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New Maxwell Street Market: Its Present and Future – Dr. Alfonso Morales

The Maxwell Street Market began as a collection of small street markets in
immigrant neighborhoods south and west of the Loop. After the 1871 fire, street market
activity arose around the intersection of Canal Street and 12th Street (Roosevelt Road). In
time, a trolley line on Jefferson Street drew peddlers there, and the outdoor market along
Jefferson Street became very large. As that became too congested, the peddling traffic
flowed from Jefferson onto Maxwell Street. In 1912, the Chicago City Council passed an
ordinance designating the Maxwell Street Market as an official marketplace for the city’s
people.

Over the years, many business entrepreneurs were born and raised there, or
developed their businesses there. The market’s many merchants, merchandise and crowds
created a character unique to Maxwell Street. It was an Old World market transplanted
into the ethnic mix of Chicago, engendering new fashions, music and other cultural
expressions. Its distinctive atmosphere became known worldwide. The market drew
people from neighborhoods across the city, offering them a wide range of affordable
goods. Many vendors became successful business leaders, making significant
contributions to the city and the nation through their innovations, ingenuity and
resourcefulness.

Although the geographic boundaries of the marketplace shifted over time, its basic
structure of informal bartering and discount shopping endured for decades. Some
merchants who began as peddlers on Maxwell Street moved into permanent shops along
Halsted Street during the 1920s. A few of their shops’ fine facades may still be seen in
the area today. In the 1950s the city cleared the market area east of Union Street, in a
large redevelopment that opened a path for the Dan Ryan expressway. This caused the
street market to migrate further west. It remained on Maxwell and several small adjoining
streets, and gradually spread over an area along the west side of …

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