Skip to main content

Full text of "Chicago, 1837-1922 : 85th anniversary"

See other formats

65 -Amuversanj 

100 3 

'% 333 

ao 1 ? 


t\ - 




The House of Peacock in 1837 

July, 1922 


Jewelers and Silversmiths 

Established 1837 
State and Adams Streets 

Foremost Authorities on Pearls and Diamonds 


Elijah Peacock 

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 
great enterprise. 

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 
with Chicago. 

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 


its beginning 

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 
Stockade here. 

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. 

Corner, Manufacturing Room 

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. 

Section of Polishing Room 

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 
discriminating patrons. 

Historical Briefs 

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 
and cussed: 

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 


1.1 ^ 

,9 .6 


Chica/o^-also Peacocks