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Sampler: Chicago Union Stockyards


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Chicago Union Stockyards Chicago Union Stockyards
Chicago Union Stockyards

For decades, one of the largest features of Chicago and one of the most important parts of the local economy was the sprawling meat processing facility known as the Union Stockyards. Cattle, pigs, and sheep from the Midwest and West were brought by train to Chicago, where factories bearing such well-known names as Swift and Armour butchered and packed the meat which was then sold throughout the United States. Many Americans probably knew of the stockyards, but few had occasion to visit it, nor was it a part of most people's everyday concerns until publication of Upton Sinclair's novel The Jungle in 1906. Sinclair, one of the investigative writers and reporters known as muckrakers, described the often brutal working conditions and unsanitary processes in the Union Stockyards' meat packing firms. This work greatly influenced President Theodore Roosevelt and helped motivate Congress to enact laws governing the processing of foods and drugs. Because Sinclair's novel has been part of the curriculum in many schools since its publication, no doubt many Americans have mental images of the Union Stockyards.

Details of Stockyard
Graphic details of perspective view.

The firm of Charles Rascher had a virtual monopoly on fire insurance mapping in Chicago in Sinclair's day. The fire insurance atlas that Rascher produced for the city ultimately consisted of almost sixty large volumes. The Union Stockyards were so significant, however, that Rascher issued a completely separate publication about them, with a general plan of the stockyards and separate sheets for each of the major processing facilities.

The map of the complex of buildings belonging to Armour and Company is reproduced here. Letters on each building help users relate the perspective view in the upper right corner to the appropriate part of the detail plan on the left. Major structures supporting different components of the business include a packing house, two ham houses, various warehouses, cattle pens, a slaughter house, fertilizer works, a butter house, tallow house, wool house, hair press, and an ice machine and boiler facility. These are all connected by an extensive complex of railroad spurs and animal passageways.

Gary L. Fitzpatrick


Baltimore and Ohio Railroad | Bethlehem Steel | Chicago Union Stockyards | Cripple Creek | John Deere | Ebbets Field | Ford Motor Company | Ryman Auditorium | Tuskegee Institute | Waikiki


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  July 10, 2014
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