Opening and Closing the Doors of the Dil Pickle Club

1845-1945, Events, Malfew Seklew, Ragnar Redbeard / Thursday, July 8th, 2021

“Cruel Tax Man Puts ‘Kibosh’ on Famous Bohemian Meetings” – The Muscatine Journal

“Club Killed by Taxes” – The Oakland Tribune

“Dill Pickle Club Gone” – The Des Moines Tribune

Newspapers across the land marked the closing of the doors of the Dil Pickle Club on July 8, 1921 – one hundred years ago on this day. The Dil Pickle Club (so spelled in a painted sign above the entrance) was the creation of Jack Jones. Courting controversy above and beyond the neighboring Bughouse Square or Radical Book Shop, Jones welcomed every damned thinker he could find and anybody they brought with them. Malfew Seklew spoke there, and the Dil Pickle Press published an edition of Might is Right by Ragnar Redbeard in 1927. Poet Carl Sandburg and artist Stanislav Szukalski were no strangers to the Dil Pickle.

The Dil Pickle Club was located in Tooker Alley, Chicago. Tooker Alley, in turn, was accessed by an eighteen-inch gap between two buildings.  The Club was located in at least two locations in Tooker Alley at different times.  At some time it was in a building since torn down and replaced with a parking lot. At other times it was in “a barn” located in the alley.  And at other times the Club seems to be hidden entirely from view, like Alladin’s cave. The South Bend Tribune of July 27, 1928 wrote: “The Dill Pickle Club in Tooker’s Alley has the hardest door to find in Chicago. It’s like playing ‘Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button’ to find it. Entering Tooker’s Alley in ‘Towertown’ (Chicago’s Greenwich Village), the place resembles one solid wall. The door is a secret one which you have to find by moving your hand along the wall until you get a section that pushes in. It’s a sort of  hidden panel.”

There’s no getting in or getting out of the Dil Pickle Club now, save by the same imaginative spirit that animated the place while it was alive.

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