Friday, July 27, 2012

DESTINY - David G. Henner

I was at Waldheim Jewish Cemetery recently doing some Find a Grave photography when I happened upon an unusual tombstone.


It had a photograph of the departed on the tombstone, as many do at Waldheim, but this one had something extra - a sculptured figure entitled "Destiny" attached to the tombstone as well.


The sculpture was signed by the person buried underneath it:  David G. Henner.  Here is the photo of David above the sculpture on the tombstone:


According to immigration records, David G. Henner was born May 25, 1898 in Russia to Morris and Anna (nee Kahn).  David came to the US with his mother and two of his siblings Herman and Bennie in 1907 sailing from Libau, Latvia. They arrived November 30, 1907 on the SS Arconia.  The Henners listed their nationality as "Hebrew".  They joined the head of their family Morris Henner, who came to the U.S. in 1906 and was a plumber by trade.

The 1910 Census shows the Henner family as living at 1507 Spaulding Avenue - now a vacant lot:

1507-09 S. Spaulding, Chicago
In addition to David, his parents and brothers Herman and Bennie there was a new arrival - another boy Reuben, born in 1909.

David's 1918 draft registration tells us he is a "Botanist" with the Field Museum.  Not bad for a twenty-year-old.  Here is the Field Museum of Natural History circa 1918:

Photo Courtesy http://chuckmanchicagonostalgia.wordpress.com/
By the 1920 census, the Henner family has started to bloom.  The family has moved to 2048 W. Division Street.  

2048 W. Division Street, Chicago

Herman has become Hyman, Bennie is now Benjamin and Reuben is Robert.  Twenty-one year old David lists his occupation as "sculptor" and his employer as the Field Museum.  In fact, the photo of David that is on his tombstone was taken while he was at work at the Field Museum:


David Henner in Stanley Field Plant Reproduction Lab working on model of Couroupita
(Cannon Ball Tree) flowers, 1924.


Surprisingly the trail on David Henner comes to an end here.  He is listed as a sculptor in "Who Was Who In American Art" but all his listing says is that he died c1925 and that he had exhibited some of his work at the Art Institute of Chicago.

In fact, if I had not stood right in front of his tombstone, I couldn't even prove that he had died.  There is a reference in a Family Tree on ancestry.com that states that he died on September 14, 1925 "In Lake Michigan".  However, I was not able to locate a death certificate for him, and there was no obituary or even a death notice for him in the Chicago Tribune.  This was a surprise to me.  Although not world famous (yet) he was talented and famous enough to exhibit at the Art Institute.  I can't believe that the Tribune did not print an obituary for him, but there is no record of one in the Tribune Archives.

Unfortunately, as far as I am concerned, thus ends the story of David G. Henner.  A talented immigrant, as so many were, who not only was employed as a Botanist at the Field Museum, he was also a sculptor and exhibited some of his work at the Art Institute of Chicago.  At the brink of fame his life was cut short, probably by drowning in Lake Michigan at the age of 27.

If anyone knows anything more about David or his work I would happily share it here.

David G. Henner - Botanist, Sculptor.  May he rest in peace.

Addendum:  Fellow graver and Chicago Police Detective William F. Kazupski found the following comment about David Henner from the 1925 Annual Report of the Field Museum:  "(A model) of the Victoria regia was the last of the many creditable pieces of work produced by David Henner, before his untimely death by accidental drowning while swimming at the Dunes. ..."  Many thanks to Detective Kazupski who has been a faithful follower of this blog from the beginning. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

DID SHE DIE IN VAIN? - Ethel Vivian Degerman

I have relatives buried in Section S of Rosehill Cemetery.  Every time I am in Rosehill I try to stop by their graves to say hello.  Last Saturday with a thunderstorm imminent I knew that I wouldn't have a lot of time to go "grave hunting" so after paying my respects I wandered around Section S.  Just before the storm started I spotted a tombstone with a porcelain photo set into it. 



Those of you who follow this blog know that these gravestone photos are very common in some cemeteries such as Jewish Waldheim, but this is the first one I had ever seen at Rosehill.  In fact, these gravestone photos were not permitted at Rosehill for many years.  So I figured that whoever was buried there probably had an interesting story and I was correct.  Here is the sad tale of Ethel Vivian Degerman.


HIGH SCHOOL GIRL KILLED BY AUTO
Ethel Degerman Struck While On Way to High School.
Motor Truck Driver Held.


Ethel Degerman, 16 years old, daughter of a carpenter contractor at 1240 Lawrence Avenue, yesterday was killed under the wheels of an automobile.

The Degerman girl was run down by James R. Baker, a commission merchant at Leland Avenue at Clark Street and died an hour later at Ravenswood Hospital.

The victim, with three girl friends, was on her way to the Lake View High School when struck. The coroner's jury exonerated Baker at in inquest in the afternoon.
Chicago Daily Tribune - November 9, 1911


A girl gets hit by a car and killed.  Tragic, but it happens every day.  Life goes on.  But there was one person who, after hearing the story of Ethel Degerman's untimely death said "Enough!"


LEADS CHURCH IN WAR ON SPEEDERS
The Rev. J.W. Ainslie's Sermon May Be Followed By Action of the Congregation
Child's Death His Text

Pastor Says "Exonerated" Driver of Car That Killed Girl Violated Law in Three Ways


The killing of Ethel Degerman by an automobile at Leland Avenue and Clark Street on Wednesday was the subject of a sermon yesterday by The Rev. J.B. Ainslie, pastor of the North Shore Congregational church, Sheridan Road and Wilson Avenue.  The pastor mentioned that the 16 year old child was the second automobile victim out of members of the church's Sunday School in three months and the fifth fatality in the neighborhood of a half year.  An energetic campaign by the congregation against reckless automobile and motor truck drivers is expected to follow the pastor's stern arraignment.

All blame for the accident was placed on James R. Baker, driver of the car, who was exonerated by the coroner's jury.  Mr. Ainslie, after a personal investigation, said he found the driver was exceeding the speed limit, was on the wrong side of the road, and did not toot his horn to warn the children in the streets.

Says Verdict Alarms Him.

"It has been said that our Ethel as laughing and jesting with her girl friends when run over, " said Dr. Ainslie.  "Has our world grown so poor that a child may not laugh and more except at peril of life?  Is not mirth the divine birthright of every one of our children?

"In this case, as in the preceding, the coroner's jury exonerated the driver after a superficial interrogation.  It is this tendency to pass lightly on crimes of this magnitude which alarms me and ought to alarm every one of you parents of children who daily have to cross our streets on their way to school.

"In my mind there is no doubt that the entire blame for the destruction of our young hope belongs on the head of the reckless driver who usurped for his deadly machine the right of way.  From my personal investigation of the facts, I can state that the driver James R. Baker, violated the law by at least three transgressions-he was going too fast, he was on the wrong side of the road, and he did not blow his horn.

Sees Miracle In Escape of Three.

"And it was only due to the kind administration of fate and not to be credited to the alertness of the driver that one of four budding lives was snuffed out.  For the ill starred one walked between three girl companions and it was only a miraculous act of Providence that saved their lives.  

"Aside from the affliction of her parents, aside from the suffering caused to these and other relatives-analyzing our loss in a cold scientific way, I have to ask: "Who will indemnift the community for an economical loss of something like $10,000, a conservative value to be placed on an individual about t leave high school?"

Several women were sobbing in the congregation during the sermon.  the congregation is so concerned over the repeated automobile fatalities in the community that the board of trustees will meet tomorrow night to consider resolutions of protest.
Chicago Daily Tribune - November 13, 1911

And then the congregation of Congregationalists went a step further:

CHURCH PROPOSES BAN ON SPEEDERS
North Shore Congregational Urges Publicity of Reckless Autoists' Names.
Asks New Ordinance.
Scores Coroner for "Unfair Methods in Exonerating Occupants of Machines."

A church congregation yesterday recommended publicity as the surest cure of carelessness of automobilists.  A committee which penned the proposal was appointend by the board of trustees of the North Shore Congregational Church.

The action of the church follws a denunciation of reckless motor car drivers on Sunday Nov. 12, by the Rev. J. Stuart Ainslee, the pastor.

The committee asked that the city council pass an ordinance which will insure the daily publication in some newspaper for sixty days of the names and numbers of automobiles whose carelessness results in injury to some other person.  The resolution also condems the present methods of the coroner's office.

Dr, Ainslie's sermon a week ago has as irts text seven fatal automobile accidents on the North Shore.  The latest caused the death of Miss Ethel Degerman.  To the death of this girl Dr. Ainslie gave most of his sermon.

Congregations Hear Resolutions.

The resolutions were read twice during the day to the large congregation.  the preamble is:
"Deploring the low srtandard of value placed upon human life by a large and growing number of our citizens and the frightful loss of life in general, and in particular the seven persons killed and a number of others maimed for life during the last eight months in our immediate vicinity.  It is hereby resolved that the North Shore Congregational Church, as a body, deprecates and denounces this inhuman conduct on the part of many owners and drivers of automobiles and this unjust and presumptuous usurpation of our streets for a purpose that makes it positively dangerous to attempt to cross them."

Urge a City Ordinance.



Publicity, as a possible remedy, is set forth as follows:
"Believing greater publicity will operate as a deterrent to reckless and careless drivers, be it further
"Resolved, That we request the city council to pass an ordinance authorizing the publishing in a conspicuous place in one or more of the daily papers each day for a period of sixty days the name of the owner, driver, and the number of the machine in casualties resulting in loss or injury to life or limb received in automobile accidents."
The arraignment of the coroner's office reads:
"And be it further
"Resolved. That we view with amazement that form of legal inquiry which is so conducted as to conceal rather than to reveal the facts in cases of this kind, and that we censure and condemn the unfair methods often employed by the coroner and the gross injustice of the verdicts rendered exonerating the owners and occupants of the machines."
The resolutions were indorsed by the congregation.
Chicago Daily Tribune - November 20, 1911



Unfortunately there is no record of the Chicago City Council ever passing a resolution about the need for traffic safety. Although sometimes the names and addresses of are published in the newspapers, there is no "60 Day Dishonor List" as was envisioned by the well-meaning Congregationalists.



Was Ethel Degerman's death in vain? The latest traffic fatality statistics available are from 2009. In 2009, 4,092 pedestrians were killed and an estimated 59,000 were injured in traffic crashes in the United States. On average, a pedestrian was killed every two hours and injured every nine minutes in traffic crashes.

May Ethel Vivian Degerman rest in peace.

Friday, July 13, 2012

LET'S HAVE DINNER AT FANNY'S - Fanny Lazzar

Anyone who has lived in Evanston, Illinois for any length of time, has heard of the famed restaurants of yesteryear that are no longer around. Restaurants such as Vera McGowan's, The Dominion Room, The Main Cafe and its twin The Venetian Cafe, to name a few.  But there was always one Evanston restaurant that outshone all the others year after year.  A restaurant that was world famous and honored with awards from home and abroad but still the kind of place where the owner greeted you by name.  Of course I am talking about the one-and-only Fanny's Restaurant and its diminutive owner Fanny Lazzar.  I have mentioned in past entries that you cannot tell much about a person's fame or infamy from their tombstone.  Here's the tombstone of Fanny Lazzar at All Saints Catholic Cemetery in Des Plaines, Illinois:


You would never guess from looking at this simple tombstone that the woman buried here hob-nobbed with kings and princes and counted a host of Hollywood personalities as her personal friends.  What made Fanny's Restaurant a required stop for countless thousands from Mae West to President Dwight D. Eisenhower to Louis Armstrong to Charleton Heston as they passed through Chicago every year?  Was it her world famous bottomless spaghetti bowl?  Was it her folksy personality that made you a member of the family after one visit?  We'll look at the facts and decide for ourselves.


Fanni Bachechi was born February 4, 1906 to Ada Bachechi (nee Pieri) and Giuseppe Bachechi.  She was born at 26 N. Halsted Street in Chicago in the heart of the old Italian neighborhood.  Her father listed his occupation as "storekeeper".


26 N. Halsted is no longer in a residential area.  In fact, it is now the home of the WCIU TV studios.  I wonder if they know that such a famous person was born at that site more than 100 years ago?

By the 1910 Census the Bachechi family has moved to 911 Chicago Avenue in beautiful Evanston, Illinois.  4 year old "Fennie" has been joined by her sister Amelia and her brother Corrado.  Fannie's father Giuseppe is listed as a "confectionary merchant."  Also joining the Giuseppe Bachechi family at 911 Chicago Avenue was his brother Celestine, Celestine's wife and two daughters.  The whole clan lived together as was the custom of the time, especially among Italians.  911 Chicago Avenue in Evanston is now a parking garage for a bank. 

By the 1920 Census the Bachechi family is still in Evanston, Illinois, but they have moved "uptown" to 922 Davis Street.  

922 Davis Street, Evanston, Illinois

Giuseppe had now become "Joseph" and was a fruit merchant.  13 year old Fanny was "at school".  By the 1920 Census "Joseph" Bachechi and his wife Ada had become naturalized American citizens.

After Fanny graduated from high school she took a job as a clerk at Western Union, a busy place in those days of telegrams and "night letters".   In 1929, 23 year old Fanny Bachechi married 23 year old Henry (or Henri) Bianucci.  Henry worked for a local newspaper.

The 1930 Census has the young married couple living at 7721 N. Hermitage in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood.

7715-21 North Hermitage, Chicago, Illinois

In 1929 an event took place that would change the life of Fanny Bachechi Bianucci forever.  Fanny's father Joe Bachechi opened a small grocery store with a lunch counter at 1601 Simpson Street in Evanston.  It started out as a combination grocery/lunch counter but by 1935 the lunch counter was doing so well that Joe closed down the grocery store part and just concentrated on the lunch counter.  

In the meantime Fanny and Henry's marriage started to have problems. They had two children: Henry J. "Joe" Bianucci who was born in 1930 and John Thomas Bianucci (1935-2009) who was born in October of 1935.  Sometime in the late 1930s or early 1940s Fanny and Henry decided to end their marriage.  Henry Bianucci moved back to Clinton, Illinois where had been raised and lived there until his death in 1981.  

Now Fanny found herself a single mother with two boys to support in an era that was not kind to single or divorced mothers.  She decided to help her Dad with the lunch counter business.  Then one day in 1946 she had an idea.  Joe's health was failing (he was 72 in 1946) and he wanted to slow down.  Fanny told him of her desire to reopen the lunch counter as a full-fledged restaurant.  His advice to her "If you have to open a restaurant, open a restaurant for the rich."  So, on July 22, 1946, Fanny's World-Famous Restaurant, Society and Celebrity Center opened at the site of the former grocery and lunch counter and 1601 Simpson Street in Evanston.


Here's what happened next, according to her own story:

She had begun as a small café owned by her father, who emigrated from Italy. He served lunch to workers in what was then Evanston's industrial area. Fanny wanted to create a very special dinner restaurant. To this end, she spent long hours and countless recipe combinations to perfect for exquisite taste and digestability her salad dressing and spaghetti meat sauce. She used her own sensitive digestion as a guide to perfection, and history would later record she found it, in her Salad Dressing and Meat Sauce.

She wasn't sure what food to feature and other than herself had no cook. Being a religious woman, she prayed for help. Two days later there was a knock on the back door of the restaurant. When she answered, there was an African-American gentleman, Bob Jordan, who asked to see Mrs. Bianucci. Fanny asked what she could do for him, and Jordan answered, "The Lord sent me to be your cook." Fanny asked, "What do you cook?" and he answered, "The best fried chicken around!" Thus was born the fried chicken that helped make Fanny's Restaurant famous. He remained the Chef at Fanny's restaurant for 25 years.

Early on, Fanny asked one of her customers what his name was, and when he said Marshall Field III she admonished him "You should be ashamed of yourself for impersonating such a well known man as that." The next day a writer from the Chicago Sun-Times, owned by Field, came to the restaurant and told her he had sent her to write a story about it. Fanny, of course, apologized to Field, and they became fast friends. He promoted the restaurant not only through the newspaper, but among his wealthy friends on the North Shore. What developed was an unusual combination of a reasonably priced restaurant, serving outstanding food in modest surroundings.

Fanny insisted on using only the finest and freshest ingredients, but didn't believe in having an expensive building in a fancy neighborhood. She observed "Why the overhead . . . Let's put it in the food instead." Even though the restaurant was in an unfashionable part of town, the food was so good, and in no small part because of Fanny's enthusiasm and promotional skills, the restaurant flourished.

 
Fanny cooking her world famous spaghetti.  She never left the kitchen work entirely to her employees.

In 1948 something else happened that would change Fanny's life forever.  Here's the story from the Chicago Tribune's "Tower Ticker" column from April 9, 1949:

When Fanny met Pump Room Captain Ray Lazzar it was love at first sight.  When Ray visited Fanny's restaurant at 1601 Simpson Street, Evanston, and tasted her spaghetti and her salad dressing, it was love at first bite.  Fanny hedged on Ray's marriage proposal.  The handsome devil might just be after her restaurant. How was he fixed for finance?  Ray showed her!  He bought the building and the grounds on which the restaurant stands and which Fanny only rented and gave them to her for a wedding present!

Now Mr. and Mrs. Ray Lazzar, still keeping the name, Fanny's, run the most exclusive little 16 table restaurant in Chicagoland - dinners by reservation only!

Fanny serving her customers

As the fame of the restaurant grew, Fanny constructed additions on top of and next to the original building, and ultimately had 275 seats.  In 1948 J.L. Kraft of Kraft Foods tried to buy the recipe for her salad dressing for $75,000, but she refused to sell.  Because of the restaurant, Fanny herself became a celebrity, writing a column in the Evanston Review and other North Shore papers, and a book dealing with her outlook on life.

My Encounter With Fanny

Having grown up in Evanston, Illinois I knew who Fanny was, and all about her restaurant, even though my parents did not frequent the restaurant on a regular basis.  It seems that whenever Fanny ran into my mother, she announced to everyone within earshot:

This is Betty Kramer - we went to school together."  As my mother was quick to point out, "we may have been at school at the same time but we did not go to school together.  Fanny went to school with my (much) older brother."  
 
I used to read Fanny's column in the Evanston Review every week, as did most Evanstonians.  I decided that one of the items on my "bucket list" (before we knew what a bucket list was) was to get my name in Fanny's column.  How I was going to do this, I didn't know.  Mentions in Fanny's column (as with her friend Irv Kupcinet and his column) only went to the rich and famous.  When I was in college, my psychology class decided to have their year-end dinner at Fanny's.   They settled us in upstairs (where all the big groups went) and started serving her delicious food.  

Now was my chance.  I excused myself and went back downstairs. There was Fanny, looking like a china doll.  She was dressed and groomed to perfection and at 5' 10" I towered over her.  I approached.  "Can I help you?" she asked.  I told who who my parents were.  "Oh yes, I went to to school with your mother."  My mother was not there to correct her (and I wanted something from Fanny) so I said, "Yes, she always mentions that when your name comes up."  She beamed.  "What can I do for you?"  I decided the truth was the best strategy.  I told her I was a faithful reader of her column and my lifelong dream was to get a mention in her column.  "Hmmm" she responded and reached around for a huge book filled with celebrity names and notes.  She picked up a pencil and began jotting in the book.  "We'll see," she said.  I thanked her profusely and left her presence walking backward as if she were the Queen of England.  Well, she was once named "Queen of Evanston".  Did Fanny come through for me?  Here's the result:


Well, she "stretched the truth" a little - I was not the host of the party, but it was her column, so she could write what she wanted.

Here are just some of the awards Fanny won in her illustrious career:
 
"World's most honored restaurant"
- Oldsmobile Rocket Circle Magazine

She was the Only woman in the world to receive from the Italian Government the Gold Medal "Stella Della Solidarieta" for outstanding achievement.
International Award 1955
Epicurean Magazine International Award
The Only Restaurant in America honored by two governments for outstanding achievement.
U.S. Government "Voice of America' told story of "Fanny's" throughout the World.
National Award 1951
Who's Who of American Women 1964
Butter Institute Award 1956
American Dairy Association Award
Gold Butter Knife Award 1957
National Restaurant Association Award 1957
World Who's Who in Commerce and Industry 1965
McCall's Magazine Citation 1956
Ford Times Treasury of Famous Eating Places Citation 1948
Roquefort Foundation of France Award 1965
Avocado Industry of California 1966 Award
Fanny's spaghetti sauce won an international award, as did her salad dressing.
Gourmet Magazine Citation
This Week in Tokyo, Japan Citation 1965
Epicurean Magazine International Award
Carte Blanche Chef Award and Special Citation 1966
Written up in more than 160 newspapers and magazines throughout the world.
U.S. Congressional Record 1956
Carte Blanche Epicurean Award for dining excellence 1965
Fanny's was recommended by the internationally famous restaurants Leoni's of Soho, London, LaTour d'Argent of Paris, Tre Scalini of Rome as one of the seven most famous restaurants in America.
Grand Prix D'Excellence 1975 - London, England by the International Epicurian Society
Fanny's was one of only five Chicago restaurants mentioned in "Outstanding Restaurants of America" published by Simon and Schuster
 
By 1987 she was in her 80s, in declining health, and her husband, Ray Lazzar, had died (1984).   Fanny closed the restaurant for its usual August vacation, but decided not to reopen. Since she always lived above the restaurant she also had to find a new home after all those years.  Fanny chose the North Shore Retirement Hotel.

The North Shore Retirement Hotel, Evanston, Illinois

Asked how she was enjoying her retirement, her son responded "Not as well as when she ran the restaurant."

Fanny Bachechi Bianucci Lazzar passed away several years later on May 8, 1991.
 
After Fanny closed her restaurant and sold the building, it changed hands several times but never reopened as a restaurant.  Now known as Fanny's Lofts it is an upscale condominium development in Evanston.  Oh, if those walls could talk!

1601 Simpson Street, Evanston, Illinois

Fanny's spaghetti and salad dressing are still sold by her family.  Here's the spaghetti box which will show you what the inside of her restaurant looked like:
 


Fanny was often criticized for refusing to change.  She realized early on that one thing people were looking for was consistency.  Fanny knew that people came to her restaurant in 1980 knowing they would get the same fabulous food, great service and reasonable prices they got in 1950.  To Fanny Lazzar, quality was something that never changed.  

Don't ever forget Fanny's Motto:  "Spaghetti without cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze."

May she rest in peace.

Friday, July 6, 2012

THE NEWSBOYS' FRIEND - Isaac Woolf

Earlier this year I was contacted by someone who noticed that I had done a lot of research on people buried at Rosehill Cemetery.  They were interested in getting photographs of the graves of relatives buried there:  Isaac Woolf and his wife Clara Spiegel Woolf.  It took me a while but I was finally able to locate the impressive Woolf monument at Rosehill and in doing that I "dug up" an interesting piece of Chicago history as well.  This is the story of Isaac Woolf "The Newsboy's Friend."


Isaac Woolf


Isaac Woolf was born in London, England on January 4, 1852.  He came to the U.S. as a child with his parents and they settled in Lafayette, Indiana.  His family was poor, and he began his business life as a newsboy.  From that he went to stripping tobacco, but he found time to attend school and also to enroll at a business college.  He spent several years in Cincinnati learning the clothing business and then came to Chicago where he was employed as a retail salesman by the Barbe Bros. clothing house.  In 1880 he embarked on the clothing business on his own account with his brothers at 183 W. Madison Street.  In 1896 he opened his establishment at 160 State Street.  Associated in business with Mr. Woolf were his brothers Benjamin, Edward and Harry.

On March 17, 1898, Isaac Woolf opened his grandest store yet at the southwest corner of State and Monroe -



He billed his store as "The store with a horseshoe over the door and the Palmer House over the way."

In 1882 Isaac Woolf decided it was time to give something back.  He decided to provide a full Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings for any and all newsboys in Chicago who wanted to attend.  A writeup of the 1903 feast is typical:

NEWSBOYS HAVE A FEAST.
FIVE THOUSAND ARE  THE GUESTS OF ISAAC  WOOLF.

Merchant Gives Annual Thanksgiving Dinner in the First Regiment Armory - Thirty-Five Hundred Visitors Enjoy Seeing the Youths at Banquet - All Parade to Hall, with Band at Head of Line, and are Urged to Eat Until Satisfied - Clerks as Waiters. 

"Come on, son: never mind if you have eaten; come and fill up again."

This was the spirit in which seventy-eight of Isaac Woolf's employees took care of 5,000 newsboys last night and fed many youths as they have never dined before.

Each year has increased the number of boys at the Thanksgiving dinner given by Mr. Woolf, and this season, for the twenty-first of the feasts, the First Regimental Armory was engaged.  It was here that 3,500 visitors had almost as much pleasure as the boys while again and again the long tables were filled and emptied.

The boys started to the armory at 5:45 o'clock, headed by the band, which was followed by a platoon of police.  Mr. Woolf and his brother came next.  Then followed the employees of the two clothing houses in three coaches.

Great Crowd At Armory.

At the armory the crowd was so great that visitors were kept waiting some time, and many of the boys staid three hours for their supper, fighting vigorously for a place in the line.  In the dining hall a degree of order was kept and although the noise was so great that the band could not be heard, there was no roughness to the fun.   

This was effected by Mr. Woolf's system.  He asked the largest and best known newsboys to act as captains, and those kept the other boys in line and showed them where to sit and how to leave.  The captains, as they are known among their fellows, were:  Spike the Red Handed, Eddie the Tough, Nutty, Josh, Jimmie Meatpie, Dago Monk, Bulldog, Humpy, and Sleepy Louie.

Plenty of Food For All.

The boys had placards bearing legends such as: "Don't you wish you were one of us?" and "Six hundred turkeys! Wow!"  When the newsboys plates were filled again, and when they had eaten all they could, their pockets were filled with fruit.  At the door they were welcomed, and when they were through they were told if they could eat any more they should come in again.

The boys were served at twenty long tables seating 1,000 persons.  The seats were filled from 6:30 until 10 o'clock.

Mr. Woolf gives the annual dinner in memory of his own boyhood life as a newsboy in London, and in observance of a vow he made at the time. The last dinner cost $6,000 and the supplies included 520 turkeys, 250 large bunches of bananas, and wagon loads of baked goods.
Chicago Daily Tribune - November 26, 1903

Of course, being a good businessman, Isaac Woolf did not hesitate to make good use of the newsboys' feast:


All good things must end, and the newsboys were shocked when they picked up their newspapers on October 22, 1906 and saw this:  

NEWSBOYS' FRIEND DEAD.
Isaac Woolf, Clothing Merchant, Expires in Home.

Servant Makes Discovery - End Coming During the Night - Physician Called Two Days Previous, But Ailment Was Not Considered Serious - Started His Business Life as a Newsboy and Gave Big Annual Dinner for Street Urchins 

Isaac Woolf, president of Woolf's Clothing, was found dead in his bed yesterday morning at his residence, 3431 Michigan Avenue.  He had died during the night of a contraction of the windpipe, which caused strangulation.

3431 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago

He was 54 years old.  Although Mr. Woolf's death was unexpected, he had been ill enough for the two days previous to require the services of a physician.  Dr. I. A. Abt had attended him the night before at 10:00 o'clock.  Mr. Woolf was cheerful and talked about a social engagement that he expected to keep on Sunday.

Mr. Woolf's death will be felt not only by his family and a large circle of friends.  For the past twenty-five years he had been known as the "Newsboys' Friend."  Every year he gave a newsboys' dinner.  From unpretentious beginnings - there were 100 ragged and hungry little guests served at the first - the feast has grown to one of increasing importance, numerically considered.

Feeds 10,000 Boys on Thanksgiving

Last year 10,000 newsboys and other hungry urchins from  the street and the poorer tenement districts   attended the Thanksgiving dinner.   Everyone considered Mr. Woolf  as his personal friend and the clothing merchant encouraged this feeling.  Many of them had been to previous dinners given by the man who in his boyhood had been a newsboy himself.  There were 500 turkeys and many other good things.  The expense was $5,000.  "The newsboy dinners will be continued", said Benjamin Woolf, a brother, yesterday.  "They will be given every year in memory of my brother.  We have made preparation already for this Thanksgiving.  the dinner will be at the Casino."

Servant  Finds Mr. Woolf  Dead.

Mr. Woolf said that his brother had been in poor health for fifteen years. Two weeks ago he caught a severe cold, but paid no attention to it, but  on  last Friday Benjamin Woolf insisted that he consult a physician.  At 6 o'clock Sunday morning one of the servants looked into the room and saw that Mr. Woolf was dead.  What time he died no one knew.  His daughter had heard him breathing shortly before midnight.  His 14 year old son, Hamlin, slept at his father's bedside, but heard nothing unusual during the night.

He Begins Life As Newsboy.

Mr. Woolf  was born in London, Jan. 3, 1853, and  came to this country when a child with his parents,  who   settled in Lafayette, Ind.  His father and mother were  poor,  and  he began  his  business life as a newsboy.  From that  he went to stripping  tobacco, but he found time to attend school  and also to go to a business college.  He spent several years in Cincinnati learning the clothing business, and then came to Chicago, where he was employed as a retail salesman by the Barbe Bros. clothing house.  In 1880 he embarked in the clothing business on his own account with his brothers at 183 West Madison Street.  Ten years ago the establishment at 100 North State Street was opened.  Associated in business with Mr. Woolf were his brothers-Benjamin, Edward and Harry.  The business will be continued under the corporation name.

Gave To Charity Here

Mr. Woolf was a widower.  he is survived by three children, Marion, Lucille and Hamlin.  Mrs. E. Woolf, mother of the clothing merchant, and more than 80 years old, is living at the home of her daughter, Mrs. J. Bernhard, 580 Forty-fifth Street.

Although the annual dinner for newsboys was Mr. Woolf's favorite philanthropic enterprise, he gave largely to Hebrew charities.  He was a member of Sinai Congregation, and belonged to the Standard Club, Masons, and Royal Arcanum.

Funeral services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday from the late residence by carriages to Rosehill.  It is probable that newsboys will turn out in large numbers.
Chicago Daily Tribune - October 22, 1906

OBITUARY.
ISAAC WOOLF'S funeral was  held  yesterday at his  late residence, 3431 Michigan Avenue.  The house  was filled with those who had known Mr. Woolf .  Dr. Emil G. Hirsch delivered the address in which he paid tribute to Mr. Woolf's generosity, and told his hearers of' a success better than that measured by dollars.  Mr. Woolf, a successful merchant, was widely known as the "Newsboys' Friend" Because of the assistance he gave those in whose class he had started life.  
Chicago Daily Tribune - October 24, 1906

Rabbi Emil G. Hirsch
The 1906 and 1907 banquets were held as usual.  They were hosted by Isaac's brother Benjamin Woolf who sponsored them as a tribute to his late brother.  There was no Thanksgiving dinner for newsboys in 1908.  The Tribune explained why:

NEWSBOYS' FRIEND IS A BANKRUPT.
Woolf's Clothing Company Into Hands of a Receiver.
Failure Comes Quickly
Concern Which Fed Thousands Was Prosperous
Two Years Ago

Woolf's Clothing Company,State and Monroe streets, widely known for its practice of giving Chicago newsboys a Thanksgiving turkey dinner every year, went into involuntary bankruptcy yesterday.  Judge K.M. Landis of the United States District Court, acting upon a petition presented by a number of major creditors, placed the concern in the hands of a receiver, appointing the American Trust and Savings Bank to act in that capacity.

Under court orders, the business will be continued for the present, although plans for selling off the stock as rapidly as possible were under way last night.  Liabilities of the firm are generally estimated at $200,000 with inventoried assets ranging, according to reports, from $160,000 to $200,000.

Indebtedness Piles Up Quickly

Failure of the concern, which, until two years ago, prospered steadily, came with a rush.  The entire indebtedness is said to have piled up within a few months, and yesterday eastern creditors reached Chicago to push their claims.  After a conference with the law firm of Ringer, Wilharts & Louer, counsel for the Woolf company, it was agreed that the petition should be filed in the names of some of the heaviest creditors.  Those decided upon were Alfred Benjamin & Co.,and Samuel Peck & Co. of New York, Rosenwald & Weil of Chicago, and the adjustment bureau of the National Wholesale Clothiers' Association, representing all told some $40,000 to $60,000 in liabilities.

The death of Isaac Woolf, newsboy-merchant two years ago was credited on all sides with being the essential cause of the failure.   Recently it was found necessary to sell the original store at West Madison and Halsted streets in order to protect the downtown establishment where the rent was $65,000 per year.  Lack of "quick" assets and conservatism in the business world added to the difficulties facing the firm.

This year there was no Thanksgiving dinner for newsboys.

Due To Death of Founder.

Attorney Martin J. Isaacs of Wheeler, Bilber & Isaacs, counsel for the creditors said: "Apparently only Mr. Isaac Woolf knew how to make the business pay.  Fortunately he conducted it in such a way that the good will of the concern is now a big asset."

William T. Underwood, personal counsel of Mr. Woolf during his life, said that the liabilities amount to $100,000 and the assets to $218,000, exclusive of the lease and good will.

Mr. Woolf came to Chicago from Lafayette, Ind., in the early '70s.  In Lafayette he had been a newsboy and in Chicago, after opening first a small store at West Madison and Halsted streets, ad then a downtown store in 1897, started his custom of giving a Thanksgiving dinner to every newsboy who would come and eat it.  From 4,000 to 10,000 boys were treated every year.
Chicago Daily Tribune - December 31, 1908

The impressive monument marking the burial place of Isaac Woolf can be found in Section L of Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago, Illinois.


Isaac Woolf "The Newsboys' Friend" - May he rest in peace.