Modern history

Chapter 23

Chicago Tribune, Illinois, and Indiana

Chicago is stupefying … an Olympian freak, a fable, an allegory, an incomprehensible phenomenon … monstrous, multifarious, unnatural, indomitable, puissant; preposterous, transcendent … throw the dictionary at it!

—Julian Street

There is no peace in Chicago. It is a city of terror and light, untamed.

—W. L. George

WHAT the Chicago Tribune reminds me of most is the state of Texas. We must talk of this newspaper in considerable detail, because it is impossible to understand America without knowing something about it. The Tribune is more than a mere newspaper, more even than the “World’s Greatest Newspaper,” as it fondly calls itself; it is a property in several dimensions, a domain, a kind of principality. Like Texas, it is aggressive, sensitive in the extreme, loaded with guts and braggadocio, expansionist, and medieval. Also, like Texas, it has its own foreign policy—though one very different.

Another thing Colonel McCormick’s Tribune reminds me of is Soviet Russia, which it has such a brilliantly good time attacking. It is, like Russia, big, totalitarian, successful, dominated by one man as of the moment, suspicious of outsiders, cranky, and with great natural resources not fully developed; it has a strong nationalist streak, a disciplined body of workers, a fixed addiction to dogma, hatred of such assorted phenomena as the idle rich, the British, and crooked bourgeois politics, and a compelling zest to fight for its own. Colonel McCormick even goes in for paternalistic reforms. Every Tribune employee has his teeth cleaned free twice a year.

One word on the Tribune’s sensitiveness. A British author, Hilary St. George Saunders, visited America during World War II and wrote an appraisal of what he saw, called Pioneers! O Pioneers!1 The reader is astonished on page 78 to find that the text breaks off, and does not resume again till page 85. On each otherwise empty page is a brief note to the effect that the author’s description of his conversations with Mr. Stoltz, chief editorial writer of the Tribune, has been omitted in “deference to his request … backed by the threat of legal proceedings.” This made me curious enough to get a copy of the English edition of Pioneers! O Pioneers! also published by Macmillan, which is not cut, so that I might find out what Mr. Leon Stoltz and/or the Tribune had objected to. The affair is still a mystery as far as I am concerned. There is nothing in the offending passages except mild ironic chitchat about gangsters, German restaurants, and the difference in status between Negroes in Chicago and those under British imperialism in Africa. The Tribune itself is scarcely mentioned, and Mr. Stoltz himself is not even named.

On November 14, 1945, the Tribune printed an editorial about Robert St. John, war correspondent and radio commentator, under the title “In Which We Skin a Skunk.” It calls Mr. St. John a “deliberate and contemptible liar,” a “pipsqueak” who “persuaded a physic vendor to buy time for him on the National Broadcasting chain,” and who also “picks up a few stray dollars” lecturing. Actually, St. John is one of the best paid lecturers in the country, as well as a distinguished and perfectly reputable author. What was his offense? He had asserted in a lecture that the Tribune was trying to foment a war between the United States and Russia.

Perhaps Mr. St. John’s remark was ill-advised. He may have been misquoted. I do not know. This does not nullify the point—the ferocity of the Tribune’s counterattack under criticism. The editorial concluded, “The National Broadcasting Company, either willfully or because it is being blackmailed by fellow travellers … caters to Communists and has almost as disreputable a list of speakers as the discredited Blue Network.” What did NBC do in the face of this preposterous assertion? So far as the public or Mr. St. John knows—nothing.

I have heard stories about Colonel McCormick since, it seems, I was four. I worked in amiable conjunction with Chicago Tribune reporters for years, all over Europe. Among foreign correspondents who, at one time or other, were Tribune men (the character of the list will surprise many) were Jay Allen, Edmond Taylor, William L. Shirer, George Seldes, Vincent Sheean. Many of these have gaudy tales to tell of what “service messages” from the Colonel could be like, as well as personal reminiscences of vibrant quality. Several too were truncated from the Tribune in circumstances highly sudden and dramatic.

Colonel Robert Rutherford McCormick, now sixty-seven, is a seigneur of seigneurs, with a very grand manner indeed. His eccentricities are famous. Once, welcoming some guests at a picnic on his estate near Wheaton, he emerged from a moving van—on horseback. The van let down a ramp, so that the mounted Colonel could prance out and greet his astounded company.

Once one of his favorite foreign correspondents was peremptorily summoned to escort him across the Atlantic. The colonel was found sleeping one evening in the bathtub, because the woodwork in his bedroom creaked. He had carefully lined the bathtub with a mattress snatched from one of the beds.

McCormick was born in Chicago in 1880. (He believes incidentally that the second c in Chicago should be pronounced as an s.) The family interrelations are profound and complex; McCormicks of various breeds have been part of Chicago history from the beginning. The colonel’s father, Robert Sanderson McCormick, was an American diplomat—a point not widely known—and served as ambassador to France and czarist Russia. Young Robert, who from an early age became afflicted with the nickname Bertie, spent some boyhood years in Europe; perhaps it is not too fanciful to assume that this may have contributed to his perfervid hatred of most things European today. He went to a British public school for a time, and then to Groton and Yale. Another point little known is that he was one class removed at Groton from another American with a partly European background, who made a different use of it, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Whether McCormick and Roosevelt saw much of one another at Groton is uncertain.

McCormick’s brother was Medill McCormick, who was an isolationist senator from Illinois for some years. Their grandfather on the mother’s side was Joseph Medill, the first great editor of the Tribune. He had two daughters; one married the colonel’s father, the other married Robert W. Patterson, Medill’s successor as Tribune editor. Joseph Medill’s will created a trust, the income of which, as it worked out for some years, went equally to Colonel McCormick, his two cousins—Captain Joseph Medill Patterson and Eleanor (Cissy) Patterson (the children of the Patterson named above)—and Mrs. Ruth Hanna McCormick Simms, Medill McCormick’s widow. Captain Patterson, as everybody knows, became in time publisher of the New York Daily News, and his sister Cissy of the Washington Times-Herald. Thus three grandchildren of Joseph Medill became publishers of three of the most powerful, rich, and aggressive newspapers in the United States. This cousinly McCormick-Patterson-Patterson axis is not, however, quite so solid as one commonly thinks; the Daily News and the Times-Herald print identical editorials and cartoons daily, but the Tribune sticks to its own. Patterson, who died in 1946, differed strongly and often from Cousin Bertie. For one thing he had a Socialist past. For another he supported the New Deal ardently until the fight over Lend Lease.2

Colonel McCormick is a very tall man, about six feet four, shy, with considerable charm if he wants to exert it, aloof, handsome in a riding-to-hounds sort of way, and with something of a British accent. The radio critic of the New York Herald Tribune, John Crosby, had much innocent fun with him recently, when he listened in to one of his broadcasts, and could not understand until he gathered it from the context who “Colonel George Washton” was.

McCormick, on graduation from Yale in 1903, went into law in Chicago, and then politics; he was an alderman for a time, and from 1905 to 1910 president of the Sanitary District, at which he did a good enough job. During the war, commissioned in the Illinois National Guard, he saw service in France; he is still intensely proud of this military experience. Meantime Robert W. Patterson had died, and the colonel and Joseph M. Patterson inherited the Tribune. They ran it together, editing it on alternate months for some time; then in 1925 Patterson went to New York to found the tabloid News, and the Tribune has been McCormick’s exclusive one-man show ever since.

Vast wealth, vast prestige, vast influence have come to him. In 1944 the Colonel, a widower,3 married a lady recently divorced; various McCormicks—Chauncey, Fowler, and so on—came to the ceremony, and Patterson was best man. In July, 1945, a public dinner was tendered the colonel by the upper Chicago citizenry on the occasion of his sixty-fifth birthday. Among the guests were three representatives of Quebec (the Tribune has heavy paper interests in Canada) including the apostolic vicar of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Mayor Edward J. Kelly, Senator C. Wayland Brooks, its special favorite among senators, and such eminent and retrorsed figures out of the Chicago past as Silas H. Strawn. A congratulatory message came from General MacArthur, and Governor Dwight H. Green of Illinois, another Tribune pet, made a speech. The Tribune itself covered the event with sober words. “Speakers dwelt upon phases of Colonel McCormick’s career as soldier, editor and publisher, and citizen. They weighed the achievements of the colonel and the Tribune, the latter now approaching the century mark, wrapped into the history of America as the voice of the midwest.”4

The colonel’s furious Americanism and patriotism, the fact that no matter how much one may disagree with the Tribune, “it is for America first last and all the time,” which was the theme song of the dinner, make a fascinating and at times perplexing study. Once he disapproved so strongly of an event in Rhode Island that he ordered one of the stars in the Tribune’s big American flag torn out. Later frightened lawyers told him that mutilation of the flag was an offense, and the colonel, baffled, ordered the Rhode Island star to be sewn in again.

Let us explore further. It is not without interest that Gerald L. K. Smith, who stands against almost everything that most Americans are for, once drew up a “Hall of Fame,” with the colonel first on the list.5 Repeatedly during the war—many quotations could be supplied at this point—the German and more particularly the Japanese press and radio praised the Tribune warmly. Once the Tokyo radio said, “There is no doubt that Robert McCormick is an extremely charming character. I think America today needs many more characters like this Chicago veteran.”

Not long ago I met in Washington a diplomat newly assigned to the United States. He had never seen a copy of the Tribune until I showed him one. He glanced at the front page cartoon. His comment after a pause was, “But does the Tribune hate the United States?” Indeed the impact of its political cartoons can be startling. Time after time, Uncle Sam is presented as a dupe, a ninny, a sucker, a stooge, a gull, an easy mark. In a hundred cartoons America is portrayed as being swindled by the “international slickers,” as the credulous moron-minded victim of vastly clever European cutthroats.

As to Tribune cartoons specifically about Europe, they are quite a study too. The one on November 14, 1945, is captioned, THE BRUTISH EMPIRE’S BOMBING OF JAVA.6 In another Mr. Attlee is presented, flag in hand, addressing a wilted and witless Uncle Sam with the words, “Let’s bribe Stalin with your two billion dollar atomic bomb so Russia will let England rule Europe with the five billions you’re going to lend us without interest.” One on October 2, 1946, entitled “Monument to Stupidity,” shows a pedestal marked German Martyr and inscribed with the words “Nazi Criminal Convicted by a Biased Court Composed of Germany’s Enemies in an Illegally Conducted Trial, Upon Unlawful Evidence Illicitly Procured.” This was the Tribune’s comment on—the Nuremberg trials and verdict!

The headlines are sometimes startling too. On March 3, 1945, the banner head, in enormous type, was KILLS WOMAN, BURNS BODY. The second head, much smaller, was “Report Yanks Cross Rhine; Nazis Flee Before 9th Army.”

Tribune editorials, the heart of the paper, are hard hitting and they name names: a recent one pungently took to task one of the greatest of American corporations, the wealth of which derives from the Middle West but which maintains its executive offices in New York. Also they can distort issues with a cunning that can only be described as masterful, and with nonsequiturs of astounding range. One Tribune judgment is that “the line from Roosevelt to Bilbo … is plain,” in that FDR, “while posing as the great friend of the Negroes to win their votes, was seeing to it that their most virulent enemy was getting a bribe.” Often the Tribune bows in the direction of New York:

Under the pretense of air raid precaution, a dictatorship has been established in New York City such as never has been dreamed of on this continent. Fiorello La Guardia has recruited a political force of 235,000 air raid wardens. There is no legal curb on the conduct of the wardens in pushing the citizenry around or insulting and molesting women … New York is now almost … completely under the tyrant’s heel.

Once an editorial praised the British dominions for knowing more of liberty than England itself, except New Zealand “where liberty has been overthrown by Fascism (!) and enormous graft.” The comment on Russia’s entrance into the war against Japan ended with the paragraph, “Surely no one can find the slightest parallel between Stalin’s announcement and Mussolini’s attack on France after the fall of Paris.” A few months later the paper was writing, “Conditions are so bad in Germany that our troops probably will soon be shooting hostages and then every ideal of the American Republic will go overboard.”

About imperialism in any form, the Tribune can turn cogent phrases:

The Japanese are being used in Indo-China to help the British Indian troops kill the revolutionary natives until the French, now enjoying the privilege of stretching their legs out of German clutches and shooting their own people, can get back in force to say whose land Indo-China is.

On one occasion the Tribune admitted grudgingly that the only positive accomplishment of the UN so far is the replacement of the old mandate system by trusteeships. But, it goes on, “the change is in name only, not in actuality,” and colonial exploitation still goes on. Then comes the remarkable conclusion:

It was for this that the fleet at Pearl Harbor was betrayed; that the garrison on Bataan was left to its fate; that a quarter of a million American boys were killed; that this nation was brought to the edge of bankruptcy. And it is for this that more than half a million of our young men have been snatched from school and productive work to learn immorality in garrisons overseas.

Tribune news columns can make fancy reading too. A recent dispatch from Paris, after the French Communists received a temporary setback, quotes an anonymous Quai d’Orsay diplomat with the words, “If the communists had won a clear-cut majority, you Anglo-Saxons would have had no bridgehead on the continent in about 1964 in which to come to grips with the Red Army.”

Often the Tribune slants its news stories. The best extant handbook on Washington journalism, that by Leo C. Rosten, records that it is second only to Hearst as “the least fair and reliable” newspaper in the country, in the view of Washington correspondents themselves. The Chicago Times once offered the Tribune a $5,000 reward for proof of “facts” in a story about American Communists and Roosevelt. It was never collected.7

Milton Mayer of the University of Chicago, writing in Common Sense, tells how the Tribune consistently put phrases like “so-called” before the names of government agencies, to discredit them, even when this meant tampering with AP copy. For instance the NLRB was referred to as the “so-called National Labor Relations Board.” Let Mr. Mayer proceed:

Now the Tribune did this not only with its own … dispatches but also with AP stories … I collected a bunch of AP stories so distorted in the Tribune and sent them on to Kent Cooper, the AP general manager. Mr. Cooper wrote me that the complaint had been referred to the member paper and that I would hear from him, Mr. Cooper, as soon as the member had replied. Of course I never heard from Mr. Cooper, but I did get a letter, obviously written so that a carbon copy could be sent to Mr. Cooper, from Bob Lee, the managing editor of the Tribune. Mr. Lee’s letter said that this “mistake” had been traced to a new copy-reader on the paper, who had inserted the expression as his own idea.

The colonel’s own writings and radio addresses, under his own signature, make lively reading. By sending a dollar to the Tribune, anybody can get a compilation of seven McCormick lectures on “The American Revolution and Its Influence on World Civilization.” This brochure and another like it state the most extreme faddist type of isolationist-imperialist chauvinism. They have passages of good sense, given the premises, together with an almost deformed bravado and capriciousness. One of the colonel’s points is that a “British monarchical faction” exists in the United States which was given great impetus by the marriage of wealthy American heiresses to impoverished British peers. “Heiresses brought from America … would bring money into the country [England] without introducing any unpleasant social and political repercussions,” such as would happen if the British “impecunii” [of the ruling class] broke their own caste barriers by marrying British women. The colonel calculates the British gain from these emotional precursors of Lend Lease as 15 billion dollars. In the middle of the argument comes a paragraph that I have read a dozen times, and which I am not yet sure I understand:

About the middle of this corruption, the infamous Cecil Rhodes conceived the plan to give free education to Americans in Oxford and make them into English cells, boring from within. He builded better than he knew. Thinking that there were still only 13 states, he provided a scholarship for each state. In consequence he has trained four times as many agents as he planned for.8

But to return to the unwavering magnificence of the colonel’s Americanism. He said recently, “All of the important land and naval victories [in the Pacific war] were American victories. All the distinguished admirals and generals in this war are Americans.” It appears further that the good colonel considers that he himself has something to do with these victories. The Atlantic Monthly printed in June, 1942, a letter he wrote to a Chicago citizen:9

You do not know it, but the fact is that I introduced the R.O.T.C. into the schools; that I introduced machine guns into the army; that I introduced mechanization; I introduced automatic rifles; I was the first ground officer to go up in the air and observe artillery fire. Now I have succeeded in making that the regular practice in the army. I was the first to advocate an alliance with Canada. I forced the acquiring of the bases in the Atlantic Ocean.

On the other hand I was unsuccessful in obtaining the fortification of Guam; in preventing the division of the navy into two oceans. I was unable to persuade the navy and the administration that airplanes could destroy battleships.

I did get the marines out of Shanghai, but was unsuccessful in trying to get the army out of the Philippines.

Campaigns such as I have carried on inevitably meet resistance, and great persistence is necessary to achieve results. The opposition resorts to such tactics as charging me with hatred and so forth, but in view of the accomplishment I can bear up under it.

On December 4, 1941, the Tribune printed a dispatch from Washington which revealed in explicit detail the war plans of the American general staff in the event that we were attacked. The Tribune prides itself greatly on being a newspaper. It likes scoops—of course. But that it should have printed a scoop such as this seemed to imply that its journalistic fervor—and implacable hatred of Roosevelt—outran its patriotism. Something of the same sort occurred on June 7, 1942, when the Tribune (also the New York Daily News and the Washington Times-Herald) printed what appeared to be complete details of the disposition and strength of the Japanese fleet in the Battle of Midway. This, it then seemed, might well imperil the whole course of the Pacific war, since it would indicate to the Japanese that the American Navy had broken their code. The Japanese, however, never caught the full implications of the story. A vast commotion was caused in Washington, however. The Bureau of Censorship cited the Tribune for breaking the censorship code (but later withdrew its charge), and the Navy, furious, insisted on a grand jury investigation to determine if the Espionage Act had been violated. The Department of Justice put the FBI to work and appointed William D. Mitchell (who had been Hoover’s attorney general) to take charge of the case; this was presumably to forestall any charges of animus that might have come if a New Dealer had been named prosecutor. A federal grand jury did in fact meet in Chicago.10 The colonel was triumphantly cleared! Meantime the Navy decided that the best thing to do was let the matter rest. It should also be stated that, according to general belief, the Tribune regretted having printed this story, and McCormick himself has said that it would never have got into the paper if he had seen it first.

The December 4, 1941 leak was alluded to by Mr. Stimson in his statement on Pearl Harbor of March 22, 1946. The language of the former secretary of war is so remarkable that it should be quoted:

Our General Staff officers were working under a terrific pressure in the face of a global war which they felt was probably imminent. Yet they were surrounded, outside of their offices and almost throughout the country, by a spirit of isolationism and disbelief in danger which now seems incredible. A single incident gives striking evidence of this.

During the very last week before the Pearl Harbor attack there was made a most disloyal and almost unbelievable attack on the chief work of the Staff. For months the General Staff had been laboring over the construction of a strategic and tactical plan for the fighting of a global war in case it should eventuate.

The making of such a plan is the highest and most important duty of a General Staff—the chief purpose for which it exists. It is also naturally the most highly secret paper in the possession of the government. On December 4, 1941, the Chicago Tribune published practically in full a copy of that plan.

The impact of such a blow was very severe. It involved implications which stretched far and suspicions (happily not fulfilled) of disloyalty in the Army itself.

Next to the New York Daily News, which leads the whole field, the Tribune has the largest daily circulation of any newspaper in America, and it is the biggest non-tabloid by far. Its circulation is over a million daily, half inside Chicago itself and half out, and on Sunday about a million and a half.11 Pick up a copy of the Tribune. Cartoons and editorials aside, what will you find? It is well put together on good paper, expertly written, and legibly made up. It has, and has had for decades, features that are indissolubly tied up with the life of Chicago, from the Line o’Type or Two founded by the greatest of all personal columnists, B.L.T., to the Voice of the People, the How to Keep Well column, the advice to the lovelorn of Doris Blake, the beauty department of Antoinette Donnelly. Its financial and sporting pages are edited with great elan—its sports department is one of the best in the country—and, above all, thanks in part to the prescience of Captain Patterson, its comics are extremely strong. Some are, in fact, such formidably valuable properties that the colonel will not allow their syndication anywhere in the Chicago area. This means five states, what he calls “Chicagoland.” For these comics you must buy the Tribune itself, or do without.

Finally, a word on the Tribune’s direct and immediate local political influence. There is a simple way to state this, namely that it is profound. A great many Chicagoans despise the Tribune. But they buy it every day. Many loathe almost everything it says editorially, and it is one of the few American papers ever to have been burned in the streets. But its circulation steadily goes up, not down. Graham Hutton, in his Midwest at Noon, makes play with a conceit and in his whole book never once mentions the Tribune; I understand very well the reason for this, but I think it gives a false impression. To write about the Middle West and leave the Tribune out is like playing Hamlet not only without the prince of Denmark but without Polonius. The governor of Illinois and one Illinois senator are Tribune friends. It is commonly said that it “cannot elect a mayor,” and Kelly is of course a Democrat, the product of a Democratic machine in a Democratic city in a Democratic era; nevertheless, Kelly and the Tribune get along. In fact he and McCormick have been warm friends for years; the colonel once saved his job when he was a young engineer in the Sanitary (= sewage) District. Moreover when the Tribune sets out to beat anybody, its enmity can be crushing, although it does not always win.

I am not sure where, but I think in an article by Joseph Wood Krutch in the Nation some years ago, I read a revealing passage to the effect that a great many writers, even though they have never actually read Marcel Proust, have been strongly influenced by him. The same thing is true of the Chicago citizenry and the Tribune. Even if you don’t actually read it, you feel its permeating influence. Its potency is subcutaneous. Another point is that it would be a grave error to assume that the Tribune “creates” the various moods it describes. It certainty can build up a case for or against anything or anybody, and it most deliberately seeks, by every possible means, to mold opinion. Never the less it also reflects a prevailing Chicago and Middle West sentiment and mythology, which greatly augments its power.

The colonel, as a person in his own right and not merely as publisher of the Tribune, has been more active politically in the past few years than ever before. His interests go far beyond Chicagoland. For instance, a minor point, he recently gave a $5,000 contribution to the campaign fund of Senator Bushfield of South Dakota.12 McCormick hopes to play a great and intimate role in the 1948 Republican race. Repeatedly he describes why Stassen and Vandenberg and even Dewey are impossible as candidates. Taft he appears to like. His word on all these matters should be watched. Illinois has a big vote in the Republican national convention and Colonel McCormick is official leader of the party in Illinois.

Chicago and Illinois: Things in General

Chicago … a mushroom and a suburb of Warsaw.

—Arnold Bennett

Great injustice is done to Chicago by those who represent it as wholly given over to the worship of Mammon, as it compares favorably with many American cities in the efforts it has made to beautify itself.

—Baedeker in 1893

Hog-Butcher for the world

Tool-maker, Stacker of Wheat,

Player with Railroads …

City of the Big Shoulders.

—Carl Sandburg

Having seen it (Chicago) I urgently desire never to see it again. It is inhabited by savages. Its air is dirt.

—Rudyard Kipling

About Chicago itself there is so much to be said that the task of compression becomes hopeless. This is the greatest and most typically American of all cities. New York is bigger and more spectacular and can outmatch it in other superlatives, but it is a “world” city, more European in some respects than American. Chicago has, as a matter of fact, just as many foreign-born as New York, but its impact is overwhelmingly that of the United States, and it gives above all the sense that America and the Middle West are beating upon it from all sides.

Being a Chicagoan born and bred I can recall much. The city has the most intense vitality and energy of any I have ever lived in. The icy wind screaming down snow-clogged boulevards; the sunny haunch of Lincoln Park near the yacht moorings in torrid summers; the automobilelike horns on the Illinois Central suburban trains; the steady lift of bridges, bridges, bridges; holes and bumps and mountains and earthquakes and yawning pits in the streets; the piercing whistles of angry traffic cops; the marvelous smooth lift of the Palmolive Building and how the automobiles seem to butt each other forward like long streams of beetles; the tremendous heavy trains of the North Shore whipping like iron snakes through the quivering wooden suburban stations; the acrid animal smell from the stockyards when the wind blew that way, and the red flush of the steel mills in black skies—all this is easy to remember.

It is above all the span of Chicago—in space, in time, in people, in variety of experience—that is so striking. This city has produced or made famous folk in a gamut from Jane Addams, the founder of Hull House, to Big Bill Thompson, who was going to paste King George V on the snoot; from Louis Sullivan, one of the fathers of modern architecture, to the Everleigh sisters, who operated the most distinguished bordello in the world; from great liberal prelates like the late Cardinal Mundelein to profiteers like the late Samuel Insull; from philanthropists like Charles R. Crane to good public servants like Carter Harrison to merchants like Levi Z. Leiter who became the father-in-law of the Marquess of Curzon to singers like Mary Garden to criminals like Dean O’Banion and A1 Capone. (Nor are we through with Chicago names.)

Chicago, with a population of 3,396,808 in 1940 (metropolitan limits 4,449,126), is the second largest city in the United States and the fourth largest in the world; its area will, according to careful estimates, hold 6,200,000 people by 1960. It contains a number of veritable small towns within its own interior, and its expanding suburbs, like Evanston and Winnetka, which will dislike being called suburbs, are models of their kind. Chicago is not compressed into a designated mold, like New York, by rivers. In fact it has spread out to become a kind of state, including parts of Wisconsin, Indiana, and even Michigan. Everything from Racine to La Porte is really Chicago.

This goliath of the corn-fed plains has various magnitudes and curiosities. Bigness itself is not a notable characteristic. Hercules was big, but a fool. Chicago is not a fool. It is of course the greatest railway center in the world, the greatest meat-packing center—and meat packing is the third biggest American industry—and the greatest convention city. No fewer than nineteen times have either the Republicans or Democratic parties chosen Chicago for their conventions. It is the home of the greatest printing press in the world; among other things this prints the Encyclopaedia Britannica and most of the telephone books of the nation. Its budget for the current year is $237,458,637, which is more than those of Mexico, Chile, and Colombia combined, with 30 million people. Its harbor handles almost as much traffic as the Panama Canal, and it must be the only city in the world that has made its river run backward, by means of the celebrated Drainage Canal, so that the flow of sewage will not run into Lake Michigan.

The motto of Chicago is “I Will.” A brief bibliography of the city takes sixty-nine closely printed pages, and it is the headquarters of the Council of State Governments, the Governors’ Conference, the American Medical Association, Rotary, and the American Library Association. Its principal internal problem has always been traction. The elevated lines and streetcar system have been bankrupt for years. It is staggeringly tax-delinquent, and its standard of public morality, amid all the grandiose development, is such that for a notorious long interval it did not even have the money to pay its schoolteachers. Predominantly it is a foreman’s town and strongly AFL; everybody in the CIO is likely to be called a Communist. It has vistas of the most sublime magnificence and also the worst slums I have ever seen, not excluding those of Glasgow, Istanbul, and Lodz.

The age of the dinosaurs has mostly passed. The new dinosaurs are well brought up and watch their manners carefully. What a gallery the Chicago titans make! The line stretches from the first Marshall Field, in a descending arc, to Wrigleys (chewing gum) and Hertzes (taxicabs). Most of the early builders were invaders from the East, as indeed they had to be. George M. Pullman was born in Chautauqua County, New York, and Gustavus Swift in Cape Cod, Massachusetts; the first great Armour came from rural New York, Potter Palmer from New York, Nelson Morris from Germany, and the incomparable Field himself from Conway, Massachusetts.13 The Chicago gentry never knew who—or what—was coming next. No place but Chicago could have produced a character quite like Mrs. Rockefeller McCormick. Society was an extremely explosive thing. Also the Chicago hierarchy was laced and whipped together by an extraordinary series of marriages. Not only did McCormicks marry Rockefellers but Pattersons married Higinbothams and Fields married Spragues, while Stillmans, Deerings, Guggenheims, Phippses, Fairbankses, Carpenters, MacVeighs became intermixed in the social pool.14

Despite all this, Chicago has never lost a certain roseate naïveté. When General Charles G. Dawes reached the age of eighty some time ago, the newspapers roared their delight once again in recalling that he had refused to wear knee pants at the Court of St. James’s, and had hired a comedian pretending to be a trick waiter to entertain guests in the London Embassy.

Recently I asked an eminent Chicagoan what ran the city, and he answered “State Street and the Irish.” The great merchants in the Loop (the downtown area still bound by anachronistic elevated tracks) have great influence, together with their allies such as the packers. It is extremely typical of Chicago, incidentally, that Marshall Field’s is called “The Cathedral of the Stores.” What the State Street oligarchy tries to stand for is civic and social leadership. The tycoons live in subdued beautiful estates along the Lake Shore or on the “Gold Coast” in town; it is they who sponsor such manifestations of civic energy as the Chicago Planning Commission and the like; their impregnable inner citadel is the Commercial Club. The Irish meantime, the most articulate of the great immigrant bodies that grew up under the layer of oligarchs, allied with other racial groups, run the city politically. There is a kind of unspoken, unwritten deal. “We let the Irish have the government, if they let us do what we please,” is one way I heard it put.

Politics per se need not detain us long. Merit in this country is chosen by popular vote, which means, in most of the great machine-run cities, that the voters seldom get it. Politics in the United States is a profession out of which most politicians expect to make money. The historic days of the Chicago party bosses are, however, over—though there are still some precincts where the total vote may exceed the total registration. Hinky Dink Kenna is dead, Bathhouse John Coughlin is dead, Pat Nash, the sewer contractor, is dead, and Ed Kelly himself is in the background. The 1947 mayoralty race was between new candidates virtually unknown.

The basic pattern in Chicago follows roughly that which we have just explored in Kansas City; there were hoodlums, filchers, footpads, hatchet men, caitiffs, and gorillas. Hinky Dink, a saloon keeper, left a fortune of $1,003,535, of which $426,770 was in cash. Not long ago a man who had been Cook County clerk for twenty-four years, a leading Catholic layman and seemingly a sound citizen of German descent, was found $414,129 short in his official accounts. Tried by a criminal court jury, he was acquitted. When Special Prosecutor Frank J. Loesch started his investigation of City Hall payrolls, he found that 16 out of every 100 names were fictitious; in one office, 75 per cent were “fraudulent or irregular.”15

The Kelly-Nash machine goes deep into Chicago roots. It came out of the Roger Sullivan-George Brennan-Tony Cermak organizations. Its basis of operation was the fifty Chicago wards. Over each, the party committeeman, depending on what party was in power, was absolute dictator. Kelly himself, mayor for almost fourteen years, was considerably superior to his fellows. One thing that might well be mentioned was his superb record of hospitality to servicemen during the war. Every GI who went through Chicago, eleven million in all, had to change trains, and Kelly and Chicago took good care of them. Another thing worth mention is that Mr. Kelly once had to pay the United States Treasury $105,000, as settlement for having forgotten to pay taxes on $450,000 “earned” between 1926 and 1928, when his job was that of a Sanitary District engineer at $15,000 a year.

Perhaps I should, at this point, include briefly something about the other Chicago newspapers; lusty journalism exists in the Windy City outside the Tribune tower. There are five in all, and competition among them can be agitated. The Daily News, after its Lawson era, its Strong era, its Knox era, is owned by John S. Knight, publisher too of powerful papers in Miami, Akron, and Detroit. Knight doesn’t believe in inheriting feuds, and one of his first acts as publisher of the News was to drop the “Colonel McCosmic” cartoons with which Colonel Knox was wont to heckle McCormick.16 The Times, edited by Richard J. Finnegan, is a vivid and effective tabloid, that deserves more of a national reputation than it has. The Herald-American, the Hearst paper, is a cut above other Hearst papers. The Sun of Marshall Field III, which entered the picture in 1941, is a whole long story in itself. The Tribune had had no morning competition for many years; thirteen different rivals had died or been killed off, and for the Sun to beard it in its chosen morning field was a gallant enterprise. The Tribune sneered at the Sun, grunted at it, snarled at it, but could not keep it down. I have often wondered what would have happened if Field’s, the store, had refused to give advertising to the Tribune, or if the Tribune had boycotted Field’s. But the rivalry, bitterly intense as it was, expressed itself only in journalistic and political terms, not in commerce. Field’s as such has no financial interest in the Sun.

For a brief giddy period Chicago was the “literary capital” of the United States. There were several factors in this. Harriet Monroe edited Poetry in Chicago, and Margaret Anderson edited the Little Review, the University of Chicago turned out writers as various and distinguished as Glenway Wescott, Elizabeth Madox Roberts, and James T. Farrell; in addition an older Chicago “school” existed, going back to William Vaughan Moody and Robert Herrick. Also Chicago was rich in writers not particularly associated with any single institution, like Sherwood Anderson, Vachel Lindsay, Edgar Lee Masters, and Vincent Starrett. Burton Rascoe was for some-years the coruscating literary editor of the Tribune, and the old Evening Post had an imposing succession of literary editors, including Henry B. Fuller, Francis Hackett, and Floyd Dell. Ring Lardner was a sports writer on the Tribune. But incomparably the chief incubator of Chicago talent for many years was the Chicago Daily News.17

The list of writers who, at more or less the same time, worked on this great newspaper, under the beneficent guidance of Henry Justin Smith, is indeed extraordinary; it includes Ben Hecht, Carl Sandburg (who was the movie editor), Keith Preston, Howard Vincent O’Brien, Meyer Levin, Sterling North, Lloyd Lewis, and Harry Hansen. Consider too its foreign correspondents, some of whom served it faithfully for many years—Robert J. Casey, the Mowrer brothers, Junius B. Wood, Leland Stowe, the late John T. Whitaker, Raymond Swing, Negley Farson, William H. Stoneman, M. W. Fodor, A. T. Steele, the late Hiram Motherwell, Carroll Binder, Wallace R. Deuel, Helen Kirkpatrick, and Hal O’Flaherty. No newspaper in the United States, or in the world for that matter, can come anywhere near this record. 1 remember with pleasant nostalgia a day when Mr. Smith was happy. Fourteen Chicago Daily News authors and foreign correspondents were having books published in one season!

Finally, a word on affairs downstate, in other words on agriculture. Illinois is the second corn state in the union, and a very large producer of other agrarian products. Also it is the third industrial state, third in coal, second in railway mileage, and surprisingly enough, sixth in oil. The intensely flat greenness of Illinois—it is so level that a railroad once built a hundred miles of track without having to move an inch of dirt—also has some interesting cities, like Peoria, one of the toughest towns on earth. Readers who fail to grasp some of the bignesses of the Middle West may be reminded that the Illinois River at Peoria is wider than the Danube at Budapest.18 The volume of this river is as nothing, however, to what Peoria turns out in liquor. It is one of the great whisky-producing cities of the world. Consider also Rockford, where the late Mrs. Ruth Hanna McCormick Simms, who combined two great Republican dynasties in her person, was a leading citizen; Bloomington with a famous newspaper, the Pantagraph; Elgin (watches), Spring-field (Abraham Lincoln), East St. Louis (already alluded to) and Urbana (University of Illinois).

The chief political issue on a statewide basis is redistricting. Cook County and the Chicago area is overwhelmingly Democratic and rural Illinois is just as overwhelmingly Republican. So the average politician tries to straddle; a campaign becomes an exercise in catch-as-catch can. The state has not been redistricted since 1901, though the constitution says that this shall be done every ten years, with the result that the rural counties have grossly disproportionate political power. Cook County has a shade over 50 per cent of the population of the state, and pays 53 per cent of its taxes, but it is allowed only ten congressmen out of twenty-six. So, in voting power, a Chicagoan is only about 75 per cent a citizen. This has led in turn to prodigious corruption, since the system is unworkable as it stands, and the only way Chicago can operate in the legislature at all is to try to buy it.

University of Chicago

A university is a community of scholars. It is not a kindergarten; it is not a club; it is not a reform school; it is not a political party; it is not an agency of propaganda. A university is a community of scholars.

The greatest university is that in which the largest proportion of these scholars are most competent in their chosen fields.

A college teaches; a university both teaches and learns.

—Robert M. Hutchins

Some day I would like to take a year off, return to Chicago, and write a book about the University of Chicago, which by any reckoning is one of the three or four most outstanding in the world. In doing so I would have considerable fun in trying to analyze the character of its chancellor, Robert Maynard Hutchins, a man sensitive, often wrongheaded, stubborn, with as bright a mind as ever you met, and one who will talk back to God, Mammon, or the devil. Hutchins is so much an egotist that it is sometimes difficult for him to be a participant. He boils with vision, likes idiosyncrasy, and is absolutely fearless, honest, and independent. Once I heard him described as a “cosmic mountaineer.” He has a curious juvenile streak which makes him like to affront dull people and say things he doesn’t really mean. He can charm moneybags out of any millionaire, and argue with any professor until the cows come home.

The University of Chicago was founded in 1890, and grew as a result of the impingement of three forces—a Baptist organization which contributed the idea; John D. Rockefeller who contributed the money; and the first president, William Rainey Harper, a Greek scholar out of Yale and one of the foremost educationalists of his or any time, who contributed almost everything else. Many years ago, when I was an undergraduate, I wrote for the old Smart Set an article describing the University of Chicago, in which I tried to make clear Harper’s original ideas:

Harper implied at the outset that his university would be like no other ever witnessed by the eyes of man. He announced, first of all, that it would be primarily a graduate school. At this time, it is important to note, there were only two genuine graduate schools in the country…. Further than this, the University of Chicago would abolish the old system of four classes, and establish instead two colleges, Junior and Senior, and the Junior would, if possible, be later eliminated. Harper did not stop here. He demanded the most complete possible co-education; a system of exchange professorships; a system of extension work by which lectures under the auspices of the University would be given all over the Middle West; the foundation of a complete university press, not only to take care of official publications, but to nurse a troupe of scholastic journals and books; an extensive correspondence school system; and the establishment of a downtown college to take care of part-time students.

Hutchins, it will clearly be seen from this, built on the Harper foundation. Various explosive innovations and developments have taken place since 1929, when he became the university’s fifth president at the age of thirty. Not all of his reforms have stayed put. In essence, his belief was that every “student should obtain a liberal education before being permitted to specialize.” He encouraged by such devices as the courses in “Great Books” a broad basis in the humanities; at the same time he did much to speed up the curricula, so that education for the professions could get promptly under way when the time was right. As was said of him once, what Hutchins wanted was “more educated A.B.’s and fewer uneducated Ph.D.’s.”19 He even looked forward, as someone else put it, to the time when Ph.D.’s would really be doctors of philosophy. He hated “uneducated specialists.” What interested him was not vocational education, but an irreplaceable substratum of ideas. This is not to say that he was old-fashioned. The University of Chicago, with its interlockings into broadcasting and the Encyclopaedia Britannica, is as modern as a dynamo. Hutchins worked out a scheme whereby a. high school graduate could enter college when fit to do so, not after a stipulated period; he gave bachelor’s degrees after two years of study if the student was good enough; he waived old-style regulations in regard to class attendance and examinations.

Hutchins, whose father was also a university president, was dean of the Yale Law School at twenty-eight. Here his regime was iconoclastic too. It was largely the perspicacity of Harold H. Swift, a contemporary luminary of the packing family, that brought him to Chicago. Mr. Swift once told me the story of how he found him; the major problem was to persuade the other trustees that a boy of thirty should be given such a job. What eventually won the trustees was not young Mr. Hutchins’ brashness, but his poise and dignity. Later his more intellectual qualities became manifest; the fact that he believed above all in the rational approach, that he was a firm moralist, that he didn’t believe that man was purely an economic animal. Some of his proposals aroused fierce enmity. He abolished football—brave man!—and once suggested the abolition of rank among professors, so that each would be equally “a member of the faculty of the University of Chicago,” no more, no less.20 Above all he sought to keep the university young. He himself stepped out as president in 1945, to become chancellor, and he noted with satisfaction that in the administration then set up, of the six top men, only two had passed the age of 45.

Various brushes in and out of public life have brought Hutchins to national attention. Roosevelt offered him the headship of the NRA; he turned it down. Once, during a local “red” hunt when Professor Robert Morss Lovett was under attack by the Hearst press and by some minor plutocrats, Professor James W. Linn told him, “Bob, if the trustees fire Robert Lovett, you’ll get twenty resignations from the faculty in twenty-four hours.” Hutchins replied, “No, I won’t. My successor will.”21 A man of principle, he believes deeply in academic freedom and civil liberties, and he resigned recently from the university’s own faculty club, because a candidate for membership was rejected for being a pacifist. He was for some time a governor of the New York Stock Exchange, as a nonmember representing the public at large; he resigned when he felt that the Exchange did not act strongly enough in the case of Richard Whitney, who had been sentenced to Sing Sing for grand larceny. His point was that other members of the Exchange must have known of Whitney’s “criminal conduct” months before it became known to the public, and should have done something about it.

Hutchins has a long record as an isolationist. This did not, as one observer has pointed out, keep him from giving a job to President Benes of Czechoslovakia during his exile. He has been called a Communist often, and a Fascist several times. What his party politics are I do not know. Once he said that he would vote for Norman Thomas, if the major parties did not offer better platforms.

Hutchins has been accused of being-“antiscience”; this has an odd ring now. Actually the atomic age may be said to have begun at 3:25 P.M. on December 2, 1942, in one of the converted squash courts under the stadium at Stagg Field. For a considerable time the university, under Hutchins, had been working hard on “trans-uranic” chemistry and physics; Professors Arthur Compton, Fermi, and Urey were all Chicago men, and it was on this date, one of the most pregnant in history, that the uranium-graphite pile constructed and operated in total secrecy first created a chain reaction.22 No single person can claim credit for having made practicable the fission of the atom and the bomb this produced. But Hutchins and the university certainly had a great deal to do with it. The Manhattan Project had reached the point where it was necessary to construct a large pilot plant. Several universities and industrial organizations, which the War Department approached, felt that they could not accept the responsibility. Hutchins did. This was one of the most onerous decisions any man ever made. He made it purely on his own and it had to be secret. An agency known as the Metallurgical Laboratory was set up, for which the university, in Hutchins’ own subsequent words, acted as “host and contracting agency.” The great Clinton Laboratories at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where the pilot plant was duly built, was administered by the University of Chicago, little known as this fact is, until June 30, 1945.

Hutchins himself, when I talked to him, had much to say about the bomb, and some of his reflections were what one might call, for want of a better word, philosophical. If atomic power, in a world of peace, becomes overwhelmingly cheap and plentiful, what will happen to the doctrine that life is a process of salvation by work? On the concrete side, I believe, he felt strongly that the bomb should have been “demonstrated” before being used against the Japanese. Incidentally Mr. Hutchins is an isolationist no longer. “Isolationism as a national way of life,” he wrote recently, “is an anachronism in the atomic age, and if we are finally to survive, we must now, as never before in history, act our age.” Here is the conclusion of a discussion at the University of Chicago Round Table, August 12, 1945, a few days after the first bomb was dropped:

Mr. Hutchins: Up to last Monday I must confess that I did not have much hope for a world state. I have believed that no moral basis for it existed and that we had no world conscience and no sense of world community sufficient to keep a world state together. But the alternatives now seem clear. One is world suicide; another is agreement among sovereign states to abstain from using the bomb. This will not be effective. The only hope, therefore, of abolishing war is through the monopoly of atomic force by a world organization.

Mr. Ogburn (professor of sociology on the faculty): But that is a thousand years off.

Mr. Hutchins: Remember that Leon Bloy, the French philosopher, referred to the good news of damnation, doubtless on the theory that none of us would be Christian if we were not afraid of perpetual hellfire. It may be that the atomic bomb is the good news of damnation, that it may frighten us into that Christian character and those righteous actions and those positive political steps necessary to the creation of a world society, not a thousand or five hundred years hence, but now.

Crime in Chicago

And then suddenly Chicago is a dark smear under the sky …

—H. G. Wells

Next to the Tribune, what Chicago is best known for is, of course, crime. I wrote an article for Harper’s a good many years ago, of which the opening line was, “I have lived in Chicago off and on for twenty years, and I have never seen a murder.” (Once I did see a hanging, though.) No innocent bystander in the Chicago hoodlum wars was ever shot. But, I went on, “Murder in Chicago costs from $50 up. The more important the victim, the steeper the price. To kill me, a newspaperman, would probably cost $1,000. To kill a prominent businessman might cost $5,000, a prominent city official $10,000. To kill the president of a large corporation, or a great power magnate, would cost a great deal more, probably $50,000.”

This article23 scarcely mentioned Capone, Nitti the Enforcer, or the other more notable brigands of the era. In Chicago we took these folklore creatures for granted, more or less. What I was trying to explore was something newer, more concrete, more intimate, more expensive to the average citizen—the growth of rackets. These were not a Chicago invention, but it was in Chicago that they first proliferated. “Racket” has degenerated nowadays into a noun meaning almost anything; originally it had a very explicit definition—simple extortion based on simple threat. A system of criminal exploitation, based on murder, arose in Chicago to seize the ordinary citizen—who paid no attention at all to the biggest gangsters—by the pocketbook if not the throat.

Suppose you had a small business selling tires and batteries. Suppose I am a member of a “mob” in a position to hire thugs and gunmen. I decide suddenly to charge you $100 a month for the privilege of selling your tires and batteries. I do the same to all other dealers. Soon I control your business, and you are utterly helpless in the matter. Or even suppose you have a small shop selling jewelry. I walk in one day and announce that hereafter half the proceeds are mine. What are you going to do about it? If you resist, I will of course shoot or bomb you. Go to the state’s attorney or the police? Don’t make me laugh! I pay them out of the loot I extract from you!

Soon the rackets became an immense business, and tributes extracted from the citizenry (because, of course, prices had to go up in any racket-controlled industry) ran to millions upon millions of dollars per year. Rackets muscled in on everything from candy jobbing to several great labor unions, from the clothes-pressing business to kosher butchers. They could not have survived, of course, without political protection. The racketeers simply extended into the criminal field some political practices that were already fairly common. When a famous Illinois politician (now dead) got the city council to give him a franchise for a new gas company (which never existed) so that the old gas company was forced to absorb this “rival,” was it “business” or “racketeering”—which?

In 1934 I came back to Chicago after a long time abroad. I visited the city hall and police headquarters, I went out on gambling raids and attended sessions in various courts. This whole experience seems like a weird dream today. Events were too fantastically improbable. (In Chicago at the same time, during the Century of Progress World’s Fair, you could go to half a dozen admirably done plays by Shakespeare every day, since they were presented in versions cut to a half an hour!) Recently I reread the stories I wrote at this time. Some of them make no sense. Largely the reason was that it was impossible to tell who among officials was honest, and who not. Let it be recalled that in one year there were 367 murders in Chicago, and not a single execution of a murderer. Let it be recalled that the Gennas, a gang of six Sicilian brothers who crashed in on O’Banion, and of whom four were killed in various skirmishes,24 once gave a Lucullan banquet to the state’s attorney of the time, at which a judge of the superior court was present and at which the state’s attorney (flanked by four of his own detectives, in case anything went wrong) made a grateful speech. At another notable “mob” banquet the guest of honor was a detective who later became a chief of police. What brought organized gangsterism to Chicago was, in the main, prohibition. It is quite true that, in the Colosimo-Torrio days, prostitution was also a lively source of income, and that, under Capone and carrying through to the present, the gangs branched out into gambling, road houses, and the labor movement. But the great flood of cash came with prohibition. It was the insane lucrativeness that drove men crazy and made the risks worth while. Capone did a business of about 100 million dollars a year, of which 30 million was paid out in graft. No wonder the big mobs were able to control the police, the courts, and above all the political machines—though, be it said to then honor, some officials, and plenty of cops, stayed honest to the end.

What killed gangsterism was, first, repeal, and second, the depression; between them the wonderful easy flow of money was cut down. Also the respectable business community played a role. It became clear that what the hoodlums, in particular the racketeers, were striking at was the very essence of business enterprise in the United States. The special prosecutor who really frightened the gangs for the first time was a lawyer for the Pennsylvania Railroad. Something close to vigilantism also entered. For instance out of the Chicago Association of Commerce came the organization known as the “Secret Six,” which assisted the regular law-“enforcement” bodies.

Today Chicago is much quieter, and the back of big organized crime has been broken. Most of the erstwhile great have met the chopper, i. e. machine gun. Anthony (Mops) Volpe, one of the old nobility, still pops up in the news occasionally, and so does “Bugs” Moran. But “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn, “Schemer” Drucci, John Scalise, Jack Zuta, Joe Aiello, Hymie Weiss, James (King of the Bombers) Belcastro (once Public Enemy No. 4) are all, happily, dead.

Nonetheless the “Syndicate” certainly still exists, composed of remnants of the old gangs, plus their young who have come to maturity, plus interlopers. The city’s crime bill is estimated at 500 million dollars a year,25 and at least a thousand gambling joints are still supposed to exist in the city, some, it is proudly asserted, “with full wire services.” The last copy of the Chicago Daily News I picked up had three crime stories on its front page. But by comparison to the gaudy days, this is small-time stuff. Chicago is as full of crooks as a saw with teeth, but the era when they ruled the city is gone forever.

Reaction in Chicago

New York is, as everybody knows, the chief spawning ground in the United States for Communists and fellow travelers of varying shades; the American Communist Party operates out of the 12th Street neighborhood in Manhattan—it is a riven sect, operating under a dogma imposed from above, composed largely of people unwilling or unable to think for themselves, and subservient to a policy constantly and vexingly liable to shift. Chicago, but not in quite so well defined a way, is similarly the chief breeding area and headquarters of Fascism in the United States, though Detroit and Indianapolis run it close. The Communists would be of small significance if they did not have the party in Russia and elsewhere to lean on. The forces and institutions that American Fascists, sub-Fascists and semi-Fascists lean on are more diffuse, and perhaps more dangerous because they are internal, not external. No actual Fascist “party” as such exists in the United States. Instead there are organizations like the former Bund and the Klan, isolationist survivals, some extremist elements in the Catholic Church, groups passionately enamored of Franco Spain, some big-business organizations, and a fringe of demagogues.

Nobody could fairly call American Action, Inc., which rose in Chicago in 1946, “Fascist” in the normal meaning of the term. It is merely a would-be political organization of extreme reactionary views, set up originally as a kind of counterweight to the PAC. Its activities were hush-hush for a time; then the Chicago Sun lifted the veil, with a story headlined SECRET AMERICA FIRST BORN, and the subhead, “Big Financiers Aid Movement—Million Raised for Purge of 187 Congressmen.” The repercussions were sharp, since the 1946 elections were impending; Senate and House committees threatened to open investigations to see if the Corrupt Practices Act had been violated; then both the movement and the attacks on it seemed to peter out. American Action planned to work through the veterans’ organizations as much as possible” and only to put its weight, such as it was, into electoral contests if one of the candidates were “subversive.” It specifically disclaimed any desire to influence foreign policy. Many of its members are, however, fervent long-time isolationists.

A tempest in an inkpot? The usual snort-worse-than-bite frivolous rightism? The temptation is to dismiss American Action with such words. Then one notes some of the people who compose it. They have a considerable substance. American Action is a kind of Liberty League brought up to date, with admixtures of America First, and it ties into the so-called National Economic Council of New York. The folk who think that it was Roosevelt personally who sank the American fleet at Pearl Harbor, the least sophisticated tycoons and really rabid anti-New Dealers, the would-be totalitarians and secret or not-so-secret sympathizers with Coughlin, Gerald L. K. Smith, et al., applaud its aims.

The president of American Action is, or was, Edward A. Hayes, former national commander of the American Legion; its treasurer is, or was, W. Homer Hartz, former president of the Illinois Manufacturers Association. The New York Times26 says that among its contributors, aside from General Robert E. Wood of Sears Roebuck, “are said to be Ernest T. Weir, chairman of the board of the Weirton Steel Company, and Colonel McCormick,” and Time names Lammot Du Pont, chairman of the board of E. I. Du Pont de Nemours, as a “supporter.” One member of its Executive Committee is Robert Harriss, a New York businessman with a Coughlmite past, and another is Robert Christenberry, president of the Hotel Astor in New York and of the Broadway Association, who once told an interviewer that he had collected “a lot of money” for the organization.

Here is part of a letter written by Robert E. Wood, who of course was the pre-Pearl Harbor chairman of America First, to an addressee whose name is withheld, as published by the New York Post, October 7, 1946:



It looks as though finally a national political movement has been started that you and I will want to support. It is called AMERICAN ACTION …

The thing I like about it is that it is not “just another organization” of propaganda, but one of direct political action within Congressional districts. It appears to be sound in that it is concentrating in the marginal districts where there are good chances for success and as fast as funds are sufficient to do a thorough job it is expanding to other districts where real American Congressmen are being threatened with the PAC purge.

The movement has been discussed with and has the blessing of the topmost Republican and Constitutional Democratic leaders in both houses of Congress and the support of many people you know. [Italics mine.]

I am contributing a substantial amount to the movement and hope you will join me in contributing whatever you wish. Checks should be payable or stocks transferred to W. Homer Hartz, Treasurer, and sent to him at 1215 Board of Trade Building, Chicago 4, Illinois.

Sincerely yours,

R. E. Wood

Further comment is, it would seem, unnecessary.

Negroes in Chicago

The economic situation of the Negroes in America is pathological.

—Gunnar Myrdal

Dr. Metz Lochard, publisher of the Chicago Defender, invited me to meet with half a dozen leading Negroes, and we talked most of a morning. The Chicago patterns of segregation are in general those we have already discussed. Segregation does not apply in theaters or movies (some big theaters actually advertise in the Defender); it is the rule in most hotels, bowling alleys, taxis, taverns, and soda fountains except in the chain stores. There exist Negro police, but they are confined mostly to Negro districts; this is also true of Negro schoolteachers. In the entire city, one high-school principal is a Negro, but no grade-school principals.

It is housing that is the exacerbating issue. In Chicago there are 350,000 to 400,000 Negroes; be it noted that only about twenty cities in the country have a whole population bigger. Of the Chicago Negroes, some 250,000 are squeezed and jammed into a small area on the south side, roughly between 22nd and 67th streets, and between Cottage Grove and Wentworth avenues. This same district held only about 125,000 people in 1925; the population has doubled, but the living space hasn’t increased by an inch. So the entire area bulges at the seams. This is the most concentrated “Black Belt” in the world; Harlem is bigger, but it is more diffuse.

The landowners are 85 per cent absentee whites, and their basic tenet is that of most landlords everywhere, to charge what rent the traffic will bear, and blame society at large for outrages that may occur. There is one house, at 3323 Calumet Avenue, built originally with eight apartments to contain eight families, that contains today fifty-four families; in near-by houses, with rooms divided by beaverboard partitions, there may be one toilet for thirty families. The schools must of course operate in double shifts. Hooliganism, overcharging by merchants, “jitney” cabs, overcrowded streetcars and parks and churches, inferior police protection, the numbers racket—all such excrescences of an urban civilization rise inevitably.

Two Chicago wards are almost solidly Negro, and this has had political effects somewhat paradoxical; first, the machines sought for years to vote the Negroes en bloc, which tended to prevent their self-assertion; second, the Negroes were so important that they had to be rewarded, and so became assertive anyway. Two aldermen out of fifty are Negro, one county commissioner out of twelve, one municipal judge out of thirty-six, one civil service commissioner out of three, one state senator out of fifty-one, four representatives out of 153, and one congressman out of twenty-six. One result of machine rule is that the quality of the vote deteriorates. I asked Dr. Lochard and his friends why, at least in so far as Negroes are concerned, an attempt could not be made to counteract this. One answer is that Chicago became a dumping-off spot for illiterate Negroes from the South. Another: “We don’t turn enough spotlight on our own leadership.” Another: “Increase in white prejudice.”

The Chicago newspapers are friendly to Negroes, more or less, except the Tribune, which used them as a stick with which to beat the New Deal whenever convenient. Recently an appeal went to all local papers for the screening of routine news unfavorable to Negroes—in crime stories and the like—so that racial tensions that seemed to be growing dangerously might be minimized. Every paper agreed to co-operate except the Tribune. The colonel’s refusal was based on his zealous regard for “freedom of the press.”27

Indiana Briefly

There is about it a charm I shall not be able to express … This is a region not unlike those which produce gold or fleet horses or oranges or adventurers.

—Theodore Dreiser

The yellow sea of corn out of Iowa still pours high, and sweeps across Illinois into Indiana. But not only is this one of the foremost agricultural states; it is ninth in industrial production. Lake County, southeast of Chicago, smoke-blinded, taut, a metallic jungle, is a manufacturing area comparable to Pittsburgh. Gary is like Magnitogorsk. Then consider South Bend (with Studebaker and Bendix), Whiting (refineries), Fort Wayne and Muncie and Evansville and Indianapolis itself. The state’s most distinguished citizen is an industrialist, Paul Hoffmann, president of Studebaker—the kind of modern executive who is testimony to the fact that, despite everything, the free enterprise system will work, if you think of it in terms of enterprise for the many, not just the few.

Also in South Bend is, of course, the most famous Catholic university in the world, Notre Dame. Why, I have wondered, are Notre Dame football teams called the “Irish”? Here is a recent lineup—Skoglund, Mieszkowski, Mastrangelo, Walsh, Rovai, Berezney, Cronin, Dancewicz, Colella, Augsman, Ruggerio. Well, out of eleven, two are Irish. Perhaps one should add for the benefit of the visitor from outside that one of the most illustrious of recent Notre Dame players was named William Shakespeare.

The concept “Hoosier” is by no means easy to define. I have quoted Dreiser above. With his home state, he is very gentle; he saw it in more romantic terms than most of us. He writes, in an essay on Indiana’s “soil and light,”28 putting the words into the mouth of a friend, “I insist that the Hoosier is different mentally and spiritually to the average American. He is softer, less sophisticated, more poetic…. He dreams a lot. He likes to play in simple ways. He is not as grasping as other Americans. … That may be due to the fact that he is not as practical, being as poetic and good natured as he is. … In a crude way, perhaps, he has the temperament of the artist.”

Many Hoosiers themselves would differ with Mr. Dreiser; the average Indianian by no means thinks of himself as a soft fellow. I asked several friends in Indianapolis what they thought were particular Hoosier characteristics, and almost all replied “shrewd” and “independent” first, and then added “conservative,” “God-fearing,” and “unostentatious.” Also most Hoosiers have a marked local “nationalism,” like residents of Texas and Missouri. Ernie Pyle, an Indianian born, interpreted the Hoosier character very well, but authorities on the spot say that he was not a real type himself. Indiana has a powerful substratum of Germans, particularly in the south; these can have lived in a community for a hundred years, but they will not be Hoosier. I asked one expert to name the most typical Hoosier he knew. Answer: a waterworks’ executive born in Boston, who spent most of his life in Akron, Ohio.

Booth Tarkington, George Ade, James Whitcomb Riley, Meredith Nicholson—the Indiana literary school had great mellowness; its members may seem old-fashioned now. Tarkington and Riley often had a companion, in the forgotten days, for amiable conversation; his name was John L. Lewis. Indiana is also, like Kansas, a state famous for newspapermen, radio commentators, and editors. One need only mention Elmer Davis, Byron Price, Kent Cooper, “Stuffy” Walters, and Roy Howard. The Indianapolis Times, ably edited by Walter Leckrone these days, is still Howard’s own favorite among the whole Scripps-Howard chain, and the only one, aside from the New York World Telegram, in which his name appears on the masthead. Howard was a poor boy born in Indianapolis, very proud now that he came from the wrong side of the tracks.29

Indiana has one social characteristic which, though not unique by any means, reaches a pitch of development unrivaled elsewhere in the Middle West—clannishness. The Hoosiers are tremendous joiners. The state is one of the few where almost all eligible people, adults, set great store twenty years later by what fraternities they belonged to in college, and where flourish literally thousands of clubs; Indianapolis is one of the most “organized” cities in the world. You do not meet with three neighbors to play bridge; you organize the Upper Tenth Avenue Bridge Club, with a membership of four, and choose your president and secretary-treasurer. Then there are the “Sub-Deb” clubs, organizations of girls of high school age; of these actually seven hundred exist in Indianapolis alone, and they bear names like GCP (Gotta Coppa Poppa) and ZANY (Zealous, Adorable, Nice and Yummy).

Indianapolis, the largest capital city in the United States except Boston, is several things. It is the home of two of the most trenchantly conservative labor leaders in the United States, Daniel J. Tobin, general president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and “Big Bill” Hutcheson, president of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and first vice president of the AF of L. Indianapolis is an unkempt city, unswept, raw, a terrific place for basketball and auto racing, a former pivot of the Ku-Kluxers, and in it you may see the second ugliest monument in the world. It is the former bailiwick of Paul McNutt. It contains the national headquarters of the American Legion—the Legion and its sizable pay roll are big business to the city—and one friend, who has lectured on political affairs all over the country, told me that it is the “worst” audience in the United States.

On the other hand, Indianapolis has several admirable book shops, and it is the seat of one of the few publishing houses in the country with a general book business not on the eastern seaboard, Bobbs-Merrill. In fact, university presses aside, I cannot think of another. Recently the University of Chicago set up one of its “Great Books” courses in Indianapolis; two professors travel down every fortnight, to minister to a group of forty citizens, and the idea has spread throughout the state. Indiana is one of the few northern states which has laws like those in the South forbidding intermarriage between whites and Negroes, and segregated schools; yet its record in race relations is quite good. Anderson and Maynor sing in Indianapolis auditoriums; Negro boys often win in the Golden Gloves tournament held every year, and in 1945 a crack Indiana University football team, the best in its history, had three Negro stars. A local hotel refused once to put up Paul Robeson. The governor of the state and a dozen other whites promptly volunteered to do so. The hotel then withdrew its ban. A wealthy lady on one occasion asked her Negro maid to be sure not to miss a current movie. But Jim Crowism exists in some local theaters, and the maid was not admitted. The wealthy lady, previously unaware of this, became so indignant that she threatened not to renew the theater’s lease; it happened that she owned the property. Small personal incidents like this can do more to ameliorate local race conditions than a bushelful of committees, and a good many have occurred in Indianapolis and other Indiana towns.

Antilabor sentiment can be savage in Indiana. The following advertisement, of which I quote only a small section, actually appeared in the New York Times. It was signed by H. N. Light, president of The Light Co., South Bend:

If I ran for the Presidency of the World, following would be my platform, Nationally and Internationally:


No. 1. Why should a man pay his hard-earned money to give a big, fat man a big, fat salary of $75,000 a year plus an unlimited expense account, which could easily double his annual salary. Think!!! Don’t just listen to some flowery orator. THINK!!! That is why God gave man his brain—to work out his own Salvation.

The religious advertisements fill whole pages of the Indianapolis dailies. One boasts of a “Great Singspirational Rally Featuring Bishop Marston and the Girls’ Trio.”30

Indiana is one of the most “professional” states in the union politically; this is a community—with occasional respectable interludes—ruled by grab and spoils. It has, however, some good men in Washington. One is, or was, Charles M. La Follette, a distant cousin of the Wisconsin La Follettes, a dissident Republican and one of the most outspoken liberals in the 79th Congress; the Old Guard beat him down when he ran for the Senate in 1946. Also Indiana has had some choice reactionaries. Probably nobody on its delegation is so unutterably sordid as, for instance, McKellar of Tennessee, but several run him close.

The chief local lobbies are liquor and insurance. There is no civil service in Indiana, which means a virtually clean sweep of office holders with every new administration. The most lucrative profits are in the liquor business. A wholesaler must have a state license; this will not come easily unless the county chairman nods approval, and passes the word along. In fact, licenses simply are not issued “unless the guy is right.” Hence the big wholesalers who know their way around make contributions to both political parties as a rule. Once they are “in,” they are set for four years at least. But to keep on being “in” they must “co-operate,” and a wholesaler who does not do so may simply have to go out of business when the administration changes. It was this sort of thing which, a quarter of a century ago, helped to bring prohibition. Indiana was at that time one of the most implacable and frenzied dry states in the union, which meant that it was also hard drinking in the extreme.

A good many medium and small insurance companies have home offices in Indianapolis. During a World War II bond drive, the prize was part of an original manuscript by Ernie Pyle. It went to an insurance company for $10,525,000!—and another insurance firm was runner-up. The insurance lobby has promoted one reform that has provoked much controversy. The Indiana motor liability insurance law is probably the most rigorous in the country; there are severe penalties for accidents, and every driver must carry insurance worth $11,000. In another field the insurance companies have not been so socially minded. They fought and killed a measure which, if passed, would have greatly furthered cheap hospitalization, which the companies oppose if it competes with their own activity.

The present governor, Ralph F. Gates, a Republican, came into office after twelve years of Democratic administrations. He is competent enough, conservative, an honest man, and ambitious. Many Indianians think that he has a close eye on the vice presidential nomination in 1948, and may well get it.

Indiana was, as everybody knows, the northern state most infected after World War I with the virus of the Ku-Klux Klan. In fact the Klan actually captured the state government for a time.31 The spoils were, as the word is, colossal. Think what economic power an organization like the Klan, if successful, can exert, and what loot comes to its leaders. Suppose you have 200,000 members. Each pays $10 for admittance, $10 per year for dues; moreover, the rake-off on the regalia is to be considered. Then consider the “take” if, in addition, you control the entire state apparatus and its patronage. The business was almost as lucrative as alcohol. No wonder what chiefly broke up the Klan were racketeers and hi-jackers who muscled in. The Indiana Klan, with its infantile mess of Klavalcades and Klaverns, fought the Catholics and Jews (the Negroes were not so conspicuous an “enemy” then), just as today it chiefly attacks “reds” and Communists under the guise of “patriotic” witch hunting. In practice what it really stood against was anybody who opposed it. One Indiana Klan official had a sophistication so acute that he once remarked, “We’re not against you Irish Catholics, but just them Roman Catholics !” The Klan also went to pieces in Indiana because its grand dragon, David C. Stephenson, got into certain troubles. He ran off with a girl and raped her; she took poison and died. Stephenson was exposed by the Times, arrested, tried for murder, and convicted, although he boasted that “he” was the law in Indiana.32 He was sentenced to life imprisonment, and is still serving his term. His adherents have made numerous (actually twenty) efforts to get him out, but no Indiana governor will risk the explosion that would presumably attend his release. When motions for parole are made, papers like the Indianapolis Times write drily, “Isn’t the girl still dead?”

Indiana, even more than Michigan and Illinois, boils with Fascist and sub-Fascist movements. One was led by the late Carl H. Mote, who died in 1946. Mote was a minor telephone executive, and he had money, which made him valuable. He published a magazine called America Preferred, which was saprogenically anti-Semitic and contained passages like “I am ashamed to be an American…. The war has demonstrated one thing, that the Germans are superior to the Americans physically, intellectually, aesthetically, and morally.”33 Mote tried for a time to maintain a national farmers’ organization “to lead a strike against strikes. One goes into the background of a man like this, and tries earnestly to explore the reasons for such an evolution. In most cases, it seems that the whole performance rose in the first instance out of simple antipathy to Roosevelt and the New Deal. These would-be demagogues really thought that the “Jews and Communists” were going to take the country over.

Court Asher of Muncie, Indiana, still publishes a sheet called X-Ray. He was neatly taken apart recently in a Harper article. Asher is an eccentric. His ancestry is hillbilly. During the war he was one of those indicted in Washington for sedition, and went on trial in the celebrated case terminated abruptly by the death of the judge. The indictments were all dismissed. Asher once served time briefly on a charge rising out of bootlegging, and was closely involved years ago with Klan activities. One can measure his mind easily enough by glancing at X-Ray, which uses such original phrases as “Jew York” and “Jew Deal.”

Considering some of these things, it seems remarkable that a man like Wendell Willkie could have risen out of the Indiana wastes. Willkie, as a matter of fact, only carried his home state by the narrowest of margins in 1940. I went to Rushville, to look at the house he lived in. It is comfortable, of red brick, ivy-bound, shaded by sturdy elms, and with a white-pillared stoop and an iron rail along the steps. A point that would astonish Europeans who know little of the normal topography of middle western towns is that, though in a good residential district, it is only twenty yards from the railroad tracks. I reflected on the astonishing mutability of America, and wondered whether or not Willkie would have become president in 1948, had he only lived.

1 New York, the Macmillan Company, 1944.

2 The most complete and fair-minded account of the Colonel I know is contained in two Saturday Evening Post articles, July 19 and 26, 1941, by Jack Alexander. They do not discuss one curious and seldom-mentioned fact, that an interest in the Tribune was held for many years by William Bross Lloyd, a famous old-line Chicago Socialist.

3 He gave his first wife a funeral with full military honors.

4 Chicago Tribune, August 1, 1945.

5 Others: Father Coughlin, Gerald Winrod, Joseph M. Patterson and Eleanor Patterson, Martin Dies, Charles A. Lindbergh, Hearst, the editors of the Brooklyn Tablet, and Father Edward L. Curran of Brooklyn. Whether or not the colonel was pleased by being associated with everybody on this list is not known. Time, May 25, 1942. One honorable thing about the Tribune should be mentioned: it has never been anti-Semitic. One or two of the folk named above are, as is notorious, ferocious anti-Semites. The Tribune has never been touched with this taint. Indeed for many years several of its most powerful executives were of Jewish origin.

6 But the Tribune’s Anglophobia does not keep it from occasionally printing dispatches from Reuter’s, the official British news agency.

7 Time, December 1, 1941.

8 From an address broadcast over WGN and the Mutual Broadcasting System, May 5, 1945.

9 From “Chicago Patriot,” by Robert Lasch. Mr. Lasch makes well the points that the Tribune, though advocating victory of course, always portrayed the war as senseless and idiotic, and that the Colonel “supported the war, but fought anything which might give it meaning.”

10 See Charles A. Michie in PM, September 9, 1945, and an article in Harper’s Magazine, October, 1944 by John Bartlow Martin.

11 A British reader, accustomed to the huge London circulations—Daily Express 3,000,000, Daily Mail 1,700,000, News Chronicle 1,425,000, to say nothing of News of the World, 4,000,000—may find these figures small. But by American standards they are very large indeed. For instance the circulation of the New York Times (daily) is only 551,699, the New York Herald Tribune 338,667. That of the New York Daily News is 2,176,903.

12 Other contributions to the campaign of this notable citizen were $8,000 from the Pennsylvania Pews, $9,000 from the Mellon family, $4,000 from Lammot Du Pont, and $2,500 from Alfred Sloan. New Republic, April 2, 1945.

13 Which is the present home of Archibald MacLeish, who was born in a Chicago suburb. The patterns of migration change.

14 For family backgrounds, see Wayne Andrews, Battle for Chicago.

15 “The Plunder of Chicago,” by Walter W. Liggett, American Mercury, March, 1932.

16 Knox and McCormick, the two rival colonels, were not on speaking terms. McCormick resented it fiercely when Knox, a Republican and a former candidate for vice president, became Roosevelt's secretary of the navy. McCormick and his present rival, Marshall Field, meet occasionally in mixed groups. I am told that they bow but do not shake hands.

17 Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park, a Chicago suburb, and John Dos Passos in Chicago itself, but neither is customarily thought of as a “Chicago” writer.

18 Cf. Hutton, op. cit.

19 Life, July 16, 1945.

20 Benjamin Fine in the New York Times, May 27, 1944.

21 Milton S. Mayer, “Hutchins of Chicago,” Harper’s Magazine, March and April, 1939.

22 Compton informed President Conant of Harvard of the great event by using the following “code” on the telephone. He said, “The Italian navigator (Fermi) has just landed in the New World.” Conant replied, “Did he find the natives friendly?” “Everyone landed safe and happy,” Compton concluded. Chicago Sun, November 6, 1945.

23 It was written in collaboration with James W. Mulroy, who won a Pulitzer prize for his work helping to solve the Leopold-Loeb case, and who is now assistant managing editor of the Sun.

24 The funeral of one Genna cost $100,000, excluding the thirty carloads of flowers.

25 This figure may seem unbelievable, but it is in the New York Times, January 2, 1947.

26 In an article by the Pulitzer prize winner James Reston, October 10, 1946.

27 It is an impertinence to try to deal with the Negro problem in Chicago in such brief space. Luckily a superlative book, Black Metropolis, is available everywhere with 782 pages on the subject

28 These United States, II, p. 264.

29 Indianapolis, like St. Louis, has three independent rival newspapers. In Evansville the process of consolidation in journalism reaches a new development; there are, I am told, two competing papers which operate a printing plant jointly and publish a combined Sunday paper with two editorial pages. In some of the smaller, grimmer Indiana cities, where the McCormick-Lindbergh atmosphere equals anything in Illinois or Wisconsin, the standards of journalism are not what you would term elevated; in one is a paper that might easily be called a really isolationist edition of the Chicago Tribune.

30 The town New Harmony is in Indiana incidentally. This is where the Rappist cult once existed, and where Robert Owen, the great Scottish reformer, set up his short-lived Utopia.

31 For a brief word about the Klan in general see Chapter 45 below.

32 After his conviction the national Klan organization tried to drop him. A remarkably illuminating account of Stephenson is “Beauty and the Beast,” by John Bartlow Martin, Harper's Magazine, September, 1944. “On April 17, 1924, that is to sayan the Deadly Day of the Weeping Week of the Appalling Month of the Year of the Klan LVII, His Lordship H. W. Evans, Imperial Wizard … signed an edict ordering the Evansville Klavern Number One to try Stephenson, and addressed it to All Genii, Grand Dragons and Hydras, Great Titans and Furies, Giants, King Kleagles and Kleagles, Exalted Cyclops and Terrors, and to All Citizens of the Invisible Empire, in the name of the valiant and venerated dead.”

33 New York Post, April 30, 1946.

If you find an error or have any questions, please email us at Thank you!