The Dil Pickle Club, Chicago's First Speakeasy

Updated June 19, 2017

Bohemians Gathered Here

The Dil Pickle Club, founded by John A. James, was a not-so-secret society that gathered once a week in a Gold Coast venue in Tooker Alley. This continuous gathering of Bohemians evolved into an actual club, and during prohibition, also served as a speakeasy. A sign above the door read 'Danger: Step high, stoop low, leave your dignity outside.'

dil pickle club chicago

Photo: Newberry Library

According to an article from the Newberry Library, Jones spent many hours researching industrial organization at the Gold Coast club. Artists, poets, renowned writers, hobos, anarchists - all gathered at the Dil Pickle to discuss social issues. Emma Goldman, Upton Sinclair, Carl Sandburg, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ben Reitman were among the club's famous clientele, but one would also find hobos and prostitutes in the mix.

Musical performances, theatrical acts, beat poetry, social activism, and discussions about birth control were among the discourse at the Dil Pickle Club.

dil pickle old duck

Prior to its closing, John Jones attempted to sell a wooden duck toy to recoup expenses, but the old duck didn't pan out.

Chicago's Art Room Events hosts a speakeasy murder mystery party that bases its characters on frequent guests of the Dil Pickle Club and is the only immersive theater experience of its kind in Chicago - it's on our list of top ladies night activities but is popular among any group of friends, coworkers, relatives, or bohemians!

Soon this murder mystery game will also be available for sale as a kit, so you can host a speakeasy murder mystery in your own 'Dil Pickle Club,' wherever you may be.

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