it's still the cook house with the circus
and not the cook tent; Walter Winchell, exhausted from
seeking shorter and funnier gags ; Lewis Nichols, Broadway is
a fake ; Ed Sullivan, like the Boston Irish, a friend established
can do no wrong; Louis Sobol, handsomest of all; Howard
Barnes, will be back in a minute; Arthur Folwell, get a
joke in the first paragraph; John Harkins, get a joke at the
finish; Lucius Beebe, what's wrong with a sleigh ride in
Central Park ; John Hutchens, soft, sociable and secure ;
Charlie McLendon, don't come back without it ; Skipper Wil-
liams, hates to be called kipper; Beverly Smith, everybody
can't be crazy; Eddie Angly, authors are nice people; Ned
Mcintosh, politicians aren't always wrong; Jack Malloy
(Boston American), throw out the bed first as a soft place to
land on in case of a raid ; Dick Reagan, reported with a com-
modore's hat; Sidney Skolsky, is it true what they say about
Broadway ; Herbert Drake, look out for illusions ; Ward More-
house, actors and actresses are lovely people, especially ac-
tresses; Whitney Bolton, a diamond watch; Gilbert Gabriel,
how's your last act; John Chapman, a country gentleman;
Richard Lockridge, neat, little man ; St. Clair McKelway, O,
to have been a trick cyclist ; Robert Coleman, southern accent
and side-burns; Mark Hellinger, mark for the pals; O. O.
Mclntyre, odd by name and odd by column; Robert Gar-
land, brown coat and white pants; Bill Rich, air pistol
champeen; George Ross, young and wide-eyed; John Ma-
son Brown, Broadway is pretty good ; Bosley Crowther,
the theatre is trying; Sam Zolotow, don't give me that;
Jack Pulaski, nothing you can do about Broadway; Wilella
Waldorf, it isn't sure until you get the first week's salary;
Hank Senber, spangles on his nose; Grafton Wilcox, a good
guy from Chicago; Douglas Gilbert, the world's a stage;
Nunnally Johnson, there's still New York — and so on endlessly.
They don't say much about the New York sports writers,
due, perhaps to the association of the word Sports to their
former curriculum. However, the sisters say they've never
met any of those in their How-Look game. They sometimes
think they'd like to know George Abbott, Philip Dunning
and George S. Kaufman among the town's showmen. Ardent
play-goers, they respect good theatre. Heywood Broun never
has been defined in their minds; Dick Maney, a publicist, is
pictured as a Montana pixie on the loose.
Meet the boys ? No, we think we better not.
The Everleigh Sisters say their rebirth started with the
World War in 1914 ; what happened before is forever buried.
Minna claimed she had destroyed the brochures and all the
data concerning the club. For the records, they want it known
that the Everleigh Sisters are dead.
Their astrals, for lack of a better term, are as happy as it
is possible for astrals to be. They own a home in New York,
free and clear; they have many kindly friends and at least
one person to whom they may confide about the past. All
they ask for the remainder of their lives is a roof and one
quart of champagne a week.
They still sleep in the brass, marbled-inlaid beds of the
early century; they still have many of the oil paintings and
upwards of a thousand volumes of fiction in an extensive
library. The gold piano is as pretty as it ever was.
There is still a small statue of Bernini's Apollo and
Daphne and a large statue of the same Apollo among their
possessions. Pictures of old friends adorn their boudoirs;
also pictures of the girls they liked the best. There are
no ceiling mirrors and there are but few men callers. In
the dozen times this reporter dined with them the the
phone only rang once, and that was on Mina's birthday;
the door-bell never rang. It reminded one of visiting his
wealthy maiden aunts — a colored maid but no males any-
where about the premises.
In Ada's room are the same easy chairs upon which the
gay millionaires of thirty years ago used to sit — and a radio
the one false note. She enjoys the playlets that come through
the ether, comforting reminders of the days when she and
Minna longed to become great actresses — upon the stage.
Leading up from the vestibule is a staircase that would
bring fond memories to the carefree blades of yesterday.
It is nearly a duplicate of the staircases in the by-gone club,
except, as Ada put it, it is rosewood and not mahogany.
The paintings are in the parlor but which isn't the parlor
in the sense that such retreats would be identified with the
Everleighs. This is a large front room. Adjoining is the
dining sanctum, replete with a buffet containing the finest of
brandies and liqueurs ; there is a round table covered with
doilies and a vase of pink roses. There are roses everywhere.
Their notion of a perfect evening is dinner at six with an
old friend, the play and a light supper afterward. Unless
it is a special occasion they go to the matinees exclusively.
They read the drama criticisms religiously, finding as much
fault with the critics as the average Broadway producer.
Having traveled widely, they are interested in foreign affairs
and are as conversant with European intrigues as the partici-
pants themselves. They could go from Hitler to Ike Bloom
and talk intelligently about both.
They have given liberally to many they once employed
and they have been swindled with a great majority in "gilt-
edged" securities. Their diamonds aren't as numerous as
they used to be and the long sparkling necklace belonging to
Ada went with the crash of 1929.
They continue to hold their heads high as they see the
beautiful in. all things. There are no creditors knocking at
their door, no interest on a mortgage falling due and still
enough diamonds to startle the ordinary mortal.
The story in a newspaper telling of a moldy cucumber
in the iceless ice-box of a family who saw their dead mother
carted to the potter's field brings tears to their eyes; their
loss of several hundred thousands of dollars in realty bonds
makes them smile. The whole world is topsy turvy and they
are well aware of it. Human and understanding, they do
what they can to make it easier for those around them.
Bitterness has flown from their souls and, in its place, has
come a tolerance and a sympathetic note for the frailties of
They would like to see some of the old friends, a certain
famous actor, a certain famous dramatic critic and a certain
famous novelist, but do not know how to go about inviting
them to their table. Dozens of millionaires have begged for
a chance to "talk over old times." They want no contacts
with the millionaires. They would like to see old friends —
not old customers.
Besides, the newspaper crowd has an appreciation or a
humorous slant that wasn't noticeable in the heavy spenders ;
they aren't offensive and they would accept the sisters as
real people. But in more than twenty years the ex-Ever-
leighs have received but two former Chicago cronies — Jack
Lait of the Hearst papers is the other. Sensitive beings, the
sisters realize that the married actor and "the married critic,
both with families, cannot very well announce they are dining
with the Everleigh Sisters. How would it look?
Once a madam always declasse is the common belief.
The fact that a former madam can be a grand person,
laughing and toying with a crazy existence, is overlooked
entirely. And that she could toss off the life of madaming
just as easily as she adopted it never enters into the rea-
soning. All of which is easily explained : There never was
and there never will be another Everleigh Sisters. The
buildings at 2131-33 South Dearborn Street were demolished
in the spring of 1933.
Vic Shaw was still operating a resort in Chicago as this
was written; all of the others, if alive, were doing likewise
somewhere. It isn't in the cards for a regulation madam
to bow out gracefully. She may have intentions of doing
so, but there comes a financial blow or a man and she
hurls herself back into the racket. It's the old case of the
The Everleigh Club was the hardest way. It had no
precedent, it established no safe rule. In a sense, it was a
failure as far as pointing the way to segregate the "social evil"
and in freeing it from corruption. The sisters, pioneering,
creating and devising ways and means to take the curse off
of a doubtful profession never quite completed the formula.
Some agree that had they been less obstinate they might
have solved the age-old problem of handling licensed sin,
perhaps similar too the licensing of liquor. In their hearts
they were certain there was no assured method by which
houses of iniquity could be conducted because the rough
element would shatter any honest rules of playing the game.
Besides, they didn't care.
The Everleigh Club stood for uplift just as much as the
honest reformer stood for uplift. Finding that its stock in
trade was taboo in decent circles it could only be better than
the rest and when the pins were crushed under it the Everleigh
Sisters ceased to exist. They had been over-publicized; they
couldn't slip back into the fold like Vic Shaw had done be-
cause they had been branded as demon headliners, were a
source of news and couldn't operate under cover.
The sisters were always out in the open. They were not
boot-legging women and they wouldn't lay themselves open
to grafting forces. They were merely curious as to how
other extremes live, upper and lower; as you have already
discovered, they were in the middle. In 1899 they were
catapulted into an amusing circumstance from which there
was little sense in turning. They made themselves comfort-
able and they had a good time even though Madam Shaw
will tell you that they were failures as madams. They didn't
like the show and they walked out on it. What was wrong
Right now there are hundreds who suspect that the Ever-
leighs are running a chain of resorts, either in Paris or
New York. There is not the remotest excuse for such sus-
picion other than "what else could they do?" When the
Everleighs quit they quit — that is all there was to it. Give
them credit for going while the going was good.
From 1914 until 1936 they never mentioned the levee ex-
cept among themselves and to one or two old friends. They
weren't seeking further risks even if they had been inclined
to "ply their nefarious trade." They had learned all the
angles of corruption and they were thoroughly disgusted.
Long since they had ceased to see the fun of battling the nit-
wits in law enforcement. They felt entitled to a vacation.
They wanted to laugh, laugh about leading a clean life,
the meaning of which never was quite clear to them. Could
it be a bath and a child-like trust in governmental affairs?
They weren't sure. Who is?
Divorces, scandals, murders, bank-failures, poverty!
Plenty to take one's mind off the Everleigh Sisters, but let
them step one foot into the brothel business and the papers
will issue an Extra.
They are dead, but they cannot die.
Their longing for one quart of champagne a week was
no idle jest. A friend dropped in one night while the maid
was out. He fondled a bottle of wine, chilled and ready to
pop, which he placed upon the table.
"Here the first contribution of one-a-week in your new
deal schedule," he beamed.
"Thank you,' answered Minna. "Let's crack it and
The caller made no attempt to remove the cork.
"Would you mind opening it, please?" said Minna.
"Funny, but I've never opened a bottle of champagne in
THE E N D
Local History: The Best Little Whorehouse
The story of the city's most exclusive
brothel--and the reformers who shut it down.
By Dan Kelly
Karen Abbott started her first book
scouring microfilm of the Chicago Tribune at the University of Georgia library.
The sister of her great-grandmother had disappeared during a trip to Chicago
soon after the two emigrated from Slovenia in 1905, and Abbott, an
Atlanta-based journalist, was curious about the city and times that had claimed
her. Her research led her to the Levee, Chicago's red-light district, where
many missing women were said to have ended up, and then to Ada and Minna
Everleigh, madams of the infamous Everleigh Club. "It's cheesy," says
Abbott, who spent three years writing Sin in the Second City, released this
week by Random House, "but I came to think of them as family. I have
pictures of them hanging up in my house right now."
Little is known of the Everleighs'
background. They claimed descent from Kentucky aristocracy but are believed to
have come from a Virginia family hit hard by the Civil War. Simms was their
real name; Everleigh--a pun--was assumed, as were, the women insisted, their
southern accents. "Just piecing together their whole background,"
says Abbot, "they were ingenious in how they learned to present themselves."
After running a brothel in Omaha, the women moved to Chicago in late 1899 to
establish a high-class bordello.
Ada and Minna bought a retiring madam's
mansion at 2131-2133 S. Dearborn and put out a call for women interested in
work free from pimps, abuse, and indentured servitude. Madam Vic Shaw, the
sisters' greatest business rival, kept a professional whipper on staff.
The Everleighs hired women who were
attractive, experienced, and drug- and alcohol-free; the minimum age was 18.
Younger sister Minna instructed them in charm and culture, covering subjects
ranging from literature to the art of seduction. She dressed them in couture
and dubbed them the Everleigh butterflies.
House rules were strictly enforced under
threat of immediate expulsion: no picking pockets, no knockout drops and
robbery, and no boyfriends. The girls also had to pass monthly examinations for
venereal disease. They were paid well and those dismissed were easily replaced
from the Everleighs' long waiting list of candidates.
To stay open the sisters had to placate
crime lords and politicos alike. Ike Bloom, who fronted a sleazy Randolph
Street dance hall, set a sum of ten grand a year for protection by the likes of
Chicago Outfit founder James "Big Jim" Colosimo. "Tribute"
was also paid to First Ward aldermen Michael "Hinky Dink" Kenna and
"Bathhouse John" Coughlin.
Visiting the Everleigh was an experience
available only to the elite. The parlors were lavishly furnished with
paintings, sculptures, a perfume fountain, a gold-leaf piano, and solid gold
spittoons. Clients could enjoy rare wines, string orchestras, and fireworks.
The dining room served gourmet fare. "A lot of the patrons came just for
the meals," Abbott says. "The girls were almost a side
By most accounts the sisters were
high-hatted and tough as nails but had hearts as gold as their gilded parlors.
The soft-spoken Ada was considered the brains of the operation--she balanced
the books and was responsible for hiring; Minna socialized in the parlors with
guests and was known for her sass. "I wish I could be more like her,"
says Abbott. "To not care what anybody thinks ever is sort of
Entrance was by referral letter only, and
clients were expected to spend a minimum of $50 per visit or face banishment (a
three-course meal could be had for 50 cents at the time). High-profile guests
included Prince Henry of Prussia, who made a special stop at the Everleigh
during a visit to Chicago in spring of 1902. "It was more of a gentleman's
club," says Abbott. "The cachet of being able to go there, just
because they turned down so many people. It became an exclusive badge of honor
just to be admitted."
Occasionally the house was caught up in
scandal. When Marshall Field Jr., son of the store founder, was found shot at
his Prairie Avenue home on November 22, 1905, rumor spread that one of the
Everleigh butterflies had done it. The coroner's report backed the official
story--that he'd shot himself while cleaning his hunting weapon--but gossips insisted
he'd been wounded during a visit to the club the previous night and smuggled
back home by the sisters.
Unlike earlier Everleigh narratives like
Charles Washburn's Come Into My Parlor, Abbott's account devotes a lot of space
to the progressive politics of the era. The number of women who worked outside
the home jumped from 3,100 to 38,000 in the 30 years between 1880 and 1910, she
says: "Everybody was freaking out about women entering the workforce in
such large droves, leaving their rural homestead and entering the big
city." Not all of them found legitimate work, and when women started
disappearing the nation was gripped by a white slavery panic, fueled by
anti-immigrant sentiment. The only way a good white Christian girl could become
a whore, Americans were convinced, was if she was seduced, drugged, and sold to
Religious reformers descended upon the
Levee, preaching and pamphleteering in an attempt to shame patrons and
"save" the district's women. The Everleigh sisters referred to these late-night
missionaries as "firemen" and welcomed them to the house to talk to
their girls. None of the butterflies were said to have shown any interest in
Abbott says the Reverend Ernest Bell
started preaching outside the brothels in 1902 after he was propositioned in
front of the Chicago Theological Seminary. He admonished the district's sinners
to repent despite being bashed and gassed by Levee pimps. "If I were a
novelist I wouldn't have been able to name him Ernest," Abbott says. "I
think he really believed in what he was doing and his motives were true and
good and upright. He really believed he was saving women from Satan's
Others reformers, like Clifford Roe, an
assistant state's attorney, jumped on board to further their own political
interests. "I think Roe was a bit more Machiavellian and manipulative with
the facts," says Abbott. He developed a side business lecturing and
writing books with sensational titles like Panders and Their White Slaves.
The white slavery scare was also used as an
excuse to attack the non-Protestant immigrants pouring into the country. Both
Bell and Roe pointed the finger at foreigners in their condemnations of
theatrical agencies, dance halls, and ice cream parlors. "Shall we defend
our American civilization, or lower our flag to the most despicable
foreigners--French, Irish, Italians, Jews and Mongolians?" Bell wrote in
his 1910 book Fighting the Traffic in Young Girls.
Chicago prosecutor Edwin Sims fought
prostitution in Chicago and was the inspiration for the Mann Act of 1910, also
known as the White Slave Traffic Act. "I am determined to break up this
traffic in foreign women. It is my sworn duty, and it should be done to protect
the people of the country from contamination," he told the Tribune in
"Some of the things the federal
officials were saying I had to read twice," says Abbott. "Like 'War
on Terror,' they had their political talking points and they used them very
effectively to manipulate the public and push their own agenda forward."
Mayor Carter Harrison II, who usually
turned a blind eye to illegal goings-on in the Levee, was eventually forced to
reckon with the reformers' growing political power. In 1911, after a friend
from outside Chicago showed him "The Everleigh Club, Illustrated," a
leather-bound brochure with national distribution, he ordered the brothel's
Gradually the other brothels, dives,
saloons, dance halls, gambling parlors, and opium dens of the district were
also shuttered. On July 24, 1933, workers tore down the building that once
housed the Everleigh Club, "heedless of the fact that they were wiping out
one of the most lurid chapters in Chicago history," according to a Tribune
report from the time.
Although rooted in ignorance, the white
slavery panic did give women, who were still a decade from suffrage, a rallying
cause. "Through the end of it they started having hearings about women's
wages, [asking] how can a girl work in a factory for six dollars a week and not
be expected to supplement her income doing nefarious things?" says Abbott.
"The white slavery scare was a chance for [women] to insert themselves in
Meanwhile books like Roe's, which included
scenes of terrified harlots escaping brothels in flimsy negligees, made
sexuality an acceptable topic of conversation. "Those narratives were like
porn for puritans, but it was the first time people could discuss that, in a
way, and not be considered untoward," Abbott says.
As for the Everleigh sisters, after just over a decade doing
business in Chicago, they'd amassed a million dollars in savings--$20.5 million
today, Abbott estimates--and even more in jewelry, art, and Oriental rugs. They
changed their name to Lester and moved to New York, where they bought a
brownstone on the Upper West Side and founded a poetry discussion group with
local ladies who knew nothing of their past. Minna died first, on September 16,
1948, at the age of 82. Ada lived until 95, dying January 6, 1960, in