The Dill Pickle Club


I’m surprised I haven’t run into the Portland-based Dill Pickle Club group yet, but better late than never. I met with one the founders, Marc Moscato, last week and we chatted about local history, WPA projects, hobos and Chicago in the 1930s.

The club’s namesake originates from Jazz-Age Chicago’s legendary yet ill-forgotten speakeasy, founded in 1914 by labor organizer Jack Jones, Jim Larkin and Ben “Clap Doctor” Reitman. The Pickle was the heart of the “Chicago Renaissance” and the meeting spot for the city’s most noted authors, musicians and activists, including Sherwood Anderson, Ben Hecht, Mary MacLane, Lucy Parsons, Kenneth Rexroth and Carl Sandburg. It closed its doors in 1934.

According to their web site, the club will host a monthly presentation series in “which academics, zinesters, political activists, artists and people of every political shade under the sun can come together to examine life as we know it. Presentations will be controversial, offbeat and intellectual, and provide an experimental format to critique contemporary politics, culture and humanities.”

Marc’s an interesting guy and has done some fantastic work, including the film The More Things Stay The Same that examines the life and world of Dr. Ben Reitman (1879-1942), known in his day as “the Clap Doctor,”  “King of the Hoboes” and “the most vulgar man in America.”

As part of their Field Trip series, they have planned is a bike ride next Sunday, June 28, that will explore Portland area WPA projects. Unfortunately the ride sold out quickly so they might add another ride the following week if there’s enough interest. Send an email to if interested.

I’m looking forward to more great work from this group- they’re a wonderful addition to the Portland landscape.

3 thoughts

  1. So I got really excited because I saw this post heading and thought it was a club for people who love dill pickles–maybe some recipe swaps, canning tips, taste testing various specialty pickles. Yes, I love pickles that much. No, I’m not joking. However, despite my disappointment about there not being a club for fans of pickles (which I would join in a heartbeat), this is incredibly cool–I hadn’t heard of them either. Thanks for sharing!

  2. There’s a tune that a lot of the old Texas fiddlers play called Dill Pickle Rag. And there are a lot of connections between Texas and the Northwest fiddlers (namely, Benny Thommasson). I wonder if the club and the tune are related.

  3. The Dill Pickle Club in Chicago was also one of the hangouts of the legendary confidence man Joseph “Yellow Kid” Weil (1876-1976), who once made a presentation to the club, in the thin disguise of a mad scientist, who had invented a machine that could cook a turkey in less than two minutes. He tells wonderful stories about it in his memoir, “The Con Game and Yellow Kid Weil,” assembled in 1948 by Chicago newspaperman W.T. Brannon.

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