Franklin Ellis.

Chicago and its resources twenty years after, 1871-1891 : a commercial history showing the progress and growth of two decades from the Great Fire to the present time online

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Online LibraryFranklin EllisChicago and its resources twenty years after, 1871-1891 : a commercial history showing the progress and growth of two decades from the Great Fire to the present time → online text (page 1 of 66)
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Elizabeth M. Cudahy
Memorial Library

Loyola University


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Views from the Chicago Fire Cyclu



AND ira RnaouRcna




Pi^oaRe33 AND Gr^owtm of Two Dccadcs


Great Pme To run PRpa^NT Tine



Tfc Chicago Tmea CoApanu



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Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1892, by
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All Rights Reserved.

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'q),T lias been about one year and a half sinee the work of preparation
for this \-oliime was bet,nin. Although some of the earl\- patrons
ma}' ha\e lost sii^-ht of it and have supposed that it "died a
bornin'," the interest has not fiajjged for a da\', but has in-
creased steadily from the start. In fact, the suijgcstion of the
work met with such generous and substantial encoiu-agement
that the publishers were enabled to enlarge its scope and add
such improvements in its artistic execution, beyond what was at
first contemplated, as cannot fail to gratify every patron, and greatly increase
its circulation.

In picturing the growth and development of Chicago during the "Twenty
Years After " the great fire, it has been necessary to go back to its earliest
history in order to trace the principal causes of that phenomenal growth.
While, too, we have given an outline sketch of that growth in the bod)' of
the work, we have depended mainly upon the actual histor3'of its representa-
tive business houses to enable our readers to grasp the full significance of that
growth. By a presentation of the portraits and biographies of the men who
have built up Chicago, who ha\'e been identified with ever)' step of its advance
in all its varied interests, and by a recital of the achievements of its great
mercantile and manufacturing concerns, the best possible idea of that advance
can be obtained. The profuse illustrations will still further fix in the mind
its realization.

Confident that its execution is full)' equal to pledges made, and that the
work will realize the highest anticipations formed for it, we hereb)' respect-
fully dedicate it to our patrons and the public.

The Puhlisheks.

T IS much the habit to look
upon the rapid j^rowth and
dc\ck)piiicnt of Chicago as
something wonderful, and to
ascribe that growth to some occult causes beyond the ken of
ortlinary mortals. That its growth has been rapid, and the
degree of that rapidity is wonderful, goes without saying, but
to assume that there is anything mysterious in it, is to close
one's eyes to the most obvious facts of history — men are wont
to ascribe it to all manner of causes except the right one;
sometimes to the climate, as if it differed so much from the clim-
ate of other places a few hours' ride from Chicago, which have
not grown rapidly; and sometimes it is its location, as if the re-
gion of the mouth of the Calumet would not have afforded equal
opportunities for growth. And yet, its location, in a broader
'and more general sense, undoubtedly did have much to do
with that growth. But the silliest of all contentions is that
the people of Chicago are endowed with a degree of enterprise
and foresight superior to that of men in general, and that in
pursuance of that enterprise and foresight, they have brought
about the prosperity of Chicago.

As this is to be a commercial history of Chicago, for the
twenty years following the great fire of 1871, a period com-
|)rising to the present, its greatest improvement, it is important
that we go back to its earliest periods of growth, in order to
show wherein lies the ground work of that prosperity, and lay
the foundation for intelligent forecasts as to the future.

In the summer of 1673, M. Louis Joliet was sent out by the
French Governor of Canada from Montreal to explore the
then unknown territory in the northwest. He was accompa-
nied by a Jesuit priest, Pierre Marquette. They landed at the
mouth of the Chicago river in August, of that year, and trav-
eled inland across what appeared to them a very delightful ex-
panse of prairie country. They had not gone far before they
found streams running to the south and southwest, which
they naturally followed until they reached the Illinois
ri\er, which agam carried them to the Mississippi.
Everywhere Joliet was inpressed with the great fer-
tility of the soil, and its adaptability to prosperous settle-
ment. He passed down the Mississippi far enough to make
certain that its waters flowed into the Gulf of Mexico, instead
of into the Pacific. His purpose being accomplished, he re-
traced his steps by nearly the same route as he went. Taking
note on his return, he found what to him was of great signifi-
cance, that the portage between the Chicago river and the Des
Plaines, was only about one-half a league in extent, across a
nearly level prairie. He hastened to Montreal where he pro-

ceeded to lay befoiethe Governor the results of his discoveries,
although his maps weie all destroyed by a mishap on the way.
He pointed out the impoitancc of opening a waterway across
thit poitagc to connect with the Mississippi river and the
iM'cnch colonies in Louisiana.

The location of the church and dwelling, built h)- Pierre
Marquette somewhere near the [jresent site of the Hridewell
the following year, and the subsequent use of the portage from
the Chicago to the DcsPlaines rivers, instead of the Calumet,
seems to have been determined by the fact that Joliet traveled
that way instead of by the way of the Calumet. Thereafter
that route was known, while others, perhaps better, were
not known. This is probably what determined the building of
the fort at Chicago by the French sometime previous to 1688,
to protect their communication with their possessions in

The F^nglish, when the French surrendered possession of
the territory in 1763, had not the same interest in maintaining
the post at Chicago as the French had, because it was not the
gateway to important possessions beyond; so that the fort was
aoandoned. When, however, a treaty of peace was concluded
in 1795 between General Wayne, representing the United
States and the Indian tribes, at Greenville, Ohio, it was very
natural that the United States should stipulate for six miles
square of land at the mouth of the Chicago river " formerly
occupied by a fort," in order to establish a military post in the

Another circumstance which at that time began to attract
some notice, was the trade in furs and peltries. The
American Fur Co. had established a station at the site of the
old fort, and thither came the Indians to sell or exchange the
products of the chase for ammunition, blankets, tobacco and
whisky. By 1796 a negro, Jean Baptistc, had built himself a
hut on the north side, and laid claim to the surrounding tract
of land.

It was not however, until 1S04 that Fort Dearborn wai;
established, to overawe the Indians who were becoming jeal
ous of the whites, and somewhat threatening in their attitude.
The acquisition of Louisiana from the French the year before
had greatly stimulated exploration, so that some measure
of defense was deemed necessary.

The channel of communication between the great lakes
and the Mississippi river by way of the portage from the Chi-
cago river and the DesPlaines, had become fully established:
and among explorers, tolerably well known; so that the fort
was necessarily built where it was. The location, at first fixed
by chance, was afterward confirmed by habit. The garrison
of the fort was fifty soldiers and three pieces of artillery.

At this time the southern portion of the State of IlHnsis
had become largel)' settled as far north as Springfield, which
crowded the Indians northward, rendered them more turbulent.



and acted to delay the settlement of the northern portion of The first census was taken in 1S37, and showed a total pop-

the State. The advance of the whites in the south added ulation of 4,170, 703 of whom were voters. There were about

to the intrigue of the English, made the Indians still more 450 buildings all told; 398 of them dwellings, 29 dry goods

turbulent, when in June, 1812, a few weeks before the outbreak stores, 5 hardware, 3 drug, 19 grocery, 10 taverns, 29 saloons,

of war between the United States and Great Britain, a body ol 17 lawyer's offices, and 5 churches. The limits of the city at

Indians killed a settler near the fort, and committed se\eral this time were 22d street on the south North avenue on the

other depredations; but they did not venture to attack the north, and Wood street on the west.

fort. In August following, however, the Indians became more About the same time the construction of the Chicago &

hostile, and an abandonment was determined upon. A parley Galena Union Railroad was begun; and improvements were

was held with the hostiles, at which the whites agreed to sur- also started in the harbor, in accordance with appropriations

render the fort, ammunition and all contents to plunder, in made by Congress.

consideration of safe conduct and escort to Eort Wayne. But Chicago is simply the focus into which the surrounding
the whites, at the instigation of John Kinzie, the agent of the country pours the wealth of its products. Its growth and de-
American Fur Co., broke faith with the Indians and destroyed velopment primarily sprung from the trade in those products,
large quantities of arms, ammunition and whisky, which so and it has grown just in proportion to the extension of those
exasperated the Indians that when only a few miles out on the means of communication which have brought within her reach
road to Fort Wayne, the whole command, including women more and more territory. The building of the Archer road to
and children, were ambushed by the Pottawattamies, and Lockport, the construction of the canal, the improvement of
women, children, civilians and soldiers slain in great numbers, the harbor by which vessels from the whole lake region could
The survivors were captured and brought back to the fort and come to its docks, the completion of successive railroads have,
held for ransom. After this the fort was abandoned and one after another, extended the territory which turned its pro-
destroyed, to be rebuilt four years later, when Chicago again duct into her lap. The elements of Chicago's greatness are the
became the rallying point of traders. resources of the whole country. It occupies a central position

Thus, while the southern part of the State was being rapidly in the midst of a region of unparalleled natural resources, ex-
settled up, the settlers finding an outlet southward and east- tending from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from as far north
ward for their products, northern Illinois was almost an un- as human enterprise can extend, to the Isthmus at the south,
broken wilderness, the haunt of the wolf and the red man. Every square mile of this territory is already, or soon w'ill be

Attempts were constantly being made at Springfield, and at made, tributary to Chicago, through improved means of corn-
Washington to insure the building of a canal across the portage munication. And not only this, but through the channels of
and establish communication between the lakes and the commerce it is brought in ready communication with all the
Mississippi. Legislation was frequently had, but nothing markets of the world. No one who takes into account the
practical accomplished, beyond granting the right-of-way, geographical position of Chicago, its advantages of communi-
making surveys, estimates, etc., until March 2, 1827, when Con- cation, present and prospective, can doubt that Chicago is des-
gress granted to the State of Illinois, the alternate sections tined to become, at no very distant day, the metropolis of the
equivalent to six miles in width, on each side of the proposed world. Not another one of the great cities of the world is so
route, in aid of the construction of the Illinois and Michigan favorably situated, as to the extent and natural resources of
(,^f,al the country surrounding it, and the means of easily, quickly

Two years later, Mr. Thompson, the civil engineer for the and cheaply reaching every part of it as Chicago. The great

canal, rudely platted a town at the mouth of the Chicago basin extending from the Alleghanies to the Rocky Mountams,

river. Chicago, however, was purely speculative, and its pros- '" the very center of which is Chicago, is capable of maintam-

pects dependent upon the building of the canal. It was not ing a population of more than a thousand millions of people,

until 1834 that the Indian title to the vast territory surround- where it now has not more than one fiftieth part of that number,
ing Chicago was extinguished, which held back the growth of The first considerable impetus to the growth of Chicago

the country, and with it, of the city. But the treaty with the was given on the opening of the surrounding territory to settle-

Pottawattamies in 1834, by which 20,000,000 acres \vas thrown ment after the extinction of the Indian title to the lands, the

open to settlement, started the tide of immigration, and gave commencement of the work on the canal and the beginning of

Chicago a new importance. Over 100 immigrant vessels are the work of improving the harbor, which followed each other

reported to have arrived at the port during the summer of so rapidly that they may be regarded as a single epoch.
1836, besides large numbers of settlers overland. The next may safely be placed at 1848 to 1852, from the time

In 1836 also actual work was begun on the canal, which of the completion of the canal to the arrival of the first railroad

still further stimulated the growth of the city. Those who are from the east, including the beginning of the Illinois Central

disposed to wonder at its rapid growth, would have still more railroad, and the building of the first section of the Chicago

cause to wonder if that growth had not been rapid. With such & Galena Union to Elgin. This is the first time that the trade

a surrounding region of great fertility, so long held back from of Chicago began to assume important proportions,
.'.cttlement, while settlement was extending all around and far The following table gives a synopsis of the principal trade

beyond it; and finally, the obstacles to that settlement re- and statistics of Chicago, beginning in 1852, after the opening

i-.ioved, with the gateway to that region situated as Chicago is, of the canal, and at intervals of two j'cars until 1856, which will

already opening canal connection through that territory, and convey a fair idea of the effect of these improvements, and the

with the great Mississippi valley, it would be still more won- general advance,
derful if its growth had not been phenomenal. ^^^2. 1854. is,=,fi.

^ ^ Population »<,"■» 6S,S7'2 sti.ouu

Now came the establishment of the U. S. Land ofihce June Assessed Valuation S10,46;yi4 824,392,239 $31,736,084

I, 1835, and before Christmas more than 500,000 acres of land Flour Rcc'd.,Bbls 124,316 234,675 410,989

had been entered, almost wholly by actual settlers, and whose '.Vheat" Bu 937,496 3,038,9.55 8.767.760

,, , Corn ■■ ■■ 2,991,(111 7,490,753 11,sx,'J,39s

product was destined to be sent to Chicago to swell the aggre- „ _^ „ * li.-i l."is 13s.-,7.-, ■'■'117(1'

gate of its trade and commerce. Hogs Packed 44,156 73.694 74,000



Cattle Rec'd 24,66;! SS.fiOl It.llTl

Lumber " M 147,Sir. 22S,Si7 441,'.My

Hides " iN'uriiher 25,S!);! 28,(i0(i 70,.MiO

Stone " Culiic Yds 40,752 2.S,4:«i 92,609

Coal " Tons 40,2:.:i 56,774 93,020

At this tiniL- \vc find the germs of tlie vast manufacturing
interests, which ha\e also been developed since. In 1853, im-
mediately following this period, some of the shops were turning
out large products of great importance. In this yearthe first
locomotive engine was built in Chicago, and three stationary
engines, 250 freisht, 10 baggage, and 30 passenger cars, 10
bridges and 19 turn tables.

The reports of the American Car Co. show a product of
8450,000, with 260 men employed. Wilson Marble Works,
Si 5,000 product. Four Machine shops, an aggregate product of
$270,000, and five carriage shops, Si 17,000.

From here on public and private improvement was rapid,
constantly gathering new strength and force with every step
in advance. The story of that advance has been the story of
every rapidly advancing city in the world To recite those
details is no part of the purpose of this work. That growth is
one of the phenomenal things of this phenomenal age. What
we wish to establish in this portion of this w-ork is wherein
lies the secret of that growth which we- have found in the
wonderful richness and extent of the country tributary to Chi-
cago. Those elements being of a permanent character, and as
yet practically undeveloped, it becomes certain that Chicago,
which is only the effect of the operation of those causes, must
continue to keep pace with whatever development may here-
after come to the country tributary to it.


As all the world knows, on Oct. gth, 1871, and for two days
following, Chicago was laid in ashes by the most destructive
conflagration that has ever been known in history. There
were many causes which contributed to this effect, among
which may be mentioned, first the inflammable nature of thi;
buildings. The buildings were largely frame and board, and
consequently very combustible. Even in the more substan-
tial portions of the city where the better class of the buildings
were located, there were sufficient wooden buildings scattered
around among the brick and stone to serve as kindling, and
make sure of the complete destruction of the whole of them.
To render it still worse, for three or four weeks previous to the
breaking out of the fire, scorching hot winds prevailed from the
southwest until every particle of moisture in the wooden build-
ings had been dried out. At the time of the breaking out of
the fire a wind was blowing with the force of a hurricane which
swept the fire before it with irresistible force. It was started
in a small shanty on De Koven St., on the West Side, and
within three hours the fire crossed the river at two points
simultaneously, nearly a quarter of a mile separate, and three
quarters of a mile from the starting point.

Two steam fire engines sent by the fire department to check
the flames were burned before they could be removed beyond
their reach. Business blocks which were supposed to be fire
proof went down before the intense heat of the flames. The
Court House, itself a very substantial building, was destroyed
with all the city records and archives. One of the great
characteristics of the fire was the almost total absence of
smoke. The combustion seemed to be complete. A heat like
that of the most intense furnace was generated, which swept
across the city, leaving nothing in its wake but here and there
a blackened and tottering wall, or chimney. Even the wooden
pavements of the streets were often burned deep into their
blocks. Before morning the water works were burned, dis-
abling the engines and cutting off the supply of water from

the whole city But even before this the supply in the reser-
voirs had been exhausted.

The on-rush of the flames was so rapid that many persons
were overtaken and perished before they could get out of
reach of the flames. At Chicago avenue bridge a jam occurred
among the crowd, which were retreating to the West Side, dur-
ing which they were overtaken, and from forty to fifty were
binned to death. It is estimated that at least 150 deaths oc-
curred by binning, and probably 300 by burning and casualties.
We shall not undertake to itemize the buildings, public and
private, that were burned. It is enough to say that the entire
business portion of the city was destroyed with the stocks of
goods in the stores of the merchants.

Thirty per cent, of all the buildings in the city, in nuinber,
and fifty per cent, in value were burned. Twenty-six per cent,
of all the grain in store ( 1,642,000 bushels) went the same way,
and about the same percentage of the lumber, including
20,000,000 lath and shingles. The loss on merchants' stocks of
goods was placed at 80 per cent, of their total value. Estimates
of the aggregate loss by the fire made by the most cautious and
painstaking statisticians place it at Si92,ooo,ooo after deduct-
ing S4,000,ooo estimated salvage on foundations.

One hundred and four thousand five hundred people were
thus, with but a few moments warning, deprived of shelter,
most of them left penniless, over 200,000 were without water,
and many of them even without food. The wildest rumors
began to prevail, amounting almost to a reign of terror, regard-
ing incendiaries and robbers. The means of disseminating
information was completely destroyed, or demoralized, no tele-
graphs, no newspapers, and no mails. The people were left
the prey to the wildest rumors.

The immediate results of the fire were 17,450 houses de-
stroyed; 104,500 persons rendered homeless; 2,104 acres of the
city burned over, comprising a tract 3^ miles long, by I J^
miles wide in some places; 2,400 stores and factories were
burned; I2i}i miles of sidewalk; 8 bridges; the waterworks;
1,642,000 bushels of grain; vast quantities of lumber, and stocks
of merchandise.

At 8 o'clock in the evening, less than twenty-four hours after
the first breaking out of the fire, a car load of provisions arrived
from Milwaukee for the relief of the sufferers. By nine o'clock
the next morning the arrivals had reached fifty car loads, from
every possible direction; and this continued until the officials
were compelled to cry "enough." Money came in like water
from all over the civilized world. The public subscriptions
amounted to $4,200,000 within three months; while the private
contributions were considerable, although the amounts will
never be known.

The distribution of the relief fund was mainly entrusted to
the Chicago Relief and Aid Society — which proceeded to build
and furnish, as best they could, homes for those who were left
homeless. Within five weeks more than 4,000 houses had been
built and fitted out with house furnishing materials — cook-stove,
mattress, bedding, and a half ton of coal, all at a cost of Si 10
for each house.

This was a severe test of the stability of the insurance com-
panies then doing business in Chicago, all of them losing
heavily. As a matter of fact, less than twenty per cent, of
the insurance losses were paid.

In spite of the enormous losses which fell upon all lines
of business the steps for reorganization were prompt and vigor-
ous. The Board of Trade, at its first meeting, on Tuesday
following the fire, resolved to require the honoring of all con-
tracts. The bankers met and resolved to pay in full on de-
mand. The confidence and courage of the business men of
the city gave so much confidence abroad, not only in the ulti-


mate growth of the cicy, Dut in the integrity of those business
men, that no difficulty was experienced in obtaining further
credit, and extensions of time when required.

An extra session of the Legislature was called by the Gov-
ernor, and an Act passed to reimburse the city the amount of
$3,000,000 which it had expended in the canal enlargement,
which gave the city the much needed funds for rebuilding its
public works.

The work of rebuilding was begun at once, and pushed with
vigor. By the 17th, eight days from the breaking out of the
fire, the pumping machinery had been repaired and started;

Online LibraryFranklin EllisChicago and its resources twenty years after, 1871-1891 : a commercial history showing the progress and growth of two decades from the Great Fire to the present time → online text (page 1 of 66)