The Stockyards

The Birth of the Chicago Union Stock Yards

In order to build the new centralized stockyard, a consortium of nine railroad companies purchased a 320-acre area of swampy land in southwest Chicago for $100,000 in 1864. Using Chicago as a hub, this new stockyard would serve as a commercial link between America's East and West.

Livestock pens comprised approximately 40 acres of
the stock yards, 1880. (G1987.00624 N0070, neg. no. 26)

The stockyards' ultimate boundaries were Pershing Avenue, Halsted Street, 47th Street, and Ashland Avenue. Civil engineer Octave Chanute designed the plan and Chicago's Union Stock Yard and Transit Company officially opened on Christmas Day 1865. Fifteen miles of track delivered livestock directly to the stockyards from the city's main rail lines. Five hundred thousand gallons of fresh water were pumped daily from the Chicago River into the yards, and waste drained into a fork of the river that would be dubbed "Bubbly Creek" due to the contamination. Drovers herded cattle, hogs, and sheep down two wide thoroughfares from the railroad cars to the pens. By 1900, the stockyard grew to 475 acres, contained 50 miles of road, and had 130 miles of track along its perimeter.

The extensive network of railroad tracks throughout
the stock yards allowed workers to unload livestock
directly into pens. (CHS ICHi-13877)

Al Capone
Black Sox
Century of Progress
Chicago Fire
World's Columbian Expo
Parades, Protests and Politics
THe Pullman Era
The Stockyards
The Stockyards Photos
The Stockyards bibliography
Fort Dearborn

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