• IdentificationMSCSC_66
  • TitleChicago Stockyards collection MSCSC_66
  • PublisherSpecial Collections
  • LanguageEnglish
  • RepositorySpecial Collections
  • Physical Description17.0 Linear feet
  • Date1890-1970
  • AbstractThe Chicago Stockyards, also known as the Union Stockyards, played an integral role in the development of Chicago as the hub of the meat industry. This collection highlights selective aspects of the management and promotional activities of the stockyards.
  • OriginationUniversity of Illinois at Chicago. Library. Special Collections Department.

Old Resource ID was Stockyards

The Union Stockyard and Transit Company, known commonly as The Chicago Stockyards, was a major industrial hub in Chicago for more than a century. Its position in the development and maintenance of the Chicago economy helped position the city as the center of the American meat industry. The stockyards played a fundamental role in not only the financial life of the city, but also in the social fabric and popular imaginations of Chicagoans, giving inspiration to Carl Sandburg's affectionate nickname for the city - Hog Butcher to the World.

On Christmas day in 1865, the stockyards opened for business. A group of Chicago meatpackers and railroad executives organized the consolidated market to take advantage of the confluence of transportation options newly available. The Illinois and Michigan canal was completed in 1848 and connected the Illinois River, the Chicago River, and Lake Michigan. Just a few years later in 1852 the opening of the Michigan Central and Michigan Southern Railroads opened up eastern markets to the Chicago slaughterhouses. The following years witnessed a boom in independent slaughterhouses, yet the explosion of the industry exceeded the capacities of the existing facilities. In 1864, an association of nine railroad companies purchased a 320-acre plot of land on the Southwest side of Chicago to establish a consolidated facility. The stockyards eventually sprawled from Pershing Avenue to 47th Street and Halstead Street to Ashland Avenue, and various meatpacking businesses quickly flanked the complex, including the industrial giants of Swift, Armour, Morris, and Hammond. In 1872 with the development of refrigerated train cars, the national markets fully opened up to the Chicago meat industry and ensured its continued growth. By 1900, the stockyards had grown to 475 acres and employed over 1000 people.

The Stockyards continued to enjoy prosperity and market domination into the first half of the twentieth century. By 1940, a total of 896,000,000 animals had moved through the complex. Shortly after this time, changes in technology and urban industries began to shake the market hold and competitiveness of the Stockyards. The physical layout of the plant no longer fit innovations in slaughterhouse processing, especially the growth of the assembly line. Additionally, refrigerated trucks allowed a decentralized location for plants to be tenable, as they were no longer dependent upon proximity to the railroads. The Stockyards continued to decline for the next few decades, and eventually closed their doors in 1971.

Materials in this collection highlight a portion of the Stockyards activities and business affairs from 1890 - 1970, with the bulk of the materials spanning 1930 - 1960. Collection primarily includes minutes, correspondence, reports, manuals and literature, photographs and films.

Chicago Stockyards collection, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Illinois at Chicago

  • NamesUnion Stock Yard & Transit Company of Chicago.
  • Subject
    • Chicago Neighborhoods.
    • Chicago Political and Civic Life.
    • Packing-houses.
    • Stockyards.
  • Geographic CoverageIllinois--Chicago.