Item #23099 Con Man Selling "French Photographs" Complains of Conditions in the Chicago Jail, 1925

Con Man Selling "French Photographs" Complains of Conditions in the Chicago Jail, 1925

Very good. A small but interesting gathering of correspondence relating to 23-year-old Isaiah "Ike" Klingman (1902-1966), who was picked up on a disorderly conduct charge while selling fake obscene photographs (i.e., photos in sealed envelopes that he falsely implied were pornographic, telling customers not to open them until later) on the streets of Chicago.  There are two letters from Ike to his parents; two from his father to his older brother, Jesse, regarding Ike's situation; and one from the Superintendent of the House of Corrections responding to a query from the father, all housed in a single envelope mailed to Jesse in Wisconsin. Jailed for 33 days in the Chicago House of Corrections, Ike was furious with his parents for refusing to pay his fine and get him out, and he laid the guilt on thickly. In his first letter, dated March 9, 1925, he describes the Chicago Jail as  "the worst place of its kind in the country" and "a den of moral filth and breeds crime instead of correcting it."  He continues: One is forced to work and associate with the scum of the earth. You go in there a gentleman and come out a hoodlum. If you could have taken one look on the inside of that place you would have paid my fine no matter where you may have had to go or what you may have had to do to get the money. The poorest man in the world can raise $16.50. I developed pneumonia and lost 18 pounds. Apparently by this time in his young life Ike already had plenty of experience with jails, as he compares the Chicago jail unfavorably with those of Milwaukee and Detroit. The Milwaukee Jail, he says, has edible food, books to read, and a decent place to sleep and "really helps uplift a man. He learns a trade and discipline. But when a small fine of $16.50 can keep a man out of a place like the Chicago House of Corrections and his own parents can't send it to him the panic must be something terrible." He complains further that his parents are acting like he asks them to pay his fines "every week," when he's never even asked them to get him out of jail before; that they don't even know if he was guilty of anything, and that "the police arrest anybody that looks like they might be a criminal....they get lots of innocent young fellows who are away from home for the first time, probably looking for a job, and send them out there. They go in dumb and come out wiser, with a lot of evil thoughts in their heads. It's a regular school of criminology. The good man wastes and withers there, but who cares?" While there may have been some merit to these sentiments, the next letter, dated March 13th, makes it clear that they hardly apply to Ike himself: I am enclosing one of the "indecent pictures" I was selling in Milwaukee and also here. Of course some of the people that bought them had an idea that they were the real thing. As a matter of fact, I was selling them for the real thing, "French Photographs," as they are called. That's why they were going so good for 25 cents a piece. I gave instructions to the men not to open them on the street, thereby eliminating any "come-backs." A person would be crazy to handle really indecent pictures and sell them openly like that. He could get five years for that. The other three letters demonstrate that Ike's father felt bad for his son, but knew him well enough to suspect that he was exaggerating, if not completely fabricating, the extent of his difficulties. Forwarding Ike's letters to brother Jesse, he asked Jesse to look into the matter when next in Chicago. He also wrote to the jail for particulars. The Superintendent's response denies any knowledge of Ike having pneumonia and asserts that "he did not have strenuous work...We give all inmates wholesome food and their cells are clean and each inmate is compelled to take a bath at least once a week."  The father's second note to Jesse, written on the back of the Superintendent's letter, concludes "it seems all we can do is to pray for him."

Item #23099

Price: $90.00