Technology that Changed Chicago: Air Rights

Aerial photo

Some of Chicago’s most famous buildings exist because of air rights. Examples are the Merchandise Mart, the Prudential Building and the old Main Post Office. The basic concept is that a property owner, for example a railroad, retains the right to use the ground, but sells or leases the right to use the air above […]

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What happened to Tyler Street?

Portrait of John Tyler

According to the Chicago Street Name Index, Chicago has honored many American presidents by naming streets after them. In 1833, the original Town of Chicago included streets named after Washington, the first president, and Jefferson, the third. Over time these streets were joined by streets named after: Adams (2nd) Madison (4th) Monroe (5th) Quincy (named after […]

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Chicago vs. Smallpox

Previous Post: General George Washington vs. Smallpox According to Pox Americana, historical records indicate the epidemic of 1775-82 killed up to ninety percent of the Indians along trade routes from Mexico City, New Orleans and Canada. The devastation in the middle of the continent was not recorded, but during the 1790s European explorers of the […]

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General George Washington vs. Smallpox

According to The Speckled Monster, smallpox is by "…far and away the most voracious killer ever to stalk the human species."  Smallpox is caused by the virus Variola major. Smallpox spreads through human contact and by contact with a victim's clothing, bedding, etc. It takes about 12 days for symptoms to appear. During part of this […]

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The elevation of Chicago: a statistical mystery

photo of the Chicago Skyline

According to The World Book Encyclopedia Chicago “lies on a plain 595 feet (181 meters) above sea level." Different sources measure at different places and give slightly different elevations. As an example Facts About Chicago uses a Lake Michigan level of 578.5 feet. Ground level in Chicago ranges from 577 feet at the surface of the […]

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Technology that changed Chicago: Wooden Barrels, continued

Various Parts of a barrel labeled

Previous Post I was always slightly mystified by the process of actually opening and closing barrels until I researched this post. The next picture shows the anatomy of a tight (liquid containing) barrel. The barrel would be filled with liquid through the bung hole. When filled, a wooden plug known as a bung would be […]

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Technology that changed Chicago: Wooden Barrels

Men loading barrels on truck

Wooden barrels have been used since ancient times. Barrels have been part of American life since the beginning of European immigration. Our first barrel maker came over on the Mayflower. Barrels were fairly cheap, reusable, strong, crushproof, weatherproof, watertight, somewhat tamperproof and could be stamped or branded with the content information.  They could be rolled […]

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Technology that changed Chicago: Calling 911. 1970-2014

School house shaped fire alarm box.

Previous: 1900-1970 By the 1960s, most of the country had switched to direct dial telephones.  Telephone operators were on their way out. In areas such as Chicago’s suburbs, there are hundreds of police departments and fire districts. The service boundaries are rarely clear. You needed to find a telephone book, hope your dog hadn’t eaten […]

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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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