Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Society of the Spectacle: How Things Are Remembered

In a prior posting, I mentioned that this image was published by A. T. Andreas (Chicago) in 1884 and that it depicts an event from 1830 (the first shipment of grain in bulk from the Port of Chicago, undertaken by the "Osceola" of Buffalo, New York). Note its insistence that no one was there to witness this historic event, that Chicago's docks were virtually empty (spectacular) at the time.

To prove the obvious, i.e., that these docks were in fact teeming with workers, supervisors, grain merchants, farmers, et al, and would remain so until the 1850s, I show you following.

Entitled "The first grain elevator in Chicago, 1838," it was -- in the words of the text at the bottom of the image -- "one of the sixteen historical paintings by Lawrence C. Earle in the Banking Room of the Central Trust Company of Illinois, 15 Monroe St, Chicago." It was painted in 1902. In the fact-challenged words of the caption, which was provided by

In 1839, the firm of Newberry and Dole began shipping wheat from Chicago's first grain elevator, which was located at the north end of the Rush Street bridge. The wheat was brought from farmers' wagons, and hoisted to an upper story by old-style pulley blocks and rope, by hand power.

It is more likely that this elevator was active at the start of the 1830s, and that it was powered by a team of horses, not by human hands. Note well: in both pictures, the elevator dispatches out-going grain through a trough that is lowered into or near the hull of the ship that will be transporting it. This trough proves that grain in bulk was being handled by this pioneering elevator, not grain in sacks.

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