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The City of Chicago, United States

The Illustrated London News, vol. 43, no. 1218, p. 199.

August 22, 1863


Extraordinary as has been the growth of many such cities of the United States as Philadelphia in the east and Cincinnati in the west, yet all are eclipsed by the rapidity with which the great city of Chicago, the capital of the state of Illinois, has risen up. Thirty years ago the site of this fine city was almost of wilderness--not more than half a dozen cottages occupied the flat prairie lands where now is a magnificent city containing one hundred and twenty thousand inhabitants. Chicago is not composed of all kinds of buildings, good, bad, and indifferent, as many American cities are, but is beautifully built of brick and stone. The public buildings are very fine, the streets wide and well paved. In fact, the city has as noble and stately an appearance as any city of its kind in the Old World. The shops and stores are of the first class and the hotels on the largest scale, offering the best accommodation, particularly that called the Briggs House, combining, as it does, the comforts of the best English inns with those peculiar advantages that belong to the American hotel system.

The geographical position of Chicago is, perhaps, the very finest that exists on the American continent. It is situated on the south-

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west angle of Lake Michigan, quite in the "far west" of the continent, more than a thousand miles from the Atlantic Ocean. Yet vessels which shipped their cargoes in the docks of Liverpool may often be seen discharging them beside her quays; and many a cargo of corn, beef, and pork shipped in this great prairie capital finds its way to British ports without ever being transhipped; for between Chicago and the Atlantic the water communication is complete for seagoing ships of considerable burden, by the Welland Canal, which passes them from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, missing the great Falls, and by the canals of the St. Lawrence, which avoid the rapids of that river. Chicago is also connected with New York by a grand system of canals; in fact, New York is the true port of the prairie country.

From Chicago in every direction branches a system of railways of the most complete kind. The Michigan Central enters the city on a viaduct, across part of Lake Michigan. One of our Illustrations is taken from a point on this viaduct. This railway is 300 miles long, and extends to the city of Detroit, on the river which connects Lake Huron with Lake Erie. On the opposite side of this river is the British city of Windsor, the western terminus of a system of railways connected with New York and Boston, and all portions of the British territory in North America. From Chicago railways are increasing northward and westward through the young States of Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota; while southward and westward railway communication is perfect for thousands of miles into the farthest unbroken prairie lands beyond the Missouri to the most southern States of the Union and the mouths of the Mississippi and the Rio Grande.

It is impossible to contemplate the future of the North American States without seeing that the city of Chicago must occupy the most prominent position in it, standing as it does at the head of inland navigation, and at the head also of those great alluvial tracts of rich prairie lands, which even now are scarcely touched, lands where soil, climate, and all desirable things else invite men to settle upon them and progress. And it is not on the surface alone that these riches exist, for beneath it lie inexhaustible beds of coal, and limestone adapted for every purpose. Copper, lead, and other minerals abound in the north; and there is a mountain of iron in the south. The greatest nation the world has ever seen will be that which will one day inhabit the plains of Illinois: Chicago will be its capital, and New York its seaport.

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