10 Books in 10 Days Challenge, Day 5

Altgeld’s America

This book almost deserves a second post. Written by Ray Ginger, a radical from the 50s who wrote Eugene Debs biography, I picked up this book for FREE outside of a bookstore/coffeehouse on North Clark Street and Wellington in Chicago (about a mile up from where John Dillinger was allegedly shot at the Biograph Theatre!).

This book has at least 3 layers – John Peter Altgeld, a German Immigrant was elected Illinois Governor during the Gilded Age and was the man who in good conscience pardoned the Haymarket Riot prisoners who were to be executed. His courage and conviction cost him his career.
The book also features the Robber Barons of Chicago, men unlike today’s hedge fund thieves and dot.com billionaires, who have made their fortunes because antitrust laws were abolished and monopolistic greed reigns. I read about Marshall Field and the Dry Goods, Swift and Armour Meat Packing, the Pullman Village and Pullman’s train cars, the 1893 Columbian Exposition , the Haymarket Riot which gave the entire world (except the USA, and Chicago, where it happened) International Workers Day – May Day!

He writes of Clarence Darrow’s defense and Upton Sinclair and his book, ”The Jungle”, about the teeming ghetto in the settlement house he lived in near the Chicago Stockyards (my mother worked at the stockyards for a time).

The actual subtitle of the book ( back when subtitles were SUBTLE!), “ Altgeld’s America, 1890-1905: The Lincoln Ideal Versus Changing Realities”. REALITY! It seems such a concept long dissolved … like tears in rain. All this in one book that I picked up for FREE!

The book begins with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The history of reform is always identical, it is the comparison of the idea with fact”. The book’s prologue is from my disgraced hero, ex-Governor Altgeld. “The fact that you met with an accident or got your legs broken, your neck twisted and your head smashed is not equal to a delivery of the goods”. And to think, the only tribute to JP Altgeld is one East/West Street north of Fullerton Avenue (where Dillinger was shot ), and his name on the ALTGELD GARDENS HOUSING PROJECTS.

The music: What About Me – Quicksilver Messenger Servicehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSlfuFwYagU