Thursday, November 21, 2019

The History of the First Chicago Stockyard; the Bull's Head Market.

In 1827, Archibald Clybourn built a log slaughterhouse on the north branch of the Chicago River and supplied meat to the garrison of Fort Dearborn, six years before Chicago became incorporated as a town.

Soon, other packers set up slaughterhouses and butcher the animals that farmers drove in from the surrounding prairies. To accommodate the ranchers, grocery keepers opened inns and provided fenced-in pens and pastures for the livestock to attract more business and add another revenue stream.

Matthew Laflin bought land at the southeastern corner of Madison Street and the Southwestern Plank Road (Ogden Avenue) and built Chicago's first privately owned stockyard called the "Bull's Head Market." It opened in 1848 and served the public.
Bull's Head Market on Madison Street and the Southwest Plank Road (Ogden Avenue). Surveyed by Henry Hart in 1853.
Laflin also built the Bull's Head Tavern and Hotel (1848-1875) for the convenience of the cattlemen arriving with their herds. It was the first hotel in the original Stockyard district.
The Three-Story Bull’s Head Tavern. Circa 1850s
In 1855, John Sherman leased the yard, and the following year he also leased the Merrick Yards at 29th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue.

Chicago Tribune "The  Fire on Sunday, March 14, 1857, Morning:"
The barn that burned near the Bull's Head Tavern was owned by Laflin & Loomis and was entirely destroyed. The loss of $250 was not insured. It was situated on the corner of Harrison and Laflin Streets.
The Union Stock Yard & Transit Company (1865-1971) opened in Chicago's meatpacking district at the end of the Civil War in 1865. Until the end of the 1920s and peaking in 1924, more meat was processed in Chicago than in any other place in the world.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.


  1. In school, we read Upton Sinclair’s famous novel “The Jungle”. What I’d like to know is, what was the real impact of that book on actual meat packing industry changes? Yes, I could look it up on Google, but you’re a Chicago historian, and I’d love your thoughts.

    1. The book "Jungle" led to the passage of the Meat Inspection Act in 1907, which allowed the federal government, through the Department of Agriculture, to inspect meat factories.


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