Page images
[ocr errors]

art fair,” no hour of satisfaction, unțil at last he finds it in the sense that his work is of use; he discovers life in useful work.

Only action is life, only purposeful action is life in full tide, only a purpose that is of use, that is real, that is worthy of our powers, that disregards no values it affects, that weaves into the web of human realization, of which our own experience is a conscious part, ever truly and fully satisfies a rational, social, being. Such action is work, and such work is play, not "child's play," but the free harmonious play of all the resources of our being.

Work, home, friends, health—these are among the symbols of life abundant with its five-fold satisfactions: physical, aesthetic, intellectual, social, and personal. To be interested is to be alive and active, not to be interested is, to a conscious being, death or stupor. To have an aim worthy of one's possibilities, a sincerity at peace with one's own reason, a loyalty to that social whole which is immeasurably greater than any single self and membership in which conditions the worth of every individual life—these are essentials of a complete human existence, the experience of a true son of man, joint heir in man's rich inheritance and, with all true men and that supreme power which works through Nature, a joint savior of one's kind.

[ocr errors]



The Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy

Earlier articles in this series have dealt with the housing conditions existing among several of the great immigrant groups of Chicago—the Jews and the Bohemians on the West Side, the Poles and the Lithuanians back of the stockyards, the Poles on the Northwest Side, and the Slavic people clustering about the great steel mills in South Chicago; a more recent article has considered the housing of the Negro in Chicago. This article is to deal with the conditions among another and increasingly large group of immigrants—the Italians. In 1870 there were only 275 Italians in Chicago; in 1900 there were 16,008. The census figures for 1910 are not yet available, but the school census for 1912 shows 5,447 minors who were born in Italy and 37,833 who are the children of Italian parents. The largest group of Italians is settled in the Nineteenth Ward, in the district in which Hull House is situated; the second largest settlement is on the Lower North Side in the Twenty-second Ward. The Seventeenth Ward on the West Side, near the Chicago Commons, and the First Ward in the downtown business district each has large numbers.

In 1901, the City Homes Association investigated a large section of the Italian settlement on the West Side. During the present investigation a house-to-house canvass was made on the Lower North Side of the five blocks lying directly north of Chicago Avenue between Sedgwick Street and Gault Court. These blocks are of unequal size; block 3 between Gault Court and Milton Avenue extends from Chicago Avenue to Oak Street, equaling in length blocks 1 and 2 between Milton Avenue and Townsend Street and blocks 4 and 5 between Townsend Street and Sedgwick Street. The investigation was extended to the district in the First Ward, because of the different type of houses in which the Italians were

[ocr errors]

living there. Here a canvass was made of a part of the block on Plymouth Court between Polk and Taylor streets. Both districts are settled by Sicilians and South Italians.

The district on the North Side is popularly known as “Little Sicily" or sometimes as “ Little Hell.” It is familiar to the average citizen of Chicago because of the “Black Hand” crimes so frequently committed there. During 1909 and 1910, 19 murders were committed in this district, and six at a certain corner on Milton Avenue, called by the newspapers “death corner.";

It is only fair to explain that although the "Black Hand" crimes may have caused the name to persist, the district was known as "Little Hell” before the Italians settled there. Previous to the great fire, the district lying between North Clark Street and the North Branch of the river was a network of narrow and unimproved roads crowded with poor cottages. The population was chiefly German and Irish. In the fire this district suffered more severely than any other. In the very blocks chosen for this canvass, the fire found its greatest number of victims. Almost immediately following the fire, people crowded into the frame cottages that were erected between the river and North Clark Street, either before the establishment of the fire limits (within which only brick and

The frequency of these crimes in Chicago and especially in this district in the Twenty-second Ward is shown by the following items taken from the Chicago Tribune for a single month, June, 1911:

June 8: "Gun fight at 'death corner.' Four Italians exchange shots in Milton Avenue district at eleven o'clock. Police found 2,000 Italians walking in the streets, some crying in fear and others talking excitedly in Italian. Only one man injured."

June 10: “Shots aroused neighborhood of 1011 Larrabee Street. Alderman Clettenberg, living there, refused to be aroused. Said there was so much shooting near there, that he paid no attention to it."

June 16: "David Russo shot one block from Milton and Oak Street; supposed to be victim of Black Hand.' Had been in this country only three weeks. Slayers went free."

June 19: “Giglio murdered a little after midnight; had fled from police in Italy two years before. Started barber shop at 2016 West Harrison and lived in Gault Court. Had tried to cast off the Mafia yoke. Threatened by 'Black Hand.' Refused, when dying, to give information."

A more familiar “Black Hand" crime was the kidnaping, in August, 1911, of Angelo Mareno, a small Italian boy living in Gault Court in one of the very houses included in this canvass. The boy, of course, was eventually found, but not until many threatening notes had been received, signed with the symbol of the “Black Hand" and the whole neighborhood had been thoroughly aroused.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


stone buildings were allowed) or in open defiance of them. It was at this time that the neighborhood was first called “Little Hell,” owing to the lawlessness of its residents in the years immediately following the fire. As life again became normal, the Germans and Irish, especially those of the better class, began to move east into cleaner streets and more solidly built homes. Room was thus provided for Danish and Swedish immigrants, and a little later for the Italians who were beginning to find their way to Chicago. The following table shows that while there are still a considerable number of Scandinavians in the neighborhood, the district is becoming predominantly Italian. Table I gives the nationality of the heads of the households in the five blocks for which the canvass was undertaken.



[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][subsumed][merged small][subsumed][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][subsumed][merged small][merged small]


While the Italians constitute 53 per cent of the population of the entire district investigated, and the Scandinavians, the next largest group, only 21 per cent, a much larger percentage of Swedes and of Germans than of Italians was found in blocks 4 and 5, the blocks on the east side of the district canvassed. In blocks i and 2 the population was 48 per cent and 62 per cent Italian, and in block 3, which lies between Milton Avenue and Gault Court, 90 per cent Italian. As might be expected, it was found that the greater number of the Italian men were common laborers."

* Among the members other nationalities, living in the same neighborhood and often in the same houses with the Italians, a much larger percentage of skilled mechanics was found. Among the Italians 58 per cent of the heads of households were unskilled laborers; among the Germans only 16 per cent and among the Swedes only 21 per cent.


In the five blocks canvassed in this district 6,326 persons were living Table II shows the division of this population into adults and children and into members of the family and lodgers. In this table boys and girls under twelve years are counted as children.


[blocks in formation]

It is important to note the relatively small number of lodgers as compared with most of the other immigrant groups which have been studied in these articles. Both in South Chicago and back of the yards 27 per cent of the total population were lodgers, as compared with 10 per cent among the Italians; in the Jewish district 21 per cent; among the Negroes 31 per cent. Only among the Bohemians on the West Side and the Poles in the Nineteenth Ward was the percentage smaller. We have to deal then with a neighborhood where the inhabitants are living a normal family life. This is evident, too, from the large number of children under twelve. It is of interest that the largest percentage of children was found in block 3, which Table I shows to be the most strictly Italian block of the district.

The prevailing type of house in this district is the two- or threestory frame cottage in a more or less dilapidated state. Interspersed with the wooden cottages are newer three-, four-, and sometimes five-story brick tenements, housing in crowded quarters a

[ocr errors]

Here, as in other districts, the figures relating to lodgers are an underestimate. Questions about lodgers stimulate a rumor that lodgers are to be forbidden, and lead to the withholding of facts regarding them.

« PreviousContinue »