Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sinclair and The Stockyards

Ok I’m not going to lie, I stopped reading this book. NOTHING was going right and with the weather getting cold and rainy in real life, it was just begging to bring me even further into a pit of depression. While I do think that Sinclair was painting a vivid portrait of life in the lower class and he did so eloquently, I just thought it was just too much at times. Perhaps one day I'll be brave enough to pick it up again, but it'll have to be sunny and warm out before I delve into it once more.

I can only guess as to the looks I was getting on the train when I was reading about the initial tour of the slaughter houses. Multiple times I had to put the book down and think about something else for a brief amount of time because I just could not stand to read the scene. Sinclair has an uncanny ability to send you on an imaginary journey and thrown you head first into a scene that would rumble the stomachs of even the most burly of men. But as disgusted as I was while reading, it was interested in this facet of life. These people needed the stockyards and needed these horrible positions. That got me wondering, what were the stockyards all about?

That’s when I stumbled across this website, http://www.chicagohs.org/history/stock.html

It’s perhaps one of the most interesting sites I’ve been to in a long time. I highly recommend at least going through the different pages to look at the pictures taken of the area to get a better more concrete feel for what Sinclair was talking about. It helped me to view the scenes of Jurgis in his work environment much more vividly. Previously, I had wondered while reading this book, what the exact site of the yards were. In this site, they list the place as “The stockyards' ultimate boundaries were Pershing Avenue, Halsted Street, 47th Street, and Ashland Avenue.”

One of the things I found most interesting is that after they decided to end the meatpacking industry in Chicago, following the departure of Wilson and Company in 1955, the place was destroyed. Today “virtually no structures remain of this once predominant Chicago industry except for the giant limestone arch, erected in 1879, which marked the entrance to the stockyards.” I haven’t had a chance to get down there to check it out and see if it’s true, but I’m going to attempt to and bring back pictures to put up.

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