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A Walk in the Park: 1900

A Walk in the Park: 1900

Chicago circa 1900. "A walk in Lincoln Park." We spy a hazard for any tots inclined to run behind park benches. 8x10 glass negative. View full size.


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Pickpockets and Purse Snatchers

In Chicago and everywhere at this time, pickpockets were rampant at any public gathering. Jane Addams, a famous and wealthy woman who worked with the poor at the time, had her purse snatched at the opening ceremonies for the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893! The cop is there to see that they aren't working the park on a fine day when many people are out and about.

A Walk in the Park: 2011

The spot was easy to find, because, as lesle points points out here in comments, the South Pond bridge is visible at the vanishing point.

Chicago, August 28, 2011


That's obviously Alfred Nobel on the bench.

And the cop is keeping an eye on him to make sure he doesn't blow something up.

Re: Kids those days

I could see myself running through that park; getting myself caught on one of those wires, and falling down. Here's the learning process I would have gone through, after my experience:

1. Fall down and start crying.
2. Mother picks me up and dusts me off.
3. Mother then promptly slaps the back of my head, and also my butt, and says "Next time, watch where you're going."

And thus we would have reached the conclusion of the learning process.

Busy Knitter

She's knitting! The younger woman in the foreground at left -- those hands are busy working on a sock or a baby bonnet. Something small. After enlarging the photo and poking around a bit, I almost forgot about her. Then I returned to Our Fair Knitter, looking for the yarn. There it is, trailing down to the ground. Hmm. Getting a bit soiled? From her relaxed and yet focused posture, she's an experienced knitter and unconcerned about Grandma's stern demeanor.

To Protect and Serve

I think the cop is protecting the bearded old guy from further assaults (physical or verbal) from the battleaxe across the walkway.

Windy City

Chicago being called the windy city had nothing to do with the weather but rather the blow hard politicians and their bragging about how great the city was. Funny how little that has changed.

Bench ties.

I doubt people back then even thought about stealing these benches. First, they are heavy, and second, you just didn't do those kind of things back then. You were actually shamed and ridiculed for being thief. It wasn't just a career choice like today.

My guess is the wires are there to keep the benches in order.

Lastly, something tells me the photographer isn't much appreciated by the crowd at hand, And it looks like officer O'Brian is about to see what's going on here.

[A check of most any big-city newspaper circa 1900 will confirm that there was plenty of thievery around the turn of the century. - Dave]

Windy city

Since Chicago is the windy city, is it possible that the cables are there to keep the benches from blowing away from a strong gust. With the cable it was easy maybe to remove the benches in the wintertime during heavy snows.

Joe from LI, NY

The hat on the left

I think it's growing!


What first appears to be smaller trees or bushes actually seems to be some sort of planter. I'd love to see that in color! Looks almost like the main part of the planter is a piece of tree trunk? odd.

The sprinkler does not appear to be bothering the officer or man on the right.

That Policeman

... will give you a conk on your noggin with his billy club if you even think of disrespecting his attire with a chuckle.

Park Dangers

Hazard? If I were a tot, the risk of decapitation from obstacles might well seem less of a hazard than the lantern-jawed matriarch guarding the left and the cop with tickets already in hand guarding the right of the path. It is pretty clear than romping and frolicking are not on the approved activities list in that park!

Bench Security

Perhaps, to keep the benches there, and allow freedom of movement to where the shade resides. I would love to step right into this scene.

Tethering Clearly

It appears that the benches are tethered to prevent moving them. Four men might easily move a bench to visit or whatever, then the City workers would be stuck moving them back in the morning.

Keep Off the Grass

Perhaps the cables were intended to prevent people from walking on the grass if the path was crowded?

Pre WiFi

Clearly what we have here is Lincoln Park before wifi. The cables are obviously tapping in to the local network and allowing for connection via the benches. You can see by the blur that the young lady on the left must be updating her Facebook account - you can even see her data cable, which must plug in to the bench, by her leg.

A Bridge Too Far

Looks like this bridge at the far end of concourse.

The art of subtlety

Gee, do you thinl anyone noticed the guy taking pictures? Is there a law against it? More importantly, who will attack first, the officer or the lady? Nobody looks happy to be posing.

Guys didn't have a chance

What an amazing photograph -- so much here. Interesting that each young girl has a chaperone (mom perhaps) sitting beside her, and a policeman as well (what an amazing uniform). Love the previously mentioned wires running to the trees. And the sprinkler, obviously buried pipes.


I love those makeshift planters in between each tree. Wish I could see it in color.

Yes, the elder woman on the left does bear a strong resemblance to Large Marge from Pee Wee's Big Adventure!

There is a slight optical illusion, at least to my feeble mind. Look at the 3rd bench down on the left. At first glance, I thought the little girl was standing on it. But I see now she's way back behind the 4th.

I Spy

with my little eye (between the closest ladies & tree on the left, in the distance) either a stroller or cart half-hidden by a tree; and beyond that, a hammock?

Only a hazard the first time

Once you've been clotheslined, you never forget it.

Local rule -

Women sat on one side of the path and men on the other and the policeman to keep them all in order or is he watching for the pesky bench thieves?

Good thing there's a policeman nearby

So, do you think the cables are there to prevent bench theft or to ensure that there is only one bench every 20 feet and everything stays neat and orderly?

No missing trees

Fastening the trees to the park benches is clearly an effort to keep people from walking away with the shade trees. And it appears to have worked.

Home Alone

Looks like the only one enjoying that mister is Macaulay Culkin's scary-but-nice neighbor.

Bench tethers

Clearly an attempt to thwart the evil bench thieves.

Dive! Dive!

Aoooogah ... Ahooogha. Battleaxe sighted on port side!

I Spy Too

Okay, I see the hazard for tots lurking behind each bench. What I don't see is the point of tethering each bench to a tree. Was there a clandestine market for stolen park benches in 1900?


A hazard indeed. I wonder if that was considered simpler then putting bolts through the legs into the pathway. A set of circa 1900 wire cutters and you own a new bench.

Benches and branches

Does the bench hold up the tree or does the tree keep the bench from being moved? Neither one sounds plausible.

Kids those days

Back then, you looked where you were running.

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