It was a rapid change from a small frontier outpost of mostly French-Indian residents, a mix of British traders, and upstart American soldiers.  In the two decades following the War of 1812 Chicago emerged as a jumping off point for westward expansion and as a center for commerce, transportation, and land speculation. Native Americans were forced west of the Mississippi River and the majority of the French Metis community and core of Chicago’s earliest settlement joined them. This latter group was shunned, abused, and unwanted by newer emigrating United States citizens.  A third decade brought the telegraph, railroads, and federal funds to create a harbor as the young city became the most rapidly growing city in history as it boomed in the century that followed.

In this episode of our “Laying the Foundation” series of the Windy City Historians explore this often ignored and long forgotten era and we complete our interview with Dr. Ann Durkin Keating.  Tapping into the history of Juliette Kinzie and the city’s early wheelers and dealers Chicago rises up out of the swampy, prairie landscape along the Y-shaped Chicago River on far southwestern shore of Lake Michigan.  It becomes the railroad, warehousing, and industrial center of the Midwest forever altering the landscape and shaping human history to approach nearly 300,000 residents by 1870.  Join us we unearth an early Chicago that is now unknown and mostly forgotten.

Links to Research and History Documents

3 comments on Episode 13: Early Chicago

  1. Rich says:

    I enjoyed Butlers account of riding from Michigan City to Chicago. I would have loved to see what he saw knowing what I know today.

  2. blue says:

    shoutout mrs. collins for making us listen to this <3

    1. Red says:

      Ok but do you have the answer

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