The Stock Yards and Packingtown - Chicago, Illinois
Posted by: Hikenutty
N 41° 49.114 W 087° 38.902
16T E 446151 N 4629835
Quick Description: Chicago was famous for its huge stockyards and the filth and stench of the area inspired many a writer, including Sandburg, Dreiser, and most famously, Upton Sinclair for his book, "The Jungle."
Location: Illinois, United States
Date Posted: 8/2/2007 7:19:05 PM
Waymark Code: WM1YCA
The following excerpt is from "The WPA Guide to Illinois":
The UNION STOCK YARDS, Halsted St. and Exchange Ave., and PACKINGTOWN, Racine Ave. and Exchange Ave., the world's largest unit for the marketing of livestock and the processing of meat, consist of a square mile of pens and packing plants, in which some 12,000,000 aniimals, valued at $250,000,000, are received annually. Livestock is the chief source of cash income for the American farmer, and the Union Stock Yards handle approximately one-fifth of the total sales. About 75 per cent of the animals received are slaughtered and processed here. The remainder are shipped largely to feeders in the corn belt and to packers in the East. Most shipments of cattle and lambs go to Jewish packing houses in New York City, for by Mosaic law kosher meat must be eaten within a few days of slaughter.
Hundreds of latticed freight cars rattle into the yards each night with their noisy cargo. Transferred to the pens that fill the east half of the square mile, the animals are watered, fed, and prepared for sale in the morning. Cattle buyers, frequently mounted, representing large and small packers, traders, butchers, and feeders, inspect the day's offerings and bargain with the commission men to whom the livestock is consigned.
In busy seasons the streets within and around the yards swarm with men who have accompanied their stock to market -- drawling Texans with wide-brimmed Stetsons, bearded men of rural religious sects, and Midwest farmers in ordinary business clothes.
The Union Stockyards thrived for over a century until their closure in 1971. This limestone gate marked the entrance ot the yards and it is one of the only remaining reminder of Chicago's reign in the livestock and meat packing industries. It was designed by the famous architecture team of Burnham and Root in 1875.
The steer is thought to represent "Sherman" a prize-winning bull named after John B. Sherman, one of the founders of the Union stock Yard and Transit Company.
It was this area that inspired Carl Sandburg to write the line "Chicago, Hog butcher to the world," in his famous poem "Chicago". The yards inspired many well known American writers, but the most famous book set at and around the stockyards is Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle". The book exposed the dirty and dangerous conditions of the industry, prompting President Theodore Roosevelt to push for reform.
The following passage from Sinclair's book was set near here at the gates.
All day long the gates of the packing houses were besieged by starving and penniless men; they came, literally, by the thousands every single morning, fighting with each other for a chance for life.
Page Number(s) of Excerpt: 294
Year Originally Published: 1939
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