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Showing posts from March, 2020

Postcard Spotlight: Subway Cutaway

This Chicago subway cutaway image makes for a spectacular postcard. A description on the back of the postcard reads, “Shown are the main tubes; the downtown center platform, which is 3500 feet long; the two-way escalators to the mezzanines with store connections; and the State St. surface level. Features of the subway are ventilation, illumination, escalators, safety, comfort.” The level just below the street is part of the underground Pedway system that connects to various  buildings, including department stores on State Street like the former Marshall Field’s building. The Pedway system is also great to use on days when the weather is bad. Postcard published by A.C. Company of New York.  This postcard comes from the "white border" era of 1915 to 1930. The white border around the image allowed companies to save on ink costs. Some believe the quality of the images on postcards began to decline during this period.

The Miniature Underground Train

A group of men ride on an electric locomotive in the tunnel. Published by V.O. Hammon Publishing Co. of Chicago. Most children who spent a day at Kiddieland Amusement Park probably remember taking a ride on the miniature train. A similar tiny train once ran 40 feet under the ground in downtown Chicago. And the little tunnel is still there today. Construction of the tunnel by the Chicago Tunnel Company began in 1899 and was inspired by a similar underground mail train system in London. The purpose of the tunnel in Chicago, however, was for the installation of telephone and telegraph lines. The tiny trains eventually delivered coal, cargo and other items to buildings downtown and were later used to transport merchandise from department stores such as Sears Roebuck & Co. and Marshall Field’s. Trains transport barrels in the underground tunnel. Published by V.O. Hammon Publishing Co. of Chicago.  The company continued to expand the tunnel and began const

Postcard Spotlight: Fire and Ice

At the bottom left of this postcard, firemen spray water onto a building ablaze, which encases structures in ice on Wabash Ave. One can observe a lot of interesting things in this postcard, including the names of some businesses on the frozen signs. The colors of the postcard are also beautiful, and I particularly like the colors of the winter sky in the background.  This unused postcard has a divided back, which usually indicates that it was printed between 1907 and 1914.

Postcard Spotlight: Wildfires near Chicago in 1908

The image on this postcard is not nearly as interesting as the message on the back. The postcard appears to be sent from Hammond, Indiana, on Sept. 19, 1908, to Valparaiso, Indiana. The message indicates that the sender did not wait for a late train in Hammond due to wildfires at the Calumet Marsh and other areas around Gary. The postcard reminds us that wildfires like these were once common in the wild lands surrounding the Chicago area.  Note to readers: Postcard Spotlight briefs like this one will be published on my site between my larger stories. The goal is to create more content for the enjoyment of postcard collecting and learning about local history. Also, the blog url address has changed to 

The Early Days of Chicago

Native Americans and white settlers lived on the Chicago River in 1833. Published by V.O. Hammon Publishing Co. of Chicago. In the year 1491, just one year before Europeans landed in the New World, everything in the Americas was still pristine, including the southwestern tip of the Lake Michigan shoreline with its rolling sand dunes and swales. The tallgrass prairie that began west of Chicago must have also been an amazing sight, as it seemed to stretch out as far as the setting sun. And just south of the lake, the Grand Kankakee Marsh, known in later years as the Everglades of the north, contained an abundance of wildlife, including birds and plants that are now extinct. The area was first home to Native American tribes like the Potawatomi, Miami and Illinois peoples. The city got its name from the Algonquin word “Shikaakwa,” or “Chicagou, meaning “skunk” or “smelly onions.” Historians believe the plants with this unique aroma were actually wild garlic that grew along