Saturday, February 7, 2015

Halsted Street Stand-Off -- February 7, 1889

Halsted Street in the late 1880's, minus Katie Keenan
Chicago Daily News Archives
As Chicago industrialists such as Charles Tyson Yerkes, Marshall Field, Philip Armour, and Cyrus McCormick were kicking in millions of dollars to surpass the bid of their New York competitors to win the Columbian Exposition for Chicago, the city toddled along as a fast-growing, often out-of-control colossus on the edge of the frontier.

An Art Institute existed, the great Auditorium building was being completed, and great, ornate department stores, hotel and theaters were scattered throughout the post-fire Loop. 

Still the contrast between the dirty business of slaughtering cows and running coal-fired railroads and the delicacy of opera, art and fine food was pronounced. 

In February of 1889, the same month that The Tribune, profiled the proposed route for the Sheridan Road, stretching from the north side of the city to Lake Bluff, predicting that it would become the “grandest in the world,” the dirty work of industry continued to expand, often in the middle of the streets.

I quote verbatim from a Tribune article describing an incident on this date, February 7, 1889 describing the misfortunes of poor 17-year-old Katie Keenan.  The article’s headline read “Tossed by a Wild Cow – Miss Katie Keenan Badly Shaken Up,” and the article reads . . .

    A wild and  untamed cow, one of a herd being driven from the Stock-Yards, refused to be led like a lamb to the slaughter-house last night, and her rebellious spirit induced her to create a rumpus that was  nearly agin to panic.  As the herd was being driven past Halsted and Thirty-first streets this particularly ferocious cow fell by the wayside and was urged to go further.
    People passing by did not notice the baleful glitter in the animal’s eyes, nor did they notice the look of determination on the bovine countenance.  But the animal awaited only a good opportunity for satisfying the baleful glitter.  The cow’s chance came when a number of passengers alighted form a Halsted street car.
    Miss Katie Keenan was singled out as a victim.  Whether attracted by her 17-year-old loveliness or enraged because she was chewing gum Katie is unable to say, for she lies in bed with her body swathed in bandages and a large odor of liniment lingering ‘round.
    She fled the brute’s onslaught, but also was cornered, and before she could exclaim “Shoo!” the animal had bowed, rudely stepped forward, and tossed her several feet.
    While the animal was a-lashing its tail and making itself better acquainted with Miss Keenan, the other pedestrians were seeking shelter in stores.  All but Officer O’Donnell who spit on his hands, tightened his belt, and grasped his club with a firmer hold.
    “Come out ay that, now,” he said as he jabbed his club in the animal’s ribs.  The cow turned on him with a snort and tried to toss off one of the brass buttons on his coat.  A long argument between officer and cow ensued, in which the officer’s pleading was of no avail.  The noble hero was dragged out of a corner just in time by the driver of the cow herd, who came along armed with a stake, brandished it once or twice, and brought it down with a whack that made the cow tear down the street at a rapid pace.
    Miss Keenan was picked up and carried to her home at No. 3808 Emerald avenue.  She was found to have been seriously injured, her spine having suffered.
    Officer O’Donnell thinks the green fringe on the girl’s dress caused the animal’s uneasiness.

Today at the spot where poor Katie Keenan got off the streetcar and got into it with a cow a Bedding Experts store stands across Halsted Street from Oscar’s Watch and Jewelry.  There isn’t a cow to be seen for miles.

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