"A family tree can wither if nobody tends its roots."

Apr7th2018

Chicago Panhandling in 1914

by  Phyllis Zeck

del principe, ciolliI have a subscription to Newspapers.com and every so often I jump onto the website to search for articles about our Del Principe and Ciolli relatives.  I found a very interesting one page article from the Chicago Tribune dated Sunday April 19, 1914 which contained my great grandfather Pietro (Peter) Del Principe’s name. The photos are amazing however the author’s writing skills are certainly different from what we would read in todays news stories. There are 2 photos of the author playing Pietro’s hand organ.

You can read the whole article by clicking the pdf here Chicago Tribune Apr 19, 1914 however it can be hard on the old eyes. Zoom in to read the text.  

This is what the author wrote about my great grandfather. The section titled No One Cared for the Music says: “There are several reason why hand organ begging has its drawbacks. In the first place it is hard to get hold of a hand organ in Chicago. The art seems to be passé. Finally I got a tip through one of the big music houses that an Italian over at Harrison and Jefferson streets might have one of the instruments.  Peter del Principe had one, I found, and he promised to loan it to me. But when I went back the next day, dressed for the job (as a begger), there was nothing doing. He merely shook his head and muttered. It took a $20 deposit to get hold of a the battered affair. Afterward, when I asked Signor del Principe to explain, he grunted, “No lika da elo’s!”  

The author continued “I located in front of a saloon on the west side with a “please help the blind” sign pinned to my coat and placed my hat on the wheezy organ to catch the flow of gold.  Peeking out of the corner of one eye, I could see that I wasn’t “making good” at all. It seemed so easy for the pedestrians – men, women, and children, old and young – to pass me by. Every third note on the organ was flat, and the tune was of the “Don’t Turn Away, Madge, I am Still Your Friend” vintage. Just about when the thing was repeating the chorus for the fifth time the owner of the saloon came and tapped on the window. When I tried my luck farther up the street two Italians came along and one of them bent over me with a gutteral something about “Americano” butting in on somebody else’s trade.”

The rest of the article is interesting and I was able to create a visual for myself of what downtown Chicago was like in 1914 based on the photos and the authors narration. This was a fun find for me and I hope I can turn up more newspaper articles about our ancestors.

 

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