May 9, 1886 –The Chicago Daily Tribuneprofiles the Deering Harvester Works, a huge industrial campus sitting on 40 acres purchased from C. W. Fullerton just north of Fullerton Avenue, between Clybourn Avenue and the north branch of the Chicago River. The firm began in Plano, Illinois, growing rapidly in the early 1870’s when William Deering, a Maine wool manufacturer, invested $40,000 in the company despite the fact that he didn’t know what it’s product looked like. In 1880 the firm, locked in a fierce battle with Cyrus McCormick’s firm, moved to an uninhabited section of the city. In doing so, it dramatically changed the north side. As the Tribunedescribes, “When the building of the Harvester Works was fairly commenced Mr. Fullerton subdivided the adjoining tract and put it into the market. Some of the mechanics employed in the new structure bought and built such houses as they were able to pay for at the time. Small traders followed, and as the harvester buildings approached completion the prairie at the corner of Lake View began to be dotted with neat cottages and stores of a rather substantial character … When the harvester works were completed 1,200 men found employment in them for most of the year. Those having families came to live in the vicinity, some in Lake View, some in Chicago immediately inside the limits. They bought lots and built on them, others rented, and the new settlement which was called Deering began to grow apace. The city, too, continued to grow toward it, the gap between the ‘limits’ and the built-up city region began to fill up.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 9, 1886]In 1890 the Deering plant employed over 9,000 people and required four million feet of lumber just to box up the 1,200 machines it produced each day for shipment all over the globe. In 1902 the Deering Harvester Company merged with Cyrus McCormick’s firm and the Plano Manufacturing Company and, along with two smaller farm equipment manufacturers, formed International Harvester. So … when you’re plowing through the throngs at the feeding stations at Costco on Clybourn, you really are moving along ground where plows by the tens of thousands were manufactured a century ago. The above photos show the Deering grounds as they appeared at the end of the nineteenth century and as they appear today.
May 9, 1902 – This is the day that city officials reach the end of the little patience that they have left in their attempts to balance the traffic on the river with the needs of citizens who must daily find a way to cross from one side of the river to the other. This is the day that the Engineering Committee of the Drainage Board orders every center pier bridge in the South Branch of the river to be replaced with a bascule bridge. Two days earlier the steamship Yakima got herself stuck on the crown of the La Salle Street tunnel, stalling dozens of elevated trains, stranding 150 people on the open turntable in the middle of the channel, and blockading shipping on the river. The Yakima was freed three times and re-grounded herself each time. Gates were closed at the controlling works at Lockport on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to raise the level of the river, and that didn’t work either. The Chicago and Northwestern Railroad volunteered a locomotive to pull the steamer free “but its efforts failed, its huge drivers whirling on the track …” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 10, 1902] Finally the steamship Stewart Parnell got the Yakima pulled through the Wells Street bridge although it took two hours to complete the effort. As a result of the mess, work is ordered to begin immediately on the construction of bascule bridges at Lake, Washington, Madison, Adams, Jackson, Polk, Twelfth, Eighteenth, Twenty-Second, Halsted, and Loomis Streets at an anticipated cost of $2,500,000. The president of the Drainage Board states, “In the future there will be no delays in the bridges constructed by the Drainage board … Within three years we expect to have every center pier bridge on the South Branch replaced by a bascule structure of the latest design.” The Yakima, pictured above, didn't last much longer. She was stranded and burned at Stag Island in the St. Clair River in June of 1905 and was scuttled in Lake Huron about 11 miles off Sarnia.
May 9, 1951 – The 620-foot Cliffs Victory, minus its rudder and guided by two tug boats, front and back, makes its way slowly through the Chicago River and out into Lake Michigan. It is the longest ship ever to move through the inland waterway from the Atlantic to the Great Lakes, and it takes two hours for the great ship to move from Harrison Street to the lake. The closest squeeze comes at the Van Buren Street bridge where the bridge’s abutments narrow the channel to just a few inches wider than the ship’s 70-foot beam. The tugs Louisiana and Utah inch the converted liberty ship through with “some of the black paint scraped from her plates.” [Chicago Tribune, May 10, 1951] Onlookers along the main stem of the river gape as in several places the big ship passes with her stern just clearing an upraised bridge as her bow is abreast of the next one over a block away. Since the lock at the mouth of the river is 20 feet shorter than the Cliffs Victory, special arrangements have to be made. She is run up until she nearly touches the east gate of the lock, and ropes are run from the ship’s winches to mooring posts along the lock. Then the gate is opened, and water from the lake, nearly 18 inches higher than the river, pours in, pushing the ship back. “Then with two tugs straining furiously,” reports the Tribune, “and the winches pulling in the mooring lines, the ship began to move against the current. Fifteen minutes later the stern cleared the west gate and it was closed, stemming the flood into the river.” From Chicago the ship is moved to South Chicago where she will be re-fitted for ore duty on the Great Lakes.