Sunday, February 23, 2020

February 23, 1978 -- Chicago Fire Department Saves 50 in Elm Street Fire

Chicago Tribune Photo
February 23, 1978 – At least 20 fire trucks and 100 firefighters converge on 10 West Elm Street as a late-night fire traps over 50 residents on upper floors, causing injuries to 15 people.  People who evacuated the building stand in 27-degree cold in their night clothes as firefighters rescue people from the 110-unit apartment building.  Firemen use ladders to evacuate people leaning out of windows while others enter the smoke-filled building to bring people down two outside fire escapes. A resident on the sixteenth floor of the building says he was leaning out of his window for air when firefighters appeared and led him down a fire escape.  “Five or ten more minutes and I would be dead,” he says.  It is believed that a man caught running from the building as the building’s lobby burst into flames was the arsonist responsible for the 3-11 alarm fire.

February 23, 1955 -- A bid that tops Carson Pirie Scott & Co.'s offer for the 12-story building at the corner of State and Madison Streets is submitted in federal district court. The bid tops Carson's offer of $7,250,000 by over $350,000. The courts become involved because the building's owner, the Otto Young estate, had previously specified that the property could not be sold until ten years after the death of the youngest daughter in the family, who, at 77, is still very much alive. However, three weeks earlier a judge ruled that the courts had the right to authorize the sale. The building in question, now a Target store, is perhaps the one building in Chicago that best represents the genius of architect Louis Sullivan.

February 23, 1905 – A. C. Banker, the first chauffeur to be arrested for failure to display a license, is taken from his vehicle in front of the Auditorium Annex.  Soon after detectives F. J. Shields and John Fitzpatrick arrest four more chauffeurs who are “speeding along the streets without numbers.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, February 24, 1905] All five pay a ten-dollar cash bond and are released.  In the evening the draft of an automobile law is approved at a meeting of the Chicago Automobile Club with a plan to send it to Springfield within the week.  It proposes a maximum of ten miles-per-hour on busy city streets and 14 miles-per-hour in “less settled districts.”  Out in the country motorists may speed along at 20 miles-per-hour.  There is a clause mandating the registration of vehicles with a fine of $50 for a third infraction and revocation of a motorist’s driver’s license for six months.  Farmers “who drive leisurely along the country road and refuse to get out of the way for fast automobiles” will pay a fine of $25.  In a 2013 auction the Chicago license plate shown above sold for $1,100.

February 23, 1859 – The Chicago Press and Tribune prints an exquisitely detailed broadsheet that reveals the extent of the railroad industry that serves Chicago, the largest railroad center in the world.  Despite a rough year in 1858 the article observes, “They have had the worst year they will ever have; for the development of the West, it is believed, will receive no check for many years in the future, and when the next revulsion shall come, our rich prairies will be teeming with an intelligent, energetic people, whose numbers will be told by millions, and their actual necessities will always force a large and lucrative traffic upon the railways of the West.  [Chicago Press and Tribune, February 23, 1859] Following are highlights of the article’s summary of railroads in and around Chicago …

The Chicago and Milwaukee Railroad, an 85-mile railroad connecting Milwaukee and Chicago, moving 154,219 passengers north and south with receipts for passengers and freight of $204,186.15 in 1858.
The Chicago, St. Paul and Fond du Lac Railway, with 90 miles completed from Chicago to Janesville, Wisconsin and 47 miles from La Crosse Junction to Oshkosh and a land grant of close to 2,000,000 acres, allowing a projected run to Marquette on Lake Superior, a total of 393 miles.  Carried 122,252 passengers in 1858 with receipts of $290,818.68 for passengers and freight in 1858.
Galena and Chicago Union Railroad, with 121 miles of track from Chicago to Freeport.  Connecting with the Illinois Central it forms a direct line to the Mississippi River at Dunleith.  Carried 394,733 passengers with receipts of $1,547,361.23 for passengers and freight in 1858.
Galena (Fulton) Air Line and the Chicago, Iowa and Nebraska Railway, the Galena running from Chicago to Fulton on the Mississippi, a total of 136 miles, connecting with the C.I. and N., completed from the Mississippi to Lisbon, Iowa, a total of 64 miles.  The C. I. and N. is projected to run north to St. Paul, Minnesota from Cedar Rapids, a total of 311 miles.  Carried 31,235 passengers with revenue for freight and passengers of $50,851.23 in 1858. 
Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, connecting Chicago with Burlington, Iowa, a total of 210 miles.  Carrying 319,018 passengers with receipts of $1,500,709.64 for freight, mail and passengers in 1858.
Chicago and Rock Island Railway, connecting Chicago with Rock Island, where the only railway bridge over the Mississippi River connects it with the Mississippi and Missouri Railroad.  Carried 306,920 passengers with revenues of $961,780.00 for passengers and freight in 1858.
Chicago, Alton and St. Louis Railroad, connecting Chicago with Alton and St. Louis, a total of 284 miles, one of the city’s most important railroad lines.  Strictly a freight line, the railroad earned $867,238.53 for freight and mail in 1858.
Illinois Central Railway, extending from Chicago to Cairo, Illinois and from Centralia, 112 miles north of Cairo to Dunleith on the Upper Mississippi, a total of 704 miles.  Carried 468,679 passengers with receipts of $1,976,576.52 for freight, mail and passengers in 1858.
Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railroad, completed to Chicago on December 25, 1858 and connecting at Pittsburgh with the Pennsylvania Central and other roads on the Atlantic seaboard, a total of 467 miles. Carried 435,946 passengers, east and west with receipts of $1,567,780.18 for freight, passengers and mail in 1858.
Michigan Southern and Northern Indiana Railroad, connecting Chicago by way of Cleveland, Toledo and other eastern roads, with all eastern seaboard cities, a total of 242 miles.  Carried 511,928 passengers with receipts of $3,089,345.97 in 1858.
Michigan Central Railway, connecting Chicago with Detroit, a total of 282 miles, connecting from Detroit by way of the Canada Great Western, the Grand Trunk, the New York Central and a number of other roads with all the Atlantic coast cities.  Carried 367,919 passengers with $2,016,155.83 in revenue from passengers, freight and mail in 1858.

These lines constitute the major railroads, using Chicago as their base of operations.  There were somewhere around 105 trains leaving the city every day of the week in 1858.  There are a dozen or more other railroads that connect with these lines at various points in the Midwest.  The previous year saw a severe downturn in the national economy, but there were still 516 miles of new railroad track added to the roads serving Chicago.  It is estimated that 2,775 miles of railroad track now exist in Illinois.  Eight years earlier there were 95 miles in the entire state.  The estimated revenue for all railroads calling Chicago their home during 1858 was $16,197,153.95.  (That's the equivalent of over a half-billion dollars of revenue in today's dollars.)

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