By hook or by crook, or even by legal means, ranchers acquired or "borrowed" huge tracts of land on which to grow this new, high falutin’ beef. But many of them noticed that it was a long way to take their cattle to Chicago for meat-processing.
In 1882, Alexander Swan (Remember him? The Scottish rancher from Wyoming) came to Omaha and urged business leaders there to consider creating a stockyard. He and others, including Englishman C. R. Schaller, argued that shipping cattle the extra 500 miles to Chicago caused weight loss, and therefore profit loss.
They also noted that Omaha was a transportation center, with the Union Pacific Railroad intersecting there with the Missouri River. The Missouri provided an adequate water supply and excellent drainage, both necessary for raising stock. Swan noted, too, that there was abundant corn and grass, all that was needed to care for and fatten cattle.
Original Omaha Stockyards, Frank Drexel Farm, 1885.
Note: Arrow indicates first Livestock Exchange Building in the old Drexel farmhouse.
Courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society, RG1085-24-11
In 1884, a group of investors built cattle pens on 10 acres of ground. Then, just two years later, the investors built the Livestock Exchange building. The stockyards grew quickly, as did the volume of animals it processed. Soon meatpackers set up packing plants adjacent to the yards, starting with G. H. Hammond in 1885, Fowler Brothers in 1886, and Armour-Cudahy and Swift in 1887.
By 1890, South Omaha was the hub
of a burgeoning western meat industry.
|Find out more about the birth of the Omaha Stockyards.|
From the 2008 NET Television production Beef State
Second building of the Omaha Union Stockyards, illustrating rapid economic growth of the industry in just one short year, 1886.
Courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society, RG1085-02-01
The stockyards and packing plants became the lifeblood of the city of Omaha’s economy. But even something so positive had a down side. A new era was about to dawn in the United States, the reform era of Progressivism.
Corruption and health hazards, beware! The dawn of the twentieth century is upon you!