A recent visit to Chicago reminded me of how enamored I am of its rapid transit. It’s so much a part of what makes Chicago unique and exciting to me. Chicago is one of those cities with a “sound” to it—San Francisco being another—and the elevated “L” system is the reason why. Much of the original structure is almost 125 years old, yet it continues to be a vital element of the city’s circulatory system. When the “L” was built, and way before we all used automobiles as our primary means of transport, the dependence on interurban transit (including streetcars and motor coaches) stretched beyond merely commuting. It provided the population an opportunity to venture into outlying areas for recreation as well.
This post reflects on a half-century of graphics (mostly the brochure covers of transit maps) relating to Chicago’s elevated and subway system, known as the “L”.
(I’ve tried to be as accurate as possible concerning dates, but if anyone sees a screwup, please leave a comment and I’ll revise.)
The reverse side of the 1913 map shown at top. This design format was used consistently through the 1920s.
A 1915 Elevated travel brochure
An interesting and thorough brochure (circa 1910) presenting the system and the effective opportunity it offered as an advertising tool. The lighted clock-tower in the illustration on the left is the old Wells/Kinzie Street Chicago & Northwestern Terminal, now the site of the massive Merchandise Mart.
A 1920s travel brochure as a joint venture between the Elevated railways and the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railway, which ran trains from the south side of Chicago all the way up to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Yes, between 1919 and 1963 you could board a train in the loop and take a non-stop electric train to the Cream City.
Another 1920s CNS&M/”L” travel brochure.
A 1933 map produced in conjunction with that year’s “Century Of Progress” World’s Fair in Chicago. The fair was so successful that it ran through 1934 as well . . .
“Guest tags” for the first day of operation on the State Street (1943) and Milwaukee Avenue (1951) subways