Chicago Tribune, December 29, 1865
THE UNION STOCK YARDS.
Among the vast works constructed in this city during the year past, none deservedly rank higher than those triumphs of commerce, the Union Stock Yards, located just outside the city limits, at the foot of Halsted street, now just completed. The building of these yards was commenced early in June last, and what was then a marshy and almost valueless prairie is now among the most valuable property in Chicago. Thanks to the enterprise and energy of the gentlemen to whom is due credit of the inception and development of this great project. The amount of land inclosed in these yards is not less than three hundred and forty-five acres, and the cost of the ground and the erections upon it has already been over $1,000,000. In addition to all the necessary barns, sheds, pens, fences, stock hospitals, pumps, tanks, railroads, streets, planking of the entire surface, cottages for employes, etc., there is on the ground a magnificent hotel called the “Hough House,” six stories in height, and 130×144 feet in extent, costing $125,000, second in comfort and elegance to none in the west. Also, a building containing an exchange, bank, eating saloon, telegraph rooms, brokers’ offices, etc. The entire appointments, system and extent of these yards, are such as to make them without exception the finest stock yards in the world.
Union Stock Yards,
Chicago Illustrated, September, 1866
Octave Chanute, was the Chief Engineer of the Chicago & Alton Railroad from 1863-1867. During this connection, Mr. Chanute submitted a competitive design for the Union Stock Yards of Chicago, and this having been selected in preference to a score of other designs, he was made Chief Engineer of the Yards, and supervised their construction. Mr. Chanute has been called the Father of Aviation as he was a mentor to the Wright brothers.
The Land Owner, December, 1873
Leading the World – Pork and Beef Packing in Chicago, Showing the Great Process of Curing the Great Staple for the Markets of the World.
? Coopering Department, ? Bird’s Eye View of the Great Packing Houses of Messrs. Armour & Co. located at the Union Stock Yards, ? The Lard Tanks, ? Cooling Room for Hams, ? Hanging Room for Beeves, ? Interior of Ham House, ? General View of Cellar and Bulking Rooms, ? Hog Cutting, ? Hanging Room for Hogs, ? Beef Cutting By Steam Power, ? Exterior View of Smoke Houses.
Chicago Tribune, November 29, 1874
The live-stock interest of the West—of which we are about to write, with a view of placing it before the public, in all of its phases of commercial and financial importance, and more especially that particular interest involved in the handling and shipping of live stock at and from this point. That its wonderful magnitude may be fully recognized, we will turn the leaves of the history of Chicago, back to the year 1825, when it was scarcely more than a fen or bog, and its commercial importance was so embryotic, that it was scarcely worth a name, and when its transactions of a business character were confined to a few traders in furs. But in this memorable year, the then little village of Chicago received its first through shipment of cattle, by William Hamilton, Esq. In 1826, Gordon S. Hubbard brought the first drove of hogs into the city. In those early days no “puts” or “calls” disturbed the tranquil grain markets; no “bulls” or “bears” provoked fluctuations, in the then undeveloped live stock market, and no eager reporter inquired after the state of trade, or burdened the readers of Chicago prints at that day with long tables of figures and other dry statistics, showing such commercial transactions as receipts, shipments and sales.
For the next seven or eight years nothing worthy of special mention occurred in this branch of commerce. In 1832, however, an item of importance was contributed to the annals of the city, and the enterprise was due, if memory is not at fault, to George W. Dale,—an interest which cannot be well estimated at the present date, as it is so large, it is nothing less than the packing interest. But, as a very common growth was developed during the few succeeding years, we will pass over the intervening space between 1832 and 1856, in silence, in order to save both time and space. In 1856-7, however, a great impetus was given to the live-stock trade, and from that time to this it has, like many other branches of commerce, expanded with a rapidity that challenges a parallel in this or any other country,—an increase from which we can see, as it were, the insignificance of yesterday entirely obliterated in the immensity of to-day. In order that the magnitude of this medium of capital may receive adequate public attention, we present the following comparative figures, between 1857 and the present date, which show the receipts and shipments of beef cattle:
The increased receipts and shipments of beef cattle have not been as large as those of hogs, especially for the past few years. Therefore the following table is given, which shows the actual increase in the live stock trade since the
UNION STOCK YARDS
was constructed in 1865, at which date the average monthly receipts of hogs were 40,235 head, against 361,479 head per month in 1873, while for the present year through the month of October we find that 299,928 head was received, but as the great slaughtering and packing season is now fully inaugurated, it is believed that the average receipts for the year will exceed those of 1873.
The receipt of horses in 1866 were 1,553 head, while for 1874 they were 16,359.
The above table speaks for itself, and shows with official certainty the great increase of the live-stock traffic, as also the expansion of capital involved in that important branch of commerce. And as we wish to give in minute detail the now mammoth concern known as the Union Stock Yards, we will again turn to the yeart 1826, where we find that before, and at that time,
A FEW PENS, OR ROUGH CONTRIVANCES,
in the early history of the business, were constructed near the river, which would not far exceed the pens connected with the farms of our rural friends. The next step of progression was the Lake Shore yards in 1836, and a short time after this Willard F. Myrick erected in the vicinity of Twenty-ninth street a tavern—for such was the cognomen applied to a country hotel in those days—and nearly opposite and to the east of the tavern Mr. Myrick constructed a few stock pens near the then old Southern Hotel, situated on the corner of State and Twelfth streets. At these two points a considerable portion of the stock coming to the city was handled, until the year 1848, when the well-known
yards were opened near the building now known as the Washington Home, on the corner of West Madison street and Ogden avenue. This old tavern seems to have regretted its former use, and to have thrown all its corn spirits into the gutter, and turned itself into an asylum for inebriates. Messrs. Laflin, Loomis, Horace Hopkins, D. K. Belding, and John B. Sherman successfully operated these yards until 1856. They proved adequate for the traffic during the old stage-coach days, and the slow and easy manner in which this traffic carried on. There were no railroads in those days; hence the stock was driven in and disposed of for city consumption mostly. But this, as many other of the good old-fashioned ways, was soon to become a thing of the past, for, shorty after this time, the Western railroads began to intersect the great prairies of the West, and hence a change for the better took place. Western commerce began to move more rapidly, and an unprecedented development opened up the resources of the mighty West.
The Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, the Chicago & Northwestern, the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific, the Illinois Central, the Chicago & Alton, the Milwaukee & St. Paul, and the Chicago, Danville & Vincennes are in the main the great railway channels that take in the enormous receipts of stock, depositing the same at the great head-centre.
For the distribution of stock from this market to all points in the East the following lines of railroad form the avenues for the outlet; Michigan Central, Lake Shore & Michigan Southern, Pittsburg & Fort Wayne, Pittsburg, Cincinnati & St. Louis, Canada Souther, and Baltimore & Ohio.
Mr. Sherman foresaw the death-blow to the old Bull’s Head yards, and with that sagacity that has marked his business career from the day he became identified with the live-stock interests of the city, he sold them out, and purchased an interest in
Bull’s Head Market
Madison Street and Plank Road (Ogden Avenue)
THE MYRICK YARDS,
which had previously been leased by the Michigan Central in 1856. From that time until the end of their existence they were known as the “Sherman Yards,” and were capable of accommodating about 5,000 head of cattle, and 80,000 head of swine. About four years before this date, the Michigan Southern Road being completed, the “Southern Yards” were constructed in order to accommodate the increasing traffic. They were situated on Twenty-second street, west of Clark. In 1859 Joseph McPherson opened yards known as the Fort Wayne yards, situated corner of Mitchell street and Stewart avenue, which were about as large in extent as the “Southern.” In 1862, in order to meet the growing demand, Messrs. T. C. Loomis & Co. opened the Cottage Grove avenue yards, just south of the Sherman yards, but in a pecuniary point of view had little success, and they were closed in the course of three years, and the material sold to the Sherman yards.
All the pens, contrivances, and yards having been mentioned, we will proceed to give some of the causes why so large an enterprise as the construction of the mammoth Stock-Yards was undertaken, and also to mention the gentlemen who took upon themselves the arduous labor of organizing the Company. In the year 1865 the live-stock trade
Original Plan of the Stock Yards
ASSUMED SUCH PROPORTIONS
of commercial importance that it was thought necessary to take some steps towards the relieving of the overcrowded and inadequate accommodations then provided. Mr. Sherman and others, having closely watched the progress of this interest from its infancy, were the most capable judges of the measures to be adopted to this end. They comprehend the magnitude of the interest involved, and, measuring its future expansion by its past, they were the first to advocate the construction of the great Union Yards. The reader will derive some adequate idea of the magnitude of the business transacted at these yards when it is stated that the value of the stock handled here during the past year was $92,000,000, or about $36,000,000 more than was required to operate any other one line of business. In fact, from this source alone, a very perceptible influence has been felt throughout all the commercial avenues of the West. The live stock interest, here has a most salutary and, we might say, controlling influence in the financial circles of both city and country, and this is especially true at this season of the year when such a large volume of currency is employed in pork and beef packing operations at this point. Hence, with the almost certain and inevitable results that were fore-shadowed at that time, the construction of the present mammoth accommodations for live-stock was fully decided upon as a means of overcoming the many inconveniences encountered under the old system of handling stock, such as the endless amount of switching in order to deliver it to different yards. In fact, all of so much unnecessary labor and expenses in placing the stock in the sale-pens. Hence, a
CENTRALIZATION AND CONSOLIDATION OF THE YARDS,
and to this end the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, and the Northwestern Roads, in concert with the Hon, John Dore and other capitalists, commenced the construction of yards just west of the city-limits, and known as the Western Union Drovers’ Yards. These were placed under the management of Messrs. McPherson & Allerton, but as the construction of the present Union Stock-Yards had also been commenced the same year, the Union Drovers’ Yards proved a failure, and in less than three months after their inauguration they were closed and the material sold to the Union Stock-Yards.
Having now given a brief history of the live-stock business, as well as the location and operation of the various yards up to 1865, the road is clear to enter into further details of the
UNION STOCK YARDS AND TRANSIT COMPANY.
No doubt this subject has been pretty well exhausted on previous occasions, but it is hoped that it is an interest of so much importance to our readers that they will not tire in again reviewing its history, as in every particular the enterprise has proven a success, far beyond the expectations of its projectors. In the fall of 1864, a prospectus was issued, and the capital stock of $1,000,000 was subscribed to, the different railway companies taking $925,000 of it, and the rest was taken by private parties. Thereupon a charter was obtained, and T. B. Blackstone, Esq., was appointed President of the organization, and on the 1st of June, 1865, ground was broken, and the great Union Stock-Yards commenced. And so great was the necessity for their completion, that on the 25th of December of the same year they were finished and opened the live stock traffic of the Northwest. This event was shortly followed by the closing of all other yards in the city. The area of ground owned by the Company is 345 acres, 140 acres being occupied by pens, and about 40 are covered with buildings including the commodious Exchange, the Union Stock-Yard Bank,
THE TRANSIENT HOUSE,
one of the finest hotels in the West, hay barns, scale houses, &c. And we might mention just here that the hotel was built in connection with the yards, and is conducted by Messrs. Sherman & Tucker. This hotel has a capacity for accommodating about 400 guests, and is usually well filled the year round. In justice to to the merits of this house, we will say it is the best and most popular “$2.00 per day” house in the country. The entire arrangements and outfit if this house are first-class in every particular. Tracks and roads are constructed by and belong to the Stock-Yards and Transit Company, making connections with every road leading into the city, and which, in extent, are something over 16 miles, so that stock is received and shipped without the least delay or extra expense in switching. These are among the few admirable features that deserve special mention, as also the executive officers who had the construction if these yards in charge. One is the completeness in drainage, and the other is the water-supply. They are well watered from two artesian wells that were bored shortly after the yards were opened. Besides these wells the Company has adopted the Holly system, through which it secures an adequate supply of lake water. In short, these yards are constructed on the most approved plans, and, under the able supervision of Mr. John B. Sherman, they have been kept in the best of repairs, in fact, they are constructed so conveniently that they only require the employment of 200 men in the different departments, such as clerks, foremen of divisions, yard, feed, and scale masters, yard and tracksmen, carpenters, blacksmiths, police, and so on.
Before going into further details we will state that the original sum involved in the construction of these yards was $1,675,000, and yet this large sum has been nearly doubled since that date in the many valuable improvements and additions that have been made by the Company since 1865, in order to accommodate the large increase of traffic. During the present year large improvements have been made in the way of macadamizing streets and alleys; in the construction of the new pens, and in the erection of new outbuildings, etc. The Company, in connection with a few of the prominent packers, has also erected a fine engine-house, organized an efficient fire company, and procured a new Silsby fire-steamer, all at a cost of $12,000. A large addition was last-year made in the Live-Stock Exchange Building, doubling its former size, which, with the original building and bank, has been supplied during the previous year with the most approved steam-heating apparatus. These, with many other minor improvements, have been perfected during the past and this year, at a necessarily large outlay of capital.
As a farther index to the progress of this traffic, the reader is referred to the following statement of
RECEIPTS AND SHIPMENTS
from Jan. 1 to Oct. 31, 1874, as compared with the business transacted during the year 1873 for the same period of time:
The shipments from Jan. 1 to Oct. 31, during the present year, were as follows.
In glancing at the above statement the reader must remember that it only shows the operation in this traffic for the past ten months, and, as the two remaining months of the year are embraced in the great slaughter season, it is but fair to presume that the total receipts and shipments for the present year will largely exceed those of 1873, which were 761,428 cattle, 4,337,750 hogs, and 291,334 sheep. This, we believe, embraces the chief operations of the Union Stock-Yards, such as Prof. Swing says, “a city is the climax of the creature called man;” the same may be said in regard to the Union Stock-Yards, as they are the culmination, the climax, of the immense hoards of cattle scattered over the broad prairies of the West, the millions of swine produced throughout the great farming communities of the land, as also of the numerous flocks of sheep and herds of horses that are brought to this great live-stock emporium. Here, those vast flocks and hordes find a ready market, which is the case as an other point in the country. It is from this point that the seaboard and intermediate markets are supplied, as also the wants of our local butchers and packers. It needs no further evidence than has already been presented to convince even the most casual reader that the Chicago live-stock market, as now conducted, is one of the most important interests of the city, and we might add that it exercises a greater influence on both the financial and commercial prosperity of the West than any other single interest. Therefore, should it not become the pride of the live-stock raisers and shippers throughout the great Northwest, and the inhabitants of the State having within its limits an institution of such magnitude, being so constructed, and all its workings so systematical as to produce the facilities for receiving, taking care if, and marketing, its large daily receipts to the city of mammoth packing-houses on one side, and the large number of prominent shippers on then other, who control a capital up into the millions of greenbacks, making this the market of markets in this or any other country?
The Great Union Stock Yards of Chicago
Union Stock Yards Gate
Chicago Tribune, August 15, 1879
An elegant and substantial new entrance has just been completed at the Union Stock-Yards. It is built of stone, at an expense to the Stock-Yard Company of $15,000. The centre gate is of iron, and is opened by being lifted up by machinery in one of the apartments constructed with the gate. On the southern side commodious quarters have been arranged for the yard police, and great attention has been paid to making the rooms pleasant and useful.
Union Stock Yards
Rand McNally Map of Boulevards and Park System
Chicago Tribune, October 6, 1895
TWO things are thrust upon the attention of the visitor to the Stock-Yards district at every step—beer and smells. The beverage is freely dispensed in tin cans; the odors are given out with a lavishness that challenges the universe to contain them. Any man who contemplates visiting that section of the city is cautioned to acquire a severe case of catarrh beforehand, for he will find that the Stock-Yards appeal far more powerfully to the olfactory nerve than to the esthetic sense. But speaking of beer. The trade in that great staple languishes between the hours of 7 and 11 a.m. and 12:30 and 6 p.m. At all other times and particularly at noon it flows as freely as several hundred—it may even be said as as some thousands—of faucets will permit. Beer is the one thing necessary to existence in the Sock-Yards. Clothing and even food may be dispensed with but the can must never be empty. The only exception to this rule is in the case of those who may happen to have enough money to indulge in the more expensive luxury of whisky, which is too costly to be purchased by the can. It is out on Ashland avenue, between Forty-first and Forty-fifth streets near the entrances to the great packing-houses, that the can trade is the most extensive, A brisk business is done in the early morning when the men are on their way to work, and after 6 o’clock in the evening a steady, brisk trade sets in that lasts until late bedtime.
But it is at noon that the great business of the day is done, for every customer of the saloons, which practically includes every man and boy employed in and about the packing-houses, must be served in the short space of twenty minutes. Then men are given thirty minutes to eat their dinner, and not one of them would think of eating dinner without beer.
Fifteen minutes before 12 women and little girls begin to appear in the streets, walking toward the streets leading to the Stock-Yards gates, each carrying a basket and a can. One contains the midday meal of husband or father, the other is destined to hold his midday beer. Having filled their cans the female contingent seats itself on the rough board benches outside the saloons and waits for the appearance of the head of the house.
About the same time the advance guard of the can brigade begins to deploy in the streets leading to the favorite saloon. The advance guard is mainly boys, who are slipped out ahead of time to fill all the cans they can carry, which means anywhere from six to twenty, for the elders. Occasionally there is a man among them. All walk very fast, neither pausing nor looking to right or left.
At 12 o’clock the grand can rush begins. Half a minute after the whistles blow an army of men and boys surges through the gates. Every one is on the dead run, hatless, coatless, their scant clothing reeking with blood, and all the filth of the slaughter-house. Every one is breathing hard with the violence of his exertions. Every one looks straight ahead with an earnestness which says plainer than words that something more than life or death is at stake. There is. The problem that confronts each is how to get his can filled and emptied and return to his place within thirty minutes. And when it is remembered that there are several thousand of them and only a hundred or so saloons has many faucets and several bartenders, who can draw
beer with a dexterity that rises almost to the plane of genius and the feat is accomplished.
Having secured the beer the men rush out doors to drink and eat—particularly to drink. For a few moments, the street, the curb, the benches in the sun, or in the shade, are lined with men as quick as they can sit. When the cans are empty the army begins the return march, but at a leisurely walk now. It is going away from the saloons.
In the Stock-Yards the can is usually the oblong tin in which five pounds of beef are packed, with a wire for a handle.
Another sort of rush may be witnessed one day in the week—the rush to the paymaster’s window. This movement is also executed with great celerity because the can rush must be gone through with in addition. The paymaster occupies a little box just outside one of the huge warehouses at noon. When the whistle blows the fastest runner presents himself at the window, bawls out the number by which he is known on the books of the company, and has a small envelope containing his pay marked with a corresponding number, literally thrown at him. He catches it and rushes away to fill his can. By this time there are several hundred men formed in line before the window and the process of paying off goes on.
By 12:30 the streets are silent and deserted save for an occasional old woman staggering along under the weight of a dirty bag filled with coal or broken bits of board picked up from the streets. Whisky Point, so named from the great quantity of liquor consumed there, remarkable for even the Stock-Yards, is lifeless until 6 o’clock. Nearly all the saloons have Polish or Bohemian signs, an indication that a large percentage of their patrons are of that nationality.
Over on the eastern boundary of the Stock-Yards, along Halsted street, a different phase of life presents itself. The can is not quite so much in evidence, though the saloons are just as numerous and evidently quite as prosperous. It is this entrance to the yards that is seen used by every man who does business there. Here is life enough at all hours of the day. More equestrians can be seen here in an hour than in any other section of the city in a day. Most of the horsemen are engaged in driving cattle around the yards and to the smaller slaughtering houses outside the gates. Men who have often to go from the inside of the yards to the street ride a horse. Here may often be seen a “bunch” of castle, or sheep, or hogs being driven by an immense exertion of lungs to the outside slaughtering houses. It may be said here that one of the most effective hog drivers never says a word. He is “Old Sandy,” a horse which has had a steady job with Noonan & Hough for fourteen years. Old Sandy not renders valuable aid in driving hogs, but he draws a peculiarly constructed low cart which is used as an ambulance for fat hogs, which become exhausted on the way. Old Sandy never requires any attention from a driver. He never has any lines on his harness. He knows exactly what to do and he always does it. Old Sandy used to be annoyed excessively by street boys who persisted in climbing on his cart. Sandy would become furious, but he was helpless; he could not chase the boys handicapped with that cart. But at last, it is related, the evil became too great to be tolerated. One day when a half dozen of the most impudent youngsters had jumped on his cart Sandy stopped, deliberately kicked himself loose, and then, being free from impediments, ran one of the boys down, seized him at the union of waist and trousers, nearly shook the life out of him, then marched quietly back to his cart, wearing an expression which indicated that he was at peace with the world. He has never been troubled by boys since.
Chicago Tribune, July 31, 1971
BY RICHARD ORR
Chicago’s historic Union Stock Yards, once famed as the greatest marketing center of its kind in the world, went out of business yesterday, a victim of changing times.
The end came quietly and without fanfare as the former bustling, boisterous, vibrant “packing town,” only a ghost of its former self, faded in its 106th year. Only a handful of live stock commission men, packers and farmers were on hand to attend the sale of 2,000 head of cattle, that last of millions of animals to pass thru the yards.
Clear Site for Industry
A bulldozer rumbled thru piles of rubble, razing what remains of a maze of animal pens to clear the site for a new industrial park. Souvenir hunters tried to remove some of the antique brass latches from pen gates, and early yesterday morning two persons were arrested while attempting to lift a bronze bust of Abraham Lincoln from its pedestal in front of the eight-story Exchange Building.
“We decided to let it al end quietly,” said M. E. Cook, executive vice president of the Union Stock Yard and Transit Cp. “We didn’t want to conduct a wake.”
Henry Clausen, 73, a cattle feeder of Traer, Ia., leaned on his cane and gazed pensively at the 22 Angus steers he and his son, Gene, had trucked 320 miles for the last day of trading.
Less Buying Power
“I’ve been selling cattle here 50 years,” said the elder Clausen. “I didn’t like to see it end this way.”
Frank Hartman, a commission man for 30 years, paused in his last sale of cattle to observe. “We lost the buying power when the big packers moved out in the early 1950s.”
The yards opened on Christmas Day, 1865, on 320 acres of swamp land purchased from “Long John” Wentworth, Chicago pioneer, mayor and congressman. At the peak in 1924 more than 18.6 million head of cattle, hogs and sheep were marketed in Chicago in a single year.
Plan to Continue Trading
For decades the yards and affiliated industries employed 40,000 persons, and almost to the end the Chicago market was the price setter for the nation’s multi-billion dollar live stock industry. But in 1969 animal marketings dropped for the first time, and hog trading ended in May, 1970.
Members of the Chicago Live-stock Exchange plan to continue trading at a new Chicago-Joliet Livestock Marketing Center, which opens for business Monday in temporary facilities 50 miles south of Chicago near the intersection of Interstate 80 and Interstate 55. All that will remain of the Chicago yards within a few weeks will be the International Amphitheater and Stock Yard Inn at 42d and Halsted Streets and the old stone gate, built in 1879 on Exchange Avenue.
Perhaps even the old gate will be gone, altho the Chicago Commission on Historical and Architectural Landmarks has scheduled a hearing on Aug. 11 to consider preserving it as an official landmark and memorial to the once-famed “packing town.”
Union Stock Yards
The Stock Yard Exchange as it appeared around 1900
Union Stock Yards—History of the Union Stock Yards.
Union Stock Yards—Description of the new stock yards as published in Chicago Illustrated, September, 1866
Hough House (Transient House)—Description of the Hough House Hotel as published in Chicago Illustrated, September, 1866
A Day at the Union Stock Yard—An article that was published in the July 1907 issue of “Chicago The Great Central Market Magazine.” It was possibly written as a PR piece to combat Upton Sinclair’s exposé “The Jungle,” which was published as a book on February 26, 1906.
1910 Union Stock Yards Fire.
1934 Union Stock Yards Fire