Technology that changed Chicago: Calling 911. 1900-1970

Police car with really big radio

Previous: 1877-1900 After the breakneck pace of innovation from 1864 to 1890, communications technology changed more slowly. In the early 20th Century, citizens acquired telephones at a rapid pace. Since direct dial was still in the future, you simply picked up the phone and told the operator the nature of the emergency. Direct dial for […]

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Technology that changed Chicago: Calling 911. 1877-1900

Police officer standing at police box. Police wagon running.

Previous: 1860-1877 Although the fire telegraph system reached a state of near perfection in 1877, the police alarm system had a number of problems that became apparent in the large labor riots of that year. Communication from the street to stations depended largely upon runners and telegrams from the large businesses with telegraph operators. Communication […]

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Technology that changed Chicago: Calling 911. 1860-1877

Previous: 1835-1860 Work began on a fire telegraph system in the early 1860s. Initially the system just connected the fire and police stations to each other. 1864 saw emergency communications take a leap into the modern era. The Fire Telegraph System began with 116 locked boxes. Each firefighter, police officer and certain responsible citizens had […]

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Technology that changed Chicago: Calling 911. 1835-1860

Large Building with tower

Today in Chicago, you can call 911 and get rapid emergency assistance. Things were very different in 1835. The telephone hadn't been invented and dealing with emergencies was largely a self-help affair. Professional police and fire forces were a thing of the future. This was true worldwide. Even Scotland Yard was only six years old. […]

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Technology that Changed Chicago: Ice, continued

Iceman carrying ice in front of children

Previous: Ice part one Industrial ice harvesting arrived in Chicago in 1847 when Frisbie and Burroughs put up a 2,000 ton ice house on the North Branch of the Chicago River. The 1880 Census Special Reports: Ice Trade, available in the Government Documents Department gives a nice snapshot of the Chicago ice trade in the […]

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Technology that Changed Chicago: Ice

Men and Horses cutting ice

For thousands of years, people around the world have been storing winter ice and snow to use in hot summers. As Harvest of the Cold Months explains, ice storage was difficult, expensive and almost always a local effort.  In the tropics, where ice was needed the most, it was never available. Two Bostonians changed that. In […]

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Technology that Changed Chicago: Piggly Wiggly

Picture of a food store

Perhaps when you go to the supermarket, you run from aisle to aisle with preplanned precision, picking up only those items you need and finish shopping in the 10 minutes you have allocated. Perhaps you are a more typical shopper. You let your eyes roam from brightly colored box to brightly colored box. Childlike, you […]

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Technology that didn’t Change Chicago much: Airships

Picture of a blimp

Today heavier-than-air vessels, i.e. airplanes and helicopters, rule the skies. Lighter-than-air vessels, i.e. powered airships and balloons, are limited to niche roles such as advertising blimps and hot air balloon rides. Kites and gliders form a third category of manned flight. Hang gliding was popular in the late 20th century, but now is for serious […]

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Technology that Changed Chicago: Beer 1900-2014

Six men holding beer bottles

Previous: Beer  1855-1900 The early 1900s saw hard times for Chicago brewers. Cutthroat competition from Milwaukee resulted in a very low keg price. Many saloons were financed by breweries in an exclusive agreement to sell only one brand of beer. Often this was one of Milwaukee’s breweries, such as Schlitz, with its famous "tied-houses.” The […]

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Technology that Changed Chicago: Beer 1855-1900

Boy carrying pails of beer

Previous: 1855 Lager Beer Riots Starting in 1854, Chicago beer drinkers made Milwaukee famous. Chicago, with a larger and faster growing population, drank all of the beer its breweries could produce. Milwaukee brewers often produced too much beer. They got in the habit of shipping the excess to Chicago. Over the course of the next […]

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