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Chicago's maritime history

Paddle into Chicago’s maritime history with this Chicago History Examiner. The new series will provide an extensive examination of the maritime industry in Chicago. One of the earliest industries in the region, the maritime industry has a long and fascinating history filled with interesting details and exciting persons.

A storm on Lake Michigan
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

The series begins with a description of the important waterways in Chicago, Illinois and the Mississippi River Basin. The natural waterways and rivers provided the earliest shipping lanes in the 1700s. Later, Chicagoans improved and added to these natural bodies of water by constructing canals, channels and seaways. The history of these manmade changes, including the reversal of the Chicago River, will also be described.

Commerce and trade will be examined along with the earliest vessels used in the maritime trade. The shipping lanes used from the earliest days will be explored. Important changes have occurred in trade and commerce, and these changes will be identified and explained. The history of Chicago’s ports will also be presented.

Chicago’s many bridges have differing and unique styles from the first bridge over the Chicago River to the railroad bridges to today’s newest bridges. Styles, architects, operations and plans will be described. Changes and improvements to Chicago’s bridges will be explained.

Lake Michigan is a dangerous body of water. Storms occur frequently and cause many shipwrecks. The most famous shipwrecks will be investigated. In some cases, mystery surrounds these shipwrecks. These mysteries will also be studied.

Lake Michigan is important for Chicago’s recreation and tourism industries. The lake has also been used for military training. Activities related to recreation, tourism and training will be explored.

Extensive use of Chicago’s waterways has sparked an interest in protecting the water and wildlife of these bodies of water. These protective efforts will be described and studied.

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