Sunday, September 12, 2010

Streetcar Sunday - Chicago, Illinois

As in many other cities around the world, Chicago started out with horse-drawn streetcars in 1859.  Many cities transitioned from the horse-drawn vehicles to electric-powered ones starting in the 1880s, but Chicago invested heavily in a cable car system instead, eventually creating the largest cable car system in the world. While cable cars have a distinct advantage in hilly cities like San Francisco, they are generally inefficient and expensive relative to electric streetcars operating with overhead wires.  Chicago didn't have the hills to warrant a cable car system, so operators began making the transition from cable to electric by the 1890s.

The streetcars thrived throughout the 1920s, but already began their decline in the '30s falling to competition from cars and buses.  In 1957, the last streetcar routes were replaced with bus routes. This postcard is likely from the early 1920s and includes a pitch for the Gray Line bus sightseeing tours: P.S. Saw this view while riding the Gray Line sightseeing car -The Best Everywhere.
Here's an earlier post that shows a double-deck sightseeing bus (though not a Gray Line) in Chicago.


  1. A great city. Love the clog of vehicles and pedestrians. Vibrant.

  2. Wow. You'd better have not been in a hurry and in a vehicle. Great postcard.

  3. The traffic and crowds haven't changed much! This reminds me of my trips to downtown Chicago with friends when I was in college!

  4. I'm pretty sure I would have just ducked into Louis Sullivan's Carson Pirie Scott department store on the left corner and done some shopping, or at least admired the decorative metal work, rather than deal with that traffic!! I find the way they broke up the text on the front of the card quite peculiar, seems 'Chicago' should have gone on top, and 'Busiest Corner in the World' on the bottom...

  5. I remember Carson Pirie Scott quite well, working there in the evenings wrapping christmas packages in late Nov and Dec until Christmas 1953. This was in addtition to my day time job at Dean Witter & Co as runner at the Board of Trade and keeping charts on soybean spreads after the close of trading. It helped paying back the $225 I had borrowed for the fare coming over to New York Nov 11th 1953 and arriving in Chicago Friday the 13th. In January I got a better 2nd job as busboy at the Berghof restaurant as it included free dinner at breaktime and a beer (the latter only until they found out that I was only 18). By the end of March I was drafted into the army and started basic training in Ft. Leonard Wood, MO (beer was ok in the army at 18).
    the card brought back memories and Chicago was a go go city and lots going on (not a nice climate though).

  6. Boy, that story sounds somewhat familiar. Hi Dad!



Related Posts with Thumbnails