Classic Chicago

When Chicago Reversed the River

Check out a political cartoon when Chicago reversed the river


Did you know the Chicago River used to flow out into Lake Michigan? Yeah, back in the 1800s, all the city’s waste went out into the lake, sending much pollution flowing into it. Around 1900, shortly after the CAA opened on Michigan Avenue, the city devised a plan to reverse the flow of the lake, which would send all the waste downstream toward St. Louis, by building a series of canal locks.

This political cartoon, courtesy of Calumet412 shows two figures depicting Chicago dumping her waste on top of St. Louis. This happened just when the U.S. government was set to intervene, but Chicago was successful in its endeavor, thus leaving the river to flow west ever since.

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