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The Herd: 1941

The Herd: 1941

July 1941. "Union Stockyards, Chicago. Employees' parking lot in the foreground." Medium format acetate negative by John Vachon for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


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Memorable smell

That image reminds me of why I was once a vegetarian for 20+ years. As an ex-pat Chicagoan, the smell of that place c. late 1950s-early '60s for many blocks around lingers in the mind to this day.

Patio hair

Back in 1970 I bought 1100 paving bricks for my patio that came out of the stockyard pens. Some still had cattle hair sticking to them and smelled a bit. Looked nice, though.

At least one grand old Packard

Four rows from the top, 12 cars from the left. Looks like a 1934 Packard 5 Passenger Sedan.

That smell

On a recent cross-country drive we drove through Las Cruces, NM, and the interstate goes by a large dairy cattle stockyard area south of the city. I'd never been near one, and the smell was so much worse than I could have imagined. I can't imagine what Chicago was like back when the Union Stockyards were active.

No clunkers here

Pay must have been good, mostly newer vehicles.


They're all, in the main herd, pointing the same direction. The drill for mass parking is usually back in to your space, because people arrive at different times but all leave at once, and the less backing out all at once the better.

The "Back of the Yards" Neighborhood

lurks behind the G. H. Hammond Co. building. It had to be very pleasant at times when the wind blew in the wrong direction.

Nostalgia lens

"Dang it, all cars today look the same. Back in the Old Days, cars were unique and had real personality!"

Social Change

Could one imagine this parking lot today without pickup trucks?

Chicago's El Trains Moooved the Workers

At its peak, the Chicago Stockyards employed 50,000 people. A special Elevated train branch line was built in 1908 to serve the yards, and ran until 1957. There were seven stations, and buses replaced the El trains until the Stockyards closed in 1971. You can read more about it here.

The Stockyards even had a geographic telephone exchange name, YArds.

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