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Is Chicago the most regularly laid-out city that has ever existed?

Is Chicago the most regularly laid-out city that has ever existed?

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The World Series is being broadcast on TV and before going to a commercial the network treats us to a view from the blimp or drone or something flying over Chicago at night, and the regularity of the pattern of streets in that city is conspicuous. In measuring "regularity", I give credit for the pattern persisting over a long distance, so that absolute perfection in a tiny city of say twelve-by-twelve city blocks, doesn't make it up to what Chicago has achieved in any regularity-of-streets competition.

Is Chicago in fact the most regularly laid-out city that has ever existed?

Cities existing on a regular grid pattern is certainly not unique to Chicago.

For example, I'll give you my own hometown of Tulsa. Our street system is an engineer's dream.

The streets are laid out on a perfectly north-south/east west grid pattern, with arterial streets exactly one mile apart each. The east-west streets are all numbered, and each number is 1/10th of a mile (on occasions where more than one is required in that tenth of a mile, the extra street will be labeled "nth place" rather than the typical "nth street".) Sadly, the north-south streets had to have names, but even there the ones east of downtown are named after cities east of the Mississippi, and the ones west of downtown are named after cities west of the Mississippi.

The implication of this is that all a person has to do is memorize the names and order of the north-south arteries, and they know how to go anywhere in Tulsa, and how far any two points are from each other.

In theory this also means the Tulsa grid system applies to the entire earth (although globe projections would be a problem near the poles). Some wags have used this fact to set up a monument at our 0 point named "Center of the Universe".

I'm not saying all this to try to claim Tulsa is in fact more regular. I've no doubt that this is a quite common feature of newer 20th Century-designed cities, particularly in the US. What I'm doing is pointing out that the regular city grid is not unique to Chicago.

A History Of Night Games At Wrigley Field, And Why Cubs Want More Of Them

WRIGLEYVILLE &mdash It wasn't so long ago that there were no night games at Wrigley Field.

Patrick Lenihan remembers those days fondly.

"We were prepared to live with Wrigley Field, but when I moved here, Wrigley Field was very different," he said. "It was this neighborhood ballpark with a character to it. But the Cubs said, 'Well, we don't like that character.'"

Here in Lakeview long before the lights were, Lenihan wasn't shocked when the Chicago Cubs last week asked for permission to host more night games at Wrigley Field, asking for an increase of 11 that would bring the club in line with the average Major League Baseball team.

"We knew that the Cubs would continue to up the ante," Lenihan said. "This is an issue of responsibility."

More money makes the club more competitive for future World Series titles, said Cubs spokesman Julian Green. And the more money spent at Wrigley Field, the more tax revenue for the city and, theoretically, the neighborhood &mdash a sum which the Cubs put at $81 million per year.

But to neighbors like Lenihan, it means more nighttime traffic, frequent parking violations, rowdy revelers in their yards and trash littering the place they call home.

It's been an arduous journey to the current state of night games and concerts at Wrigley Field, and some of the finer points of the tale have been buried amid rapid change at the historic ballpark.

Here's a look at how it all began:

A night game 70 years in the making

Back in the days of Ron Santo and Ernie Banks, no lights existed at Wrigley Field, one of just a few U.S. stadiums located smack dab in the middle of a largely residential neighborhood. At best, the team could play a handful of games that started late Friday afternoon and wrapped before sunset.

Longtime owner P.K. Wrigley tried to install lights in the 1940s, but his plans were foiled when the U.S. entered World War II. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Wrigley donated the steel meant for the lights to the war effort.

Eventually, Wrigley settled into firm opposition to night games, refusing to disturb neighbors and happily honoring the status quo over the course of decades. And although one team did get to use portable lights at Wrigley back in 1943, it wasn't the Cubs.

Soon after the Tribune Co. bought the Cubs from the Wrigleys in 1981, the idea of night games was revived. In response, Gov. James Thompson signed legislation effectively banning night games at Wrigley Field in 1982, with the City Council banning the use of lights &mdash even before 8 p.m. &mdash one year later.

The Cubs sued Thompson and the city in 1984 but failed to sway the court.

In his ruling, Circuit Judge Richard Curry said night baseball would harm the neighborhood's "peace and tranquility" in exchange for television royalties and accused the Tribune Co. of being greedy and behaving in a way that was "repugnant to common decency."

"The game of baseball may be everybody's business, but the business of baseball is greed," Curry wrote, according to a Tribune report. "On the basis of an alleged necessity to play championship games at night, they ask for a reversal of the status quo which has existed at this ballpark for 70 years. They ask 55,000 neighbors to forgo a community free of nighttime distractions."

Neighbors fought efforts to revive the plans as the Citizens United for Baseball in Sunshine (C.U.B.S.), including with now-iconic "No Lights at Wrigley Field" memorabilia that regularly goes up for auction and has a spot in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

"We wanted to know if the city was prepared to deal with the different element [night games] would bring in than the people who go to day games," said Lenihan, the group's vice president. The Lakeview residents felt the evening games would herald an influx of "more of the partiers and the people who want to hang out at bars," he said.

Lenihan, who has lived four blocks from the ballpark near Grace Street and Wayne Avenue since 1980, said they feared the laid-back neighborhood would turn into an entertainment district, but with a seasonal aspect that would leave neighbors adrift and streets abandoned in the offseason.

A sign from the Citizens United for Baseball in Sunshine hangs in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. [Flickr/Ewen Roberts]

"It seems good for the restaurant &mdash it allows them to jack up their prices for when Cubs fans eat there," Lenihan said. "But come September or October, they'll realize, 'Why are we staying open?' and cut their hours. They no longer see the residents of the neighborhood as their [main] customers."

The neighborhood group even spawned some local celebrities. U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Chicago) launched his political career after helping to form C.U.B.S., and spins one heck of a yarn about the "magical" aspect of seeing his first day game in 1969.

At first, their efforts were successful, and Cubs officials eventually said the issue was "dead."

But when the team suggested moving out of Wrigley Field to build anew in the suburbs, the Council budged, with the first night game played on Aug. 8, 1988. Eighteen night games were allowed each year, and lights were installed to illuminate the field on evenings.

Why neighbors don't light up over night games

Wrigley Field is closer to residential blocks than ballparks like Guaranteed Rate Field, which is surrounded mostly by parking lots, Armour Square Park and the Dan Ryan Expy., or other ballparks like Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati or Soldier Field Downtown, which both are bordered by bodies of water on the city's edge.

On the left, homes are located much closer to Wrigley Field than those in Bridgeport near Guaranteed Rate Field, which is surrounded by parking lots and the Dan Ryan Expy. [Google Maps]

While the quaint location is great for aesthetics, it also means the club regularly does battle with the city to relax restrictions designed to keep neighbors happy.

"Many of us recognized that lights were inevitable in the ballpark," said Lenihan, 68. "The issue then was what would the city and Cubs organization be prepared to do to address the negative impact on the neighborhood."

Starting in 2002, the Council slowly loosened its restrictions, giving the Cubs more night games in exchange for easing traffic congestion, picking up litter and providing money for neighborhood improvements.

The Cubs pledged to pay $3.75 million over 10 years for projects such as street lighting, and recently gave $1 million for surveillance cameras. This season, the Cubs began paying for two off-duty officers to patrol the neighborhood during baseball season. The team spends $750,000 each year on traffic aides posted in the neighborhood on event days.

But the trade-off was "superficial" and "absolutely not sufficient," especially as more night games were permitted, Lenihan said.

"Rather than getting additional police protection, we got what I call 'traffic scarecrows,'" he said. "They do nothing they congregate with each other, or you see them on their cellphones."

Traffic congestion is now an issue for one in three nights during Cubs season (not counting the playoffs) and traffic pickup beyond the streets immediately surrounding Wrigley Field leaves much to be desired, Lenihan said.

Other neighbors have voiced similar concerns each year at the preseason Cubs community meeting, asking for better training for traffic aides and complaining about Wrigleyville's rampant public urination problem, but the club's neighborhood email surveys &mdash which are sent only to those in the adjoining ZIP codes &mdash return with mostly positive feedback.

In the three decades since the night game ban was lifted, the number of them at Wrigley Field has steadily increased, with additional allowances for stadium concerts that the Cubs have taken full advantage of. As of 2017, they're permitted 47 night events, including eight flex nights if the MLB requests a schedule change for TV broadcast.

Simply put, night games sell more tickets, Green said. A day game against the White Sox last week, for example, would have "likely sold out at night," he said.

The most recent night game ordinance allowed for four concerts, but any more are subtracted from the limit of 35 regularly scheduled night games. With 10 concerts this year at the ballpark, that means six fewer night games. Concerts, though, have the added benefit of the team not splitting revenue with the league &mdash a financial factor that contributed to the recent spike in performances at Wrigley.

The 35-game limit does not include all-star games or games played in the postseason or as tie-breakers. Games rescheduled as night games for unexpected reasons like inclement weather or serious injuries, however, do count toward the 35 game total.

The team faces a fine $300 to $5,000 for each day in violation, the ordinance states. Night games played beyond the limit are also subtracted from the following year's allotment.

Lights at Wrigley Field were added in 1988 and are pictured here during the 2016 World Series. [Wikimedia Commons/Arturo Pardavila III]

The Cubs are the only major league team to still play most of their 81 home games during the day &mdash the average number of night games is 54 &mdash and the team is crying foul.

&ldquoWe&rsquore one of the few teams that not only has to beat everyone in our division, we also have to beat the city that we play in to try and win games. It&rsquos a very odd situation for us," Crane Kenney, president of baseball operations, said in a radio interview with The Score earlier this week.

"The real answer is at some point, we'd love to not be handicapped, as no other team in baseball is by the number of night games you play," he continued. "You know, we just keep working on it."

Fielding the request are Mayor Rahm Emanuel and 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney, whose comments on the Cubs' latest request for more night games indicate a city unwilling to negotiate &mdash for now at least.

"The ordinance governing evening activities inside Wrigley Field was negotiated by the Cubs, the community, myself and the mayor's office and has another seven years before it expires," Tunney said. "The Cubs have chosen to schedule concerts instead of night games."

Even as Cubs and city officials chummed it up over the grand opening of the long-awaited plaza outside Wrigley Field, there remained some signs of continued dissatisfaction over limits on its use.

"The fact is, it's our property," Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts said at the time. "The right answer is to let us continue to do what we've already discussed."

Crane Kenney, Tom Ricketts, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Laura Ricketts cut the ribbon during opening ceremonies for the Park at Wrigley in April. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

A win-win scenario?

Lenihan said he sees Tunney's opposition to an increase as "genuine," but worries that Emanuel could about-face when he feels the timing is right.

After all, the Cubs used to play 18 night games per season &mdash a fraction of what the night game schedule has evolved into.

"I think it's inevitable the Cubs are going to get the extra night games," Lenihan said. "They might even get more concerts."

But in exchange, Lenihan said he hopes to see more consideration for the neighbors, some of whom, like him, moved to Lakeview decades ago with no idea a 70-year-old rule of thumb was about to change.

A new fee on ticket prices could be used for a fund specifically for Lakeview that pays for more traffic control, more police officers and "real" neighborhood cleanup, Lenihan suggested.

Last year's seven concerts generated $1.89 million in amusement taxes for the city, according to a Cubs annual report, which is still just a fraction of the total economic benefit the team creates for the city, team officials have said.

But the Cubs' victorious 2016 postseason also ran up a big tab for the city: $18.8 million in police and emergency management overtime and cleanup. And the amusement taxes generated aren't neighborhood-specific, but go to the city as a whole, Lenihan said.

Meanwhile, he plans to continue weathering what can sometimes feel like a storm.

"To me, it's not a matter of hand-wringing. I think the change is going to come, and I don't fight it," Lenihan said. "But it's sad that people talk about Chicago being a city of neighborhoods, but it's only a city of neighborhoods until something like this happens."

The Spirited History of the American Bar

Is happy hour a cornerstone of democracy? Yes, because chatting over a beer has often led to dramatic change, says Christine Sismondo, humanities lecturer at Toronto’s York University. Her new book, America Walks into a Bar, contends that local dives deserve more credit in history than they receive they are where conversations get started. contributor Rebecca Dalzell spoke with Sismondo about her book.

How did you get interested in bars?
I used to travel around America a lot, and wherever I went it seemed that bars were important historic markers. On the Freedom Trail in Boston they talk about the Green Dragon Tavern, and in New York, George Washington said farewell to his troops at Fraunces Tavern. The American Revolution, Whisky Rebellion and Stonewall riots all came out of bars. Plus, I’ve worked in a neighborhood bar, so its function as a community center became clear to me.

What makes bars unique in American culture?
Taverns produced a particular type of public sphere in colonial America. Without them I don’t think you would have had exactly the same political landscape. Many people compare it to the coffeehouse in London or Paris salons, but those were bourgeois meeting-places. In taverns people could mix together: you see men drinking alongside the people they work for. Early laws fixed the price that tavern-keepers could charge for a drink, so they couldn’t cater to wealthy patrons. And once you add alcohol in there, it changes the way everyone relates to each other. You end up with accelerated relationships—and occasionally cantankerous ones. People become more willing to go out and raise hell over things that they might have let go when sober.

Are there any constants that run through our bar history?
Bars have always been where people share news and discuss it. And there’s an unwritten code in most neighborhood bars that people are supposed to check their degrees at the door. You can find a lawyer, university professor, taxi driver and dishwasher all talking about politics, and nobody’s supposed to pull rank.

How have bars evolved over time?
From colonial times to the mid-19th century you had taverns, which provided food and lodging. They had a tapster in a cage—as opposed to at a long bar—and it was open to all members of the community, including women and children. Then you start to see the dedicated saloon, which didn’t necessarily serve food, and mixed cordials and spirits at a long bar. Women were rarely allowed. Hotel bars existed on the high end, catering to business travelers. During Prohibition there were speakeasies, and after that people went back to the term tavern, though it was more like the old saloon. Now of course we call bars all of the above.

In Christine Sismondo's new book, America Walks into a Bar, she contends that local dives deserve more credit in history than they receive. (Courtesy of Oxford University Press) According to Sismondo, taverns, such as the one shown here in New York City, produced a particular type of public sphere in colonial America. (Museum of the City of New York / The Granger Collection, NYC) The Whiskey Rebellion, American Revolution and Stonewall riots all came out of bars. Pictured is tarring and feathering that was typical during the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794. (The Granger Collection, New York) Advertisement for Lager Bier. (Library of Congress) Sismondo is a humanities lecturer at Toronto's York University. (Courtesy of Oxford University Press)

What’s an event that could only have happened in a bar?
New York’s Stonewall riots in 1969. They didn’t come out of nowhere as people often think. Since bars were the only places where gay people could congregate, everyone got to know each other. During the McCarthy era the police regularly shut the bars down, denying gays of their fundamental right to associate. When they’d had enough and it came time to organize, the networks were already in place through the bars.

Have reformers always tried to control drinking in America?
Alcohol was accepted for a long time—actually considered a panacea, what you drank if you were sick or didn’t have bread. You were a well-behaved Puritan if you had a drink at breakfast. It only became identified as a problem, something you should give up to save your soul, in the mid-19th century, with reformers like Lyman Beecher and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU).

And this led to Prohibition?
I actually don’t think that moral questions had much to do with the passage of Prohibition. It seemed to be largely about criminalizing the saloon as opposed to alcohol, indicated by the fact that it was still legal to possess alcohol. You just couldn’t sell or distribute it. The most powerful group in the 40 years before Prohibition wasn’t the WCTU but the Anti-Saloon League, which made the saloon the main culprit, not alcohol. Industrialists followed, saying yes, if we control the saloon we’ll have fewer people agitating for labor, campaigning for social reform and coming in to work hung over. While the WCTU was important for getting the movement started, it was run by women, who didn’t have a lot of power. People didn’t jump on board with Prohibition until they saw the saloon as a dangerous, radical political space.

Was there a double standard by which bars were policed?
Absolutely. A lot of racial and religious intolerance played into it. Laws shutting taverns on Sunday in the 1850s are the worst example, because they targeted immigrants. Taverns were the only recreational space they had access to and Sunday was the only day they had off. But city governments, especially in Chicago, wanted to stifle the machine politics of the immigrant taverns. During Prohibition, the chasm between working-class and respectable drinking places was even clearer—the law wasn’t enforced equally.

What was speakeasy culture like during Prohibition?
There were fewer people visiting speakeasies than is commonly believed. Going out was equivalent to bottle clubs now, where people pay $600 for a liter of vodka—it was a high-end, sophisticated culture. If you could afford it, it was fun and interesting, especially because women started mixing in. But the majority just couldn’t pay the inflated price of alcohol. They either couldn’t afford to drink at all or could only afford to drink very dangerous forms of alcohol. Yes, there were those who drank as though there was no Prohibition, but that’s a smaller segment of the population than people think.

Is there anyone who deserves the most credit in history for defending bar culture?
In terms of bar history, we don’t think of Clarence Darrow as much of a character, but he was really important in trying to defend the saloon from its detractors in the years around Prohibition. H.L. Mencken gets all the credit, but Darrow was an important part of that. Mencken defends it primarily on libertarian grounds, in terms of personal freedom. Darrow pointed out that the Anti-Saloon League had racist and class motives. He defended the saloon as a gathering place for minorities and people with radical ideas. He has a great quote that not every Anti-Saloon Leaguer is a Ku Klux Klanner, but every Ku Klux Klanner is an Anti-Saloon Leaguer.

What are some surprising things that used to happen in bars?
In some bars on the Bowery in New York City, they did away with glassware and for three cents you were allowed to drink all you could through a tube until you took a breath. So people would be outside practicing holding their breath. There was also dodgy entertainment. Freak shows traveled through in the 18th century, with animals preserved in formaldehyde, and later they’d have sports like wrestling or watching terriers kill rats.

Who’s your favorite bartender?
I like Orsamus Willard, who worked at New York’s City Hotel in the 1840s. He was famous for his peach brandy punch, and was the first bartender to get mentioned in newspapers. He had a tireless devotion to service and an incredible memory, never forgetting anyone’s name or favorite room. Once there was a guest who left abruptly because his son was ill. When he returned five years later, Willard asked after his son’s health and gave him his old room.

Can you recommend some memorable bars?
A fantastic one in New Orleans is the Hotel Monteleone’s Carousel Bar, because the bar really rotates. It used to be a literary hangout—Tennessee Williams went there. Henry Clay introduced the mint julep at the Willard [Hotel]’s Round Robin Bar in Washington, which has always been important in politics. In New York, I love the King Cole Bar in New York’s St. Regis Hotel. It’s hard not to think of that immediately because of the sheer beauty of the bar, which has a Maxfield Parrish mural, and the incredibly expensive cocktails. Downtown, McSorley’s Old Ale House is great because it hasn’t really changed in over 100 years.

Related Stories

Next City: A part of me was tempted to dismiss some of the characters of the book as not actually being from Chicago. But you write about that fact as if Chicago should be proud of it. Is there something about certain cities that makes them so good that not only do people want to live there but, once there, they blossom?

Thomas Dyja: That’s very much part of the story of the book. Chicago at that point is a nexus for the country. It’s a place that everyone has to go through. A lot of its importance comes from that. It’s a place where people could go and start over. Certainly, Chicago also has a great tradition of sending people out into the world. Every city I’ve gone to has a group of passionate Chicagoans. I don’t think we’re expatriates. We’re exports.

Very few people in the book are from Chicago, or born there. Not Studs Terkel. Not Muddy Waters. Not Nelson Algren. So many people who are really important look at Chicago as a place to try out new ideas. You went west and started afresh in Chicago. That pioneer spirit, that entrepreneurial edge, has always been built into Chicago.

NC: It always seemed to me like Chicago was rightly understood as a member of the triumvirate of American cities. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Kansas, but it always seemed that everyone knew Chicago was great. Why did you think that Chicago’s record needed to be defended or restored to its rightful place?

Dyja: If you’re from Kansas, you’re from the part of the country that sees Chicago as the big city. That Midwestern bias works in Chicago’s favor. Chicago is the idea of what a big city was. New York and L.A. may as well have been Paris. That sentiment isn’t shared everywhere. On the coasts — certainly as I’ve gone to other cities — it is breaking news that so many things came out of there. A lot of people have forgotten that or never knew it.

NC: I suppose the fact that I’m also a little involved in the comedy world explains it. Everyone in that world knows how important it is.

Dyja: That’s right. There are certain nodes of people who see Chicago that way. Also, architects. Lots of architects see Chicago as a living museum. Academics admire Chicago as well, so there are certain groups.

There is a book I was really influenced by called A Nervous Splendour. In it, Freud, Jung, Klimt, Brahms, the fathers of Modernism were all living in Vienna at the same time. All living together and drawing from each other. Drawn to this time and place. So then I saw that all these people who had a major impact on modern culture were in Chicago, in the same place at the same time.

Muddy Waters and Mahalia [Jackson] were linked together in Chicago by urban planning. Musicologists can point to the ways in which the roots of there music were tied together, but what was fun for me to see what how they were linked together as much by urban planning as they were by musical development. There was this huge demographic thing going on here that created the pressures and the realities for this kind of music to take off.

NC: [Architect Ludwig] Mies [van der Rohe] is the most prominent figure in the whole book, yet you also go to great lengths to sing the praises of Chicago’s populism. It feels like an elitist hero in a story that praises populism. Did you mean to create this tension between a small group of the elite and then also these man-of-people characters like [photographer] Henry Callahan and Saul Alinsky and others?

Dyja: One of the tensions of the book, a lot of it, is that in the same place you have this great emergence of what I think of as people-driven culture – whether we’re talking about Gwendolyn Brooks or musical styles or Nelson Algren writing about the back streets. On the other hand, you have this entrepreneurial culture, which is a part of this other great talent of Chicago. Mass marketing and corporatism. Chicago is the home of Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward. The consumer culture and the mass market is growing in Chicago.

Mies is the exemplar of that, because he’s so tied in to big institutions. That side of Chicago overwhelms the cooperative, human side of Chicago. There are very few out and out bad guys in the book, and Mies is certainly not one of them. He makes absolutely inspiring buildings that can make your heart soar, but the cost to the city, not so much in money but in human terms, was often high. A lot was sacrificed in terms of what it took to give him the space to do what he wanted to do.

S.R. Crown Hall, a Chicago building designed by Mies. Credit: Flickr user moacirpdsp

NC: This book feels like less a book about the people of Chicago so much as it is about its great people. Why did you decide to organize it as a story of a series of prominent individuals rather than stories about the regular folks of the city?

Dyja: My background is writing fiction. I always intended this from the start to be a narrative history. I never saw it as an academic history. A lot of my work was looking at the academic work of great scholars, bringing it forward and animating it. To do that, you need to hang it on lives of stories and people. Chicago’s is not a city of theories and movements — it’s a story of people.

To talk about people like Mahalia in theoretical terms is losing the juice of the whole thing. The intellectual reason for that is because a lot of what happens is exactly the opposite of what happens in New York, which is more about theory and ideas. In Chicago, it’s people with great ideas who develop circles of others around them and their ideas. That’s Chicago’s story.

Frankly, it was a lot more fun to write this way. Bring the people forward. That is the Chicago way. Put the lives of the people you are talking about front and Center and let them talk. Let your characters do the work. It’s also how Nelson Algren made his novels work. The fact that these are real lives meant that I had to be incredibly conscientious, but let them speak, let them be the focus of the action.

NC: You write that [artist] László Moholy-Nagy describes Chicago, when he first visits it, as a city that yearns. You seem to suggest at the end of the book that it’s not a city that yearns anymore. Do you think that’s a natural cycle for great cities?

Dyja: That is part of the cycle. You are coming out the double dip of the Depression. It was really in a city in a terrible trough. Moholy understood that the city had the energy for more. This whole book is about how that is fulfilled — the individuals and their spirit but also the corporatism that is arising in the postwar era. The deal that everyone makes with [Mayor Richard J.] Daley, at the end of it, is one in which that yearning kind of goes away for a while. The city becomes very insular. It is segregated in a way that people in the other cities find amazing. That’s the Chicago I grew up in, and there were streets in the South Side that were black on one side and white on the other, and police maintaining those lines, making sure people didn’t cross them. That is not the sign of a healthy place.

That’s not to say that’s the way it is now. I think cities that have ebbs and flows. Chicago is a city that has rebuilt itself at least three times, so I have great faith in its ability to continue yearn once more.

NC: Couldn’t you say that every city was in a pretty rough place at the end of the Depression, though? What is different about Chicago at the end of the Depression?

Dyja: Chicago was very hard hit by the Depression. The money was younger in Chicago than it was out East. There was no silver hidden in the back yard. Chicago came out of the Depression in much worse shape than other places. What’s happening in Chicago is not, of course, radically different than the rest of the country. It’s an expression of it, it’s a mirror, but it’s also a cause of what’s happening throughout these 25 years in American history.

NC: That’s also the part of the book where you write about this crazy little non-bar called the Dil Pickle Club, where people would come and hold debates and performances and give speeches all night. I had never heard of anything like it, and it doesn’t seem possible for a place like that to exist now.

Dyja: If a place like that existed now, it would become so twee in like two or three weeks. I agree that it couldn’t exist now. Maybe we find that most online, where we have these communities where people are thrown together with a sort of anarchy, which is not always joyful or productive. What was nice about the Dil Pickle was you had to look each other in the eye. I think that really helped. There was a real tongue-in-cheek knowingness about the place. When you see the artwork that they made to advertise the place, they were woodcuts with ribald puns.

Entrance to the Dil Pickle Club in Chicago. Credit: Encyclopedia of Chicago

On the other hand, history works in a funny way, it takes things — and I’m guilty of it in this book — that may not have been so important or visible at the time, and puts light on them. So we look back and say, “here was this amazing thing going on.” Chances are, if you were there, a lot of people didn’t know about the Dil Pickle. Chances are, there are places in Wicker Park or Williamsburg that are in many ways like this: If you aren’t in that node of humanity you won’t know about it, but they are the proving ground of what will become the important arts of our culture.

NC: In the book, a lot of goods get made uniform and democratized. The Great Books do it with knowledge. Playboy does it with sex. McDonalds does it with food. No question, a lot of that standardizing and mass-producing work has made America rich, but is it really the sort of thing that’s made the country great? Is that really a legacy Chicago wants to brag about?

Dyja: No, of course not, but what was interesting to me was to look at these things in terms of how they were born. Ray Kroc wanted to be rich, but he also was interested in things we are interested in today. He wanted to give people quality, good food. He believed small was beautiful. He wanted to do ethical business, so he made a lot of people very rich because he was willing to give people he thought deserved it great opportunities.

I spoke with Hugh Hefner to write this book. There’s something winning and smart about what he did. He saw a niche. He saw an audience to be served. He threw a lot of quality materials to them. He didn’t want to corrupt society. He wanted to give people an hour or two of distraction. And sure, he threw a few nudie photos in there, but he was also showing young men how to find nice things and distract them for an hour. That’s all. Many of these things came from reasonable, interesting impulses. Then what happens when things become big and swell, they change.

“Proud” is a little too binary of a word. Of course most of these companies aren’t “great.” It’s not Beethoven. Nor were these companies started to hurt people. But they also weren’t started out of greed. A lot of these now big companies were started as ways to give people in America new, good things. We tend to look at McDonald’s as a big bad company, but really its roots were very different. What companies end up as is not really where they started from. I would love for people to put the book down and make judgments and decisions with a little bit more of that in mind.

NC: Chaos and control are an ongoing theme in your book. Chaos has agents in Muddy and Nagy and Algren. Control has its agents in the Chess brothers and Daley and Mies. You illustrate a lot of really inspired moments or artist breakthroughs when they cut loose from figures who rein them in, yet the towering figure is Mies — who is all about discipline and control. And the book ends with Mayor Daley, neatening the city all up.

Dyja: Chaos and control is another way of talking about people and institutions. If you put a bunch of people together, chaos is what’s going to result. Daley and Mies are towering people whose impact on the city is visible everywhere. It is their work in the book that ends up in ascendance. As all these other folks, like Callahan, leave Chicago and go on to other things, by 1960 it is Mies and Daley who are at the top. Basically, you’re left with Studs — a voice in the wilderness — who is constantly there in Chicago.

That tension between chaos and control is an important one. You can look at it as good and bad, but I’m not sure that’s helpful. That tension is exactly how vernacular culture enters the mainstream. Rock and roll wasn’t just kids playing who got famous. It is a product. Talented people were brought into a commercial, technological environment. That’s what made “Maybellene.”

The term “selling out” is one I really had to think about as I wrote this book. I couldn’t criticize Mahalia for taking a deal with Columbia Records. She wanted security, but it did drain something from her work. Yet without it, she wouldn’t have become a towering figure. She would have still been singing at a few little churches. Algren struggles with this tension, too. I removed some of my preconditions and judgments that I had for that idea of selling out. It made me ask if there are better ways of selling out.

NC: The only category of characters that doesn’t seem to have a Moholy or a Terkel — a great populist — is politicians. Your only great politician in here is Mayor Daley. Why wasn’t there a great populist Chicago politician?

Former Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley with Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Dyja: If we tried to go too deeply into politics in Chicago we would need a whole separate interview. Populism in Chicago is a long and complicated issue. The Democratic Party and the Machine is really seen, at its beginning, as a social service mechanism. The machine was about getting you a turkey for Christmas because you didn’t have one, or getting your nephew a job. It did the things government couldn’t do, so in return you voted for them.

In many ways, the Democratic Machine was the only way for certain groups of people to rise up. It was a way for average regular guys to get some power out there. It did have a populist aspect to it, even though it was dominated by crook-y, savvy pols. You certainly weren’t going to rise up in business or become a priest, but through the machine a regular guy could get a little power.

Then what happens with Daley is the demographics around the machine changed. It’s not so much about raising up the poor and giving them a turkey anymore. What Chicagoans are worried about in the Daley era is their homes — keeping their stuff. It’s about security.

Daley is a big man. He runs the show. He grabs hold of reins of power that were once a little more diffuse. The machine was a little more answerable to people before him. But he takes control and promises people that if they support him, they can hold onto what’s theirs. His voting block is interesting. It’s the ethnic whites and the black community. The people who keep in power are the two groups that hate each other. As much as Daley controls the machine, at least for the white ethnic community, there is a populism to it. He’s giving them what they want in terms of maintaining racial boundaries, and in return they will keep him office.

If there is a populist voice in Chicago politics that I write about, I guess it’s Saul Alinsky. Though he’s probably more important before the book begins, doing his Back of the Yards organizing. Later, during the period I’m writing about, his organization is doing more work elsewhere in the country.

But I was glad to get to write what I wrote about Alinsky, and that idea of radicalism. That Alinsky’s radicalism was expecting more of the guy next to you, that he can be your brother, that you could count on him and that you could both do a great deal for each other. Now we tend to be more likely to fear the person next to us. We could use more Alinsky in the world. That ultimate faith in what we can be to ourselves and to each other is crucial.

NC: You quote [Simone] de Beauvoir as making an interesting observation about Chicago. She says that there, you can see the world of profit and the world of work nearer each other than she has ever seen it anywhere else. It seems like cities these days are all about the world of profit — there’s lots of that — but the world of work is a lot less visible. Is that something for those of us who care about cities to think about?

Dyja: The loss of manufacturing, and the loss of people who get up every day and make something, is a real loss. As much as we think of manufacturing as big factories, it was something else, too. At the start of the time I wrote about, brand names weren’t the thing you bought. A brand name, like Schwinn Bicycle, was where you worked. People were proud to say where they worked. Then later in this period, brand names become how you identify yourself as a consumer, not as a maker. That is dangerous.

The creative impulse is a thing that Moholy got right. We really do want to make things. It’s more fun than something in the service industry. I’ve done both kinds of work, but I had more fun making a book. We as a country — and, I think, cities — work better when there’s a body of work about making stuff. We really need to find those ways of making. That’s what will restore any city. Cities that make are important and livable places.

Journalists Should Center Equity in Reporting

Surveys consistently show that 74% of our readers use Next City&rsquos journalism in their jobs. What is that job? More than 80% of readers say they or their organizations work to achieve greater racial equity. Will you support us in finding the news and information they need?

Older Streets in Chicago Are Named After Presidents


The oldest streets in Chicago got their names from James Thompson, the surveyor who staked them out in the wilderness 123 years ago, when the region had fewer than 100 civilian inhabitants. Since he named his fourth east-west street south of the river Washington and the one after it Madison (although this name does not appear on the copy of the Thompson plat in the Chicago Historical society), it was assumed that he intended to have one series of Chicago streets named after the Presidents.

No one seems to have asked why, in that case, the street after Washington was not named Adams, nor why Thompson should have put his Jefferson st. far away and at right angles to the others. Correct or not, Thompson’s supposed idea was taken up by the authorities of early Chicago in naming the new east-west. streets south of Madison. Hence the nine streets of downtown Chicago were named after Presidents.

Adams st. is out of order, unless it is assumed that the first Adams was passed over and the name was intended for John Quincy Adams. President Tyler lost out because he was something less than popular with the town council of Chicago.

Accounts for Reasons
Thompson’s inconsistency disappears if it is supposed he did not have the Presidents in mind. His reasons for street naming were set forth by Elijah M. Haines in an article in the Chicago Herald on Jan. 30, 1887. Haines’ authority has been challenged, but he settled in Lake county, Ill. in 1837 and he may well have known Thompson.

According to Haines, Thompson decided to name one of his main streets for his home county, Randolph, in southern Illinois. This suggested using the names of other counties close to Randolph and thus Washington, Madison, Franklin, Clinton, and Jefferson sts. got their names. It happened that three of these counties had been named for Presidents.

At least one of these names, Clinton, deserved to be honored in Chicago. He was DewittClinton, governor of New York and promoter of the Erie canal, which made possible the rapid settle- ment of Chicago and the middle west.

Names Are Realistic
For the other streets Thompson did not, according to Haines, torture his imagination. The Water sts. were simply the streets along the water. Lake st. was judged by Thompson the one most likely to be first to push thru to the lake whenever the obstructing Fort Dearborn reservation should be got out of the way. Kinzie (spelled Kenzie on the Thompson plat copy here) was named for the John Kinzie, who claimed most of the land in its vicinity.

Desplaines st. got its name from the river and Canal st. for the canal which presumably would sometime pass near it. Fort Dearborn was already there it was natural to call the street nearest it Dearborn. Clark st. (often spelled Clarke in early days) was for George Rogers Clark, the Revolutionary leader who won the middle west for the United States. This attribution has been questioned and the name is also supposed to have been taken from a Clark, or Clarke, whom Thompson found in 1830.

La Salle st. was named for the French explorer who visited the site of Chicago in 1682. Fulton st. was to honor the builder of the first practical steamboat. The naming of Carroll st. has not been satisfactorily explained. It might have been. for the Maryland signer of the Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll of Carrollton.

Capt. Wells Honored
As Chicago was then, there were practically no local figures to be honored by street names, but one did get into the list. Wells st. was named for the Capt. William Wells, who was killed on the dunes near 18th st. In the evacuation of Fort Dearborn and subsequent massacre in 1812, and whose heart, it was said, was eaten by the Pottawatomies.

Thruout the changes of a century from oxcart traffic to automobiles, the lines of Chicago’s original streets have remained as Thompson staked them out if allowance is made for widening and for raising levels. This, of course, does not apply to those streets nearest the river. That Is to be expected. The unruly river soon appeared to Chicago fully as much a nuisance as a blessing.

In successive modifications all that is left of N. Water st. is a tiny fragment cutting a diagonal beside the Tribune Tower. Maps today show Carroll st. just north of it, as a railway yard. Of S. Water st., possibly the city s oldest, only the eastern end remains, on two levels on both sides of Michigan av.

Absorbed by Wacker Dr.
In an early modification of the river bank, a short diagonal, River st., was created between State st. and Michigan av. Both River st. and the greater part af S. Water have been into Wacker dr.

Before it fell to Its present state. S. Water st. was Chicago’s wholesale produce market. It was adequate until the city became huge. In the 1890s complaints grew that the market was jamming traffic thru the center of the city. In 1914 THE TRIBUNE reported the street “jammed and packed with 10,000 wagons a day.” Finally the wholesale produce trade was moved to its present location along 14th st. and Newberry, which keeps the memory of its origin in its name of South Water Market.

In the early years of Chicago, the whole section about the eastern end of N. Water and Kinzie sts. was known as the Sands. It was a sort of redlight dis- trict and hell s kitchen, peopled by harlots and hoodlums.

House Set Afire
Long John Wentworth, then mayor of Chicago, ended the nui- sance by ordering the area raided on April 20, 1857. First-so it is recorded-he had one of the houses set on fire, then called in the firemen to drive out the women of the Sands.

For the first 30 years of Its hi story, Chicago’s east-west streets considered more important than the north-south ones. The early planners, possi- bly including Thompson, conceived the city as having a relatively narrow frontage toward the lake, but not touching it, and extending indefinitely west- ward. Only about the time of the Civil war was an organized and largely successful effort made to change the axis of the city.

Even so, only Water and Lake sts., the two nearest the river, flourished in the first decades of Chicago. Madison st. had im- portance as being one road into the new settlement.

County Formed In 1831
Cook county was organized in 1831 and the county board pro- vided for roads connecting its three precincts of Chicago, Du Page, and Hickory Creek. One of these roads ran along Madison st. and the present Ogden av. (named for the first mayor],

to the house of Barney Lawton at Riverside, and .then to the house of James Walker” in Du Page county. When McVicker’s theater was opened in 1857, Madison st. became an amusement center, but its commercial rise dated from the great fire.

At the end of the century it was generally considered the liveliest street in Chicago, always awake in the block be- tween Dearborn, where The Tribune building then stood, to Clark st. Today it is perhaps best known by that part of it just west of the North WVestern station, Chicago’s “port of for- gotten men,” a region of cheap saloons, flophouses, and pawn- shops.

Randolph st. also began to flourish after the great fire, and by the time of the Columbian exposition (1893) one writer referred to it as a “respectable street.” The open- ing of Metropolitan hall and of Hooley’s theater it on its way to being Chicago’s main theater street in pre-movie days. It was the scene of the : theater, where in 1903 E75 persons were burned, suffocated, or trampled to death in one of Chi- cago s worst disasters. About 1920 Randolph st. was described as “dingy,” but a few years later the construction of $30,000,000 worth of new buildings along its four main blocks changed it considerably.

Chicago Tribune, September 7, 1953

Is Chicago the most regularly laid-out city that has ever existed? - History

Post #61 » by Gramercy Riffs » Mon May 10, 2021 12:48 am

The4thHorseman wrote: Kyrie has shown he's the mor skilled scorer, below the FTL in traffic.

Outside of shots at the rim, his array of skills to score is jaw dropping at times.

Looking fancy does not mean skilled.

Skilled is strictly reflected in efficiency and Steph blows Kyrie out of the water in every metric. It's not close. Steph is clearly more skilled as a scorer.

I don't think that's true (re: strictly in efficiency). Kyrie is legitimately as elite at every scoring move that's ever existed. He's got MJ fadeaways, he can make shots off the backboard from 19 feet away being diagonal toward the rim, he can post up wings and hit left-handed hook shots and floaters from the free throw line, he can shoot threes very efficiently from 30 feet in, he shoots 90% from the free throw line, is at career averages of 47/39/89 from the field, etc. Steph does not have the post game and cannot make the variety of shots that Kyrie can. That alone doesn't make Kyrie a more skilled scorer, but I think you could definitely argue it either way. I legitimately don't know what move Kyrie will pull at any moment, but with Steph is's basically always gonna be a three (not really, but just looking at his highlight tapes its much more predictable).

Considering I set the terms of the conversation in the OP. efficiency means skill. Anyone else is free to make their own thread and establish their own terms for the conversation.

Re: Steph Curry is the most skilled scorer in NBA history

Re: Steph Curry is the most skilled scorer in NBA history

Post #62 » by Arteezy » Mon May 10, 2021 12:50 am

So JJ Barea is a better player than LeBron James ,given what happened in 2011 NBA finals

And Mike Miller is a better player than Kevin Durant, given what happened in 2012 NBA finals

Re: Steph Curry is the most skilled scorer in NBA history

Re: Steph Curry is the most skilled scorer in NBA history

Post #63 » by durden_tyler » Mon May 10, 2021 12:51 am

Re: Steph Curry is the most skilled scorer in NBA history

Re: Steph Curry is the most skilled scorer in NBA history

Post #64 » by SuperPawgHunter » Mon May 10, 2021 12:53 am

Steph is very skilled as a scorer, but Kyrie is . Kyrie.

Re: Steph Curry is the most skilled scorer in NBA history

Re: Steph Curry is the most skilled scorer in NBA history

Post #65 » by noreaster23 » Mon May 10, 2021 12:56 am

I though the General Board exposed Steph earlier this year. Am I missing something?

While this thread seems unnecessary to me, I will say that there is no one I enjoy watching play basketball than Steph Curry.

Best scorer ever? Debatable.

Re: Steph Curry is the most skilled scorer in NBA history

Re: Steph Curry is the most skilled scorer in NBA history

Post #66 » by sikma42 » Mon May 10, 2021 1:01 am

Gramercy Riffs wrote:
Looking fancy does not mean skilled.

Skilled is strictly reflected in efficiency and Steph blows Kyrie out of the water in every metric. It's not close. Steph is clearly more skilled as a scorer.

I don't think that's true (re: strictly in efficiency). Kyrie is legitimately as elite at every scoring move that's ever existed. He's got MJ fadeaways, he can make shots off the backboard from 19 feet away being diagonal toward the rim, he can post up wings and hit left-handed hook shots and floaters from the free throw line, he can shoot threes very efficiently from 30 feet in, he shoots 90% from the free throw line, is at career averages of 47/39/89 from the field, etc. Steph does not have the post game and cannot make the variety of shots that Kyrie can. That alone doesn't make Kyrie a more skilled scorer, but I think you could definitely argue it either way. I legitimately don't know what move Kyrie will pull at any moment, but with Steph is's basically always gonna be a three (not really, but just looking at his highlight tapes its much more predictable).

Considering I set the terms of the conversation in the OP. efficiency means skill. Anyone else is free to make their own thread and establish their own terms for the conversation.

Only thing to do would be to say the premise is ill-conceived or manipulative.

There are several things a point guard should be able to do..that Steph can't. Those skills could have helped him win more.

Curbside Question: What Is The Most Uncomfortable Vehicle You Have Ever Driven?

If you think about it, the person who designs seats in automobiles has a difficult job as people come in so many shapes and sizes.

So the question is: What is the most uncomfortable vehicle you have ever driven? As a bonus, did you own it or did it belong to somebody else?

Having recently purged myself of a back pain inducing Ford Escape at work, in favor of an extended cab Chevrolet Silverado, this question shot through my mind. My most uncomfortable?

GM vans through the 1995 model year. Fighting a wheel well is not comfortable thankfully, I did not own it. What about you?


2005 Toyota Corolla. What a horrible little car. Hard seats, minimal leg room, and almost zero foot room. I don’t consider a size 11 to be an extremely large shoe, but apparently Toyota disagrees.

I’ll second this. And not for some sort of “beige bashing”, I get boring vehicles have a purpose, we’ve owned plenty of boring compact and midsized sedans. I had a rental 2010 or so Corolla, it had easily the most uncomfortable seats and driving position I’ve ever had to endure, and I’ve owned and driven a lot of much older, much cheaper cars. Combined with its horrible wind noise, thrashy engine, and terrible steering and brakes, it was easily the worst car I’ve had the misfortune to pilot.

3rded-Terrible driving position.

Hmm, my ex-girlfriend had a 2001 Corolla and that fit my body perfectly. Also got great mileage on the freeway.

My most uncomfortable car was a rental 1995 Chevy Cavalier. It wasn’t so uncomfortable as the interior design and smell was nausea inducing. I think I swallowed my own vomit in that car.

You’re talking about an E110, a 98-02 Corolla, they aren’t half bad. I drove one from OK to Las Vegas and back once with no problems, and it didn’t even have cruise control.

Chris mentioned a E120, a 2003-2009, which I thought at least saw a definite drop in comfort, and interior build quality. But I think the absolute worst is the current E140, they are worlds worse than the earlier Corolla, or almost any other car currently sold in the US

That generation of Corolla (󈨦-󈧆 IIRC) had a great driving position, and are actually pretty fun to drive with a stick.

The 󈧇-onward Corollas have been designed with a very short driver in mind. At 6′, I find the seat cushion way too high and short, the wheel at a bus-like angle, and the pedals way too close, forcing a knees-up posture.

Still, the seat itself isn’t badly cushioned and they ride OK. Worst comfort I’ve ever experienced in a mass-market vehicle was driving a Chevy Astro. Imagine the Corolla above plus even narrower, tinier footwells, a horrible ride, nasty flat seats, and hoary engine vibes all through the cabin. Awful.

4thed – I think Toyota’s seats have the worst lumbar support of any car I have ever driven. I had a 2007 rental Corolla that luckily I was able to swap out for a Chevy Malilbu because the Toyota’s seats were so uncomfortable!

I owned a 2009 Corolla. Bought it brand new and suffered through 84K miles in it. I agree with you completely. Wretched little car. In addition to what you said, any bump in the road was torture. The struts must have cost Toyota about 50 cents. To make matters worse, 10% Ethanol fuel made the engine sound like pennies in a coffee can.

I had a rental 2009 or 2010 Corolla for about two weeks. It was heaven after the two Focuses I’d had in the weeks before. I also rented a bunch of small Toyotas in 1996 and 1997. I really didn’t care for them, but the recent one was comfortable and impressed me with its fuel economy.

I just got the 2006 Toyota Corolla and it is killing my back. I have to sell it asap!

Yup, had a 2007 ‘rolla as a courtesy rental car for a month in 2008. Absolutely hideous seats, and the entire car was dire – uncomfy, noisy, rattly, no footroom (and I’m only a size 8). The stupid unergonomic handbrake was simply awful to use – did the USA spec ‘rollas have that handbrake design? I hated the car so much I took it back to Hertz after three days and said I would take anything else – anything – that wasn’t a Corolla. Got a 2006 Ford Mondeo instead – boy did it have a plush ride – I forgot the awful uncomfy Corolla after driving about 500 metres!

Wow, I sure am glad I didn’t buy a Corolla a couple years ago.

I had a 1985 Corolla sedan, not the smaller sportier coupe. That sedan was the LE, had almost-Volvo-quality seats, could cruise at 80-85 mph all day and get 41 MPG doing so. (It was only supposed to get 33 MPG on the highway I never did undersand this discrepancy.)

It was always smooth and handled well after I put Michelins on it. It was also reasonably quiet except over really rough pavement, then it could be a little “drummy” sounding.

I guess Corollas have really gone downhill since the mid-80s just bigger and more expensive without being any better. Pity that.

Try driving a Chevette (ancient history, I know). I couldn’t shift gears without catching the brake, and I’m size 9 1/2.

My recent experience in a 2012 Corolla was awful. I was just a passenger so I can’t comment on driver ergonomics, but that car had the worst seats ever, front and back. The must have used incredibly soft foam, great for the first 5 minutes, but then nothing but aches and no support. I was only in the car for a few hours, but oh the pain. And I’m only 5𔄁″ and not overweight.

Normally I ride in my pre-2000s water-cooled VWs and, although they may have their shortcomings, seat comfort is not one of them, front or back, at least for an average sized person like me. I can (and have) driven one of those cars for 20 hours straight without so much as a twinge of pain.

Yup! 2005 Corolla S is so bad there should be a class action suit against Toyota for putting such horrendous seats in that car. i think about what folks like us have gone through in medical cost, plus having to take a loss when getting something else. And let’s not forget the almighty PAIN & SUFFERING!

I love my 󈧉 corolla then again I am a 5𔃾 man with a shoe size of 8 1/2. I do have 3 kids though and they seem to be comfortable in the back

This may be a counterintuitive answer, but a borrowed 󈨙 Olds Delta 88. Took it on a road trip and my lower back and butt were sore the whole time. Was so glad to get out of that car.

If bench seat GMs of that era didn’t suit you, they really didn’t suit you. One of them caused my mother months of back pain after a three hour trip. She was in her early 40s and has never been heavy, so it wasn’t a case of her having poor health prior to sitting in the Buick.

1981 Ford Fiesta, a fun little car that just didn’t work with my 6𔃾″ frame and size 12 feet. After 100 miles, I was mighty glad to get out of it.

The most uncomfortable, coincidently, would be in a 2006 Chevrolet Silverado Z71. The seat back had no contour at all to it. Given my abnormally sharp shoulder blades, steering was quite uncomfortable.

On the other hand, the most comfortable seat I’ve driven in probably has to be in my very own 2010 Acura TSX. The heavy side bolstering is ideal to coddle my 5𔄁, 116lb. frame in sharp turns. I like its softness compared to no less supportive BMW seats.

I should add that the most comfortable automobile seat I’ve ever sat in was in the 2013 Volvo XC90. It was at an auto show, so I didn’t actually drive in it.

I’m surprised more Volvo’s don’t sell solely for how amazing their seats are. My V70R has what I thought were the most comfortable front seats ever made until I drove a new XC70. This is counting all sorts of Mercedes, BMWs, Cadillacs and Lincolns. Volvo has seat comfort down to a science.

Too bad Volvo doesn’t have the science of engine building in its bag. A coworker’s leased Volvo ate a crank at less than 20K, and continued to cough up expensive parts thereafter. She is a lawyer and doesn’t mince words. She referred to this vehicle as “a piece of shit”. Not exactly technical, but apt.

While parts are certainly pricey, they’re no more expensive than any other European car. And aside from the anecdotal evidence of your friend, I’ve never read of any recent Volvo engines that have any chronic, fatal problems. Ford even used some of their engines in their own cars under their stewardship.

I have to disagree with that. I was keen to buy a Volvo V50 wagon, until I drove one. The front seats had non-adjustable headrests fixed at a very forward angle. With my head on the headrest, my back straight and my butt in place, there was at least four inches of air behind my upper back.But no one can sit like that long, and when I sat normally, the headrest pressed my head forward by several inches. I could barely get the car around the block and back fast enough. I’m finding the same problem with most new cars I sit in, but this was the worst by far. I suppose those headrests give a better results in the rear-impact crash tests, but they made me feel like in was in a crash already.

I had the same headrest experience in a Ford Flex I test drove a few years ago. It forced my head forward far too aggressively.

The S40 and V50 missed out on Volvo’s generally excellent seats. They got hard, narrow perches the rest of the range had road thrones.

That surprises me about the V50 seats, as I’ve had an 󈧊 since 2007 and have found the seats as comfy as my 󈨧 S70 and 󈨟 940SE. I’ve driven it from Rock Island to Chicago and was comfortable the whole way. It does have cloth seats, not leather, so maybe that makes a difference? The headrests don’t bother me either. I am 5′ 10″ and about 160 lb. for what it is worth.

LTD- my 63 year old mother bought her S60 solely because of the seats (following an S70, also for the seats). Not a great car by many measures, but damn if it isn’t comfortable. Can’t say I blame her, although I pushed for several other choices.

But the front seats on the Z71 are marvelous. Especially if you opt for the leather ones.

The one I drove was sadly equipped with cloth bench seats like this:

My mom’s 03 Sunfire. The seat had no support, and the sunroof realy cut down on the head room.

The Sunfire is the absolute WORST.

Where to start: 1954 International Farmall H. After a day in the saddle, even as a kid, I felt it.

My Ford F100: it’s so noisy, there’s no way I’d consider driving it any long distance. But I used to, before I got tinitus. Maybe from driving it?

My 󈨃 Beetle had negative lumbar support, so I found some 󈨆 seats and it made a world of difference.

Some of the old dump trucks I drove ages ago were real beasts.

Same problem Paul the Austin truck I drove that had a grader engine inserted may not have had seats it didnt feel like it had and my 39 Morris 8 wasnt much chop either of the more modern era a Nissan Tiida was appalling to drive for 2 hours resulting in lower back pain and a mid 00s Corolla no better just when it looked like the Japanese had finally made some decent cars in the 90s they take the seating back a step for the new century my 71 Corona was horrible on a long trip are they doing retro seats too?

If we are counting tractors then our old IH 706 was the worst I can think of. At the end of the day your left knee would just be screaming from working the clutch. and the spring suspension in the seat that was supposed to cushion the ride would set up this swaying motion the practically made you sea-sick.

Buick Lucerne (cloth seat anyway). Completely awful design and materials, disappointing.

Oh, +1. No lumbar support at all. Great headroom, though.

Such a shame I outgrew my Schwinn StingRay: I so loved that bike: its Banana seat was actually quite comfy…

The 10-speed that replaced it had a hard plastic kidney shaped cheek-splitter cushioned by a paper thin layer of foam and vinyl. Awful.

My roommate’s 62 Chevy Bel Air. No support in the seat (either the bottom or the back), low seat, high steering wheel, a miserable place to spend time.

Mother’s 06 Buick LaCrosse – the seat is not so bad, but the car somehow just didn’t fit me, even though I’m a slightly wider version of the guy in the middle of your chart.

I loved my 66 Fury III, but on a long trip, the seat lacked back support and made for a real backache.

Finally, my 07 Honda Fit. I once took a trip that involved about 4 hours in the car each way, all in one day. The car is short on legroom but worse, the normally comfy seats turned to stone about 5 hours into the day and the last two hours were sheer misery. Great for shorter runs, never taking an all-day trip in it again.

I second that although my Fit was a scream to blast around town, it was really uncomfortable on the highway.

63 EH Holden the seat curves towards the doors offering no support at all and is murder if you suffer from sciatica, My chiroprator at the time drove a 64 Impala he told me where my back complaints were emanating from as his car also 30+ years old at the time and from GM was identical and terribly uncomfortable.
I cured my cars problem and a lot of pain by installing Commodore bucket seats.
So a classic I rebuilt and drove for 8 years was probably the least comfortable car I ever owned great car though must tell ta’ll about it one fine day.

Had to be my brother’s 1979 Camaro. Low, slippery, zero support, limited adjustability, vinyl seat. Nothing else stands out in my mind like that one.

Imagine driving one without a console. Lots of 60’s & early 70’s cars were bucket seat column-shift equipped. There was absolutely nowhere to rest your right arm.

I always found the 2nd-gen F-body cars very comfortable to drive. The ergonomics were about perfect: my first car, a 󈨒 Firebird Esprit was very comfy. The nice wide doorsill was just right for my left arm to rest on while my hand rested on the LH mirror.

Sometimes I’d drive with my left arm & rest my right on the console with my hand resting on the shifter because everything lined up so perfectly. I spent hours in that car repeatedly and a 10 hour drive from Indiana to Alabama in it didn’t bother me a bit.

Your results obviously varied.

The worst driving “experience” for me was sadly a 󈨍 Q-code 4-speed Mustang Sportsroof. It was a low-option car with no console. It looked mean and was mean to this driver. I’m 5󈧏” and felt like a dwarf driving it. It wasn’t the most uncomfortable…but overall it was the most difficult-to-drive car due to the lack of visibility. Such a shame because I’ve always thought the 󈨋 – 󈨍 Mustangs were tough-looking machines.

Wanted to love it, totally hated it.

GM during the 󈨊s and 󈨔s indeed seemed to have a knack for crap seats, but my personal worst was a well-used 󈨕 Dodge Omni that I had for a couple years. Wasn’t the seats so much as the buzzing from the engine. Any drive more than a few minutes’ duration had you getting out of the car feeling like you were still vibrating. This sensation would last for a half-hour or more.

My sister’s ex-husband had an early-model Ford Explorer that hobbyhorsed so bad over every road imperfection that there should have been a Dramamine dispenser attached to the dashboard. Man, I hated riding in that thing.

Most uncomfortable? A 2007 Renault Megane Sport with the optional ridiculously large wheels and matching ridiculously low profile tyres. Cramped and numbing on any sort of long trip. Most comfortable? My much-missed 2006 Chrysler 300 CRD saloon. I used to do eight hour non-stop trips across France in this and feel no pain!

Oddly enough my vote goes to a 2007 Chevrolet Impala 2LT. The car overall was a good cruiser and I would have kept it forever if: 1) The leather seats weren’t so damn hard. 2) The steering wheel wasn’t so big, it was like driving a school bus.

Otherwise the thing was quiet, powerful and got good mileage. Obviously I could have bought a trim level that had cloth seats, but man that steering wheel…

Most comfortable I can remember- 88 Toyota 2wd pickup with bench seat and 91 Sonoma 2wd with bucket seats. 08 Odyssey was pretty good too. I drove it 24 hours once with only stops for food and gas and don’t remember hating it.

I had a 2012 Impala with cloth buckets for a rental. I had the opposite problem. They had no support and I sunk into them. I tried the passenger seat and had the same problem.

Any 90’s Chevrolet with cloth seats,they felt so cheap and hard.The worst being a 󈨤 Camaro with no back or bottom support whatsoever. I felt the metal parts press directly against my back and butt.

F-body’s are pretty terrible, the seating position is like a grown up soap box derby car, the passenger seat is even worse, with the big hump for the cat or whatever. Have you ever set in the back seat of a first generation Lumina sedan? It was the most bizarre combination of support-less pillow cushion, and seemed to be directly on the floor. Felt like your knees set above your head.

On the F Body, the steering column was not lined up with the driver it was several centimetres to the left. Weird feeling. And yes, the seats, and the entire interior, was crap.

The W-Bodys in general were pretty atrocious, I think the first Regal Sedan was only passable one in the original batch, and that’s because it was overstuffed per Buick tradition. Don’t know if It stayed that way for each redesign, but the last W-Body Impala feels cramped and uncomfortable for such a relatively big car.

I think GM did it on all of them to make actual Leg and Hip room competitive, because they weren’t as space efficient as they could have been, so the small, misshapen or flat cushions gave competitive room.

My 80s GM B/C body cars also had the steering wheel tilting slightly to the left. It was most noticeable in my 󈨘 Olds 98, and was really irritating.

I’ve owned a 1984 Ninety-Eight for eight years now, and I’ve never noticed that. I sure hope I forget about it before the next time I drive it so that it doesn’t drive me crazy. Or maybe my car just doesn’t have that problem.

The steering column on my 󈨒 Ford Fiesta came out of the firewall at an angle (towards the door). The angle was enough that the steering wheel was made at an angle. The rim was in a different plane than the hub. It all looked normal until you turned the wheel and opposite sides would get closer or farther from you. It wasn’t severe, just a little weird.

I’ll have to think a second on the most uncomfortable I’ve driven, but the most uncomfortable I’ve ridden in is a no-contest. I was stuck in the back seat of a 1993 BMW 3 series coupe in the UK, behind the driver. The hard backed driver seat banged on my knees, and there was less leg room than in the average coffee mug. Miserable, miserable. Ultimate driving machine? Maybe. Ultimate passenger car? Absolutely not.

This reminds me of being squeezed into the back of a third-generation Toyota Supra in college. Aside from having no legroom, the shape of the hatchback backlight put the edge glass right above my head (and I’m not all that tall), which felt claustrophobic and meant that any sharp bump threatened to conk my skull on the rim of the backlight.

Surprisingly, I had almost as miserable a time in the back seat of someone’s rented current-generation Camry. In that case, the root of the problem was the odd loop-shaped door armrest, which was shaped in such a way that I either had to scrunch sideways with my elbow in your lap or slide my arm through the armrest, which was confining and forced me to crank my back slightly toward the door. The only potential solution I could see would have been to get a hacksaw and saw the armrest off, which I assume the rental car agency wouldn’t have appreciated. Fortunately, it wasn’t a long ride or I might have asked to ride in the trunk instead.

Our/my 1996 Ford Ranger XLT. The driver’s seat was sort of butt-sprung, and after 20 minutes, it was like sitting in a hole, and my back couldn’t take it anymore – hence my old 2004 Impala – what a nice difference! I only weigh 185 and I’m 5′ 10″…

Next, our 2007 Mazda MX5. Not only did my left knee take a real beating getting in and out of the thing in a tight space, my back, due to no lumbar support was bothering me, too. We bought one of those pool noodles and cut off a 10″ length of it and it worked perfectly as a lumbar support. One more thing about the MX5 – in warm/hot weather, you had to use the A/C even with the top down, as there was no airflow around you legs and feet, that made for a VERY uncomfortable ride. A cool car, but too many negatives. It was a Sport model – should have bought either a Touring or Grand Touring model and maybe we’d still have it.

Fortunately, we haven’t had that issue since last July – it’s across the street in a neighbor’s garage! He still seems to be enjoying it, but he’s younger, too…

Whenever we see each other in our cars, we both smile – he in his zippy little 2007 MX5 and me in my nice, big, comfy 2012 Impala!

I’ll second a Ford Ranger. We had a 2002 Ranger at the office and I hated driving the thing. I swear a midget designed it. The headroom was completely lacking. My head was constantly brushing the ceiling, and I could look out over the rearview mirror. The legroom sucked as well. Now, I’m not all that tall (6𔃺″), but I am long waisted. Ford and Toyota usually get the most complaints for discomfort from me due to their low roofs.

The side-facing rear jumper seats in the Ford Ranger… now those are uncomfortable!

This is a hard one, so I will describe the two worst:

1977 Chevette. The seats on the Chevette were actually convex. You sat on a hill and there were no side bolsters. Just staying in the seat meant bracing yourself on the steering wheel. Speaking of which, said wheel was angled off to the left and wasn’t on the centreline, like subsequent fine GM products. The ride was hash, the motor thrashy and legroom non-existent. Horrible car.

1985 Toyota 4X4 long box. This was my gf’s truck. Good points were reliability, reasonable fuel economy, hauling ability and billy-goat off road capabilities.. Bad: the worst seat in history. A thin bench that was right on the floor. I could feel the springs in my back and butt. When added to the buckboard ride, anything over an hour was torture.

Driving a Chevette is certainly strange: it’s not the worst I’ve ever driven (I actually still own an 󈨙) but the angled steering column is quite strange. One does not need to be behind the wheel to notice it either. I’d be curious to know why it was designed that way.

I can’t believe it took this long for someone to nominate the very awful Chevette. No one who ever bought one must have sat in one let alone driven it before they bought it. I had to drive a friend’s once in the 1980’s and it made my tired Fiat Brava feel like an S-Class Mercedes.

The most uncomfortable car that I’ve been in was a late 80s Subaru wagon that an ex-boss had for a loaner while his Mercedes needed work. It felt very cheap, hard & flimsy to be in.

Worst overall was probably my 󈨙 Astro Starcrap, er, Starcraft conversion van…which automatically means crappy seats. Shame ‘cuz it ran like a scared rabbit with that 4.3. The 󈨢 that replaced it was the long wheelbase model with factory seats…far better.

Currently I own a 1990 Chevy G-20 Van, another Starcraft conversion van with crappy seats. It exists for those trips to Lowe’s and Home Depot which come rather often as I finish my house…(yes all the rear seats have been taken out of it, and why did I get a conversion van in the first place? That’s a story unto itself, involving my sons, their hardcore metal band and a tour they undertook with no money and the trans went south and they needed dad and mom to bail them out…get the picture?) Having driven other full-size Chevy vans in the past, I know a set of decent seats would make a huge difference. I could even stand the wheelwell.

2004 Cadaver, er, Cavalier…penalty box if there ever was one.

Wife’s friends had an early model Escort…Painful to ride in the back of that.

My parents’ 󈨉 Buick Special (back in 1973-74) was an invitation to back pain if you drove it over a couple hours at a stretch…even when I was 16.

Comfortable cars I’ve known, loved and driven…

-󈨈 Chrysler convertible. First car I could drive 500 miles with no back pain.
-󈧽 Chevy…until I swapped out the bench seat for a set of Toyota buckets.
-󈧊 Cadillac STS4 – 200 miles at between 80-120 MPH…no back pain.
-󈨟 Caprice…more comfortable than the leather 󈨝 I had…dunno why it was the same car underneath.

2004 or 󈧉 rental Impala. Had it for one weekend and still remember how uncomfortable it was.

I had a 󈨌 Pinto coupe in college. The front seats were OK, but one weekend four of us drove from Boston to Montreal and back, about five hours each way. After the return trip the two in the Pinto’s back seat were barely speaking to me, it was so bad.

My first car, a 1975 Datsun B-210 hatchback. It had terrible headroom. I had to recline the seat in order to keep from hitting my head on the ceiling, and I am not unusually tall– a bit over 5′ 10″. I never could find a comfortable seating position in that car. Also, any time I’m a front seat passenger in a car equipped with a bench seat, and driven by a short person. This doesn’t happen too often nowadays, but I’ll never forget going for a ride with a friend who was maybe 5𔃽″ at the most, who wanted to show off her bench-seat-equippped 󈨍 Dart. I was sitting there with both hands on the dashboard… Not exactly comfortable. Happily, it was a short demonstration ride that made me appreciate the B-210 a bit more.

For some reason, the base level seats in the 2000 – 2006 Taurus do not get along with my lower back and hips. Mushy, unsupportive, and a strange bar in the seatback frame that hit me in the wrong place.

I was glad when Ford came out with the Five Hundred, and later, the 2008 Taurus. My guess is that the seats in the later generations benefitted from some Volvo DNA.

The Chevy Cruze I rented last June for a road trip was particularly claustrophobic for me. Which is more a symptom of modern cars just being rather crowded around you.

1984 Oldsmobile Delta Eighty Eight without Power Seats: High Dashboard, relatively low, unsupportive, too reclined bench seat and my short legs means I had to hold onto the steering wheel to drive “upright” as I prefer. My upper back got really sore. At least the broughamy ones more often came with Power Seats that I could fidget into a comfortable driving position. But then you have to suffer with those super non-supportive pillow top seats.

Volvo, hands down wins seats and driving positions for me (even over Mercedes Benz). If my mechanic didn’t scare me away from them I would have a 960 Wagon right now.

If you’re worried about the straight six in the 960, an earlier 740 or 940 would do the job, and with less worries. I had my 󈨟 940 for seven years. It did have issues with the turbo (had to replace it at about 80K–the car was eleven years old at that time), but I imagine a normally aspirated one would be stone reliable.

No clear loser for me, but a few annoying things stand-out in a few vehicles I have driven:

1978 Olds Delta 88: Like Jim Grey above, I found that those bench seats make one’s lower back hurt on long trips. My Grandad always kept some wedge pillows in the car for lumbar support.

1984 GMC fullsize van: As noted, the footwell is too small, and would cause my right leg to cramp. When the cruise control in the van broke, it got fixed! My van had factory “captain’s chairs” in front though, which were fairly comfortable.

1984 VW Rabbit 4-door: My first car was a Rabbit 2-door, which I loved. My second was a 4-door, which I hated. It had bigger problems, but one of my pet peeves was that the B-pillar was in the way, preventing me from hanging my arm out the window.

2001 Honda Civic: The seats had side-bolsters that were firm and protruded out quite a bit, and they were designed for someone not nearly as broad-shouldered as myself. Not too uncomfortable when driving, but when I was in the passenger seat on a long trip and I reclined the seatback to try to have a nap, ugh! This was my wife’s car, so I was the passenger instead of the driver fairly often.

1975 Malaguti (moped): There are some body parts where one should never get the “pins and needles” feeling. There’s something about the seat on that moped….

1984 GMC fullsize van: I had a similar problem riding in a coworkers enormous-on-the-outside Ford Excursion. Because of the shape of the transmission tunnel, there was no foot room in the front passenger seat either. It wasn’t my favorite carpool option.

Fiat X 19,not designed for a 6𔃻″ Amazon!

Opposite side of the coin:
I have been looking for an opportunity to post this. A friend was looking at a 2103 Altima and went to look too. The seats were wonderful. Turned out Nissan has something called Zero Gravity seats. I am not just pumping Nissan. These seats were incredibly comfortable.

Her is an article from the Society of Automotive Engineers:

Maybe someone will do a CC on the most comfortable car, etc.

Well what do you expect in a 2103 car! :>)

That ‘s a freudian slip if there ever was one.

I fail to see why I would want seats designed for ZERO GRAVITY when I’m always at or near Earth gravity. I’ll take my overstuffed bench seat over some ridiculous sales gimmick any day.

The one that sticks out in my mind is the 󈨥 Breeze that my mom and I drove from SC to NY as a rental. My lower back was killing me the entire way. Granted I have lower back problems, but it’s generally MOVING that hurts, not sitting. Never had such problems before or since. It was also the base 4 cyl and it really struggled in the mountains of the Carolinas and Virginias.

My current 󈨣 Impreza is pretty damn uncomfortable too. Flat seat, totally shot after 240k, harsh ride, terrible window seals and wind noise. But hey, it gets me there and back!

The most uncomfortable vehicle I’ve ever driven was a U.S. Army 3/4 ton truck. In the 1970’s, I was in the Reserves. Every year for our annual 2 week summer camp, we’d convoy from Pittsburgh, PA to Camp A. P. Hill near Port Royal, VA. I believe it was 1976, when another guy and I were assigned the 3/4 ton. I’m 6𔃽″, and the legroom was awful, and no support on the seats. I drove my share of the way with a loose leaf binder under my right thigh to give my leg some support. A horrible, uncomfortable journey.

Back then, the vehicles were all WW2 and Korean era vintage. Jeeps were almost fun to drive, and deuces were slow, but much more comfortable than the 3/4 tons. One deuce had an automatic transmission, but was very, very slow.

A quick story. My last year (1977), a buddy and I were driving a deuce with a trailer on the PA Turnpike. We got separated from the convoy, and a station wagon passed us up, and someone threw a paper cup out the window. A few seconds later a state patrolman pulled us over. I was driving, when the officer stated that he saw us littering. I told the officer that we had our garbage in a half filled plastic bag, and I told him the cup came from a station wagon that had passed us. He then asked my buddy if he threw the cup out. He replied the same. He checked my driver’s licenses, military and civilian, before telling me I could go.

We must have driven another 30 miles or so, before meeting up with the convoy at a rest stop.

You’re close- how about riding on the wooden troop seats that fold down from the side racks in the back. 3/4 ton didn’t bounce as much or as high as 2 1/2 ton. It’s pretty brutal, bounce up & the seat also bounces up land on the seat & then the seat bottoms out on the bed. I wanted to forget this.

I’ll give the M35A and variants my vote. The volunteer fire department I was on (around 2006 or so) had one in regular service. Apparently the designers never thought a 6′-2″ driver was actually going to use it. Not a lot of legroom, especially for a relatively large truck. I also found the exhaust noise to be fun if someone else drove it (and I was standing by the side of the road), but if you drove it over 50 mph and had the right window open, you were going to regret it. The stickers said use ear protectors. We never had any…

Most of the time, we would do runs of 3 to 15 miles (one way–we had a lot or rural calls), but I had to take the beast into a larger town once to get a new tire. That 80 mile round trip was painful.

Never had to figure out the cabin heater–not sure if it had one. We had a 1965 IHC-powered structure engine (mid-engined, 5 speed, very balky linkage) that had the heating capacity of a 65 Beetle. Both of those beasts were let go a few years later. The 6 x 6 wasn’t easy to work on without the right facilities, though it was fairly simple. The structure engine was a nightmare. Might have worked well with a full-time mechanic and a city road shop. Didn’t have either.

I forgot how noisy those trucks were, also. Driver or passenger, you had to shout at each other to carry on a conversation. I remember popping Excedrins every time I drove an Army truck.

One year, I was driving the First Sergeant in a jeep. On the way back, the sergeant was riding (he was drunk and asleep) and I fell asleep at the wheel. I can still recall falling asleep, and telling myself I was about to be killed. I woke to find myself halfway on the berm and got back into the lane.

My Guardian Angel was with me that day.

I’ll second the Chevette. A friend and I took his from Norfolk, Virginia to Copper Harbor, Michigan (at the top of the UP) straight through. Thd most uncomfortable 24 hours I ever spent. Then we got on the ferry to Isle Royale National Park, 5 hours across Lake Superior. Big enough waves that the screws of the 50-foot boat were getting out of the water. (the captain comforted us that since the Lake is 900 feet deep, we were never more than a quarter mile from land. Thanks a lot.) Fortunately the rest of trip was better (except for the sleazy hotel on the Ohio Turnpike on the way home..)
My 1976 Courier was a close second, though.

For me, there are 2 that really stand out. First was my father’s 󈨥 Lumina. Whenever I drove that car, I would get such intense back pain it was not even funny…especially considering back then I was in my early 20s. The passenger seat was no better. My father leased that car new (it’s the only vehicle he has ever leased, and he’s had lots of vehicles in his life). The Lumina was such a poor quality piece of crap that when the lease came up on that car, my father couldn’t get it back to the dealer fast enough to turn it in.

The other (very uncomfortable) car that I’ve ever driven was an 󈧋 Pontiac G5…it was a rental that the insurance company paid for while my 󈧆 Alero was in the shop after it got vandalized (there was no way that a G5 was the equivalent of an Alero…it was an inferior car in every way). The seats really weren’t bad in it…it was just the headroom sucked so bad that it literally pushed my head down at an angle towards the dashboard…and I’m only 5 foot 8…not very tall by any standard.

Drove my son’s Kia Soul for an hour, learned to hate the driver’s seat. About two inches of foam and turned up at the sides to gouge my hips. Nasty piece of work.

I have to agree on the G-vans. I have an 󈨕 Shorty with 305, A/C, 3-on-the-tree, manual steering, manual brakes (manual EVERYTHING). I replaced the low-back bouquet of foam & metal springs with some swanky swivel captain chairs out of a post 󈨖 model conversion van figuring that would take care of the seating issues.

Nope! See, up until 1982, the G-vans had the old-school steering column with dash-mounted ignition switch and floor-mounted dimmer. In 󈨗 GM finally fitted the more modern columns with wiper, dimmer, and ignition switches. These columns were angled more toward the driver and exited the dash quite a bit lower also. Instrument panels will not interchange between the two styles and the 3-speed shifter migrated to the floor with this 󈨗 MY update.

So I’ve got these extremely fluffy seats but my arms are just about horizontal as I attempt to steer my darn van around now. Parking is a real experience with no windows, power steering/brakes, automatic transmission, etc. On the plus side I have plenty of headroom!

My uncle had a college roommate who was a car dealer (or his dad was). He traded cars every 3 months or so.

A 1973 Toyota Celica GT. I was 8 years old and riding in the back seat on his drive to show us the car. I didn’t think I was going to live through the 15 minute ride.

Later he bought a SWB 1985 Chevy Silverado and we took a 6 hour trip. Worst back pain of my life. Just terribly uncomfortable.

Best – 2000 Cadillac Escalade. Like riding around on your sofa. Long trips were magnificent in this beast.

Ergonomics are very subjective because human beings come in so many different sizes, weights, and other factors. Normally we (industrial designers) attempt to accommodate 95th percentile males to 5th percentile females in our designs. Sometimes this is possible, other times not. It’s all about compromise (as is any design).

Some vehicles fit us just right, others are torture chambers. The car that struck me as a perfect marriage was my father’s 1971 Opel 1900. I fit this thing! And it had a fat steering wheel. I loved it. The worst-a 1980 24′ International COE with no seat belts that I had to drive over the Bay Bridge in San Francisco. Scary.

From a short experience: a 1970s Alfa Romeo GTV which I drove for a weekend. Classic Italian short legs + long arms driving position – I loved it otherwise, but just could not get comfortable.

From a longer experience: a 1988 Austin Mini which I owned for several years. Not that you’d expect it to be comfortable… but it lived down to its reputation.

1996 Chevrolet Monte Carlo LS with cloth buckets and center console. My first long trip to Georgia with this car found me in misery. The seats were hard and there was little support for my lower back which ached after a couple hours of driving.

Additionally, the cloth material wrinkled and took on an appearance in which the driver’s seat looked worn after just a few months. I am particularly easy with my cars and take great pains to protect the interior but this car just wasn’t having it.

This is the simplest question I have ever been asked.

Worst: My wife’s Miata with top up.
Second worse: My wife’s Miata with top down.
Third: My company’s 1957 Brockway.

This is a tough one because I haven’t DRIVEN all that many cars and make a point to stay away from uncomfortable cars.

Honorable mention goes to my sister’s (formerly grandfather’s) Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera. It’s a fine car and actually pretty comfortable, but my father always compares it to my Ninety-Eight and his Grand Marquis and nothing could be further from the truth. It sits impossibly low to the ground, making entry and exit awkward, and due to the lack of a power seat the seating position is far too high and forward-leaning. Plus, the seat won’t go back far enough and I’m not even tall.

The Chevrolet Astro is one of the worst cars in the world, and it is terribly uncomfortable thanks to the intrusive wheel well and king-of-the-road driving position, but at least the seats have a slight amount of padding and with enough adjusting it is possible to get the power driver’s seat into a somewhat tolerable position.

But the worst is a tie between my father’s 2002 Volvo S60 and a high school friend’s 2004 Volkswagen Passat. Both had rock-hard seats, nonexistent suspensions, and very uncomfortable seating positions. Luckily I only had to drive the Passat once around the parking lot, and the most I ever did with the S60 was back it out of the driveway so that I could get to my Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight.

By the way, the picture at the top of the post reminds me of my automotive philosophy, spoken by Buddy Sorrell on The Dick Van Dyke Show: “You know the problem with bucket seats? Everyone’s got a different sized bucket!”

The worst seats I remember: my 󈨜 Suzuki SJ-413 (Samurai). I owned that car for 5 years, and I still don’t understand how I travelled thousands of km in it! Yes, I was young and flexible, but I was definitively not considered by the japs in their design. And I don’t think I’m that tall (1,85m=6𔃻″)! No legroom, hard seats and worst suspension, but just perfect for some of our roads here in Chile…
The best seating position (but not really good seats): 󈨜 VW Transporter. I could seat there for days, nonstop.
The best seats: Citroën. All of them. Especially combined with hydropneumatic suspension!

Worst one I owned was my 󈧄 Contour, not good for a 6𔃼″ male, and the little flipper armrest was positioned perfectly for the passenger to use, but I kept hitting my elbow on it.

Worst I’ve ridden in, was a stock restored 1931 Ford Model A. but I can make allowances for it. I think mostly due to its choppy ride and summer warmth rushing through the windshield made me very sleepy.

Worst I’ve driven, its a toss up between a 1971 Chevelle convertible with overstuffed front seats or mom’s 󈨠 LeSabre Custom – that car was torture for me for long trips with the overly soft accelerator spring, and no lumbar support. Dad’s 07 GMC Canyon isn’t very far behind.

Love love the front seats in my Explorer, can do 8-900 miles in the saddle in a day and not be bothered. my 󈨑 Chevelle is average. the 1986 Pontiac 6000 I had had good seats, but no headroom, and I had a bit of a time seeing out of it.

Overall Worst: Chevy Astro van. No room for feet. Worst seats: Dodge Shadow rear seat.

I second the Astro. Only vehicle I’ve driven that made me consider cutting my left leg off.

For worst seats I’ll nominate the 1981 Impala front bench, but the nomination goes for 1991. By that point the foam had completely collapsed, and you’d basically be sitting on cloth, foam lumps, and the floor.

I loved my 2006 Civic EX 4-dr. but hated that my knee constantly hit the emergency brake handle. I am only 5󈧏 but apparently Honda had that handle in the absolute worst place for me. I’m a Honda lover, but I hated driving that Civic for that one annoying reason.

Regular cab pre-󈨦 Rangers, especially with manual transmissions. Drove a couple of those, a 󈨠 belonging to my brother and a 󈨡 parts chaser we had at a Ford dealer I worked at at the the time. I’m 6𔃽″ with a 36″ inseam and 10 1/2 sized feet, so… Those f***ing trucks didn’t have enough leg room for Tattoo from “Fantasy Island”…

Early 90s Ford Tempo rental cars had a metal bar in the seat back that gave me instant backache. Fortunately I could usually get a Ford Probe for the same rate which didn’t hurt my back and drove better. Our 93 Ford Ranger was a little short on legroom but at least the seat was comfortable.

I rented a 󈨠 Topaz and the thing tried to crush me like a trash compactor. The power seat controls were just under my right knee, and every time I accelerated, the seat would start moving forward, which made it harder to get my leg off the joystick. It was like something out of a horror movie I’d be surprised if no one was killed by that design.

A well worn N-body Pontiac Grand Am. The seatbacks were so reclined it did not provide any support whatsoever. Yes, I’ve tried to raise it, couldn’t (didn’t have the ‘notch’ above the semi-reclined state). Plus the askew steering wheel, and the feeling that the car’s about to fall apart at any moment, makes it the worst car I’ve ever driven. It was a loaner from my dealer while my 90 Maxima was serviced. But thankfully it was very cheap, like $7.50 or something.

I found the seats in a 2005 Focus and a 2006 DTS that I rented very uncomfortable, causing my back and legs to ache. Oddly I rented a 2012 Corolla last October which I found very comfortable. I drove it from Daytona Beach, FL to Delray Beach, FL and back and was very comfortable.

1994 Ford Escort LX Hatchback. My wife’s former car. Everything was wrong. Thin, flat ,hard seats. Bottom cushion too long. No lumbar support, combined with upper seat backs that forced my shoulder blades forward resulting in a hunchback posture. Seat was too low, pedals too high, steering wheel too high (and too close). A torture chamber on wheels. Too bad, because it was a really good car.

At the same time, I had my 1990 A2 Jetta. It was as if I was personally measured for that interior. Too bad, because it was such a piece of crap.

Ford Econoline. Period. Whether in the driver’s seat, front or rear passenger. Bone jarring and really should be equipped with barf bags.

Worst fit: mid-󈨞’s rental Chevrolet Corsica. The steering wheel faced one direction, the left foot brace made you face the other, and the lack of lumbar support made you slouch. I’m not certain I could even recreate that position without the help of my physical therapist. Worst ride: my 󈨕 Toyota Truck. Little suspension travel, poorly padded seat that had you right above the floor. Louisiana roads didn’t help, either. It did ride much better with about a half ton in the bed, which may have been the main design idea. We traded it too early-100,000 miles-more because of the ride than the lack of air conditioning.

And then, there was my uncles’ Army surplus Jeep with a turned over 5 gallon bucket for a passenger seat. Road along about once to bring the cows home from pasture as a child, never again. In my memory there was a passenger handle on the dash, but I may have just remembered that to lessen the trauma.

I actually remember the International Model H as a sweet ride. But that Model M had a clutch spring made for the gym. One hour driving that on the hay fork rope and you had jackhammer knee for the rest of the day.

I never liked the driver’s seat in my 2004 Odyssey. Always felt that I couldn’t get an erect enough position on the backrest. Got rid of the bitch for a Subaru and am much happier.

My grandfather had a 1990 Silverado and I hated those “ribbed for her pleasure” seats.
Of course it was roomy but those seats were just terrible.

Lancia Beta that I test drove once. It was years ago and I wasn’t in it for long so specifics are hard to recall, but it sticks in my memory as being the most uncomfortable car I have ever been in – by a wide margin.

In my (now sold) 1993 Lexus LS400 was a very nice place to be, although the seats were not great for long distance driving.

My favourite is my current G1 Honda Insight. It’s low (but not difficult) to get into, but has seats that suit me very well and has a simple well laid out driving position. Just sweet.

I’ve ridden in a 󈧐 Jetta with leather seats and thought it was atrocious. My rear end fell asleep. It was as if they took those hard, narrow seats from the MD-80 plane and stuck them in a car. Yes, my ass fell asleep on an MD-80 too. Made the change in MSP real interesting.

My grandfather’s Gran Marquis hurts but I think the lumbar just needs an adjustment. I don’t mess with that because he freaks out.

Also hated cheap-o vinyl seats. We had something…either the Lynx or the Bug…when I was growing up that had black seats with a raised grid pattern on them. On a hot day it looked and felt like you were sitting on a waffle iron.

My 92 Taurus was very comfortable. My 95 Regal is passable.

Cheap vinyl seats! *shudders* that brought back a near-repressed childhood memory of getting into my Mum’s old 󈨐 FIAT 127 on hot sunny days in shorts and having my legs seared by the black vinyl seats…

I never drove that car (I was maybe 6 when she traded it for something else) but it certainly ranks amongst the most uncomfortable I’ve ridden in when shorts+sunshine+black vinyl is factored in.

The worst one? That I drove?

A borrowed 1993 Ford F-150 with a bench seat…and column-shift automatic. There was NO PLACE for my legs! I had to drive it sixty miles…I was about ready to park it and call a cab.

Close second: An 81-inch wheelbase Kaiser-era Jeep CJ-5. Drove one for a test, thirty years ago…I love those old jeeps, but there just wasn’t the room. And the floor-hinged clutch and brake pedals…bad, bad.

My vote is for the 2009 Dodge Avenger. It was a rental car (of course it was, nobody bought these on purpose).

I was in Jacksonville, NC (near Camp LeJune) for work, and my flight to Philadelphia (by way of Charlotte, NC) was cancelled, with the next available flight a day away. I decided to rent a car and drive home to PA. Unfortunately, the GMC Acadia that I just turned back in at the airport was already spoken for. Being that beggars can’t be choosy, I took whatever they would let me drive home. It was a 2009 Dodge Avenger with 50,000 miles on it in light blue, plastic hubcaps, and no options. Think of a cheaper version of a Chrysler Sebring (as if there was a need for something cheaper than a Sebring).

It had the absolute worst seats that I have ever felt. There simply was no good position and the lumbar support was digging into my back. It became apparent after the first half hour that it was going to be a long drive. My back was hurting before I even made it to I-95. It was aggravated by a wheel that was out of balance, which caused the steering wheel to shake at speeds above 60.

I was going to drive straight through, but it was late and I couldn’t handle more than a couple hours in the car. So I spent the night in Rocky Mount, NC, hoping it would feel better in the morning but It didn’t. By the time I reached Virginia, I had decided that this was the worst Chrysler product ever made. By the time I reached Richmond, I was pretty sure it was the worst car ever made. By the time I made it to DC, I was wondering if any Dodge Avengers were sold to the public, or if they were all rentals. By the time I made it to Baltimore, I was an hour from home, and I was sure that there were probably better vehicles built in Soviet Russia.

I survived the trip (barely), but was much more cautious about my rental selections from that point on. Malibu:yes. Imapala:yes. Altima:yes. Avenger/Sebring:NO!

In late ‘67 I was hitchhiking in the rain and two guys in a Bug-eye Sprite stopped for me. The top was up so it was dry but snug inside. There was an eight track tape deck in the dash but only one tape, “The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators,” endlessly repeating, “I’m not coming home,” over and over. But that wasn’t so bad. Ten years later I saw a Triumph TR-3 parked about two feet from the curb looking like it needed a new home. I tracked down the owner, he wanted to sell. The starter didn’t work, it was out of gas, the spare wheel was the driver seat. When we finally got it started I ran it through the gears and around a few corners and down a little hill and the bonnet popped open, tore the hinges out, broke the windscreen, and flipped over my head. My friend, following in his sensible Volvo 122S wagon picked up the pieces and said, “It looks like you bought it.” That, Curbside Classicists, is the epitome of uncomfortable. By the way, I patched it up and drove it for four years.

Any of a number of Mercury Grand Marquis (de Sade) LS models I got as rentals. Which showed me that the Panther cars are easily the most overrated, overblown automobiles that ever existed.

Wow, Syke, I am not the only person who holds this opinions of the Panther. Never liked those cars a bit.

Amazingly, I’ve never driven a Panther.

I’m not an aficionado of full-size broughams and the Panthers, especially in their later melted-plastic phase, just screamed OLD LADY and COP CAR. Or, worse: HEY, TAXI!! A phase of my life I’d love to forget forever.

Good to know I’m not missing much.

Having driven many of them, the Panther always screamed, “bad steering, bad engine, bad transmission.”

While behind a 2005 Grand Marquis(the only year with a rear mounted antenna) I noticed some of the letters on the Marquis part of the rear name plate were missing so it read Grand Ma. This pretty much explained this type of car and the demographic it appealed to

A 1975 Datsun 4 door sedán with its wheelwell protruding in the rear seat. And a 2002 Chevrolet Astra (Opel), with a stiff suspensión that makes your kidneys cry for help.

My most uncomfortable vehicle I have ever driven is a 1990 Volvo 240 Wagon. I am only 6ft 1 in tall and I found the driver seat never went back far enough to not feel like I was holding the steering wheel with my legs. Even after adjusting the 2 hidden adjustment levers. At first I thought it was my seat that was broken but I sat in a few Volvo 240’s from the local junk yard and they were all the same except for one 1987 that looked like it suffered from the sagging seat cushion issue(I should have bought that seat). All the other 240’s were 90-93 models so I wonder if it was because of the added airbag and the under dash knee bolster that is causing it all

I know there is a lot of Panther love around these parts but now that I’m doing more consulting around the country and frequently riding in Lincoln Town cars in livery service, I’m amazed at how uncomfortable the back seat is. It’s very low and difficult to get in and out of (I’m 6 1+ and fairly agile) and the seat is very unsupportive. If you’re not buckled in tightly you’re going to get thrown around even on small turns and curves in the road. These cars also have rather poor, jiggly suspensions and the streets of NYC really take their toll. Granted some of these cars have 200-300K or more on them but I’ve noticed even end of the line models with well under 100K and aren’t any more comfortable.

In 2009 My folks were at the Ford dealer looking for a car to replace the dying 1993 Taurus. My father’s first choice was a 2009 Grand Marquis but after looking at it he bought a 2009 Taurus(full sized based off the 500) because despite the Taurus being a slight smaller then the GM, the Taurus had more room in the rear seat area then the GM

Those 500s/Tauruses, as well as the related Freestyle/Taurus X, are incredibly comfortable cars. Seriously underrated.

I guess the seats fit my 5󈧏” frame a little better. I’ve always found Town Cars more than comfortable, and considerably more comfortable than an 󈨔s RWD Cadillac (the post-93 Caddys had a little more leg room, so they might have been better). The Crown Vic (and not-so-Grand Marquis) on the other hand is a little cramped in the back. That 3″ stretch makes a big difference I was in a cab once and couldn’t figure out why it was so comfortable, but then I noticed something funny about the rear doors. The thing was actually a stretched Crown Vic that was mainly sold for livery use, so it was a Crown Vic body spliced onto a Town Car frame.

I have driven one, but just last week I got to sit in a new Ford Explorer. Mind you, I am all of 5𔃿″ and a half, so I tend to like things up close and high. Well for one, the seat felt too small. The dash seemed way to high, and by the time I got the seat and steering wheel positioned where it felt reasonably comfortable, I discovered that I could not get out of the car, as the steering column was blocking my leg!

Everyone I have seen driving one of these looks like they are too small for the car.

Who did Ford design these for?

I’ve driven a lot of cars, and generally have good comments about them.

A few personal highlights: some of the best, 1987 Cutlass Supreme Brougham, 1997 and 2000 Ford Contour. 2006 Chevrolet HHR 2LT-super easy for me to get in and out of when my knee was messed up. Olds Alero, the seat tilts so that I can get the pressure off my legs and the wheel tilts to a comfortable position.

I find a lot of new cars uncomfortable for two reasons:
1- oftentimes the headrests are tilted way too far forward, forcing my head to be out of whack with my spine. Equals instant hatred.
2 – so many seats are too hard from side-to-side across the top but are concave below that, forcing my shoulders forward. My 󈧉 Mazda 6 was like that, I loved the car but it was so hard to get comfy in. My 󈧌 6 was better but not great (needed adjustable lumbar support)

My C35 Nissan Laurel has nice soft seats, but zero side bolstering on the seat or back, so spirited driving is definitely not encouraged!

A workmate’s got a 2012 Ford Territory, and the seats in that are wonderful – plushly soft yet supportive in fact, hard plastic dash aside, the entire Territory is a superb vehicle, I can’t wait until the 2.7 V6 twin-turbo diesel model starts hitting the used market at a reasonable price.

I’ve been blessed with a spare company car (2010 Mazda 6 wagon) for a few weeks too, and its seats are great – a little hard, but the concave shape of my 󈧉 6 seats has gone and I get no aches after a couple hours driving. They look the same as the seats in my old 󈧌 6, but they feel way better – with superb side bolstering that feels like it was designed for my shape! Still need adjustable lumbar support though…

Funny you say that about the headrests- I rented a Town Car a couple of years ago when visiting the Oregon coast. Although much of it was comfy, they must have designed it for people with osteoporosis, as the headrest actually pushed your head forward at a bent angle. Maybe they just knew their target market well. Shame- were it not for that headrest, I would have really liked the car.

I tend to use seat comfort as one of my factors in deciding to buy a car- hence, the best I’ve owned in this order:
Saab 900 (classic) the best seats ever made. period. Wonder why people put up with all of the ‘character’ that a 900 has? Its them seats. The only sports car that is comfortable.
Mercedes w126- hard, not comfy, but therapeutic, and no pain after long road trips.
Citroen CX- so good I can’t even explain it- very soft, but not pain inducing- like memory foam almost.
Volvo 240- Very comfy for me, but I’m 5𔄁, and it seems the car was designed for people my size.

And a surprise: Yugo 45 (GV in US speak). I thought this car would be horrid to drive, but the seats fit me really well. They were firm yet comfy and angled right for me. Legroom wasn’t bad- in RHD there was somewhere for my left foot, and what’s more, the cotton cloth upholstery gave it a cozy feel.

The worst though is tough-
Austin Allegro- bottom cushion too short and a bar on the seat frame poked me in the tailbone. I had to sit on a throw pillow just to prevent the agony of that bar. What’s more, the seats are so poorly made that the foam cushion split at the top of the seat back, and thus your upper back rubs right on the seat frame. Leyland quality at its best.

Lada Samara- Stupidly designed seat. From a picture, they look almost contoured, but the contours are in the wrong places- no thigh support so my thigh cramped up. Worse, that bar again- but here it hit right in the small of my back. I was tempted to buy a brand new Lada Niva 4ࡪ until I remembered those seats- they are putting me off.

Lada 1600 estate (round headlamp model) The seats in this one were fine, it was the pedals that I found flummoxing. They were mounted so high up that you had to nearly bring your foot to touch the top of the cushion to push the clutch in. After a few decades, Lada managed to fix this, and the Riva I owned was actually quite comfy to drive for long trips.

Dodge B150 passenger van- I drove this from Chicago to New York City as part of a lefty group. If you think the Chevy is poorly designed, you haven’t driven a Dodge. There was about 8″ between the hump and the door. That hump would fit a 440- and this one only had the piddly six cylinder. Driving any domestic van would put anyone off having a large family.

Yesterday I test drove a Land Cruiser BJ40. Incredibly noisy, not helped by a blown exhaust gasket, murderous on speed bumps, and with seats out of a 󈨊s Japanese compact. Still, I loved it and am thinking about buying it and fitting loads of sound proofing and Saab 900 seats….

Interesting that you mention the Samara. My late Uncle bought one new here in New Zealand back whenever they were new. He was well over six feet tall, and I believe he found seat comfort was lacking in the Samara, so it was traded on a new Hyundai Excel within 3 months. He liked the Excel,but still drove his Mk II Triumph 2500 most of the time as he found that super-comfy.

Ah the Allegro. My older brother’s first car was one of these and I vividly remember the way the back seat used to attempt to swallow passengers whole. I remember that tailbone bruising bar in the front too, it made getting eaten alive by the foam-monster in the back actually preferable.

+1 on Saab seats too – my old 9000’s cabin was one of the most comfortable places I’ve ever been.

Ah yes the rear seat on Aggros is fun. Early ones were coil sprung and quite nice. However, in order to improve rear headroom, they swapped to ‘zigzag’ springs, which meant the cushion would sag so low that a heavy passenger would actually make the seat foul the handbrake cables. I remember trying to figure out why my rear brakes dragged whenever someone was in the back. What fun.

I have to laugh! I had not seen this post when I posted about my Yugo. I was pleasantly surprised when my Yugo’s seats were not torture racks compared to some of the other small inexpensive cars that I’d run across in my travels.

Glad to see I was not the only one.

I’d have to say a 26′ U-haul rental truck. The wife and I moved from one city to another that were about 80 miles apart. It was all highway, in light snow, on hilly roads.

The problem wasn’t so much the seat, it was the fact that I had to keep the accelerator pedal down to the floor for most of the trip. By the end of it, my leg was in bad shape.

Mine would definitely be a 1994 Citroen AX diesel which a former flatmate’s mother foisted on her as an attempted hand-me-down while her (beloved) FIAT was in for repairs. We both drove FIAT Pandas at the time and were on each other’s insurance policies for car-sharing to work etc. so I got to experience the horrors of that little french biscuit tin a few times.

My Panda was a little older than hers (an 󈨝 to her 󈨠) but mine had been well cared for & regularly serviced it’s whole life, and even then in 2000 it remained sweet and trouble free. Hers had a lingering engine issue from being run (essentially) without any water in its coolant system one summer, it was “girl-serviced” (i.e. only taken to the garage when something actually broke) and was also catalysed (unlike mine) any/all which may have accounted for it’s more sickly nature. Whatever the reason it occasionally had to go in for fairly major engine work. On its third such hospitalisation her Mum loaned her the Citroen AX she’d just replaced as her own car. The AX was marginally newer and my friend’s Mum was very enthusiastic about my friend replacing her Panda with it.

The Pandas (hardly less biscuit-box-ish than the AX themselves after all!) had excellent and very comfortable driving positions for both me and my friend (we’re very different shapes) while the wee Citroen tortured each of us in different and inventive ways. In my friend’s case, the main gripe was that when she moved the seat close enough to reach the controls, the non-adjustable steering wheel near enough bit into her legs, in my case I developed a crick in my back from sitting twisted in order to use the pedals properly. I remember it as a surprisingly claustrophobic cabin too…

We drove my car as much as possible while the Citroen visited and were both profoundly glad when the garage reported back to my friend that her lame Panda didn’t have to be put down after all. The unloved AX was sent back to her parents and (presumably) sold on to torture someone else.

I drove a three year old limousine I already owned to Sarasota, Florida from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

It was a 1978 Cadillac 9 passenger sedan without the glass partition. I took someone else with me to share driving, as I knew it would take about three days of leisurely travel.

The first night out on the road I discovered the driver’s four-way seat had exacted a horrible toll on my back. I had been fairly comfortable driving, but suddenly I couldn’t straighten out my back when I got out of the car. I walked stooped over to the motel room and had to lay down on the bed, only then I could roll over and straighten my back. The angle of the seat back to the seat had done this to me, and the angle was not adjustable, as this car had only a 4-way power bench seat, being a typical factory limo that was not really intended for the owner to drive himself.

The next day, my friend drove. He ended up in the same condition as I had the day before. On the second day of the trip, I lay across, or sat in the back seat of the car, and I was OK.

Third day, neither one of us wanted to drive. We took turns of about an hour, each of us with better results than the previous days.

I am still amazed that a factory Cadillac 9 passenger sedan could be so uncomfortable for the driver.

I had figured such a heavy car with all the options would have been the perfect cross-country vehicle. Boy was I wrong. My hat goes off to all the chauffeurs who had to drive these cars.

400 mile trip in the backseat of a 1997 Camry XLS. Every tiny bump in the road is embedded in my spine.

FDR escapes assassination attempt in Miami

On February 15, 1933, a deranged, unemployed brick layer named Giuseppe Zangara shouts "Too many people are starving!" and fires a gun at America’s president-elect, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Roosevelt had just delivered a speech in Miami’s Bayfront Park from the back seat of his open touring car when Zangara opened fire with six rounds. Five people were hit. The president escaped injury but the mayor of Chicago, Anton Cermak, who was also in attendance, received a mortal stomach wound in the attack.

Several men tackled the assailant and might have beaten him to death if Roosevelt had not intervened, telling the crowd to leave justice to the authorities. Zangara later claimed I don’t hate Mr. Roosevelt personallyI hate all officials and anyone who is rich. He also told the FBI that chronic stomach pain led to his action: Since my stomach hurt I want to make even with the capitalists by kill the president. My stomach hurt long time [sic].

Zangara’s extreme action reflected the anger and frustration felt among many working Americans during the Great Depression. At the time of the shooting, Roosevelt was still only the president-elect and had yet to be sworn in. His policies remained untested, but reports of Roosevelt’s composure during the assassination attempt filled the following day’s newspapers and did much to enforce Roosevelt’s public image as a strong leader.

Unsubstantiated reports later claimed that Zangara’s real target had been Cermak and hinted at Zangara’s connection to organized crime in Chicago. Zangara was initially tried for attempted murder and sentenced to 80 years in prison, but when Mayor Cermak later died of his wounds, Zangara was retried and sentenced to death. Zangara died on the electric chair on March 20, 1933.

Is Chicago the most regularly laid-out city that has ever existed? - History

Lecture on Haiti
The Haitian Pavilion
Dedication Ceremonies Delivered at the World's Fair, in Jackson Park,
Chicago, Jan. 2d, 1893
Ex-Minister to Haiti
Introductory by Prof. David Swing
Response of the Director General

The Violet Agents Supply Co. Publishers and Agents Supplies, We can supply you with anything that can be bought on earth. Our motto is economy. Give us a trial.

We are urged by the citizens to secure, if possible, the lecture on Haiti and publish it in full, that the people of this and other countries may have a clear conception of what a man can do, be he black or white.

Those who insisted upon us doing the work knew if we accepted the manuscript the public would be greatly benefited, both mentally and financially.

When the contents of this pamphlet have been read by the purchaser, he or she will at once wonder to themselves why the publisher would sell such a wonderful work for so small a price--10c. by mail 12c.

Special issue, printed on machine finished paper, heavy cover, 25c. by mail 27c. Bound in celluloid 35c. by mail 37c.

Agents wanted everywhere to sell this wonderful lecture.

Address the VIOLET AGENTS SUPPLY Co., Publisher and Proprietors. 1471
State Street,
Geo. Washington,
Chicago, Ill.



The following lecture on Haiti was delivered in America for the purpose of demonstrating the fact to the United States that the Haitians are people like ourselves that what they have gained they will maintain that whatever concessions may be asked by man, woman or child, if not conflicting with the constitution of their country, they will without hesitation grant. The fact that their skin is dark and that what supremacy they now have was gained by bloodshed, is no reason why they should be looked upon and treated as though they were unable to comprehend those things, which are to their best interests. The course taken by their progenitors to obtain freedom is in no manner different from that pursued by the original promoters of American independence. Our paths are strewn with the bones of our victims. For whatever United States, the good people of this country will be held responsible. We ask you to read and judge well. The appointment of Mr. Douglass to represent this country in Haiti was bitterly opposed by millions of Americans, but in spite of all opposition he went, and since his return and the success of his mission made public, his assailants and opposers have repented of their error and their respect and administration for him and for those who sent him is greater now than ever before. So far as he was concerned his services were rendered according to the opinion of the good people and the constitution of the United States. We hope the President will ever be successful in appointing another such minister to represent the United States in Haiti. . GEO. Washington, Manager.


The oration here offered to the public is made interesting by not only its subject but also by its author. The interesting Island finds a rival in the impressive orator, and the reading heart will find itself divided between Haiti and Frederick Douglass. The History of either, the Island or the man, would yield thought enough for the hour. It seems a surplus of riches when such a heroic nation is spread out before us by such a man!

Frederick Douglass in his hours of remembrance must look out upon an amazing group of years. he was just learning to read when Henry Clay was in full fame as an orator and when Daniel Webster was a young man in the National Senate. He was a slave-boy when those two orators were the giants of freedom he was an African while they were Americans, and yet in intellectual power and in eloquence the slave and the two freeman were at last to meet. It was the destiny of the slave to behold a liberty far nobler than that freedom which lay around Clay and Webster when their sun of life went down. It was the still better destiny of the slave-lad to live and labor in all those years

which wrought out slowly and at great cost the emancipation of our African citizens. His talents, his courage, his oratory were given to those days which exposed, assailed and destroyed a great infamy.

By the time Frederick had reached his tenth year he had learned to read. With reading, observation and reflection, came some true measurements of human rights and hopes, and when the twenty-first year had come with its reminder of an independent manhood, this slave made his secret journey toward the North and exchanged Maryland for Massachusetts. Ten years afterward, some English abolitionists paid the Baltimore master for his literary and eloquent fugitive, and thus secured for the famous orator a freedom, not only actual, but legal according to statute law.

Although Frederick Douglass has lived in our land three-fourths of a century, yet many have not heard the voice which once impressed not only America but also all of England. His style is simple. The meaning of his sentences comes instantly. His logic is always like that of plain geometry. It is built up out of solid promises and he reaches conclusions not for arts sake, or for pay-sake, but simply because they are inevitable. In the olden time when he spoke on the slave question and on the duties of the Nation, the audience felt as though they had been pounded with artillery. He was not noisy, nor tremendous in gesture, his power being like that of Theodore Parker and Phillips--the power of thought. The reader of this lecture on Haiti will note at once that simplicity, that clearness, that pathos, that breadth, that sarcasm which are the characteristics of a great orator. In the power of making a statement, Mr. Douglass resembles Webster. The words all rise up as the statement advances, and the listener asks for no omission or addition of a term. If we select one sentence, from that one we may judge all.

Such a style, so just, so full, so clear, was the form of utterance well fitted for the black years between 1830 and 1861.

This oration should not be for any of us a piece of eloquence only, full of present beauty and of great memories, but it may well take its place as a great open-letter full to overflowing with lessons for the present and the future. It is the paper of an old statesman read to an army of youth who are here to enjoy and to bless the land which the old orators once made and afterward saved and refashioned. David Swing.
Chicago, March 20th, 1893.


Fifteen hundred of the best citizens of Chicago assembled January 2, 1893, in Quinn Chapel, to listen to the following lecture by Honorable Frederick Douglass, ex-United States Minister to the Republic of Haiti.

In beginning his address, Mr. Douglass said:


The dedication of the Haitian Pavilion, located in the World's Fair Grounds, delivered Jan. 2, 1893, in the presence of a few of Chicago's best citizens. The short notice given to Director General Davis and the Public, is a startling occurrence and the cause of this will probably never be made public and still another incident which occurred during the ceremonies, is that the ground was coated with snow, and there was every sign possible to indicate that a heavy rain would soon follow. the sun had not smiled upon us all that forenoon, but just two minutes before the speaker had concluded his remarks, the sun shorned forth its brilliancy directly in the eyes of the speaker who stood in a North-west position. The sun only showed forth one minute and a half, when the clouds crepted over it and darkened it from us, the rest of the day. Addressing the audience Mr. Douglass said:


Allen, A. (1932, August). Unemployed Work—Our Weak Point. The Communist, 681-685.

Asher, R. (1932, September 28). The Jobless Help Themselves: A Lesson from Chicago. The New Republic, 168-169.

Bernstein, I. (1960). The Lean Years: A History of the American Worker 1920-1933. Cambridge: The Riverside Press.

Cayton, H. (1931, September 9). The Black Bugs. The Nation.

Fisher, R. (1994). Let the People Decide: Neighborhood Organizing in America. New York: Twayne Publishers.

Folsom, F. (1991). Impatient Armies of the Poor: The Story of Collective Action of the Unemployed, 1808-1942. Niwot, CO: University Press of Colorado.

Fried, E. (1997). Communism in America: A History in Documents. New York: Columbia University Press.

Hallgren, M. (1932, May 11). Help Wanted-for Chicago. The Nation.

Hallgren, M. (1933). Seeds of Revolt: A Study of American Life and the Temper of the American People During the Depression. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Lasswell, H. and Blumenstock, D. (1939). World Revolutionary Propaganda: A Chicago Study. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Lorence, J. (1996). Organizing the Unemployed: Community and Union Activists in the Industrial Heartland. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Morrow, F. (1932, February 24). The Workers Demand. The Nation, 134, 222-224.

Piven, F. and Cloward, R. (1979). Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail. New York: Vintage Books.

Ross, M. (1933, March 1). The Spread of Barter. The Nation.

Storch, R. (2009). Red Chicago: American Communism at its Grassroots, 1928-35. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

Valocchi, S. (1990). The Unemployed Workers Movement of the 1930s: A Reexamination of the Piven and Cloward Thesis. Social Problems, 37(2), 191-205.

Valocchi, S. (1993). External Resources and the Unemployed Councils of the 1930s: Evaluating Six Propositions from Social Movement Theory. Sociological Forum, 8(3), 451-470.

Weyl, N. (1932, December 14). Organizing Hunger. The New Republic, 117-120.

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  2. Athamas

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