When Chicago Shimmied and Toddled


In the early 1920s, many Chicagoans started dancing like babies. At least, that’s how some people described the dance craze of that moment in history. One writer said it was “an imitation of an infant’s walk, the sort of dancing that a baby does when its father whistles.”1 The dance was called the toddle—which explains how Chicago became known as “the toddling town,” thanks to a 1922 song with those lyrics.

Chicago wasn’t the only place where people toddled. It was a national phenomenon, even spreading as far as Europe. But, as blogger Peter Jensen Brown concluded in his history of the toddle, “Chicago appears to have been the epicenter of toddling culture.”2

Green Mill Gardens was one of many Chicago cabarets and dance venues where people toddled the night away. According to a Chicago Daily News ad from October 1921, Green Mill Gardens was hosting a toddle contest every Wednesday night.3

But Chicago wasn’t just a toddling town—it was also a shimmying city. A style of dancing known as the shimmy had transformed the city’s dance floors into writhing masses of young people. A Chicago Daily Tribune reporter, who wrote under the single-name byline Martha, was horrified by what she saw in September 1921 after she entered Green Mill Gardens, drawn to the venue by the slowly revolving “electric arms” of the windmill on its roof.

“In the semi-twilight of a room which teems with barbarous, pulsing jazz music,” Martha wrote, “the occupants of many score tables are going through the slow, methodical shaking which they call dancing.” As the hour grew late, the dancers seem to lose all inhibitions.  “With the floor packed, they succumb to the wild, uncouth outbursts from horn and violin and drum and give expression to the emotions within them.”

According to Martha, each dancing couple moved about 15 feet in the span of one minute—”and for every foot advanced, a score or more of fleshy vibrations shake each ecstatic twain.” To Martha, it all seemed uncivilized. She likened it to the dancing of Native Americans. “Like the tedious iteration of the western Indian, stamping up and down to the rhythmic beating of the tom-tom, is the dance of the Green Mill revelers in the midst of smart uptown Chicago,” Martha wrote. She also compared the Green Mill’s dancing couples to the prostitutes and men who frequented brothels. “No great distance separates them from the unblushing denizens of the demi-monde. It is almost a reversion to type.”4

In the eyes of Chicago’s guardians of morality, the shimmy and the toddle were the latest signs of civilization’s decline. The shimmy, in particular, gave young people an excuse to shake their bodies—and to clutch each other—without worrying too much about what their feet were doing on the dance floor. It all seemed so sexual. And, of course, that alarmed moralists. The shimmy and the toddle sparked a reform movement to clean up dance halls—and, strangely enough, to speed up the tempo of dance music.

The Shimmy

Chicago Dairy Produce, October 29, 1912.

Before shimmy was a style of dance, the word was a colloquial version of chemise—a garment that women wore, often as a short nightdress or piece of lingerie.5 The word seemed slightly naughty. For example, in 1912 the Chicago Dairy Produce newspaper printed an ad featuring these lines of verse:

Little girl, you look so small
Don’t you wear no clothes at all?
Don’t you wear no shimmy-shirt?
Don’t you wear no petty-skirt?
Just your corset and your hose
Are those all your underclothes?

These lines appeared—alongside drawings of women—in an ad for the American Butter Cutting Machine Company, which confessed that they had nothing to do with the company’s product. (Sex sells!)6 The Chicago Defender, the city’s leading Black newspaper, printed the same poem in 1914. 7

Two years later, the Defender published the earliest known use of shimmy as a word for a style of dancing.8 A teenager called Dimples Jackson wrote a letter to the Chicago newspaper from a place identified as Skeetsville, Mississippi. “I am a young lady 16 years old,” she wrote. “… I can … sing and dance the shimmy. I have big black eyes and will send you my picture if you want it. Are there any theater companies hiring young girls at present?” The Defender published her inquiry on July 1, 1916, along with a reply from the newspaper’s theater and movie critic, Tony Langston. “Am sorry to have to inform you that the companies are all firing instead of hiring these days,” he wrote. But he offered Dimples these encouraging words: “You are evidently a versatile young lady. The fact that you can shimmy alone qualifies you.”9

The dance was sometimes referred to as “Shaking the Shimmy,” which offers a possible clue about where the word came from. Was it a description of a woman dressed in a chemise shaking her body?10

In September 1916, a dance school in Hammond, Indiana, published a notice that it would not tolerate the dances known as “Walking the Dog” and “Shaking the Shimmy.” The notice said that these dances were “only fit for the home of their conception, among the negroes of the 31st and State sts., Chicago.”11

In March 1917, the Defender published another missive from a Black woman in Mississippi hoping for a show-business career in Chicago. “I can just clean up on Walkin’ the Dog, the Shimmy, and can even do that new ‘Stepping on the Puppy’s Tail,’” wrote Emma Smith, who was supposedly from a place called “Polecat, Miss.,” and was known by the stage name Gwendolin KaFlute. This time, Langston replied: “Walkin’ the Dog and the Shimmy have been legislated out of existence by popular opinion in most of the North, but the Puppy Tail thing bids fair to gain great prominence.” (He added: “I would like to have you send me a good description of yourself, as it is impossible for me to tell you whether you would look well doing that wiggle stuff.”)12

That same year, the Juvenile Protective Association of Chicago lamented how common these lascivious dances were in Chicago’s dance halls: “All the investigators report that up to about eleven p.m., generally speaking, the dances are well conducted; the crowd then begins to show the effect of too much liquor. Men and women become intoxicated and dance indecently such dances as ‘Walkin’ the Dog,’ ‘On the Puppy’s Tail,’ ‘Shaking the Shimmy,’ ‘The Dip,’ ‘The Stationary Wiggle,’ etc.”13

What exactly was the shimmy? In Minneapolis, the Twin City Star said it was a dance in which “a big brute may rub his belly against a young girl’s breast.”14

A syndicated 1918 article by playwright Bide Dudley described several people in a restaurant arguing about what it means to shimmy. “All you gotta do is take your sweet patootie in your arms and balance yourself,” a man says. “Then you tremble your knees and shiver your elbows. Of course, you gotta keep time to the band.”

Another man ridicules that definition, offering his own: “You take your fair sex in your arms and wish-wash the shoulders. When you get ‘em going right, you use the hinge in your neck until you get your head doing the tip-top from side to side. Then you shiver your backbone and tremble your feet, not your knees.”

A woman chimes in: “Well, first your tango-hound grabs you in his embrace; then you swish-swosh sideways and back, doing a little flip-flap with the elbows and acting loose and careless in your demeanor. That’s all there is to it. If you haven’t got some plow-deserter stepping over clods with you, you’ll get along fine.”

Finally, a waitress comments: “If you wanted to dance it that way you could. It’s just a ragtime rassle without any set of rules.”15

In this CBC video, Esie Mensah and David Forteau demonstrate how to shimmy:

As authorities in various places prohibited people from shaking the shimmy, the Akron Beacon-Journal weighed in with an editorial, summarizing rumors that the editors had heard about the dance:

We have heard there is a charming dance now somewhat in vogue here at private parties. We have never seen it. But from what one hears of it the lady tries to imitate a bowl of gelatine or something. Her feet don’t move much but from the waist down her anatomy is rather busy. Sometimes the gentleman puts both arms around her and, of course he has to keep time to the same wiggle she started, and really it must be rather exciting. We think it is called a shimmy dance. We are not sure. In fact we are not sure we know what a shimmy is. It seems to us we once heard it was a highly priced and somewhat useful article of female apparel.

The Akron newspaper mocked attempts at “regulating what kind of strangle hold a fellow shall take on his girl,” concluding: “long may the shimmy wave!”16

In Walter Rease Allman’s comic strip “Doings of the Duffs,” a character demonstrated how to “Shake the Shimmy.” Atlanta Journal, January 27, 1919.17

However, the American National Association of Masters of Dancing declared that the shimmy shouldn’t be permitted at public dances: “So-called ‘shimmy’ dancing is a shaking or jerking of the upper body while taking short steps or standing still, and should not be tolerated.” E.B. Gaynor, the dancing master at the Culver Military Academy in Culver, Indiana, blamed jazz for inspiring the shimmy. “Cheap, vulgar music invited cheap, vulgar dancing,” he remarked.18

Dancing instructor V. Persis Dewey also pointed to jazz when he tried to explain why “that peculiar wriggling, jiggling dance called the ‘shimmy’ attained a feverish popularity.” He offered the 1919 song “Jazz Baby” (with words by Blanche Merrill and music by M.K. Jerome) as evidence of “the connection between jazz and jiggles.” The song’s chorus went:19

I’m a Jazz baby,
I want to be jazzing all the time;
There’s something in the tone of a saxophone,
That makes me do a little wiggle all my own,
Cause I’m a Jazz baby,
Full of jazbo harmony;
That walk the dog, and ball the jack,
that caused all the talk,
Is just a copy of the way I nat’rally walk;
Cause I’m a Jazz baby,
Little Jazz baby that’s me.20

The Chicago Whip, a Black newspaper, disputed stories about the shimmy’s invention by African American actors. “As a matter of fact, the shimmy was originated by a mediocre white actor who caught his idea from a dog shaking himself after being thrown in the water,” the Whip wrote. “Colored people have perfected and popularized it, however. Salome dances, or in fact, any of the Eastern dances are somewhat similar to the shimmy in spots.”21

Bee Palmer, circa 1919. Wikimedia.

Although the shimmy seemed to emerge out of the Black community, the most famous shimmy dancers were two white women. Beatrice “Bee” Palmer, who was born in Chicago in 1894,22 did the shimmy in a show called Joy Bells at the London Hippodrome in 1919.23 The Tribune called her “the Chicago stage beauty who originated the ‘shimmy’”24 and the “queen of the shimmy.”25

The New York Clipper proclaimed Palmer to be the “most refined” shimmy dancer. “The undulating oscillations and nerve control of the involuntary muscles, particularly the pectoralis, major and minor, as demonstrated by Miss Palmer, is nothing short of remarkable,” the entertainment newspaper said.26

Gilda Gray. University of Wisconsin-Madison Library.

The other big shimmy star was Gilda Gray, a.k.a. Marianna Michalska,27 who’d immigrated from Poland as a young child, growing up in Milwaukee.28 Early during her career, she’d performed at Chicago’s Arsonia Cafe.29 She gained fame when she shook the shimmy to “Beale Street Blues” in Schubert Gaieties of 1919 on Broadway in New York.

A syndicated newspaper story proclaimed that Gray created the “real” shimmy—in other words, the first shimmy that deserved to be called a dance. What about all of those other people who’d been shimmying on dance floors long before Gray? The writer of this article regarded them with utter contempt: “The elaborate gyrations, exaggerated contortions, and generally perspiring efforts of amateurs ranked it with the most strenuous athletics. It was anything but a dance—setting-up exercises, football tackle, St. Vitus affliction—what you will. But a dance—never!”

Greenville (SC) News, August 27, 1919.

Here’s how Gray performed the shimmy: “She stands perfectly still and erect. A slight movement seems to run through her entire body as a premonitory symptom, and then, quite slowly she began to quiver. The muscular movement begins at her hips and is more or less confined there. She does not use her shoulders, as most dancers do, and throughout the entire course of the dance, she takes no more than one or two steps to the right and left.”30


The Toddle

While the true origin of the shimmy is a bit mysterious, the toddle’s creation seems clearer: A prominent dance instructor, G. Hepburn Wilson, said he’d invented it. Wilson unveiled the toddle at the American National College of Dancing’s New York City convention in December 1916. “And it was pronounced the season’s dance hit,” according to an article published in newspapers around the country.31

As news spread about the toddle, the Chicago Evening Post sarcastically commented: “New York’s all excited over its newest dance, the toddle. But in Chicago even the babies have been doing it for years.”32 The word toddle had been around for hundreds of years, meaning “to walk or run with short unsteady steps.” The word was especially used to describe young children learning to walk.33

A 2012 Danse Libre video of the Toddle:

Wilson claimed that just about anybody could perform his new dance. “The toddle is a simple dance,” he said. But other people weren’t so sure about its simplicity. When a couple toddled on the dance floor, the man took four steps forward and the woman took four steps backward. That part was simple enough. But then, the dancers were supposed to pivot and turn on one foot. “The turn must be done rhythmically, with the body swaying, and if you lose your balance, it’s all off,” one writer noted.34

“The Toddle is said to be an extremely difficult dance,” wrote the Columbia Daily Times in Missouri. “… There is a pivot in it which seems to have been the ruination of everybody who has tried it so far.” The newspaper warned that “fat people” should avoid attempting the toddle.35

When Chicago dancing instructors began offering toddle lessons in 1917, they called it “the New York Toddle.”36 Meanwhile, a newspaper in New Orleans used a racial epithet when it described the toddle as “a dainty version of the old noisy n—– steps.”37 But the sheet music for the dance’s accompanying song—composed by Wilson with Basil Sadler—was titled “Chinese Toddle: Oriental Ball Room Dance, Characteristique.”38 Wilson also referred to the dance as “the Chinese run.”

Buffalo Courier, October 28, 1917.

As the Buffalo Courier explained, the dance and this “dreamy, sensuous, haunting” song supposedly evoked China. To perform the toddle most effectively, “the dancer should be attired in the easy, sinuous garb of the Celestial kingdom,” the newspaper suggested.39 But obviously, as dancers around the country started toddling, it’s doubtful that very many of them dressed in Chinese garb.

Perhaps the dance gained popularity precisely because it was so tricky to perform without looking ridiculous. Did that make it more fun? “It makes you feel as foolish as a farm hand caught kissing his best girl in the settin’ room with the light turned up,” Jane Dixon wrote in the New York Sun. “… By the time you have toddled half way around the hall, a baby hippopotamus with flat feet is as graceful as a sylph in comparison with you.”40

The famous dance teacher Arthur Murray described the toddle as having the “delightful abandon so characteristic of everything American.” He said it was similar to the shimmy, but without the shimmy’s shoulder shakes. It was also similar to the fox trot, but the toddle’s steps had an extra bounce.41

South Bend (IN) News-Times, July 31, 1921.

When some Chicagoans visited Biarritz, France, in the summer of 1920, people constantly asked them to demonstrate the toddle. “In Paris and London it is the same thing,” Mme. X, the Tribune’s society news columnist, wrote that December. “All the smart cafés are filled with toddlers toddling to the stirring strains of an American jazz band. Of all the things that have come out of this country, including the doughboy and Herbert Hoover, the toddle is considered our best contribution to modern civilization.”42

The toddle craze seemed to reach new heights in 1921, when Chicago’s Melrose Bros. published the sheet music for “Take It Easy,” which was advertised as “The Toddle Song that Beats ‘Em All” and “The Toddle Tune from Toddle Town.” That spring, the Benson Orchestra of Chicago recorded another song, titled “Toddle—Medley Fox Trot.” 43

The Tribune described a “$250,000 Toddle Palace” under construction at 3136 North Sheffield Avenue. As the newspaper explained, “With nearly every one learning to toddle, it’s only to be expected that toddling space must be provided for our increase in dancing population.” That building under construction was the Merry Garden Ballroom; it’s not clear how much toddling actually took place there in the years that followed.44

A beauty column in the Tribune also mentioned toddling, when it suggested that women should go out to a “good show every now and then.” The column advised: “If you don’t know how to toddle, learn how, and get a handsome party frock and a handsome man and dance till you have some of the good old youth back in your soles.”45

Also in 1921, a fashion designer created a gown called “the Chicago Toddle.” And a Chicago couple got married in a ceremony described by newspapers as a “Toddle Wedding.” The officiating pastor toddled along with everyone else.

The Bureau of Don’ts

The University of Illinois and Chicago’s public schools banned the toddle.46 So did Northwestern University—until jazz saxophonist Jimmie Caldwell played “the entrancing ‘blues’ of the toddle” at a campus dance.

The Tribune reported what happened next: “Dean Roy C. Flickinger, who has been uncompromising in his opposition to the dance, was unable to resist the music and seized a partner. Four hundred surprised students watched the gyrations of the dean and his partner. Jimmie played faster and faster. Finally the dean stopped and panted, ‘Well, that’s some dance. I guess it’s O.K.’”47

In September 1921, the Tribune reporter Martha wrote a series of seven articles, describing the dancing she’d observed at ballrooms and cabarets all over Chicago. She stopped inside Green Mill Gardens during her visit to “that section of the city which likes to think of itself as Smart Uptown Chicago.” Describing the neighborhood, Martha wrote: “The intersection of Broadway and Wilson avenue is its hub, and eternal youth is its chief aim and endeavor.”

While she was in Uptown, Martha also went to the Arcadia, “that shrine of the fox trot,” on the west side of Broadway north of Montrose Avenue. “Here, beneath the bizarre ornamentation of the high arched ceiling, we find eager hundreds thronging in quest of their inalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of jazz,” she wrote. Martha thought the Arcadia crowd was combining low-class and high-class dance moves.48

As Martha crisscrossed Chicago’s nightlife scene, she saw many people doing the shimmy—or something similar to it. Revelers inside Lorraine Gardens, a black-and-tan cabaret at 4116 South State Street, firmly clasped each other. “A medley of wriggles—slightly lateral, more pronouncedly backward and forward—seems the motif of the movement,” Martha wrote. “Their feet shuffle a bit in a sort of accompaniment to the music.” Each couple formed a single “molecule,” and all of these molecules became one “seething mass.”49

At a “honka-tonk” nightclub near Clark and Erie Streets on the Near North Side, Martha disapprovingly noted how the women were corsetless and “unrestrained in gesture of body or legs.” Martha thought that the dancers at this joint resembled gargoyles: “Grins almost horrible distort their mouths as they push, and twist, and wriggle about the floor. Their eyes burn with a wild luster and their limbs are dovetailed tightly together.”50

The shimmy and toddle were officially prohibited at Dreamland, located at Van Buren and Paulina Streets, but the ban didn’t seem to have much effect when a youthful white audience filled the floor, moving to jazz performed by Black musicians. “The tom-tom beats, the saxophone wallows in a slough of sound, and the thousand and one couples push forward in what is alleged to be a dance,” Martha wrote. “This consists chiefly, it would seem, in attaining some measure of hold upon one’s companion and jogging rhythmically around the room.” She also noticed that everyone was chewing gum: “Two thousand and two jaws that chew as one. No wonder the band keeps such excellent cadence!”51

Martha traced the history of these salacious dances back to the Levee, the South Side’s former red-light district. When people danced in the Levee’s brothels, Martha wrote, “Sex was its sole expression; lasciviousness its alpha and omega. From such places as these came the jazz dance of today.”52

J. Louis Guyon, the owner of a West Side ballroom called Guyon’s Paradise, was pushing for “clean” dancing. “Modern dancing is creating an army of degenerates,” he told Martha. “It is breaking down the moral resistance of the younger generation and taking its toll in girls who succumb, under its insidious influence, during the automobile rides and parties that follow the evening’s dance.”53

Elizabeth Crandall. Chicago Daily Tribune, March 5, 1916.

During the same month when Martha published her exposé of naughty dancing, reformer Elizabeth Crandall announced a plan to make dancing more wholesome—not just in Chicago, but across the whole country.

Crandall, a 46-year-old Ohio native, was an actress who’d served as the Drama League of Chicago’s president before becoming a social worker for the Juvenile Protective Association.54 She was now also working as a special agent for the U.S. Interdepartmental Social Hygiene Board. That federal agency was established in 1918 to fight the spread of venereal diseases—a mission that had expanded to include clamping down on salacious dancing.55

Crandall spent five months visiting Chicago cabarets and ballrooms before she announced her findings in September 1921. “I’ve visited and revisited about 40 places and found them much better than I expected,” she said. “Strict supervision is maintained in the majority of the halls, but conditions are still bad in many cabarets. As long as there is dim lighting and slow music, dancing will be bad.”

Even though jazz music was often associated with rapid tempos, Crandall said the real problem was slower music. “If the orchestra plays at a fast tempo, there is no opportunity for indecent dancing,” she explained. “The shimmy and toddle and those hip-to-hip contortions that go with them can’t be done to snappy music.”56

The slow numbers condemned by Crandall included “moonlight” dances, when venues dimmed the lights. “Every other dance is a moonlight,” she complained.57 According to Crandall, bands were playing “the music of primitive orgies, the barbaric rhythms of races low down on the scale of civilization.”

Crandall said the shimmy should also be prohibited, but she singled out the toddle as the worst of all dances, explained that it “permits the most intimacy.” She continued: “The toddling of the unescorted flapper—that is the fundamental problem of the public dance hall today.”58 That’s a curious claim. The toddle, as it was created by G. Hepburn Wilson, did not seem especially salacious. And it didn’t appear to involve a lot of close physical contact between dancers. Had the toddle evolved into some form of dirty dancing?

The National Association of Ballroom Managers, based in Chicago, sent out a directive to ballrooms across the country: Play music at a minimum tempo of 74 beats per minute. That’s actually not an especially fast tempo; andante—a tempo of 73 to 77—is known as a “walking pace.”59 But bands had been reportedly been playing at “the droning and degrading beat of 45.”

“We are sober-minded businessmen, not fanatics or puritans,” said Frank T. Caspers, the association’s business representative. “Our business will go to pot if we continue to permit it to be degraded. The public will go just as far as you let it. The time has come to call a halt. Speeding up the music will kill the shimmy, the crawl and the toddle.

“That accomplished, we will try to stop improper postures in dancing. Strangleholds can even degrade the waltz. Then we’ll try to force the song foundries to turn out better songs. Songs such as ‘All She’d Say Was Um-Um’ and ‘Ma, He’s Huggin’ Me Too Tight’ have got to go. Some of the songs are not fit to go through the mails.”60

The fast-tempo edict quickly took effect, according to an Associated Press report from five years later. “The toddle, the shimmy and kindred slow syncopated motions were impossible at the brisk pace the music set, and the managers found most of the bad dancing eliminated,” the AP reported.61

This change may have cleaned up the dancing in ballrooms, but it didn’t necessarily have that effect in cabarets. “I have found in investigating cabarets that the so-called high-class places are the worst transgressors,” Crandall said.62 And while big ballrooms cooperated with the reformers, cabaret proprietors opposed regulation.63

That winter, the Committee of Fifteen waged war on naughty dancing at cabarets. The reform group’s efforts led to a guilty verdict in January 1922 against Julia Rector, who’d been dancing at the Entertainers’ Café, 209 East 35th Street. “The abdominal muscle dancer and the shimmyite must go,” declared Arnold Heap, a judge in Chicago’s Morals Court, as he found Rector guilty of “improper performances” and fined her $200.

“This case smacks of the barbarism of the jungle,” the judge continued. “The very music was obscene. The evil genius of this place has artfully combined the grossness of primitive sensuality with the gilded refinement of modern licentiousness.”

According to testimony, 200 to 400 couples would cram onto the café’s 400-square-foot dance floor. “The floor was always crowded,” Heap said. “This left a maximum of one person to every square foot of dance floor. They couldn’t do anything that even pretended to be dancing. The music played wasn’t dance music. The jazz orchestra blared and clanged its tones, but that isn’t intended to be dance music.”64

Reformers wanted the Chicago City Council to pass laws regulating dancing and other morally suspect behavior, such as women smoking cigarettes. Some aldermen proposed making it illegal for females to wear “rolled stockings, skirts shorter than four inches above the ground, pencilled eye brows, bobbed hair unless enclosed in hair net, golashes unless buckled, or dresses cut low in front or back unless first passed upon and approved by the Morals Commission of the City of Chicago.” It would also be a crime for any man to dance with a female dressed like that.

Ulysses S. Schwartz. Find A Grave.

Alderman Ulysses S. Schwartz responded with satire, proposing that Chicago should instead create a Bureau of Don’ts, whose members would be “selected by the popular or unpopular vote of reformers, hypocrites, bigots, professional agitators, peanut-headed and small-hearted nincompoops.” This new commission would have the power to decide whether any citizen had “the right to live, die, breathe, laugh, cry, eat, sleep, love, hate, dance, walk, run, stand, labor, rest, write, speak or think.”

In addition, the Bureau of Don’ts would determine “the limits of height to which a citizen of any sex may grow,” the color and style of everyone’s hair, and who had the right to marry whom. And to accomplish all of these tasks, the commission would repeal any portions of the U.S. Constitution and Illinois Constitution that might get in its way.

The City Council tabled Schwartz’s proposal, as well as the plan to regulate female attire and smoking.65 But Elizabeth Crandall continued urging the council to pass a law requiring dance hall proprietors to hire chaperones to oversee every public dance.

“Bathhouse” John Coughlin.

Alderman “Bathhouse” John Coughlin was skeptical. “What’s the use?” he remarked at a committee meeting. “The only dance nowadays is the wiggle-woggle, anyway.”

“Not so,” Crandall told him. “I’ve attended 400 dances in the last two years, and I know. The shimmy, which you call the wiggle-woggle, is only danced in the cabarets. Every dance should be chaperoned. We plan to pick social workers for the work, women who have the knack of correcting deportment and conditions without antagonizing, you know. We want to raise the standard in Chicago dance halls. There are 12 halls which have a total of $5 million invested in them. Their average attendance is 55,000 a week. Dancing is one of the most important factors in the life of the young people.”

“Well, it’s about the only thing left, I’ll admit,” said Coughlin, who often complained about the Prohibition Era’s attempts to crack down on fun. As the Tribune noted, he “loses no opportunity to bewail the existence of the eighteenth amendment and other laws of an azure tint.”66

Aldermen buried the proposed ordinance in a committee, never bringing it up for a council vote. But Chicago’s ballroom managers agreed to hire the Juvenile Protective Association’s “hostesses” to supervise dancers’ social behavior. According to jazz historian William Howland Kenney, the actions of these reformers had an effect on the styles of music and dancing that were popular in the 1920s. “Cooperation between dance hall entrepreneurs and urban reformers shaped the commercialization of the dance craze and created a demand for fast paced ‘peppy,’ but morally sanitary, jazz age social dance music,” he wrote in his 1993 book Chicago Jazz.67

That Famous Song About Toddling

Today, the toddle craze is long forgotten, but Chicago’s reputation as the capital of toddling was immortalized in Fred Fisher’s 1922 song “Chicago (That Toddling Town).”

Fred Fisher. Wikimedia.

The German Jewish songwriter’s real name was Alfred Breitenbach. Born in Cologne in 1874 or 1875,68 he never lost his thick accent.69 He was once quoted offering this advice: “Zongwriting is a question of zounds, not zense. If you create new zounds, you make money. If you can’t get new zounds, den you must write mit passion.”70 A writer for the New York Daily News observed: “He talks with an accent. He will contend that love rhymes with enough. And the way he pronounces the words it does. Which should give you an idea of how he speaks.”71

Breitenbach reportedly arrived in Chicago around 1900. “He learned to play the piano in one easy lesson from a Negro entertainer in a South State Street saloon,” Billboard magazine wrote, in a somewhat fanciful profile. (Really? One easy lesson?) “Then and there he became a songwriter, and a remarkably successful one from the start.”72

The details of Breitenbach’s time in Chicago are sketchy. He apparently moved to New York City around 1907, when he started the Fred Fisher Music Publishing Company.

That was the same year Ada Jones recorded Fisher’s song “If the Man in the Moon Were a Coon,” which sold more than 2.5 million copies.73 There were many popular hits about the moon at the time, as well as countless “coon” songs, a whole genre of music named after an offensive slang term for Black people. Fisher’s song combined those themes into one ditty, replete with racist humor. The sheet music’s cover proclaimed that it was the “Biggest ‘Hit’ in 20 Years.”74

And yet, when Fisher wrote “Chicago” in 1922, his lyrics seemed to celebrate the migration of Black people to Chicago.

As the DNAInfo news website pointed out in 2017, most of the song’s original words are forgotten now, because the most popular version of “Chicago,” recorded by Frank Sinatra in 1957, didn’t include all of Fisher’s words. Sinatra sang just the chorus, leaving out two verses as well as a bridge (or third verse) that was labeled as “Patter” in the sheet music:

In “College Inn” you get the real beer in a glass,
In that college from Professors, you learn to jazz,
More Colored people up in State Street you can see
Than you’ll see in Louisiana or Tennessee,
They’ve got the “Stockyards” So I heard the people say,
I just got wind of it today, Today.75

That line about the College Inn—a popular restaurant and nightclub located in downtown’s Sherman Hotel—relates how easy it was to obtain beer in Chicago in 1922, despite the fact that it had been illegal for more than two years. (There was also a College Inn at the South Side’s White City amusement park, but that one reportedly didn’t serve alcohol, even when it was legal to do so.76)

Billy Sunday. Wikimedia.

The song’s more famous chorus makes a similar point, when it says that Billy Sunday, a famous evangelist who denounced saloons, wasn’t able to shut down the town. In other words, prohibition wasn’t working in Chicago.

Chicago, Chicago, That toddl’ing town, Toddl’ing town
Chicago, Chicago, I’ll show you around, I love it.
Betch your bottom dollar you lose the blues in Chicago, Chicago
The town that Billy Sunday could not shut down

Although Fred Fisher lived in New York City when he wrote “Chicago,” he obviously knew the city well and felt much affection for it. And he was well aware of Chicago’s toddle craze. The song might be seen as a celebration of the fact that Chicagoans continued toddling in spite of all the efforts by reformers to stop this style of dancing.

On State Street, That Great Street, Just want to say,
They do things they don’t do on Broadway
Say, They have the time, The time of their life,
I saw a man he danced with his wife,
in Chicago, Chicago, my hometown.

Why did Fisher mention State Street in these lines? The reference might remind listeners about the Loop’s famous department stores on State Street, but he seems to be describing places where people went to party on State Street—maybe some downtown restaurants, cafés, or cabarets?

The song’s other lyrics mention the presence of many “colored people up in State Street,” which must be a reference to a different stretch of State Street—where it ran through the South Side’s Black Belt, a segregated African American neighborhood. Is that what Fisher was talking about in the chorus, when he wrote about people doing things on State Street that they don’t do on Broadway? Was Fisher referring to the Stroll, a cluster of entertainment venues along South State Street, including the black-and-tan cabarets where Black and white people mingled together?

Fisher had supposedly learned to play piano from a Black musician in a saloon on South State Street (learning how “to jazz” from one of those “Professors” he mentioned elsewhere in the song). So, it’s conceivable that he was fondly paying tribute to that district when he wrote “Chicago” years later.

And what about the line describing a man dancing with his wife? That always struck me as a somewhat slapdash or nonsensical line, placed in the song just so there’d be a word that rhymes with “life.” But was it inspired by a specific moment or event? I recently wondered if a 1918 Chicago Daily News story about a charity dance at Green Mill Gardens could have inspired the lyric. The headline was “Dance With Wife, $10.”77 However, it’s unclear whether Fisher, living in New York, would have seen that headline.

Chicago Daily News, August 31, 1918.

He may have simply been commenting on Chicago’s reputation as a city where people enjoyed dancing. At a time when newspapers ran sensational stories about divorces, extramarital affairs, and people hooking up with new lovers on the city’s dance floors, Fisher offered a more wholesome example: a married couple enjoying themselves by dancing. Perhaps this was his way of saying that dancing didn’t always have an ulterior, sinful motive, as people like Billy Sunday, Elizabeth Crandall, and Martha believed.

The song’s second verse also touches on the theme of dancing:

Any old Maid, Who’s not afraid,
Powders her nose, puts on nice clothes, she’ll get a beau
Any old Guy over in Chi,
He’s got a chance, If he can dance, He’ll cop a Flo.
Any Hotel, That’s a bit swell
Must have a band, Right here on hand, or else their [sic] cheap
If you’ll invest, You’ll find a guest, they’ll never rest,
They’re dancing while they sleep.

Here, Fisher used “Chi” as a shorthand for Chicago. Back in 1901, the author Josiah Flynt had reported that tramps and other people in the “underworld,” such as criminals, used “Chi” as a slang term for Chicago, pronouncing it “shy.”78 That’s also how Spencer Tracy pronounces it when he says “Chi” in the 1931 movie Quick Millions.

The lyric “He’ll cop a Flo” seems to suggest that a fellow can pick up a gal if he knows how to dance—just like that “old Maid” who can find a beau if she wears nice clothes.

And then Fisher asserts that you could find a band playing at just about any hotel in Chicago, other than the cheap places. Yet again, Fisher was saluting Chicago for providing lively entertainment in spite of all the efforts by puritans to clamp down on fun.

The sheet music for “Chicago (That Toddling Town)” was advertised in a trade publication in August 1922.79 Fred Fisher’s company published at least four editions,80 all of them arranged for piano and voice, along with ukulele chords. One had a cover illustration showing a couple dancing, with a city skyline behind them in the distance across some water (presumably Lake Michigan).

Other versions of the sheet music were illustrated with pictures promoting musicians who’d performed the song: Rapp and His Orchestra, M. Speciale and his “Carlton Terrace” Orchestra, and singer Blossom Seeley.

In October 1922, the W.W. Kimball Co. store on Wabash Avenue advertised a piano roll of the song “with words.”81 That might be the same roll shown in this YouTube video of a player piano, with the words scrolling from top to bottom.

Early recordings of the song were instrumental, including performances by the Georgians, Joseph Samuels’ Music Masters, the Savoy Harmonists, Jazz-Bo’s Carolina Serenaders, Stevens’ Trio, and Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra.

I haven’t found any early recordings of “Chicago” featuring vocals. It’s possible that none were made—perhaps because of the era’s recording technology. At that time, it wasn’t easy to capture the clear sound of a singer along with a large band. “To make a sound recording prior to 1925, instrumentalists, singers, and speakers performed in front of a flared metal horn which gathered and funneled sound waves toward a thin diaphragm at the small end of the horn,” a Library of Congress website explains. “… All adjustments to the sound were made by altering the performer’s position relative to the horn or by trying horns of differing sizes or diaphragms of varied thickness.”82 That would change in 1925, when the Victor Talking Machine Company used microphones to make the first electrical sound recording.83 But in 1922, musicians and record producers may have simply decided it was easiest to record a band playing “Chicago” without a vocalist.

To hear a rendition of “Chicago” with the complete lyrics, we may have to turn to a more recent performance by a fellow who calls himself the Sheet Music Singer. (He pronounces “Chi” with a hard “ch” sound.)

It’s hard to tell how popular “Chicago (That Toddling Town)” was when it came out in 1922. Chicago’s newspapers apparently didn’t have much to say about it—there don’t seem to be any Tribune or Daily News stories mentioning the phrase “Toddling Town.”

However, a New York Sun article from January 1923 makes it clear that the song was well known. The syndicated commentary, which appeared in newspapers around the country, argued that people no longer knew the lyrics of current popular songs. Back in the early years of the 20th century, “people still had the habit of gathering round the piano and singing the popular songs of the day, and also the sentimental old ballads of other days,” the article noted.

But that was no longer the case. Jazz bands tended to play instrumental versions of the most popular songs in the early 1920s. People recognized these songs and enjoyed dancing to them, but they often didn’t know their lyrics.

“But wait!” the Sun’s writer exclaimed. “You may not call it singing, but the jazz hounds will sometimes break into a sort of raucous chants when the band hits a very popular tune.” To illustrate that point, the article described a young couple’s reaction as an orchestra played “Chicago (That Toddling Town).”

The man shouted: “Hot dog! That’s ‘Chicago’!” He raised his head and howled, “Chi-ca-go! Chi-ca-go!” But he didn’t know any of the other words, so he just sang “ta-ta ta-ta.”

The woman with him knew a few more words. “It’s a toddling town,” she sang. The man repeated that refrain, but then he went back to singing “ta-ta ta-ta,” while his partner sang her own nonsense syllables: “deum dum dum.”

When the song was over, the man applauded the orchestra. Turning to his partner, he said, “Gee, that’s a real song, isn’t it?” She nodded. And with rapturous expression on her face, she told him: “And I’m just crazy about your singing.”

Like many such newspaper stories, this anecdote may be a fictional concoction, but it does indicate that “Chicago” was popular—and that most people knew only a few of the song’s words. And the couple must have heard someone singing the words at some earlier time.84

Fred Fisher. Wikmedia.

Fred Fisher was a prolific songwriter. One of his most famous hits is “Peg o’ My Heart,” which has been recorded many times over the years, including a No. 1 version in 1947 by the Harmonicats and a 2011 recording by the Dropkick Murphys featuring Bruce Springsteen.

Other Fisher songs include “Dardanella,” “Come Josephine in My Flying Machine,” “When I Get You Alone Tonight,” “There’s a Little Bit of Bad in Every Good Little Girl,” “Any Little Girl That’s a Nice Little Girl Is the Right Little Girl for Me,” “I’m on My Way to Mandalay,” “Happy Days and Lonely Nights,” “Daddy, You’ve Been a Mother to Me,” and “There’s a Broken Heart for Every Light on Broadway.”

In 1933, the New York Daily News said Fisher was “one of the great ‘And then I wrote——’ men of Tin Pan Alley.”

Describing his primitive piano playing, the newspaper said: “He plays the piano with ten thumbs but that doesn’t stop him. He knows classical music and that’s what aids him.”

Fisher readily admitted borrowing from pieces of classical music when he wrote his popular songs. “How do you like this part? Tricky, eh?” he told the reporter as he played something on the piano. “It can’t miss. I took it from a little thing by Mozart. The trouble with most composers is that they don’t know where to go for their tunes.”

The Daily News offered this glimpse of Fisher’s personal life: “He sleeps in a double bed and has a piano in his bedroom. He will often wake up in the middle of the night and rush over to the piano to start pounding out a tune. His wife is not able to sleep through his impromptu concerts. He usually sleeps in his underwear. Occasionally he will sleep in the raw. He generally forgets to remove his hat and will sleep in the nude wearing a derby.”85

Fisher died of suicide on January 14, 1942.86 He’d been in ill health for several years, which might explain why he hanged himself at his penthouse apartment in New York, leaving a note that said, in part, “No one is responsible.”

The Associated Press story about Fisher’s death listed several of his most famous songs, but it didn’t mention “Chicago.”87

The Green Mill may have played a part in keeping Fisher’s song “Chicago (That Toddling Town)” alive—setting off a chain of events that led to the song’s most famous version and its enduring popularity.

According to Art Cohn’s 1955 book The Joker Is Wild, Sol Wagner and His Orchestra often played the song at the Green Mill when Joe Lewis was the nightclub’s master of ceremonies, from November 1926 through October 1927. After Lewis left the Green Mill for another venue, he was attacked and nearly killed by three thugs—a story told in The Joker Is Wild. Lewis survived the assault and began making a comeback.

Sol Wagner, depicted in The Chicagoan magazine, June 22, 1929.

In 1929, as Lewis was putting together a show for downtown’s State-Lake Theatre, he talked with Wagner, who was working again as his bandleader. “What can we play?” he said, trying to think of good tunes to include in the show. “You were with me at the Green Mill. Try to remember some of those songs.”

A melody came into Lewis’s head, but he couldn’t remember the title at first. “Ta-tah-da … ta-tah-da … You know, Solly.’’ Lewis finally realized what the song was, exclaiming, “‘Chicago,’ Solly! Play ‘Chicago’!” (Or so the story goes in The Joker Is Wild.)

It appears that Lewis was much like those people the New York Sun had described in 1923. Like them, he knew the melody of “Chicago” while having, at best, only a vague memory of the lyrics.

For the rest of Lewis’s career, as he became a popular nightclub comedian performing around the country, “Chicago (That Toddling Town)” was his entrance music.88 And so, when Frank Sinatra starred in a 1957 movie based on The Joker Is Wild, the melody of “Chicago” was featured on the soundtrack. (The movie’s fictionalized version of the Green Mill is called the 777 Club.)

As the movie came out, Sinatra also recorded a 1957 version of “Chicago,” which hit No. 84 on the Billboard Hot 100. While it wasn’t exactly a huge hit, that Sinatra version of the song has, over time, become one of the most famous records about the city—an unofficial anthem for Chicago.89

A 78 rpm pressing of the song on Capitol Records with its sleeve. Photo by TessiesOldOddities on Etsy.

Sinatra didn’t sing most of the song’s words, so few people know those lyrics. What many listeners might not realize is that the song is a celebration of Chicago and its vibrant spirit at a specific moment in time—the early years of the Prohibition Era, when Chicagoans continued to drink alcohol and dance the night away, but before the full-blown violence of gang warfare erupted in the mid-1920s.



1 Arthur Brisbane, “Today: … The ‘Toddle’ Banished,” Washington Times, January 19, 1921, 1.

2 Peter Jensen Brown, “Gimme a Shimmy—Hold the Shiver—Why Chicago Was a ‘Toddling Town,’” Early Sports and Pop Culture History Blog, April 25, 2016, https://esnpc.blogspot.com/2016/04/gimme-shimmy-hold-shiver-why-chicago.html.

3 Advertisement, Chicago Daily News, October 1, 1921, 12.

4 Martha, “Best and Worst Dancing Blend in Wilson Ave.,” Chicago Daily Tribune, September 20, 1921, 17.

5 “shimmy,” noun 1, Oxford English Dictionary, modified July 2023; “chemise,” noun, modified March 2024, oed.com.

6 Advertisement, Chicago Dairy Produce, October 29, 1912, 20, https://books.google.com/books?id=Nz86AQAAMAAJ&pg=RA22-PA20#v=onepage.

7 “From Our Exchanges: The Fig Leaf Age,” Chicago Defender, July 25, 1914, 8.

8 “shimmy,” noun 2, Oxford English Dictionary, modified December 2023, oed.com.

9 “Answers,” Chicago Defender, July 1, 1916, 4. Langston’s identity: Ethan Michaeli, The Defender: How the Legendary Black Newspaper Changed America (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016), 69–70.

10 “Shimmy (v.),” Online Etymology Dictionary, accessed May 9, 2024, https://www.etymonline.com/word/shimmy.

11 “Clean Public Dancing,” (Hammond, IN) Lake County Times, September 11, 1916, 5.

12 “Answers,” Chicago Defender, March 10, 1917, 6.

13 Louise de Koven Bowen, The Public Dance Halls of Chicago (Chicago: Juvenile Protective Association of Chicago, 1917), 4, https://hdl.handle.net/2027/hvd.32044032114779?urlappend=%3Bseq=8%3Bownerid=27021597765136193-14.

14 (Minneapolis) Twin City Star, December 8, 1917, 5.

15 Bide Dudley, “Lucille the Waitress,” syndicated, Moline (IL) Daily Dispatch, December 27, 1918, 10.

16 “Worse Than a Hun Plot,” editorial, Akron (OH) Beacon-Journal, January 15, 1919, 4.

17 Walter Rease Allman, “Doings of the Duffs,” comic strip, Atlanta Journal, January 27, 1919, 8.

18 “Seek to Shake the Shock Out of the Shimmy,” Chicago Daily Tribune, November 18, 1919, 19.

19 V. Persis Dewey, “The ‘Shimmy Dance,’” Pittsburgh Press, June 20, 1920, Additional News Section, 17.

20 Blanche Merrill, words; M.K. Jerome, music, “Jazz Baby” (New York: Waterson Berlin and Snyder Co., 1919), eGrove, University of Mississippi, https://egrove.olemiss.edu/sharris_c/162/.

21 “The Birth of the Shimmy,” Chicago Whip, October 11, 1919, 11.

22 Cook County, Illinois, U.S., Birth Certificates Index, 1871-1922; Iowa, U.S., Select Marriages Index, 1758-1996, Ancestry.com.

23 “Dramatis Personae,” (London) Observer, December 22, 1918, 5.

24 “Shiver Waltz,” Chicago Daily Tribune, January 16, 1921, 13.

25 “Dempsey Is Sued for $250,000 by Siegal,” Chicago Daily Tribune, November 11, 1921, 16.

26 “New Acts and Reappearances: Bee Palmer,” New York Clipper, May 18, 1921, 12, https://idnc.library.illinois.edu/?a=d&d=NYC19210518.2.99&srpos=1&e=——-en-20-NYC-1-byDA-txt-txIN-%22involuntary+muscles%22———.

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28 Paul Mongan, Robert Mongan Family Tree, accessed May 6, 2024, Ancestry.com.

29 Louis M. Starr, “45 Years of Night Life and Mike Fritzel Still Has Yen to Be Farmer,” Chicago Sun, June 8, 1947, 25.

30 “Good Morning Judge! ‘Shake Your Shimmy,’” Greenville (SC) News, syndicated, August 27, 1919, 11.

31 “Toddle Latest Dance Diversion of New York,” Washington Post, December 30, 1916, 2.

32 “Hits and Misses,” (Wilmington, DE) Morning News, January 8, 1917, 4, quoting Chicago Evening Post.

33 “toddle,” verb, Oxford English Dictionary, modified March 2024, oed.com.

34 “If You’re Fat Sit Down When You Try to Dance ‘The Toddle,’” (Boise) Idaho Daily Statesman, January 13, 1917, 5.

35 “Columbians in Social World,” Columbia (MO) Daily Times, January 5, 1917, 3.

36 Advertisement, Chicago Daily Tribune, February 1, 1917, 30.

37 “On With the Toddle!” (New Orleans) States, February 11, 1917, 40.

38 Library of Congress Copyright Office, Catalogue of Copyright Entries … Part 3: Musical Compositions, 1917, New Series, Volume 12, No. 10 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1917), 881. https://books.google.com/books?id=2DfQAAAAMAAJ&lpg=PA881.

39 “How to Dance the ‘Chinese Toddle,’” Buffalo Courier, October 28, 1917, 47.

40 Jane Dixon, “Try Toddling the Toddle and Be Right Up to Date,” (New York) Sun, September 9, 1917, part 5, 11.

41 Arthur Murray, “How to Dance the Toddle,” South Bend (IN) News-Times, July 31, 1921, section 2, 19; Kimber Rudo, “Arthur Murray Describes ‘How to Dance the Toddle’ to the South-Bend News-Times,” “Fascinating Rhythms: A Collation of Primary Sources,” January 26, 2016, https://daletremont.com/2016/01/26/the-south-bend-news-times-discusses-how-to-dance-the-toddle/.

42 Mme. X, “Cold Without and Warmth Within Is Christmas Spirit,” Chicago Daily Tribune, December 26, 1920, part 7, 4.

43 Brown, “Gimme a Shimmy…”

44 “$250,000 Toddle Palace for North Side Trot Experts,” Chicago Daily Tribune, March 6, 1921, part 2, 11; “Merry Garden Ballroom,” Jazz Age Chicago, accessed October 24, 2023, https://jazzagechicago.wordpress.com/merry-garden-ballroom/.

45 “Beauty Answers,” Chicago Daily Tribune, March 27, 1921, part 6, 3.

46 Brown, “Gimme a Shimmy…”

47 “N.U. Pied Piper Lures Dean Into O.K. on Toddle,” Chicago Daily Tribune, March 3, 1921, 3.

48 Martha, “Best and Worst Dancing Blend in Wilson Ave.”

49 Martha, “Martha Seeks Why and What of Modern Dancing,” Chicago Daily Tribune, September 16, 1921, 17.

50 Martha, “Martha Plumbs Depths of Jazz North of River,” Chicago Daily Tribune, September 18, 1921, 14.

51 Martha, “King Jazz Rules the West Side’s Devotees,” Chicago Daily Tribune, September 17, 1921, 13.

52 Martha, “Levee Is Dead, But Its Idol, ‘Jazz,’ Reigns,” Chicago Daily Tribune, September 22, 1921, 17.

53 Martha, “Martha Views Jazz De Luxe at Onwentsia,” Chicago Daily Tribune, September 19, 1921, 17.

54 1930 U.S. Census, Illinois, Cook, Chicago (Districts 1-250), District 0161, Sheet 1A; Joseph Carlin, John Van Lindley Family, accessed May 2, 2024, Ancestry.com. “Woman Deserts Drama League for Footlights,” Chicago Daily Tribune, August 18, 1915, 13; “Random Notes,” Cincinnati Enquirer, January 2, 1916, 48; “Drama Uplifter Ill,” Chicago Daily Tribune, March 5, 1916, 5.

55 “Request For Records • Disposition Authority,” United States Department of Health and Human Services, May 31, 1989, National Archives, https://www.archives.gov/files/records-mgmt/rcs/schedules/departments/department-of-health-and-human-services/rg-0090/n1-090-89-003_sf115.pdf; K. Foster Murray, “Shall War Carry or Kill Disease? Vital Question,” Virginian Pilot and the Norfolk Landmark, August 6, 1918, 12.

56 “Speed and Light Shimmy’s Foes, Reformer Says,” Chicago Daily Tribune, September 4, 1921, 1.

57 United News, “Rural Dances Worse Menace to Girls Than Cabaret, Woman Finds,” St. Louis Star and Times, September 5, 1921, 6.

58 “Nation-Wide Drive for Clean Dancing,” Greenville (OH) Daily Tribune, November 18, 1921, 2.

59 “How Do Musicians Know How Fast to Play a Piece? And Why Are the Terms in Italian?” Symphony Nova Scotia, accessed May 2, 2024, https://symphonynovascotia.ca/faqs/symphony-101/how-do-musicians-know-how-fast-to-play-a-piece-and-why-are-the-terms-in-italian/.

60 “Will Speed Up Dance Music to Kill Shimmy and Toddle,” Indiana Daily Times, November 4, 1921, 12.

61 Associated Press, “A.P. Boost for Dance Halls,” Variety, September 1, 1926, 46, https://archive.org/details/variety84-1926-09/page/n45/mode/2up.

62 United News, “Rural Dances Worse Menace to Girls Than Cabaret, Woman Finds,” St. Louis Star and Times, September 5, 1921, 6.

63 “Ball Managers Divorce Dance From Jazz Airs,” Chicago Daily Tribune, September 17, 1921, 13.

64 “Jazz Music Held Obscene, Peril to Nation’s Morals,” Chicago Daily Tribune, January 29, 1922, 5.

65 Chicago City Council, Proceedings of the City Council of the City of Chicago, vol. 93, March 29, 1922, 2370–2371, https://archive.org/details/proceedingsofcit93chic/page/n1003/mode/2up.

66 “Women Again in Plea for Dance Hall Cleanup,” Chicago Daily Tribune, May 2, 1922, 4.

67 William Howland Kenney, Chicago Jazz: A Cultural History 1904-1930 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), 71.

68 U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, Ancestry.com; “Fred Fisher,” Find A Grave, accessed October 27, 2023, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/6638762/fred-fisher.

69 Sidney Skolsky, “Tintypes,” (New York) Daily News, September 27, 1933, 42.

70 Jack Burton, “The Honor Roll of Popular Songwriters. No. 13—Fred Fisher,” Billboard, March 19, 1949, 46, https://books.google.com/books?id=Hw4EAAAAMBAJ&pg=PT45.

71 Skolsky, “Tintypes.”

72 Burton, “Honor Roll…”

73 “Fred Fisher,” Wikipedia, accessed October 27, 2023, https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Fisher.

74 Fred Fisher, “If the Man in the Moon were a Coon” (Chicago: Will Rossiter, 1905), DigitalCommons@UMaine, University of Maine, Vocal Popular Sheet Music Collection, Score 817, https://digitalcommons.library.umaine.edu/mmb-vp/817.

75 Fred Fisher (words and music), “Chicago (That Toddling Town),” (New York: Fred Fisher Inc., 1922), https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015080992954.

76 “White City,” Jazz Age Chicago, accessed November 23, 2023, https://jazzagechicago.wordpress.com/white-city/.

77 “Dance With Wife, $10,” Chicago Daily News, August 31, 1918, 1.

78 Josiah Flynt Frank Willard, Tramping With Tramps: Studies and Sketches of Vagabond Life (New York: Century, 1901), 9, https://books.google.com/books?id=XL4iAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA9.

79 Advertisement, Music Trades, August 25, 1922, 33, https://hdl.handle.net/2027/njp.32101080200072?urlappend=%3Bseq=333%3Bownerid=27021597769502341-339.

80 Library of Congress Copyright Office, Catalog of Copyright Entries, Part 3, Musical Compositions … Last Half of 1922 (Washington: Library of Congress, 1923), 1925, https://hdl.handle.net/2027/uc1.b2989546?urlappend=%3Bseq=403%3Bownerid=9007199273334485-407.

81 Advertisement, Chicago Daily Tribune, October 27, 1922, 10.

82 “National Jukebox: Acoustical Recording,” Library of Congress, accessed May 7, 2024, https://www.loc.gov/collections/national-jukebox/articles-and-essays/acoustical-recording/.

83 Jeremy Norman, “The Victor Talking Machine Company Makes the First Electrical Sound Recording,” Jeremy Norman’s HistoryofInformation.com, accessed May 7, 2024, https://www.historyofinformation.com/detail.php?entryid=698.

84 “‘Sing’ Songs Through Feet,” Kansas City Star, January 22, 1923, 7, reprinted from New York Sun.

85 Skolsky, “Tintypes.”

86 “Fred Fisher,” Find A Grave, accessed October 27, 2023, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/6638762/fred-fisher.

87 Associated Press, “Fred Fisher, Composer, Is Found Dead,” (Hanover, PA) Evening Sun, January 14, 1942.

88 Art Cohn, The Joker Is Wild: The Story of Joe E. Lewis (New York: Random House, 1955; New York: Bantam, 1957), 64.

89 “Chicago (That Toddlin’ Town),” Wikipedia, accessed October 26, 2023, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_(That_Toddlin%27_Town).