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Early Chicago, 1833–1871

A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

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September 26, 1853

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The Chicago River divided the city into three logical divisions — North, South, and West. Although the North Division had some wealthy pockets in 1853, it was dominated by the impoverished Irish and also housed slaughterhouses and such industry as the McCormick Reaper Company which had located near the lake in 1847. In 1848, construction of the Galena and Chicago Railroad brought new centers of fashion and business. The North Division housed the "Sands," a vice district, as well. In the South Division was located the main business district. The wealthy class was concentrated along Michigan and Wabash Avenues in this division. The West Division was populated by the impoverished. After 1848, when the Illinois and Michigan Canal was completed, this division experienced substantial growth. A few years earlier it had been considered part of the countryside.

Points to Consider

What formed the divisions of Chicago?

What was the wealthiest division in 1853?

What was the poorest division?

Which kinds of taxes were imposed at that time?

See Related Document: 15, 17, 18, 21, 32, 35, 36, 39, and 44

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