April 10, 2009
On Chicago: A Case of Natural Predestination
"LONG before the Stone Age man was building his mounds in Illinois, long before the Indian roamed the prairie or the French explorers came in their canoes, Chicago's destiny was written in the stars.
"The groundwork of the city's greatness was laid far back in the dawn of geological time, when all the central plain from the Appalachians to the Rocky Mountains was fathoms deep beneath an ancient sea. The limestones of that prehistoric sea bottom, with their veins of zinc and lead, the sandstones and clay, the silt which mellowed into rich alluvial soil, were to become the source of untold wealth.
"The carboniferous age slowly converted the primeval forests into coal. The Illinois coal deposits alone have been estimated at 45,000,000,000 tons — enough to last, at the present rate of consumption, for 750 years, by which time new sources of energy doubtless will have been found.
"It was the great ice sheet, leaving other rich mineral deposits, which gouged out the Great Lakes basin, without which Chicago could not have come into being.
"To the advantages of location must be added the advantages of climate. The Chicago area lies directly in the path of the cyclonic storms which sweep the country, gathering up the moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and precipitating it as rain, thus counteracting the effect of arid winds from the Southwest, irrigating the vast corn and wheat belts, and watering the northern forests. Nor could such weather conditions fail to produce a vigorous and energetic race of men and women.
"Chicago, therefore, lies in the very heart of a territory blessed beyond all others in the bounty of its natural resources. From plains and farms, from mines and forests, Chicago draws the livestock, the grain, the minerals, and the timber which, converted into finished products, supply the needs of all the world.
From: Chicago's Accomplishments and Leaders by Glenn A. Bishop and Paul T. Gilbert (1932)
Early Chicago (website and book)
Nature's Metropolis by William Cronon
Gifts of the Glaciers
Formation of the Great Lakes
Photo credit: Tech Great Lakes