Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Kinder, Gentler Nation

I just finished, Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson. It is a well-written account of events in 1890's Chicago leading up to the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, better known as the Chicago World's Fair.

The book is a fascinating window into the past, revealing how much we have changed since then.

How Men took care of business, 1890's Style...

The Fair's directors planned on piping in water from Waukesha's famed springs, with the help of J.E. McElroy's Hygeia Mineral Springs Company of that same Wisconsin city, but they...
"…failed to anticipate the intensity of opposition from the citizens (of Waukesha) who feared the pipeline would disfigure their landscape and drain their famous springs."
And the opposition continued to build, so McElroy and the fair's planners had to be sneaky if they wanted that water.
On Saturday evening, May 7, 1892, McElroy loaded a special train with pipes, picks, shovels, and three hundred men and set off for Waukesha to dig his pipeline under the cover of darkness.
Word of the expedition beat the train to Waukesha. As it pulled into the station, someone rang the village firebell, and soon a large force of men armed with clubs, pistols, and shotguns converged on the train. Two fire engines arrived hissing steam, their crews ready to blast the pipelayers with water. One village leader told McElroy that if he went ahead with his plan, he would not leave town alive.
Soon another thousand or so townspeople joined the small army at the station. One group of men dragged a cannon from the town hall and trained it on Hygeia's bottling plant.
After a brief standoff, McElroy and the pipelayers went back to Chicago.
There are two kinds of people. Those who long for the good old days of direct action, and those who thank progress we have evolved to a kinder, gentler species.

Which are you?

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