As industrialized cities like Chicago grew both larger and denser, cheaply produced street maps and guides became ever more important tools for citizens and visitors alike. Because of its grid plan, Chicago’s network of streets was not particularly difficult to navigate on foot, but the many new forms of public transportation could be a source of confusion to the uninitiated. Distinctive symbols on Blanchard’s map of central Chicago in 1901 helped sort this out for readers, while giving us a picture of the importance of these new systems to getting around major cities. Cable cars, introduced in the 1870s, were the first alternative to the horse drawn vehicles that made up the public transportation network in Chicago. Though efficient once installed, setting up the cables and power stations themselves was a costly endeavor. Chicago at one point boasted one of the largest cable car systems in the country-- with a total length of over 80 miles. The invention of the electric railway solved the cable car's problem of high installation costs, but Chicago was slower than other cities to abandon its investment in cables. Only in 1892 did city officials allow some lines to be electrified. Horse car lines, cable lines and electric street railways contributed to congestion in central Chicago due to the fact that they themselves operated on the grid of streets. Elevated lines were removed from the street traffic, and thanks to the ability to move in trains of several cars, offered an effective high capacity alternative to the street lines. But like cable car lines they were expensive to build and maintain, and this limited the number that could be constructed and profitably operated by private enterprises.
Cronon, William. Nature's Metropolis. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1991
Cudahy, Brian J. Destination Loop: The Story of Rapid Transit Railroading in and around Chicago. Brattleboro, VT: Stephen Greene Press, 1982.
Young, David M. Chicago Transit: An Illustrated History. DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 1998.
Rufus Blanchard, Map of Chicago with the New Street Names (Chicago: Rufus Blanchard, 1901). The Newberry Library, map3C G4104.C6 1901 .B5a