Social Evil In Chicago


Vice Commission of the City of Chicago


On January 31st, 1910, a meeting was held at the Central Y. M. C. A. Building, Chicago, by the Church Federation composed of Clergy representing six hundred congregations in Chicago. The topic for discussion was the Social Evil Problem in Chicago, and Dean Sumner was invited to read a paper on the subject. At its conclusion he presented the following resolution:

"Resolved, that the Mayor of the City of Chicago be asked to appoint a Commission made up of men and women who command the respect and confidence of the public at large, this Commission to investigate thoroughly the conditions as they exist. With this knowledge obtained, let it map out such a course, as in its judgment, will bring about some relief from the frightful conditions which surround us. Taking this report as a basis, let us enlist the support of every civic, protective, philanthropic, social, commercial and religious body in the city to carry out the plans suggested. If the present administration feels that it cannot subscribe to such a plan, make the report the basis of a pledge from the political parties at the next election and make it the basis for an election issue. But first get the plan. The city press will be back of any sane movement to improve present conditions. The Church certainly is. Social settlements have been agitating and endeavoring to reach some decision. The general public is in a mood to listen to such conclusions as such a Commission would reach."

This resolution was unanimously adopted and a committee from the Federation of Churches was appointed to call upon the Mayor, and present it to him for his consideration. This committee was composed of the following named gentlemen:

Prof. Herbert L. Willett, University of Chicago;

Rev. J. A. Vance, Pastor of the Hyde Park Presbyterian Church;

Rev. Smith T. Ford, Pastor of the Englewood Baptist Church, and President of the Church Federation Council;

Rev. Frank D. Burhans, Pastor of the Washington Park Congregational Church, and Vice-President of the Church Federation Council.

Prof. Benjamin L. Hobson, Secretary of The McCormick Theological Seminary.

As a result of a conference with this Committee, the Mayor, through

(2) his Secretary, transmitted the following letter to Dean Walter T. Sumner, under date of March 5, 1910:


I am directed by the Mayor to say that he has appointed you a member and temporary chairman of the so-called Vice Commission which he has been asked to appoint, and with the purpose of which you are, of course, familiar. As Chairman of said Commission it will be incumbent upon you, of course, to issue the call for the first meeting of said Committee.

The members are as follows :

Baum, Dr. W. L., Chicago Medical Society ;

Blaustein, David, Superintendent, Chicago Hebrew Institute;

Callaghan, Rev. James F., Pastor, Saint Malachy's Roman Catholic Church;

Dwyer, Dr. Anna, President, Mary Thompson Hospital;

Evans, Dr. W. A., Health Commissioner ;

Evers, Rev. Albert, Pastor, Saint Boniface's Roman Catholic Church ;

Gunsaulus, Dr. Frank W., President, Armour Institute;

Hallam, W. W., Corresponding Secretary, Chicago Society of Social Hygiene;

Harris, Dr. Abram W., President, Northwestern University;

Healy, Dr. William, President, Psychopathic Institute;

Hyde, Dr. James M., Professor, Rush Medical College;

Henrotin, Mrs. Ellen M., Federation of Women's Clubs;

Hirschberg, Rev. Abram, Rabbi, North Chicago Hebrew Congregation;

Kelly, Rev. E. A., Pastor, Saint Anne's Roman Catholic Church;

Kircher, Rev. John G., Pastor, German Evangelical Church;

Kohtz, Louis O., Agent, Aetna Fire Insurance Company;

O'Keeffe, P. J., Lawyer.

Olson, Judge Harry, Chief Justice, Municipal Courts;

Pinckney, Judge Merritt W., Judge, Juvenile Court ;

Robertson, Alexander, Vice-President, Continental National Bank;

Rosenwald, Julius, President, Sears, Roebuck & Company;

Schmidt, Dr. Louis E., Professor, Northwestern Medical College;

Shaffer, Bishop C. T., African Methodist Episcopal Church;

Sims, Edwin W., United States District Attorney;

Skinner, Edward M., Association of Commerce;

Sumner, The Very Reverend Walter T., Dean, Episcopal Cathedral SS Peter and Paul ;

Taylor, Professor Graham, President, Chicago Commons;

Thomas, Professor William I., University of Chicago;

Willett, Professor Herbert L., University of Chicago;

Whitman, John L., Superintendent, House of Correction.

I also enclose a copy of the statement sent by Mayor Busse to the press in connection with appointment of the Commission.

Yours very truly,

BERNARD J. MULLANEY, Secretary to the Mayor.



A short time ago I received a communication from representatives of the Federated Protestant Churches, calling my attention to vice in Chicago, and requesting that a Commission be appointed to study the subject, with a view to determining a plan of control as well as considering the moral and physical harm which results from vice.

These are the most perplexing questions with which modern civilization is confronted. Since Chicago has been a city, we have drifted as regards this question. In this we have not differed from other American cities.

I think we can fairly assume that our vice problem is exactly like that of any American city. To exploit publicly the details of it, can serve no useful end and such exploitation is not the purpose of this commission proposition. On the other hand exploitation may do much harm by leading the uninformed to believe that conditions exist here which are of recent origin or which are worse than exist in other American cities.

As a matter of fact, the conditions incident to the vice problem in Chicago,—a problem as old as the city itself—are better than they have ever been within present day memory. This I think will be conceded by all who are fully acquainted with the facts. But we all want still better conditions if they can be had.

Many years ago, the authorities of the city attempted to localize vice in certain districts of the city. From time to time, property holders and heads of families have objected to their neighbors, thereupon these establishments have been widely scattered over town. The various neighborhoods into which they have moved have speedily secured enough of influence to drive them back into the neighborhoods from which they have been driven.

Executives have acted, in doing this, with the best of motives and often times with the advice of Ministers of the Gospel, and other men of character. The only criticism that can be offered is that none of these moves was based on careful investigation and far-seeing planning. Our statute books—State and Municipal—are crowded with laws on the subject. Quite generally such laws have been ignored, since every one knew that they were not based on careful thought, either by trained students or investigators, or men closely in touch with the situation; rather have they grown out of temporary outbursts of sentiment.

I was informed that Detroit, Michigan, and New York City have experimented along certain lines. Many European cities have tried certain plans. The Japanese government has proceeded along certain lines. Investigation will probably discover many other attempts at a solution of these questions.

We can as a basis agree, I believe, that the practices as to vice in Chicago have been of long continuance; and that in this respect

(4) we are no better and no worse than other American or European cities. These conditions are with us. To pretend that they do not exist is hypocrisy, far-reaching in its harmful effects.

These premises being accepted, we find there are many questions springing from them to which thinking men and women, careful students of society and government, are giving deepest thought. Such questions are:

Should the existence of the "social evil" and of the men and women connected with it, be ignored?

Should vice be segregated? If so, what would be the method of maintaining control of segregation districts?

What is the best method of controlling, as to communicable disease, those who make practice of vice their trade, and preventing spread of disease amongst innocent men, women and children as well as among practitioners of vice?

What treatment of vice as a disease of society is best as a protection against crimes other than vice?

What treatment of vice as a disease of society, is best for all concerned?

I am sure that we have men and women amongst us who can help us in finding a slow and partial solution for these questions, pending perfection in the men and women who make up society. We will welcome such help. I am sure that all over the world governments will welcome the results of these deliberations: I therefore respectfully appoint the following as a commission on the problems of vice, requesting them to deliberate on the question and to present the results of their deliberations for the consideration of this community and the guidance of those charged with administration of the municipal government."

On March 14, 1910, the Mayor appointed Bishop C. T. Shaffer, of the African M. E. Church, as a member of the Commission.


During the regular meeting of the Commission on March 15, 1910, held in the Public Library Building, the temporary officers, Chairman, Dean Walter T. Sumner, Secretary, Edwin W. Sims, were made permanent officers of the Commission.

At this meeting the following resolution was submitted:

    "RESOLVED, That there be an Executive Committee, consisting of nine members, seven of whom shall be appointed by the Chairman of the Commission, the Chairman and the Secretary to be ex-officio members of the Executive Committee;

    "That it shall be the duty of the Executive Committee to arrange a program of study and investigation, divide the Commission into committees, assign to each committee the subject to be in-

(5)     vestigated by it, and from time to time consider and make recommendations as to the methods and disposition of the work of the Commission."

This resolution was unanimously adopted.

Subsequently the Chairman appointed the members of the Executive Committee. This committee appointed the following sub-committees :

Committee on Existing Conditions in Chicago.

Committee on Social Evil and Saloon.

Committee on Social Evil and Police.

Committee on Sources of Supply.

Committee on Social Evil and Crime.

Committee on Child Protection and Education.

Committee on Rescue and Reform.

Committee on Literature and Methods.

Committee on Medical Questions.

Committee on Law and Legislation.

At the regular meeting of the Commission on May 5, 1910, a motion prevailed that the permanent name of the Commission should be the "Vice Commission."

A committee was appointed to appear before the Committee on Finance of the City Council on May 6, 1910, and request that an appropriation be made for the work of the Vice Commission.

At the regular meeting of the City Council on Monday, June 27, 1910, Alderman Foell moved to proceed to the consideration of the report of the Committee on Finance concerning an appropriation for the expenses of the "Vice Commission," deferred and published May 9, 1910, page 143.

The motion prevailed.

Alderman Foell presented an ordinance creating a Commission of the City Government to be known as the "Vice Commission," and appropriating the sum of $5,000.00 for the expenses of the said Commission during the year 1910.

Alderman Foell moved to substitute the said ordinance for the

ordinance recommended in the report.

The motion prevailed and the said substitute ordinance was passed by yeas and nays as follows:

Yeas—Kenna, Coughlin, Shufelt, Foreman, Pringle, Dailey, Richert, Sheahan, Long, Parker, Merriam, Emerson, Derpa, Egan, Fick, Scully, Vavricek, Cullerton, Danisch, Zimmer, Fulton, Buckley, Lawley, Lucas, Utpatel, Beilfuss, Kunz, Koraleski, Sitts, Dever,

(8)  Healy, Powers, Bowler, Stewart, Murray, Taylor, Foell, Bauler, Clettenberg, Britten, Haderlein, Dunn, Thomson, Lipps, Rein-berg, Capp, Wilson, Littler, Twigg, Mueller, McDermott, McInerney, Mahoney, Kearns, Bergen, Fisher, Rea, Reading, Block, Donahoe, Clark, Forsberg-62.


The following is the said ordinance as passed:


Be it ordained by the City Council of the City of Chicago:

SECTION 1. That there is hereby created a commission of the city government to be known as the "Vice Commission," which shall consist of thirty members to be appointed by the Mayor.

SECTION 2. The Mayor shall appoint a chairman of the Commission from among its members. The chairman of the Commission shall call meetings of the Commission whenever he may see fit and whenever he shall be requested, in writing, so to do by any five members of the Commission.

SECTION 3. It shall be the duty of the Vice Commission and the members thereof to inquire into conditions existing within the limits of the city with reference to vice of various forms including all practices which are physically and morally debasing and degrading, and which affect the moral and physical welfare of the inhabitants of the city.

The Commission shall from time to time transmit to the Mayor and the City Council, a written report of existing conditions, as it may find them, respecting vice, with such recommendations as it shall deem advisable for the suppression thereof.

SECTION 4. That there be and is hereby appropriated from miscellaneous receipts for the year 1910 the sum of five thousand dollars ($5,000.00) for the payment of the necessary expenses of the Vice Commission to be paid out by the Comptroller upon the written order of the chairman of the Commission.

SECTION 5. This ordinance shall be in full force and effect from and after its passage.

At the regular meeting of the Vice Commission on June 28, 1910, it was 'reported that the Finance Committee of the City Council favored granting the Vice Commission funds, the question had arisen, however, as to the legality of such action by the City Council with respect to the Commission as then constituted, the Corporation Counsel expressed the opinion that there must be, in order to make such action lawful, the appointment of the Commission by the Mayor must be approved by the City Council; that he understood the objectionable points had been overcome and the funds should be voted by the City Council

at their next meeting.

(7)At the regular meeting of the City Council on Tuesday, May 5, 1910,     the following communication was read :


CHICAGO, July 5, 1910.

To the Honorable, the City Council:

GENTLEMEN: In accordance with the power vested in me by an ordinance of your Honorable Body, passed June 27, 1910 (page 942 of the Proceedings), I hereby appoint the following gentlemen members of the commission, to be known as the Vice Commission, and ask the concurrence of your Honorable Body

Dean Walter T. Sumner,
Dr. W. L. Baum,
David Blaustein,
Rev. J. F. Callaghan,
Dr. Anna Dwyer,
Dr. W. A. Evans,
Rev. Albert Evers,
Rev. Dr. Frank Gunsaulus,
W. W. Hallam,
Dr. Abraham W. Harris,
Dr. Wm. Healy,
Mrs. Ellen M. Henrotin,
Rev. Abraham Hirschberg,
Dr. James M. Hyde,
Rev. E. A. Kelly,
Rev. John G. Kircher,
Louis O. Kohtz,
P. J. O'Keeffe,
Hon. Harry Olson,
Judge M. W. Pinckney,
Alexander Robertson,
Julius Rosenwald,
Dr. Louis E. Schmidt,
Bishop C. T. Shaffer,
Hon. Edwin W. Sims,
Edward M. Skinner,
Prof. Graham Taylor,
Prof. Wm. I. Thomas,
Prof. Herbert L. Willett,
Hon. John L. Whitman.


(Signed) Fred A. BUSSE,

At the regular meeting of the City Council on Monday, July 11, 1910, Alderman Foell presented an ordinance amending an ordinance passed June 27, 1910, creating the "Vice Commission."

Unanimous consent was given for the consideration of the said ordinance.

(8) The following is the said ordinance as passed:

"Be it ordained by the City Council of the City of Chicago:

SECTION 1. That an ordinance heretofore passed by this Council on June 27th, 1910, creating a Vice Commission, and shown at page 942 of the Council Proceedings of that date. be and the same is hereby amended by adding at the end of Section 4 in the left hand column the following: 'and the Comptroller shall set up this appropriation as Account No. 45 and under the proper letters designating the standard accounts in accordance with the Appropriation bill.'

SECTION 2. This ordinance shall be in force and effect from and after its passage."

On July 15, 1910, the Vice Commission secured offices and began active work with Mr. George J. Kneeland in charge.

On July 18, 1910, the chairman announced the resignation of Bishop William F. McDowell, on account of absence from the country. During the summer the business of the Commission was attended to by the Chairman and Executive Committee.

At the regular meeting on September 28, 1910, the Chairman announced that the Mayor had appointed Professor Charles R. Henderson of the Chicago University as a member of the Vice Commission to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Dr. James M. Hyde.

On motion the chairman appointed a committee to draw up appropriate resolutions commemorating the death of Dr. Hyde.

These resolutions were submitted at the regular meeting of the Vice Commission on October 25, 1910, and adopted as follows:

"WHEREAS, our fellow member, James Nevins Hyde, having been taken from us by death,

BE IT RESOLVED by us, the Vice Commission of Chicago, sitting in general session, that we hereby express our sense of deep sorrow at our own loss of anticipated counsel and advice, and of our earnest sympathy with the family of the deceased;

AND, FURTHERMORE, that we order this resolution to be inscribed upon our records and a copy of it forwarded to the family."


In addition to the regular meetings of the Commission, ninety-eight conferences were held during a period of six weeks. These conferences were arranged for by letters of invitation and by press notices. As a result representatives appeared before the Commission from philanthropic, civic, social and reform and business organizations; among these were the following:

Anti-Cigarette League Anti-Saloon League
Baptists Ministers' Union Chicago Deaconess' Home
Catholic Abstinence Union of Illinois

Citizens' Association

Brewers' Exchange Chicago Law and Order League
Douglas Neighborhood Club Central Howard Association
South Park Improvement Association. Congregational Ministers' Union
Hull House Chicago Refuge for Girls
Juvenile Protective Association Chicago Rescue Mission
Lincoln Center Florence Crittenton Anchorage
Methodist Brotherhood of Chicago Immigrant Protective League
Northwestern University Settlement

Juvenile Court

Law Enforcement League of the Northwest Side Legal Aid Society
Midnight Mission

Salvation Army Maternity Home

Retail Liquor Dealers' Protective Association.  


Prominent citizens were also heard.

Inspectors of Police, Captains, Lieutenants and Patrolmen were likewise heard in conference.

At various times interviews were held with keepers and inmates of houses.

At a regular meeting of the Commission held January 5, 1911, the chairman appointed a committee to appear before the Finance Committee of the City Council to ask for an appropriation of five thousand dollars to carry on the work of the Commission for the year 1911.

The petition of the committee was granted and the sum of five thousand dollars was set aside in the annual budget for 1911, for the use of the Vice Commission.


On April 5th, 1911, the report of the Vice Commission was presented to the Mayor and City Council of the City of Chicago and the following action was taken:

The Clerk presented the following communication submitted by the Vice Commission:

Hon. Fred A. Busse,

Mayor of Chicago, and the Honorable, the City Council,
CHICAGO, ILL, April 5, 1911.


The Chicago Vice Commission, authorized by ordinance of the City Council of the City of Chicago passed June 27, 1910, and appointed by you under date of July 5, 1910, transmits herewith, in compliance with the terms of the ordinance, its report on existing conditions respecting vice, together with its recommendations for the suppression thereof.

Very respectfully,

(Signed) WALTER T. SUMNER, Chairman.

(Signed) EDWIN W. SIMS, Secretary.

Alderman Foe1 moved that the report transmitted with the foregoing communication be placed on file, and that the said Commission be continued in existence until June 1st, 1911, or until such time thereafter as might be necessary to finish its outstanding business. The motion prevailed.

Alderman Foe1 thereupon presented the following order, which was, on motion, duly passed:

Ordered: That the Vice Commission be authorized to print, publish and distribute such number of copies of its report as the appropriation already made will warrant and that it be further authorized to print, publish and distribute such extra copies of its report as the Commission may deem necessary, provided that the publication of such extra copies be without expense to the City.


No Notes

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