This Week in 1908 (December 1–December 7)
How long ago was 1908?
The Chicago Coliseum (photo) is the largest venue in Chicago. Earlier this year it hosted the Republican Convention, which turned into quite a party. Every December, however, it holds an even bigger party, the party event of the year in Chicago–the First Ward Ball.
The First Ward ball is a party for the residents and visitors of the Levee, Chicago’s red light district. The crowd is comprised of hookers, drug dealers, drunkards, and of course, the Chicago City Council–which actually hosts the event. Several of the local newspapers are horrified by the First Ward Ball and openly refer to it as “an orgy.”
This year’s party/orgy/ball is so destructive (Alderman John Bathhouse Coughlin calls it a “lollapalooza”) that it’s also the last one to be granted a liquor license. Without liquor, this tradition dies a quick and painless death.
Elsewhere this week…
*Cubs pitcher Ed Reulbach celebrates his 26th birthday (Dec 1). He is one of the six college men on the Cubs (he attended Notre Dame), and spends his birthday with a few of his college buddies. Reulbach is one of the great players on the Cubs, and is coming off the best season of his career (he won 24 games in 1908). He also has pitched a one-hitter in the 1906 World Series, and pitched two shutouts in one day Sept 26, 1908 (three days after the Merkle boner game). Some say he is one of the best pitchers of all-time not to make the Hall of Fame. (His career ERA is 2.28 in more than 2600 innings pitched). The Cubs eventually trade him in the middle of the 1913 season, and he retires in 1917. Always overshadowed by the other great pitchers on the Cubs (like Mordecai Brown), he was also overshadowed in death. He died on the same day as Ty Cobb (July 17, 1961).
*The University of Pittsburgh becomes the first football team to put numbers on jerseys (Dec 5)
*Otto Preminger turns 2 (Dec 4) in a remote part of the Austrian-Hungarian empire; a town called Wiznitz. That town is now a part of Poland. His father is a prosecutor for Emperor Franz Josef. Otto won’t come to Hollywood until the 1930s.
*Agnes Moorehead is celebrating her 8th birthday in Massachusetts (Dec 6). Agnes will go on to be nominated for four Academy Awards and six Emmy awards, but will always be remembered as Endora on the show “Bewitched.”
*Strom Thurmond turns 6 (Dec 4) in South Carolina. He will grow up to become a Senator and a Presidential candidate, on the wrong side of history. He actually says this in a 1948 speech (while a presidential candidate for the Dixiecrat party): “I wanna tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that there’s not enough troops in the army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the nigra race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches.”
*Walt Disney, whose family left Chicago only two years earlier, celebrates his 7th birthday (Dec 4) in Missouri. He already loves to draw.
*Ira Gershwin turns 12 (Dec 6). He is still known as Israel Gershowitz, a shy bookworm. He won’t team up to write songs with little brother George for another sixteen years.
*Francisco Franco turns 16 (Dec 4) in Spain. He wants to follow his father’s footsteps by joining the Navy, but the Spanish Navy was destroyed by the Americans in the Spanish-American War, and the Naval Academy is closed. He will join the army instead. Chevy Chase would be interested to know that Franco is still dead.
Price check: “The 20th Century Household Medical Guide” is on sale for $1.45. It offers sage advice on everything from “diseases of women” to “the delicate and wonderful matters pertaining to the nature and relations of the sexes.”
If you travel back in time, pick up a copy of the Saturday Evening Post. The very first Hoover vacuum cleaner is being advertised in the current issue.