The influence of the Chicago Board of Trade extended beyond the commercial realm. The Board’s prominent business leaders financed and advocated for municipal improvements, driving the city’s forward spirit and increasing Chicago’s national prestige. The Board was founded in 1848 as a cooperative commercial venture to alleviate the boom and bust fluctuations that plagued Midwestern grain markets by standardizing the system of distribution and allowing for futures trading. The Board’s success helped make Chicago a national economic powerhouse. In the spirit of progress the Board’s members worked to advance major projects, including the Sanitary and Drainage Canal, Chicago harbor improvements, and telegraph infrastructure.
At the 1885 opening ceremonies of the new Board of Trade building at LaSalle Street and Jackson Boulevard, keynote speaker Hon. Emery A. Storrs, a prominent, civically engaged lawyer, called the building a “temple of commerce, a temple of justice.” Indeed, the Board perceived itself as having been at the center of public and civic movements since its founding in 1848. Its civic pride reflected the spirit of boosterism that pervaded Chicago’s business culture during this period.
This group of images, originally published in Harper’s Weekly, celebrates the resplendence of the Board of Trade’s 1885 building. As this structure was the first building for the Board’s exclusive use, the dedication marked a watershed in the organization’s history. Yet, the anarchist demonstration depicted in the lower left indicates that not all Chicagoans were enamored with the Board and its commercial and civic vision of progress.
Cronon, William. Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1991.
Board of Trade of the City of Chicago. Dedication of the New Board of Trade Building: Dedicatory and Banquet Address. Chicago: John Morris Company, 1885.
Board of Trade of the City of Chicago. Act of Incorporation, Rules, By-laws, and Inspection Regulations. Chicago: Knight & Leonard Printers, 1883.
Taylor, Charles H., ed. History of the Board of Trade of the City of Chicago. Chicago: R.O. Law, 1917.
Funding Universe. “Chicago Board of Trade History.” http://www.fundinguniverse.com/ company-histories/chicago-board-of-trade-history/. Accessed June 30, 2015.
H.F. Farney, “Board of Trade in Chicago,” from Harper’s Weekly (New York: Harper’s Magazine Co., 1885), p. 317. The Newberry Library, A5 .392, vol. 29