Sunday, October 31, 2021

sights, sounds—and smells—of stockyard blood

Above A Busy Day on Dearborn and Randolph Streets, Chicago. Vintage postcard.


Maurice Browne, Too Late to Lament: An Autobiography. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1956, p. 127—

Chicago in the second decade of this [the 20th] century was a mentally disturbing and therefore, to a young man, a mentally exciting place. Metropolis of an inland empire, its god was the dollar and municipal corruption his handiwork. “No decent man will touch politics” was a phrase heard daily and self-defensively from the lips of every “decent” man. Extremes of luxury and squalor contrasted even more violently than in the Dublin of my childhood or the London of my youth. On the east its huge inland sea bounded the city; when the wind blew from the west, where the stockyards lay, the smell of blood, seeping through shuttered window and bolted door, filled every room of every house. In summer pitch from the city’s pavements bubbled underfoot. In winter the streets leading to Michigan Avenue had ropes waist-high round corner buildings, for foot-passengers to pull themselves past the corner against the gale; blizzards swept the city, paralyzing traffic. And in that climate, amid Chicago’s material and moral filth, mental life fought for existence like a sapling in a jungle.