The Maxwell Street Market, Chicago
Maxwell Street first appears on a Chicago map in 1847. The earliest housing there was built by and for Irish immigrants who were brought to Chicago to construct the first railroads there. It continued to be a “gateway” neighborhood for immigrants, the largest and most famous of the 19th-century settlement houses was the Hull House, established by Jane Addams to help immigrants transition to their lives in Chicago. Beginning in the 1880s, Eastern European Jews became the dominant ethnic group in the Maxwell Street neighborhood, which remained predominantly Jewish until the 1920s. This was the heyday of the open-air pushcart market for which the neighborhood is most famous. “In need of jobs and quick cash, fledgling entrepreneurs came to Maxwell Street to earn their livelihood. From clothes, to produce, to cars, appliances, tools, and virtually anything anyone might want, Maxwell Street offered discount items to consumers and was an economic hub for poor people looking to get ahead. Merchandise was often considered to have originated from hijacked or pirated rail cars/rail yards and transport rigs for quick resale and dissemination of articles. Few questions were asked about the origin of a vendor’s items for sale, particularly if the price was “right.” wiki
After 1920, most of the residents were African-Americans from the Mississippi Delta. During this period it became famous for its street musicians mostly performing the Blues. New arrivals from the South produced a new musical genre – electrified, urban blues, later coined, “Chicago Blues.” In the 1980s and 1990s, both the neighborhood and market became predominantly Mexican-American.
In 1994, the Maxwell Street Market was moved by the City of Chicago to accommodate expansion of the University of Illinois at Chicago. It was relocated a few blocks east to Canal Street and renamed the New Maxwell Street Market. It was moved again to 800 S.Des Plaines Avenue in September 2008, where I was today.
The documentary film Cheat You Fair: The Story of Maxwell Street, details the rise and fall of Maxwell Street and examines the history of the market, the development of the electric urban blues, the fight to save the market, and the gentrification of the Maxwell Street neighborhood.
I tried hard to condense this topic, but it’s not possible…
To greatly improve my camera skills, I have given my tripod a long awaited siesta. I am now shooting freestyle … one cannot call themselves a photographer and not hold a camera. The shots you will see, unless otherwise noted, are all shot manually in the grips of my hot little hands, practice will make perfect!
My experience in Italy, of which I have more to share, spurred me on to street food and people. My limitation for holding and shooting a camera has got me back in business, my disadvantage has taken an upward turn. I find shooting in the streets, the food and the people, inspiring, and just what the professor ordered.
The above two shots are not of food, but of incense. I couldn’t resist showing you. This was the only vendor that told me to go away, luckily I already had a few snaps under my belt. I love both of these images, I love the color and I love the texture…
What kind of street market would it be without funnel cakes?
… and these ribbon fries were to die for, just ask my husband. They also sell them drenched in a blanket of melted cheese.