The New Student's Reference Work/Chicago

Chicago. In the university of Chicago, there is a relief map which shows that the site of the second city in the United States and the fourth in the world, was, at no very remote age, covered by the waters of Lake Michigan. You would have had only to watch workmen excavating earth for any one of the nearly 12,000 buildings erected in 1912 to see the sand of this ancient beach turned up. In December, 1674, when Pére Marquette was guided to the Chicago River by Pottawattomie Indians, the plain was no more than six feet above lake-level—a dreary, frozen marsh, bounded by a wooded ridge ten miles back, the old shore-line, and relieved only by two low elevations of glacial drift—Stony Island (gravel) and Blue Island (clay). The saintly Jesuit, on his way to found a mission among the Illinois Indians, was conducted along the route that had long been used by the many Algonquin tribes of the upper lakes and the middle Mississippi. When the ice broke up and flooded the plain, the canoes were paddled out to the ridge, carried across a couple of miles and set afloat on the westward flowing current of the Desplaines. La Salle saw the strategic importance of the route and fortified Starved Rock on the Illinois. In 1803 the United States government built Fort Dearborn on the Chicago River to control the Indians around the head of the lake. Hither, in the same year, came John Kinzie, fur-trader and silversmith, with his family, to barter with the many tribes that used the Chicago trail or gathered here for council.

As the farthest point inland to be reached over the Great Lakes, with the shortest portage to the Mississippi system, nature had endowed the spot, but had set it in a slough 960 miles across a hostile wilderness from the seaboard. The horrid massacre of Fort Dearborn August 15, 1812, was not followed by peace with the red man for 20 years. After the Black Hawk War (1831), the Indians of northern Illinois were removed to Iowa, and the vast region of fertile prairie behind Chicago was open to settlement. The town was organized in 1833 with 28 voters. In 1837 it was incorporated with a population of 4,497, which was but a fraction of the number that in five years had swarmed through the gateway. In 1848 it had grown to 20,000. It became plain to the least imaginative that if Chicago was to get any great advantage from its position, means must be provided for bringing in the products of the farms and for distributing supplies. It was easier and cheaper for settlers on the streams to load grain and cattle on flat-boats and send them to St. Louis, than to haul loads across Chicago's ten miles of slough. The Illinois and Michigan Canal connecting the Chicago and Illinois Rivers along the old canoe-trail, opened in 1848, extended Chicago's trade a hundred miles westward and taxed its shipping facilities. In the early 50's William B. Ogden overcame incredible financial difficulties, and pushed ten miles of railway (the North-Western) out to the boat-landing on the Desplaines. The first train out found a cargo of grain piled on the bank. From that small beginning of a half century ago Chicago has become the greatest railroad center in the world, the terminal of 36 lines, aggregating a mileage of 91,672 miles, or over 40 per cent. of the total mileage of the United States, with gross revenues of $2,900,000,000.

With a death-rate in the 50's that must wipe out the entire population in 40 years, Chicago undertook the colossal task of pulling itself up to a 20-foot level. For the first time in history four-story brick and stone buildings were hoisted on jack-screws 12 to 14 feet in the air without interrupting business. The sand-bar that turned the river a half mile south to seek an outlet, was used to raise the grade of the streets; the river was cut straight out to the lake; the channel and harbor were deepened; and pumping works on the South Branch reversed the current, drew water from the lake and washed Chicago's sewage into the canal. To-day the city stands 25 feet above lake level. In 1901 the Drainage Canal was opened. It has cost $68,000,000. Supplementary canals to drain the northern and southern sections are under construction. The system is not only to dispose of the sewage and guard the water supply from pollution, but is to provide a ship-canal to connect the Great Lakes with the Mississippi—a glorified canoe-trail that follows the red man's route. Five tunnels that extend under the lake from two to four miles out give the city a per capita water-supply of 200 gallons a day. The death-rate has been lowered to 13.5 per thousand, the lowest of any great city in the world.


The lesson of wide streets and substantial buildings Chicago had to learn through the most disastrous fire recorded in history. In October of 1871 the city had a population of over 300,000, mostly housed in crowded wooden buildings that had been dried to tinder by a long drought. Starting on the west side of the river, a strong southwest wind hurled brands on bridges and shipping and so across the stream. The business section was wiped out east to the lake and south to Harrison Street. Crossing the main stream, the fire swept the northern division, the finest residence section, to the city-limits. Three and a third square miles were burned over, 17,450 buildings were destroyed, 100,000 people made homeless; and there was a money loss of $200,000,000. Within a year the city had sprung from its ashes and added 50,000 to its population. Its courage, energy and resource amazed an admiring world. In the middle 80's, under pressure of demand for more room in the business section, the first of the steel-frame, fire-proof sky-scrapers, known as the Chicago construction, was erected. The Masonic Temple, the Woman's Temple and the Auditorium are among the earliest of these tower-like structures now covering the greater part of the central business district. In contrast with these are the low, classic outlines of the Public Library, the Art Institute and several bank buildings. The improvement in domestic and church architecture dates from the World's Fair (1893) and the erection of the many, red-gabled, gray-stone buildings of the university quadrangle on the Midway. In this connection too much can scarcely be said for the influence and benefit of the parks, boulevards and uniformly broad avenues. Lincoln Park on the north shore, Humboldt, Garfield and Douglas Parks on the west side and Washington and Jackson in the south division are connected with each other and with many smaller parks and open squares by boulevards. Michigan Avenue, Jackson Boulevard and the Lake Shore Drive link the limits with the business section. Extension of Grant Park a mile into the lake, and a shore line parkway, will give Chicago one of the most beautiful waterfronts in the world.


Business is on the same gigantic and aspiring scale as the sky-scrapers, “City Beautiful” plans and the growth in population, which in 1910 aggregated 2,185,283. The earliest lines of trade to be developed, when the western limit of commerce was the Mississippi, were grain and lumber. With the spanning of the river by rail and the development of the wheat states of the northwest, the Chicago Board of Trade ruled the grain-market. The conquering of the Great American Desert confirmed her sovereignty. In 1912 Chicago received 35,726,000 bushels of wheat. Receipts of wheat, flour, corn, oats, rye and barley aggregated 332,008,041 bushels. The city has 68 elevator warehouses with a grain-storage capacity of 46,640,000 bushels. The prairie country's greatest need was for building material. This Chicago supplied from the forests of Michigan and Wisconsin. With the partial exhaustion of these forests Chicago reached more remote supplies. In 1912 the lumber handled in the Chicago market measured 2,642,650,000 feet. The packing industry which began in the 40's, to supply lake-vessels and lumber-camps with salted and smoked meats, received its first impetus from the Civil War, and its second and greater one from the invention of refrigerator cars by which fresh carcasses may be shipped to any part of the world. In 1912 the slaughtering and meat packing houses of Chicago turned out products amounting to over $375,000,000 and employed upwards of 27,000 men. The iron and steel industry, which has grown up since the discovery of iron ore in the Lake Superior region, amounts to $135,000,000 (including products of foundry and machine shops); printing and publishing $74,000,000; and the manufacture of clothing, which began in the outfitting of 49ers in the rush for the California gold-fields, turned $85,000,000 into Chicago's pockets in 1912.


The manufacture of electrical machinery alone now aggregates $20,000,000 a year. At the packing houses, the International Harvester works and the plant of the Western Electric Company visitors are welcome and the processes are explained. At the electric works the making of telephones and dynamos is especially interesting and of educational value. The average pay-roll of Chicago manufactories amounts annually to $175,000,000, and in the value of manufactured products Chicago ranks second in the list of American cities.

In the wholesale trade dry goods lead with $200,000,000, produce $160,000,000, groceries $100,000,000, boots and shoes $60,000,000 and the mail order business, which enters all lines, $90,000,000. Manufactured articles are carried chiefly by rail; raw material, such as coal, iron ore, grain and lumber, etc., as largely as possible by water in the six months' open season. In 1910, 6,551 vessels, with a tonnage of 9,470,572, cleared in Chicago's two harbors.


The city owns and operates its waterworks and municipal electric lighting-plants, and has a partnership interest in, and the right to purchase, its street-railway surface-lines. The surface-mileage has trebled in ten years and is now 1,364 miles. The elevated mileage has doubled to 144 miles. The form of government is typical. The departments of police, fire, health, water, etc., are under separate heads, and the schools, library and park systems are managed by boards. The old corrupt system of police-court justice has been abolished and municipal courts established. For the child delinquents and defendants there is a juvenile court in its own building, one of the first in the world. To support the city government with its 191.39 square miles of territory and its 21,000 officials and employees, Chicago had in 1911, a revenue of $52,177,591, on an actual valuation of real and personal property of $2,783,248,476.

More than half of Chicago's population is of foreign birth or parentage. With over 40 nationalities listed by the last census, the Germans lead with 416,000, Irish 215,000, Poles 109,000, Swedes 100,000, Bohemians 76,000, Norwegians 41,000, Italians 26,000.


In many of the 407 school-buildings few of the pupils ever hear a word of English at home. There are 6,740 teachers and 307,281 pupils in the day-schools. In the night-schools are 25,000 more, chiefly foreigners. There are 21 high-schools, four of which are manual training, and a normal college. A down-town commercial college is to be established. The public library has 400,000 volumes for free circulation and reference, with many branch distributing stations. Of the endowed libraries, the Newberry covers history and music; the John Crerar library, science and mechanics; the Chicago Historical Society is the custodian of local history, relics and documents. The Art Institute, which has some notable collections, is free to the public three days in the week, and maintains an art-school.


In the Thomas Orchestra Hall, Chicago stands alone, among American cities, in the possession of an endowed home for orchestral music; and in the Field Columbian Museum of Natural History and Anthropology, endowed with $8,000,000 by the late Marshall Field, Chicago will have a scientific institution that must long eclipse anything of the kind in the world. Besides the University of Chicago, which ranks with the best in the country, Chicago has the Northwestern University at Evanston; Wheaton and Lake Forest Colleges; the Chicago, the Western and the McCormick Theological Seminary; the Armour Institute of Technology; Lewis Institute; Rush Medical College; the College of Dental Surgery; the School of Domestic Science; the Kindergarten College; and many other special schools for higher education. A marked feature of the city's educational and moral life is the many social settlements maintained by the universities and churches. Hull House, established about 20 years ago by Miss Jane Addams, was the pioneer settlement and is to-day the model upon which successful work of this kind is done everywhere in the United States.

There has been no history of Chicago of portable size published. [Kirkland's Story of Chicago is a portable history.] Visitors to the city should get a copy of the last annual edition of the Daily News Almanac to learn what to see and how to get there.

Few people are aware of the fact that Chicago has a subway of 45 miles—twice as long as that of New York City—in operation. It was begun in 1899 by the Illinois Tunnel Company, under an ordinance which required the overhead telegraph and telephone wires of the down-town or “loop” district to be carried underground. The company was reimbursed for its expenditure of $30,000,000 by permission to use the tunnel for freight-traffic. The roof of the subway lies 24 feet below the surface, beneath the water and gas and sewer mains, and the work of excavation was carried on with no interruption of traffic. By 1904, in the space of a mile square under the business district, there were 26 miles of tunnels intersecting at every second block. Connection was made with the six big freight-depots of 25 trunk lines and with the terminal station at Taylor Street and the river. The tunnels are of two sizes—trunk, 14 feet high, branch, seven feet six inches. All are lined with 21-inch cement walls poured on a framework of structural iron. The wires were carried along the walls, a narrow-gauge track was laid and trolley wires dropped from the roof. The cars are open steel-boxes, 12 feet long, of one and a half tons' capacity. In the freight-yards these cars are lifted through shafts, loaded, lowered and sent direct into the warehouses of merchants. If the goods are not required inmmediately, they may be stored in one of seven big warehouses at the terminal station. There the cars are hoisted to the top by enormous elevators, and unloaded.

The trains make from 12 to 15 miles an hour and deliver up to 100,000 tons a day. Of coal alone 4,000,000 tons are delivered through the subway to the “loop” district in a year. The system relieves the congested down-town streets of thousands of horses and wagons. Chicago is the only city in the world with a subway system of freight-distribution. Plans are being worked out for a great subway system which is to be built either by the city or by private capital under municipal control. The general plan recommended by the subway commission appointed by the mayor is for a high level subway, as close as possible to the. surface of the streets and to be operated by electricity. The estimated cost of the subways themselves is $96,257,000 and the cost of equipment $34,844,000.