Martha’s Children takes a sharp turn as part 2 begins with chapter 13, “He sleeps by day, more than the wildcat.” And like a wildcat, Sherlock Kammen dislikes being bothered, unless it’s for a darned good reason. Being turned into a vampire by Martha didn’t qualify. What will Sherlock make of Ned’s proposal for vampire cops?
As you can see, I’m behind in the redesign of the blog, which is a pity, since I wanted it to coincide with the beginning of part 2. The header will definitely change soon. As for the new background, it will be explained next week.
I’ve been talking so much about Chicago in the 1960s and about Chicago’s Bronzeville. With chapter 13, we’ve switched to Chicago’s North Side. And here we need a bit of history and politics to explain just what Sherlock Kammen was doing in a North Side suburb.
One of the key features about local governments in the United States is that they are all creatures of the states, which can create them, change them, and abolish them as they like. In Illinois, like many Midwestern states, its territory was originally divided up into counties, which provided a more local level of government. (There are currently 102 counties in Illinois, most a few hundred square miles (or about 1,000 square kilometers) in size.) And counties may be subdivided into various smaller districts, called townships, villages, towns, and cities. The exact distinction between all these types of municipalities doesn’t matter much to us here. Suffice it to say that cities are generally the largest in population and most powerful in terms of what their governments can do.
Chicago is a city, has been since 1837. Like many cities in the United States, it began as a relatively small place in terms of area, a mere 10 square miles. But starting in 1851, Chicago started annexing neighboring lands, sometimes including entire townships. Again, this was not unusual for American cities of that era. The rising industrial age made cities richer and more populous and caused them to spread out. The communities at the edge of the cities were composed of farmers and poorer city folk who couldn’t afford to live in the central part of the city. Consequently, major cities had a bigger tax base and could offer better services than the surrounding suburban communities. Sometimes the inhabitants of outlying areas would vote to be annexed to the city to get those better services. Other times the cities would use their political clout to get the state legislature to pass a law annexing adjacent territory to the city. By 1890, after annexing three townships the previous year, Chicago had grown to 169 square miles. (See map of annexations here.)
And then the pace of annexation slowed, again as it did for many other cities in the East and Midwest. What had changed? The development of streetcars, trains, and eventually the automobile made it possible to work in the city without living there. Rich people, and even people who just had high-paying jobs, began moving out to the countryside and living there. The suburbs became wealthier on average than the central city. They became able to provide better services than the central city. They developed more clout in the state legislature. They no longer wanted to be annexed to the central city, and had enough political pull to prevent it. After 1915, it was extraordinary when Chicago could annex any adjacent land.
In the legal sense, Chicago is a city that hasn’t expanded much since 1915. But there’s another meaning to the term “city:” land that’s built up, that has a high population density, the urban area. In that sense, Chicago expanded as a city in 1889 way beyond its urban area. But since 1915, the urban area has spread far beyond the legal boundaries of the City of Chicago. Chicago’s not unique in this. New York City reached its current legal limits in 1898, Boston in 1911, Philadelphia as far back as 1854.
As a result, most major metropolitan areas in the East and Midwest consist of a central city, which includes what is often a decaying industrial district and slums, surrounded by an urban belt which may or may not be legally part of the central city. Beyond the urban zone are suburban communities, which are almost certainly not part of the central city. In terms of their economies and population, the central city, surrounding urban belt, and suburbs are all one metropolitan area. But legally, the metropolitan area is made up of many jurisdictions, which need not and often do not work together. This is one of the reasons why there was a busing controversy in the North in the 1970s: the city/suburb divide had become not just one of class, but also one of race, with the suburbs being whiter and richer than the cities. Courts mandated busing to exchange students between the cities and suburbs to achieve racial integration for the metropolitan regions as a whole, regardless of legal boundaries. The suburban communities resented having to send their kids into the city, when one of the major advantages of living in the suburbs was supposed to be better schools there.
Why this matters to Sherlock Kammen comes down to one point: the Chicago Police Department has jurisdiction over the legal City of Chicago, but not over the suburban communities beyond Chicago’s city limits. In settling down in a North Side suburb, Kammen hasn’t just picked a rich suburb. He has also put himself legally out of reach of the Chicago Police Department, making it harder for them to find and kill him.