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Hull House – circ. 1910

Chicago’s Hull House – circa 1910


Note: Readers interested in a view of the Hull House neighborhood, immigrant populations, working conditions, resident activities, projects and programs in the years prior to 1910 there is below a description of the agency and its activities published in the HANDBOOK OF SETTLEMENTS, written by two settlement pioneers, Robert Archey Woods and Albert J. Kennedy. and published by The Russell Sage Foundation of New York in 1911.


Chicago's Hull House
Chicago’s Hull House

Hull-house:  800 South Halsted Street (1889-) Established September 1889, by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr. “Hull-House was opened by two women, backed by many friends, in the belief that the mere foothold of a house, easily accessible, ample in space, hospitable and tolerant in spirit, situated in the midst of the large foreign colonies which so easily isolate themselves in American cities would be in itself a serviceable thing for Chicago. Hull-House endeavors to make social intercourse express the growing sense of the economic unity of society and may be described as an effort to add the social function to democracy.” The Hull-House Charter states as its object: “To provide a center for the higher civic and social life; to institute and maintain educational and philanthropic enterprises, and to investigate and improve the conditions in the industrial districts of Chicago.” Incorporated 1894. Supported by the income from apartments, coffee house and shops, which form a small endowment fund, and by subscriptions.

Neighborhood. A mixed factory and tenement quarter. Immediately about the house is the largest Greek colony in the city, numbering perhaps three thousand people. In the network of narrow streets between Hull-House and the river is a great Italian colony, badly housed, for the most part, in narrow brick tenements and in story-and-a-half frame cottages built originally for single families and now containing three or more. As it reached the limits of the housing capacity of the district, the colony began to move west across Halsted Street, settling down west of Hull-House. This migration into a territory comfortably settled by Irish and Bohemians brought racial friction, but the two latter have gradually succumbed and have also moved west. A congested colony of Russian and Polish Jews, just south of the house, form a large and important part of its constituency. Like the Italians, the Jews are also expanding rapidly westward and breaking up the long-settled colonies of Irish, Bohemians and French. In addition Germans, Scandinavians, Hungarians, Austrians, Dutch and others are found in isolated families though in inconsiderable numbers.

Originally a district of small property owners, who built and lived in their two-story or story-and-a-half frame cottages, it is fast assuming the aspects of an industrial region. Large factories are coming in from year to year, wiping out the frame cottages. Smaller shops and factories are in every block, making shift in dark, unsanitary quarters improvised in tenement houses and basements, and disputing with the small stores for space on the “business streets” of the ward. Clothing manufacture is perhaps the leading local industry, though junk yards are numerous, and such mercantile thoroughfares as Halsted Street and West Twelfth Street are crowded with department stores, second hand stores, Greek and Italian cafe’s and wine rooms, and numerous five-cent theatres.

Activities. I. Investigation. In 1892, Investigation of the Sweating System for the State Bureau of Labor Statistics; 1893, The Slums of Great Cities (Chicago) for Department of Labor (Washington); Dietary Investigation for Department of Agriculture (Washington); 1895, Publication of Hull-House Maps and Papers, Studies in Ward and City Conditions; 1896, Investigation of the Saloons of the Nineteenth Ward for Committee of Fifty; 1897, Investigation of the Dietary of the Italian Colony for Department of Agriculture (Washington); General Study of 19th Ward for Ethical Society; 1903, Study of Casual Labor on the Lakes; 1905, An Intensive Study of the Causes of Truancy; Study of Tuberculosis in Chicago; 1907, Investigation into the Selling of Cocaine; 1908, Study of Midwifery (Co-operation with Chicago Medical Society), and Study of the Greeks in Chicago; 1909, Study of Infantile Mortality among Selected Immigrant Groups; 1910, Investigation of the Home Reading of Public School Children.

II. Efforts For Civic Betterment, (1) Housing.—Constant efforts for improved housing in district and city. Became headquarters for the City Homes Association Study

Jane Addams
Jane Addams Library of Congress – E.D. Winters

of Housing in 1901 (of which body Miss Addams has always been an officer), and the inquiry conducted in 1909 by the School of Civics and Philanthropy under the Russell Sage Foundation. Co-operation with the building and sanitary divisions of the city service to ameliorate conditions.

(2) Streets and Sanitation.—Early united with all the best forces of the ward in an effort to secure the proper removal of refuse. Backed by friends, Miss Addams in 1893 put in a bid for the contract to remove garbage, which was not considered. She was later appointed inspector for the ward. A resident carried on this work until 1898, when the office was abolished. Continuous efforts for the removal of the unsanitary sidewalk garbage boxes, for adequate paving, and clean streets. For a time a children’s league helped in maintaining clean streets, and the Woman’s Club has rendered service of great value.

(3) Play Spaces.—Established in the spring of 1893 the first public playground in Chicago. The city furnished an officer and residents spent some time teaching the children and regulating privileges. The city playground commission became responsible for the management in 1906. This ground served as an object lesson and helped the general movement for playgrounds. Residents aided in the movement for school and vacation playgrounds and other forms of public recreation.

(4) Public Baths.—Secured the first public bath in Chicago, which was located one block north of Hull-House. The lot was donated rent-free for two years with a provision whereby the city could buy the land at the end of that period.

Hull House Volunteer
Hull House Volunteer – Lewis Hine Photo

(5) Public Education.—Residents succeeded in saving a large public school building which was being transformed into a factory, though three thousand children were without sittings. Constant agitation was carried on for some years to secure better school facilities, more room, and adequate school laws. A resident early started the custom of presenting pictures and casts to the public schools, which later resulted in the establishment of the Public School Art Society. One of the residents acting as voluntary probation officer anticipated the movement which resulted in the establishment of a parental school for truants. Conducted (1897) public lectures in the hall of the neighboring high school, and has worked consistently for the enlarged use of public school buildings. The Labor Museum (1902) “developed through efforts to bridge the past life in Europe with American experience in such wise as to give them both some meaning and sense of relation.” In co-operation with the board of education an investigation (1906) was made into the causes of truancy and the results were presented at a conference and in pamphlet form. Alumni associations of the neighboring public schools have held their meetings at the house; and the settlement has co-operated with teachers and principals by means of home and school visiting. Administers school scholarships for promising children; and maintains (since 1905) a visiting kindergarten and school for sick and shut-in children. Miss Addams served on the school board from July 1905, to July 1908. Residents were deeply interested in the establishment of the Municipal Museum; and several are on the staff of the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy.

(6) Public Health.—A physician has generally been in residence; and for three years a special clinic was maintained for Italian children suffering from rachitis. Visiting nursing has been carried on from the settlement and in cooperation with the Visiting Nursing Association, and a station for the sale and distribution of milk for infants was maintained for some years. This activity has been transferred to the Mary Crane Nursery, situated on the Hull-House land and sustained by the United Charities of Chicago. A baby dispensary is maintained by them throughout the year; and a babies’ hospital is carried on during the summer on the roof of the day nursery. Organized (1907) a convalescent cottage for young women afflicted with tuberculosis and (1909) an outdoor school for tubercular children (since taken over by the United Charities) was opened. An inquiry into the causes of typhoid fever (1902) led to the reorganization of the city sanitary service and a cleaning out of the infected neighborhood. Continued efforts have been made to secure the placarding of houses wherein were persons having a contagious disease. A joint committee from Hull House and the Chicago Medical Society made an investigation into the practice of midwifery; and a new law governing the license and control of midwives is hoped for. A study into the distribution of tuberculosis was made under the direction of Dr. Sachs, and cases were traced wherever possible to their source. The house still co-operates with the Tuberculosis Institute through one of its residents. A resident has for two years held the position of sanitary inspector under the department of health, and specially interesting researches have been made into the conditions in bakeries. A study was made in 1909-10 into the relation between the size of families and the rate of mortality among babies.

(7) Politics.—The 19th Ward is in the hands of a political machine built up by the distribution of jobs in City Hall; favors to public service corporations; by privileges to small storekeepers; and popularized by the distribution of turkeys to the poor. In 1896 and 1898 residents unsuccessfully backed a rival candidate against the machine. Several residents have been active in general city affairs, and there has been some reaction on the ward from without. The house also stands for the extension of the suffrage to women.

(8) Law and Order.—Voluntary probation work was undertaken very early; since then there has always been a probation off1cer in residence. Two of the residents, Mrs. Stevens and Miss Lathrop, were active in securing the juvenile court and probation law of 1899, and Mrs. Stevens became the first probation officer under the new law. In 1903 an investigation into the cocaine traffic revealed conditions that resulted in the prosecution of several druggists, and the sale was greatly hindered. A state law obtained in 1907 has gone far to abolish the sale of the drug. In 1909 the Juvenile Psychopathic Institute was established to study the causes of youthful delinquency and several residents are interested in this work. The Juvenile Protective Association (1910) numbers several residents among its officers and holds its meetings at the house. There have been various efforts to secure peddlers from outrage; and conferences of inspectors have been held at the house. Maintains a branch of the Legal Aid Society.

(9) Labor.—In 1891 Hull-House aided the shirtmakers during a strike brought about by a cut in wages. In 1892 it assisted the cloakmakers to organize. The appointment of Mrs. Kelley by the state bureau of labor statistics to investigate the garment trade resulted in a report which led to the Workshops and Factory Act in 1893. (This act reduced the number of small children in shops; partly separated homes from shops; and secured for a time an eight-hour day for girls and women, though the act was later declared unconstitutional.) Mrs. Kelley was appointed state factory inspector with Mrs. A. P. Stevens as assistant. In 1894 Miss Addams urged arbitration in the Pullman strike; and later co-operated with the Civic League in securing the establishment of a state board of arbitration and conciliation. In 1895 urged the Sulzer Bill, putting the garment trade under jurisdiction of the treasury department. In 1896 Miss Addams called a mass meeting to create sympathy for the strike of the garment workers, and secured the assistance of the Central Congress of the Civic Federation in support of a demand for arbitration. In 1897 Mrs. Kelley was removed by Governor Tanner. Early forerunners of the present Woman’s Trade Union League were organized at the house, and for some years met there.

The Consumers’ League was organized in 1898. In 1900 Miss Addams testified before the Industrial Commission on the custom tailors’ strike to compel employers to furnish factories. In 1902 the house assisted in again strengthening the child labor law. In 1903 the settlement assisted in the organization of the Woman’s Trade Union League. In 1907 the residents co-operated in the effort to secure a national investigation of women’s work and wages, and in the production of the industrial exhibit at Brookes Casino. For many years the house has co-operated with various unions and other organizations in an attempt to reduce the long hours of clerks in the West Side department stores, and to provide for Sunday closing—thus far with only partial success.

(10) Economic.—A day nursery was opened in the spring of 1891, and maintained until 1908, when it was merged into a larger nursery carried on by the Chicago Relief and Aid Society, in a new building erected adjacent to the Hull-House buildings. During the economic crises of 1893-4 and 1897, the house carried on a great deal of necessary relief work. In 1893 the Coffee House was opened, and during the winter ten-cent lunches were supplied to women. Working under the direction of the Chicago Woman’s Club, food was supplied in factories, etc. The coffee house is self-sustaining and pays rental to the house.

The Jane Club (1891), a co-operative boarding club for young women, has a separate building and meets current expenses of rent, service, food and heat. Two co-operative clubs for young men have been attached to the house, the Phalanx Club from 1892 to 1895, and the Culver Club from 1907 to 191o. A co-operative coal club was organized in 1892 on the Hull-House block, and was successfully carried on for three years. Started an employment bureau (1891), and much informal work in securing employment is still carried on. Since 1908, several meetings to discuss problems of the unemployed have been called. Active in securing the enforcement of the employment agency law, and in cooperation with the League for the Protection of Immigrants, organized meetings among the Bulgarians which made a successful resistance to the extortionate fees which were being charged by the agencies. The Hull-House shops dispose of textiles, articles in metal, and pottery; and there is a growing demand for its products.

(11) Work for Immigrants.—Residents early interested themselves in interpreting the immigrant to the city and in preserving and developing such human values and culture as he had to contribute to the city life. Various immigrant social, literary and other organizations have been formed or held meetings at the house. Specially notable have been several national plays and festival occasions. In 1909 the League for the Protection of Immigrants was organized, which will exert a systematic and centralized effort on behalf of immigrants living in Chicago. The settlement has several times been able to be of service by taking the part of innocent persons involved in what were thought to be anarchistic plots, or in danger of apprehension by the Russian government.

(12) Development of Neighborhood Civic Resourcefulness.—Organized (1896) the 19th Ward Improvement Society, which interested itself in bettering the physical conditions of the ward. In the fall of 1894 a ward council of the Civic Federation was organized with committees on philanthropy, education, politics, and morals. In 1907 organized League No. 5 of the Juvenile Protective Association.

(13) Charity.—One of the early residents became a voluntary visitor of the outdoor relief department of the city, and was appointed in 1893 on the state board of charities. Out of her double experience at the settlement and at county institutions came agitation for a law for the care of dependent children, which resulted in the juvenile court law; the state civil service law; a law for the state care of defectives; the state conference of charities; improvement of physical conditions in county poorhouses and jails; a law authorizing the establishment of an epileptic colony; reforms in methods of nursing dependents in state hospitals for defectives; an investigation into the state of the Cook County Infirmary, which led to radical changes for the better, and other important reforms.

Served as a center of relief in the panic of 1894-5; managed a lodge for homeless women; provided street sweeping for men; was active in the campaign which led to the organization of a Bureau of Organized Charities. Maintains a fund to assist needy families in their homes, and the relief work which is done is carried on in co-operation with the local office of the United Charities. In 1909 the City Gardens Association was organized to provide small gardens on vacant lots for needy families, with a resident of Hull-House as president.

(14) Opportunity for Public Discussion.—From its earliest years various organizations have arranged for public lectures and discussions at the settlement. The Working People’s Social Science Club (1890) discussed various social and economic problems, and it is felt that as long as social growth normally proceeds by successive changes and adaptations, such free discussion is most valuable. Discussions are also frequently held under the auspices of various public organizations. Residents have stood for the right of free speech at several trying times in the city’s history, when the average forbearance of its citizens had left them.

(15) Art Work.—Art Gallery (1891) with loan exhibits of pictures, engravings, etc.; co-operation in the movement to open the Art Institute Sunday afternoons; leadership in the Public School Art Society; studio and classes in the arts of line and form; headquarters of the Chicago Arts and Crafts Society; bookbindery, and studios of resident artists, shops for metal and other crafts. Good pictures have been hung in the various rooms for their educational effect. The theatre is frescoed. Music School (1893-); memorial organ; chorus; concerts, etc.; prizes for labor songs. Theatre; dramatic presentations of classic and modern plays by Hull-House and other companies; national plays by Greeks, Italians, Lithuanians, Bohemians, etc.; moving picture show (1908).

III. General Propaganda. A very great factor in calling public attention to the needs of the industrial quarters of Chicago, and in interpreting the inner life of its neighbors to the city. The experience of residents has been of service to various persons and societies, not only in Chicago, but over the country.

IV. Local Institutional Improvement. In 1891 an art gallery and public library was established. Since that time there have been added a children’s house, coffee house, theatre, girls’ boarding club, gymnasium, woman’s club buildings, boys’ club building, day nursery and crafts room, and labor museum. For many years the settlement held art exhibits in its gallery. An art and music school has been maintained; and public lecture courses and entertainments provided. Its public baths, playground, day nursery, reading room and library station, lending collection of pictures, etc. have been turned over to either public or private agencies. The house holds its activities lightly and desires to be free for experiment and the initiation of new enterprises.

Maintains public lectures; classes in English for immigrants; advanced classes in languages, history, belles-lettres, etc.; Shakespeare club, electrical club, Neighborhood Council; Labor Museum; classes in pottery, metal work, enamel and wood carving, weaving; drawing, modeling, painting, lithography, and occasional art exhibits; classes in dressmaking, sewing, shirtwaists, millinery, cooking; men’s club (incorporated 1893), women’s club (1891); neighborhood parties; boys’ club, with technical classes in wood working, foundry, electricity, type setting, telegraphy, photography, cobbling, drawing, stenciling, designing, metal work, typewriting; various social clubs; brass band; library and study room; game room; bowling alley; bank; periodical and summer camp.

The house serves as a meeting place for various societies: Greek Educational Association; Greek Ladies Charitable Association; several Greek benefit societies; Greek Peddlers Protective Association; Greek Woman’s Social Club; Italian Circolo; Societa de Beneficenza delle Donne Italiane; the Russian Social Economics Club. There are many social clubs of young people, and a People’s Friendly Club to which entire families belong. Dancing classes, socials, receptions, and festivals are given from time to time. Gymnasium (1893) with various athletic classes and organizations and baths. Music School; Sunday concerts, festival performances and many musical entertainments. Hull-House Theatre: dramatic associations for adults, young people and children. The theatre is used by groups of Greeks, Italians, Russians, Letts, Jews, Lithuanians, Hungarians and Bohemians, who give plays for their compatriots in their native language, and by other dramatic associations in the city. Coffee house and cafeteria. There are many children’s clubs with artistic, industrial and social interests; and a dancing class; also a visiting kindergarten and school for sick or disabled children. Public lectures and discussions. Summer Work.—Many of the classes and clubs continue to meet. There are numerous picnics; regular car rides to the parks weekly; vacations in co-operation with Fresh Air agencies; and a boys’ camp.

Location And Buildings. 8oo (formerly 335) South Halsted Street, 1889 ff.; Butler Building, 1891 ff.; Smith Building; Coffee House and Theatre; Jane Club; Gymnasium; Bowen Hall; Boys’Club; Mary Crane Nursery; Dining Room and Music School; Mechanical Plant; Residence Flats; Men’s Club.

Residents. Women 31, men 20. Volunteers. Women 58, men 30.

Head Resident. Jane Addams, 1889-.


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