Chicago in the “roaring twenties” retrospectively defined the American shift towards the megalopolis, signalling a new social and political dynamic where the excess of the cities contrasted with the chastity of the rural areas of the nation. Exemplified by the hard fought political battles fought primarily by organizations rallying around the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the Anti-Saloon League, prohibition came to be the defining political issue of the decade before the disaster of Black Friday in 1929.
But this is 1928.
The clubs flow with illegal liquor supplied largely in part by “The Chicago Outfit” centered around notorious, world famous gangster Al Capone. Capone’s organization has a firm grip on much of Chicago’s vices, and with untold wealth being earned in both the legal and extralegal activities, more and more Chicagoans are getting in on the action supplied by Capone and his gang: prostitution, liquor and even turn of the century drug abuse all find themselves in the countless speakeasies and private parties across the city. The sheer volume of illicit booze and other materiel was rarely stopped due to widespread bribery throughout much of the local police and the woefully understaffed and underfunded federal agencies tasked with enforcing prohibition. Many prohibition agents were recruited from fields outside of standard police work and were either outclassed or simply looking for regular payoffs from bootleggers and gangsters. With nearly zero accountability and untold wealth to burn, Chicago became like many American cities: a non-stop party.
Tensions and prejudices still existed however. With never before seen prosperity sweeping into traditonally poorer households, divisions between traditionally rich families and the so-called “nouveau riche” cause turbulence amongst the city’s upper crust while growing enfranchisement of both blacks and women (who recieved the right to vote with the passing of the 18th Amendment in 1920) leads to social and racial backlash among those looking for work or demanding a return to more “traditional” values. Presidential campaigns and party politics are defined by their allegiance either to “wet” or “dry” values, centered on the question of validity of the Volstead Act (which initiated nationwide prohibition) so while the cities party, Washington wrings its hands and the “dry” organizations march through the streets, occasionally attacking drinkers or “wet” advocates.
So it is here, at the height of Chicago’s descent into madness and decadence, that you and your companions will find yourself walking the beautiful halls and ballrooms of the Bergson Hotel, the premiere location for Chicago’s social calendar. It is March 24, 1928. Tonight, the Bergson Hotel is hosting the American Eugenics Society’s yearly fundraiser, ball and reception featuring a presentation from two noted academics.
The first, AES founding member Madison Grant, will be reading from his popular book The Passing of the Great Race, and discussing the evidence and implications arising out of “Nordic Theory”. The second presentation will feature Austian researcher Bernhard von Trapp, who has just returned from an expedition in northeastern Greenland in pursuit of artifacts and lore concerning the location or destruction of Hy Brazil. Rumor has it that von Trapp has returned with sizable pieces referring to, or perhaps even from, Hy Brazil itself.
Also in attendance are Mr. and Mrs. Hapforth Bergson, the owner of the Bergson Hotel and occupier of its western penthouse at the top floor. Mr. Bergson is a noted book and antiquities collector, with a specific interest in the pursuits, both economic and social, of the AES. He is particularly friendly with Keynesian economic and AES founding member Irving Fisher, who is slated to attend the event. Their son, college student and noted Golden Youth Casper Bergson, occupies the adjoining penthouse on the north face. Rumors have also swirled that recently arrived Asian movie star Anna May Wong may be in attendance as Casper’s date for the reception, but no enterprising reporter has been able to confirm the suspicions yet. The Tribute did manage to snap photos of her arriving in the city, but no further information is forthcoming.
As attendees of the AES reception, your choices for a character will be limited either to a socialite with a passing interest either in the event’s open bar or in learning more about the Eugenics platform, or as an employee of the Bergson Hotel.