Chicago Drainage Collection

Title

Chicago Drainage Collection

Subject

Illinois--Chicago
Illinois--Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal
Waterways
Illinois--Chicago Sanitary District
Dams--Design and construction
Canals--Design and construction
Canals
Dams

Description

The Chicago Drainage Collection documents the construction of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal during the 1890s and early 1900s. The canal serves as a shipping link between the Great Lakes Waterway and the Missisippi River and it carries Chicago's sewage to the Des Plaines River. 

Construction on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal began in 1889 with the creation of the Municipal Sanitary District in response to fears that sewage pumped into the Chicago River and into Lake Michigan would contaminate the city's drinking water. The canal also served as a replacement for the narrower and shallower Illinois and Michigan Canal. Canal construction ran under the leadership of chief engineer Isham Randolph from September 3, 1892, known as "Shovel Day," until January 2, 1900, when water was first released into the canal. 

During the construction process, engineers successfully and permanently reversed the flow of the Chicago River, enabling it to carry waste water away to the Mississippi River and eventually the Gulf of Mexico. Admiral George Dewey dedicated the canal on May 2, 1900. Additional construction extending the canal to Joliet ran from 1903-1907. 

Photographs in this collection include images of the construction of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and the Bear Trap Dam at the base of the canal in Lockport, Illinois. Other images include Admiral Dewey's visit to dedicate the waterway as well as before and after images of the empty and filled canal.

Items in the Chicago Drainage Collection Collection

Construction materials lie next to the Bear Trap Dam at the base of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal at Lockport.

A man sits on a large concrete pillar in front of the Bear Trap Dam located at the base of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal at Lockport.

A view of the Bear Trap Dam shows a floodgate.

A man and a woman pose for a picture at the bottom of the Bear Trap dam located at the base of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal at Lockport.

A view of the Bear Trap Dam, located at the base of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal at Lockport, shows a closed floodgate on the dam.

Collection Tree

  • Illinois Photographic Collection
    • Chicago Drainage Collection