From the Ashes, 1872-1900
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

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April 8, 1891

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The games of pool and billiards were popular pastimes in Chicago during the late nineteenth century. As with cards and other forms of gambling these games were often denounced in pulpits but they continued to enjoy popular favor. Many of the billiard halls were elegant establishments where respectable men spent leisure hours. But many others were less finely appointed and hosted a more questionable clientele.

The telephone was patented by Alexander Graham Bell on March 7, 1876. In Chicago the first exchange was installed two years later. By 1881 there were 3,479 telephones in the city and in 1883 service to New York City was in operation. Chicago had over 10,000 phones in 1893.

The city council delegated very few items of city business and consequently a matter as minor as a request for permission to erect an ornamental sign to extend beyond the three-foot limit came before it. And because aldermen had detailed involvement in so many aspects of city business they often had close relationships with their constituents. Opportunities for favoritism and graft were enhanced by this situation.

This petition was referred to the Committee on Streets and Alleys, South Division. The committee acted unfavorably on June 18 by recommending that it be placed on file. And in this the full council concurred.

Points to Consider

Why did the Garden City Billiard Table Company have to petition the council to erect an ornamental lamp or sign?

The letterhead of this document lists the company's telephone number as 3105. When was the first telephone exchange established in Chicago and by 1891 how common was the telephone?

Describe the atmosphere depicted by the engraving on this document.

Compare and contrast public mores in 1891 and today in relation to the games of billiards and pool.

See Related Document:

8 and 30

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