Dill Pickle Club records
Scope and Content of the Collection
Handbills, handouts, fliers, announcements, programs, and posters promoting Dill Pickle Club activities.
The collection of Dill Pickle Club records and memorabilia presents a glimpse of the Bohemian lifestyle of Chicago in the teens, twenties and early thirties of the twentieth century. Most of the items were removed from two scrapbooks, possibly complied by the founder of the club, Jack Jones. Also, some business records, a small amount of correspondence, business and calling cards, newspaper clippings, a few photographs, a collection of poems and an assortment of art works, including original pieces by George Constant and Stanislaw Szukalski. Also, a small collection of Jack Jones memorabilia consisting of a drawing of the toy he invented, the Du-Dil-Duk, membership and union cards, a letter attesting to his British citizenship, two programs for his lectures, welfare and unemployment forms, his silhouette, and items and charts relating to an organization and a 1933 book by Jones, both entitled Tech-Up.
- Creation: 1906-1941
- Creation: Majority of material found within 1915-1935
- Dill Pickle Club (Chicago, Ill.) (Organization)
Materials are in English.
Conditions Governing Access
The Dill Pickle Club records are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 5 folders at a time maximum (Priority II).
Ownership and Literary Rights
The Dill Pickle Club records are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections at firstname.lastname@example.org.
History of the Dill Pickle Club
Chicago social club, established around 1914.
The Dill Pickle Club afforded an unconventional meeting place for good talk, entertainment and food for uninhibited and free-thinking persons of the times. The Dill Pickle (spelled also Dil Pickle and called simply “the Pickle” by most of its habitués) was founded by Jack Jones, a former labor activist. Once one of Chicago’s best-known Bohemian nightspots, the club provided a forum for free speech as well as affording encouragement for artistic expression. Its patrons included Socialists, atheists, anarchists, “liberated” women, professional lecturers and soapbox orators, artists, actors, literary hopefuls and all sorts of unconventional types.
By 1917, in order to locate the peripatetic club, both the famous and the infamous were exhorted to squeeze “Thru the Hole in the Wall Down Tooker Alley to the Green Lite Over the Orange Door.” 22 Tooker Place was just south of the Newberry Library on Dearborn Street, and a sign outside read “step high stoop low leave your dignity outside.” Those who entered would find a variety of fare – lectures or debates on controversial topics, perhaps a play or concert, even a swinging party, supplemented by coffee, tea, sandwiches or even bootleg whiskey. The atmosphere of the place was an enjoyable mix of the radical, the rough, the erudite, the creative and sometimes the inane. And always there was plenty of stimulating talk.
The Dill Pickle Club was frequented by such literary figures as Carl Sandburg, Edgar Lee Masters, Maxwell Bodenheim, Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur, Sherwood Anderson among many others. Besides the tough owner, Jack Jones, another mainstay of the club was Ben Reitman, who occasionally lectured on provocative subjects. Noted Chicago doctors, professors and local intellectuals were among the assorted speakers, and continuing throughout the twenties and early thirties there would be both serious and amusing presentations by all sorts of people.
As the Depression progressed, the Dill Pickle’s fortunes declined. By 1933, tax difficulties and the actions of over-zealous inspectors and professional moralists signaled the beginning of the end. For a full history of the Dill Pickle, see The Rise and Fall of the Dil Pickle, Edited and Introduced by Franklin Rosemont, Chicago, Charles H. Kerr Publishing Company, 2004.
2.5 Linear Feet (3 boxes, 2 oversize boxes, and 1 oversize folder)
Miscellaneous material relating to the Dill Pickle Club of Chicago, Illinois (1916-ca.1933) and its leading founder, John (Jack) Jones. The bulk of the collection, most of which was removed from two scrapbooks, consists of handbills, fliers, programs and posters announcing and advertising numerous lectures, readings, parties, plays and other regular activities. Also includes art work, business and membership items, clippings, a few letters, photographs, poetry and Jack Jones memorabilia.
The records are organized alphabetically by type of material.
Collection Stack Location
1 14 3, 1 16 5
Gift of Mrs. Lailah Cooper, 1973.
Carolyn Sheehy, 1985; Cynthia Wall, 1987; Virginia H. Smith, 2001 and 2007.
Genre / Form
- Inventory of the Dill Pickle Club records, 1906-1941, bulk 1915-1935
- Language of description
- Script of description
- 2011-08-18: Revisions, additions, and updates were made.