Slums Mourn Stead : Old-Timers in Chicago's Chinatown Remember

Chicago Record-Herald

SLUMS MOURN STEAD

Old-Timers in Chicago’s Chinatown Remember

English Author as “Billy, the Bum”

Cleaned Streets in Chicago

“Old-timers” in Chinatown, that part of Chicago where human derelicts, tattered and unkempt and care-free, wander aimlessly about the 10-cent lodging houses among the city’s Orientals, are in mourning. “Billy” Stead—“Billy the Bum” they called him—is one of the Titanic’s victims.

“Billy” put one over on “wise” Chinatown and the “old-timers” loved him for it. “Billy” is W. T. Stead, noted London author and journalist.

“Billy the Bum” awakened Chicago seventeen years ago, when he wrote “If Christ Came to Chicago.” The Londoner came to Chicago incognito and became a “white wing.” He worked with the city’s derelicts, ate with them and participated in their joys and sorrows. Then he wrote and what he described caused Chicagoans to sit up and take notice.

Aided by “Hinky Dink”

“Know Billy Stead?” Alderman Michael Kenna—they call him “Hinky Dink” in the First Ward—queried back to a questioner last night, “Sure I know him.

“Billy came blowing into Chinatown along with the panic, of world’s fair year,” the alderman continued. “He was with Ned Brown they called him ‘Bum’ Brown. ‘Billy’ sure looked like a bun. When Ned came in with Stead and asked me to put his pal to work I says ‘What can you do?’ He says, ‘Nothing.’ I says, ‘Well, you’d make a good white wing, then and so I gets him a job. He and ‘Ned the bum’ worked on the streets.

Lead Dual Life

“‘Hank’ North used to be a great pal of Stead’s. Both he and Ned are dead now, and now ‘Billy’s’ gone. Stead used to live over at the Auditorium, but he always went to ‘Hank’ North’s saloon to change clothes. ‘Hank’ was doing business then at Clark and Harrison street. He had a joint where musicians out of work hung out at.

“Ned always acted sort of like a chaperon for Stead and steered him out of trouble. They sure were a couple of good pals.

“Stead told me before he left that he wanted me to come and see him in London, so when I went over in 1905 I dropped in on him. He sure was glad to see me and we had a long talk. He asked a bout all the boys and seemed real anxious about some of them.

Chicago Record-Herald, Thursday, April 18, 1912, p. 2, c. 6

Related Biographies:

William Thomas Stead

Contributor

Thomas E. Golembiewski

500
Leave a comment...