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Gurdon S. Hubbard

Hubbard was 18 when he arrived in Chicago in October of 1818 as a clerk working in the fur trade.  After the fur trade ended in Illinois, he was the first to start a number of Chicago’s leading businesses.

Hubbard built the first brick commercial building, opened the first meat packing plant in Chicago, helped create the Chicago Board of Trade and the Union Stockyards.  He was the first insurance underwriter in Chicago and started a steamship line on Lake Michigan.  As an elected state representative he campaigned to begin the I&M Canal in Chicago.  He was later appointed as one of the three commissioners responsible for building the I&M Canal.

But more than anyone of his time, Hubbard understood the vision Joliet had more than a century before, experienced the hardships of the Chicago Portage in its natural state, and worked to replace it with the Canal that made Chicago the transportation and trading center in the heart of the young nation.

In his long and active life Gurdon Hubbard saw Chicago grow from “a town of "four and a half houses, a fort and a Potawatomi town", to more than a half million people by the time of his death in I886.

Four years later the 1890 U.S. Census counted more than one million people in Chicago.

Next page: Young Gurdon