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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Technology that Changed Chicago: 1855 Lager Beer Riots

Wooden Building with people standin in and on it

Previous: Beer 1830-1855 1855 brought to a head years of strife over the question of Sunday drinking. Sunday drinking had been forbidden by several widely ignored laws. Whiskey drinkers, usually American born, could buy their tipple on another day and drink in the privacy of their homes. Immigrants, Germans-in particular, favored beer and often didn’t see […]

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Technology that Changed Chicago: Beer 1830-1855

Picture of a brewery

According to the The History of Beer and Brewing in Chicago, even before Chicago became a town, its residents were served by several taverns that brewed their own ale. Haas and Sulzer, the first wholesale brewery, began brewing ale in 1835. The first year they brewed 600 barrels. Both Haas and Sulzer sold out a few […]

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Technology that Changed Chicago: Alleys

Chicago Alley with EL in background

When I first moved to Chicago I had no idea what alleys were good for. TV and mystery books me told why alleys were bad—they were designed solely for muggers and other social outcasts. Whenever I walked by the mouth of an alley, I would look fearfully and move away if I saw anybody. However, […]

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Technology that Changed Chicago: Fire Limits

Map showing fire limits

The majority of Chicago buildings are of masonry construction. However, a glance through the neighborhoods will show odd patterns. Perhaps a humble frame cottage, or a grand wooden mansion stuck among a row of stone two-flats. Perhaps a whole block of frame buildings surrounded by blocks of masonry buildings. Perhaps a block which mixes up […]

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Technology that Changed Chicago: Subdivisions

Two maps

The Federal Government sold and gave away land in farm-sized lots as discussed in the previous post on the Public Land Survey.  However a city requires a dense street grid and relatively small lots suitable for building individual residences and businesses. The process of dividing up the raw acreage into building lots and laying out […]

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Technology that Changed Chicago: Public Land Survey, continued


Part One Roads were generally built along the outside lines of survey sections. Then they could serve two farmers without crossing anybody’s land. This pattern can be seen in Chicago. Major streets are built on the section lines. Chicago uses 800 house numbers to the mile, so the section line roads are 800 numbers apart. […]

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