Atlas Obscura Presents: The First Ward Ball - Atlas Obscura

Chicago, Illinois

Atlas Obscura Presents: The First Ward Ball

Party like it's 1890 with a night of music, vice district history, burlesque performances, casino games, and more!

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 January 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, a cocktail robot, 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.

Featuring performances by Charlie Scarlet, Sigourney Beaver, Aurora GozmicBrooklyn Britches & the Whispers, and the Street Jaxkson Band!

Dive further into the real life history of the First Ward Ball with three presentations by local experts, including “Life In The Levee” by tavern historian Liz Garibay, "A Night in the Levee: Which Brothel Is Right For You?" by author and historian Adam Selzer, and "King Corruption," an interactive look at political corruption in Chicago by Paul Dailing of 1001 Chicago Afternoons.


  • Tickets are $65 after December 26, and $75 at the door. General Admission tickets include all performances, presentations, and entertainment. A cash bar and raffle tickets will be available for purchase at the event (cash and credit accepted).


  • DRESS: We highly encourage you to come decked out in your fanciest turn-of-the-century outfits! We also appreciate contemporary finery in all forms. A coat check will be available.
  • GETTING THERE: The First Ward Ball will be held at Bassline, 2239 S. Michigan Avenue. Valet and street parking is available, and the venue is close to the I-55 Stevenson. Those planning on drinking should consider taking the CTA to the ball. The Cermak-Chinatown Red Line stop and Cermak-McCormick Place Green Line stop are both nearby. The #1 and #4 Michigan Avenue buses stop in front of the venue.
  • AGE RESTRICTION: This event is strictly 21+. Please bring proper identification.
  • ACCESSIBILITY: The event has limited ADA access. Please email for details. 
  • BEVERAGE: Cocktails, beer, and wine will be available for purchase at the bar. 
  • FOOD: Yum Dum food truck will be parked outside the venue from 7-9pm.
  • RAFFLE: The raffle will take place around 10:15p.m. You must be present to win! Tickets will be available for purchase at the event using cash or credit card.
  • REFUNDS: This ticket is not refundable, but you can transfer it to someone else by following this handy Eventbrite tutorial.


Email Leyla Royale at

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All ticket sales are final. No refunds or exchanges.