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Great Northern: 1900

Chicago circa 1900. "Great Northern Hotel and office building, Dearborn and Jackson Streets." Along with perhaps the earliest appearance on these pages of Coca-Cola signage. Also: a "Lady Barber Shop." 8x10 inch glass negative, Detroit Photographic Company. View full size.

Chicago circa 1900. "Great Northern Hotel and office building, Dearborn and Jackson Streets." Along with perhaps the earliest appearance on these pages of Coca-Cola signage. Also: a "Lady Barber Shop." 8x10 inch glass negative, Detroit Photographic Company. View full size.


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Cable Car Track

Chicago had a large cable car system that lasted until 1906. The far track had a centre slot for the grip to clamp onto the cable. Many of the lines turned downtown in loops, which may be the source of the term Loop in Chicago. More details here.

Chicago School "bay window" style at its best.

You can still see some around town.

Whither Lady Barbers?

I can't understand why this didn't catch on. I'd rather have my hair cut by a woman, but for most of my life, lady barbers were not an option.

Haven't we met somewhere before?

I know -- it was at one of Gatsby's parties.

Eyes goin' bad

I'm gonna have to go and get a free eye exam at Sweet, Wallach & Co. People are gettin' kinda fuzzy.

The Gunning System

Gunning was a big player in the world of giant urban advertising billboards. The City of Chicago fought them tooth and nail:

The photo appears to have been taken during the transition from "Every sign must begin with a capital letter and end with a period. Period." to "If there's no period, the letters can be a little larger"

[Mighty internal struggle to avoid using "period of transition" above.]

Catarrh cure

As a longtime sufferer from catarrh--the name sounds both ridiculous and ominous--I am wondering how to get my hands on some of that Blue Gum Compound. Surely a more pleasant treatment than pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine, or guaifenesin.

In fact, blue gum honey (eucalyptus globulus) is sold today as a treatment for various effects of "phlegmatic deposition." Australian brands are widely available.

But alas, even 122 years later, there is no cure for catarrh.

Political unbuilding

as noted below - way below - the hotel itself, and the Bedford Building at the far left of the picture (whose spectacular corner spire has unfortunately been cut off), were among a large number of buildings in Chi-town demolished around 1940. The Tribune tried to turn their demise into a partisan issue, illustrating their removal in a 02/17/40 article headlined "Some of the Chicago Buildings Wrecked During New Deal Depression," but it failed to note the reason for their demolition: construction of the Dearborn Street Subway (there was concern the digging would undermine their foundations).

Coke advert?

Where is it in the pic? I can't find one.

Cigars vs. Cigarettes

It's hard to imagine now that long ago cigar smokers far outnumbered cigarette users, as evidenced by the many advertising signs in all these photos. When I was a kid in the 1960's the drug stores still had large glass-front humidor cases with open cigar boxes so you could purchase individual cigars, but this practice died out before the decade ended. Then we had to find another way to light our firecrackers.

Similar buildings

I am struck by the similarities between these buildings and the Old Colony (where I worked in the mid 1980s) and the Manhattan, which still stand in the block between Van Buren and Congress and Dearborn and Plymouth Court. The Old Colony has the round corners, but the windows are very different.

Chicago Federal Center

I believe this building covers the entire block where the hotel stood.

View from The Monadnock

Every building in this photo is gone. Although the photographer's vantage, Burnham & Root's 1893 Monadnock building, still stands.

Too bad JJ Astor IV

didn't wear a pair of Ruppert's Dry Sox on his 1912 crossing!

Ye Olde Old Glory

We can narrow the date range a little bit thanks to the American flag flapping on the left side of the photo. That flag design was used starting July 4, 1896, when Utah became a state.

Southern Serves the South

Behind the Great Northern there is an office for the Southern Railway. My Pop was a designated Southern Railway railroad doctor, and when I was a kid I had a bright red billed cap that had the SR with the arrow logo as seen on here. It was my favorite cap. . . .

The railroad liked having doctors in the various towns through which its lines passed, so that local workers, if injured, had a local doc to go to. Incidentally, Dad is still a railroad doc, though for Norfolk Southern now. Southern merged with I guess the Norfolk and Western line about 1985 & was later renamed Norfolk Southern.

Tennis anyone?

Is roof fenced off for athletics, possibly tennis on the building behind the Great Northern at the top far right?

Someone doesn't wear Ruppert shoes

Any idea who the guy in the drink in the Ruppert shoe sign would be?

[A lost sole. - Dave]

Did I miss it?

Where's the milk bottle?

At the sign of the spigot

I've seen plenty of giant eyeglasses outside opticians' offices on Shorpy, but never a spigot outside a bathhouse. What a great idea.

And a great picture--keep the Chicago pictures coming.

What in the world ...

...does "Slaunch and true, thru and thru" mean? Besides "knew/new," "slaunch" struck me as odd. Possibly a word that's out of usage?

[The word is "staunch," not "slaunch." - Dave]


I can actually see the characters come to life from "Sister Carrie." One of my favorite novels from 1900.

Urban Totems

If the colorful carved pole is in front of the barber shop and a perched spigot is at the entrance to the bath-house, I would think the next place would be a locksmith?

[The sign says Chicago Bronze. - Dave]

Knot a typo

If you wore Ruppert's shoes then you "knew" the feeling of dry socks…I guess. Otherwise, big multiple typo! Elsewhere, great fire escape where the tall buildings join!

Lady barbers!?

Women cutting men's hair, ladies smoking cigars, or Lady as a last name?

Unfortunately the Great Northern building was demolished. Also, there is no Google street view of this block (Dearborn and Jackson) for some reason.


"Chicago School" architecture. It was designed by Daniel Burnham, who also did the Flatiron Building. It was demolished in 1940 and has since been replaced by the Dirksen Federal Building.

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