The Junction: Chicago 1870
It’s the fall in Chicago. The year is 1870 and the nation is restless. Five years after the Civil War, the assassination of Lincoln and then the later enacted 13th Amendment has left the US in a state of reconstruction. The US is also in full swing in an era of western bound expansion and sprawling railroad lines across the country. Steam power is at its prime and the dawn of a second industrial revolution is on the horizon where wonders and technologies to awe and amaze will be revealed in years to follow. [World’s Fair – Chicago 1893]
Chicago is booming. The population has more than doubled in the last 10 years reaching almost 300,000. By this time Chicago has also become a major hub for manufacturing and a center for western agricultural trade.
Mines and agriculture are staples in the economy as well as fishing in the Great Lakes. Outlying towns are being made as often as abandoned day to day, year to year when the promise of railroads comes to fruition or falls though. In the heart of Chicago, there are more than a dozen rail lines that have reached the central city coming in from all corners of the state bringing in mineral ore, coal and produce. In addition to the rail lines, there’s also half a dozen horse car lines criss-crossing throughout the city with 6,600 horses used to ferry passengers.
Along with trains, horse cars, carriages, there is also a growing craze for a relatively new form of travel—by air. To date, there are a handful of airships in the US. They mostly travel on the eastern side of the US and at select cities throughout. There is one route that goes west. First stop is Auraria, CO and then onto Sacramento, CA. Navigating the mountains and weather conditions is far from peaceful. If you’re looking for thrills, this near death experience is for you. There are plans for expansion, adding new destinations, routes, and fine tuning the designs of the airship to accommodate longer flights.
The west is still wild. The railroad and continuing westward expansion will always cause the unavoidable conflict with the Natives. Small outer towns still occasionally get attacked as do crops get ransacked or burned and mines get destroyed beyond immediate or future repair.
Freed slaves are making mass expeditions to the northern cities to find jobs on local farms, manufacturing plants, the railroad and a number of other trades. Some have made names for themselves in their trades gaining enough wealth to live a very comfortable life for the rest of their days.
Even though being in the north, racial tensions are still common place—it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there and everyone tends to look out for their own. Alliances are made as quickly as they are broken for every reason imaginable under the sun. Common interests will unite staunch enemies and end up spurring significant changes in the current scene at hand. And with all the unrest between races, heritages, unions, religions and social classes, somehow the Chinese seem to have gone mostly “overlooked” and don’t have it nearly as bad. They are quite and compliant and strive to draw as little notice to themselves as possible. Plus, they’ve got all the good stuff and no one is willing to ruin a good vice. There’s currently a considerable Chinese population in Chicago’s upper Levy District and they’ve just started carving out a section of town that caters to their culture and livelihoods. Most ended up in Chicago from the work they provided for the railroads to the city and just never left. Others came to Chicago for the opportunity to solely exploit white men and their vices.
Now, add chainsaws to the mix….