Above: Scott Joplin, from "Swipsey
Cake Walk," c. 1900, and Joplin's entry in the 1906 Chicago
Scott Joplin Slept Here.
Some Notes on the King of Ragtime's
by Mr. Tim Samuelson.
Scott Joplin is seldom thought of as a Chicagoan,
but for a few brief months in 1906, the "King of Ragtime"
called the city his home. This article briefly explores the places
that actually were his residences, based on materials that include
property records, insurance maps and city directories. Although
much of this research raises many more questions than answers,
it still gives some insights into Joplin's everyday life in Chicago
during this period.
Specific information about Joplin's stay in
Chicago is sparse. Even the exact dates of his Chicago residency
are somewhat vague. In They All Played Ragtime, Rudi Blesh
and Harriet Janis suggest that Joplin came to Chicago in the
"first part" of 1906, an account based on recollections
provided by Joplin's friend and collaborator Arthur Marshall.
Marshall recalled that he and his wife moved to Chicago from
St. Louis in mid 1905, and briefly shared their South Side apartment
with Joplin for "about three weeks" when he first arrived
in the city. Blesh and Janis also noted that Joplin appeared
in the 1906 Chicago city directory as a "musician"
living at 2840 Armour Avenue.
In his extensively researched book King
of Ragtime: Scott Joplin and His Era, Dr. Edward A. Berlin
dates Joplin's Chicago stay "toward the end of 1905."
Berlin also offers valuable clues by documenting when Joplin
was not in Chicago, with references showing him still in St.
Louis in November 1905, and back in St. Louis in August 1906.
Re-tracing Joplin's steps in Chicago through
Arthur Marshall's recollections is somewhat problematic, since
Marshall's own place of residence is not listed in the editions
of the Chicago city directory for 1905 and 1906. Based on Marshall's
recollections, Blesh and Janis describe his apartment as being
"at 2900 State Street on the second floor of Beau Baum's
saloon." In checking editions of the city directory for
1905 and 1906, the building at 2900 State Street was indeed occupied
by a saloon, but the proprietor's name was Philip Gomb. No one
with a name identical or similar to "Beau Baum" is
shown as operating a saloon in Chicago during this period, or
even living in the city at all.
One possible explanation for the discrepancy
is that "Baum" was a misinterpretation of "Gomb"
and that "Beau" was simply the saloon proprietor's
nickname. Other possibilities are that "Beau Baum's"
was the saloon's name, or refers to a bartender or employee.
Although many saloons of the period had names like "Apex"
or "Pekin," the early twentieth century editions of
the city directory usually only listed saloons under the name
of the owner.
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