41. An Act to Incorporate the Union Stock Yard and Transit Company of Chicago (1865)
Background: The Union Stock Yard and Transit Company incorporated in 1865 to consolidate the operations of several stockyards operating in Chicago. The city had become a meat packing hub during the Civil War due to its centralized location and railroad and shipping network. Located on more than a half square mile, the Union Stock Yard eventually had room to accommodate 75,000 hogs, 21,000 cattle and 22,000 sheep. By the beginning of the 20th century, the Union Stock Yard produced 82 percent of the domestic meat consumed nationally. However, the large operation came at a cost. Bubbly Creek, a branch of the Chicago River, earned its name from the excessive runoff from the yards, and in 1906 author Upton Sinclair's The Jungle exposed the harsh working conditions and unsanitary standards of the entire meat packing industry in Chicago. Still, in 1914, Illinois poet Carl Sandburg famously declared that Chicago was "Hog Butcher for the World" and by 1921 the Union Stock Yard employed approximately 40,000 people.
The Document: This act of incorporation was effective on February 13, 1865, just before the end of the Civil War, and the Union Stock Yard opened on Christmas Day 1865. The act lists the names of the incorporators and outlines the general powers of the corporation. From 1818 to 1848, all corporations in Illinois were chartered by special acts of the General Assembly. While the 1848 Illinois Constitution authorized the Secretary of State to charter and regulate specific types of corporations, most new corporations, including the Union Stock Yard, continued to obtain charters through special acts of the legislature. The 1870 Illinois Constitution prohibited the formation of corporations through special acts and an 1871 law gave the Secretary of State's office the exclusive authority to charter and regulate corporations.
Note: Advances in transportation, refrigeration and distribution made it more efficient to slaughter animals where they were raised rather than sending them to the Union Stock Yard for slaughter. After several years of decline, the Union Stock Yard discontinued operations in 1971. This act of incorporation is available at the Illinois State Archives as part of Secretary of State Record Series 103.030, "Enrolled Acts of the General Assembly."