July 27 - Illness in Illinois

Story topics

On July 27, 1903, Paul Laurence Dunbar was in Chicago where he participated in a family activity.  He was 31 years old, in poor health and sharing a home with his mother.  Also living in Chicago were Paul's two half-brothers and their families.

Paul Laurence Dunbar entertained his nieces Monday evening at a musicale at his residence, 3209 Dearborn Street.

"CHICAGO:  The 'World's Fair City' Viewed by the Appeal Man."  The Appeal (St. Paul, Minnesota).  August 1, 1903.  Page 4.

Newspaper reports from that summer describe Paul as being deathly ill.

Paul Laurence Dunbar is dangerously ill at the home of his mother, No. 3209 Dearborn Street.  Dr. Daniel H. Williams, who is attending him, says that he is suffering from an aggravated attack of pneumonia.  Mr. Dunbar has been feeling poorly for more than a week, but took to his bed only four days ago.

"Paul Dunbar Seriously Ill."  New York Herald (New York, New York).  June 22, 1903.  Page 3.

Paul Laurence Dunbar has recently been lying dangerously ill at his residence in Chicago.

"Race Gleanings."  The Colored American (Washington, D. C.)  July 18, 1903.  Page 7.

Chicago, July 29.  Paul Laurence Dunbar was taken suddenly ill last evening with the recurrence of pulmonary trouble, which has not entirely left him since his attack of pneumonia last spring.  He suffered a severe hemorrhage in the evening and was obliged to cancel his engagement.

"The Noted Negro Poet Ill."  The Charlotte News (Charlotte, North Carolina).  July 29, 1903.  Page 1.

Paul Laurence Dunbar is seriously ill with a recurrence of pulmonary trouble.  He was cheerful last night, though he spoke with difficulty.  During the evening one of the colored poet's friends, a member of the Eighth regiment, passed the house, whistling a bugle call.  Dunbar sent back the call as clearly as his condition would permit, but the effort brought on another spell of coughing.

"Poet Dunbar is Ill Again."  The Chicago Daily Tribune (Chicago, Illinois).  July 30, 1903.  Page 5.

The Chicago Tribune article prompted two of Paul's friends to contact him.  The first was Brand Whitlock, a writer and lawyer who later became mayor of Toledo.

The Tribune says today that you are sick, and it tells a pretty story of one of your friends passing by and whistling a bugle call.  I am not behind him in friendship or the desire to cheer, and I too sound a bugle call to you, with all the music and spirit I can fit into it, to tell you that I am helping you all I can.  Can you hear the hale grunting of a brother at this distance?  When you can, send me a line.

Brand Whitlock to Paul Laurence Dunbar, July 30, 1903.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 1).

Paul also heard from his friend James Newton Matthews, a country doctor and poet from Mason, Illinois.  Paul did not have the strength to write back, but he dictated a typewritten response.

If ever you come to Chicago please be sure to look me up.  It must be confessed that you are wiser about the Tribune article than I because I have not even seen it, but it told quite the truth, and I am in such poor health that I am leaving very soon for the east;  were it not for that I could hope that I might see you sometime when I was passing through your section of the state.

Paul Laurence Dunbar to James Newton Matthews, August 1, 1903.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 1).