Today marks the 49th anniversary of the most odiferous disaster ever to strike the shores of Chicago:
[D]uring the 1930s, these alewives got into Lake Michigan. They weren’t much of a problem because the bigger fish–like the trout–would eat them. But the sea lamprey came along and ate the trout. Sea lampreys didn’t eat alewives, so suddenly, the lake had all these alewives and no predators.
Pretty soon there are alewives filling the lake. That’s what today’s story is about—July 7, 1967. There are so many alewives around Chicago that it’s become national news. Even Time magazine is talking about it.
Of course, those alewives would be decaying, and you can imagine the smell—well, you probably don’t want to. The flies would come in, and the beaches would be a mess. The city would have to use tractors and bulldozers to clear off the beaches.
Nobody knew how many dead alewives there were. Experts said hundreds of millions, maybe a billion. A guy in a plane over the lake saw a ribbon of drifting dead alewives 40 miles long.
I remember these die-offs continuing until the late 1970s. Today, we have salmon in the lake, so fewer alewives. At least, until the carp get here...
Chicago historian John R. Schmidt frequently has "Then and Now" features where he shows a part of the city as it appeared when he was a kid against how it appears now. I just found a trove of historical photos produced by the Illinois Dept. of Transportation, including a few dozen from my neighborhood, so I can play the same game.
Here's the intersection of Sheridan, Broadway, and Montrose, looking west down Montrose, from March 1936, more than 80 years ago:
Here's this past Tuesday:
Though some of the details have changed, both buildings flanking the north side of Broadway still exist. But the Wilson Yard development, from 2006, has taken over most of the area between Broadway and the El tracks. And past the El, the mature trees have changed the character of Montrose.
Another thing I notice about photos of Chicago and other U.S. cities before about 1990: the haze. Starting in the 1970s in California and the 1980s elsewhere, governments cracked down on air pollution. Chicago in 1936 would have been intolerably polluted to Millennials. The top photo gives a hint of why.
YouTube user John Meyer has found two films of boat rides on the Chicago River and into the lake. This one is from 1956:
And this one is from 1983:
On this day in 1954, the Supreme Court handed down Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, which ended "separate but equal" education after finding that the two concepts are antagonistic. Also on this day in 1954, the City of Chicago announced plans for the Stateway Gardens housing project, which eventually replaced an African-American slum with a high-rise hell-on-earth housing African Americans. As historian John R. Schmidt comments, "Maybe the new public housing projects were an attempt to keep Black people on 'their side of the tracks.'" (They were; he's being sarcastic.)
A similar pattern exists today. Despite historic, unprecedented support for the LGBT community throughout most of the U.S., the right has taken on the non-existent issue of predators in bathrooms to win votes in an election year. The small minority of people who (a) care about this issue and (b) are afraid of gays nevertheless has support from latter-day Sheriff Clark figures like Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and other Republicans.
Progress is never smooth. I just wish people on the wrong side of history would get out of the way sometimes.
This is Sears, Roebuck & Co.'s very first brick-and-mortar store, located just a few blocks from my house:
The store opened in November 1925, and is closing this summer, as a consequence of Eddie Lampert's rape and involuntary homicide of the company.
Our local NPR affiliate, WBEZ, has the complete story.
Today's other tasks include cleaning my house and writing code for about four hours.
Sometimes there are odd coincidences.
Three unfortunate events in the English-speaking world happened on May 4th. Here in Chicago, 130 years ago today in 1886, the Haymarket Riot occurred near the corner of Desplaines Avenue and Randolph Street.
Forty six years ago today in 1970, four students were killed at a nonviolent anti-war protest at Kent State University in Ohio. Tin soldiers and Nixon coming...
And 37 years ago today in 1979, Margaret Thatcher took office as the first woman Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, jolting the country rightward, destroying traditional English industries, and unsuccessfully trying to disenfranchise the poor and underclass.
But today, let's forget all that. May the Fourth be with you. And in honor of May 4th, it looks this morning like George Lucas has decided to stop beating his head into a wall, and is taking his museum somewhere else.
Graham Chapman and Terry Jones visited Chicago in 1975 to promote Monty Python and the Holy Grail. And then they shot these promos for the local Public Television station, WTTW:
DNAinfo has more.
The New York Times notes the 400th anniversary of the playwright's death:
Poet, playwright, actor and theatrical-company shareholder, William Shakespeare (sometimes spelled Shakspeare, or Shagspere, or Shaxpere, or Shaxberd, or any number of blessed ways) died today, April 23, 1616, at his home in Stratford-upon-Avon. He was, more or less, 52. His passing was confirmed by his daughter Judith.
Over the course of three decades, Mr. Shakespeare rose from working-class obscurity in Warwickshire to become — acclaimed for his penetrating insights into the human character, his eloquent, flexible and infinitely expressive verse; and his readiness to burst the bounds of the English language (drawing on a vocabulary of more than 25,000 words).
The obituary includes pop-out notes and links, making it worth a few minutes of time to read.
The Treasury has dropped its plan to change the $10 note, and instead, has decided to put Harriet Tubman on the $20:
The move [Treasury Secretary Jack] Lew is announcing Wednesday is intended as a way to thread the needle between women's groups who have been advocating for gender diversity on U.S. currency and fans of Hamilton, including Lin-Manuel Miranda, the playwright and star of the hit Broadway musical about the nation's first Treasury secretary. Miranda lobbied Lew to keep Hamilton on the $10 when he visited Washington last month.
To appease those who have been looking forward to a woman on the $10, Treasury will will change the back of the $10 -- which now has an image of the Treasury Department -- to include women suffragists, according to a person familiar with the plans.
The new bill was set to be unveiled in 2020, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment extending voting rights to women.
This is a good outcome.