It’s not unusual to see polar bears in the frigid waters of Lake Michigan every winter. In fact, on January 28, 2017 they are taking the plunge at Oak Street Beach. The Chicago Polar Bear Club has raised over $300,000 over the last 15 years for charity–helping families in need. According to their website, “One hundred per cent of every dollar has gone directly to the families..”
But before the club even existed, there were hearty swimmers who just enjoyed swimming in cold winter water. The three earliest known winter swimmers were from Milwaukee: Frank Sutter, Jim Brazell, and Gustav Marx pictured above. The photo is dated, December 31, 1916. Their friends and the press began calling them polar bears.
This photo clipping from the Chicago Tribune, c. 1922, depicts a group of men and women resting between swimming sessions at the Edgewater Beach Hotel near the snowy, icy lake front.
If you would like to support this time honored tradition by donating, watching Polar Bears take the plunge, or by taking it yourself, contact the Chicago Polar Bear Club for details at http://www.chicagopolarbearclub.com .