Friday, November 3, 2017

Peoples Gas Light & Coke Company History.

Chicago's first gas company, the "Chicago Gas Light & Coke Company," was organized in 1849 and began to sell gas (used for lighting) in 1850. "Peoples Gas Light & Coke Company" was chartered in 1855 and started delivering gas to Chicago customers in 1862.
In 1897, after the Illinois legislature authorized gas company mergers, Peoples Gas merged with seven other firms. By this time, the company was a leading seller of gas stoves, selling over 20,000 stoves to Chicago customers in 1898 alone.


The term "coke" in the name "Peoples Gas Light and Coke" refers to the fuel coke used to produce the gas the company supplied. Fuel coke is a type of coal that has been heated to a high temperature and then cooled, which removes impurities and makes it more combustible. It was used in gasification plants to produce coal gas, which was then piped to homes and businesses for lighting and cooking.

The use of fuel coke declined in the 20th century as natural gas became more widely available. However, the name "Peoples Gas Light and Coke" was retained, even after the company stopped using fuel coke. The name is now a historical reference to the company's early days.

Peoples Gas Light & Coke Company Building under construction from the steps of the Art Institute, Chicago (April 15, 1910).
[The building on the left is 
Pullman Company's headquarters.]
By 1907, Peoples Gas had a local monopoly and struggled with the city to establish fair rates.
Peoples Gas Building opened in 1911 at 122 South Michigan Avenue at Adams Street, Chicago. Lobby Interior. c.1914

In 1913, Illinois created a Public Utilities Commission (which became the Illinois Commerce Commission in 1921) to regulate gas companies. By the beginning of the 1920s, Peoples Gas was delivering about 22 billion cubic feet of gas a year to Chicago customers via 3,100 miles of street mains. At this time, the company still manufactured gas out of coal and oil; in 1921, it used over 700,000 tons of coal and coke and 77 million gallons of oil.

A critical shift in the company's operations occurred at the end of the 1920s when it invested in long pipelines that connected Chicago to natural gas fields in Texas. By 1950, People's Gas had over $80 million in annual sales and employed over 4,500 people. The company changed its name to Peoples Gas Co. in 1968; 12 years later, it became part of Peoples Energy Corp. This entity controlled Peoples Gas and the North Shore Gas Co., which operated in northeastern Illinois. By the early 2000s, Peoples Energy grossed more than $2 billion and had over 3,000 employees in the Chicago area. 

Peoples Gas has 1,497 employees in Illinois in 2023.

Peoples Gas Light & Coke Company's "Kitchens on Wheels" Program.

Peoples Gas Light & Coke Company specially equipped vehicles (more than one) called "Kitchens on Wheels" provided free gas-cooking demonstrations throughout Chicagoland to introduce people to gas appliances. Advertisements trumpeted that these white-and-gold painted trucks, which visited parks, playgrounds, settlement houses, and other public places, were available to organized groups on request.
The Home Service Department routinely sent recipe cards in gas bills to increase women's interest in cooking, and within two years, published "Mrs. Peterson's Simplified Cooking," which 'basic or standard' recipes for a wide range of dishes were included in this book.
A typical neighborhood gas cooking demonstration.

Mrs. Anna J. Peterson was the head of the Home Service Department for 
Peoples Gas Light & Coke Company of Chicago. She was a cooking teacher and the author of 
"Mrs. Peterson's Simplified Cooking." Peoples Gas published many editions.
From Dr. Neil Gale's Personal Collection.
Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

1 comment:

  1. I have some recipe cards from Peoples Gas Light & Coke Co. (Michaigan Ave at Adams St). when were they printed/distributed?


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