During the mid-nineteenth century, the increasing prominence of the meatpacking industry caused Chicago to be known as "The Great Bovine City of the World" and the "Porkopolis" of the United States. With the coming of the "second Industrial Revolution" in the 1880s, Americans ranked human progress in science and technology as among their highest aspirations. Advances in the preparation of pork products, namely advances in technology and organization of labor, symbolized this aspiration. According to environmental historian William Cronon, Chicagoans considered the Union Stockyards to be "the pinnacle of Chicago's social and economic achievement, the site, above all others, that made the city an icon of nineteenth century progress." However, this progress came at a great cost, as the shift toward mass industrialization created an industrial machine that de-humanized all aspects of labor.
1. Define terms such as stockyard, immigrant, Packingtown, and muckraker.
2. Describe at least three technological advances that furthered the early meatpacking industry in Chicago.
3. Compare the meatpacking industry in Chicago in the time before and after the Civil War, in terms of size and scope, technology, and labor practices.
Illinois Learning Standards
13.B. Know and apply concepts that describe the interaction between science, technology, and society.
16.A. Apply the skills of historical analysis and interpretation.
16.C. Understand events, trends, individuals, and movements shaping the history of Illinois, the United States, and other nations; understand the development of economic systems.
I. Introduction: Explain that this lesson will emphasize mass industrialization within an individual industry: the early meatpacking industry in Chicago.
A. Vocabulary and timeline activities:
B. Lecture: "The Industry in the Beginning"
area next to his boardinghouse, where hogs and cattle grazed before butchering. "The key attraction of these early yards was the hotel where drovers lodged and entertained themselves while completing their transactions," according to William Cronon. Many of the stockyards of the 1840s and 1850s showcased grand hotels and saloons where drovers could entertain themselves while bringing their livestock to market. It was a cultural marketplace where culture as well as animals and money changed hands.
the American public for creating large industrial empires that increased production. Specifically, "Five hundred animal pens covering 60 acres of land were used to house the livestock, and the whole operation could accommodate 21,000 head of cattle, 75,000 hogs, 22,000 sheep, and 200 horses at one time," according to Cronon.
Directions: Look at the photo provided and complete the following sections. Answer the questions as thoroughly as possible.
I. Getting Started: Listing "The Basics"
A. Title/Caption of photo
B. Type of photo
II. Looking At The Photo
A. Where was this photograph taken?
B. Can you date the photo or place it into a general period or sequence of events?
C. What types of people are shown in the photograph?
D. What are the people shown in the photograph doing?
III. Interpreting The Photo
What does the photo tell you:
1. About labor in the stockyards?
2. About the workers in the stockyards?
3. About the Industrial Revolution?
Handout 1 continued
Handout 1 continued
EXCERPTS FROM UPTON SINCLAIR'S THE JUNGLE
Excerpt #1: 'They stood there while the sun went down upon this scene, and the sky in the west turned blood-red, and the tops of the houses shone like fire. Jurgis and Ona were not thinking of the sunset, however- their backs were turned to it, and all their thoughts were of Packingtown, which they could see so plainly in the distance. The line of buildings stood clear-cut and black against the sky; here and there out of the mass rose the great chimneys, with the river of smoke streaming away to the end of the world .... To those who stood watching while the darkness swallowed it up, it seemed a dream of wonder, with its tale of human energy, of things being done, of employment for thousands upon thousand of men, of opportunity and freedom, of life and love and joy. When they came away, arm in arm, Jurgis was saying, Tomorrow I shall go there and find a job!'" (p. 29)
Excerpt #2: "He was provided with a stiff besom, such as is used by street sweepers, and it was his place to follow down the line the man who drew out the smoking entrails from the carcass of the steer; this mass was to swept into a trap, which was then closed, so that no one might slip into it.... It was a sweltering day in July, and the place ran with steaming hot blood- one waded in it on the floor. The stench was almost overpowering, but to Jurgis it was nothing. His whole soul was dancing with joy- he was at work at last! He was at work earning money! All day long he was figuring to himself. He was paid the fabulous sum of seventeen and a half cents an hour, and as it proved a rush day and he worked until nearly seven o'clock in the evening, he had earned more than a dollar and half in a single day!" (p. 41)
Excerpt #3: "One curious thing he had noticed, the very first day, in his profession of shoveling of guts; which was the sharp tick of the floor bosses wherever there chanced to come a "slunk" calf. Any man who knows anything about butchering knows that the flesh of a cow that is about to calve, or has just calved, is not fit for food. A good many of these came every day to the packinghouses ... whoever noticed it [the "slunk calf"] would tell the boss, and the boss would start up a conversation with the government inspector, and the two would stroll away. So in a trice the carcass of the cow would be cleaned out, and the entrails would have vanished; it was Jurgis' task to slide them into the trap, calves and all, and on the floor below they took out these "slunk" calves, and butchered them for meant, and used even the skins of them." (p. 62)
Excerpt #4; "Then, too, a still more dreadful thing happened to him; he worked in a place where his feet were soaked in chemicals, and it was not long before they had eaten through his new boots. Then sores began to break out on his feet, and grew worse and worse. Whether it was that his blood was bad, or there had been a cut, he could not say.... The sores would never heal- in the end his toes would drop off, if he did not quit." (p. 76)
Excerpt #5: 'There would be meat that had tumbled out on the floor, in the dirt and sawdust where the workers had tramped and spit uncounted billions of consumption germs. There would be meat stored in great piles in rooms; and the water from the leaky roofs would drip over it, and thousands of rats would race about on it. It was too dark in these storage places to see well, but a man could run his hand over these piles of meat and sweep off handfuls of the dried dung of rats." (pp. 134-5).
Excerpt #6: 'That day they had killed about four thousand cattle, and these cattle had come in freight trains from far states, and some of them had got hurt. There were some with broken legs, and some with gored sides; there were some that had died, from what cause no one could say; and they were all to be disposed of, here in darkness and silence .... It took a couple of hours to get them out of the way, and in the end Jurgis saw them go into the chilling rooms with the rest of the meat, being carefully scattered here and there so that they could not be identified. When he came home that night he was in a very somber mood, having begun to see at last how those might be right who had laughed at him for his faith in America." (pp. 61-2).
All excerpts taken from the 1981 edition of The Jungle. New York Bantam Books.
Directions: Choose one of the following quotes and write a two-page essay explaining its meaning and significance. Use as many examples as possible to substantiate your analysis.
Quote #1 "Many saw [the stockyards as] the pinnacle of Chicago's social and economic achievement, the site, above all others, that made the city an icon of nineteenth-century progress."
William Cronin, Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West, p. 207.
Quote #2 ". . .the woman worked so fast that the eye could literally not follow her, and there was only a mist of motion, and tangle after tangle of sausages appearing. . . . the woman did not go on; she stayed right there, hour after hour, day after day, year after year, twisting sausage links and racing with death. It was piecework, and she was apt to have a family to keep alive; and stern and ruthless economic laws had arranged it that she could only do this by working as she did..."
Upton Sinclair, The Jungle, pp. 132-133.
Handout 2 continued
Vocabulary and Terms You Should Know For This Lesson
Chicago's Pride: What the meatpackers were often called by those who saw the meatpacking industry as an icon of industrial progress
Disassembly Line: Refers to the systematic method of gutting and dissecting the carcass; each man in line was responsible for performing a small task that contributed to the end result
Drover: A person who drives cattle or sheep to market
Immigrant: A person who migrates to another country, usually for permanent residence
The Jungle: Muckraking novel written by Upton Sinclair in 1906 about the experiences of immigrant workers in the filth of the Chicago stockyards
Muckraker: Someone who searches and exposes real or alleged corruption, scandal, or the like, especially in politics
Packingtown: Refers to the area west of the Union Stockyards that contained more than thirty large packinghouses at the turn of the nineteenth century
Stockyard: An enclosure with pens, sheds, etc., connected with a slaughterhouse, railroad, market, etc., for the temporary housing of livestock
Timeline of Events
1836: Myrick's small stockyard next to boardinghouse
1850s: Railroad expansion orients small stockyards
1857: Icehouses built in Chicago; meatpacking becomes a year-round industry
1859: Chicago's pork output begins to grow
1861: Civil War Begins; Chicago provides meat provisions for the Union army; Chicago surpasses Cincinnati as the largest pork producer in the United States
1865: Civil War Ends; Union Stockyards built; Town of Lake incorporated
1866: Windsor Leland invents the slaughtering machine
1868: George Hammond invents the refrigerated rail car
1871: Great Fire in Chicago; stockyards are undamaged
1906: Upton Sinclair's The Jungle is published