The Strange History of “Eternal Silence,” Graceland’s “Statue of Death”

No one who visits Graceland Cemetery in Chicago can fail to notice Lorado Taft’s “Eternal Silence,” the statue of a hooded figure that stands over the plot of Dexter Graves and his family. Even official documents from the US Department of the Interior describe it as “eerie.” So iconic is the image that in 1968, Claes Oldenburg even drew up a proposal for a  skyscraper on Michigan Avenue that would look just like it – imagine how eerie a one thousand foot version would be! (Oldenburg was probably just being fanciful with the design).  It would be a failure of the citizens of Chicago if there weren’t any strange legends about it, although, frankly, the ones we have leave a bit to be desired. Some say that you can’t take a focused photograph of it (which was probably a better legend before digital cameras made it easy to disprove), and others still say that if you look into its face, you will see your own death (a good legend that, again, is simply too easy to disprove).

Henry Graves in 1905.

Henry Graves in 1905.

Even most of the more factual information about it that has been published is a little inaccurate, and leaves out a lot of interesting stuff about the Graves family. For one thing, nearly every article about it says that it was commissioned by Henry Graves, Dexter’s son, in 1909, which is a little inaccurate, since Henry had been dead for two years by then (it was probably by Henry’s cousin, also named Henry Graves, who was one of two executors of the estate). And it’s seldom mentioned that Dexter (and a few of the other family members) died over a decade before the cemetery was even founded – they would originally have been buried in the City Cemetery where Lincoln Park is now. What sort of plot they were in there,  when they were moved, and whether anything marked current the lot before the statue is not currently known. Henry had no children of his own, and no more bodies were added to the plot after his death. Could it be that Dexter lay in an unmarked grave (or two of them) for seventy-five years before the statue was built?

There’s also some dispute as to the name. While sometimes called “The Statue of Death,” most sources say it’s officially called “Eternal Silence.” However, early catalog entries from art exhibitions where casts of it were displayed called it “The Eternal Silence.”  Since they likely got the information from Lorado Taft himself for the catalogs, the proper name is probably “The Eternal Silence.”

Dexter Graves was an early settler in Chicago, setting up a hotel known as The Mansion House in the loop; it’s a bit of a footnote in Chicago history for having been the site of the first professional theatrical performance in the city (by some measures). His son, Henry, was ten years old when they moved to town in the early 1830s (after a perilous journey with Captain Naper, the namesake of Naperville). His own early adventures are worthy of a post of their own.

Around the time Dexter died in 1844, young Henry built a cottage for himself on 31st street near Cottage Grove (it was he who gave “Cottage Grove” its name), at a time when that would have been little more than dunes on the beach. But times changed. I believe that every researcher who’s ever looked up a map of Camp Douglas, our Civil War prison camp, has seen the site marked “graves”  and assumed it was a camp cemetery, perhaps for cholera burials (I sure did). But it was really the Graves homestead – Henry refused to give up the land, so he and his family simply lived in a house with a POW camp bordering it on three sides.

By 1905, Henry was being advertised as the “oldest Chicagoan.” Though there were a few other contenders, it is quite likely that no one else still in the city had been in town longer than he had.

When he died in 1907, his will contained the provisions for the new plot at Graceland, but reading the will raises more questions than it answers. The will did not call for a statue, but a family mausoleum that would be built at a cost of $250,000. That’s several million in today’s money, so we’re talking about one serious mausoleum here. Elsewhere in the will – a portion that attracted far more press – he also set aside $50,000 for a monument to Ike Cook, a race horse that he may (or may not) have once owned, and who broke a record with a two minute, thirty second mile. The monument was to stand in Washington Park, and would feature a bronze statue of Ike Cook, plus a drinking fountain for horses.

Model for the "Ike Cook" statue Graves paid for in his will.

Model for the “Ike Cook” statue Graves paid for in his will.

The task of designing to horse monument fell to one Charles Mulligan, and the plan even survived a legal challenge over whether the gift to the city was taxable or not, and a photo of a model for it was published in newspapers. However, as near as I can tell, the statue never came about.

In the two years between Graves’ death and the actual construction of the Eternal Silence statue, plans obviously evolved somewhat. Even when the will was admitted to probate in 1907, newspaper articles now described the plot as a “monument” which would include a plaque reading “Donated and erected by Henry Graves. Born Aug 9, 1821; died Oct 8, 1907; son of Dexter, who brought the first colony to Chicago, consisting of thirteen families. Arrived July 15, 1831, on the schooner Telegraph.”

2007_Fountain_of_Time_father_time2_cropped

Front-view of the “Father Time” figure in Taft’s “Fountain of Time,” built roughly on the spot once reserved for Graves’ monument to his favorite race horse, and designed not long after Taft did “Eternal Silence.” From wikimedia commons.

Eventually, noted sculptor Lorado Taft was brought onboard to build the monument; plaque with roughly (though not exactly) that text is on the back. Taft’s work can be seen all over the country, including several  statues around Chicago – perhaps most notably the 1920 “Fountain of Time,” which features a similar hooded figure (more explicitly “Father Time” in this sculpture, whereas the identity of the figure in the Graves monument is a bit ambiguous). Interestingly, that “Fountain of Time” stands almost exactly in the spot where the statue of Ike Cook was supposed to be. The city first commissioned Taft for the fountain in 1913 – could the similarities in the figures be a result of the city having used some of the Graves money? No connection seems to have been noted at the time, but it sure seems like there’s a missing piece of the story here someplace. I’m assuming that Graves already owned the plot at Graceland, and that his family members from the old City Cemetery had been moved ages ago. Eternal Silence is a great work by a sculptor who was very famous, but I can’t imagine it cost $250,000. There must have been money left over.  This is one for my “learn more” files, and another story to tell on cemetery strolls. 

 

Full view of "Fountain of Time" from wikimedia commons. Did this evolve from plans for a drinking fountain for horses?

Full view of “Fountain of Time” from wikimedia commons. Did this evolve from plans for a drinking fountain for horses?

 

Bertha Warshovsky: Queen of the Arsonists

On November 7th, I’ll be conducting a Mysterious Chicago walking tour of the “Darker side” of Taylor Street for Atlas Obscura. Here’s one of the stories I’ll be covering! 

Bertha in the Herald Examiner

As a grandmother in her sixties, Bertha Warshovsky assumed that no one would ever suspect her if a building burned down. We can imagine that she didn’t always look as threatening as she does here, in the best photo I’ve found of her so far. We’ll go ahead and say it was probably a badly scanned version of a badly-taken photo, shall we?

Having invented a sort of fuse that would enable her to light a match and get safely away before a fire really caught, she made a whole career out of helping people who wanted to burn buildings down for the insurance money. By the 1930s, police were calling her “The Arson Queen.”

One of her fires in 1928 had a particular hiccup – a handicapped 17 year old was still in the building when she set the fire, and lost his life. Bertha took the stand in the resulting case, and it was covered in a November, 1934 issue of the Tribune. In a pattern you see in a lot of cases like this, the papers often complained that attractive woman were treated so well by the courts that they were almost always acquitted (or at least given much lighter sentences than a man would get for the same crime; we never hanged a woman here), but were only too happy to pile unpleasant language on the female defendants they found less attractive. Consider that a trigger warning for what follows.

“Mrs. Warchovsky,” the paper wrote, “a short, dumpy woman told how she ‘touched off’ the fire on Aug 11, 1928. She seemed surprised when Prosecutors Kearney and Nash did not seem to understand some of her firebug phrases. She used gestures most of the time to demonstrate her testimony.”

Warchovsky said she’d charged the owner of the house her usual fee – $170 – to set the fire at Taylor and Racine (earlier articles indicate taht the owner collected about $11,200 in insurance money).   “Yes,” she said. “Harry Brown called me on the telephone and told me that I should come over, that there was going to be a fire there. I took a cab and went right over. We started right in to make balls.”

“What do you mean?” asked the lawyer.

“Balls, paper balls like this (she demonstrated with gesturing). We were supposed to make the fire that day, but when we got the layout fixed up we couldn’t make the fire because some people were sitting outside.”

A rather unflattering shot in the Tribune
archives. 

The next day, Bertha took another cab over and found that the place was ready to burn except for a lack of gasoline. While one man got the gas ready, Bertha touched up the wick, a process she described in court: “First, I lighted a cigar, and blew like this (blowing) to make the flame red. Then I tied it inside of a bunch of safety matches. The cigar sets off the matches and the matches start the wick to burning and then pretty soon the gasoline paper balls go up and then comes the real fire.”

Several days before, the Tribune had stated that the “dumpy little grandmother” had confessed to at least a dozen such fires. In describing her, the paper said “The ‘queen’ is of Henry VIII proportions on an abridged scaled. The chair into which she was wedged elevated her rotund shins so that her feet swung clear, while her 225 pounds of royalty clamped the throne immovably to its proper place on the floor. …Most of the ‘touch-offs’ were her own work, she admitted, because a woman would be less likely to arouse suspicion.

Prosecutors were asking the death penalty for the owner of the building, though not for Bertha, who presumably didn’t know that the house was occupied. She still would have probably been on trial for murder, but got a severance in exchange for turning state’s evidence.  She seems to have had a regular career as a witness in arson trials after this, stating at one point that she’d started more fires than she could remember.

My research on her is still at an early state; I’ve browsed the Tribune archives but haven’t really checked the defunct papers or the legal archives for the kind of info that hides in there (including perhaps a better photo). I’m not even really sure how the trial described above came out yet. But I wanted to put up the article to plug my upcoming Taylor Street Tour, which will talk about her and several other stories that have been on this blog. See ya there, and GO CUBS!

Heroic and Tragic Tales of Eastland Divers

Diver portrait from the Chicago American

Early on in my time as a Chicago ghost tour guide, I heard a story that one of the divers recovering bodies from the Eastland had gone insane and spent the rest of his life in a mental hospital. I repeated it on a few early tours, but, unable to find a source to back it up, I phased it out of my stories, but I get asked about variations on it now and then. Just last week, someone asked me if it was true that a German diplomat had killed himself after seeing a ghost at the Eastland site (I have a pretty good idea where both stories came from).

Divers at the Eastland were heroic, to say the least. They were responsible for many of the “good” stories that kept people’s spirits up. According to the Chicago American, cheers and laughter erupted from the crowd on the docks at 3pm when diver came up carrying a baby that had been in the hull of the ship for eight hours – and was still alive.

A Chicago American portrait of a diver at work.

But the idea that a diver would have trouble keeping his composure during such gruesome work didn’t seem unreasonable, and a similar story was told in the Chicago Examiner on July 25, 1915, the day after the tragedy.

Diver Morris Jorgensen worked for three hours in the river on the day of the disaster, and was one of only a few “able to penetrate the grewsome (sic) tunnels made by the decks of the sunken vessel against the river bottom, where hundreds of bodies were pinioned, and remain there for any length of time. Most of the divers went into hysteria as soon as they looked beneath the vessel and had to be drawn to the surface.”

After working for hours, Jorgensen came up, removed his helmet, and gasped for breath, muttering about the bodies as he staggered up to the top of the ship. When told by Captain Baer of the police to move away from there, Jorgensen let forth a hysterical scream.

Two policemen, including Baer, decided that they had to knock Jorgensen out, and set to clubbing him about the face until he lost consciousness. He came to and was able to say his name on the way to the police station.

“Had to do it,” Baer said. “He was out of his head. He is a strong man, and would have thrown some of us into the river if we hadn’t subdued him.”

William “Frenchy” Deneau, Eastland Diver, in 1958

While we’re talking about divers, I should also mention William Deneau (alias Frenchy Deneau) who was said to have recovered around 200 bodies. On the 43rd anniversary of the disaster in 1958, he came to the Clark Street Bridge to reminisce. At the time, he said he’d recovered 300 bodies, and said that he didn’t believe that the ship had really been sold for scrap in 1946.  “I rode on that ship last year on a run from California to Catalina island,” the now-Los Angeles-based Deneau told the Tribune. “It used another name, but I knew her as soon as I saw her.”

From what we know of Deneau, he seems to have liked to tell stories, and perhaps wasn’t the type to let facts get in the way of a good one. A few months after the Eastland, he was the one who found the wreck of the Foolkiller, a homemade submarine, in the river and put it on display on South State street (a story we’ve covered in depth!). Some have suggested that Deneau built it himself as a stunt, but this theory ignores just how risky it would have been to put ANYTHING in the river when the Eastland investigations were still going on. People investigating had to be assured that the sub hadn’t caused the disaster (the captain continued to maintain that pilings on the riverbed had caused it to tip over).

A grandchild of Deneau once left an anonymous comment on my page saying that when they took their grandfather to the Museum of Science and Industry, he made jokes about the U-505 submarine being a “foolkiller.”  If any Deneau relatives are out there, I’d love to chat!

“What’s He Building in There?” Parker R. Mason’s Boulder of Mystery

Local eccentric Parker R. Mason’s long-lost
mansion at Wavelandand Pine Grove

In 1899, Chicago millionaire Parker R. Mason began rehearsals for his own funeral. He selected the pallbearers, and brought in a vocal quartet to have them practice the hymns they would sing. He had a fishing buddy who was also a minister give him a preview of the eulogy and sermon he’d read. Then he picked out his burial suit, and made a note that the giant boulder outside of his mansion be moved to Rosehill Cemetery to serve as his grave marker.  The whole affair was one more story about Mason, the local eccentric, whose antics at his mansion, near Waveland Avenue and the lake, had amused his neighbors for years.

Mason, a whisky dealer, first came to the attention of the press in the press in the 1870s, when he was involved in the Whisky Ring scandals, one of those interminable 1870s scandals that you could probably understand if you wanted to put aside a couple of years to sort out all the details. His name appears in Ulysses S. Grant’s papers; during the scandal someone described him to Grant as “utterly disreputable and characterless.”

But all this was forgotten by the 1890s; by then, he was a well-loved north eccentric who was known for providing coffins and funerals for the poor.

After retiring from the whiskey business, Mason seems to have retreated to his mansion at Waveland and Pine Grove. The house itself was full of winding passageways and secret compartments. In 1895 some a deed was found in a hidden receptacle after having been thought to have been lost in the 1871 fire.  But the brick mansion was mainly a workshop and laboratory; the family mostly lived in a small wooden annex. Rumors swirled that he was secretly making the best whisky on the planet out in a cottage or barn out back.

 At one point the neighbors became convinced that he was building a flying machine;  strange whirring sounds were heard and someone even saw something that looked like wings being brought into the place. It turned out that Mason was making a windmill.

A surviving photo of the boulder

Chief among the legends, though, centered around a massive boulder on his property, which he’d had cemented into the ground. Children in the neighborhood believed that it was a meteor that had fallen in exactly the position it landed in, though older “settlers” told stories of Mason having it brought in by a team of ox and mounting it with great difficulty and a lot of help.

It was this boulder that was supposed to be moved to Rosehill Cemetery, and a few years after Mason’s death, news that plans were afoot to move it caused some sensation among the neighbors, who now considered the massive rock to be one of the landmarks of Lake View.

No paper I’ve found, though, actually covers what became of the thing. As near as I can tell, it’s not on its original spot anymore (though for all I can tell it may still be up in some courtyard or park in the area; Mason’s property was large). It was large enough that getting rid of it would have been no easy task. So what became of the thing?

The one certain thing is that it was never brought to Rosehill. Parker and his wife are buried there beneath a simple stone:

A photo of Mason himself has thus far eluded me, but here’s the gravestone.

David Kennison: Boston Tea Party Vet or Early Chicago Fraud?

excerpted from one of the sections I wrote for the Weird Chicago book in 2008, with a couple of additions:

Plenty of bodies besides that of Ira Couch are still in Lincoln Park, which was once City Cemtery, but only one of them besides Ira Couch still has a grave marker there – David Kennison, one of Chicago’s first great con artists.

Kennison was an old man living in the care of the William Mack family (or Henry Fuller, depending on which source you’re reading) when he came to Chicago in 1848. At the time, he claimed to be 111 years old, and that, while he was mostly bedridden, he could still get up and walk 20 miles in a day if he felt like it. He further claimed to have been the last surviving participant of the Boston Tea Party, and bequeathed to the historical society a small vial of tea leaves that he swore were from the tea party itself – the Chicago Historical Museum still has a box of tea leaves with a signed note from Kennison today. 

But his participation in the Boston Tea Party was the only the beginning of Kennison’s story. He further claimed to have been present at the Boston Massacre, the Battles of Bunker Hill, Lexington, Brandywine, and just about every other major battle of the Revolution, up to and including Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown. And, even though he was in his mid-70s when the War of 1812 broke out, he had fought in seven battles in that war, as well. He even claimed to have been at Fort Dearborn for a while.

The story was awfully farfetched, but Chicagoans ate it up. When he died in February of 1852, hundreds attended the funeral at Clark Street Methodist Church, a military band (his favorite kind) accompanied the funeral procession, and he was buried with full military honors in City Cemetery. The local Daughters of the American Revolution named their chapter in his honor, and a generation of Chicagoans considered him one of the greatest heroes of the city’s pioneers.

After the cemetery was moved, Kennison’s body was left, but the marker disappeared. In 1880, the Chicago Tribune launched a search for old-time residents who had attended the funeral and could remember exactly where he was buried. Those who were still present were able to pinpoint the spot within a few feet at a spot just North of the Couch tomb, and a flag was raised on the spot until a more permanent monument could be erected. Today, a large granite boulder stands on the spot within a few feet of his burial place with an aluminum plaque listing his accomplishments.

(added paragraph): According to some terrific research done by Pamela Bannos, the city’s resident expert on City Cemetery, they put him in the wrong spot. The boulder was placed on the site where the funeral services were held, but the actual burial was a few days later, near the site of the Couch tomb. Actual burial services were seldom attended in those days – you have to remember, City Cemetery was a very early example of a “garden” cemetery. Most people buried in large cities were buried in crowded churchyards, where the stench was thought to be hazardous to one’s health, and where every turn of the shovel was likely to turn up something unpleasant. This wouldn’t have been nearly as big an issue at City Cemetery as it was in churchyards, but burial services were not exactly customary yet. Kennison’s remains were placed in a vault for a few days after the cemetery, then buried in the grounds. 

Several official city sources still speak of Kennison as a hero of the Revolution, but this only speaks to his real skill – Kennison was one of Chicago’s first great con artists. Throughout his time in Chicago, he took several opportunities to use the story of his life to hit people up for donations. But the story was just that: a story. At the time of his death, researchers have now learned, he was actually only in his mid 80s. Any historian who gave his stories even a cursory glance had known that they were full of holes since at leat the 1910s, and by the end of the 1970s historians had determined that his stories of being a Revolutionary War hero were entirely made up. 

Still, he seems to have made good use of his powers as a con man – thinking they had a hero in their midst gave some of the earliest Chicagoans a reason to be proud of their city. And, when a group met in Chicago to debate whether or not slavery should be expanded into Illinois, Kennison is said to have attended and to have proclaimed that he had fought for the freedom of all people, not just the white ones, and urged all those present to do everything in their power to abolish slavery. Perhaps a few of the Chicagoans were thinking of his words when they volunteered for service in the Civil War a decade later…

coming tomorrow: a bit about the only actual Revolutionary soldier thought to have been buried in Chicago proper….

The Mysterious Virginia Harrison, Lillian Collier’s “aid”

Now that we’ve cleared up the mystery of Lillian Collier: The Vanishing Flapper, we’re left with another mystery: what was the deal with Virginia Harrison, her “aid?”

Virginia Harrison, left, with Lillian
Collier, Feb, 1922, in the Tribune

When the Wind Blew Inn, a bohemian tea room, was raided on February 13, 1922, the police arrested 40 patrons, as well as Lillian Collier, the owner, and Virginia Harrison, who was variously described in the press as Lillian’s aid, assistant, partner, employee, or sister (some modern commentators have assumed that “aid” was code for “girlfriend.”). They were both listed as living in the same building as the tea room, though by April Lillian’s address was given as 545 N. Michigan, around the corner from the place. Between Feb 13 and April 21, the place was raided several times, and Lillian (who claimed to be friends with Mayor Thompson) successfully received a writ banning the cops from interfering with her.

Lillian took to complaining that “cops are here oftener than customers.” “They simply come in droves;” she told the Journal. “And it is hard to distinguish between them and guests, except that the cops….never take off their hats. My! I nearly insulted a customer a while ago. An absent-minded old gentleman sat down without removing his hat. I told him, ‘if you cops’re going to hang around here you’ll have to eat and be merry and take off your hats!’ My, but he was indignant! ‘Madam,’ he said – and I just hate to be called ‘madam’ – “madam, you confuse me.’ Of course, I apologized and told him my latest joke.” She told a judge that she ran a strictly decent place, and that she believed it was the finest restaurant ever built into an old gasoline station (Though later patrons admitted that the 75 cent cups of “tea” were not really tea).

Cops certainly did make trouble, and teased her in court, saying that they used only candle-light because it “saved on dishwashing costs.” A few cops were said to be laughing when the place burned down in April, 1922 (Lillian opened a new, slicker version right next to the police station on LaSalle to save them the trip, but it wasn’t a success – it was too “nice” for the bohemian crowd).

One paper said it was Virginia Harrison who told the judge “There is no snugglepupping at the Wind Blew Inn,” the most famous line from the whole affair. She was often photographed alongside Lillian, and was her co-defendant at the bizarre trial in March, 1922, when the two of them were sentenced to read a book of fairy tales to cure their bohemianism.

A few weeks later, The Wind Blew Inn burned down. The Tribune said that Lillian blamed puritan arsonists.  In other papers, though, she seemed to be putting the blame on none other than Virginia Harrison!

It seems that in the weeks that followed their strange sentencing, the two of them had a falling out of some sort. By April 21, the night of the fire, Virginia was described as a disgruntled former employee who had been heard making threats, and who may have even been seen around the place with a can of gasoline. Lillian herself was brought in for questioning, but when it turned out she had no insurance on the place, she was absolved of all blame, and police began to focus on looking for Virginia Harrison.

Virginia in the
Chicago American

Here her story seems to end. I’m not sure whether they ever found her or what. One paper said that she was also known as Jean Lawrence (whether that or Virginia Harrison was her real name is hard to guess). Either name is common enough that she’s pretty hard to trace.

So what became of her? Was she Lillian’s girlfriend (or trying to be?) I can imagine a scenario in which she was in love with Lillian, but Lillian wasn’t actually into girls, and Virginia torched the place after being rejected… but that’s usually the sort of story that happens in bad TV dramas that risk get boycotted by GLBT groups!   Her antics and quotes certainly didn’t attract as much media attention as Lillian’s own did – papers rarely quoted her directly or spoke about her adventures in flagpole sitting, etc.  Other than possibly being the source of the “snugglepupping” line (which other papers credited to Lillian), it’s Lillian who gets all the best quotes in the articles, and who was later remembered in many reminisces of Chicago bohemia.

Above: Virginia, right, with a rather unflattering shot of Lillian! This is from a
Chicago Journal article noting that Virginia was wanted for questioning.

Tomorrow, we’ll examine the case of Mildred Bolton, a forgotten murderer that Lillian wrote about in the 1940s under her pen name, Nellise Child!

The Skull of Del Close at the Goodman Theatre

It’s pretty well established now that the skull in the artistic director’s office at the Goodman wasn’t really the skull of comedian Del Close when he was alive, but it’s his now! He donated his skull to the theatre so that he could play Yorick, and the skull they have serves as his, at least symbolically.  A fundraiser once offered to show it to me if I donated enough cash, and I finally got to see it over the weekend.

 I have an article up today on The Order of the Good Death about it:

THE ORDER OF THE GOOD DEATH
presents
“Wanna See a Famous Skull?”
by Adam Selzer

“Ode to a Bowl of Soup” and other ballads of Bathhouse John

We never had a stranger alderman than Bathhouse John Coughlin, who, with his partner Hinky Dink Kenna, controlled the notorious levee district for two generations beginning in the 1890s. Often seen tromping around in a suit made of green billiard table cloth, Bathouse John was often seen as a sort of affable buffoon.

Though he and Hinky Dink were running protection rackets that allowed people to get away with some awful things, it was hard not to like ol’ Bathhouse, who generally did as he was told as a politician, but was allowed to amuse himself introducing goofy legislation like promoting the annual “Straw Hat Day.” Newspapers showed shots of him practicing putting his hat on like a big boy.

But he may be best remembered as the poet laureate of the first ward. After his first song, “Dear Midnight of Love” (which Herbert Asbury said had all the literary merit of a first grade essay), several “ballads” appeared under his name, with such titles as “She Sleeps at the Side of the Drainage Canal,” “Ode to a Bath Tub,” and “Why Did They Build Lake Michigan So Wide.” Most were actually written by John Kelley, a newspaper reporter, who knew fully well how dumb they were. But if Bathhouse knew, he didn’t say. Rather, he suggested that they might be “too deep” for most people.

A few of his greatest hits:

SHE SLEEPS AT THE SIDE OF THE DRAINAGE CANAL

In her lonely grave she sleeps tonight
at the side of the drainage canal;
Where the whipporwhill calls at the twilight hour
they planted my sweetheart, Sal
Just a mile this side of Willow Springs
not far from the Alton track
there lieth Sal, my dear old pal
But these tears won’t bring her back.

ODE TO A BOWL OF SOUP
O, bowl of soup, to thee I lift my voice in gladsome song
nothing can touch ze spot like what ze French call “booyong.”
I like you as mulligatawny, noodles, or consommé.
It cheers me when I see the sign proclaiming “hot soup all day.”

I care note what they call you, you’re just plain soup to me
I break my bread into the bowl to cool it, don’t you see.
Let those who want to die of gout of richer food partake
But give me a bowl of soup like mother used to make

That little sign “Hot Soup All Day” in front of Hink’s saloon
Brings customers for blocks around, especially at noon.
It’s got fried liver skinned to death, and red hots, too, I trow,
Put up a “feed” of good hot soup, and then you’ll catch the “bo.”

I pride myself on being wise upon this free lunch question
“Potato pancakes 4 to 8” are bad for one’s digestion
Saurkraut with spare ribs, fricandeiles, ox joints and all that group
are not to be considered with a bowl of steaming soup.

“How stew on individual plates” does not appeal to me,
and neither does the “business lunch” (which same costs 15c)
I’d rather have one bowl of soup than all the stew in town,
or goulash cooked Hungarian style, with gravy thick and brown

Clam chowder has its devotees, and I’ll admit it’s fine.
Others are fond of “K and K,” but no corned beef in mine.
Just give to me a bowl of soup, and have it seasoned well,
It’s got them all backed off the boards – I tell you what it’s swell.”


THE HOD CARRIER
Tis not a ladder of fame he climbs
this rugged man of bricks and mortar
The mason gets six for laying the bricks,
While the carrier gets but two and a quarter.


AN ODE TO A BATHTUB:
CANTO I:
Some find enjoyment in travel, others in kodaking views;
some take to automobiling in order themselves to amuse.
But for me there is only one pleasure, although you can call me a “dub” –
There’s nothing to my mind can equal a plunge in a porcelain tub.


CANTO II:
Some go to ball games for pleasure, others go bobbing for eels.
Some find delight making money, especially in real estate deals.
I care not for ball games or fishing, or money unless to buy grub
But I’d walk forty miles before breakfast to roll in the porcelain tub.


CANTO III:
Some take a trolley to Hammond, others the boat to St. Joe
Some can find sport on the golf links with mashies that foosle, I trow.
The trolley and boat and the golf links are not one, two, nine with a  rub;
O, what in the world is finer than a dip in the porcelain tub?


CANTO IV
Some runs  dairy for pleasure, others a violet farm
Some turn their heads to bookbinding, and say it is life dearest charm.
But for dairies or sweet scented posies, or old books I care not a nub;
pass them all up, thank you kindly, for the little old porcelain tub.


UNDER THE TWINKLING STARS
Under the twinkling stars, ‘mid a bower of roses fair
I lost my heart to Gwendolyn that night in June so rare.
We plighted our troth that summer’s eve while gazing up at Mars;
O’, the happiest night of my life was that – under the twinkling stars


She told me that she loved me as I held her hand in mine;
her lips were like to cherries of the Maraschino kind.
I drew her to my bosom, breaking two good cigars
and plucked the cherries from her lips – under the twinkling stars.


Perhaps the least sensible of them all, and Bathhouse’s favorite, was a ballad of a girl (who may have been a lobster, and certainly marries one), who is terribly upset about the width of Lake Michigan for reasons unexplained:


WHY DID THEY BUILD LAKE MICHIGAN SO WIDE?
Twas a balmy day in June, and all nature was attune
that two loving hearts across the lake did go.
Said the youth unto the maid, “Stick to me, don’t be afraid,
and married we will be at old St Joe.”
When the boat approached the dock, it was after 3 o’clock
Then a scramble from the decks to get ashore;
Soon the youthful pair were wed, after which the bride let said:
“Won’t you answer me this question I implore:


“Why did they build Lake Michigan so wide, so awful wide?
Look into mine eyes, dear, am I not your bride?
Answer sweetheart, answer, cast me not aside.
Oh why did they build Lake Michigan so wide, so awful wide?”


To Chicago they returned with money she had earned
a flat was furnished fit for any queen.
Persian rugs upon the floor, sofa pillows by the score
still the bride let weeping tears was often seen
She in silence bore her grief, till one day she sought relief
and confided to his nibs her tale of woe.
“Won’t you answer me, I pray, (O, sweetheart, don’t turn away)
The question that I asked at old St. Joe?


“Why did they build Lake Michigan so wide, so awful wide?
This little boon I ask of you, do not turn aside.
To you I gave my love, my all, and yet you’ve never tried
to find out why Lake Michigan was built so wide, so wide.”


l’envoi:
Stung by the words his bride let spoke, the lobster hung his head
and while the tears rolled down his cheeks to her he slowly said
“You ask me why Lake Michigan was built so wide, so wide
I must decline to answer you because of family pride.”

Bathhouse John is said to have put out a whole collection, Dear Midnight of Love and Other Ballads, but I can’t find  a copy. Perhaps it’s time to bring it into print as an ebook!