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The Pearly Gates: 1941

The Pearly Gates: 1941

June 1941. "Entrance to Union Stockyards, Chicago." Medium format acetate negative by John Vachon for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


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You're goin' in

but you ain't comin' out!

The Smell of the Circus

When I was a kid in the 1960s, one of the big circuses (Ringling Bros?) would set up at Chicago's International Amphitheatre, which was next to the still-operating stockyards.

I moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in the 1980s, and after a month I started reminiscing about the circus. Every Thursday at 4 pm, to be exact. Turns out there was a rendering plant by my office, and every Thursday at 4 its odor would permeate downtown Cedar Rapids, that same smell down by the Chicago stockyards.

For some people the smell of cotton candy , peanuts or elephants reminds them of the circus. For me, nothing says "circus" like the smell of a slaughterhouse.

The gate is about all that's left

The gate is still there. The Live Stock National Bank building (a replica of Independence Hall in Philadelphia) is still there. Otherwise, the enormous operation we saw here is entirely gone.

There is still a good amount meat and food processing on the the site, but it looks like an anonymous light industrial park.

Hotel California for Bovines

You can check out any time you like
But you can never leave


More like the Gates of Hell for the cows. Abandon hope all ye who enter here. (And note the shovel by the entrance for road clean-up. Since this is a family site, I can’t say what my father called the shovel for cleaning up the lawn after our dog.)

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