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 The name is now a historical reference to the company's early days.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.]
|Peoples Gas Building opened in 1911 at 122 South Michigan Avenue at Adams Street, Chicago. Lobby Interior. c.1914
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 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.
|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.