Author(s): Marcelo H. Garcia
Keywords: No Keywords
Abstract: Situated at the southwest corner of Lake Michigan, in the United States of America, the Chicago metropolitan area straddles a low continental divide, which separates the upper Mississippi River system from the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River system. The first European explorers, Louis Joliet and Father Jacques Marquette arrived in 1673. They dragged their canoes though a marsh which connected the Des Plaines River, a remote tributary to the Mississippi River, and the Chicago River, which discharged directly into Lake Michigan. Marquette proposed that a canal be built to eliminate the portage and connect the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River. When the proposal was finally implemented, 150 years later, it had incalculable beneficial effects on the future of Chicago. In 1816, the first steps were taken to construct a canal between Lake Michigan and the Illinois River, to which the Des Plaines River is a tributary. In 1822 the United States government authorized the State of Illinois to construct the Illinois& Michigan Canal. But Illinois with a population of about60, 000 could not afford the construction costs. Thus in 1827 the United States Congress granted additional land near the canal right-of-way to Illinois so that the state could sell the land to speculators and raise the needed construction funds. Thus it was the sale of this land to finance the Illinois& Michigan Canal that promoted the beginnings of the actual town of Chicago, which was incorporated in 1833 with a population of 350. The canal was completed in 1848. By 1860, Chicago, with a population of about 110, 000, was the trading center of the Midwestern United States.