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City of Big ShouldersA History of Chicago$
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Robert G. Spinney

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501749599

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501749599.001.0001

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Boom, Bust, and Recovery in Early Chicago, 1835–1850

Boom, Bust, and Recovery in Early Chicago, 1835–1850

Chapter:
(p.26) Chapter 3 Boom, Bust, and Recovery in Early Chicago, 1835–1850
Source:
City of Big Shoulders
Author(s):

Robert G. Spinney

Publisher:
Cornell University Press
DOI:10.7591/cornell/9781501749599.003.0003

This chapter looks at the start of construction on the long-anticipated portage canal that would link Chicago with the westward-flowing Des Plaines River in 1836. It mentions Judge Theophilus Smith of the Illinois Supreme Court who predicted that Chicago would boast 20,000 inhabitants in twenty years and 50,000 in fifty years. The chapter describes the enthusiasm of the local residents of Chicago that were wildly optimistic about the town's prospects and their expectation of Chicago to grow quickly into a frontier metropolis. It also talks about the level-headed observers that had every reason to reject the prospects of Chicago dominating the Old Northwest since it was considered small, dirty, and unattractive in 1836. It describes Chicago's winters that were bitter and long, in which the ice closed Lake Michigan to shipping for at least one-third of every year.

Keywords:   Chicago, portage canal, Des Plaines River, Judge Theophilus Smith, frontier metropolis, Old Northwest, Lake Michigan

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