In the late nineteenth century, untreated sewage and the diseases it caused were among Chicago's most serious problems. To remedy this, the city built a canal to connect Lake Michigan to the rivers of the Mississippi Basin, in an effort to reverse the flow of the Chicago River and wash sewage downstream to be treated naturally. The canal would also reduce flooding and furnish inland navigation facilities. In 1889, the Illinois legislature created the Sanitary District of Chicago to supervise the construction of the canal, which was completed in 1900.
This collection contains 122 photographs from various stages of the construction of the canal, depicting construction methods, machinery, and work crews. The pictures, about 4 1/2" x 7 1/2", are mounted on cardboard and have become faded over the years.
The photographs are duplicates of items in the larger collection at the Chicago History Museum, and were transferred to the Illinois History and Lincoln Collections from the Engineering Library of the University of Illinois in 1982. Each photograph includes a caption and a number (14-481, passim) which apparently duplicates the numbering of the Chicago History Museum collection.