With a special thanks to our friends in Chicago, we are able to continue exploring the history of Chicago. This month we join Join Dr. Chris Stacey for an exploration into horses!
To understand life in Chicago in the late 19th and early 20th century you must imagine a city filled with horses. Horses were essential to the growth of Chicago and served as a primary means of commercial and public transportation. The emergence of public transit in Chicago began in 1856 with horse drawn streetcars. Three large transit corporations carved-out geographic monopolies on each side of the city for public transit, which originated to serve long-distance railroad passengers so they could easily cross-town to another terminal or travel to downtown hotels and retail businesses. Transit companies and commercial owners viewed horses entirely in terms of profitability and were constantly conducting scientific analysis to determine if another form of transit technology should replace the horse streetcar. Horses transformed the city in a number of ways. They were essential to everyday life, they helped industry expand, stimulated the rise of Chicago’s downtown consumer economy, and had a profound influence on how urban space was shaped. During the “golden age” of horses in the late 19th century, Chicagoans complained about a variety of inconveniences on streetcars, female passengers began to encounter sexual harassment during their commutes to shop and work, and a public health crisis arose due to the immense amounts of manure in the city’s streets and alleys. In addition, corrupt politicians extracted an extraordinary amount of boodle from transit companies leading to campaigns for municipal ownership of public transit. All of these social and economic problems seemed to portend the demise of horse streetcars but only when horses were no longer a viable profit center did transit companies convert their systems to make Chicago the “Great Cable Car City.”
Please register for this event through the Columbia Club of Chicago website by clicking HERE