WHEN Professor Goldwin Smith was preparing for his voyage to America, Mr. Richard Cobden said to him, " See two things in the United States, if nothing else, — Niagara and Chicago.” Professor Smith acted upon this advice, and, while visiting Chicago, acknowledged that the two objects named by his friend were indeed the wonders of North America. Chicago can claim one point of superiority over its fellow-wonder. According to the geologists, the cataract has been about four hundred centuries in becoming what it is, but the city has come to pass in thirty-three years.
On Monday morning, October 4, 1834, word was brought to the people of Chicago that a large black bear had been seen in a strip of woods a quarter of a mile out of town. The male population seized their guns and made for the forest, where the bear was soon treed and shot. After so cheering an exploit, the hunters, disinclined to resume their ordinary labors, resolved to make a day of it, and have a dash at the wolves which then prowled nightly in every part of Chicago. Before the night closed in they had killed forty wolves, all on the site of the present Metropolis of the Northwest! The wolves, however, did not take the hint, since we learn that, as late as 1838, the howlings of this pest of the prairies were occasionally heard far within the present city limits. Yet even, then the inhabitants of the place were bewildered at the rapidity of its growth, and spoke of the brilliant prospects before it very much as they now do.
In 1830, Chicago was what it had been for a quarter of a century, — a military post and fur station, consisting of twelve habitations. There was a log fort, with its garrison of two companies of United States troops. There was the fur agency. There were three taverns, so called, much haunted by idle, drunken Indians, who brought in furs, and remained to drink up the proceeds. There were two stores supplied with such goods as Indians buy. There was a blacksmith’s shop, a house for the interpreter of the station, and one occupied by Indian chiefs. All that part of Illinois swarmed with Indians. As many Indian trails then marked the prairie and concentrated at the agencyhouse as there are railroads now terminating in the city of Chicago ; for the Indians brought furs to that point from beyond the Mississippi, as well as from the great prairies of the North and South. Once a year John Jacob Astor sent a schooner to the post to convey supplies to it, and take away the year’s product of fur. Once a week in summer, twice a month in winter, a mail rider brought news to the place from the great world on the other side of the Lakes. In 1830, there resided at Chicago, besides the garrison and the fur agent, four white families. In 1831, there were twelve families ; and when winter came on, the troops having been withdrawn, the whole population moved into the fort, and had a pleasant winter of it, with their debating society and balls. In 1832, the taxes amounted to nearly one hundred and fifty dollars, twelve of which were expended in the erection of Chicago’s first public building, — a pound for stray cattle.
But in 1833, the rush began. Before that year closed there were fifty families floundering in Chicago mud. When the forty wolves were slain in 1834, there were, as it appears, nearly two thousand inhabitants in the town ; and in November, 1835, more than three thousand.
The motive must have been powerful which could induce such large numbers of people to settle upon that most uninviting shore. A new town on a flat prairie, as seen from car-windows, has usually the aspect which is described as God-forsaken. Wagon-wheels have obliterated the only beauty the prairie ever had, and streaked it with an excellent article of blacking. There may be but twenty little wooden houses in the place ; but it is “laid out” with all the rigor of mathematics ; and every visible object, whether animate or inanimate, the pigs that root in the soft black prairie mire, the boys, the horses, the wagons, the houses, the fences, the school-house, the steps of the store, the railroad platform, are all powdered or plastered with disturbed prairie. If, filled with compassion for the unhappy beings whom stern fate seems to have cast out upon that dismal plain, far from the abodes of men, the traveller enters into conversation with them, he finds them all hope and animation, and disposed to pity him because he neither owns any corner lots in that future metropolis, nor has intellect enough to see what a speculation it would be to buy a few. Pity ! You might as well pity the Prince of Wales because he is not yet king.
Chicago, for fifteen years after it began its rapid increase, was perhaps of all prairie towns the most repulsive to every human sense. The place was in vile odor even among the Indians, since the name they gave it, — Chicago,—if it does not mean skunk, as some old hunters aver, signifies nothing of sweeter odor than wild onion.
The prairie on that part of the shore of Lake Michigan appears to the eye as fiat as the lake itself, and its average height above the lake is about six feet. A gentleman who arrived at Chicago from the South in 1833 reports that he waded the last eight miles of his journey in water from one to three feet deep, — a sheet of water extending as far as the eye could reach over what is now the fashionable quarter of Chicago and its most elegant suburbs. Another traveller records, that, in 1831, in riding about what is now the very centre and heart of the business portion of the city, he often felt the water swashing through his stirrups. Even in dry summer weather that part of the prairie was very wet, and during the rainy seasons no one attempted to pass over it on foot. “ I would not have given sixpence an acre for the whole of it,” said a gentleman, speaking of land much of which is now held at five hundred dollars a foot. It looked so unpromising to farmers’ eyes, that Chicago imported a considerable part of its provisions from the eastern shores of Lake Michigan, as late as 1838. Chicago, that did this only twenty-eight years ago, now feeds states and kingdoms.
Why settle such a spot, when the same shore presented better sites ? It was only because the Chicago River furnished there the possibility of a harbor on the coast of the stormiest of lakes. The Chicago River is not a river. The lake at that point had cut into the soft prairie, just as the ocean cuts deep, regular fissures into the rockbound coast of New England and its rocky isles. This cutting, which was a hundred yards wide, ran straight into the prairie for three quarters of a mile, then divided into two forks, one running north, the other south, and both parallel to the lake shore. These two branches extend for several miles, and lose themselves at last in the prairie sloughs. There is no tide or flow to this curious inlet, except such as is caused by the winds blowing the waters of the lake into it, which flows out when the wind changes or subsides. Originally the inlet was twenty feet deep, but, the mouth being obstructed by a sand-bar, it only admitted vessels of thirty or forty tons. But the crevice was there, ready for the dredge, which has since made it capable of receiving the largest ships that sail the lakes, and given Chicago thirty miles of wharves. Considering the peculiar destiny of Chicago, as the great distributor of commodities, no engineer could have contrived a more convenient harbor; for, go where you will in the city, you cannot get far from it, and every mill, warehouse, elevator, and factory can have its branch or basin, and receive and send away merchandise in boats at its door. Those drawbridges, it is true, are rather in the way at present. It is a trial to the patience to have to wait while seventeen little snorting tug-boats tow through the draw seventeen long three-masters from the lake; but nothing daunts Chicago. In three years from this time, those seventeen maddening drawbridges will have been superseded by seventeen tunnels. Underneath that oozy prairie, which an hour’s rain converts into Day and Martin, and an hour’s sun into fine Maccoboy, there is an excellent clay which affords the finest tunnelling, and which indomitable Chicago turns to various account, as time reveals the need of it.
The growth of Chicago since 1833, though it strikes every mind with wonder, is not in the least mysterious, There the city stands, at the southern end of Lake Michigan, which gives it necessarily a leading share of the commerce of all the Lakes, and easy access by land, round the southern shore of Lake Michigan, to all the East and Southeast. But there Chicago was for thirty years without advancing beyond the rank of an outpost of civilization, and there it might have stood for ages in the same condition, if the region behind it had remained unpeopled. That muddy inlet, called the Chicago River, is a portal to the prairies, and Chicago has grown with the development and accessibility of that wonderful region, of which it is the grand depot, exchange, counting-house, and metropolis.
Those prairies, long undervalued, are now known to be that portion of the earth’s surface where Nature has accumulated the greatest variety and quantity of what man needs for the sustenance and the decoration of his life, and where she has placed the fewest and smallest obstacles in his way. That is the region where a deep furrow can be drawn through the richest mould for thirty miles or more, without striking a pebble, a bog, or a root; and under almost every part of which there is deposited some kind of mineral— clay, coal, stone, lead, iron—useful to man. Besides being well watered by rivers, nowhere is it so easy to make artificial highways,—roads, railroads, and canals. The climate, like all climates, has its inconveniences, but, upon the whole, there is none better, Not much of the prairie land is flat; most of it is undulating enough for utility and beauty. Blest are the eyes that see a rolling prairie at a season of the year when the grass is green and the sky is clear ! It is an enchanting world of azure and billowy emerald, where, from the summit of a green wave twenty feet high, you can see whole counties, The absence of all dark objects, such as woods, roads, rocks, hills, and fences, gives the visitor the feeling that never before in all his life was he completely out of doors. It is a delicious sensation, when you inquire the way to a place ten miles off, to have it pointed out, and to make for it across verdant elastic prairie, untrammelled by roads. The landscape has, too, such a finished aspect, that the traveller finds it difficult to believe that he is not wandering in a boundless park, refined by a thousand years of culture. When the country has been settled for many years, it does not lose this park-like appearance ; it looks then as it some enlightened nobleman had turned democrat, torn down his park walls, and invited his neighbors to come in and build upon his rounded knolls and wave-like ridges.
And there is enough of this exquisite country for twelve great States, and to maintain a population of one hundred millions. It is sure to be the seat of empire forever. Chicago, the inevitable metropolis of the vigorous northwestern third of the prairie world, has taken the lead in rendering the whole of it accessible. Her vocation is to put every good acre in all that region within ten miles of a railroad, and to connect every railroad with a system of ship-canals terminating in the Mississippi and the Atlantic Ocean. That is, has been, and will be for many a year to come Chicago’s work ; and her own growth will be exactly measured by her wisdom and efficiency in doing it. So far, every mile of railroad has yielded its proportionable revenue to the great prairie exchange and banking-house ; and this fact, now clearly seen by every creature in the town, guarantees the execution of the task.
They see it now; but it ought to moderate the boasting of some of the elders of Chicago, that they were full fifteen years in finding it out. The boasters should further consider, that the canal which connects Lake Michigan with the Illinois River and with the Mississippi was thought of in 1814, and authorized in 1825, when as yet there was no Chicago ; and the fogy interest should ever be kept in mind that the projectors of the first railroad to the Mississippi had to encounter the opposition of most of the business men of the town, who were certain it would ruin Chicago by distributing its business along the line of the road. But, with these deductions allowed, there is enough in the early history of the city to justify more self-laudation than is generally becoming.
Those crowds of idle and dissolute Indians were the first obstacle to the growth of Chicago with which the early settlers had to contend. On a day in September, 1833, seven thousand of them gathered at the village to meet commissioners of the United States for the purpose of selling their lands in Illinois and Wisconsin. In a large tent on the bank of the river, the chiefs signed a treaty which ceded to the United States the best twenty million acres of the Northwest, and agreed to remove twenty days’ journey west of the Mississippi. A year later, four thousand of the dusky nuisances assembled in Chicago to receive their first annual annuity. The goods to be distributed were heaped up on the prairie, and the Indians were made to sit down around the pile in circles, the squaws sitting demurely in the outer ring. Those who were selected to distribute the merchandise took armfuls from the heap, and tossed the articles to favorites seated on the ground, Those who were overlooked soon grew impatient, rose to their feet, pressed forward, and at last rusned upon the pile, each struggling to seize somethinfrom it. So severe was the scramble, that those who had secured an armful could not get away, and the greater number of empty-handed could not near the heap. Then those on the outside began to hurl heavy articles at the crowd, to clear the way for themselves and the scramble ended in a fight in which several of the Indians were killed, and a large number wounded. Night closed in on a wild debauch, and when the next morning arrived few of the Indians were the better off for the thirty thousand dollars’worth goods which had been given them. Similar scenes, with similar bloody results, were enacted in the fall of 1835 ; but that was the last Indian payment Chicago ever saw. In September, 1835, a long train of forty wagons, each drawn by four oxen, conveyed away, across the prairies, the children and effects of the Pottawatomies, the men and ablebodied women walking alongside. In twenty days they crossed the Mississippi, and for twenty days longer continued their westward march, and Chicago was troubled with them no more. Walking in the imposing streets of the Chicago of to-day, how difficult it is to realize that thirty-two years have not elapsed since the red men were dispossessed of the very site on which the city stands, and were “ toted ” off in forty clays to a point now reached in fifteen hours !
This was the work of our common Uncle, and Chicago does not boast of it. Nor can she claim the credit of the improvement of the harbor in 1833 and 1834, which first Called the attention of the country to that frontier post. The United States spent thirty thousand dollars, in 1833, in dredging out the Chicago River; and in the spring of 1834 a most timely freshet swept away the bar at the mouth of the river, making it accessible to the largest lake craft, This made Chicago an important lake port at once. The town had taken its first stride toward greatness. In 1836 the population was four thousand.
Then there was a check to the prosperity of Chicago, as to that of Illinois and of the United States ; and the population scarcely increased for five years, if, indeed, it did not diminish. Besides the mania for land speculation, which ended in prostrating the business ot the whole country, Illinoisans had embarked the credit of the State in schemes ot internal improvement too costly for the time, though since surpassed and executed by private enterprise. The State was bankrupt; work on the railroads ceased ; and even the canal designed to connect Lake Michigan with the Illinois River was abandoned for a time. Chicago languished, and repented that it had ever dared to be anything but a military post. Those corner lots, those river sites, those lake borders, so eagerly sought in 1835, were loathsome to the sight of luckless holders in 1837. Some men in Chicago are millionnaires to-day only because they could not sell their land at any price during those years of desolation and despair. But it was in those very years, 1837 to 1842, that Chicago entered upon its career. A little beef had already been salted and sent across the lake ; but in 1839 the business began to assume promising proportions, 3,000 cattle having been driven in from the prairies, barrelled, and exported. In 1838, a venturesome trader shipped thirty-nine two-bushel bags of wheat. Next year, nearly 4.000 bushels were exported ; the next, 10,000 ; the next, 40,000. In 1842, the amount rose, all at once, from 40,000 to nearly 600,000, and announced to parties interested, that the “ hard times ” were coming to an end in Chicago. But the soft times were not. That mountain of grain was brought into this quagmire of a town from far back in the prairies, — twenty, fifty, one hundred, and even one hundred and fifty miles : The season for carrying grain to market is also the season of rain, and many a farmer in those times has seen his load hopelessly " slewed ” within what is now Chicago. The streets used often to be utterly choked and impassable from the concourse of wagons, which ground the roads into long vats of blacking. And yet, before there was a railroad begun or a canal finished, Chicago exported two and a quarter millions of bushels of grain in a year, and sent back, on most of the wagons that brought it, part of a load of merchandise.
The canal connecting the Chicago River with the Illinois, and through that river with the Mississippi, begun in 1836, and finished in 1848, opened to Chicago an immense area of uncultivated acres, which could then come into profitable cultivation. But the immediate effects of this great event upon the trade of the city were not great enough to open the eyes of its business men to the single condition upon which the growth of the town depended, namely, its accessibility to the Eastern cities and to the great prairie world. Chicago was still little more than a thriving country town, which received the products of adjacent farms, and gave in exchange merchandise brought in three weeks from the sea-shore. Middle-aged gentlemen of Chicago have a lively recollection of the opposition of storekeepers to the first project of a railroad to the Mississippi River. In 1850, the Chicago and Galena Railroad was completed for forty-two miles, to the rolling prairies by which the beautiful and vigorous town of Elgin is surrounded. From that time, there were indeed fewer ox-teams wallowing in Chicago mire, but trade increased and changed its character from retail to wholesale ; and the wheat coming in by car-loads to the river shore was poured into the waiting vessels with a great saving of labor and expense. Still there were men in Chicago who did not take the idea. The money which built that forty-two miles of road had to be borrowed, in great part, on the personal responsibility of the directors, and the road could not have been built at all but for the fact that a prairie railroad is nothing but two ditches and a track. The railroads, said the fogies, will drain the country of its resources, Chicago of its business, and place the welfare of Illinois at the mercy of Eastern capitalists. But when, in 1853, the road paid a dividend of eleven per cent, and it was found that Chicago had trebled its population in six years after the opening of the canal, and that every mile of the railroad had poured its quota of wealth into Chicago coffers, then the truth took possession of the whole mind of Chicago, and became its fixed idea, that every acre with which it could put itself into easy communication must pay tribute to it forever. From that time there has been no pause and no hesitation ; but all the surplus force and revenue of Chicago have been expended in making itself the centre of a great system of railroads and canals.
It was in April, 1849, eighteen years ago, that the whistle of the locomotive was first heard on the prairies west of Chicago ; and this locomotive drew a train to a distance of ten miles from the city, amid the cheers of the people who had little to lose, and the forebodings of most of those who had much. The railroad system of which Chicago is a centre now includes eight thousand miles of track, and the railroad system of which Chicago is the centre embraces nearly five thousand miles of track. A passenger train reaches or leaves the city every fifteen minutes of the twenty-four hours. Not less than two hundred trains arrive or depart in a day and night. No farm in Illinois is more than fifty miles from a station, and very few so far; the average distance, as near as we can compute so impossible a problem, is not more than seven miles. There are sixteen points on the Mississippi which have railroad communication with Chicago. The Illinois Central, with its seven hundred miles of road, lays open the central part of the long State of Illinois, and has brought into culture nearly two million acres of the best land in the world. The straight road to St. Louis renders accessible another line of Illinois counties, besides "tapping ” the commerce of the Missouri River at Alton, and that of the Lower Mississippi at St. Louis. Other roads stretch out long arms into the fertile prairies of Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, and extend far towards the mining region of Lake Superior : and on whatever lines railroads are building or contemplated to the Pacific, Chicago means to be ready with facilities for reaping her natural share of the advantages resulting from their completion. It is but fifteen years since Chicago first had railroad communication with the cities on the Atlantic coast, and the traveller now has his choice of three main lines, which branch out to every important intermediate point. Railroad depots, immense in extent and admirably convenient, are rising in Chicago in anticipation of the incalculable business of the future, —such depots as ought to put to shame the directors of some of our Eastern roads, who afford to their human freight accommodations less generous than Chicago bestows upon the pigs and cattle that pass through the city. There is one depot for passengers only, which has under cover three quarters of a mile of track, from which three trains can start at the same moment, without the least danger of interference, and wherein no passenger has to cross a track in changing cars. In every sphere of exertion, those Western men improve upon Eastern models and methods. They have sleeping-cars in those grand depots, built at a cost of twenty-five thousand dollars, in which a king would only be too happy to ride, sup, sleep, and play whist.
In some parts of the country, railroads have temporarily diminished the importance of water communication. This is not the case with the Great Lakes, nor with Chicago’s lion’s share of their commerce. It is but yesterday that Astor’s single schooner of forty tons was the only vessel known to the Chicago River except Indian canoes. Chicago is now more than the Marseilles of our Mediterranean, though Marseilles was a place of note twenty-four hundred years ago. Severity-seven steamers, one hundred and eighteen barques, forty-three brigs, six hundred and thirteen schooners, fifty-three scows and barges, — in all, nine hundred and four vessels, carrying 218,215 tons, and employing ten thousand sailors, — now ply between Chicago and the other Lake ports. In the winter, after navigation has closed, four hundred vessels may be counted in the harbor, frozen up safely in the ice. On a certain day of last November, a favorable wind blew into port two hundred and eighteen vessels loaded with timber.
Provided thus with the means of gathering in and sending away the surplus products of the prairies, the granary of the world, and of supplying them with merchandise in return, Chicago has, for the last few years, transacted an amount of business that astonishes and bewilders herself, when she has time to pause and add up the figures. The export of grain, which began in 1838 with seventy-eight bushels, had run up to six millions and a half in 1853. In 1854, when there were two lines of railroad in operation across the State of Michigan to the East, the export of grain more than doubled, the quantity being nearly eleven millions of bushels. From that time, the export has been as follows: —
1854 .... 12,932,320
1855 .... 16,633,700
1856 .... 21,583,221
1857 .... 18,032,678
1858 .... 20,035,166
1859 .... 16,771,812
1860 .... 31,108,759
1861 .... 50,481,862
1862 .... 56,484,110
1863 .... 54,741,839
1864-5 .... 47,124,494
1865-6 .... 53,212,224
The ease, the quietness and celerity, with which this inconceivable quantity of grain is “handled,” as they term it, although hands never touch it, is one of the wonders of Chicago. Whether it arrives by canal, railroad, or lake, it comes “ in bulk,” i. e. without bags or barrels, loose in the car or boat. The train or the vessel stops at the side of one of those seventeen tall elevators, by which the grain is pumped into enormous bins, and poured out into other cars or vessels on the other side of the building, — the double operation being performed in a few minutes by steam. The utmost care is taken to do this business honestly. The grain is all inspected, and the brand of the inspector fixes its grade absolutely. The owner may have his grain deposited in the part of the elevator assigned to its quality, where it blends with a mountain of the same grade. He never sees his grain again, but he carries away the receipt of the clerk of the elevator, which represents his property as unquestionably as a certified check. Those little slips of paper, changing hands on ’Change, constitute the business of the “grain men” of Chicago. When Chicago exported a few thousands of bushels a year, the business blocked the streets and filled the town with commotion ; but now that it exports fifty or sixty millions of bushels, a person might live a month at Chicago without being aware that anything was doing in grain.
Recently, Chicago has sought to economize in transportation, by sending away part of this great mass of food in the form of flour. The ten flour-mills there produce just one thousand barrels of flour every working day.
Saving in the cost of transportation being Chicago’s special business and mission, and corn being the great product of the Northwest, it is in the transport of that grain that the most surprising economy has been effected. A way has been discovered of packing fifteen or twenty bushels of Indian corn in a single barrel. “ The corn crop,” as Mr. S. B. Ruggles remarked recently in Chicago, “ is condensed and reduced in bulk by feeding it into an animal form, more portable. The hog eats the corn, and Europe eats the hog. Corn thus becomes incarnate ; for what is a hog, but fifteen or twenty bushels of corn on four legs ? ” Mr. Ruggles further observed, amid the laughter of his audience, that the three hundred millions of pounds of American pork exported to Europe in 1863 were equal to " a million and a half of hogs marching across the ocean.”
The business of pork packing, as it is called, which can only be done to advantage on a great scale, has attained enormous proportions in Chicago, surpassing those of the same business in Cincinnati, where it originated. In one season of three months, Chicago has converted 904.659 hogs into pork ; which was one third of all the hogs massacred in the Western country during the year. This was in 1863, a year of abundance ; and it has not been equalled since. Walking in single file, close together, that number of hogs would form a line reaching from Chicago to New York.
During the last three years, the number of cattle received in Chicago from the prairies, and sent away in various forms to the East, has averaged about one thousand for each working day. In one year, the last year of the war, 92,459 of these cattle were killed, salted, and barrelled in Chicago. Nevertheless, a person might reside there for years, and never suspect that any business was done in cattle, never see a drove, never hear the bellow of an ox.
A bullock is an awkward piece of merchandise to “ handle ” ; he has a will of his own, with much power to resist the will of other creatures ; he cannot be pumped up into an elevator, nor shot into the hold of a vessel; he must have two pails of water every twelve hours, and he cannot go long without a large bundle of hay. There is also a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, with an eloquent and resolute HENRY BERGH to see that cattle have their rights. Chicago has learned to conform to these circumstances, and new challenges mankind to admire the exquisite way in which those three hundred thousand cattle per annum, and that million and a half of hogs, sheep, and calves, are received, lodged, entertained, and despatched.
Out on the flat prairie, four miles south of the city. and two feet below the level of the river,—part of that eight miles which our traveller found under water in 1833,—may be seen the famous " Stock Yards,” styled, in one of the Chicago guide-books, “THE GREAT BOVINE CITY OE THE WORLD.” Two millions of dollars have been expended there in the construction of a cattle market. The company owning it have now nearly a square mile of land, 345 acres of which are already enclosed into cattle pens, — 150 of these acres being floored with plank. There is at the present time pen room for 20,000 cattle, 75,000 hogs, and 20,000 sheep, the sheep and hogs being provided with sheds ; and no Thursday has passed since the yards were opened when they were not full, — Thursday being the fullest day. This bovine city of the world, like all other prairie cities, is laid out in streets and alleys, crossing at right angles. The projectors have paid New York the compliment of naming the principal street Broadway. It is a mile long and seventy-five feet wide, and is divided by a light fence into three paths, so that herds of cattle can pass one another without mingling, and leave an unobstructed road for the drovers. Nine railroads have constructed branches to the yards, and there is to be a canal connecting it with one of the forks of the Chicago River.
Nothing is more simple and easy than the working of the system of these stock yards. The sum of anguish annually endured in the United States will be greatly lessened when that system shall prevail all along the line from the prairies to the Atlantic. A cattle train stops along a street of pens ; the side of each car is removed; a gently declining bridge wooes the living freight down into a clean, planked enclosure, where on one side is a long trough, which the turn of a faucet fills with water, and on another side is a manger which can be immediately filled with hay. While the tired and hungry animals are enjoying this respite from the torture of their ride, their owner or his agent finds comfort in the Hough House (so named from one of the chief promoters of the enterprise), a handsome hotel of yellow stone, built solely for the accommodation of the " cattle men,”and capable of entertaining two hundred of them at once. A few steps from the hotel is the Cattle Exchange, another spac ious and elegant edifice of yellow stone, wherein there is a great room for the chaffering or preliminary “ gassing " (as the drovers term it) of buyers and sellers ; also a bank solely for cattle men’s use, with a daily business ranging from one hundred thousand. to five hundred thousand dollars ; also a telegraph office, which reports, from time to time, the price of beef, pork, and mutton in two hemispheres, and sends back to the cattle markets of mankind the condition of affairs in this, the great bovine city of the world. The “ gassing" being accomplished, the cattle men leave this fine Exchange, and go forth to view the cattle which have been the subject of their conversation, and they move about in the midst of those prodigious herds, and inspect the occupants of any particular pen, with as much ease as a lady examines pictures in a window. The purchase completed, the cattle are driven along, through opening pens and broad streets, to the yards adjoining the railroad, by winch they are to resume their journey. On the way to those yards, they are weighed at the rate of thirty cattle a minute, by merely pausing in the weighing pen as they pass. The men return to the Exchange, where the money is paid, all the cattle business being done for cash ; after which they conclude the affair by dining together at the hotel, or at an excellent restaurant in the Exchange itself.
In this elegant Exchange room two classes of cattle men meet, — those who collect the cattle from the prairie States, — Texas, Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, — and those who distribute the cattle among the Eastern cities. One of the potent civilizers is doing business on the grand scale. By means of this Cattle Exchange, a repulsive and barbarizing business is lifted out of the mire, and rendered clean, easy, respectable, and pleasant. The actual handling and supervision of the cuttle require few men, who are themselves raised in the social scale by being parts of a great system ; while the controlling minds are left free to work at the arithmetic and book-keeping of the business. We remember with pleasure the able and polite gentlemen the necessities of whose business suggested this enterprise, and who now control it. The economy of the system is something worth consideration. The design of the directors is to keep the rent of the pens at such rates as to exactly pay the cost of cleaning and preserving them, and to get the requisite profit only from the sale of hay and corn. One hundred tons of hay are frequently consumed in the yards in one day. If those yards were in New England, the sale of the manure would be an important part of the business ; but in those fertile prairies, they are glad to sell it at ten cents a wagon-load, which is less than the cost of shovelling it up.
There is one commodity in which Chicago deals that makes a show proportioned to its importance. Six hundred and fourteen millions of feet of timber, equal to about fifty millions of ordinary pine boards, which Chicago sold last year, cannot be hidden in a corner. The prairies, to which Nature has been so variously bountiful, do lack this first necessity of the settler, and it is Chicago that sends up the lake for it and supplies it to the prairies. Miles of timber yards extend along one of the forks of the river ; the harbor is choked with arriving timber vessels ; timber trains shoot over the prairies in every direction. To economize transportation, they are now beginning to despatch timber in the form of ready-made houses. There is a firm in Chicago which is happy to furnish cottages, villas, school-houses, stores, taverns, churches, court-houses, or towns, wholesale and retail, and to forward them, securely packed, to any part of the country. No doubt we shall soon have the exhilaration of reading advertisements of these town-makers, to the effect, that orders for the smallest villages will be thankfully received; county towns made to order ; a metropolis furnished with punctuality and despatch ; any town on our list sent, carriage paid, on receipt of price ; rows of cottages always on hand ; churches in every style. N. B. Clergymen and others are requested to call before purchasing elsewhere.
While this great business has been forming, Chicago itself has undergone many and strange transformations. The population, which numbered 70 in 1830, was 4,853 in 1840. During the next five years it nearly trebled, being 12,088 in 1845. In 1850, the year in which the railroad was opened to Elgin, the population had mounted to 29,963, and during the next ten years it quadrupled. In 1860, 110,973 persons lived in Chicago. In 1865, after four years of war, the population was 178,900. In this spring of 1867, if we include the suburban villages, which are numerous and flourishing, and which are as much Chicago as Harlem is New York, we may safely put down the population at 230,000. The closing of the war has not checked the growth of the city. We are assured by the moderate and conscientious ” Chicago Tribune,” that in 1860 the number of houses of all kinds built in Chicago was nine thousand; for the construction of which sixty-two millions of bricks were made from the clay over which the city stands. We learn, also, from a series of articles in the vigorous and enterprising “ Chicago Republican,” that in the young cities of the Northwest, which must ever flourish or decline with Chicago, there is the same astonishing activity in the building of houses.
The city is no longer a quagmire. For many years after Chicago began to be a flourishing town, its business men aimed to mike a rapid fortune, and retire to the banks of the Hudson, or to the pleasant places of New England, and enjoy it. Who could enjoy life on a wet prairie, made passable by pine boards, through the knot-holes and crevices of which water could be seen, and where a carriage would sink three or four feet within two miles of the court-house ? But about fifteen years ago, when the effect of the first railroad revealed the future of Chicago, the leading men said to one another: " This city is to be the abode of a million or more of the American people. Meanwhile it is our home. Let us make it fit to live in. Let us make it pleasant for our children.” Seldom have men taken hold of a task more repulsive or more diffcult, and seldom has human labor produced such striking results in so short a time. The mud and water for a long period were the despair of the people, since water will only run down hill, and part of the town was below the level of the lake. Planking was a poor expedient, though unavoidable for a time. They tried a system of open ditches for a while, which in wet seasons only aggravated the difficulty. Many hollow places were filled up, but the whole prairie was in fault. It became clear, at length, that nothing would suffice short of raising the whole town ; and, accordingly, a higher grade was established, to which all new buildings were required to conform. It soon appeared that this grade was not high enough, and one still higher was ordained. Even this proved inadequate; and the present grade was adopted, which lifts Chicago about twelve feet above the level of the prairie, and renders it perfectly drainable, and gives dry cellarage. It is as common now in Chicago to store such merchandise as dry goods, books, and tea in basements, as it is in sandy New York ; and in nearly all the newer residences the dining-room and kitchen are in the basement. During the ten years while Chicago was going up out of the mud of the prairie to its present elevation, it was the best place in the world in which to develop the muscles of the lower half of the body. All the newest houses were built, of course, upon the new grade, and some spirited owners raised old buildings to the proper level ; but many houses were upon the grades previously established, and a large number were down upon the original prairie. The consequence was, that the plank sidewalks became a series of stairs. For half a block you would walk upon an elevated path, looking down upon the vehicles of the street many feet below; then, you would descend a flight of stairs to, perhaps, the lowest level of all, along which you would proceed only a few steps, when another flight of stairs assisted you to one of the other grades. Such, however, were the energy and public spirit of the people, that these inequalities, although their removal involved immense expenditure, have nearly all disappeared. The huge Tremont House, a solid hotel as large as the Astor, was raised bodily from its foundation and left at the proper height; and whole blocks of brick stores went up about the same time to the same serene elevation. To this day, however, there are places in the less important streets where the stranger can see at one view all the past grades of the town. The sidewalk will be upon the grade now established; the main street, upon the one that preceded the present and final level; the houses, upon the grade established when it was first determined to raise the town ; while in the vacant lots near by portions of the undisturbed prairie may be discovered. The principal streets are now paved with stone, or else with that ne plus ultra of comfort for horse and rider, for passer-by and ladies living near,—the Nicholson pavement.
The people of Chicago have had a long and severe struggle with their river, and they have not yet made a complete conquest of it. The river and its two forks, as we have before remarked, so divide the town, that you cannot go far in any direction without crossing one of them. In old times the Indians carried people over in their canoes, and, for some time after the Indians had been wagoned off beyond the Mississippi, a chance canoe was still the usual means of crossing. Ferries of canoes were then established, and, in course of time, the canoes expanded into commodious row-boats. Next, floating bridges were tried, much to the discontent of the mariners, who found it difficult to run in their swift vessels in time. One day, when a gale was blowing inward, a vessel came rushing into the river, and, before the bridge could be floated round, ran into it, cut it in halves, and kept on her way up the stream. The sailors much approved this manæuvre, and it had also the effect of inducing landsmen to reconsider floating bridges. Drawbridges then came in, seventeen of which now span the river and its branches. Better draw-bridges than these can nowhere be found; but the inconvenience to which they subject the busy “ Chicagonese " (so their rivals style them) must be seen to be understood. Unfavorable winds sometimes detain vessels in the lake, until three hundred of them are waiting to enter. The wind changes ; the whole fleet comes streaming in; in twelve hours, three hundred vessels are tugged through the draw-bridges, which is an average of more than two a minute. At all the bridges, and on both sides of them, crowds of impatient people, and long lines of vehicles extending back farther than the eye can reach, are waiting. Now and then the bridges can be closed for a short time, and then tremendous is the rush to cross. Often, before all the waiters have succeeded in getting over, the bell rings, the bridge is cleared, and the draw swings open to admit another procession of vessels, each towed by a puffing and snorting little propeller. These are exceptional days, and there are other exceptional clays in which the bridges are seldom opened. But we were informed, that a business man who has any important appointment in a distant part of the town allows one hour for possible detention at the bridges. Omnibuses leaving the hotels for a depot a quarter of a mile distant, but on the other side of the river, start an hour before the departure of the train.
All this inconvenience will soon be a thing of the past. Perhaps before these lines are read the first tunnel under the river will have been opened. Others will be at once begun.
That river, which is not a river, and because it is not a river, is now giving Chicago another opportunity to exert its unconquerable energy and resolution. Into this forked inlet, all the drainage of the town is poured, and there is no current to carry it away into the lake. Despite incessant dredging, these streams of impurity fill the channel, and convert the water into a liquid resembling in color and consistency a rich pea-soup, such as the benevolent Farmer ladles out so plentifully to the poor women of New York. This evil, great already, must increase as rapidly as the town increases, and might in time rentier the place uninhabitable. Chicago is now expending two or three millions of dollars in changing that pool of abominations into a pure and running stream. The canal, before spoken of, which connects Lake Michigan with the Illinois River, begins at the end of one of the branches of the Chicago River, the water of which is now pumped up into the canal by steam. This canal Chicago is deepening, so that the water of the river will flow into it, and run down through all its length to the Illinois, and so carry away the impurities of the town to the Mississippi. Thus, by one operation, the pumping is obviated, the canal is improved, the river is purified, and the city is rendered more salubrious. The Chicago River will at length become a river; only, it will run backwards.
With regard to that two-mile tunnel under the blue lake, by which its purest water, all uncontaminated by tiie town, will soon flow, by ten thousand rills, into every room and closet of the place, it is not Chicago’s fault if all the world does not understand it. Indeed, we are expressly informed by a guidebook, that, “when the work was conceived, tiie whole civilized world was awed by the magnitude of the project.”In what stale of mind, then, will the whole civilized world find itself, when it learns that a work of such magnitude was executed in just three years, at a cost of less than a million dollars ? The work is really something to be proud of, not for its magnitude, but for the simplicity, originality, and boldness of the idea.
Until within, the last ten years, Chicago was little more than what we have previously named it,—the great Northwestern Exchange. It was a buyer and a seller on a great scale ; but it made scarcely anything, depending upon the Eastern States for supplies of manufactured merchandise. Upon this fact was founded the ridiculous expectation, entertained at the beginning of the late war by the enemies of the Republic, of seeing the Western States secede from the Union. The Western man, however, has the eminent good fortune of not being a fool. Every business man in Chicago was intelligent enough to know that this dependence upon, the East was a necessity of the case and time. Newly settled countries cannot manufacture their own pins, watches, and pianos, nor even their own boots, overcoats, and saucepans, and they are glad enough to give other communities some of their surplus produce in exchange for those articles. But, happily, there is FREE TRADE between the Eastern and Western States. The only and sufficient protective tariff imposed upon that trade is the cost of transportation. Consequently, we find that just as fast as it is best for both sections that the West should cease to depend upon the East, just so fast, and no faster, Chicago gets into manufacturing. In all the history of business there cannot be found a more exquisite illustration of the harmonious and safe working of untrammelled trade. At first, Chicago began to make on a small scale tiie rough and heavy implements of husbandry. That great factory, for example, which now produces an excellent farm-wagon every seven minutes of every working day, was founded twenty-three years ago by its proprietor investing all his capital in the slow construction of one wagon. At the present time, almost every article of much bulk used upon railroads, in farming, in warming houses, in building houses, or in cooking, is made in Chicago. Three thousand persons are now employed there in manufacturing coarse boots and shoes. The prairie world is mowed and reaped by machines made in Chicago, whose people are feeling their way, too, into making woollen and cotton goods. Four or five miles out on the prairie, where until last May the ground had never been broken since the creation, there stands now the village of Austin, which consists of three large factory buildings, forty or fifty nice cottages for workmen, and two thousand young trees. This is the seat of the Chicago Clock Factory, the superintendent of which is that honest and ingenious man, Chauncey Jerome, the inventor of most of the wonderful machinery by which American clocks have been made so excellent and so cheap. After his melancholy failure in Connecticut, (wholly through the fault of others, for he had retired from active business,) he found an honorable asylum here, and is now giving to this establishment the benefit of his fiftyfive years’ experience in clock-making. The machinery now in operation can produce one hundred thousand clocks a year; and the proprietors had received orders for eight months’ product before they had finished one clock. They expect to be able to sell these clocks at New Haven quite as cheap as those made in New Haven ; since nearly every metal and wood employed in the construction of a clock can be bought cheaper in Chicago than in Connecticut. A few miles farther back on the prairies, at Elgin, there is the establishment of the National Watch Company, which expects soon to produce fifty watches a day, and to compete for a share of the ten or eleven millions of dollars which the people of America pay every year for new watches. They are beginning to make pianos at Chicago, besides selling a hundred a week of those made in the East; and the great music house of Root and Cady are now engraving and printing all the music they publish. Melodeons are made in Chicago on a great scale.
It is in this gradual and safe manner that trade adjusts itself to circumstances when it is untrammelled by law, and such will be the working of free trade in all the nations of the earth, when, by and by, all the nations shall be in a condition to adopt it. For some years to come — so long, indeed, as the national debt is our king — we shall have to approach free trade with slow and cautious steps ; but we need not lose sight of the truth, that universal free trade is the consummation at which the statesmanship of all lands is to aim.
Chicago is now intent upon four things, — the establishment of manufactures, the improvement of the city, the completion of railroads to the Pacific, the construction of ship canals from the Mississippi to the Atlantic Ocean. He who can lend a helping hand or head to any of these is welcome, and especially he who can make any useful article well. There, as everywhere, mere buyers and sellers are in excess. Those “ Commercial Colleges ” which abound in all the Western cities, useful as they are in many respects, appear to be luring young men from their proper vocation of producers and makers into the overcrowded business of distributing ; so that even in busy Chicago, where every able man is doing two men’s work, the merchants are pestered with applications for clerkships, and the salaries of clerks are generally low. These waiting youths are the only idle class in Chicago. There are no men of leisure there. No man thinks of stopping work because he has money enough for his personal use. In all the Western country, as a rule, the richer a man is, the harder he toils, and the more completely is he the servant of his fellowcitizens.
Chicago, already a handsome town, is going to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Twenty years ago, when the present court-house, or City Hall, was built, the corporation sent all the way to Lockport, in the State of New York, for the stone, — a dark granite. Long before the people had done boasting of this grand and gloomy edifice, the men who were digging the canal at Athens, a point about fourteen miles from the city, struck a deposit of soft, cream-colored stone, which proved to be an inexhaustible quarry. For some time this stone was supposed to be useless, and it was regarded only in the light of an obstruction to the excavation of the canal. It was discovered, a year or two after, that fragments of the stone which had been exposed to the air for a few months had become harder ; and by very slow degrees the truth dawned upon a few interested minds, that Chicago had stumbled upon a treasure. It was, neverertheless, with much difficulty that builders were induced to give a trial to what is now recognized as the very best and most elegant building material in the country. Soft to the chisel, it is hard in the finished wall; and, devoid of the glare of white marble, it possesses that hue of the Parthenon which, Dr. Wordsworth says, looks as though it had been “quarried out of the golden light of an Athenian sunset.” The general use in Chicago of this light-colored stone, and of the light yellow brick of the prairie clay, gives to the principal streets a cheerful, airy, elegant aspect, which is enhanced by the promptitude with which all the new and pleasing effects in street architecture are introduced. The Western man, in all that he does, and in much that he thinks, is the creature of all the earth who is least trammelled by custom and tradition. His ruling aim, when he sets about anything, is to do it better than the same thing has ever been done before since the creation of man. We do not hesitate to say, that the best houses in the leading avenues of Chicago are far more pleasing to the eye than those of the Fifth Avenue in New York, and that the general effect of the best streets is finer.
Of course, Chicago is still a forming city. It stretches along the lake about eight miles, but does not reach back into the prairie more than two. In the heart of the town the stranger beholds blocks of stores, solid, lofty, and in the most recent taste, hotels of great magnitude, and public buildings that would be creditable to any city. The streets are as crowded with vehicles and people as any in New York, and there is nothing exhibited in the windows of New York which may not be seen in those of Chicago. As the visitor passes along, he sees at every moment some new evidence that he has arrived at a rich metropolis. Now it is a gorgeous and enormous carpet-house that arrests his attention ; now a huge dry-goods store, or vast depot of groceries. The next moment he finds himself peering into a restaurant, as splendid as a steamboat and larger than Taylor’s ; or into a dining-room window, where, in addition to other delicacies of the season, there is a spacious cake of ice, covered with naked frogs, reposing picturesquely in parsley. Farther on, he pauses before a jeweller’s, brilliant with gold, silver, diamonds, and pictures, where a single item of last year’s business was the sale of three thousand two hundred watches, of which one thousand were American. The number and extent of the book-stores is another striking feature, and it is impossible to go far without being strongly reminded that pianos and cabinet-organs are for sale in the city. Blessed are the people of Chicago, and blessed the strangers in their midst, in the article of malt liquor ; for it is excellent, it is honest, and it is abundant. True, science has not yet positively ascertained whether or not the Coming Man will drink malt liquor; but the Coming Man has not come, and if people will drink beer, they had better drink it good.
Along the lake, south of the river, for two or three miles, extend the beautiful avenues which change insensibly into those streets of cottages and gardens which have given to Chicago the name of the Garden City. This is a pleasant, umbrageous quarter, where glimpses are caught of the blue lake that stretches away to the east for sixty miles. On this shore is rising the monument to Douglas, and there is a shady street near by that will last longer than the monument, called Douglas Place, In all Chicago there is not one tenement house. Thrifty workmen own the houses they live in, and the rest can still hire a whole house; consequently seven tenths of Chicago consist of small wooden houses, in streets with wooden sidewalks and roadways of prairie black.
It is always interesting to a stranger to notice the names of the streets of a town which he visits for the first time. Chicago boasts a Goethe Street and a Schiller Street. There is also a Greeley, a Bremer, a Poe, a Kane, a Kossuth, a Bross, a Wentworth, and a Long John Street. Local history is commemorated in Calumet, Astor, Fur, Kinsie, Blackhawk, and Wahpanseh ; and general history, in Blucher, Bonaparte, Buena Vista, Calhoun, Burnside, Cass, De Kalb, Carroll, Fabius, Macedonia, Garibaldi, Madison, Washington, Monroe, Lafayette, Franklin, Butler, Grant, Kansas, Lincoln, Mayflower, Napoleon, Randolph, Sigel, and Thomas. New York is called to mind in Broadway, the Bowery, and the Bloomingdale Road; and Philadelphia, in Chestnut Street. There is likewise a Rosebud Street, a Selah Street, a Queer Place, and a Grub Street.
When next the Atlantic Monthly chronicles the progress of Chicago, it will have to describe a grand Boulevard, furnishing a drive of fifteen miles round the city, shaded with trees, and lined with villas and gardens. This very spring, it is hoped, will see the work begun. A great park is also in contemplation, in which Chicago hopes to behold the strange spectacle of hill and dale. It is not unlikely that the park will enclose a range of mountains, the loftiest peaks of which will pierce the air half a hundred feet; and up those giddy heights Chicago’s boys will climb on Saturday afternoons, inhale the breath of liberty on the mountaintops, and learn why Switzerland is free.
Would the stranger see the MEN whose public spirit and energy have created Chicago, and are guiding its destinies ? Then he must go, about noon, to the beautiful edifice in the centre of the city, wherein the Board of Trade assembles. This is the Exchange of Chicago. Here, in a spacious and lofty apartment, decorated with fine fresco paintings by resident Italian artists, are daily gathered from a thousand to eighteen hundred of the men who control the collection and distribution of those grain mountains, those miles of timber stacks, and all that mass of produce of which we have spoken. Here are the buyers, the sellers, the insurers, and the forwarders, and loud is the roar of their talk. Groups of men cover the whole extent of the floor. A few minutes suffice to buy, insure, and despatch a ship-load of wheat; a few minutes suffice to convert a sanguine speculator into the lamest of ducks, or send him away rejoicing in the possession of new means of speculation. Suddenly, loud knocks are heard in a gallery above, which commands a view of the whole scene. The roar is instantly hushed, and all eyes and all ears are directed toward a gentleman in the gallery, who is Mr. John F, Beaty, the Secretary of the Board, who proceeds, in a sonorous voice, to read the last telegram of prices in New York and London. The instant he has finished, conversation sets in with renewed vigor; and the whole hall is filled with noise. At a semicircle of mahogany desks at one end of the room sit the gentlemen representing the press, who compile daily reports of the business of the city, which for completeness and extent are unequalled. In about an hour and a half the business of the day is done, and the room is empty, with half an inch of grain on the floor, ready bruised for the janitor’s pig and chickens.
No body of men in this land were more heartily loyal to their country during the war than the Chicago Board of Trade. Adjoining the great exchange-room is a smaller apartment, handsomely furnished in black walnut, for the meetings of the Directors of the Board; and in this room are preserved the flags of the several regiments raised or equipped under the auspices and by the assistance of the Board. It so chanced, that while we were in the great room, a few weeks ago, Mr. Walter, of the London Times, passed through it, unobserved, escorted by Governor Bross, of the Chicago Tribune, who usually does the honors of the city —and no one could do them more agreeably or more intelligently — to visitors of distinction. When it transpired who it was that had accompanied Governor Bross, a difficult moral problem was discussed by some of those exceedingly uncompromising loyalists. The question was, Suppose Mr. Walter had been recognized, which ought to have been the controlling principle in the minds of those present,— courtesy to a stranger, or disapproval of a public enemy ? In other words, would it have been right and becoming in the Board of Trade to have hissed Mr. Walter a little ? From the tone of the remarks upon this abstruse question of morals, we fear that, it Mr. Walter had been generally recognized, he would not have been left in doubt as to the feelings of the Board toward a man who, the Board thought, gave us two years more of war than we should have had if he had not led England against us. Those radical and straightforward men of wheat and wool do not, perhaps, sufficiently consider that the great journals of the world are the world’s paid servants, who seem to lead, but are in reality propelled.
The great question respecting Chicago, — and all other places under heaven, — is, What is the quality of the human life lived in it? It is well to have an abundance of beef, pork, grain, wool, and pine boards, so long as these are used as means to an end, and that end is the production and nurture of happy, intelligent, virtuous, and robust human beings. This alone is success ; all short of this is failure. Cheerful, healthy human life,— that is the wealth of the world ; and the extreme of destitution is to have all the rest and not that. The stranger, therefore, looks about in this busy, thriving city, and endeavors to ascertain, above all else, how it fares there with human nature. In Chicago, as everywhere, human nature is weak and ignorant, temptable and tempted ; and in considering the influences to which it is there subjected, we must only ask whether those influences are more or less favorable than elsewhere.
The climate, upon the whole, is good. The winters, short, sharp, and decisive, are healthful, of course. The summer heats are mitigated by the prairie breezes and the fresh cool winds from the lake. Occasionally a southern wind prevails, and gives Chicago some stifling days. To those who can afford it, the northern lakes offer an easy and complete escape from the hot weather, as well as a trip of almost unequalled variety and charm. With regard to food, Chicago has the pick of the best ; nothing remains but to learn how to cook it. The West has much to acquire in this great art, and even many of the large hotels are wanting in their mission of setting an example of cookery. The raw material abounds. It is only necessary not to spoil it with grease, saleratus, and the lazy, odious tryingpan. We are happy to state, that excellent dinners are daily enjoyed in Chicago, though a prodigious number of bad ones are bolted.
Some parts of the mind are well cultivated there. Chicago is itself a college to all its inhabitants. When we see a boy reading in Roman history an account of the Appian Way, we all say that he is improving his mind. The Nicholson pavement has ten times more thought in it than the Appian Way; why is not an urchin improvin his mind who stands, with his hands in his pockets, looking on while the workmen arrange the little blocks and pour in the odorous tar ? Then those mighty schemes for ship canals, and new, farreaching railroads, and the improved methods, processes, models, —all these are the daily theme of conversation and keen discussion, with maps spread out and authorities at hand. A great and splendid city is rising from the prairie, in the view of all the people, who watch, criticise, compare, suggest. It is observed that the too respectable Bostonian, the staid Philadelphian, the selfindulgent and thoughtless New-Yorker, acquire, after living awhile in Chicago, a vivacity of mind, an interest in things around them, a public spirit, which they did not possess at home. It must be very difficult for a boy to grow up a fool in a Western city, unless, indeed, he takes to vice, which, there and everywhere, is deadly to the understanding.
It is with pleasure that we report to the people of the United States, that their fellow-citizens of Chicago are looking well to the interests of those who are to carry on their work when they are gone. The public schools of the city are among the very best in the United States. The buildings are large, handsome, and convenient; much care is taken with regard to the ventilation of the rooms and the exercise of the pupils ; the salaries of the teachers range from four hundred to twenty-four hundred dollars a year; the gentlemen of the Board of Education are among the most respectable and capable of the citizens. In the High School, an institution of which any city in Christendom might be justly proud, colored lads and girls may be seen in most of the classes, mingled with the other pupils ; and in the evening schools of the city colored men and women are received on precisely the same footing as white. Colored children also attend the common schools, and no one objects, or sees anything extraordinary in the fact. No little child is allowed to pass more than half an hour without exercise. In the higher classes, the physical exercises occur about once an hour; the windows are thrown open, the pupils rise, and all the class imitate the motions of the teacher for five minutes. The boys in the High School have a lesson daily in out-door gymnastics, skilfully taught by a gentleman who left one of his legs before Vicksburg. The girls have a variety of curious exercises, which combine play and work in an agreeable manner. Connected with the High School, there is a small school of young children, for the purpose of giving young ladies who intend to become teachers an opportunity of practice, under the direction of a teacher already experienced. If in one room we regretted to see boys and girls expending their force in acquiring a smattering of Latin, we were consoled in another by discovering that those who are wise enough to prefer it can learn German or French.
The peril of America is the overschooling of her children. In Chicago, as everywhere else, the grand fault of the public schools is, that too much is attempted in them. The Board of Education is ambitious ; the superintendent is ambitious ; the teachers, the parents, the children, are ambitious; and there is nowhere in the system any one who stands between these co-operating ambitions and the delicate organization of the children. Five hours’ school a day, with two hours’ intermission, and no lessons learned at home,—these are our colors, and we nail them to the mast. Even on Sundays the poor children have no rest from eternal school and the stimulating influence of older minds.
Three medical colleges, two theological seminaries, a university, an academy of sciences, — all in their infancy, but full of young vigor, — exist in Chicago. It is startling to find on the western shore of Lake Michigan, where, thirty-two years ago, seven thousand Indians howled, an astronomical observatory of the most improved model, provided with a telescope which is considered the finest of its kind in the world, and a resident professor capable of using it. Chicago will have a museum before New York has one. Nine years. ago, a few gentlemen interested in science, particularly in natural history and geology, formed a society for the collection of specimens and the acquisition of knowledge. A year or two since, it occurred to one or two of the more zealous members that the time had come for the society to take a step for ward. The merchants of Chicago have a finely developed talent for subscribing money, and before many days had gone by one hundred and twenty men had subscribed five hundred dollars each, for the purpose of establishing on a proper basis the Chicago Academy of Sciences. A lot has been purchased ; a building will be begun in the spring ; and Chicago will have a museum before the year is out. Already the society possesses many objects of particular interest, — among others, a specimen of the prairie squirrels that cannot climb, which ought to be put in the same case with the eyeless fish of the Mammoth Cave.
The daily mental food of the business men in Western cities is the daily newspaper ; and many of them read nothing else. The daily press of Chicago is conducted with the vigor, enterprise, and liberality of expenditure which we should expect to see in a city pervaded with the spirit of advertising. Readers have not forgotten General Butler’s famous apple-speech in front of the City Hall in New York, a few months ago, the report of which filled nearly two columns of the New York papers. It was telegraphed, with all the remarks and doings of the crowd, to “ The Chicago Republican.” “ The Chicago Tribune ” has excellent “ own correspondents” in New York, London, Paris, and Washington, besides occasional contributors in twenty other cities. On almost any day of the year, this excellent newspaper publishes telegraphic news from as many as twenty-five points, and on extraordinary occasions the number of despatches has risen to seventy-five. In the office of the Republican is kept a list of seven hundred and sixty names of persons residing in different towns, to whom the editor can send for detailed information when anything of interest has occurred within their reach. If the Mammoth Cave should cave in, or Niagara break down, there would be some one on the spot, an hour after, collecting details of the catastrophe for the Chicago Republican of the next morning. “The Evening Journal,” too, though it cannot compete with morning papers in point of news, presents a singularly well-digested and tastefully selected variety of interesting reading.
The press of Chicago has opinions of its own. The Tribune, unlike its great New York namesake, inclines toward free trade. We believe the editors are prepared to recommend that the policy of protection should be carried no farther, and that future changes made in the tariff should lessen restrictions upon trade, not increase them. The young Republican, on the contrary, is a thorough-going protectionist. At least, it believes that the policy of protection should be maintained until Chicago has her manufacturing system well developed. Both these papers and the Evening Journal are radical Republican. Indeed, we may say that, in the Western country, the vast majority of Republicans are of the most radical description. “ The Chicago Times” is the leading Democratic paper of the Northwest, but it advocates “impartial suffrage,” as well as universal amnesty. It was the first paper of its party that had the ability to see that the one chance of the Democratic party’s regaining power was to give the suffrage to the great mass of the negroes immediately. Ignorance is ignorance. Ignorance, always gravitating the wrong way, can be cajoled and bought. It is the demagogue’s natural prey ; honest men cannot get near enough to it for a shot. What a reproach to Tammany, that a politician in far-off Chicago should have been the first to see the mode of New-Yorkizing the politics of the South !
The community that possesses a large surplus of beef, pork, grain, wool, and timber, can have whatever other purchasable commodity it desires. To Chicago, accordingly, painters come and paint pictures for its parlors, or send them from afar. There is a surprising taste there for every kind of artistic decoration. It is more common to see good engravings and tolerable paintings in the residences of Chicago than in those of New York. In a window of one of the stores, we noticed a very pretty statue of the boy Washington, executed by a resident sculptor. And we agree with the possessor of the Crosby Opera House, that he has just drawn in the lottery the most elegant interior in the country. We abhor superlatives, but we must claim the privilege of asserting, that, in the construction of buildings designed for the assembling together of many people, Chicago surpasses the rest of the world. There are, positively, no churches anywhere else in which elegance and convenience are so perfectly combined as in the newer churches of Chicago. That beautiful Opera House wants nothing but an opera. We heard within it, however, one of the concerts of the Philharmonic Society, at which the violin playing of Camilla Urso was listened to with rapture, while an abstruse symphony, performed by a German orchestra, was borne with the patient faith which we Northern barbarians generally exhibit on such occasions. We firmly believe the music is sublime ; we are ashamed that we cannot enjoy it; and now and then, when the orchestra plays a little louder than usual, we wake from a revery, and almost persuade ourselves that we are receiving pleasure. As in New York, so in Chicago. Only, the politer Chicago gentlemen do not talk, nor the ladies giggle.
But Chicago does more than listen patiently to foreign artists. It has music of its own. Those war-songs, which cheered ten thousand camp-fires, and solaced many a weary march, — “ Tramp, tramp, tramp, the boys are marching,” “ The Battle Cry of Freedom,” “ Kingdom Coming,” “ Wake, Nicodemus,” and twenty others, familiar to the army and country, — were composed, printed, and published in Chicago. That worthy gentleman, Mr. George F. Root, of the firm of Root and Cady, composed several of the best of them. Mr. H. C. Work, connected with the same house, is the author of others, some of which had a wonderful run. Now, reader, mark how time brings its revenges ! Many years ago, Alonzo Work, father of this composer, was walking along a road in Missouri, when he was overtaken by a party of fugitive slaves, who asked the way to a free State. He directed them on their course, and gave them some slight aid in money. For doing this, he was condemned to twenty years’ imprisonment at hard labor, and served several years of the term before he was pardoned. In 1861, his son, a poor Invalid journeyman printer, climbed up to Mr. Root’s study, and laid upon his desk the music and words of a war song. Astonished that so forlorn an apparition should have ever had a thought of music in his soul, Mr. Root was still more astonished to discover that he had a genius for producing such music as the people love. Before he left the room he had engaged to compose for Messrs. Root and Cady for five years. His songs have been sung by millions of men, and he now has a pleasant cottage, paid for, and an income from copyrights of three thousand dollars a year.
Such books, too, as the people of Chicago and the Northwest are buying ! Already three large book-houses are competing to supply the demand of this great market. The most attractive, as well as the most promising, indication of the healthful progress of Chicago is given in the quantities and character of the books offered for sale.
The book-houses, the shelves of which are crowded with the best literature, are not exotic. They come in obedience to the law of demand and supply. All our leading publishing houses have their lists of publications completely represented, and Chicago itself is rapidly becoming second only to New York as a distributing point. The demand for foreign books, for costly books, for valuable books, is very great. You see in these large establishments an assortment almost as large and valuable as is to be found in any of our Atlantic cities. Here have been sold over fifteen hundred sets of Appleton’s Encyclopædia, in sixteen volumes ; and into this market several hundred sets of the Encyclopædia Britannica, in twenty-two volumes, worth two hundred dollars a set, have found their way. We were surprised to find here such works, for example, as Robertson’s Holy Land, the works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, of Hogarth, Gilray, Doré, Jameson, Myrick, and many others, at prices varying from one hundred to four hundred and fifty dollars each. We were surprised, too, to read in a Chicago newspaper the programme of a course of twenty-four lectures to be delivered in the French language. Allied to the book business is the news business, which is not the least among the noteworthy things of this city'. The business itself is an outgrowth of the express business, which, by its ramifications and punctuality, has, notwithstanding its extortionate charges, been a great public servant. The express has opened in almost every town, certainly in almost every respectable village, a news stand; and the influence of these cheap establishments in the diffusion of intelligence, as well as this other function, the provision of a peculiar class of cheap literature, it will be the duty of some future historian to determine.
The railroads running out from Chicago have given every facility to the development of the news business, and accordingly there has grown up in the city a very large and most admirably conducted establishment, — the Western News Company, under the management of its founder, Mr. John R. Walsh. It is, we believe, less than ten years since this establishment was started, in a small way, by Mr. Walsh, then a young man with a very limited capital. It is now one of the institutions of Chicago, and transacts a business of nearly three quarters of a million of dollars a year. Hardly one of those trains that leave the city every fifteen minutes but takes out to other places some of its parcels. Hardly a cabin in the Northwest that is beyond the reach of its influence. Hardly a family that is not indebted to it for a cheerful visit during the week or month.
The truth is, that much of the best young brain, taste, and civilization of the country has gone to the Northwest; and Chicago, besides supplying it with an annual fifty millions of dollars’ worth of dry goods, and no end of boards, has to minister to its nobler needs, and distribute over the country five millions of dollars’ worth of books. At Chicago the other day, fifty graduates of Yale, all residents of the city*, were gathered about one table.
The traveller who stays over a Sunday in Chicago witnesses as complete a suspension of labor as in Boston or Philadelphia. A great majority of the eager and busy population on that day resigns itself to the influence of its instructors ; and the hundred and fifty churches are well filled with attentive people. There are nine Baptist, six Congregational, eleven Episcopal, ten Lutheran, eighteen Methodist, sixteen Presbyterian, two Dutch Reformed, fittcen Catholic, two Swedenborgian, two Unitarian, and two Universalist churches, besides various mission churches and a few others that decline classification, and four Synagogues. The social life of the people centres in their churches. Those superb church edifices in Wabash Avenue are not merely for the assembling of a congregation on Sunday ; they are rather religious club-houses, and some of them are provided with a complete kitchen and restaurant apparatus, and contain extensive suites of apartments, in which, twice a month, the ladies give an entertainment to the congregation. The Sunday - school rooms are made inviting by pictures, elegant furniture, and in some instances by fountains and natural flowers. The Rev. Mr. Hatfield, the eloquent Methodist clergyman, a recent acquisition to Chicago, who has preached in many cities, assured us that in no city of the United States are the local benevolent operations of the churches carried on with such sustained vigor, and on such a thorough, far-reaching system, as in Chicago. There is one mission Sunday school there which gathers every Sunday afternoon a thousand poor, neglected children into apartments replete with all the best modern apparatus of instruction, and full of pleasing objects. At Chicago it is evident that the good people are rapidly learning and fulfilling the final purpose of a Christian church ; which is not the promulgation of a barren and dividing opinion, but the diffusion among the whole community of the civilization hitherto enjoyed only by a few favored families.
Nowhere in the world are there such striking proofs of the inexhaustible vigor and power of Christianity as in this new prairie town. Here, far inland, on the shores of this blue lake, amid these grain mountains, these miles of timber, this entanglement of railroads, this mighty host of new-comers, even here it is still the voice from Palestine, coming across so many centuries, that delivers the needed message : “ Rest not, Chicago, in planks, nor grain, nor railroads, nor in infinite pork. These are but means to an end. Never mind about cutting out St. Louis : try only which shall do most for the civilization of the prairie world.” Chicago is not inattentive to this message, and is learning to interpret it aright. Those beautiful temples, those excellent schools, those local benevolences, that innocent social life, those ceaseless battlings with vice, that instinct of decoration, that conscientiously conducted press, those libraries and bookstores, all attest that Chicago does not mean to laboriously champ up the shells of the nut of life and throw the kernel away. It is our impression, that human nature there is subject to influences as favorable to its health and progress as in any city of the world, and that a family going to reside in Chicago from one of our older cities will be likely to find itself in a better place than that from which it came.