Chicago, named after Chigagou meaning the “wild garlic place”, contained several
ecological attributes during the 19
century. The natural landscape on which Chicago is located
gave rise to its emergence as “nature’s metropolis” according to Cronon. Providing an ideal
harbor spot of ships with sandbars absorbing tumultuous waves of Lake Michigan, Chicago
offered opportunity for a myriad of trading and commerce. Its landscape consisted of flat, fertile
land along with the convergence of rivers and waterways, further aiding the ease of
transportation and trade. This allowed people to grow food and trade in the same place allowed
for a lower transportation cost.
In 1816, the newly rebuilt Fort Dearborn became an epicenter for trade through the
American Fur Company.
Because government viewed the land in Chicago as valuable, it took
the last remaining Indian territories. This caused a social conflict stemming from the differing
views of property and real estate. Chicago contained many natural advantages such as the
resources of the region, transportation routes, and climate. Stimulating Chicago’s economy and
raising awareness regarding the potential of this city, speculators began to buy and sell the land.
They believed that the city was going to be the ending point of a major trading canal, and thus
becoming profitable. Chicago’s real estate now became highly valued as speculators invested
large sums of money into a market that wasn’t necessarily an economic reality. In 1837, the real
estate market collapses when banks called in their loans.
The trading center and great city of Chicago can be described by Cronon as “a junction of
eastern means and western opportunity”.
A gathering place where Euro Americans and Indians engaged in trading activities, lived
together, and even married, Chicago created a social environment in the 19
Century as it does in
today’s society. People flocked to Chicago by the law of gravitation, or centralization, stating
that people desire to be in contact with each other.
An occurring theme throughout Chicago in the 19
Century is that it exemplified a
mentality of overcoming problems and championing obstacles presented. For example, the
ecological problems that occurred regarding the mouth of the Chicago River involved building
piers to combat the sandbar with too shallow waters for ships.
Furthermore, when the poor
drainage, immense amount of mud, and flooding became major issues in the city, Chicago did
Economically speaking, it made the most sense for farmers to trade in and out of
Chicago. They received more money for their crops as well as buy more supplies at a lower price
due to Chicago’s cheap lake transportation to the east. Furthermore, the city presented more
options and shops while facilitating low prices for eastern goods and high prices for western
The railroads extended the hinterland of Chicago even further by connecting it with the