Chicago: From The Past Through Tomorrow

From Chicago Historical Society, 1601 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60614 Copyright 2011

Shikaakwa[1]to the Miami tribe.
Checagou to LaSalle.
At the portage ‘tween Michigan Lake and Mississippi Channel
The name is Chicago at this locale.

A generation after the nation’s birth,
The Army saw what the land was worth.
Before the conflict of 1812,
Fort Dearborn thrived quite well.

Whistler picked the perfect spot
And his willing troops cut the preferred plot
On the south river bank just west of the lake
That is where they claimed their stake.

From Chicago Historical Society, 1601 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60614 Copyright 2011

On a fateful Mid-August Date,
As warned by Black Partridge the Dearborn Fort met its first fate.
As part of the War with the British state,
The ninety three did evacuate.

Due to misunderstanding, or bigoted fear,
The Potawatomi skirmished at the column’s rear.
For a time the Miami again held the lake’s sphere.
It only lasted another four short years.

By 1833 the Town of Chicago began a growing spree.
A town of 200 grew at the base of the inland sea.
Railroads and cannels gave cause for jubilee.
The cathedral of commerce began to be.

Even before the disastrous Civil War,
In 1848, Chicago Board of Trade began keeping score,
To smooth the fees of the regions bountiful store,
They bet on the future on a tiered dance floor.

Douglas put Chicago on the political map,
Upholding popular sovereignty and the Kansas-Nebraska Act.
That, in turn, brought Abraham Lincoln to scrap,
 In late 1860, the nation entered its long cold snap.

From Chicago Historical Society, 1601 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60614 Copyright 2011

In Chicago’s own Camp Douglas Prisoner Site,
Confederate soldiers gave up their last fight.
Holding up to 12,000 at the December ’64 height,
Many did succumb to the ceaseless night.

Over Four Thousand reside in Oak Wood Cemetery,
Moved from outside the Chapel, Hospital, and Commissary.
Initially it was done only because it was necessary.
Had to clear the space, all quite discretionary.

In spring of 1895, President Cleveland honored rebel souls,
So long after the church bell’s final toll.
In a continuing effort to make the nation whole,
In ’03, Congress cast names of those resting below.

From Chicago Historical Society, 1601 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60614 Copyright 2011

Back before this somber trip, backwards the page of time must flip.
Rumor has it, in October 1871, the lantern was kicked,
And tiny flames at straw did lick,
The city was soon burning quick; built of dried wood, and little brick.

Near nine at night on that October Sunday eve
At the O’Leary barn fire sparked, danced, weaved.
When it passed due to falling rain,
More than four miles were consumed by flame.

The toll of the dead seem suspiciously low,
But Chicago sloughed it off, and began to grow.
The city’s commercial centers intact,
She boomed again as a matter of fact.

In eighteen hundred and eighty six, another fire began to burn.
Working men, tired of abuse, demanded decent respect they earned.
Agra giant Cyrus McCormick hired Pinkerton Men in retune.
On that dark third of May labor’s movement began to churn.

No one knew who bombed police,
Or who first broke the uneasy peace.
What little is known from Haymarket affair,
Workers demanding decency were left fading in the square.

A side not to this tale of strife,
Marshal Fields, retailer, feared for the city’s way of life,
Demanded anarchies and labor blood,
And innocent men died at the trap door’s thud.

Engel, Fischer, Parsons, and Spies
Danced on the governor’s rope ‘tween earth and sky.
Fielden and Schwab were condemned to penitentiary strife,
Lingg took his own life.

And again Capital was appeased,
The city moved forward as it pleased.
The growing commercial transport hub,
Embraced business money as its one true love.

Opportunity again came to the rancorous metropolis
During the era of outlawed booze, Capone filled in the necropolis.
Ratta-tat-tat was the city’s theme,
With that noise the Thompson did sing.

By today’s standards it would be a common weekend end.
But on Valentine’s day Capone ordered them in.
In ’29, South siders gunned down seven of the North Side’s “Irish” men.
Alphonse Gabriel "Al" Capone took control from them.

In this wretched festering mess,
Humanity was put to the test.
While Lombroso started the criminological quest,
Chicago’s studies said it best.

When there’s no way to succeed by the rules,
A cleaver man will be no fool,
To live the life of the American dream,
It becomes necessary to make a crime scene.

The only solution for this criminal venture,
Is for the citizens to stop being benchers.
Take an active role in the street,
Granma yells, get to your feet.

Citizens, neighbors, people of the ‘hood,
Take ownership to do what is good.
Work together without bitter strife,
That is how you make a good life.

These were the studies during the War years,
When Chicago’s wardens watch the sky with fear.
Secret under UofC, Fermi shattered the atom’s sphere.
This is where Global domination became clear.

After the US won the day,
The Boss’ Machine came to play.
Richard J. Daley was here to stay.
His word was the last say.

That brings us to 1968,
The days or rage, the days of hate.
Vietnam War was in full state.
The atomic young sent to shatter the red pirate.

From Chicago Historical Society, 1601 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60614 Copyright 2011

Blood in the Jungle,
Blood on the beach,
Blood stained leaves,
Blood stained streets.

Boss Daley was put to the test,
The protestors decried military abuses fest,
Chicago’s police responded with excess,
Respectful reporters were threatened with arrest.

Seven men were held; conspiracy  declarative signers.
Hoffman, Rubin, Dellinger, Hayden, Davis, Froines, and Weiner.
The Chi-Town judge jailed them as protest primers.
But, in the end, the federal court upended the penalty definers.

Pause here; contemplate this fate.
The police act out on behalf of the state.
Authority misdeeds are tossed when it gets late.
And the very next day they make the same “mistake.”

In spite of the machine’s best effort,
The economy faltered, factories, job shops did desert.
The once thriving town of industry and mart,
Began to wither in a long dark night.  

Binladic, Byrne, Washington, Orr, Sawyer, and Dayley’s own son,
Could not stop what had begun.
The wealthy class fled threatening slum,
And wantonly abandoned the city at full run.

From Chicago Historical Society, 1601 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60614 Copyright 2011

That brings us up to date,
Chicago’s still a declining city state.
Service industry doesn’t compensate,
The transient workers now depopulate.

Into this decaying mess,
The NATO5 came to protest.
Once again the city does test,
The firm resolve of the nation’s best.

With heavy hand the selfish few oppress,
While 14,000 demanded redress,
Crimes committed in the name progress,
Martial, Material, Military obsess.

And at no point have the citizen’s gain,
There is no growth in the current game,
From City Hall it is the same,
Damnation, want, decay in the state’s name.

And Chicago, like all great things of man,
Will be abandoned, forgotten after some last stand.
Slowly it sinks into epoch’s sand,
Tide and time it cannot withstand.

[1] Chicago. (2013, March 17). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 15:28, March 17, 2013, from


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