Ask Geoffrey: Who is Shields, as in ‘35th and Shields’?
In this week's edition, Geoffrey Baer traces the history of a Chicago street named for a statesman who challenged Abraham Lincoln to a duel; a Lincoln Park sculpture with a comeback story; and a viewer's sweet memory of neighborhood nickel pies reveals the sour history of a pie company.
As a kid I would go to the Casey Moody pie factory located on Wood at Walnut streets every day. We could buy fresh pies for a nickel or they would give us free day-old pies. What can you tell me about the company?
– Harold Billingsley, Quincy
We’d like to extend our apologies in advance to our viewer Harold, who was probably not expecting this scandalous story in response to his sweet childhood memory.
The name of the company was actually Case-Moody and it was a successful bakery for many years selling baked goods all over the Midwest, including pies, pastries and wedding cakes. The company’s history, however, is a tale of woe including run-ins with the health department, bizarre fistfights and even a suicide.
The company was formed in 1929 by Charles Moody and Elmer Case, who shared the role of company president. Both men came from families that ran pie companies, so they knew their pies. Case-Moody grew quickly and they added a second factory at 3548 S. Shields Ave., right next to Sox Park.
1934, though, saw big trouble for the pie company. Elmer Case shot himself in the basement of the Walnut Street factory. He left a note blaming labor costs but some sources say he had learned he was about to be fired. Case’s much-younger wife Doris, a former employee described as “comely” by the Chicago Tribune, took his place.
The following year, Doris became embroiled in a property dispute over a flour mill she owned and was accused of assault and battery. In the incident, Mrs. Case and two men from Case-Moody demanded the key to the mill from a man who claimed a stake in the property. When the man refused to turn over the key, the Case-Moody men sat on him while Mrs. Case beat him. The two men were found guilty, but Mrs. Case escaped conviction.
A month later, Doris Case signed a contract with MGM Studios and moved to Hollywood for a part in a movie to be called “Star Dust Road,” but we could find no evidence the movie was ever made.
Case-Moody continued on under new leadership but ran into trouble again in the 1950s, when the FDA charged that their products “contained insect and rodent filth.” After a merger with Sunkist, the company was bought by Mrs. Wagner’s Pies. (Simon and Garfunkel fans might remember the Mrs. Wagner’s Pies name-check in the song “America.”)
Case-Moody’s North Side factory was abandoned in the 1960s and later torn down, and the South Side factory burned down around the same time. That site is now part of the U.S. Cellular Field parking lot.
–Norm Bobins, WTTW
White Sox fans will immediately recognize the intersection our former chairman of the Board of Trustees mentions – 35th and Shields is where U.S. Cellular Field stands, and where old Comiskey Park stood on the other side of 35th Street. (And as we now know, right near the former Case-Moody pie factory.)
The street is named for General James Shields, who has the unique distinctions of having challenged a young Abraham Lincoln to a duel and later of representing three different states as a U.S. senator.
Shields emigrated from Ireland as a young man and eventually settled in Kaskaskia, Illinois, where he became a lawyer and later Illinois state auditor.
In 1842, Shields and Lincoln clashed after Lincoln, then a state legislator, penned an editorial under the pseudonym “Rebecca” criticizing Shields’ politics and personal life. Here’s a great quote from the letter in which Rebecca is speaking as Shields: “Dear girls, it is distressing, but I cannot marry you all. Too well I know how much you suffer; but do, do remember, it is not my fault that I am so handsome and so interesting.”
When the newspaper’s editor revealed it was Lincoln who wrote the letter, Shields demanded a retraction, which Lincoln promptly declined. Shields responded by challenging Lincoln to a duel at Bloody Island, Missouri, where dueling was still legal.
Lincoln, who at six feet four inches towered over Shields, chose huge, heavy cavalry broadswords as the dueling weapon. Lincoln later explained that he went with broadswords because he thought Shields might actually kill him with pistols.
As the two men turned to face each other, Lincoln swung his sword up and sliced through a tree branch over Shields’ head. Shields’ compatriots realized he didn’t stand a chance against the lanky Lincoln and talked Shields into calling a truce. The two settled their differences amicably and in fact Lincoln later said he was embarrassed about the episode.
Shields went on to represent Illinois in the U.S. Senate in 1849. After being defeated for re-election, he moved to Minnesota and was again elected U.S. senator there.
Shields served as a brigadier general in the Union Army during the Civil War, and was then Shields was elected for a third time to the Senate, this time in Missouri in 1879, where he died in office.
–Beth Downs, Lincoln Park
The sculpture shown above, just outside the Theater on the Lake at Fullerton Avenue and Lake Shore Drive, is called Charitas (pronounced CAR-it-ahs) and it was actually returned to this spot after having been at a different park location for many years.
Charitas was created in 1921 and depicts a woman holding two children, a theme that reflects the building’s original purpose before it was converted to a theater.
It was built in 1887 as the Daily News Sanitarium for Sick Babies, where malnourished or ailing children from Chicago’s crowded, dirty tenements could get fresh air, milk, meals and medical care. At its height, the sanitarium served as many as 400 children per day with money donated to the Daily News’ Fresh Air Fund.
In 1921, the Daily News sponsored a contest for a sculptural fountain to be placed near the facility. Sculptor Ida McClelland Stout won the competition and the $1,000 prize for her bronze design.
When part of the Sanitarium was demolished to make way for a Lake Shore Drive expansion in the 1930s, the fountain basin was demolished and the sculpture moved to storage and then later to the Lincoln Park Conservatory.
In the 1970s, Charitas was moved to the Garfield Park Conservatory and painted white. Chicago Park District historian Julia Bachrach speculates that this might have been done to match Lorado Taft’s marble Pastoral and Idyl sculptures, which were also at the Garfield Park Conservatory. Charitas was restored to its brown patina in the ‘90s at Garfield Park.
When work was completed on the new parkland that was added to the lakefront around the former sanitarium recently, Chicago Park District preservation architect Michael Fus convinced the park district to return Charitas to its original home at the lakefront, where she was rededicated in 2015.
If you walk just a few minutes north of the Charitas sculpture along Lake Shore Drive, you’ll come upon another sculpture with a comeback story – the Emanuel Swedenborg Monument. (His name is misspelled with two “M”s on the base – no backspace button for engravings back in 1924.)
Emanuel Swedenborg, 1688-1772, was a Swedish (surprise!) scientist, theologian and mystic who began a new Christian movement he called the New Church. Swedenborg believed he was divinely inspired when God spoke to him while he was enjoying dinner at a favorite inn and commanded him to reveal the spiritual meaning of the Bible.
His subsequent writings influenced poets, philosophers, politicians, and in Chicago, at least one architect – Daniel Burnham. According to the Swedenborgian Church of America, Burnham’s 1909 Plan of Chicago cannot be truly comprehended without the context of Swedenborg’s revelations, and even states that Burnham’s "White City" of the 1893 Columbian Exposition “strived to realize Swedenborg's heavenly city in stone, steel and concrete.”
The New Church movement particularly took hold among Chicago’s Swedish community, and it was one those followers who commissioned a bronze bust of Swedenborg for $1,000. The monument, sculpted by Adolf Jonsson, was dedicated at its Lake Shore Drive site in 1924 in front of a 1,200-Swede chorus and a Viking ship with singing Valkyries.
Swedenborg stood sentinel at his lakefront spot for more than 50 years, unmolested until 1976, when he vanished – his bust was likely stolen for scrap, which must have been quite the situation at the local scrap yard. The Park District replaced his likeness with a short granite pyramid atop the pedestal. Then, disaster struck again – literally – in 2009, when a car careening down Lake Shore Drive crashed into the pedestal, damaging it.
The New Church publicized the story of the sculpture in 2006 to members, which led a member of the New Church Society in Stockholm, Sweden to notify the Society that a plaster copy of the bust was in the church’s attic. Remarkably, the plaster bust was the actual model that sculptor Jonsson used for the original casting. Word made it back to the Park District’s Michael Fus, who headed up the effort to restore the monument using the plaster model. Swedish artist Magnus Persson created the new bronze casting and shipped it to Chicago, where Swedenborg was once again perched atop the restored (but still misspelled) granite pedestal to watch over Lake Shore Drive.
Note: This episode of Ask Geoffrey originally aired on "Chicago Tonight" on May 11, 2016.
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