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Moo & Oink, The Union Stock Yards of Chicago

The Union Stock Yards were the largest stockyards in
 the U.S. and received about 45,000 cattle, 75,000
hogs and 50,000
sheep daily. Published by Gerson Bros.

Many of the animals arrive
 at the stockyards on railroad
cars. Publisher name unknown.

Cows graze under an elevated station
near the stockyards while people watch them. Publisher name unknown.

Depending on the direction of the wind, a dreadful stench from the animals at America’s largest stockyards would blow across certain parts of the city, even all the way to Cicero Avenue on the Southwest side, my grandparents told me. 

Chicago was often referred to as the “slaughterhouse of the world,” as millions of  livestock passed through the site each year. Conditions at the almost 500-acre stockyards at Exchange and Halsted Streets were terrible for both workers and animals. Immigrants and poor whites and blacks worked together in the packinghouses butchering thousand of animals a day in dangerous and gory conditions.

Journalist and author Upton Sinclair’s book The Jungle described the deplorable conditions there and helped influence policymakers to pass the federal Pure Food and Drug Act and Meat Inspection Act of 1906. The  Union Stock Yards, which opened on Christmas Day of 1865, were without a doubt built in an ideal Midwest location that was close to farm country and was at a crossroads for train traffic and vehicles.

The site also became a huge tourist attraction, with about 500,000 people visiting the stockyards and packinghouses in the middle of the 20th century, according to sources. The Union Stock Yards closed on August 1, 1971, after operating for over a century. The site is an industrial park today, but the famous limestone stockyard entrance still stands.  

Numerous postcards of the stockyards were printed for tourists. They make up a popular category for postcard collectors today. I currently have four postcards of the stockyards in my collection.
The three postcards with white borders (like all postcards with white borders) were printed from 1915 to 1930. Publishers decided to use white borders to help save ink. The other postcard is likely from the 1950s and was colored by a postcard artist. I hope you enjoy the images, and please share your stories about the stockyards and other similar postcards on this blog.

The Union Stock Yards extended from 37th Street and covered
a total area of about 500 acres. Published by Max Rigot Selling Co.

This postcard is from the 1950s.
"Chicago is the greatest meat-packing city in the world"
 is printed on the back. Published by Colourpicture.

The stockyards receive over 1,000 cars of stock per day from 22 states.
Published by Curt Teich & Co, Inc., of Chicago.


  1. Brings to mind this classic Chicago commercial:


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