Skip to main content
Book a private virtual tour for conferences and corporate events

The Bughouse Square Debates

By Sophie on July 26, 2011


The true spirit of free speech will be exercised this Saturday at the annual Newberry Library Bughouse Square Debates.

In an age of sound-bite journalism and tweets, see the ancient art of oration, inflammatory rhetoric, and soapboxing come to life in a series of curated, public, open-air debates.  You can chime in and heckle speakers. Or you can also kick back and just listen.

Bughouse Square Debate Topics

The central debate for the event will be collective bargaining and the public sector. Is collective bargaining compatible with public service? The “soapboxers” will compete for the Square’s annual prize: a giant plastic Dill Pickle. That’s in honor of the famed Dill Pickle Club, a cultural hub of the ’20s and ’30s. It’s where Sherwood Anderson and Carl Sandburg liked to hang out, drink illegally, and mix with all sorts of characters. 15 soapboxers will speak about topics including:

  • Why the Park District Hates Me
  • Why Jesus Alone Has the Qualifications of Being Both Savior and God
  • The American Dream of Hypocrisy
  • Clarence Darrow and the American Dream
  • In Praise of Shyness
  • And many others

Part of Chicago’s Literary Traditions

In another feat of rare timing and circumstance, the final sigh and liquidation of Borders bookstores earlier last week does not have to be met with trepidation by Chicago booklovers.  The Newberry Library, which presides over the Bughouse Square Debates and houses some of the country’s finest rare collections of Americana in the form of maps, correspondence, books and other ephemera, is also hosting what we deem the finest independent used book fair in conjunction with the Bughouse square debates. And just about everything is priced under $2! Check out the Newberry  Library Book Fair before, during or after the Bughouse Square Debates this Thursday or Friday, 12pm-8pm, or Saturday or Sunday, 10am-6pm.

For previous Chicago Detours explorers on our Good Times Around Michigan Avenue architectural tour who want to see the characters who frequented Jack Jones’ Dill Pickle Club and the nearby Bughouse Square come alive, this is surely the place for eccentricity, unpredictability, and political passions to come to a Chicago summer boil.

— Nick Fraccaro, Tour Guide


Chicago Detours offers guided walking and bus tours of architecture, history and culture to public and private groups. We are a passionate team of educators, historians, artists and storytellers, and are proud to be one of very few tour companies in Chicago that is rated five stars on both Google and TripAdvisor.


Call: 312.350.1131
E-Mail: [email protected]