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Chicago History Museum | Lincoln Park Neighborhood Guide 2011

Check out five quirky CHM treasures.
By Jason A. Heidemann |

1. What’s that in the sky? It’s a bird, it’s a plane…actually it’s a terra cotta owl circa 1912 that was once perched on top of the North American 1. Building at 125 South State Street and now sits relatively out of sight in between the museum’s first and second floors.

2. Hungry? Both Union and Confederate soldiers ate hardtack, biscuits made from flour and water. But don’t munch on the museum’s batch. Not only are they nearly 150 years old, but they were colloquially referred to as “worm castles” because of the crawly creatures that would nestle inside them.

3. Everyone wants to be seen and heard on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade. One such trader tried to get a literal leg up on the competition by adding rubber to the bottom of his footwear and creating a pair of platform shoes for a more competitive edge.

4. During Chicago’s meatpacking heyday, not a single piece of an animal’s body went to waste. The museum’s Union Stock Yard chair, made almost entirely from cow horn, may not look comfy, but it was all the rage back in the day. Side note: You can’t see it, but even the glue that holds the chair together is made from animal remnants.

5. President Obama’s historic 2008 acceptance speech might portray a peaceful Grant Park, but it was anything but in 1968 when the first Mayor Daley famously ordered police officers to break up demonstrations happening at the Democratic National Convention. Check out the original police officer’s riot helmet, a chilling reminder of a less hospitable Chicago.

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