Seeing Bohemia in the Dill Pickle Club


1845-1945 / Wednesday, March 6th, 2019
Excerpt from “The High Noon of Chicago’s Bohemias” by James Albert Gazell in the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society Volume 65, Number 1 (Spring, 1972), p. 65-67. The Dill Pickle Club of Chicago, Illinois was a haunt of egoists Ragnar Redbeard and Malfew Seklew.

Just north of Towertown, on the outskirts of the elegant Gold Coast, was the famous Dill Pickle Club, establish to provide a theater in which poets could recite their verses. [Founder Jack] Jones often found it necessary, however, to tailor the presentation for the audience that was present, and typical nightclub entertainment was not uncommon. “I give the audience the high-brow stuff until the crowd begins to grow thin,” he explained, “and then I turn on the sex faucet.” […] Several attempts were made during the 1920’s to commercialize the Towertown bohemia. One such enterprise was a seventy-five-cent “Seeing Bohemia” tour, during which patrons were conducted through tearooms and studios decorated for the occasion in a bizarre fashion. The Dill Pickle Club reportedly staged raids, at least a few times, and later increased its admissions charge as a come-on to those who expected to see legally forbidden activities. [With] the coming of Prohibition, Towertown became something of a haunt of the underworld, too. The Dill Pickle became a scarcely-disguised speakeasy, and even had itself raided a few times just for the publicity… The gangsters did not appall the writers and journalists the way they did most men; they knew them personally; Chicago was a a jungle anyway, and Prohibition was decidedly unpopular.