Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Chicago as a Seaport, 1891

Chicago CanalThis is an interesting discussion of the proposal for the canal between Chicago and the Mississippi River in the late 19th century, from the Scientific American magazine.

The prairie land in the southwest corner of Lake Michigan, which, seventy years ago, was half morass from the overflowing of the sluggish creek, whose waters, during flood, spread over the low-lying, level plain, or were supplemented in the dry season by the inflow from the lake, showed no sign of any future development and prosperity. The few streets of wooden houses that had been built by their handful of isolated inhabitants seemed likely rather to decay from neglect and desertion than to increase, and ultimately to be swept away by fire, to make room for the extravagant and gigantic buildings that to-day characterize American civilization and commercial prosperity. Nearly 1,000 miles from the Atlantic, a greater distance from the Gulf of Mexico, and 2,000 miles from the Pacific, no wilder dream could have been imagined fifty years ago than that Chicago should become a seaport, the volume of whose business should be second only to that of New York; that forty miles of wharves and docks lining the branches of the river should be insufficient for the wants of her commerce, and that none of the magnificent lake frontage could be spared to supply the demand.

Yet this is the situation to-day, the difficulties of which must increase many fold as years pass and business grows, unless some changes are made by which increased accommodation can be obtained. The nature of these changes has long engrossed the attention of the municipality and their engineers, and necessity is forcing them from discussion to action. As such action is likely to be taken soon, the subject is of sufficient interest to the English reader to devote some space to its consideration.

The most important problem, however, which the works to be undertaken—and which must of necessity be soon commenced—will have to solve, is not one of wharf accommodation or of increased facilities of commerce. It is the better disposal of the sewage of the city, the system in use at present being inadequate, and growing more and more imperfect as the city and its population increase. During the early days of Chicago, and indeed long after, the sewage question was treated with primitive simplicity, and with a complete disregard of sanitary laws.

The river and the lake in front of the city were close at hand and convenient to receive all the discharge from the drains that flowed into them. But this condition of things had to come to an end, for the lake supplied the population with water, and it became too contaminated for use. To obtain even this temporary relief involved much of the ground level of the city being raised to a height of 14 ft. above low water, a great undertaking carried out a number of years ago. To obtain an adequate supply of pure water, Mr. E.S. Chesborough, the city engineer, adopted the ingenious plan of driving a long tunnel beneath the bed of the lake, connected at the outer end to an inlet tower built in the water, and on shore to pumping engines. This plan proved so successful that it is now being repeated on a larger scale, and with a much longer tunnel, to meet the increased demands of the large population.

But to improve the sanitary condition of the city has been a much more difficult undertaking, as may be gathered from the following extract from an official report: "The present sanitary condition calls loudly for relief. The pollution of the Desplaines and the Illinois Rivers extends 81 miles, as far as the mouth of the Fox (see plan, Fig. 1) in summer low water, and occasionally to Peoria (158 miles) in winter. Outside of the direct circulation the river harbor is indescribable. The spewing of the harbor contents into the lake, the sewers constantly discharging therein, clouds the source of water supply (the lake) with contamination. Relief to Chicago and equity to her neighbors is a necessity of the early future." To make this quotation clear it is necessary to explain the actual condition of the Chicago sewage question.

Long before the present metropolis had arrived at the title and dignity of a city, the advantage to be derived from a waterway between Lake Michigan and the Illinois River, and thence to the Mississippi, was well understood. The scheme was, in fact, considered of sufficient importance to call for legislation as early as 1822, in which year an act was passed authorizing the construction of a canal having this object. It was not commenced, however, till 1836, and was opened to navigation in the spring of 1848. This canal extended from Chicago to La Salle, a distance of 97¼ miles, and it had a fall of 146 ft. to low water in the Illinois River (see Fig. 1). It was only a small affair, 6 ft. deep, and 60 ft. wide on the surface; the locks were 110 ft. long and 18 ft. wide. The summit level, which was only 8 ft. above the lake, was 21 miles in length. This limited waterway remained in use for a number of years, until, in fact, the growth of Chicago rendered it impossible to allow the sewage to flow any longer into the lake. In 1865 the State of Illinois sanctioned widening and lowering the canal so that it should flow by gravity from Lake Michigan. The enlargement was completed in 1871, by the city of Chicago, and the sewage was then discharged toward the Illinois River. But the flow was insufficient, and in 1881 the State called on the city to supplement the flow by pumping water into the canal.

FIG. 1 In 1884, engines delivering 60,000 gallons a minute were set to work and remedied the evil for a time, so far as the city of Chicago was concerned, but the large discharge of sewage through the sluggish current of the canal and into the Illinois River proved a serious and ever-increasing nuisance to the inhabitants in the adjoining districts. To enlarge the existing canal, increase the volume and speed of its discharge, and to alter the levels, so that there shall be a relatively rapid stream flowing at all times from Lake Michigan, appears the only practical means of affording relief to the city, and immunity to other towns and villages lying along the route of the stream.

The physical nature of the country is well suited for carrying out such a project on a scale far larger than that required for sewage purposes, and works thus carried out would, to a small extent, restore the old water regime in this part of the continent. Before the vast surface changes produced during the last glacial period, three of the great lakes—Michigan, Huron and Superior—discharged their waters southward into the Gulf of Mexico by a broad river. The accumulation of glacial debris changed all this; the southern outlet was cut off, and a new one to the north was opened near where Detroit stands, making a channel to Lake Erie, which then became the outlet for the whole chain by way of Niagara. A very slight change in levels would serve to restore the present regime. Around Lake Michigan the land has been slightly raised, the summit above mean water level being only about 8 ft. Thirty miles from the south shore the lake level is again reached at a point near Lockport (see Fig. 2); the fall then becomes more marked. At Lake Joliet, 10 miles further, the fall is 77 ft.; and at La Salle, 100 miles from Chicago, the total fall reaches 146 feet. At La Salle the Illinois River is met, and this stream, after a course of 225 miles, enters the Missouri. In the whole distance the Illinois River has a fall of 29 ft. "It has a sluggish current; an oozy bed and bars, formed chiefly by tributaries, with natural depths of 2 ft. to 4 ft.; banks half way to high waters, and low bottoms, one to six miles wide, bounded by terraces, overflowed during high water from 4 ft. to 12 ft. deep, and intersected in dry seasons by lake, bayou, lagoon, and marsh, the wreck of a mighty past."

The rectification of the Illinois and the construction of a large canal from La Salle to Lake Michigan are, therefore, all that is necessary to open a waterway to the Gulf of Mexico, and to make Chicago doubly a port; on the one hand, for the enormous lake traffic now existing; on the other, for the trade that would be created in both directions, northward to Lake Michigan, and southward to the Gulf.

As a matter of fact this great scheme has long occupied the attention of the United States government. A bill in 1882 authorized surveys for "a canal from a point on the Illinois River, at or near the town of Hennepin, by the most practical route to the Mississippi River ... and a survey of the Illinois and Michigan Canal connecting the Illinois River with Chicago, and estimates from its enlargements." This scheme only contemplated navigation for boats up to 600 tons. In 1885 the Citizens' Association, of Chicago caused a report to be made for an extended plan. The name of Mr. L.E. Cooly, at that time municipal sanitary engineer, was closely associated with this report, as it is at the present time for the agitation for carrying out the works. This report recommended that "an ample channel be created from Chicago to the Illinois River, sufficient to carry away in a diluted state the sewage of a large population. That this channel may be enlarged by the State or national government to any requirement of navigation or water supply for the whole river, creating incidentally a great water power in the Desplaines valley." Following this report and that of a Drainage and Water Supply Commission, a bill was introduced into Congress supporting the recommendations that had been made, and providing the financial machinery for carrying it into execution. Since that date much discussion has taken place, and some little action; meanwhile the sanitary requirements of the city are growing more urgent, and the pressure created from this cause will enforce some decision before long. Whether the new waterway is to be practically an open sewer or a ship canal remains yet to be seen, but it is tolerably certain that its dimensions and volume of water must approximate to the latter, if the large populations of other towns are to be satisfied. In fact the actual necessities are so great as regards sectional area of canal and flow of water—at least 600,000 ft. a minute—that comparatively small extra outlay would be needed to complete the ship canal.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Chicago's Population in 1900

Of the total population in 1900 not less than 34.6% were foreign-born; the number of persons either born abroad, or born in the United States of foreign parentage (i.e. father or both parents foreign), was 77.4% of the population, and in the total number of males of voting age the foreign-born predominated (53.4%). Of the latter category 68.2% were already citizens by naturalization. 3.9% of the inhabitants of ten years of age or upward were illiterate (unable to write), while the percentage of foreign-born whites was 8.2% (93.9% of illiterate males of voting age). Germans, Irish, Poles, Swedes and Bohemians made up respectively 29.1, 12.6, 8.6, 8.3 and 6.2% of the foreign-born population. It was estimated in 1903 by a very competent authority that above 500,000 persons spoke German, 125,000 Polish, 100,000 Swedish, 90,000 Bohemian, 50,000 Norwegian, 50,000 Yiddish, 35,000 Dutch, 25,000 Italian, 20,000 Danish, 17,000 French and 12,000 Irish (Celtic), and that each of fourteen foreign languages was spoken by more than 10,000 people: “Newspapers appear regularly in 10 languages, and church-services may be heard in about 20 languages. Chicago is the second largest Bohemian city of the world, the third Swedish, the fourth Norwegian, the fifth Polish, the fifth German (New York being the fourth). In all there are some 40 languages spoken by ... over one million” persons.21 The death-rate of Chicago is the lowest of the great cities of the country. Births are but slightly in excess of deaths, so that the growth of the city is almost wholly from immigration. The death-rate is the lowest of the great cities of the country (16.2 in 1900; New York, 20.4; Boston, 20.1 etc.).

The growth of Chicago has been remarkable even for American cities. Any resident of four-score years living in 1900 had seen it grow from a settlement of fourteen houses, a frontier military post among the Indians, to a great metropolis, fifth in size among the cities of the world. In 1828 what is now the business center was fenced in as a pasture; in 1831 the Chicago mail was deposited in a dry-goods box; the tax-levy of 1834 was $48.90, and a well that constituted the city water-works was sunk at a cost of $95.50; in 1843 hogs were barred from the town streets. Such facts impress upon one, as nothing else can, the marvelously rapid growth of the city. In 1830 with a population of less than 100, in 1840 with 4479, the increase by percentages in succeeding decades was as follows: 507.3, 264.6, 173.6, 68.3, 118.6 and 54.4; an increase equivalent to 8.6% annually, compounded. Such a continuous “boom” no other American city has ever known.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The University of Chicago, 1911

Excerpted from the public domain 1911 edition of a major British encyclopedia.

The University of Chicago was established under Baptist auspices in the city of Chicago, and opened in 1892.[1] Though the president and two-thirds of the trustees are always Baptists, the university is non-sectarian except as regards its divinity school. An immense ambition and the extraordinary organizing ability shown by its first president, William R. Harper, determined and characterized the remarkable growth of the university’s first decade of activity. The grounds include about 140 acres. Of these about 60 acres—given in part by Marshall Field and laid out by Frederick Law Olmsted—border the Midway Plaisance, connecting Washington and Jackson parks. On these grounds the main part of the university stands. The buildings are mostly of grey limestone, in Gothic style, and grouped in quadrangles. The Mitchell tower is a shortened reproduction of Magdalen tower, Oxford, and the University Commons, Hutchinson Hall, is a duplicate of Christ Church hall, Oxford. Dormitories accommodate about a fifth of the students. The quadrangles include clubs, dining halls, dormitories, gymnasiums, assembly halls, recitation halls, laboratories and libraries. In the first college year, 1892-1893, there were 698 students; in that of 1907-1908 there were 5038,[2] of whom 2186 were women. There are faculties of arts, literature, science, divinity,[3] medicine (organized in 1901), law (1902), education, and commerce and administration. The astronomical department, the Yerkes Observatory, is located on William’s Bay, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, about 65 m. from Chicago. It has the largest refracting telescope in the world (clear aperture 40 in., focal length about 61 ft.). The Chicago Institute, founded and endowed by Mrs Anita McCormick Blaine as an independent normal school, became a part of the university in 1901. The school of education, as a whole, brings under university influence hundreds of children from kindergarten age upwards to young manhood and womanhood, apart from the university classes proper. Chicago was the second university of the country to give its pedagogical department such scope in the union of theory and practice. The nucleus of the library (450,000 volumes in 1908) was purchased in Berlin soon after the university’s organization, in one great collection of 175,000 volumes. Scholarly research has been fostered in every possible way, and the university press has been active in the publication of various departmental series and the following periodicals:—Biblical World, American Journal of Theology, American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, American Journal of Sociology, Journal of Political Economy, Modern Philology, Classical Philology, Classical Journal, Journal of Geology, Astrophysical Journal, Botanical Gazette, Elementary School Teacher and School Review. The courses in the College of Commerce and 126 Administration link the university closely with practical life. In extension work the university has been active from the beginning, instruction being given not only by lectures but by correspondence (a novel and unique feature among American universities); in the decade 1892-1902, 1715 persons were prepared by the latter method for matriculation in the university (11.6% of the total number of matriculants in the decade). Extension lectures were given in twenty-two states. At Chicago the work of the university is continuous throughout the year: the “summer quarter” is not as in other American schools a supplement to the teaching year, but an integral part; and it attracts the teachers of the middle western states and of the south. In the work of the first two years, known together as the Junior College, men and women are in the main given separate instruction; but in the Senior College years unrestricted co-education prevails. Students are mainly controlled by self-government in small groups (“the house system”). Relations with “affiliated” (private) colleges and academies and “co-operating” (public) high-schools also present interesting features.

The value of the property of the university in 1908 was about $25,578,000. Up to the 30th of June 1908 it had received from gifts actually paid $29,651,849, of which $22,712,631 were given by John D. Rockefeller.[4] The value of buildings in 1908 was $4,508,202, of grounds $4,406,191, and of productive funds $14,186,235. Upon the death of President Harper, Harry Pratt Judson (b. 1849), then head professor of political science and dean of the faculties of arts, became acting president, and on the 20th of January 1907 he was elected president.

See the Decennial Publications of the University (since 1903), especially vol. i. for details of history and administration.

1 A small Baptist college of the same name—-established in 1855 on land given by S.A. Douglas—went out of existence in 1886.

2 If, however, the total is reckoned on the basis of nine months of residence the figure for 1907-1908 would be 3202.

3 The Divinity School has a graduate department and three under-graduate departments, doing work in English, in Danish and Norwegian, and in Swedish. Allied with the Divinity School of the University is the “Disciples’ Divinity House” (1894), a theological school of the Disciples of Christ.

4 The words “founded by John D. Rockefeller” follow the title of the university on all its letterheads and official documents. Mr Rockefeller would not allow his name to be a part of the title, nor has he permitted the designation of any building by his name. President Harper was selected by him to organize the university, and it was his will that the president and two-thirds of the trustees should be “always” Baptists. President Harper more than once stated most categorically that contrary to prevalent beliefs no donor of funds to the university “has ever (1902) by a single word or act indicated his dissatisfaction with the instruction given to students in the university, or with the public expression of opinion made by any officer of the university”; and certainly so far as the public press reveals, no other university of the country has had so many professors who have in various lines, including economics, expressed radical views in public.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Chicago's Universities, 1911

From a 1911 Encyclopedia

There are three universities situated wholly or in part in the city. The leading institution is the University of Chicago. The professional department of North-Western University is in Chicago, while its academic department is in the suburb of Evanston. North-Western University was organized in 1851 and is under Methodist Episcopal control. Its students in 1908 (exclusive of pupils in “co-operating” theological schools) numbered 3850; the best equipped departments are those of dentistry, medicine and pharmacy.

There are two Roman Catholic colleges in Chicago: Loyola University (chartered in 1870), with a department of law, called Lincoln College (1908), and a medical department; and St. Stanislaus College (1870).

The College of Physicians and Surgeons is the medical department of the University of Illinois, at Champaign-Urbana.

Theological schools independent of the universities include the McCormick Theological Seminary (Presbyterian); the Chicago Theological Seminary (Congregational, opened 1858, and including German, Danish-Norwegian and Swedish Institutes); the Western Episcopal Theological Seminary; a German Lutheran theological seminary, and an Evangelical Lutheran theological seminary.

There are a number of independent medical schools and schools of dentistry and veterinary surgery. The Lewis Institute (bequest 1877, opened 1896), designed to give a practical education to boys and girls at a nominal cost, and the Armour Institute of Technology, one of the best technical schools of the country, provide technical education and are well endowed. The Armour Institute was founded in 1892 by Philip D. Armour, and was opened in 1893. It comprises the College of Engineering, including, besides the usual departments, a department of chemical engineering and a department of fire protection engineering, a department of “commercial tests,” and the Armour Scientific Academy (preparatory). In 1907 the Institute had 1869 students. The Chicago Academy of Science (1857) has a handsome building and museum collections in Lincoln Park.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Chicago Libraries, 1911

At the head of the libraries of the city stands the public library (established 1872; opened 1874), supported by taxation, which on the 1st of June 1910 had 402,848 volumes, and in the year 1910 circulated 1,805,012 volumes. In 1889 John Crerar (1827-1889), a wealthy manufacturer of railroad supplies, left to the city for the endowment of a non-circulating library funds which in 1907 were estimated to amount to $3,400,000. The library was incorporated in 1894 and was opened in 1897; in February 1908 it had 216,000 volumes and 60,000 pamphlets. It occupies a floor in the Marshall Field Building on Wabash Avenue.

Another reference library was established (opened in 1887) with a bequest (1868) of Walter L. Newberry. It has a rich endowment, and in February 1908 had 191,644 volumes and 43,644 pamphlets. By a plan of co-operation each of these three libraries devotes itself primarily to special fields: the John Crerar is best for the natural, physical and social sciences; the Newberry is particularly strong in history, music, medicine, rare books and fine editions; the public library covers the whole range of general literature.

The library of the University of Chicago contained in 1908 some 450,000 titles.

Among other collections are those of the Chicago Historical Society (1856; about 150,000 titles in 1908), the Athenaeum (1871); the Law Institute and Library (1857), which in 1908 had about 46,500 volumes; the Art Institute, the Field Museum of Natural History, the Academy of Sciences (1857) and the libraries of various schools.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Photos from the Columbian Exposition, 1893

Chicago Columbian Exposition, Liberal Arts Building
Over time I'll be posting some images of the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893. As a start, here's a view of the Manufacturer's Building and the Liberal Arts Building, and also the North Facade of the Liberal Arts building... including views of the gondolas on the nearby waterways.

Chicago Columbian Exposition


The park system may be said to have been begun in 1869, and in 1870 aggregated 1887 acres. Chicago then acquired the name of “The Garden City,” which still clings to her. But many other cities have later passed her (until in 1904, though the second largest of the country, she ranked only thirty-second in her holdings of park area per capita among American cities of 100,000 population). In 1908 the acreage of the municipal parks was 3179 acres, and there were 61.4 m. of boulevards. After 1900 another period of ambitious development began. The improvement of old and the creation of new “internal” parks, i.e. within the cordon of those older parks and boulevards that once girdled the city but have been surrounded in its later growth; the creation of a huge metropolitan ring—similar to that of Boston but vaster (35,000 acres)—of lake bluffs, hills, meadows, forests and river valley; and a great increase of “neighbourhood parks” in the poor districts, are included in the new undertakings.

The neighbourhood park, usually located near a school, is almost all-inclusive in its provision for all comers, from babyhood to maturity, and is open all day. There are sand gardens and wading ponds and swings and day nurseries, gymnasiums, athletic fields, swimming pools and baths, reading-rooms—generally with branches of the city library—lunch counters, civic club rooms, frequent music, assembly halls for theatricals, lectures, concerts, or meetings, penny savings banks, and in the winter skating ponds. These social centres have practically all been created since about 1895. There are also municipal baths on the lake front and elsewhere. The older parks include several of great size and beauty. Lincoln Park (area 552 acres), on the lake shore of the North Side, has been much enlarged by an addition reclaimed from the lake. It has fine monuments, conservatories, the only zoological garden in the city, and the collections of the Academy of Sciences. A breakwater carriage drive connects with a boulevard to Fort Sheridan (27 m.) up the lake. Jackson Park (542 acres), on the lake shore of the South Side, was the main site of the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, and contains the Field Columbian Museum, occupying the art building of the exposition. It is joined with Washington Park (371 acres) by the Midway Plaisance, a wide boulevard, intended to be converted into a magnificent sunken water-course connecting the lagoons of the two parks with Lake Michigan. Along the Midway are the greystone buildings of the University of Chicago, and of its (Blaine) School of Education.

On the West Side are three fine parks—Douglas, Garfield (with a fine conservatory), and Humboldt, which has a remarkable rose garden (respectively 182, 187 and 206 acres), and in the extreme South Side several others, including Calumet (66 acres), by the lake side, and Marquette (322 acres), Jackson Boulevard, Western Avenue Boulevard and Marshall Boulevard join the South and the West Park systems. Neither New York nor Boston has preserved as has Chicago the beauty of its water front. The shore of the North Side is quite free, and beginning a short distance above the river is skirted for almost 30 m. by the Lake Shore Drive, Lincoln Park and the Sheridan Drive.

The shore of the South Side is occupied by railway tracks, but they have been sunk and the shore otherwise improved. In addition to Calumet and Jackson parks there was another just below the river, Lake Park, which has since been included in Grant Park, mostly reclaimed from the water. Here are the public library and the building of the Art Institute (opened in 1893); the park had also been proposed as the site of a new building for the Field Museum of Natural History. The park and boulevards along the lake in 1905 stretched 10.78 m., within the city limits, or almost half the total frontage.10 The inner “boulevards” are broad parked ways, 150 to 300 ft. wide, joining the parks; Chicago was the first American city to adopt this system.