Page:EB1911 - Volume 06.djvu/137

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124
CHICAGO

and tries to prevent overlapping of efforts and to weed out fraud. Following the gradual development of New York state laws on behalf of children was enacted the Illinois Juvenile Court Law, which came into force on the 1st of July 1899 and was largely the result of Chicago’s interest in juvenile reform. Much philanthropic work centres in the West Side with its heterogeneous population. A famous institution is Hull House, a social settlement of women, which aims to be a social, charitable, and educational neighbourhood centre. It was established in 1889 by Miss Jane Addams, who became the head-worker, and Miss Ellen Gates Starr. It includes an art building, a free kindergarten, a fine gymnasium, a crèche, and a diet kitchen; and supports classes, lectures and concerts. It has had a very great influence throughout the United States. The Armour mission (1886) for the poor is organized with similar breadth of scope.

Population.—Of the total population in 1900 not less than 34.6% were foreign-born; the number of persons either born abroad, or born in the United States of foreign parentage (i.e. father or both parents foreign), was 77.4% of the population, and in the total number of males of voting age the foreign-born predominated (53.4%). Of the latter category 68.2% were already citizens by naturalization. 3.9% of the inhabitants of ten years of age or upward were illiterate (unable to write), while the percentage of foreign-born whites was 8.2% (93.9% of illiterate males of voting age). Germans, Irish, Poles, Swedes and Bohemians made up respectively 29.1, 12.6, 8.6, 8.3 and 6.2% of the foreign-born population. It was estimated in 1903 by a very competent authority that above 500,000 persons spoke German, 125,000 Polish, 100,000 Swedish, 90,000 Bohemian, 50,000 Norwegian, 50,000 Yiddish, 35,000 Dutch, 25,000 Italian, 20,000 Danish, 17,000 French and 12,000 Irish (Celtic), and that each of fourteen foreign languages was spoken by more than 10,000 people: “Newspapers appear regularly in 10 languages, and church-services may be heard in about 20 languages. Chicago is the second largest Bohemian city of the world, the third Swedish, the fourth Norwegian, the fifth Polish, the fifth German (New York being the fourth). In all there are some 40 languages spoken by . . . over one million” persons.[1] The death-rate of Chicago is the lowest of the great cities of the country. Births are but slightly in excess of deaths, so that the growth of the city is almost wholly from immigration. The death-rate is the lowest of the great cities of the country (16.2 in 1900; New York, 20.4; Boston, 20.1, &c.).

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

History.—The river Chicago (an Indian name of uncertain meaning, but possibly from Ojibwa she-kag-ong, “wild onion place”) was visited by Joliet and Marquette in 1673, and later by La Salle and others. It became a portage route of some importance, used by the French in passing to the lower Illinois country. In 1804 the United States established here Fort Dearborn. In 1812, during the Indian War of Tecumseh, the garrison and settlers, who had abandoned the fort and were retreating toward safety, were attacked and overpowered by the savages at a point now well within the city. The fort was re-established and fitfully occupied until its final abandonment in 1837. When Cook county was organized in 1831, Chicago, then a tiny village, became the seat of justice. It became a town in 1833 and a city in 1837. By that time Chicago was confident of its future. The federal government had begun the improvement of the harbour, and the state had started the Illinois and Michigan canal. There was a federal land-office also, and the land speculator and town promoter had opened a chapter of history more picturesque, albeit sordid, than in any of the old French days. The giant growth of the lake trade had drawn attention before railway connexion was secure with the East in 1852, making progress even more rapid thereafter. During the Civil War a large prison-camp for Confederate prisoners, Camp Douglas, was maintained at Chicago. In 1870 the city had 306,605 inhabitants and was already a commercial centre of immense importance.

In 1871 it suffered a terrible calamity. On the 8th of October a fire broke out near the lumber district on the West Side. Two-thirds of the city’s buildings were wood, and the summer had been excessively dry, while to make conditions worse a high and veering wind fanned the flames. The conflagration leaped the river to the South and finally to the North Side, burned over an area of 31/3 sq. m., destroyed 17,450 buildings and property valued at $196,000,000,[2] and rendered almost 100,000 people homeless; 250 lost their lives. The flames actually travelled 21/4 m. in an air-line within 6½ hours. Thousands of persons, fleeing before the flames and fire-brands, sought refuge on the shore and even in the waters of the lake. Robbery, pillage, extortion, orgies and crime added to the general horror. In the South Side the fire was checked on the 9th by the use of gunpowder; in the North (where the water-works were early destroyed) it had extended almost to the prairie when rainfall finally ended its ravages, after about twenty-seven hours of destruction. With the exception of the San Francisco fire of 1906 this was the greatest fire of modern times. A vast system of relief was organized and received generous aid from all parts of the world. The money contributions from the United States and abroad were $4,996,782; of this foreign countries contributed nearly $1,000,000 (England half of this). These funds, which were over and above gifts of food, clothing and supplies, were made to last till the close of 1876. Out of them temporary homes were provided for nearly 40,000 people; barracks and better houses were erected, workmen were supplied with tools, and women with sewing-machines; the sick were cared for and the dead buried; and the poorer classes of Chicago were probably never so comfortable as during the first two or three years after the fire. The rebuilding of the city was accomplished with wonderful rapidity. Work was begun before the cinders were cold. The business district was largely rebuilt within a year, and within three there were hardly scars of the calamity. Wood was barred from a large area (and subsequently from the entire city), and a new Chicago of brick and stone, larger, finer and wealthier, had taken the place of the old. Business and population showed no set-back in their progress. The solidity and permanence of this prosperity were confirmed during the financial panic of 1873, when Chicago banks alone, among those of the large cities of the country, continued steadily to pay out current funds.

In its later history certain special factors stand out, apart from continued commercial progress.

Chicago has been a storm centre of labour troubles, some of them of a specially spectacular character. There were great strikes in the packing industry in 1886, 1894 and 1904. But more noteworthy are the railway strike of 1894 and the unsuccessful teamsters’ strike of 1905. The former began in the works of the Pullman Car Company, and its leader was Eugene Victor Debs (b. 1855). When the contentions of the Pullman employees were taken up by the American Railway Union the strike immediately extended to tremendous proportions. Union men

  1. Prof. C. D. Buck in Decennial Publications of the University of Chicago (1903, vol. 6).
  2. There was an insurance of $88,634,122 on the losses, of which about a half was recovered. F. L. Olmsted estimated that one-third of the roof surface and one-half the cubic contents of the city’s buildings were destroyed.