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Chicago, Illinois

Atlas Obscura Presents: The First Ward Ball

Join us for a night of music, history, burlesque, and more - all with an 1890s twist.

Maybe you’ve heard rumors of the First Ward Ball—a party so spectacular, so debaucherous, that it could only thrive in turn-of-the-century Chicago, supported by gamblers, madames, and only the most crooked of Chicago’s politicians. It lasted for little more than a decade, held annually on Chicago’s south side, and the participants consumed thousands of gallons of champagne, admired bawdy songs and poetry from local artists, and brushed arms with some of the city’s most glamorous (and notorious) citizens.  

But what was the party really like?

Join us this February for a historical party, the likes of which you won’t soon forget! Located steps from Chicago's former vice district in the South Loop, this one-night-only gala will feature dazzling performances by Chicago-based burlesque performers, drag queens, historical impersonators, and musicians. In between such vintage entertainment, you’ll enjoy craft cocktails, casino games, raffle prizes, and our vintage photobooth—as well one-of-a-kind presentations from Chicago's premiere vice historians, covering the history of the real First Ward Ball and its legendary, long-gone attendees.

The evening's entertainment will include performances by Matt Griffo, Pinataland, Charlie Scarlet, Sigourney BeaversKenzie Coulee, and just announced - Brooklyn Britches and the Whispers!

Dive into the real life history of the First Ward Ball with three history presentations by local experts! These include “Life In The Levee” by Liz Garibay, a talk on the infamous Everleigh Club by Wendy Bright, and “You Are Where You Drink: The Chicago Saloon and American Identity” by Bill Savage .*

There will also be an exclusive appearance of the d20 Robotics Blaster, cocktail-robot champion of the Bay Area Cocktail Robotics Grand Challenge!



  • General Admission Tickets are $55 before January 1, $65 after January 1st, and $75 at the door.  These include all performances, presentations, and entertainment. Drink tickets & raffle tickets will be available for purchase at the event (cash and credit accepted) for attendees who wish to enjoy the evening's period-appropriate cocktails, wines, and beers.
  • VIP tickets are $90 before January 1, $100 after January 1, and $110 at the door. VIP holders will receive four drink tickets (a $40 value!), two complimentary raffle tickets, and a swag bag of vintage style goodies to help identify you as an elite Vice District benefactor!

*Due to unforeseen circumstances, the lecture  “Before She Threw the First Stone: Radical Fashion and Gender of the First Ward Ball” by Andie Meadows and Jforpay has been cancelled. Instead, we will be featuring a lecture on the Everleigh Club by Wendy Bright.

Additional Details

  • Come dressed in your finest turn-of-the-century outfits!  
  • The First Ward Ball will be held at 2411 S. Michigan Avenue. Street parking is available, and the venue is close to the I-55 Stevenson. You can also take the CTA to the ball; the Cermak-Chinatown Red Line stop & Cermak-McCormick Place Green Line stop are nearby. The #1 and #4 Michigan Avenue buses also stop in front of the venue.
  • The event is strictly 21+.
  • Coat check will be available.
  • The event is partially ADA accessible. The First Ward Ball will be taking place in Row 24, a Motor Row venue lovingly remodeled from its 1920s heydey as an automobile showroom. Due to the historic nature of the space, this event has limited ADA accessibility, with some performances taking place on a second-floor balcony only accessible by a set of stairs.
  • The raffle will take place at the end of the night.
  • This ticket is not refundable, but you can transfer it by following this handy Eventbrite tutorial


Email Leyla Royale at

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Advance ticket sales only. All ticket sales are final. No refunds or exchanges.