The Chicago River

Essay by DragonX5Junior High, 7th gradeA+, February 2004

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Did you ever wonder which mayor impacted the Chicago River? Fact is, all of them did, but none of them directly took care of the river. That was left to the companies and industries. In the beginning of the nineteenth century, Fort Dearborn was built at the mouth of the Chicago River. Early Chicagoans used the river for all their supplies and their daily needs, including washing, fishing, and drinking of course. In 1833, four years before the first mayor of Chicago was elected (William Butler Ogden). Chicago only had a population of only 300 hundred people which didn't cause too many problems, but the next year the population had grown to over 2,000 people with the rapid migration and the river soon became polluted by all the new residents. Village trustees subsequently arranged for the construction of a public well at Hubbard Street and Wabash Avenue. People had to carry the water from this well to their homes in buckets, and peddlers transported water in mule-drawn carts and sold it door-to-door for ten cents a barrel.

My Report will be broken down into 5 different parts, The Original Water System, Typhoid Fever Strikes, Reversal of the Chicago River, Straightening of the South Branch, and Water Purification.

The Original Water System

In 1842, the Chicago City Hydraulic Company, an organization, assembled a system of water distribution using a pumping station and several thousand feet of old wooden water pipes. The intake pipe used for the system had extended 150 feet into Lake Michigan off Lake Street. Water was moved by means of a twenty-five-horsepower steam-driven pump in a station at Michigan Avenue to an elevated wooden tank from which it flowed by gravity through wooden pipes beneath the streets. Operating records from that time revealed encounters that caused trouble...