Early Chicago, 1833–1871
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives
DOCUMENT 27PETITION OF E. MIELING FOR RELIEF DUE TO DAMAGES INCURRED BY HIS WIFE
August 28, 1854
The city acted as its own insurer at this time. If one sustained injuries or other damages due to the negligence of the city corporation, he or she petitioned the council for relief. The council determined if the city was indeed at fault, and if so, the amount of damages to be awarded. Examples of negligence on the part of the city included people falling through sidewalks, people and horses falling through bridges, and in the instance of this document, a woman being run over by a fire engine. The council was not overly generous in its awards.
At this time public relief was a county responsibility which was supplemented by aid from various charities. By 1853, the Cook County Poorhouse was unable to satisfy the demands placed upon it. Rush Medical College, established in 1837, provided some free medical services to the poor as did several private physicians, and the city smallpox hospital (1843) and the pesthouse. Assistance also was available from some religious organizations, immigrant aid societies, and other public charities.
The council granted this particular petition.
Points to Consider
Why was E. Meiling petitioning the council?
What did the city consider its responsibility to be in this matter?
Why would E. Mieling employ an attorney to prepare this petition?
Without relief granted by the city, where would Mieling turn?