immigration, trade, settlements, Danish communities


If two words characterized Chicago in its first halfcentury, they were "growth" and "change." In 1840 Chicago was a small prairie town of 4,500 inhabitants. But the forces that brought immigrants to the Midwest had already begun to transform Chicago. With the development of trade and commerce between the Midwest and the East, better transportation over land and water became essential. In the 1840s, the State of Illinois constructed the Illinois and Michigan Canal, connecting the Mississippi River with Lake Michigan by way of Chicago. For the first time, Midwestern produce could go to market through the Great Lakes, as well as the Gulf of Mexico . Besides favoring the Great Lakes trade at the expense of the Mississippi River, the canal established Chicago as the hub of the Great Lakes trade route. In a few years, Chicago would replace St. Louis, its older and larger rival, as the leader of the Midwest.