Chicago. Mayor's Commission on Unemployment.

Report of the Mayor's Commission on Unemployment online

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ciency. Some who were approached upon this point think that an efficient
state agency would tend to drive out of business many unscrupulous agencies
which prey upon the ignorant and defenseless.

Conclusion. The contents of this brief report upon some of the labor
bureaus operating in the city not for profit, will show that in addition to the
large number of licensed agencies operating for profit there are a large number
of unlicensed agencies as disconnected as are the licensed agencies. The fact
that in many of these separate agencies there are often as many positions
offered as men seeking positions, but still unemployed men because the men
and the positions do not fit together, is a strong argument in favor of some
sort of central clearing house for the labor market. The superintendent of


the Salvation Army Industrial Home notes that the organization with which
he is connected and the American Salvation Army and the Volunteers of
America and the Chicago Christian Industrial League are all doing what is in
some respects the very same work. This work he thinks should be under spme
central supervision, instead of being in the hands of several competing insti-
tutions. This argues for some sort of central control for each kind of charita-
ble employment work, so that all effort may produce a maximum result.

3. Immigration.

by its
Committee on Immigration.

To the Commission on Unemployment:

Your Committee on Immigration reports as follows:

I. Your committee invited the participation and co-operation of the
following persons and associations:

Miss Grace Abbott

Mr. John Fitzpatrick

Mr. James Mullenbach

Mr. Paul Wander

Miss Mary McDowell

Mrs. Raymond Robins

Mr. Victor Olander

Mr. E. H. Sutherland

Gads Hill Settlement, represented by Mrs. Martin

Conference of Jewish Women's Organizations, represented by Miss Julia


Immigrants' Protective League, represented by Miss S. P. Breckenridge
Chicago Federation of Labor, represented by Oscar F. Nelson
Women's Trade Union League, represented by Miss Emma Steghagen
Juvenile Protective League, represented by Mr. Howard Moore
Maxwell Street Settlement, represented by Miss Ernestine Heller
Henry Booth House, represented by Mr. T. W. Allinson
University of Chicago Settlement, represented by Mr. Adolph Petratis and

Mr. E. L. Talbert

Neighborhood House, represented by Mrs. Harriet M. Vandervaart
Chicago Commons, represented by Mr. R. D. Hunter and Mr. Walter Schatz
Young Men's Christian Association (Immigration Department), represented

by Mr. Abraham Bowers.
B'nai B'rith Free Employment Agency, represented by Mr. T. Rubevitz and

Mr. O. G. Finkelstein.

All of the above named persons were added to your committee as un-
official members and participated in its deliberations.

II. Your committee, thus enlarged for consultative and working
purposes, organized the following sub-committees:

Migratory Labor

Mr. James Mullenbach

Miss Grace Abbott

Mr. Victor Olander.

Over-employment and Under-employment

Mr. E. L. Talbert

Miss Mary McDowell

Mr. Adolph Petratis.
Unemployment Among Foreign Women

Mrs. Raymond Robins

Miss Emma Steghagen.



Mr. Thomas W. Allinson.

Population and Immigration Statistics
Miss Grace Abbott
Miss S. P. Breckenridge
Mr. Louis F. Post.

III. Reports have been submitted by those sub-committees to your
committee which herewith transmits the same to the Commission. They are
attached as a part of this report.

IV. Your committee calls attention to the difficulties, as disclosed by
these sub-committee reports, of acquiring information bearing upon the
subject matter of its inquiry, and the impossibility of securing complete and
trustworthy reports, without funds for employing experts to devote their time
to the inquiry.

V. Your committee recommends:

1 The establishment of a Chicago branch of the Bureau of Infor-
mation of the Department of Commerce and Labor, as a means of
facilitating the intelligent distribution of immigrants.

2 The organization of an effective State employment agency
which shall co-operate with other State and national agencies and shall
be especially equipped with ^facilities, through interpreters and other-
wise, for dealing with immigrants. Though the primary purpose of
these agencies is not within the scope of this committee, they would
have a secondary or incidental function of great importance to an in-
telligent understanding of the subject matter which does come within
this committee's scope. A centralized official employment agency at
Chicago, well equipped not only for finding jobs for the unemployed but
also for recording and reporting the facts which that function would
necessitate its ascertaining, would be especially useful.

3 Regular inspection and regulation by the Federal Government of
the sanitary conditions, i. e., location, housing and food in labor camps
of railroads doing an interstate business. State inspection and regula-
tion of those doing an intra-state business.

4 More opportunities for industrial training for immigrant men
and women.

5 Better regulation, and better enforcement of existing regulations,
of private lodging houses.

6 More efficient equipment and larger quarters for the Municipal
Lodging House.

7 The establishment of a city or State farm to which the so-called
"unemployables" may be sent for scientific medical and social treatment.

8 A scientific efficiency study of seasonal trades with a view to
determining whether continuous employment of a smaller force
throughout the year is not practicable.

9 The establishment of a minimum wage for women workers.

10 Appointment of a State immigration commission to inquire into
the welfare, opportunities for employment, and conditions of labor, of
immigrants and migratory laborers.

VI. In the getting of material and the preparation of this report your
committee has had the co-operation of the voluntary members associated with
it as stated above, and it wishes to record its grateful acknowledgments
therefor and particularly for the expert service rendered it by the voluntary
sub-committees. LOUIS F. POST, Chairman.


I. The Municipal Lodging House By James Mullenbach

II. "Railroad Gangs" By Grace Abbott

III. Casual Laborers By Victor Olander


By James Mullenbach.

The following statement is based, first, on the information furnished by
the Municipal Lodging House consisting of certain tabulated statistics here-
with enclosed; and in the second place, on the observation and experience of
the writer as superintendent of the Municipal Lodging House for five years.

At the outset it is hardly necessary to explain that the Municipal Lodging
House, as its name indicates, is a lodging house maintained by the City for
the purpose of providing shelter and care for homeless, unemployed and
destitute men and boys stranded in Chicago. It was opened December 21,
1901, by Mayor Carter H. Harrison in co-operation with the City Homes
Association in order to provide a humane and effective substitute for the police
station lodging of the unemployed. A year later the City assumed full re-
sponsibility, and the shelter was transferred to its present quarters, 110 North
Union Street, in a building owned by the City.

In using the information from the Municipal Lodging House, it is
assumed that the lodgers fairly represent the unemployed and those who
follow migratory occupations; that the population of the Municipal Lodging
House becomes, as it were, a cross section out of the great group of laborers
who are engaged in seasonal and casual employment, involving migration
about the country and encountering periods of unemployment, or at least

In dealing with the statistics account should be taken of the fact that they
are of two classes in Table 1 and Table 2. In Table 1 the statistics from
December 21, 1901, to close of 1909 are based on the number of lodgings given
and not on the number of individual men. In Table 2 the statistics, for 1910
to April 30th, 1912, are based on the number of individual men to whom lodg-
ings were given. Table No. 2 is, therefore, more accurate than Table No. 1.
It should be noticed, however, that the percentages in the various items of
classification do not greatly differ, though there are some modifications.

For example, in Table No. 1 we find that 251,438 lodgings (we disregard
the figures [11,097] for 1902 as no account was kept of the "First Nighters")
were given to 45,951 different men. This was an average of 5.5 lodgings per
man. In Table No. 2, 167,716 lodgings were given to 30,888 different men,
or an average of 5.4 lodgings per man. While the difference in some of the
other items is not so slight. Table No. 2 checks up on Table No. 1 and on the
whole confirms it.

Besides these two general tables there are also some special statistics
tabulated relating to

Table 3 Number of Lodgings in Police Stations as compared with
Number in Municipal Lodging House.

Table 4 Duration of Lodgers in the City.

Table 5 Special record of 2,608 Lodgers.

Table 6 Special record of 1,317 Lodgers, and how they came into the

Table 7 The Physical Condition of 13,053 Lodgers.

Table 8 Civil Status; number married and single.

Since the opening of the Municipal Lodging House at close of December,
1901, to April 30th, 1912, 430,201 lodgings had been given. While this is an
astounding number of lodgings it is only about one-fourth the number given
in the police stations of Chicago for an equal period of years. From 1892
to 1901 ten years the total number of lodgings given in the police stations
was 1,275,463. These were the ten years preceding the opening of the Munici-
pal Lodging House. During the first ten years of its operation, 1902 to 1911,
inclusive, the Lodging House gave 370,655 lodgings. (See Table 3.) Under
the Municipal Lodging House system the City was saved the expense and
risk of 904,808 police station lodgings. These statistics for the ten-year period
are reasonably fair. They cover two panics and business depressions, the
first decade that of 1894 and succeeding years, and the second decade *hat


of 1907-1908. While the later labor depression was not as severe or prolonged
as the earlier, it was severe enough for purposes of comparison, and none of
us want a repetition for the purpose of equalizing the terms of the comparison.

The total number of individual men ("First Nighters") given lodging for
the period from January 1st, 1903, to April 30th, 1912, was 76,839. The year
1902 is not included as information on this point was not taken at that time.

Two questions arise:

1. How many of these men were residents of Chicago, and how many
came from other communities?

2. How many of them follow migratory labor?

In regard to the first question Table No. 4 gives duration of time in the
City for "lodgings given" in 1903-'04-'05-'06. Of the 52,436 lodgings given,
16,948 or 33 per cent were given to men who had been five days or less in the
City; 13,259 or 25 per cent to men who had been from six days to one month
in Chicago; 8,494 or 16 per cent to men who had been from one month to
six months; 2,566 or 5 per cent to men who had been from six months to one
year, and 11..169 or 21 per cent to men who had been in Chicago one year
or over. That is to say, 58 per cent of the lodgers had been in the City less
than a month. Only 21 per cent had been here long enough to establish a
legal residence. As a matter of fact the figures do not tell the whole truth,
as many of the men who stated they had been only five days in the City,
were accustomed to make Chicago their headquarters from which they were
shipped out on the various jobs. It indicates, however, the remarkable
mobility of the group.

In Table No. 5 there are some statistics showing the duration of time in
the City for 2,608 individual men. These statistics were gathered from May
1st to September 30th, the summer of 1908. In the case of these 2,608 men
1,695 or 65 per cent were less than five days in the City; 256 or 10 per cent
less than one month; 261 or 10 per cent from one month to one year; and 396
or 15 per cent had been in Chicago one year or over. These figures, there-
fore, show an even larger percentage of the out-of-town laborer.

In this connection it is of interest to examine Table No. 5 showing how
1,317 of these 2,608 applicants arrived in Chicago. Six hundred and seventy-
four or 51 per cent admitted they "beat it" on the railroads into the City;
463 or 35 per cent claimed they had paid their fare; 77 or 6 per cent walked.
Even these, however, may have meant that they walked from Grand Crossing,
or Mayfair, or some other railroad center where they had to leave the freight
train. Eighty-six or 6 per cent were "passed in" by employers. Seventeen or
1 per cent came by boat.

Meager as these statistics are they undoubtedly indicate the way in which
the migratory laborer and the unemployed man gets about the country. The
"tramp" as a pedestrian is no longer known. Only the mentally defective
vagrant, or the foreigner, ignorant of the advantages of our country, now
tramps his way. The others travel in a "side door Pullman" or on the blind
baggage, when they have not th" fare to ride inside. In those cases where
the men remain until the job is finished, or for a stated period, usually the
season, the employer will provide fare back to the starting point.

In regard to the second question: how many of the lodgers belong to the
migratory labor group, we have no statistics at hand. The writer is prepared
to state that at least 60 per cent of the lodgers follow what is known as
seasonal employment requiring migration about the country.

Unless one has had opportunity to observe the conditions, it is difficult
to appreciate the great significance of seasonal employment both in its extent
and variety, and its effect upon the worker and the community.

In the household order of industry, there were practically only two
nomadic callings, that of the soldier and that of the sailor. At the present
time we have a great number of occupations that involve the movement of
the workers to the locations and into the employment that the season de-
mands or permits. All construction work on railroads and factory plants,
whea f harvesting, logging, ice cutting, river and dock work, fruit picking, hop
picking, oyster dredging, are a few of these seasonal occupations.


Construction work, railroad and otherwise, opens in the spring as soon
as the risk of frost is gone. The men are shipped out usually through labor
agents to the job which may be on \he outskirts of Chicago or on the outskirts
of Cheyenne. Construction work will continue all summer until cold weather
in the fall. However, toward the end of June the wheat harvest in Oklahoma
and Kansas begins and many of the men in the construction work leave for
the harvest avid continue with it all the way up through Kansas, Nebraska,
the Dakotas and even into Canada. About October they begin to return,
going to Duluth, Minneapolis and other cities to ship out into lumber woods,
or continuing farther south to Milwaukt-e, Chicago, St. Louis and other cities
east and south.

In Chicago these laborers do odd jobs and pick up a precarious livelihood
until the ice camps open. If it is a mild season the ice cutting may be much
delayed and shortened. In most cases it does not last over five or six weeks.
The sag between the harvest, or the closing of construction work, and the
opening of the ice cutting is the longest and most discouraging of the year.

Coming now to the general tables showing more particularly the facts
about these unemployed and migratory workers, we find that so far as nativity
is concerned, 53.5 per cent are American born and 46.5 per cent are foreign
born. Table No. 2. In Table No. 1 the proportions are reversed. The
American born are 45 per cent and the foreign born 55 per cent. The in-
crease in the proportion of foreign born is found to be in the years 1907-
1908-1909, the years of the panic and depression. During our industria'i
storm the American laborer, especially the boys and younger men, goes
home to his folks, while the foreigner, after a period of unemployment has
exhausted his savings and his credit with the boarding boss and is forced upon
public relief. The panic of 1907-1908 brought the Slavs to the Municipal
Lodging House in unprecedented numbers. The following spring many of
them went into construction work and have remained in migratory callings
since that time instead of finding their way back to factory employment.

As to ages of 38,256 lodgers 1910 to 1912:

1,109 or 3 per cent were over 60 years of age.
15,211 or 40 per cent were between 20-30 years of age.
10,450 or 27 per cent were between 30-40 years of age.

6,411 or 17 per cent were between 40-50 years of age.

3,174 or 8 per cent were between 50-60 years of age.

1,901 or 5 per cent were under 20 years of age.

These figures on ages indicate that 44 per cent or nearly one-half of the
lodgers are under 30 years of age. The significance of this movement of
young life in its adventurous years is not sufficiently understood. Many factors
enter into it. It is bound up with the most significant event of the nineteenth
century, namely the closing of the western frontier. So long as the country
possessed a frontier, there was a national outlet for the surplus energy of the
try its forces with the world o f men or nature, to seek its fortune under new
people. There was always opportui. ity for the adventurous spirit, eager to
conditions, unhampered by the restraint and convention of the settled com-
munity. For twenty centuries the history of civilization has been the history
of the Western frontier, but within our own day the frontier has passed and
our civilization has suddenly awakened to the fact that it must be built on its
own resources, but that those resources are not inexhaustible. Meanwhile,
the youth of the country, the heirs of this age-long movement, with the urge
of it still in their blood, will not live on quietly in a prairie hamlet. They,
too, want to get out and see the world and take their chances as their fathers

Apart from the search for employment there is this other factor of youth-
ful restlessness, the Wanderlust, lying deep in our common life and finding
expression in these nomadic expeditions of the country and city youth in search
of excitement and incidentally for employment. Instead, however, of making
for the frontier they now go to the city as' the place of opportunity. The
frontier is no longer in the front it is in the rear. When once the signifi-


cance of the closing of the frontier is appreciated the proportion of young
men who follow these nomadic callings will be properly appreciated.

Taking up the next classification, we find that the figures show that of
38,266 lodgers 11,543 or 40 per cent were skilled, while 26,723 or 60 per cent
were unskilled. These figures need qualification. In the 11,543 are included
not only the craftsman who is still following his trade, the temporarily out
of work, but also the craftsman who because of changes in industry has taken
up unskilled work and drifted into the migratory group. Some of these
changes tending to throw skilled mechanics among the unskilled workers are
well known; the existence of the rush and dull seasons, the introduction and
development of machine and automatic processes in manufacturing, and the
consolidation of industries. When a trade is disintegrated, or men are thrown
out of work through the consolidation of business, craftsmen are very apt
to become permanently members of the unskilled group. Disintegration has
in late years taken place among the tanners and machinists and is in process
among the glass blowers. When once a skilled workman has gone over into
the unskilled group it is very difficult for him to get back, especially where
he is unmarried and onee loses footing in his own community.

On the next item we find that during the last three years 4,621 men went
out from the Municipal Lodging House to paid employment. This is about
12 per cent of the total number of individual men who stopped at the lodging
house. While this statement is encouraging it needs some explanation. In
the first place it was not possible to keep an adequate check on the men
who went put to the job so that the Municipal Lodging House management
knew certainly that the men had gotten employment. In the next place, most
of the opportunities for employment that come to the Municipal Lodging
House are temporary in their nature. As a matter of fact it has been found
by experience that the migratory laborer, while he may accept, will not per-
manently continue in steady work at one place. One would suppose that
when offered permanent employment he would be glad to get it and stick. As
a matter of fact, the migratory laborer is 'a victim of his economic train-
ing. He has been trained to work a few weeks or months on the railroad
here and there, a few other weeks in the harvest field, then to do odd jobs
around town until he gets into the ice camp for a few more weeks. The con-
sequence is that this training in casual and unsteady employment has unfitted
him for regular and permanent work. He is as restless in permanent occupa-
tion as the steady mechanic would be in becoming accustomed to the casual
employment of a migratory laborer.

In respect of physical capacity of lodgers, a table is submitted showing
the record of physical examinations of 13,053 men. This report shows that
about 85 per cent of the men were found to be able-bodied; that about 7 per
cent were physicaHy deficient; that 2 per cent were sick so as to need hospital
or dispensary treatment, and that about 5 per cent were crippled. Nearly 14
per cent had affections of the skin and scalp. This is a significant item as it
indicates the unsanitary condition under which these men live both in the
private lodging houses of the city and the labor camps. Where men are
lodged promiscuously as they are in the common lodging houses and in labor
camps and colonies, it is only by the greatest effort that the lodging house
or camp can be kept free of vermin.

Another significant item is that of venereal diseases, whJth shows that
about 5 per cent of the men had recognizable infection. In a separate table
statistics are given for four years showing the proportion of married and
single men to whom lodgings were given. In that statement it appears that
90 per cent of the men are single and about 10 per cent married. These
statistics are also borne out by the special tables giving the records of 2,608
men where the same proportions hold. It is not necessary to dwell upon
the obvious consequences to a group of individuals and to the community
where great numbers of men are unmarried. In a certain way this is the
most significant fact attaching to this entire group of men, namely: that they
are homeless; that is, have no domestic relation of responsibility. The con-
ditions of their employment, its migratory and irregular character, put a
premium upon homelessness; but it also brings about serious consequences


for the individual and the community. It should be understood that the
great majority of these men are separate from all the responsible and re-
fining influences of the ordinary societarian relations. They never meet
women in any wholesome way. They seldom sit at a table in a private
home. They usually eat at the cheap restaurant or the free lunch counter
in saloons. Undoubtedly the earnings of this company of men is one of the
economic sources of the red light region of every large city.

Likewise, men with circulatory disabilities, numbering nearly 13 per cent,
which indicates a very large proportion of those who have arterio sclerosis.

The figures on tuberculosis, being .8 per cent of the lodgers, was de-
termined by a stethoscopic and not microscopic examination.

For the amelioration of the present condition the following suggestions
are offered:

First: The quarters at the Municipal Lodging House should be en-
larged and the equipment made more efficient. Enough help should be sup-

Online LibraryChicago. Mayor's Commission on UnemploymentReport of the Mayor's Commission on Unemployment → online text (page 9 of 27)