The Greatest Party in Chicago History Has Been Resurrected

Atlas Obscura is throwing a First Ward Ball. You’re invited.

January 10, 2019 9:00 am

The year is 1896.

To raise funds, alderman John “Bathhouse” Coughlin throws a rollicking party that attracts all of Chicago’s finest: politicians, police, prostitutes, gamblers. He dubs it the First Ward Ball, and over the next 13 years, it becomes the greatest annual bacchanal the city has ever seen.

During the course of the 1908 edition, the Tribune reports, “revelers slopped up 10,000 quarts of champagne and 30,000 quarts of beer.” In 1909, the First Ward Ball is summarily shut down by fun-hating reformers. Though Prohibition comes and goes, the party remains dormant for the next 110 years.

But on January 25th, our friends at Atlas Obscura are hoping to revive the tradition with a First Ward Ball of their own — and you’re invited.

On the docket for the evening: casino games, craft cocktails, raffle prizes, a vintage photobooth and a slew of performers in period-specific dress. Charlie Scarlet from Michelle L’Amour’s award-winning Chicago burlesque crew (pictured above) will be there, along with various other burlesque, drag and musical acts meant to rekindle the ambience of the era.

And because Atlas Obscura is presiding, three Chicago historians will also be on hand to fill guests in on what life was like in the “Levee,” Chicago’s turn-of-the-century vice district.

The event takes place at Bassline (2239 S Michigan Ave) on January 25th from 7-11 p.m., and tickets are still available for $65. Vintage dress is encouraged, but in lieu of that, your Sunday finest will pass muster.

Main image via Michelle L’Amour’s Chicago Starlets


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