Museum Exhibits - The Chicago River

The Chicago River

John Lewis Peyton

"[On January 1st, 1854,] there were 158 vessels of all kinds lying in the port of Chicago...of these 10 were steamers, 16 propellers, 6 barks, 21 brigs, 96 schooners, 3 sloops, 1 scow. There were probably 100 canal boats in the river at the same time."
-John Lewis Peyton, 1855

Guiseppe Giacosa

"In Chicago, I knew that American life flourished abundantly: enormous factories, interminable streets, amazing shops, deafening sounds...During my stay of one week, I did not see in Chicago anything but darkness: smoke, clouds, dirt and an extraordinary number of sad and grieved persons."
-Giuseppe Giacosa, ca. 1890

Henry Blake Fuller

"The grimy lattice-work of the drawbridge swung too slowly, the steam-tug blackened the dull air and roiled the turbid water as it dragged its schooner on towards the lumber-yards of the South Branch, and a long line of waiting vehicles took up their interrupted course through the smoke and stench as they filed across the stream into the thick of business beyond."
-Henry Blake Fuller, ca. 1900

Edwin Gale

"Nature designed that our creek should flow placidly along from source to mouth midst matted grasses and graceful ferns. Man deemed otherwise. He demanded it should hide the garbage of a large city deeply beneath its transparent surface...and that, in spite of all, it should remain as clear as when the paddles of Indian canoes alone lifted its glittering diamonds to sunshine."
-Edwin Gale, 1902