The American Writers Museum celebrates American writers through innovative, state-of-the-art exhibitions and compelling programming.
Behind this droll door was a bohemian bar and cabaret, where a lively mix of writers (including Sherwood Anderson and Carl Sandburg), gangsters, prostitutes, and social radicals discussed art, politics, and the possibility of free love. Dill Pickle Club is no longer a running location, but it will be worth strolling by to see where the greats used to hang!
The Dill Pickle Club was a popular bohemian club that ran between 1917 and 1935. It functioned as a speakeasy, cabaret, and theatre and was greatly influential during the Chicago Renaissance. In 1914, John “Jack” Jones, a member of the Industrial Workers of the World, an international labor union founded in Chicago in 1905, started weekly forums at a bookshop on North Clark Street, discussing labor and social issues of the time. By 1915, Jones needed a new venue for his forum since the population began to exceed expectations. He ended up finding a hole-in-the-wall bar on Tooker Alley, off of Dearborn Street, which he would soon name the Dill Pickle Club, once he began working with Jim Larkin and Ben Reitman.
The Dill Pickle Club served as a place of ideas -- sharing art, music, dance, and more. By 1917, Reitman was an instrumental person in increasing the club’s following, getting regular news coverage from the Chicago Daily News and the Chicago Tribune. The Club then started its own press, called the Dill Pickle Press, producing material to promote the club, such as the Dill Pickler newsletter, The Creative World bulletin, and Jones’ book "Tech-Up," among others.
Between these productions, and other, potentially counterfeit or illegal prints, and doing his own general maintenance on the place, Jones managed to make enough money to keep the club running. However, during the Great Depression, the economy took its toll on the club, and it began to see its fall. The usual gatherings transitioned from bohemian attendees to Chicago mobsters, and eventually, the club lost its personality and finally closed in 1934. Though there were attempts by others to revive the club after the Depression and Jones’ death in 1940, the club never managed to open to the public again.