Distilled History

A Drinking Blog with a History Problem

Archive for the ‘Original Facebook Post’ Category

August 9th, 2012 by Cameron Collins

Rough Day at the 1904 Olympic Marathon

1904 Olympic Marathon

On August 30, 1904, thirty-two athletes from four nations lined up for a forty kilometer race at the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis. It was the marathon race at the III Olympiad, and what happened over the next twenty-five miles or so is one of the best stories in the history of the sport. I’ve stood up for the St. Louis Olympics in a previous post on this blog, but there’s no defending the marathon. It was a debacle. Before I get to what happened in the race, you have to imagine St. Louis in August. It’s hot. It’s really hot. The humidity is awful, there’s rarely any wind, and being outside while just standing still is no fun. The idea of running a marathon in that kind of heat is insane. True to form, St. Louis kicked in a scorcher on marathon day in 1904. When the race started around 2:30pm, temperatures were above 90, the humidity was brutal, and the runners faced a course with seven large hills. It was going to be a long day.

The race started with five laps of the Olympic Stadium and then headed west into St. Louis County.  A team of horses preceding the runners kicked up dirt on county roads that were not paved.  Automobiles following the runners made it worse. Runners quickly found it difficult to breath through the clouds of dust.  To make matters worse, the only water station on the route was a small well at mile twelve.

1904 Marathon Route

Conditions were so bad that of the thirty-two runners, only fourteen completed the race.  As runners dropped out, the crowd back at the stadium became weary waiting for the runners to return. After three long hours, an American named Frederick Lorz appeared in the distance. In actuality, Lorz had dropped out of the race back at mile nine. After quitting, he hitched a ride for several miles. The car broke down, prompting Lorz to hop out and jog back to the stadium. When he got there, the crowd assumed he was the leader. As cheers erupted from the crowd, Lorz realized nobody in the stadium knew he had quit the race. He decided to see how far he could carry on the ruse. He ran around the stadium and crossed the finish line. Although he quickly admitted his joke, race officials were not amused. He was disqualified.

The most colorful competitor was Felix Carvajal, a poor postman from Cuba. His country wouldn’t pay for his trip to St. Louis, so he raised the money to get to St. Louis on his own. He got as far as New Orleans before losing all of his money in a craps game. He resorted to hopping boxcars and hitchhiking to get to St. Louis. Upon arrival, he endeared himself to the American weightlifters who gave him a room and food to eat. For the race, he lined up at the start wearing his street clothes.  A discus thrower found some scissors and cut his pants off at the knee to make shorts.

Felix Carvajal & Thomas Hicks

According to some sources (like Wikipedia), Carvajal was the subject of another good story. Having traveled far while not having much to eat, Carvajal became hungry during the race. He stopped at an orchard and ate a few apples which turned out to be rotten. This gave him a stomach ache which caused him to lie down and take a nap. Despite his lengthy slumber, Carvajal still finished in fourth place.

However, according to historian George R. Matthews, the story is false. In his book America’s First Olympics: The St. Louis Games of 1904, Matthews states that there is absolutely no record of Carvajal stopping to eat rotten apples and becoming ill. Matthews recounts that Carvajal had a jovial demeanor, he joked with officials and competitors, and he grabbed some peaches from a reporter, but that’s about it. Matthews pins the source of the tale to Bill Henry and his book, The Approved History of the Olympics, published in 1948. Henry wrote his book with the “approval” of Pierre de Coubertin, a man who did not see or support the St. Louis games in any way (more on that topic here). Along with the apple story, Matthews states that several St. Louis Olympic facts put forth by Henry are false.

Dirt roads in the 1904 marathon

Chaos reigned throughout the race. Leaders dropped out one by one.  One runner dropped out after having a vomiting attack.  Another collapsed with a stomach hemorrhage. Two officials suffered serious injuries when they crashed their car into a ditch. Two men named Len Tau and Jan Mashiani became the first black Africans to compete in an Olympics. They were in St. Louis as part of the South African Boer War exhibit at the World’s Fair. Len Tau ran so well that he finished ninth. He would have finished even higher if a wild dog didn’t chase him off the course for over a mile.

1904 Olympic Marathon

In the end, the final winner was American Thomas Hicks. He barely made it himself. With seven miles to go, Hicks was lagging.  To revive him, his manger gave him 1/60th of a grain of strychnine and an egg white. It helped, but Hicks became demoralized when Fred Lorz passed him on his way back to the stadium. Even when he learned Lorz had been disqualified, Hicks begged his managers to let him stop. They refused, giving him another dose of strychnine, two more egg whites, and a chaser of brandy. Poisoned and exhausted, Hicks somehow wobbled back, stumbling around the stadium while being supported by his managers. He collapsed through the finish line with a time of 3:28:53. It was the slowest Olympic marathon ever.  Hicks almost died as a result. Doctors quickly worked to revive him, declaring that he had “a very low vitality”.  Fortunately, Hicks recovered, collected his gold medal, and promptly retired from running marathons.

Thomas Hicks, winner of the 1904 Marathon
The Drink
I certainly can’t run twenty-five miles, so I decided to bike the 1904 marathon route. I took a hand-held GPS with me and tracked the route. I love to bike, but I had about as much fun as the runners did on this route back in 1904. Most of the dirt roads used for the 1904 marathon are now some of St. Louis’s busiest streets (Manchester, Ballas, Olive). It was hot, the traffic was awful, and the scenery isn’t great on those roads. I love St. Louis, but I hate Manchester Road.

1904 Olympic Marathon Route (by bike)

My drink for this post really doesn’t have anything to do with the Olympics or the marathon. Instead, I tied it to a special day of my own. For the past several years, I have been biking to work once or twice a week. It’s a short ride, only 8.5 miles, to get from my house in south city to my office in downtown St. Louis. I’ve found biking to work is a good way to see the city and a great way to start the day. Back in February of this year, I set a goal of biking to work ten days in a row. I hit the ten-day mark and decided to see if I could hit fifteen. I hit that, and decided to go for one month. As I hit each goal, I realized I was loving it. I started taking new routes, I was getting faster on the bike, and I was saving a ton of money. I’ve even lost a few pounds (I’d probably lose a few more if I didn’t enjoy my cocktail drinking so much).

Last month, I hit my latest goal of riding the bike to work 100 days in a row. To celebrate, I used the GPS to track my special route through Tower Grove Park that morning. Here’s what it looked like after I exported it to Google Earth.

Bike-a-sketch: 100 Days

On the way home that day, I stopped at Van Gohz, a bar at the corner of Shenandoah and Compton. I bike by this place each day, but I had never been inside. I needed a Manhattan on day 100, so I stopped to check it out. It didn’t result in a memorable cocktail, but I shouldn’t be overly critical the nice folks at Van Gohz. It’s obvious that it’s just not a place where great care is taken to mix a drink. I mean, the first thing you see when you walk inside is a Golden Tee machine.

I asked for Makers in the Manhattan, but I let him go to see how the drink would be made. Realizing it was a special day, I stopped him when he picked up the rocks glass. I politely asked for it to be served straight up and in a cocktail glass.  However, I didn’t catch him in time before the shake. And what a shake it was! He actually had to stop and rest during his human blender impression. Frothy Manhattan comin’ right up!

Van Gohz Manhattan

For the record, “drawing” with a GPS is not my idea. I’ve seen it somewhere on the Internet before, but it was done on foot. I thought it was a really creative idea that could be used to get a point across. A few days later, I used Tower Grove Park again to bike-a-sketch what a perfect Manhattan cocktail should look like (cherry optional).

Bike-a-sketch: Manhattan
August 3rd, 2012 by Cameron Collins

Olympic Lake, Olympic Drink

U.S. Life Saving Exhibition Lake

This is the corner of Skinker Boulevard and Wydown Boulevard on the western edge of Forest Park in St. Louis. At the World’s Fair in 1904, a large man-made lake existed on this exact location. It was called the “U.S. Life Saving Exhibition Lake”. The Coast Guard used it to stage life saving techniques during the 1904 World’s Fair. The lake was also used to host the swimming, diving, and water polo competitions during the 1904 Olympics.

In the 1904 Olympic swimming program, thirty-two participants from five countries competed. A total of nine events were held from September 4 until September 7, 1904. Only men were allowed to participate.

Unlike many events at the St. Louis Olympics, swimming was well represented internationally. It’s also one of the few sports where American athletes didn’t dominate the podium.  The Germans, led by distance swimmer Emile Rausch, won four gold medals. The Americans won three.

The 1904 games also introduced a few key innovations to Olympic swimming. It was the first time a swimming relay race was held in an Olympics. The breaststroke made its Olympic debut.  St. Louis was also the only Olympics at which swimming distances were measured in yards, not meters.

1904 New York Athletic Club Relay Team

One of the better stories from the swimming events is the brawl that broke out after the 50 yard race. A man named Zoltan Halmaj of Hungary seemed to win the event, but a U.S.  judge stepped in and declared American J. Scott Leary the winner. The argument became so heated the two teams started slugging it out.  After tempers cooled, it was decided to re-swim the race. After two false starts, Halmaj won by a full stroke.

Diving also made its Olympic debut in 1904. Two diving events were contested on September 4 and 5.  Seven divers from the United States and three divers from Germany competed.

The main event was called “Fancy Diving”. Like swimming, it wasn’t without controversy. The bronze medal was initially awarded to an American, but the Germans protested, proclaiming the German dives were “fancier”. The Americans claimed they had better entries into the water, an aspect of the sport the Germans weren’t concerned with. A dive-off for third was proposed, but the German competitor, Alfred Braunschweiger, refused to participate. The bronze medal was awarded to the American.  However, the International Olympic Committee  reviewed the protest two years later. The result was overturned and third place was declared a tie. To this day, the United States has not acknowledged the decision.

Diving at the 1904 Olympics

The other diving event was the “Plunge for Distance” competition. In this event, a diver plunged head-first into the water from a platform. Without using propulsion from the legs or arms, the distance of the dive was measured after sixty seconds, or when the diver’s head broke the surface of the water. William Dickey of the United States won the event with a dive of 62 feet 6 inches. Plunge for distance was actually a popular sport at the time, but the event made it’s only appearance at the 1904 games.

Swimming at the 1904 Olympics

The water polo competition was also held in the Life Saving Exhibition Lake. Although recognized by the International Olympic Committee, many historians believe the 1904 results should not be considered official because only American teams participated. The event was held on September 5 and 6, 1904, with the New York Athletic Club beating the Missouri Athletic Club for the gold medal. A sad footnote followed the water polo competition. The artificial lake was also used for many agricultural exhibits at the World’s Fair. Cattle from these exhibits often wandered into the lake, ultimately polluting the water. The water quality became so poor that many of the athletes became severely ill after the competition. Four water polo players died from typhus within a year.

1904 Water Polo Competition
The Drink

To go along with the Olympic theme of this post, another Olympic cocktail was served up. Here’s a recipe for “The Olympic Cocktail”, which I found on a few different mixology websites.

The Olympic Cocktail

The recipe is pretty simple.

  • 1 part Cognac (I used Courvoisier VS)
  • 1 part Orange Curacao
  • 1 part Orange Juice

Fill a mixing glass with ice cubes. Add the ingredients and stir. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass (I added the slice of orange for a bit of visual appeal).

I planned to drink a few of these while was watching the Olympics with my mother back in upstate New York. However, my hometown was still dealing with the effects of the tornado that hit the day before. Cable was back on, but it would cut out often during the day as repairs were made around the city.

We kicked back and had a couple Olympic cocktails anyway. The reviews were mixed. My sister seemed to enjoy it, but the drink is orange… VERY orange.  I generally shy away from fruity drinks, so it was a bit much for me.  My mother had one and moved right on to her standard dry martini. I went Manhattan (of course).  For any readers who’d like to try the drink, I suggest cutting back on the orange juice a bit. Put more cognac in it.

Actually, cognac is a spirit I don’t have much experience with. I know it’s a variety of brandy, but I’ve never mixed it in a cocktail. My mother had a bottle of very cheap stuff in the cupboard.  On a lark, we had taste test between that and the Courvoisier (supposedly a very good brand). We all thought the Courvoisier had a better aroma, but the cheap stuff tasted better. Add cognac to my list of things to learn more about.

In conclusion, Here’s a photograph of some of the tornado damage that hit my hometown.  I think I should count myself lucky if missing some Olympic coverage is all I can complain about.

Elmira Tornado Damage
July 28th, 2012 by Cameron Collins

Pierre de Coubertin is a Jerk

1904 Olympic Poster

St. Louis is one of the few American cities that can claim it hosted the Olympics. At the games of the III Olympiad in 1904, 651 athletes from eleven nations competed in fifteen sports. It’s a highlight of St. Louis history, but to some historians, it’s considered a low point in Olympic history.

Since moving to St. Louis, I have always heard the 1904 games of St. Louis were somewhat of a joke. I’ve even read they were considered an embarrassment to the modern Olympic movement. The prevailing opinion is that the games were overshadowed by the 1904 World’s Fair in Forest Park, which occurred at the same time. The games were poorly organized, events were spread out over several months, nobody attended, and most of the world’s best athletes didn’t bother to show up.

Drive by Washington University today and you’ll see Francis Field, the stadium that hosted many events, including track & field, gymnastics, and archery. Drive by the corner of Wydown and Skinker and you’ll see the area where the “Life Saving Exhibition Lake” existed. Used by the Coast Guard during the World’s Fair to demonstrate water safety, it also acted as the venue for swimming and diving. The sites are there, but unless you get out and really look around, you will find scant evidence of an Olympic history in St. Louis. I’ve always wondered why St. Louis doesn’t embrace its Olympic history more. And why did St. Louis fail so miserably at hosting the Olympics, but overwhelmingly succeeded at hosting a World’s Fair?

I set out to do a little research and figure out what went wrong at the St. Louis Olympics. Some of the criticisms have merit. Spreading the events out over four months did made it difficult for foreign athletes to get to St. Louis. Organizers also made a mistake in including several levels of competition. High school, college, and even YMCA events were contested, making it difficult to determine which events were considered “Olympic”. However, St. Louis was only the third Olympics held. The prior Olympics in Paris are also considered a disaster, so St. Louis had only one Olympics (1896 in Athens) to build on. Things we take for granted in today’s games, such as opening ceremonies, lighting the Olympic torch, and defined standards for Olympic sports had not yet been defined. A standard protocol for hosting the games wouldn’t be instituted for years.

Pierre de Coubertin

St. Louis actually made some significant contributions to the modern Olympic movement. It was the first Olympics to award gold, silver, and bronze medals. Boxing, freestyle wrestling, and the decathlon made their Olympic debut. It was the first Olympics in which African-Americans competed and medaled.

But the overwhelmingly negative view of the St. Louis Olympics could stem from what it did not have: A man by the name of Pierre de Coubertin.

Baron Pierre de Coubertin is considered by many to be the father of the modern Olympic Games. Largely through his efforts, the first modern Olympics were held in Athens, Greece, in 1896. Eight years later in 1904, the third Olympics were awarded to the city of Chicago. However, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, the largest World’s Fair ever staged up to that point, was scheduled to occur in St. Louis at the same time. Some key people in St. Louis, notably a man named David R. Francis, didn’t think an international sporting event held in a rival city was a good idea. He wanted to get the games transferred to St. Louis. To do this, he threatened to hold a rival athletic competition at the World’s Fair to directly compete with the Olympics. It was the perfect ploy. The world was already coming to St. Louis, so he held all the cards. The debate created quite an uproar, especially in Chicago, which had already been planning the games for over a year. Eventually, Pierre de Coubertin gave in and the games were transferred to St. Louis.

I recently read a book titled America’s First Olympics: The St. Louis Games of 1904 by George R. Matthews. In this book, I read a side of the story I finally wanted to hear. According to Matthews, Coubertin held a deep grudge for the rest of life in response to being bullied into moving the games. One of his bitter rivals in the athletic community, a man named James E. Sullivan, was named one of the major organizers of the St. Louis games. These facts led Coubertin to become completely uninvolved with the St. Louis Olympics months before they started. He did not attend, nor did he offer any input as to how the games should be run. Later in life, he tried to pass off the decision by claiming President Theodore Roosevelt stepped in and insisted the games be relocated St. Louis. However, George Matthews asserts there is absolutely no evidence to support Coubertain’s claim.

1904 Olympics - Francis Field

In his book, Matthews claims the St. Louis Olympics should actually be viewed as a success. Newspaper accounts from around the country portray the St. Louis Olympics as being well-organized, competitive, and entertaining. The events were well attended. St. Louis built state of the art facilities for the time. At the conclusion of the games, Pierre de Coubertin even wrote a letter of congratulations to David Francis for hosting a successful Olympic games.

Big crowds at Francis Field

The St. Louis Olympics did have its low moments. Since it was difficult to travel to the middle of North America at the time, the overwhelming number of athletes were from the United States. Many events, such as water polo, are not officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee today because only American teams competed. Coubertin harshly criticized the “World Anthropological Days”, in which indigenous peoples competed in sporting events as a source of entertainment. Although not part of the Olympic program, hosting the events in conjunction with the Olympics conveys the racist attitudes of the time . The marathon, although probably considered a debacle, is perhaps one of the most comical events in Olympic history (click here to read more about that crazy day).

1904 St. Louis Olympics

It is a fact that St. Louis was soon overshadowed by games held in subsequent Olympiads. London in 1908 and Stockholm in 1912 were much bigger and benefited from learning the mistakes made in previous Olympics. But according to George Matthews, the real damage to the memory of the St. Louis Olympics started in 1931. This is when Pierre de Coubertin published his memoirs. In this book, Coubertin paints the St. Louis Olympics a being complete failure.

Tug of War in the 1904 Olympics

Coubertin’s book was the first written account of the St. Louis Olympics. In it, he trashes an Olympics he never set eyes on. Coubertin attacks on several fronts. First, he voices a displeasure for the city of St. Louis (which he visited only once in 1893). Second, he states that he was forced by Roosevelt to transfer the games (again, there is no evidence to support this claim). Finally, he claims the Olympics were merely an appendage to the World’s Fair. By 1931, anyone of note who could counter his claims (such as Theodore Roosevelt) had passed away.

Further damage to the memory of the St. Louis Olympics was done in 1948 when a man named Bill Henry published The Approved History of the Olympic Games. Henry’s assessment of the St. Louis Olympics is even harsher. He calls the them an “embarrassment” and questions if any event contested in St. Louis should be considered Olympic. He argues that world-class athletes purposely skipped the games and that most of America had no idea the Olympics were even happening in St. Louis. Matthews adroitly counters these claims sufficiently in his book. Henry also completely fabricated events such as Theodore Roosevelt’s daughter Alice placing a wreath on the marathon winner’s brow. In fact, Alice Roosevelt wasn’t even in St. Louis on the day the marathon was contested. In fact, the word “Approved” in the title of Henry’s book means just that. Along with offering assistance with Henry’s research, Pierre de Coubertin had had given his approval of the manuscript shortly before his death.

Obviously, Matthews is just one voice in this small debate. However, after reading his book, It’s impossible to not have a greater appreciation for the St. Louis Olympics. Although Coubertin is certainly an important figure in Olympic history, I believe it’s likely he was a man who took credit for what worked and avoided blame for what didn’t. Unfortunately, many historians continue to follow his lead. Renowned Olympic historian David Wallechinsky claims in his Complete Book of the Olympics 2012 that the poor organization in St. Louis nearly ended the modern Olympic movement. I’ll have to keep up the research on this question. There’s more to this story.

The Drink

Pimm's CupBy the length of this post, a reader can likely determine I’m a big fan of the Olympics. I am happy to say I’m one of the few that can claim to have been in Lake Placid at the moment the USA beat the USSR in hockey in 1980. Sounds great, but I was actually only nine years old at the time. I was stuffed inside a pillowy snowsuit and forced to waddle around downtown Lake Placid like Ralphie’s little brother in A Christmas Story. In all honesty, the noise and drunk crowds at the moment of celebration scared the living shit out of me. As a result, I perfectly remember pissing my snowsuit when Lake Placid erupted in celebration. Still, the experience was so unique that I’ve been an Olympic fan ever since.

What better drink to celebrate the Olympics, particularly the start of the London 2012 Olympics, than the overwhelmingly English quaff Pimm’s. I’ve always wanted to find a good recipe for it’s most popular product line, Pimm’s No. 1.

Pimm’s is a gin-based liqueur containing quinine and a mixture of herbs. It was created by a man named James Pimm, the owner of an oyster bar in London. In 1823, he created and offered a digestif named “Pimm’s Cup”. It soon became very popular among visitors to his bar. Large scale production of Pimm’s started in 1851 and then commercially in 1859. After being relatively unknown in the United States through the 20th century, it’s popularity has significantly increased in recent years. In England, it remains overwhelmingly popular. Along with champagne, it is one of the two signature drinks at Wimbledon.

Pimm’s is most commonly served as a fruit cup. It’s usually mixed with lemon juice or ginger ale. Fresh ingredients, such as cucumber, lemon, strawberry, and mint are commonly mixed in to add to the spicy flavor of the liqueur. It has a low-alcohol content (50 proof), so it’s perfect for drinking a few glasses while watching several hours of London 2012 Olympic coverage.

I found this recipe in Bon Apetit magazine and set out to make it myself and drink it through London’s opening ceremonies.

Bon Apetit Pimm's Cup Recipe
Pimm's Cup

I had a bit of fun finding the ingredients for this drink. My hometown of Elmira, New York, where I am on vacation, isn’t exactly a shopper’s paradise. I had no luck finding ginger beer, so I went with a premium ginger ale. I also have to admit I had no idea what a rhubarb looks like. For some reason, I expected it to look like kale. I can only hope my culinary skills improve as my mixology skills do. A great treat was my mother’s herb garden, which provided the fresh rosemary, thyme, and mint.

(Update: After reading this post, my friend Gina pointed out that I shouldn’t say “a rhubarb”. I should say “rhubarb”.  It’s written or spoken as “a stalk of rhubarb”, not as a singular item like “a carrot”.  I’m obviously very ignorant about rhubarbs… or stalks of rhubarbs… or whatever.)

Unfortunately, my Pimm’s drinking did not coincide with any Olympic viewing. A rare tornado hit my hometown the night before the Olympics started. Trees were knocked down and uprooted all over the city. Cable and air signals were both knocked out, so we drank our Pimm’s (and later a couple Manhattan cocktails, of course) in front of a black tv screen. There’s nothing better than a bit of alcohol during an outage.

I found the drink very refreshing! It’s very crisp, spicy, and fruity. With the muddled cucumber, I think I’ll someday tinker with the recipe a bit. I love gin (and Pimm’s is gin based), so perhaps a bit of Hendrick’s can add to the flavor. It will be good to drink when I get back to the 100 degree weather in St. Louis.

July 10th, 2012 by Cameron Collins

The Social Evil Hospital

Note: This was originally a Facebook history fact that I posted in April 2012. I wasn’t writing this blog at the time, so I went back to get some more information and images to expand on the original post. I also found a good place to get a drink.

Social Evil Hospital

On July 5, 1870, the city of St. Louis passed an extraordinary new ordinance. Commonly referred to at the time as the “Social Evil Law”, it made prostitution a legal activity in the city of St. Louis. As long as the practice occurred in a licensed establishment (brothel) staffed with licensed employees (hookers), you could score a trick in Mound City without any threat of legal repercussion. Imagine that for a moment. From 1870 until the law was repealed four years later, a brothel in St. Louis was a legitimate business enterprise. Modeled after similar legislation in Europe, St. Louis was the first American city to attempt such a groundbreaking experiment.

“If the evil cannot be suppressed,” opined the Missouri Republic, “the wisest course is to regulate it with proper bounds.” The majority of the all-male (of course) St. Louis city council shared this opinion. They believed that legalizing prostitution would contain illicit behavior and prevent the spread of venereal disease among the population.

Along with the new ordinance, the “Social Evil Hospital” was constructed in 1873. Located at the corner of Arsenal and Sublette, the hospital was built across the street from the Insane Asylum on the western edge of the city. Under provisions of the new law, all prostitutes and brothels had to register with the Board of Health and pay a monthly fee. The money from these fees was used to construct the hospital, maintain the facility, and pay the salaries of its employees. A companion “House of Industry” was built next door where reformers attempted to “save” the women and teach them skills needed in more respectable lines of work.

Here’s the Social Evil Hospital depicted on Plate 95 of Compton & Dry’s Pictorial St. Louis. The Insane Asylum, which still stands today, is located across the street.

Compton & Dry - Plate 95

All registered prostitutes were also required to get a weekly medical examination. If they passed, they were given a licensed certificate to work. If they failed, they were expected to report to the Social Evil Hospital within twenty-four hours for treatment.  It was likely not a very pleasant experience. Bunked several to a room, patients were kept under guard and forbidden to leave unless discharged by a physician. While there, they had to endure the condescending attitude of reformers attempting to change their lifestyle.  In the first year of hospital operation, several escape attempts were reported.

Social Evils

At first, the law had significant support. Over 800 prostitutes registered in the first three months. However, many found the strict regulations far less appealing than the back alley methods they were accustomed to. Many vigorously objected to the high fees and forced medical inspections. As for reform, few prostitutes showed any inclination to attempt a more “respectable line of work”. The House of Industry closed shortly after it opened. Within a year, many prostitutes simply refused to pay the fee and went back to plying their trade under their own rules.

Opposition to the new law started to grow from community leaders. William Greenleaf Eliot (T.S. Eliot’s grandfather) argued the law discriminated against women since male prostitutes were not required to register. Others started petitions for equal rights for women instead of simply giving them the freedom to sell their bodies.

Supporters continued to insist the law was working. The chief of police argued that the city’s prostitutes exhibited better behavior and the sex trade had been removed from the public eye. In fact, prostitution was a big business that brought revenue to the city. One of the largest brothels paid an estimated $2,500 a month in fees (nearly $30,000 today).

By 1874, The number of registered prostitutes had plummeted.  Corruption also invaded the system. In one example, a prostitute presented a medical certificate that had been dated three weeks in advance.  Despite continued support from local politicians insisting the law worked, the city council voted to repeal the ordinance in April 1874.

Josephine Baker

The Social Evil Hospital continued treating women and children for a few years under a new name, the Female Hospital.  It operated for several years until patients were moved to the City Hospital near downtown. The building was razed in 1915.

However, the Female Hospital does hold an interesting footnote. On June 3, 1906, an African-American washerwoman named Carrie McDonald gave birth to a baby girl she named Freda Josephine.  That young girl would grow up to become the famous dancer and political activist Josephine Baker.

The land where the Social Evil Hospital once stood is now called “Sublette Park”. It’s an attractive park with several tennis courts located in the Southwest Garden neighborhood of St. Louis. It’s named after William Sublette, a prominent early St. Louisan who had a successful career as a fur trader. Sublette owned a large estate named “Sulphur Springs” just north of where this park stands today. William Sublette died July 23, 1845 and is buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery in north St. Louis.

Sublette’s business partner for many years was Robert Campbell, owner of the home where I volunteer as a docent.  Sublette’s land is now occupied by a Holiday Inn, but Campbell’s beautifully restored home still sits in downtown St. Louis (and this is a shameless plug, I know).

Sublette Park Today

Note: There’s a great deal of information out there about St. Louis’s experiment with legalized prostitution. A definitive source is an article titled “Regulating Vice:  Prostitution and the St. Louis Social Evil Ordinance, 1870-1874” by Duane Sneddeker.

The Drink

To serious cocktail drinkers, the drink destination of this post may come as a bit of a surprise. Located not too far from Sublette Park is a well-known south St. Louis restaurant named Biggies. It’s a regular family place with a big menu and all sorts of St. Louis memorabilia on the walls. Since it’s close to my house, I’ve eaten there often. And believe it or not, Biggies serves a good Manhattan.

Biggies Manhattan

There are two reasons I love drinking Manhattans at Biggies. First, the bartenders are always extremely friendly. You always get a big smile and a friendly hello.

Second, special instructions to get a perfect Manhattan are never needed (at least in my experience). Order the drink and you get it how it should be made: Up, stirred, and served in a fancy cocktail glass. It comes with one cherry and a small splash of maraschino syrup.

Keep in mind that a “perfect” Manhattan specifies a specific recipe for the drink. It’s served with a 1:1 ratio of whiskey and sweet vermouth. This is how my father liked his Manhattan and it’s the recipe I was first exposed to.

These days, I normally use rye whiskey with a 2:1 ratio, but the perfect Manhattan brings back good memories. It reminds me of my good ol’ Dad who died back in 2008.

It makes me happy to drink it as he did.

Update November 2015: A kind reader informed me that I had incorrectly placed Sublette Park in the Hill neighborhood. In fact, it’s in the Southwest Garden neighborhood. 

June 14th, 2012 by Cameron Collins

Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda

Note: This is one of the original “Facebook posts” from June 2012. This was one of the early “history finds” that were posted on Facebook. These posts eventually led to this creation of this blog. I hope to expand on these posts in the near future with more information, more pictures, and of course… a drink.

This is the parking lot of Purina Corporation located near the Tucker and Chouteau intersection just south of downtown St. Louis. Back in 1929, 11th Street extended into this parcel of land and a bottling company was once located here. From that building, a new carbonated beverage named the “Bib-Lable Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda” was launched in 1929 by a man named Charles Leiper Grigg and his company, the “Howdy Corporation”. It was quickly realized that the name was far too long, so it was shortened to “7 Up Lithiated Lemon-Lime”, and then quickly changed to just plain “7up”. Originally, 7up contained lithium citrate, a mood-stabilizing drug, and a supposed cure for hangovers at the time (I gotta look into that). Lithium citrate was removed from the formula in 1948. After initial success, Grigg changed the name of his company from “Howdy” to “The Seven Up Corporation” and built it’s headquarters on Delmar Boulevard. In 1988, Seven Up merged with Dr. Pepper and is now headquartered in Dallas, Texas.

7up Bottling Location

Eventually, 7up Corporation moved their headquarters to this building that still exists on Convention Center Plaza, just west of the Edwards Jones Dome.

Former 7up Headquarters

May 21st, 2012 by Cameron Collins

The State & Indian Streets of South St. Louis

Note: This is combination of two “Facebook posts” from May, 2012. These were early “history finds” that were posted on Facebook and eventually led to this creation of this blog. I have plans to expand on all of the original “Facebook” history finds in the near future. I’ll add more pictures, history, and a bit of drinking.

The idea behind this post and many of the facts in it came from the book “Hoosiers and Scrubby Dutch: St. Louis’s South Side” by Jim Merkel. It’s a fun book that contains a ton of great stories about St. Louis.

In the early days of St. Louis, much of the land west of the city was set off as common fields, communal land used for farming and grazing. In the mid 1830’s, city leaders moved towards selling this land to create streets and blocks for a growing city. Drive around south city and you’ll quickly see the street naming plan: the north-south streets are named for states, while the east-west streets are named after Indians or Indian tribes.

There are thirty-two streets with state names, and there’s no order to them. Pennsylvania runs next to Minnesota and Ohio runs near Oregon (which was still a territory at the time). When I first moved to St. Louis, I was told by several people “Whatever you do, don’t live on a street named after a state”. Unfortunately, this advice holds true for some of the state streets, but I’d gladly swap houses with someone who lives on Mississippi or Nebraska. My best friend lives on Connecticut (which by the way, is named after an insurance company, not the state).

St. Louis State Streets

While the “State streets” run north and south in St. Louis, the “Indian streets” run east and west. Just like the state streets, there’s no order or pattern to their placement. Many streets are named after tribes (Dakota, Osage, Winnebago, Cherokee, Chippewa), and some are named after Indian leaders (Keokuk and Osceola). Some street names seem to be named after states, but are actually Indian names. Utah is named after the Ute or Utah Indians, not the state of Utah. Wyoming Street is named after the Indian word for “land largely the big plain”.

St. Louis Indian Streets

April 23rd, 2012 by Cameron Collins

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Note: This is one of the original “Facebook posts” from April, 2012. This was one of the early “history finds” that were posted on Facebook and eventually led to this creation of this blog. I have plans to expand on all of the original “Facebook” history finds in the near future. I’ll add more pictures, history, and a bit of drinking.

Baseball fans should like this bit of St. Louis history. This is 1909 LaSalle Street in the Lafayette Square neighborhood of St. Louis. At the age of eight, Harry Caray moved into this house to live with his Aunt Doxie after his mother died. Caray would grow up to become one of the most famous baseball announcers of all time, working for the Cardinals, the A’s, the White Sox, and most notably, the Chicago Cubs. Along with his trademark glasses, Caray made the tradition of singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch famous. Lafayette Square is now a premier neighborhood in St. Louis, but at the time Caray lived there, it was a very tough part of town. Caray died in 1998 and is buried in Des Plaines, Illinois.

Harry Caray's Home

April 19th, 2012 by Cameron Collins

Dewey Defeats Truman

Note: This is one of the original “Facebook posts” from April, 2012. This was one of the early “history finds” that were posted on Facebook and eventually led to this creation of this blog. I have plans to expand on all of the original “Facebook” history finds in the near future. I’ll add more pictures, history, and a bit of drinking.

One of the most iconic photographs of the 20th century was taken at Union Station in downtown St. Louis. On November 3, 1948, Harry Truman was headed to his hometown of Independence, Missouri the day after his stunning upset of Thomas Dewey in the 1948 presidential election. On a stop in St. Louis, a reporter handed Truman a copy of the Chicago Tribune that erroneously declared Dewey the winner of the election (the paper’s Washington correspondent had told the paper’s editors on election night it was a safe bet that Dewey would win). Truman famously held the paper up and smiled for the cameras.

Dewey Defeats Truman
April 12th, 2012 by Cameron Collins

Blondie, Dagwood, & Chic

Note: This is one of the original “Facebook posts” from April 2012. This was one of my early “history finds” that were posted on Facebook. These early posts eventually led to the creation of this blog. I plan to add more information, more pictures, and a drink story in the near future. 

This is 2148 Oregon Avenue in south St. Louis. Murrat Bernard Young, better known as Chic Young, grew up in this house in the early 1900’s. After graduating from McKinley High School, Young left St. Louis and started drawing comic strips for newspapers in Cleveland and New York. On September 8, 1930, his strip “Blondie” debuted and quickly became the most popular comic strip in America. At its height, Young had a daily readership of 52 million and received more fan mail than any cartoonist in the country. Young died in 1973 at the age of 72. Today, Blondie and Dagwood live on in over 2,300 newspapers all around the world. The strip is now written by Young’s son Dean and illustrated by John Marshall.

Chic Young's Home

April 10th, 2012 by Cameron Collins

The Magic Chef Mansion

Note: This is one of the original “Facebook posts” from April 2012. This was one of my early “history finds” that were posted on Facebook. These early posts eventually led to the creation of this blog. I plan to add more information, more pictures, and a drink story in the near future.

This is 3400 Russell Avenue, located just across from Compton Reservoir in St. Louis. This house was originally built and owned by Charles A. Stockstrom, a man who would become fabulously wealthy by making kitchen stoves. Stockstrom founded the American Stove Company in 1901. In 1914, American Stove introduced the first oven temperature control device. The company became so successful worldwide that it changed its name in 1929 to “Magic Chef” after the company’s flagship product (a Magic Chef is what sits in my kitchen right now). The “Magic Chef Mansion”, as it is now called, was completed in 1908 and remained in the Stockstrom family until 1990. The current owners have restored the house to its turn-of-the century elegance with original fixtures and period furnishings. Although a private residence, it can be rented for weddings, receptions, and other events.

The Magic Chef Mansion

%d bloggers like this: