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The House of Peacock in 1837
C. D. PEACOCK
Jewelers and Silversmiths
State and Adams Streets
Foremost Authorities on Pearls and Diamonds
Founder of the House of Peacock, February, 1837
Eighty-five Years of Confidence
It is particularly fitting that Peacock's should
be known as "The Jewelry Store for All Chi-
cago," as well as for all the people of the Great
Middle West, for the House of Peacock's
started with Chicago, suffered with Chicago
through its great fire and panics, and with
Chicago it grew from a very modest start to a
In the year 1837, Chicago a village of some
4,000 people was granted a Charter and be-
came a City. Its history as a City, dates from
1837. And it was in 1837 that Elijah Peacock
founded the House of Peacock.
Since that day Peacock's has marched forward
Looking backward over Peacock's records,
many of which are ragged and yellow with age,
one finds the names of those wonderful pioneers
who dared and defeated the wilderness, and
the names of those men and women who played
the important parts in the development of
Chicago's industrial and political life.
Among them will be found Stephen W. Raw-
son, "Long John" and Moses Wentworth, A. G.
Burley, Stephen F. Gale, Abram Gale, John H.
Kinzie, Philo Carpenter, Matthew Laflin, H. H.
Kohlsaat, Judge Kohlsaat, Leroy T. Payne,
C. D. Peacock
Allan Pinkerton, Orson Smith, Arthur Dixon,
Silas B. Cobb, the Seipps, the Rehms, the
Schoenhofens, Mahlon D. Ogden, Rev. R. W.
Patterson, H. O. Stone, Norman B. Ream,
John Mohr, Frank Parmelee, Philip D. Armour,
Monroe Heath, Nelson Morris, Michael and
John Cudahy, Joseph Medill, N. K. Fairbank,
George M. Pullman, Marshall Field, Potter
Palmer, Gustavus Swift, Charles T. Yerkes,
Harlow N. Higinbotham, Gen. John A. Logan,
Gen. Phil Sheridan, Lyman J. Gage, D. B.
Fiske, Franklin MacVeagh, Amos J. Snell,
R. T. Crane, John B. Drake, Luther Laflin
Mills, Mayor Washburn, Cyrus McCormick,
Fire Chief Denis Swenie, Ferdinand W. Peck,
Wilbur F. Storey, Peter Schuettler, Philetus
W. Gates, Edson Keith, Mayor Harrison, Sr.,
Columbus R. Cummings, Peter Van Schaack,
Levi Z. Leiter, Father Flanagan, H. H. Honore,
and countless others of like character and
And tracing on down the years one finds the
names of their descendants, many of them still
customers of the House.
And so, year after year, as Chicago has grown
big and prosperous, the House of Peacock has
also grown. Fittingly, and properly it is often
called "The Store for All Chicago," for the
history of no other Chicago Store is more com-
pletely mingled with the history of Chicago,
than is Peacock's.
Peacock's in 1837
Peacock's in 1843
Let us hark back and briefly review the old,
yet ever new and inspiring history of Chicago.
The early French explorers found the Indians
here in 1673, and how many centuries they had
lived here is yet problematical.
Marquette spent the winter of 1674-5 in a
cabin on the south branch of the river. James
Logan mentions in his report to the Govern-
ment in 1718 that the French had a Fort, or
A San Dominican trader built a log cabin
here in 1777, which is considered the beginning
of the village that was to eventually become
Chicago. In 1796 he sold his log cabin to a
French trader, who in turn sold it to John
Kinzie, the first American Chicago settler in
1803, and where he lived until his death in 1828.
In the treaty between the U. S. Government
and twelve tribes of Indians in 1795, the Govern-
ment was to have several pieces of land for
trading Posts and one of them is thus described:
"One piece of land six miles square, at the
mouth of the Chicago River, emptying into
Lake Michigan, where a fort formerly stood."
Peacock's in 1849
Peacock's in 1857
Eight years later, 1803, Fort Dearborn was
built, and under its protecting wing slowly
gathered a few intrepid souls.
Shortly it became a small settlement, and in
1820 seventeen years later, boasted of a dozen
or more families.
After the Black Hawk War in 1833, the village
began to grow more rapidly and the first census,
that of 1835, gives the village, including many
transients, 3,225 souls. In the Fall of 1837, the
population had increased to 4,170. The city's
area in 1837 was but 2.55 square miles. Today
it is more than 200 square miles.
Period of Growing Pains
Chicago's period of greatest early prosperity
was from 1833 to 1837. The revulsions and
reverses due to the effects of the panic of 1837
then retarded its growth, yet, late in 1837, it
again began to jump ahead in both population
and material wealth. Thus, from an isolated
Colony in 1833 of some five or six families,
clinging to a lone, solitary military Post for
protection, dependent for subsistence upon the
uncertain arrival of some chance -vessel from
Mackinac, between 1838 and 1847, Chicago
had become quite a mighty city, comparatively
The Vault (No. 16), all that remained
of Peacock's store after the
Chicago fire in 1871
speaking, and was teeming with a busy and
enterprising population, and the centre of a
widely extended and flourishing commerce.
Chicago's history from this point assumes the
virtue of a romance. It becomes difficult to
reconcile to the mind that the spot now covered
with sky-scraping blocks of commercial and
financial institutions, hostelries, stately man-
sions and some four hundred thousand homes
the second city of America, and third in the
World, was so recently a short 85 years ago a
low and marshy plain, over which roamed
Indians and wild beasts.
It would indeed have required a Jules Verne
imagination for any one of the pioneers of 1837
to have foreseen the Chicago of today, although
John Wentworth in his newspaper, "The Demo-
crat" around 1840, wrote a number of most
laudatory editorials on the "bustling city" of
Chicago, teeming with business, etc.!
Americans, and especially Chicagoans should
never forget the terrible sacrifices of the brave,
stout-hearted vision-gifted, empire-building early
settlers, who laid the foundation stone of this
present magnificent structure the City of Chi-
cago nor should we fail to appreciate the
efforts of those enterprising men who are today
still making history and adding to its greatness.
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The Vision of La Salle
How inspirationally prophetic are the words
of the great explorer, La Salle, in speaking of
the spot at the confluence of the Chicago River
and the Great Lake, the site of the present
miraculous city of Chicago, when he said:
"This will be the gate of Empire; this the
seat of Commerce. Everything invites to action.
The typical man who will grow up here must be
an enterprising man. Each day, as he arises,
he will exclaim, 'I act, I move, I push,' and
there will be spread before him a boundless
horizon, an illimitable field of activity. I would
name it, from the very nature of this place
ago, I act, and circum, all around: Circago."
As the natural gateway and shipping port of
"The World's Bread Basket," the broad ex-
panse of the Mississippi Valley, it cannot fail
but become one of the greatest, if not the
greatest Port of the world. In fact, there are
quite a few men of vision today who consider
Chicago still in its infancy, and who claim that
in the not distant future she will double her
present population, her present boundaries, and
take rank as the World's largest city.
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The Year 1837 Epochal
The year 1837 was epochal in Chicago not
because of Elijah Peacock's arrival in February,
but because America, and Chicago particularly,
was in the throes of its first panic (its worst)
and also because in March 1837, Chicago was
granted a charter; arose to the dignity of a city,
and began that "push" (right in the face of
the panic), for which it has been so signally and
justly noted for the past 85 years.
In his "Reminiscences of Early Chicago,"
published in 1902, E. O. Gale, says:
"Elijah Peacock came here in 1837 and en-
gaged in his trade of Jeweler and Watch Re-
pairer, a calling that had already descended
through three generations, following the English
custom, and which his son, Charles (C. D.),
who was born in 1838, and who has been one
of our leading men in that line, tells me, will
be continued indefinitely, as the mantle is
slipping from his shoulders onto his sons."
The Chicago Fire
Seared in the memory of many of our present
inhabitants is the calamitous holocaust of 1871,
which raged over more than 2,000 acres nearly
Corner, Watch Repair Room
three and one-third square miles, claiming, it is
estimated, more than 300 souls and close to two
hundred millions of dollars worth of property.
Upon its smoking ruins Chicagoans' indomit-
able "I will" spirit quickly began the building
of another and greater Chicago.
In the panic of 1873, Chicago banks alone
among those of the larger cities continued
steadily to pay out current funds.
The Chicago World's Fair
The Columbian Exposition, better known as
the World's Fair in 1892-3 will ever remain in
history as one of the greatest commercial feats
of any nation. It covered an area of 666 acres,
at an estimated total cost of forty-three millions.
Its wonderful achievements along all lines as-
tonished the world. One building alone the
Manufacturers' Hall covered 31 acres, had 44
acres of floor and gallery space and could seat
300,000 people. America's Regular Army could
have been comfortably drilled under its roof.
The Fair's total admissions were 27,529,401.
The House of Peacock
As Chicago's oldest business establishment the
"House of Peacock" considers it an honor to
be so closely identified with its wonderful growth
Section, Engraving Room
in its 85 short years as a municipality, and will
always esteem it a privilege, rather than a duty,
to help push!
In tracing the history and early business
moves of the "Peacock" store, it is significant
that it has invariably "followed the crowd" in
being located in the heart of the city's business
district even as it is today, at State and
Adams, which is acknowledged to be the busiest
retail center in the world.
Chicago's business district in 1837 was on
the South side of the River, so Elijah Peacock
opened a palatial (?) frame store at 155^ Lake
Street, moving in 1843 with the business district,
a little farther West to 195 Lake Street; then to
199 Randolph in 1849, which had become the
leading retail thoroughfare. In '54 to '57 he
was at 205 Randolph. The great conflagration
of 1871 found the "House of Peacock" at 221
Randolph Street, and the fire destroyed every-
thing, except the jewelry vault. After the fire,
Peacock's temporary quarters were at 96 West
Madison; in 1873 the store was at State and
Washington Streets, and in 1894 it moved to
the present building at State and Adams, which
it has occupied for the past 28 years.
In 1903 the business was incorporated under
the laws of the State of Illinois. The present
officers are Robt. E. Peacock, President; W. J.
Bufnngton, Vice-President; Walter C. Peacock,
The first "Peacock" advertisement of record
appeared in the Democrat, April 5, 1841, and
the firm has advertised ever since, being prob-
ably the oldest continuous jewelry advertiser in
The Peacock Business Principles
If we were searching for a slogan to go over
our door, we would choose "The Buyer is
Safe;" for the high-minded, conscientious old-
fashioned business honesty that has always
characterized the commerical history of the
name of "Peacock," for many generations in
England, and for three generations in Chicago
in the one unbroken line of business, has always
been considered by the present generation in the
light of a sacred trust. Absolute fidelity to this
trust has, more than any other one thing, en-
abled it to achieve that enviable position it now
Appreciating its responsibility to the public,
it is the constant aim of the "House of Peacock"
to surpass even the expectations of its most
Chicago was chartered March 4, 1837.
First Municipal Election was held in Fall of 1837. 709
votes were cast.
In 1830 there was a sale of Canal lots (Chicago's first
lot sale), the choicest bringing $50 to $100.
In 1832 Chicago is reported to have had about 100 in-
habitants and about 5 or 6 log houses, exclusive of the
In 1837 the Trustees applied for a loan of $60 (the first
loan of its history), to drain a slough on Clark Street,
south of Washington. The broker refused the loan,
unless the notes bore the personal indorsement of Mr.
E. B. Williams. Mr. Williams promptly endorsed.
The first railroad train to reach Chicago arrived in 1852.
The first boat to arrive at Chicago was a Government
Schooner with men and supplies for building Fort Dear-
born, reached Chicago in 1803.
The first Steamboat reached Chicago with 'Government
.troops, supplies (and cholera) for the Fort in July, 1832,
to quell the Black Hawk War.
The first newspaper of Chicago was the Weekly American
which started in 1836.
Of more than passing interest, considering the present
H. C. of L. are the prices that prevailed in Chicago in
1837; and some writers state that the high taxes and
living expenses were even then very generally discussed
Butter 6c a Ib. Venison $1.50 a carcass
Beef 6c a Ib. Flour $3.00 a barrel
Ham 5c a Ib. Wood $2.00
Grouse $1.00 a dozen Good Board $2.00 a week
Quail 3c each