Chicago Vice

While working on research for a conference paper on the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, I came across this cartoon of Chicago’s turn of the century vice area, the Levee District, from the Chicago History Museum’s blog.  “When Harrison Was Mayor” is from the 1920s by John McCutcheon but depicts either Chicago at the end of the 19th or beginning of the 20th century according to the post.


The image (CHi-i62276) depicts such salacious behavior as:

  • policemen getting bribes
  • same-sex couples
  • street fights
  • a policeman and prostitute (note the woman’s name is “Lil,” the same of Mae West’s popular character, Diamond Lil)
  • a dance hall
  • saloon with singing and dancing
  • child pickpockets
  • and of course, what vice would be complete without a theatre (this one advertising fights)

And what is particularly fun is the depiction of how exuberance of all the figures in the image.  While it clearly depicts all sorts of crime (especially by the period’s laws), everyone seems to have such a good time!

With that, I’ll be off to that national conference…

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