Chicago Harbor & Bar. Illinois


Improving Chicago’s commercial prospects in the mid-19th century.

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An early large format map of Chicago centering on the main branch of the Chicago River between what is now the “Loop” and “River North” districts of city. This waterway would become the center of a booming commerce built around the manufacturing and the transportation of goods providing a massive an influx of revenue and jobs that would lead to exponential population growth over the next half century.

The map is the culmination of plans and surveys by Lieutenant Colonel J.D. Graham (whose name is misspelled on the map). It shows the process by which sediment and silt would be dredged from the main branch and deposited within a water basin to fill in a large pier for the Illinois Central Railroad Company. This pier would include several large buildings for passengers, freight cars, and grain houses, as well as two large slips for incoming vessels carrying raw material from the east. Just across the river is Cyrus McCormick’s Reaper Factory which revolutionized agriculture, making it possible to harvest large areas of grain much faster than could have been done by men wielding scythes.

A “New Light House in progress of construction,” extends out into lake Michigan. Just to the north are several lines indicating a shoreline that was continually extending east into the lake. The existence of natural currents powered by winds from the north would continually add new sediment to the shore. By constructing this pier the engineers were able to naturally add new land to the city just north of the river. This area is now known as a the Streeterville Neighborhood, which is now home to the Magnificent Mile, Navy Pier, and countless high end condominiums that are home to many local celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, and many professional athletes.

In short, this stretch of the river would soon act as an metaphorical artery for the expanding United States. All goods and raw materials coming from the east would find their way into Chicago by boat or rail. After their manufacturing process, the would then head west along the I and M Canal to the Mississippi River or the Union Pacific Railroad which connects nearly every region of the United States west of Chicago. The map was later utilized to entice wealthy investors both domestic and abroad to financially support the efforts of Chicago and its growing community of businesses and manufacturing industry.

Map Details

Publication Date: 1858

Author: Lieutenant Colonel J.D. Graham

Sheet Width (in): 49

Sheet Height (in): 32

Condition: A

Condition Description: Mounted on linen for preservation and durability. Mild discoloration along former fold lines (see upper right, upper left) and trimmed within the neatline in the lower left (likely as issued). Very good to near fine overall.


1 in stock