Narrator: By the time of the Civil War, after less than 30 years of unbridled capitalism, Chicago was the metropolis of the mid-West. The world's largest railroad hub. The world's largest lumber market. The world's largest grain port - "stacker of wheat" poet Carl Sandburg called it. And "Hog butcher to the world." Built with timber from Wisconsin forests, Chicago burned in 1871 like a giant forest fire, the largest urban conflagration of the age. A city of braggers and boasters, it boasted once more. People would swarm to the jobs along Chicago's stinking river - from the East and from the Elbe, Rhine, Danube, and Vistula. The Protestant elite who hired them was hostile to their foreign ways, their labor unions, their socialism. Especially the anarchists among them.
Donald L. Miller, Author: They told capitalists, Your function in life is to die. We're going to get you. We're going to bomb your factories. We're going to tear apart your system. The general strike's going to bring down capitalism. You'll be shot afterwards.
Narrator: The great battle of post Civil War America was between capital and labor. Chicago would be its cauldron.
Chicago: City of the Century
Part II: The Revolution Has Begun
Narrator: The Chicago fire of 1871 was one of the great urban catastrophes of modern times. Papers would boast that the great London fire of 1666 or Napoleon's siege of Moscow in 1812 hadn't done half the damage. Chicago, its boosters believed, had to be first in everything. But railroads still converged on the city. The stock yards and hundreds of mills, factories and warehouses that ringed the downtown had survived. Editor Joseph Medill cranked out an edition of the Tribune while the ground was still hot.
Dominic Pacyga, Historian: Chicago boomers and boosters are on trains the next day going out to the East coast saying, "Hey, this is a great place to invest. "We're not broke; we just had a little fire."
Narrator: An inquiry at the time determined that one suspect, Catherine O'Leary, was not responsible, that she was in bed when the fire started. Not in the barn with her cow. But within weeks she was depicted as the culprit. Not 38 years old but an old hag. A published photo showed another woman with a steer not a cow.
Nancy Connolly, O'Leary Descendant: I've seen a few where she looks, she actually looks like a witch, you know, they've got the big nose with the, you know, with the wart on her nose, and she actually looks evil in some of them.
Thomas J. O'Gorman, Writer: She was a Catholic, she was an immigrant, she was poor, and most of all, she was a women. She was a perfect patsy for the fire.
Edward M. Burke, Alderman: In truth, she was a very decent, honorable, hard working lady who was trying to raise her family in very difficult circumstances.
Connolly: They didn't want to lose their investors, and so it was easy to, I think, find a scapegoat and say "Oh, well we know the reason the fire started - and you know these Irish were not clean, they were throwing their garbage out." This was just all made up. And most of them are burned out too. They did say that. They've moved out of the city. The slums are going to be cleaned up. We don't have to worry about them anymore. So it was really a terrible thing for her to have endure. She just died, I think, heartbroken.
Narrator: Mrs. O'Leary and her cow became one of America's most enduring legends.
TV Announcer: Chicago sends its Firemen's Band, a Rose Parade favorite. They come today to prevent the city of Chicago from re-enacting the incident of Mrs. O'Leary's cow. This float won the coveted national trophy.
Narrator: In 1997, after 126 years, the Chicago City Council investigated the fire and formally absolved Mrs. O'Leary of responsibility.
Alderman Burke: And the true villain in this case was Peg Leg O'Sullivan who broke into the O'Leary barn to steal milk from one of her cows to mix up a batch of whisky punch which was fueling a local gathering of some of the lads down the street from the O'Leary home.
Narrator: The rubble was swept into Lake Michigan to create more real estate. Chicago began to rebuild. Marshall Field dreamed of a new store on State Street as he removed hay and dung from a brick barn and set up display counters. Potter Palmer would replace his grand hotel, the Palmer House, with millions in loans secured only by his good reputation. Cyrus McCormick, the Reaper King, vowed to rebuild his plant on a vaster scale.
Donald L. Miller, Author: Anthony Trollope, an Englishman, visited Chicago. He said "These businessmen in Chicago are reckless, and they fail a lot. But failure doesn't bother them. Catastrophe doesn't bother them. They bounce right back." And that seems to be ingrained in the character of the city. The fire happens, and believe it or not, in the newspapers it's seen as an opportunity. Chicago hops right to it after the fire, and rebuilds itself in an astonishingly short period of time. It's about a 2-year period.
Ann Keating, Historian: We didn't have a mythological past, so we're building one, in 1871. To some degree, it's the city grows so quickly, and then it's creating a past and thinking about a past and the fire provides a mythology: Chicago's going to rise out of the ashes, it does arise out of the ashes. How much of the city is actually burned? Well, you know, only a very small part of the actual city is burned. But that's not the way we think about the fire.
Narrator: There was an outpouring of aid from around the nation and from 25 foreign countries. England sent 8,000 books.
Alderman Burke: And even Queen Victoria personally donated books and inscribed them to the people of Chicago. And they had assumed, of course,that in the great fire, Chicago would have lost its library. There was only one problem. Chicago didn't have a library.
Narrator: Two years after the fire, a 17 year-old came to Chicago from Boston with dreams of becoming an architect. Though he found the buildings unimpressive, he was impressed with the recovery. Young Louis Henry Sullivan, who had dropped out of MIT after a year, got, he said, "a sense of big things to be done."
Tim Samuelson, Chicago Historical Society: He wrote in his autobiography about stepping off the train, seeing the city before him--part of it's still in ruins from the fire--and thrusting his hand up in the air and saying, "This is the place for me."
Narrator: The city "shouted itself hoarse," Sullivan would write. "We are the crudest, rawest, most savagely ambitious dreamers and ... doers in the world." He would be one of them. Gustavus Swift would be another. Swift got his start as a teenage butcher on Cape Cod in Massachusetts.
Ed Swift Jr., Swift Descendant: The story my father likes to tell is that when Gustavus Swift was about 16 years old, he borrowed 20 dollars from his father, to buy a heifer. And then slaughtered the heifer and went and sold it to local residents in the Cape, and came back, and his father asked him, How did you do? And he said, Well, I sold the meat for 20 dollars. And his father said, Well, you didn't make any money at it, then. He said, Well, yes I did. I sold the hide for two dollars. And the reason I like that story is that eventually he discovered that the big picture, that in the livestock business you didn't make money or much money selling the meat, but you made it in the byproducts.
Narrator: Swift became a cattle dealer who followed the market west. In 1875 he moved his pregnant wife Ann and five children into a rented house near the Union Stock Yards. He was so frugal, for 30 years he would not allow her to buy curtains until she threatened to leave. Even then not for his bedroom. Swift wanted to be closer to the source of cattle. The source was no where near Chicago. It was more than a thousand miles away in Texas. Later it spread north - across the great plains - to Montana. After the railroad reached Abilene, Kansas in 1867, cowboys began herding Texas longhorns north along the Chisholm Trail to the railhead. They were loaded on cattle cars bound for buyers in Chicago like Gustavus Swift. Swift would revolutionize the beef industry. What Americans and much of the world ate. When they ate it. Where they bought it. How little they paid for it. Once a luxury, he made beef affordable and commonplace.He bought his cattle at the Union Stock Yards and shipped them East to butchers he knew in Massachusetts. But there were problems shipping live animals.
William Cronon, Historian: They have to be fed. They have to be watered, which they don't do very happily in a railroad car, which means that they're constantly losing weight. And many of these are animals with long horns, stuffed into cattle cars and gouging each other. So that a number of them will arrive wounded or dead, by the time they reach their final destination. These are all reasons not to want to ship live animals.
Swift: Gustavus Swift was shipping, via the railroad, steers that weighed about 1,000 pounds. He only was able to sell 600 pounds of that animal through the meat. And so, there were 400 pounds that was just costing him money.
Narrator: Swift decided to slaughter the cattle in Chicago and ship only the dressed beef East. In that decision he took risks greater than any Chicago entrepreneur had ever taken.
Cronon: If you're not going to ship live animals, how are you going to ship the beef so that it doesn't rot along the way? And there, the answer to the riddle has already been provided by the pork packers in the 1850's, this immense network of ice-storing places that cut ice in the winter from Indiana, Wisconsin, deliver it to Chicago. Ifyou could simply get that ice into railroad cars, insulate those cars, and then send a jet of cold air across whatever the contents of the railroad car would be, you could ship any meat anywhere in the country without it rotting.
Narrator: Ice loaded in Chicago would not last to New York. This forced Swift into the ice business. He created five depots along the tracks. Every ton of dressed beef needed a ton of ice at each of his five depots. The railroads he used for livestock had invested in cattle cars and charged by the pound. When Swift bought his own refrigerated cars, the railroads conspired against him. He retaliated by dropping their more direct route to new York that ran south of Lake Erie. Instead he shipped through Canada to Montreal and then south to Boston and New York, arranging for ice along the way. For dressed beef, the longer trip didn't matter. Transportation was only the first challenge.
Cronon: Americans were used to eating their beef fresh. They were used to pork being in a packed form, whether it was ham or bacon or salt pork or what have you. But the way they'd had beef up until this time was by going down to their local butcher, who had slaughtered that cow the night before, and so the meat was still just within 24 hours of having been a living, pulsing animal. And Swift was asking them to buy beef that was at least a week old, which did not sound like healthy beef to most Americans.
Pacyga: New York butchers, Boston butchers, Philadelphia butchers, don't want to carry this meat. In fact, they're giving it a bad rap. They're calling it embalmed meat. And they're really afraid of being put out of business.
Narrator: Butchers in Fitchburg, Massachusetts told Swift they would not sell Swift dressed beef if all Fitchburg were starving. "Alright," Swift replied, "I'll feed Fitchburg myself." His response to a boycott by butchers in Lowell was the same.
Miller: The old man gets on a train, goes East, goes to Lowell, sets up a railroad siding, unloads a whole hell of a load of lumber, builds a butcher shop, hires a workforce, and drives a number of the local butchers out of business.
Narrator: It is all right to lose money, Swift told his agents, "just don't let them nose you out." He hired many of the bankrupt butchers - as distributors of Swift beef.His huge volume ensured low prices. Competition from other Chicago packers like Philip Armour forced prices lower still. So low that Swift and his competitors sold their meat at a loss. In 1889 it cost $48 to purchase a steer in Chicago, dress the meat, and ship it to New York. It sold there for $38. The Chicago packers earned their profits on the margin - from what local butchers threw away.
Cronon: Things that the local butcher had had to give away because there just wasn't enough of them and there weren't enough-enough customers for them to sell, could now be gathered into one location and turned into tons and tons of that material. You could hire scientists to figure out how to turn that material into soap or buttons or new forms of meat that had never been sold before.
Narrator: Hides were tanned to leather, hair stuffed cushions, horns became combs; guts, tennis racquet strings; tails, paintbrushes, hooves, Jell-o. Nothing was wasted.
Swift: Gustavus Swift would walk out to Bubbly Creek, which was this terrible little sewer that ran out of one of his plants, with his top hat, his dark suit, he'd have his pants tucked into his Wellington boots, and he would wade into Bubbly Creek to check what was coming out of the sewer. And if he saw any grease or fat then he knew that was waste because you could have turned that into lard. And he'd go back and he'd find the source of how that happened and correct it. He was a very hands on manager.
Nancy Koehn, Historian: You can't understand industrial capitalism without understanding the importance of pennies, half cents, a tenth of a cent, a hundredth of a cent. And when you think about millions of pounds of beef being processed through a single plant in a year, you begin to understand why a hundredth of a cent was something that kept Swift and Armour and other industrialists up at night.
Narrator: There were two ways packers could cut costs. Speed up the process and slash wages. They did both. In 1884 each of the most skilled workers, the splitters, split 32 carcasses a day. Ten years later each split 75, double the work for less pay. It took fifteen minutes from the kill to the chill room. Low paid immigrants from Eastern Europe, even children, replaced the skilled butchers. More than 150 people would each do a small, routine job. When skilled Irish or German workers went on strike, Swift and Armour quickly replaced them. Cars packed with dressed beef heading East passed immigrants heading West in what were little better than cattle cars. Scandinavians, Poles, Lithuanians. Many settled "Back of the Yards" in Packingtown. Four room apartments would house families of twelve. Often a border slept in a bed while another worked a different shift. By the 1890s Packingtown had become the vilest slum in Chicago. One boundary was the largest garbage dump in the city. Children played there. And women scavenged.
Pacyga: One of the aldermen said, "Hey, that whole neighborhood smells. Where are we going to put garbage dumps if we don't put it there?" You know, I mean, it was beyond his comprehension that anybody would complain. Because here you had Bubbly Creek which was this open sewer for northern boundary. You had the stockyards which left off this odor. And then you had this garbage dump. And then the railroad yards along the south, where children would get killed all the time as they were trying to cross the lines to go to school.
Miller: There was a big place called the hair field there, where they kept the hair, you know, from some of the animals, to dry out in the fields. They had these enormous sewerage ditches there. Men often drowned in the sewerage ditches. They'd get drunk at a local shebang, you know, they get down there, they fall into the ditch. Even the lawyer, Armour's lawyer, said the best thing you can do with the yards is burn them down. Even his lawyer said that.
Narrator: There were hundreds of saloons back of the yards, three on every block. Many were on Whiskey Row at the gate of the stockyards.
Pacyga: When the bell rang at 12:00, men would run out to Whisky Row, which was the major street just to the west of the stockyards, and they would get a beer, and a shot, and then they could have a free lunch. So there'd be usually huge steam tables in these taverns in which they'd come in. And there you had your pickled hogs feet and your eggs and your Polish sausage and your ham and whatever. You'd make a sandwich, and you'd eat, and you'd go back into the packinghouses.
Narrator: The saloons on Whiskey Row served everyone. On the side streets the saloons were strictly ethnic. A Polish newspaper recounted the fate of a drunken German who wandered into a Polish tavern.
Pacyga: The newspaper article reports that something magical had happened. A bottle had come to life. It hit the German on the head and dragged him out and left him in the sewer. And then jumped back up on the bar. And there were various witnesses who said this is exactly what happened. And the bottom line of the article was, "Drink in your own bars." And I think that was very true. If a Pole had walked into an Irish tavern or a German tavern, God help the Jew who walked into any tavern on those streets. There would have been a clash.
Narrator: Swift and the meatpackers, like all of Chicago's entrepreneurs, depended on the railroad. In 1877, in the midst of a depression, railroads cut workers salaries up to 40 percent. Just 12 years after slavery was abolished, workers considered themselves wage slaves. They went on strike, spontaneously, from West Virginia to Chicago.
Pacyga: These workers were feeling that their means of production were being taken away from, that they had no control over those railroads. They had no control over their lives. And so that struggle in 1877 was central to new understanding by working class people what this new capitalism meant for them.
Miller: And now the New York Times and Tribune are pointing out the predominant issue is no longer the race issue; it's the labor issue, labor and capital, the relationship of labor and capital. It's still a property issue, like slavery. Who controls property? When I control a concern, do I control the employees as my property? Are they working on my property and hence have no rights to bargain with me for better conditions, because it's my property? And so it raises all these kinds of issues.
Narrator: The threat to property was more acute in Chicago because of sympathy strikes organized by socialists. Workers emptied factories and packinghouses.On July 26, 1877 Bohemians, socialists from what is now the Czech Republic, left their jobs in the lumberyards to battle the police. They demanded an eight-hour day and restoration of wages. The Tribune described the mob stoning the police as "Bridgeport and Stockyard plug uglies." The police stormed a meeting where German cabinetmakers were negotiating peacefully with their employers clubbing and firing at will. Marshall Field loaned his retail store delivery wagons to the police to move their riot squads. He later headed a Citizens Association which bankrolled four Napoleon cannons and a Gatling gun for the police. Businessmen urged General Phil Sheridan, stationed in Chicago after the Civil War, to call in federal troops who were fighting the Sioux in the Dakotas.
Miller: The fear of revolution. There's a fear of socialism. There's a fear spread of anarchical ideas in the city. There's a fear that capitalism itself is fearfully vulnerable. This is in the middle of the Great Depression, and maybe the system's not quite working the way it should. New wealth has arisen, a new class of plutocrats. This is a real watershed moment in American history.
Narrator: There had been a mass meeting before the violence began. The chief speaker was a typesetter at the Chicago Times, a socialist, named Albert Parsons. His ancestors had arrived on the second voyage of the Mayflower. He had fought for the South in the Civil War.
Miller: After the war, he says in his autobiography, he felt so guilty about fighting to retain slavery because he had been brought up by a black woman, a slave, a black nanny, and he claims that he went to her personally and apologized. Became very active in Texas politics in the 1860's, on the side of the radical Republicans, which are pushing for the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution, giving blacks civil rights and the right to vote. They're fighting the Klan.
Pacyga: He married a woman of mixed race, a black woman, Lucy Parsons. He had to get out of Texas because of that. And he came to Chicago. And Chicago, of course, was on the very cutting edge of this industrial change and this industrial revolution. All the questions that were bubbling up inside of Parsons were also bubbling up inside the city. So he was really already beginning to question capitalism.
Narrator: Parsons saluted the "Grand Army of Labor," and asked workers to join his party to secure state ownership of industry. "If the capitalist engages in warfare against our rights," he said, "then we shall resist him with all the means that God has given us." The next morning Parsons was fired from the Chicago Times and escorted by the police to a meeting of businessmen at City Hall.
William Adelman, Historian: Albert Parsons was taken to City Hall and was cross-examined by the businessmen, and asked who he was, what he was doing in town, his background, and things of that kind.
Richard Schneirov, Historian: They questioned him, and the police chief took him aside and said, "They're going to string you up if you don't get out of town." And Parsons says, "Who's they?" And the police chief said, "The Board of Trade."
Narrator: That night Parsons went to the Tribune to discuss the strike with his typesetter friends. "I came in here as a gentleman," Parsons told the guards who grabbed him, "and I don't want to be dragged out like a dog...One of them said 'Shut up or we'll dash you out the windows on the pavements below.'" "Another put a pistol to my head and said, 'I've a mind to blow your brains out. Now go.'" "I felt alone, absolutely without a friend in the world" Parsons recalled. "This was my first experience with the powers that be, and I became conscious that they were powerful to give and take one's life." "The Social Revolution" had begun, he wrote, and "must be settled one way or another." Industrialist George Mortimer Pullman had an answer to the labor problem. He would solve it through social engineering. Unruly workers, he felt, had behavior problems stemming from their squalid surroundings, especially the saloons. "Take the roughest man," Pullman said, "and bring him into a room elegantly carpeted and furnished and the effect upon his bearing is immediate. "I have faith in the educational and refining influences of beauty." George Pullman was a problem solver. To build Chicago's sewers in the 1850s he had helped raise the entire downtown with jacks while people went about their business. Then he tackled a problem that bothered him. After the Civil War Americans traveled everywhere by train. And it was miserable.
Koehn: He conceives of the idea for a sleeping car, what he will later call luxury for the middle class, when he's sleeping on a wooden shelf on a railroad, thinking that it's got to be more comfortable than this.
Narrator: Pullman envisioned what he called Palace Cars with gilded lamps, chandeliers, and velvet hangings. Travelers could luxuriate in rotating lounge-chairs. And in thick cotton sheets on the pull-down berths. Investors were skeptical. Would people pay for a car that cost four times as much as an ordinary passenger car? Would they know how to behave?
Miller: The average person traveling in a car might be a salesman, for example. He's been out selling McCormick reapers somewhere, tromping around in a field. His feet are filled with mud. He's got a chaw of tobacco in his mouth. He's going to get on your car, sleep in your car. What's going to prevent him from spitting on the floor?
Koehn: Skeptics told him people would go to bed with their boots on, they'd spit on the velvet curtains, they'd chew tobacco and dribble on the--on the cotton pillow cases. Pullman was having none of it.
Narrator: Pullman's fledging company got a boost when a Palace Car carried the funeral cortege of Abraham Lincoln from Chicago back to Springfield in 1865. As Swift had done in meatpacking, Pullman extended Chicago's reach across the nationby leasing his sleeping cars to America's railroads. He hired only Black porters to wait on passengers. Former slaves, he felt, knew how to serve. Pullman's response to the great uprising of 1877 was to build a model town and factory based on the principle of the Palace Car - beauty uplifts behavior. The town of Pullman, on the prairie 12 miles south of the grime, the brothels, and the saloons of Chicago, housed 12,000 workers. Drinking was not allowed. There was a bar in the Hotel Florence, named for his favorite child, but it was off limits to workers. His managers lived in single family houses, the workers in attractive row houses. Blacks, hired as waiters, lived in boarding houses.
Koehn: He really believed that he saw an answer that flew in the face of everything, in some sense, around him. And it had to do with taking care of workers. He was a great industrial utopian thinker in that sense, and, like many utopian thinkers, he was fueled by fantasy as much as reality. But he built his town to try and realize that utopian vision.
Keating: He builds this town in which he doesn't want workers to be able to drink. He wants them to have what he considered decent housing with indoor plumbing and amenities like near-by stores and a church that he was going to build and parks and recreational facilities and a library.
Koehn: Education for children. It's got every state-of-the-art service that he can conceive of. And the idea there is that if workers are satisfied and taken care of in a planned community, they will find their work with Pullman satisfying, enterprising, perhaps indeed ennobling. They'll have no need of unions, or strikes, or any kind of discord that has characterized a lot of industrial and worker relations in Chicago up to that point.
Narrator: Pullman bought the Corliss engine, the world's most powerful engine, the chief exhibit at America's Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876. It would power his new plant to make sleeper and freight cars. On April 2, 1881 Pullman's pride and joy, Florence, pushed the button.
Victoria Brown, Historian: To have his favorite daughter pushing the switch to make it go on, the pride that he must have felt in his own achievement, in what he'd worked to create, is indescribable.
Narrator: Pullman's factory was the most modern the new industrial age could offer. With a beautiful town and factory, he said "the disturbing conditions of strikes....that convulse the world of labor would not be found..." By the spring of 1882 George Pullman was manufacturing 25 freight cars and two sleeping cars a day. The press applauded what it saw as enlightened capitalism. "No place in the United States," the Times of London would write, "has attracted more attention or has been more closely watched. One woman remarked: "With the terrible temptations of the open saloon gone my husband has stopped drinking and now we have a beautiful home with comforts and luxuries."
Keating: Pullman is seen as one of a vanguard who is providing an answer to the problem of urban poverty and the problems of urban workers. He is written up in press account over and over and over again.
Koehn: And Americans and others around the world, want to believe that there must be a way to reconcile the material possibilities of capitalism with what seemed to be extraordinary costs.
Schneirov: Not only did it seem that he was doing something about it, but he was showing that you could make money at it, while also being a reformer. So, a lot of people praised him as being a practical reformer. So, he's changing the system, he's improving it for the workers, and he's making a profit. So maybe this is the new way to go.
Narrator: Pullman lived downtown on Prairie Avenue with tycoons like Marshall Field and Phillip Armour, but his mansion was considered "grandest of them all." Except for Florence, Pullman was impatient with his family and squabbled with his wife Harriet about the time he spent away from home. He lunched and played poker with Field and Armour at the "millionaires table" at the Chicago Club. They were among his few friends. He upbraided his staff at work for the slightest failings. George Pullman controlled everyone. He could certainly control his workers. Pullman's office was atop the 10 story Pullman building, a skyscraper in downtown Chicago, the busiest, most concentrated business district in America. When a visitor from China first saw it, he was appalled.
Miller: And he says that he almost froze up when he got off the train and entered the city. The El system's up, and it's roaring overhead like crazy. There's swirling smoke in the city. The soot coming off the street. This cloud of smoke hanging over the city. The rush of people, this cavalry charge on the streets. Streetcar lines all over the place. Trolleys going along. Let's say there's a dray in front of it with four horses. They just pick it up and push it to the side. Horse and team spin over like that. Peddlers on every corner. The circus is in town. Elephants down the street, clowns, you know, big animals shitting on the street, lions and tigers. Skyscrapers going up a story every three days, you know. And they're spectacles in the sky, and people are watching them like urban shows, you know, watching these buildings going up. The sound of rivet guns, which were just invented at the time. Bang-bang-bang of the rivet systems. Lots of immigrants who came to the city went downtown for the first time and just couldn't believe the spectacle. It just seemed like one vast construction site.
Narrator: The congestion was due in part to the El, the elevated transit that brought people downtown from all parts of the city. By 1900 Chicago had the best urban transit system in the world. Twenty years earlier it was a mess. It took longer to get downtown in 1882 by a horse car than to Milwaukee by train. The genius behind these changes was Charles Tyson Yerkes. Yerkes had done time in Philly for embezzlement and would leave Chicago the most vilified public figure in its history.
Miller: He was this big, corpulent, handsome man, very arrogant, and made it known to Chicagoans that, he said, this place is a hell hole. And I'm going to live here for a while and make a million, and I'm going back to where I can live regally and well, in New York.
Narrator: In 1882, just after Yerkes arrived, Chicago opened its first cable car line. Marshall Field invested in cable cars that headed for his store, looped around and headed back south. Since then The Loop has been synonymous with downtown Chicago.The rest of the city had horse cars. Backed by Philadelphia cohorts, Yerkes consolidated these private transit lines and replaced horse cars with cable cars. He cleaned up two water soaked tunnels under the river to avoid the delay of swing bridges. He introduced electric trolleys. And then elevated them. But no one liked him.
Douglas Bukowski, Writer: He's always been seen as a monster in Chicago because he was imperious. Yerkes liked to run small trains, as opposed to larger trains. Asked why, Wouldn't it be better if you provided the customers with more amenities? His response was, "Why should I? It's the strap hanger who provides me my margin of profit."
Narrator: Yerkes was also a crook. He built his North Chicago cable line for $3 million, charged stockholders 10 million and split seven with his Philadelphia partners.Late in the century, he bribed state and city legislators to pass a bill giving him a 50 year monopoly. That was too much - even for a city of hustlers. Mobs stormed the Council chambers, and the "Goliath of Graft" was hounded out of Chicago. Charles Tyson Yerkes had made 15 million dollars in Chicago. He went to London and built its famous Underground. In the 1880s and 90s developers rebuilt Chicago's downtown for the second time since the fire. In their pursuit of money, they created not only the world's first skyscraper city but a unique, American architectural style. The Loop was hemmed in by Lake Michigan on the east, the river on the north, the South Branch on the west and railroads to the south. There was no where to go but up.
Stanley Tigerman, Architect: You have a grid in a flat plane. You tilt it up into space as a matrix. All by itself, that's wildly authoritative. It's very powerful. So even now when you fly in on a plane and you see the prairie and the lake, this tabula rasa, you see this almost oasis coming out of nowhere, that is a grid in plan and a grid in elevation - that's wild. That's the aesthetic that transpired as a result of that fire.
Narrator: Improvements in elevators and the creation of structural steel made skyscrapers possible.
Miller: They're built because space constraints, yes, but they're very efficient, an efficient way to organize a business organization. You have an internal mail system within the skyscraper. Contiguous firms, firms associated with one another printers would hang out with lawyers, copying people. So there's literally there's a business city under one roof.
Samuelson: What the real estate people wanted was somebody who could get the building up fast, on schedule, on cost, and you could start collecting rent. And if the architects were able to create something creative in the process, well, that was just icing on the cake.
Narrator: Peter Brooks from Boston wanted to make a buck in Chicago real estate. He hired the Chicago architectural firm Burnham and Root.
Samuelson: There were letters that went back and forth between Boston and Chicago where Burnham and Root would propose ornamental details and, in a good sense of hard-headed practicality, the Brookses would say I don't want that kind of detail. I don't want to pay for it. It's something that birds are going to sit on and foul the building. It's not necessary at all. And they kept goading the architects.
Miller: Clean it up, strip it down, make it more functional, make it less expensive. At the same time Root is coming to a new appreciation of simplicity, and saying that this is the new American style. This is a business city. These are the kinds of buildings that should be built for commerce, with simplicity, strength, durability, handsomeness. Root says at one point, "There's nothing more beautiful than a plain brown wall.
Samuelson: In the case of the Monadnock Building, they got a building of such direct and beautiful simplicity, that could actually say that the client had a hand in creating it. And a masterpiece was the result.
Narrator: Fearing people would be intimidated by the height that structural steel allowed, some architects tried to disguise it by groups of windows separated by moldings. Buildings appeared to be two or three stories stacked one on top of the other.Louis Henry Sullivan was not so constrained.
Samuelson: There were people like Louis Sullivan, the dreamer, the poet of Chicago architecture, somebody who really held deep, passionate ideals about what architecture was all about and what it could be, who really looked at the skyscraper and said well, this is a new kind of building. Why make a building look like a lot of little buildings stacked on top of each other? Why not let the building soar, and let the sheer height become a thing of beauty.
Narrator: Sullivan's department store, the Carson Pirie Scott Building on State Street, was considered a business and aesthetic triumph.
Tigerman: Clad columns, clad for fireproofing, because of the fire. But basically, 90 percent certainly, glass. An all glass ground floor that you can walk in.That had never happened before that you could actually see into the store. You could walk down the street and say, "That's great," and walk in and buy it right then and there. That's unheard of.
Narrator: Sullivan's architectural credo was "form follows function." This did not mean sterile facades. He delighted in decorative detail, on the ground floors, which people could enjoy. Chicago developers did not skimp on money for public spaces. The spacious lobby of the Rookery Building enticed clients. A soaring glass ceiling let in light - in an age before decent electric lights. The entire building was designed to let light into the offices of businessmen and their clerks and typists. Light poured into the largely glass fašade of the Reliance Building. Rain cleaned its glazed columns like a plate to save on maintenance.
Tigerman: All this stuff still was in the service of capital. Period. Business, raw business, unsullied, just business.
Narrator: Standing in the shadows of The Loop in the late 19th century, few were aware that their new city of stone and steel was built during the very years the pine forests of Michigan and Wisconsin vanished. The transformation of an ecosystem into a city was, to the few who noticed, a sign of progress. No trains passed through Chicago. They all stopped at the edge of The Loop.
Adelman: There used be a joke about that Lady went to the conductor and said, Does this train stop in Chicago? And the conductor said, Lady, if it doesn't stop in Chicago there's going to be an awful crash. Because the idea was they wanted the trains to come here, you would have to get off the train, stay at the Palmer House and shop at Marshall Field's store, and then the next day go out on the other train. And it was all set up that way. And that promoted the business community.
Narrator: The business community centered on State Street. Potter Palmer had come to Chicago to create a market for the few women shoppers he observed in the 1850s. By the 1890s almost all the shoppers on State Street were women. The premier store was Marshall Fields.
Koehn: Field wasn't just selling you a communion suit for your son at a very important moment, he was also selling you a slice of the good life, a slice of the upper echelons of Chicago society. If you bought European gloves, which were produced exclusively for Field's, you were also getting a taste of European cultural history, and a bit of old money, brought to a town that was made up completely of new money. He understood instinctively that when people purchased things they were buying a bit of their own ambitions for themselves. And by making Field's a kind of palace of consumption, he was instilling his brand with a very, very important element of social legitimacy.
Narrator: At age 17 Marshall Field had taken a job as a clerk at a dry-goods store in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Field was such a good salesman, he was offered a quarter interest in the store at age 22. He refused. He was "swept up in the prevalent fever to come West," he later told writer Theodore Drieser. Chicago, he sensed, was a city with "plenty of ambition and pluck." Field found a job in a dry goods store. He worked fourteen hour days and saved half his salary by sleeping in the store. Twelve years later in 1868 Field leased Potter Palmer's new retail Palace on State Street. Like Palmer, Marshall Field's goal was to "give the lady what she wants." Upscale merchandise, elegant surroundings, courteous service. Marshall Field became Chicago's new Merchant Prince, and with investments in Pullman and real estate, Chicago's richest and most powerful man.
Pacyga: He doesn't want a lot of poor women coming in there and shopping, or poor women coming in and applying to work at his store. Field saw his department as the sort of ultimate class establishment in the city of Chicago. He was catering to a middle and an upper middle class clientele. And so immigrant women had no place in his world-view. Don't dirty Field's up.
Miller: What he did is, he would hire women such as Theodore Dreiser wrote about, Sister Carrie, young farm girls, not with a lot of means, but who would come to Chicago in search of opportunity. And you know, in the 1880's, more women, young women, are coming to Chicago than young men.
Pacyga: Field wants these American farm girls for his clerks, his salespeople. They don't speak with an accent. They know how to dress. And, you know, you always had to dress up to work at Marshall Field's. You still do.
Narrator: A rhyme captured Field's upscale image: All the girls who wear high heelsThey trade down at Marshall Field'sAll the girls who scrub the floorThey trade at the Boston Store.
Miller: He also hired children, cash boys, that would take change from one counter to another. One time a group of cash boys complained about their wages. And he fired the whole lot of them. (Laughs). He hated unions. He wouldn't even allow union leaders to shop in his store. Anyone suspected of fraternizing with a union or union leaders was fired. And he ran the store with iron discipline.
Narrator: Marshall Field had few friends. He was estranged from his wife, distant from his son. His work was his life. All he had would soon be threatened as he was pulled into the great battle of the age between capital and labor. After he was fired from the Chicago Times during the uprising in 1877, Albert Parsons abandoned socialism and began to publish the Alarm, an anarchist pamphlet. He shared an office with another anarchist, August Spies, a German immigrant who ran a small furniture company and published the German language Arbeiter Zeitung When Frank Stauber, a German born socialist, lost his race for alderman in 1880 because Irish ward bosses stuffed the ballot boxes, many Germans turned against the system. "The holiest institution of the American people," a German newspaper fumed, had become "a miserable farce and a lie."
Schneirov: Large numbers of them pulled out of the Socialist Labor party and they aligned themselves with the International Working People's Association which was an anarchist affiliated organization. And they began to advocate a violent revolution, using dynamite.
Schneirov: Now Parsons and other people blamed this on the capitalists, at the time. In fact, it wasn't the capitalists, it was the local ward politicians.
Miller: And they were very demonstrative in their rhetoric. I mean, they really, you know, went straight at them, went straight at them, and called for assassination.
Schneirov: And they felt that if you destroyed the state, perhaps with an act, a single act of violence that would cause the working people to rise up, capital would just crumble and a new society would take shape--a society of communes, as they put it.
Adelman: August Spies used to really make Marshall Field and Pullman angry because he used to go to the same restaurants that they went to, and he'd make sure he sat near them, and they learned to recognize who he was, and it would just spoil their whole dinner that he was sitting at the table next to them.
Narrator: The Sunday picnics that Chicago's Germans enjoyed became more than picnics. They were a chance to spread the word and recruit. One Sunday, anarchist leader Samuel Fielden spoke of the wonders of a new invention, dynamite, which, he said, "science has placed within the reach of the oppressed." On Thanksgiving Day 1884 the anarchists unveiled their new symbol. The black flag of hunger and death joined the red flag of social change. Playing the anthem of the French revolution, the Marseillaise, they began a march which took them past Potter Palmer's elegant hotel, the Palmer House. Then on to the Prairie Avenue mansions of the capitalists who had "deprived them," their leaflets said, "of every blessing during the past year." "Every worker, every tramp must be on hand to express their thanks in a befitting manner."
Miller: They're marching down Prairie Avenue, okay, the very citadel of capitalism. And it's hard to march on a plant, but they're right at the homes of the capitalists. Never happened anywhere else like that. They collect what they call hoboes but they're anarchists as well. And they're going up and they're ringing the doorbells. And of course nobody's answering the doors. But they're screaming that they want bread or power. There'd just never been a direct demonstration quite like that.
Narrator: Albert Parsons read from the Epistle of St. James: "Your riches are corrupted...Your gold and silver is cankered, and the rust shall eat your flesh as it were fire...We do not intend to leave this matter for the Lord," he concluded. "We intend to do something for ourselves."
Narrator: They approached the Prairie Avenue mansion of Marshall Field, whom Parsons had attacked for discriminating against immigrant women shopping in his store. "Our international movement is to unite all countries and do away with the robber class," Samuel Fielden told the marchers. "Prepare for the inevitable conflict."They marched on the Prairie Avenue mansion of George Pullman.
Adelman: George Pullman was absolutely horrified with the sight of poor people walking up his street and ringing his doorbell. The next day he went to his attorney, Wert Dexter, and he said, "I want you to get this guy Parsons."
Schneirov: They were Catholic, they didn't speak English, they spoke German, they drank beer on Sundays, they went to saloons on Sundays. They were a threat. They were totally alien to this American, Protestant way of life.
Narrator: They marched on the Board of Trade when it opened an elaborate new building on LaSalle Street the next year. "The Board of Thieves", they bellowed, stood for "starvation of the masses, privileges and luxury for the few." One in the crowd yelled, "Blow it up with dynamite." To Chicago's business leaders these were not idle threats.
Miller: They're reading in newspapers about assassinations abroad. There're people being killed in Europe, including Czar Alexander at this time. The movement is extremely strong in Germany And now their speakers are coming from Germany to agitate. So they know the anarchists are serious.
Narrator: "The better classes are tired of the insane howlings of the lowest strata," warned General Phil Sheridan, "and they mean to stop them." On May 1st 1886, the anarchists did something unusual. They teamed up with the main stream labor movement - disgruntled railroad workers, packinghouse butchers, Bohemian socialists. Albert and Lucy Parsons led 80,000 workers down Michigan Avenue as part of a nationwide strike for labor's big issue, an eight-hour day. With its Mayor Carter Harrison supporting it, Chicago became the center of the strike.
Pacyga: "Eight hours a day for work; eight hours a day to sleep; eight hours a day to play in a free Americ-kay."
Schneirov: The anarchists didn't lead the eight-hour movement, but they attempted to commandeer it. August Spies, felt strongly that this was a demand that was, in effect, a revolutionary demand, even though it didn't openly say so. It was a demand that could not be won under the existent circumstances, and it was a demand that would inevitably lead the eight-hour movement into a revolutionary situation, under the leadership of the anarchists.
Miller: They told capitalists, Your function in life is to die. We're going to get you. We're going to bomb your factories. We're going to tear apart your system. The general strike's going to bring down capitalism. You'll be shot afterwards.
Pacyga: The streetcar lines are shut down. The city is shut down. This is a general strike. And there's tremendous amount of tension. Workers, of course, were winning, you know, the eight-hour day in the packinghouses.
Narrator: Workers struck the packinghouses on May 2nd. The packers, Chicago's largest employers, conceded to an eight-hour day - the same pay for eight hours that workers had gotten for ten. What happened May 3 at the McCormick Reaper Works got the anarchists involved in another labor dispute and ignited the most sensational labor incident of the 19th century. Cyrus Hall McCormick, the Reaper King, had died in 1884. A floral reaper adorned his casket. His last words were "work, work, work." His son mechanized the plant. Blades that used to be forged by hand were now forged by steam hammer. This threatened the skilled iron workers. In May 1886 they had been on strike for months. McCormick hired scabs to take their place.
Schneirov: The McCormick strike was over a long-standing dispute that had begun before the 8 hour day had begun, that turned on the attempt of McCormick to mechanize the whole process of iron molding and thereby to get rid of one of the strongest unionized forces, the iron molders union. And these were largely Irish. And so there was a very bitter struggle that was going on at that time. Some of the Bohemian lumber shovers and other socialists and anarchists had gone up there in solidarity with the McCormick workers. August Spies had made a very militant speech.
Narrator: When the whistle blew to end the shift on May 3rd, locked out strikers attacked the scabs as they left the plant. Police rushed in to protect the scabs. They killed two of the striking workers.
Adelman: Spies witnessed this, from behind a boxcar. He saw it. And he ran back to his office on Wells Street and he wrote a protest, and he left it on the desk and said, I want this circulated the next morning. And he told them to put a banner on it. Well, to his great dismay the banner that somebody put on it was "revenge", which was the last thing that should have been put on it. Because he didn't mean it to be that kind of thing.
Narrator: A second circular called for a rally the next evening at Haymarket Square. Haymarket Square was an open air market by day. By nightfall on May 4th, the pushcarts were gone. Chicago's popular mayor, Carter Harrison, was there and made certain the crowd saw him. It would ensure order.
Pacyga: It was a very peaceful rally. The anarchists were saying things that they always said. Death to the owner class, revolution. Mayor Harrison rode up and everybody yelled, "Hoosah, hoosah, Mayor Harrison." You know, and he took his hat off and he waved at the people and said his little campaign thing. And he stayed at the back and then the police captain, Captain Bonfield, came up, said, "What should we do with this rabble, sir?" And he said, basically, "Let them speak. They've said many worse things than they're saying tonight. And there's no one here. And he says, "I'm going to go home," and he goes home.
Narrator: Captain Bonfield dismissed most of his men. Not all. The last speaker, Samuel Fielden, remembered the men shot at the McCormick Works: "The law is framed for...your enslavers.," he said. "Throttle it, kill it...do everything you can...to impede its progress." Bonfield considered this inflammatory. He ordered the police to march. Fielden was winding down. "He that has to obey the will of another is a slave. Can we do anything except by the strong arm of resistance? ...War has been declared on us. People have been shot. Defend yourselves!" No one noticed the man lurking in the shadows. "Any animal will resist when stepped upon. Are men less than snails or worms?" In the name of the state of Illinois, I command you to disperse," the police captain said. "But we are peaceable," Fielden protested.
Narrator: Seven policemen were killed, mostly by friendly fire. The Chicago Times called the workers "rag-tag and bobtail cutthroats of Beelzebub from the Rhine, the Danube, the Vistula, and the Elbe." Labor's largest paper called them "wild beasts." The respected Albany Law Review called them "long-haired, wild-eyed, bad smelling, atheistic, reckless foreign wretches."
Perry Duis, Historian: It was front-page news around the world. Remember Chicago is the world's window into the future. People from around the world really saw it as what city life was going to be like for them perhaps 10 or 20 years down the road. And when you got into the labor violence, what appeared to be proletarian riots, it was very frightening to people in many places around the world.
Schneirov: Throughout the nation Americans were almost unanimous in favor of the utmost repression of the anarchists. There was a belief that American civic institutions were being threatened to their core. Foreign born workers under the leadership of anarchists were seen to be a threat of the first order.
Adelman: The very next day marshal law was declared in Chicago. A law is passed saying that no more than two people can be standing on a street corner to talk. If there's three, you can arrest them. And homes are entered without search warrants. All the union newspapers, are closed down. Uh, hundreds, literally hundreds of labor leaders are put in the different city jails.
Miller: After Haymarket the city went crazy. This is a real red hunt, and it's the first American red hunt. They know that everyone they're rounding up is not an anarchist. They're rounding up labor agitators. They're out to crush the labor movement, which is the threat here, more than the anarchists. They can handle them. They can hang them and shoot them. In many ways, this is for them an opportunity. They can paint them with a brush of anarchism and go after them like that.
Narrator: "They didn't belong to the human race," poet Carl Sandburg, a child at the time, would recall. "They seemed more like slimy animals who prowl, sneak and kill in the dark. I didn't hear anyone in our town who didn't so believe." Eight were charged with murder and conspiracy. They included Albert Parsons who had fled to Wisconsin but returned.
Pacyga: And here's a man who's rather na´ve, don't you think? He sits up there in Wisconsin, he says, "This is America. And the justice system will prove me to be right. And so I'll come down, I'll talk about anarchism, I'll explain that I was five blocks away in a tavern with my wife and the jury will, you know, let me go.
Narrator: Judge Joseph E. Gary presided over the trial.
Leon Despres, Former Alderman: Well there was such fury about the case that there was no effort made to find a, a fair jury. The bailiff was sent out to, to find people and bring them in as potential jurors, and of course he found people who were deeply prejudiced, that wasn't hard at the time, and I'm sure the bailiff rejected anybody who showed any sympathy.
Adelman: One prospective juror dared to say he wanted to listen to the evidence before he decided whether they were guilty or not, in the cross-examination, whether he would be on the jury or not. And he was not accepted as a juror. He went back to his job, downtown, the next day, and was fired by his employer, because he did not automatically assume, even before hearing the testimony, that they were guilty.
Schneirov: That mere fact that they were even being tried at all, when the bomb thrower wasn't known, is just a travesty. How can you even prosecute somebody for conspiracy if you don't have any evidence that they were together with the person that threw the bomb or that committed the crime?
Miller: Only two of the anarchists were on the scene and they were both on the so-called podium in full public view. Somebody threw that bomb, but nobody had any idea who threw it.
Narrator: "Anarchy is on trial," the prosecutor said. "Gentlemen of the jury, convict these men, make examples of them, hang them and you save...our society." The verdict was guilty. The sentence, death by hanging. Three asked for clemency and got life in prison. One blew himself up in jail with a cigar bomb. A former Tribune editor, Henry Demarest Lloyd, began a national campaign for clemency. Illinois's governor said he would support it if the businessmen did. Banker Lyman Gage gathered 50 of the business elite to argue that clemency would improve labor relations. He seemed to sway them. But they feared to cross Marshall Field, Chicago's most influential businessman, who was opposed.
Koehn: The great industrialists all, I think, woke up, at least at times, in the middle of the night in a cold sweat and worried about revolution. It was impossible not to entertain the potential for serious social unrest and indeed political and economic revolution in this country, when the rewards of this extraordinary moment of change in capitalism were being so unequally distributed. And they knew it. Field knew it. Pullman knew it. Swift knew it. Armour knew it. They couldn't not know it and that was a very scary possibility for people like Field.
Schneirov: You have to remember that this is a period of time that was still in the shadow of the Civil War, and people felt that if you didn't take a hard and firm line, as had been taken by Lincoln and the Republican party against the slaveholders, if you didn't take a hard and firm line against threats to property, that this sort of thing would be repeated. And I can't help but think that Marshall Field felt that this was a great test of leadership.
Miller: You couldn't have invented an enemy that is more maniacal and more threatening to Field than the anarchist movement. Field thought that property is sacrosanct -- "I formed this business on my own. I worked up from stock boy. It's mine. They have no right to tell me how to run it, and certainly they're not going to tell me that they're going to dynamite it to death." Field and elite control the banks and they control the business estab-- They've lost control of politics. Now are they going to lose control of their own businesses?
Studs Terkel, Writer: It caused a furor, throughout the world--people saying don't hang these guys, commute the sentence and letters came from George Bernard Shaw, from Tolstoy, I believe --Do not execute them. But there was one industrialist who was adamant, and that was Marshall Field the first, the merchant prince. He said, in effect, hang the bastards.
Narrator: As Chicago's capitalists tried to put their labor problems behind them, a memorial to the anarchists became a shrine for revolutionaries. The elite's attempt to project an image of urban harmony to the world would not be easy.