Family research / history & places / Chicago


Living and Social Life in the City (Chicago VI)


The North West Side had early been connected with the City by horse pulled cars in Milwaukee Avenue. These were replaced by cable cars from 1880 onward. But workers, who could not afford tickets,  reached their working place by foot. So Milwaukee Ave. offered a busy image in the morning and evening during the week:

“The workday began in the dark hours of early morning, as early as 4 a.m. for those with over two or three miles to walk (since they could not afford […] streetcars that cost 10c which was two hours wages for the women and the children). By six o’clock thousands of men, women and children were trudging down streets like Milwaukee Avenue […] dinner buckets in hand, not to return until early evening.” [1]


Picnics were not new. They had existed for a long time but obviously in a different manner. In the Chicagoer Arbeiterzeitung from June 27th  1883 the author of an article about the origin of picnics described puritan England as the origin of  Picnics, where pleasures like alcoholic drinks, music and dancing had not been part of the event. Following his explanation the character of American picnics owed to the influence of Germans and their Vereine. 

Picnics took place at weekends during the summer months June and July and they were always long expected pleasant interruptions of labour’s monotony. One of the most famous picnic places was Ogden Grooves at Clybourn Ave.. The way to the place was described to somebody new in Chicago coming  from direction Lake Michigan as follows: “Take your way up to North Ave., turn right into Halstad Street until Willow Street, then turn west and you will look at green trees. Follow the way to the entrance  of cool forest green shadow.” [2] The special atmosphere that filled Germans with enthusiasm is painted by key words like “sunny summer, shadow of oak trees, plenty of good beer, strong good smelling coffee, German cakes like Topf- und Blechkuchen, life music, dancers, sounds of German dialects from Holstein in the north to Switzerland in the south. “There is nothing what Germans love more than a party in the forest beneath oak-trees.” And the writer regrets that he soon will have to return to the reality of a foreigner who feels the daily difficulties to get accustomed to a strange surrounding.

Another great and similar event was the Cannstädter Volksfest.

©Peter Teuthorn, 2003-08-15

[1] Unknown author, quoted in  William A: Adelman: Haymarket Revisited, Chicago 1976, p. 80. (Taken from Keil, Einwandererviertel, p. 69.)

[2] Keil, Harmut (Hrsg.): Deutsche Arbeiterkultur in Chicago von 1850 bis zum Ersten Weltkrieg, eine Anthologie, Ostfildern 1984., S. 214, quoted from Der Westen 22.7.1869.

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