Chicago Business Energy
( Originally Published 1900 )
As the elevators of Chicago represent its traffic in grain, and contain usually a large proportion of what is known as the "visible supply," so do the vast lumber-yards along Chicago River often store up an enormous product of the output from the "Great North Woods," covering much of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, and spreading across the Canadian border. The third great branch of traffic is repro sented by the Union Stock Yards in the southwestern suburbs. These yards in a year will handle eight millions of hogs, four millions of cattle, four millions of sheep and a hundred thousand horses, over two-thirds of the hogs and cattle being killed in the yards and sent away in the form of meat, and the whole annual traffic being valued at $250,000,000. The yards cover three hundred acres, and with the packing-houses employ twenty-five thousand men, and they have twenty miles of water-troughs and twenty-five miles of feeding-troughs, and are served by two hundred and fifty miles of railway-tracks. The hog is a potential factor in American economy, being regarded as the most compact form in which the corn crop of the country can be transported to market. The corn on the farm is fed to the hog, and the animal is sent to Chicago as a package provided by nature for its economical utilization. The Union Stock Yards make a complete town, with its own banks, hotels, Board of Trade, Post-office, town-hall, news-paper and special Fire Department. The extensive enclosure is entered by a modest, gray sandstone turreted gateway, surmounted by a carved bull's head, emblematic of its uses. The Horse Market is a large pavilion, seating four thousand people. From this vast emporium, with its enormous packing-houses, are sent away the meat supplies that go all over the world, the product being carried out in long trains of canned goods and refrigerator cars, the most ingenious methods of " cold storage " being invented for and used in this widely extended industry.
The active traffic of the grain and provision trades of Chicago is conducted in the building of the Board of Trade, a tall and imposing structure at the head of La Salle Street, which makes a fitting close to the view along that grand highway. It is one of the most elaborate architectural ornaments of the city, and its surmounting tower rises three hundred and twenty-two feet from the pavement. The fame of this grand speculative arena is world-wide, and the animated and at times most exciting business done within marks the nervous beating of the pulse of this metropolis of food products. The interior is a magnificent hall, lighted by high-reaching windows and surmounted by a central skylight elevated nearly a hundred feet above the floor. Impressive columns adorn the sides, and the elaborate frescoes above are in keeping with its artistic decoration. Upon the spacious floor, between nine and one o'clock, assemble the wheat and corn, and pork, lard, cattle and railway kings in a typical scene of concentrated and boiling energy feeding the furnace in which Chicago's high-pressure business enterprise glows and roars. These speculative gladiators have their respective "pits " or amphitheatres upon the floor, so that they gather in huge groups, around which hundreds run and jostle, the scene from the overlooking gallery, as the crowds sway and squirm, and with their calls and shouting make a deafening uproar; being a veritable Bedlam. Each a pit " deals in a specific article, while in another space are detachments of telegraph operators working with nimble fingers to send instant re-ports of the doings and prices to the anxious outer world. High up on the side of the grand hall, in full view of all, are hung large dials, whose moving hands keep momentary record of the changes in primes made by the noisy and excited throngs in the "pits," thus giving notice of the ruling figures for the next month's " options " on wheat, corn and " short-ribs." There are tables for samples, and large blackboards bearing the figures of market quotations elsewhere. This Chicago Board of Trade has been the scene of some of the wildest speculative excitements in the country as its shouting and almost frenzied groups of traders in the "pits" may make or break a "corner," and here in fitful fever concentrates the business energy of the great Metropolis of the Lakes.