- I've always been intrigued by Blanding's references to his Bohemian
days in Chicago while he was attending the Art Institute and working
odd jobs to get by. He mentions living in the same house as the
writer Sherwood Anderson, and staying up late into the evening having
literary discussions with emerging members of the Chicago Literary
A friend of mine went to the Chicago Public Library for me and looked
up Blanding and Anderson in the old city directies. They both
appeared in 1915 at 735 Cass Street (which is now Wabash Avenue.)
I've been reading a few biographies written about Sherwood Anderson,
and they shed some light on the building that Blanding lived in for a
From SHERWOOD ANDERSON: His Life and Work, by James Schevill:
Much of his experimentation was done in a top-floor room of an old,
converted mansion on the North side. Wealthy Chicago families had
lived in this area, but after the turn of the century many of the
wooden palaces had been converted into cheap boarding houses. In one
of these places, on the corner of Cass and Superior, Anderson had a
room. He called the boarding house the home of "The Little Children
of the Arts" because it was filled with would-be dancers, actors, and
painters. The landlady was a rotund, good-humored woman called "Ma"
Lindsay, whose one demand was prompt payment of the rent. Anderson's
room was part of the former attic. It was furnished with a battered
work table shoved against the wall and loaded with books. A basket
full of lead pencils of all lengths, a tremendous stack of cheap,
yellow paper, and another pile of manuscript covered with his
hieroglyphic pen and pencil scratches completed the desk's burden.
Through a window he could see the turmoil of Michigan Boulevard, the
glittering main street of business and fashion. In this attic room he
wrote the first of the Winesburg tales.
From SHERWOOD ANDERSON, by Irving Howe:
Nowhere did he so enjoy himself as in the boarding-house at 735 Cass
Street where he was the dean of "the little children of the arts."
Here, free of competitive pressures, he could release his natural
high spirits and rich sense of play. At night he would walk on Cass
Street with a huge brass ring hooked to his ear, and chortle over the
attention he aroused. When his friend Tennessee Mitchell took him to
the opera, he returned to tell the "little children of the arts" that
the music left him indifferent but that the costumes were marvelous--
"in those days," he said, men knew how to dress. In his room his bed
was raised high so that while lying in it he could have a full view
of the Chicago he loved to romanticize. And when he wrote on his huge
table, he would sometimes light candles to the gods of inspiration--
an act of devotion, half play and half serious, elicited perhaps by
his continuing amazement at having become a writer at all.
Well...it sounds like Blanding was one of Anderson's "little children
of the arts"...hardly a flattering title. A bit condescending
actually. But I imagine they fawned over him, these students from the
art institute and wannabe writers and artisans. In the fall of 1916
Anderson went off to upstate New York and got married...then came
back and lived in a different part of town. Blanding was already in
the Canadian army by then.
- From CHICAGO RENAISSANCE: The Literary Life in the Midwest 1900-1930
by Dale Kramer
One late April evening of 1915, Sherwood Anderson borrowed a copy
of The 'Spoon River Anthology' from a young musician named Max Wald,
fellow tenant of a rooming house. Anderson was unacquainted with
Masters, but to Wald he mentioned that Tennessee Mitchell, also a
friend of Wald's, knew him well. All of Chicago's unknown literary
hopefuls were excited by the attention being given to one of their
recent number. Anderson climbed to his third-floor room, switched on
the naked light bulb hanging from the ceiling, and stretched out on
his narrow bed. It had been raised above the level of the high window
sill in order that he might gaze down at the Loop, half a mile south.
He began to read. When finished, the rudiments of a book of his own,
eventually to be titled 'Winesburg, Ohio,' was in his mind.
The rooming house, tall and narrow and shallow, with a mansard
roof, was one of the Near North Side's old fashionable houses. The
address was 735 Cass Street (later Wabash Avenue) at the corner of
Superior Street. 'Poetry's' office was only two blocks south. Nearby
was a catholic school of the Little Children of Mercy. Anderson
called the rooming house the Little Children of the Arts, since the
partitioned-off rooms had mostly aspiring musicians, writers, actors,
painters. He readily included himself among the Little Children--
although now approaching thirty-nine. George Daugherty, a friend
since the old days at Wittenberg Academy, had moved here with him
last year from a South Side rooming house near Jackson Park.
So...now we know how the expression "Little Children of the Arts"
came about. The fact that Anderson considered himself one of them
doesn't make it sound so condescending.
We also know that the residents of the boarding house included Max
Wald and George Daugherty. I will look into them.