Economic History

Bridgeport: A Diversified Economy

The City of Chicago, through the Department of Planning and Development and other agencies both public and private, is currently pursuing a strategy of diversified commercial and industrial development. This might have been termed the Bridgeport Model. The area in which Bridgeport is found developed into one of the most dense and diversified industrial based economies in the city.

The resilience of Bridgeport as a neighborhood stems in part from the diverse industrial economic base of the wider local area. While the mix of this base gradually changed over time, the diverse nature of it is longstanding. Bridgeport occupies an excellent location. Before the town came into being, it was the eastern end of the principal portage route between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi river; then it became a canal station and was also an early rail station. This locational advantage attracted industrial firms, large and small. Bridgeport was close to the Loop and sandwiched between the major south/southwest transportation corridors. If a Bridgeporter needed work, employment could be found in or near the neighborhood; or one could always travel to a more remotely located job in a reasonable amount of time. Industry and the town grew slowly at first, but the stage was set early for the phenomenal wave of growth that would eventually sweep the community.


Canal, quarry, and farmland

In the early years, quarry related labor (The quarry was opened up to provide stone for the improvement of Chicago Harbor in 1833.) and labor for the building of the Illinois & Michigan Canal (begun 1836) provided the economic seed. Local farming was another early occupation -- the Lee farm had produced for Fort Dearborn long before the canal, and later the area was noted for its extensive cabbage patches. When the canal opened, the "Port of Bridgeport" provided continuing employment.

In 1851 the Illinois Stone Company purchased the interests of the Bridgeport quarry and also the lime kiln that had already been in operation there. Soon afterward one of the owners, Marcus Cicero Stearns, pulled out of the larger company. Stearns took as his share of the business the Bridgeport quarry, whereafter it continued to be operated under his ownership and was known as Stearns' Quarry. (Only in recent years has this been shut down as a quarry.) The canal facilities at Bridgeport included the locks, the pumping station (meant to keep the canal in water), and some related cargo facilities. The collector's office was here as well. The Bridgeport collector's office had the highest payroll of any station along the canal. John Harris Kinzie (son of John Kinzie, fur trader and Chicago pioneer) was the collector in the early 1860s. Many privately run businesses were focused about the canal lock site -- catering to the needs of the river and canal traffic handlers, the livestock drovers, and the residents of the area. In 1864 there were seven saloons located in the vicinity of the canal lock/Archer Road, according to the city directory for that year. Twelve more were spread along Archer Road to Dyer (Halsted) street; another five were found closer to South (Twenty-second) street and Archer Road. Patrick H. Joyce opened a hotel and boarding stable for business in 1867 near the lock site.   [note 1]    

Taverns were in the class of those businesses used by sailors, drovers and residents alike. Grocers, on the other hand, were more likely to be frequented by the residents. In 1864 eighteen grocers were found in or near Bridgeport, six of them by the canal, one near South (Twenty-second) street and Archer, and the rest spread out along Archer Road between these two points. A number of small businesses called Bridgeport home. For example, in the area between about Dyer (Halsted) street and the canal lock, the following businesses were found: three blacksmiths, a boat/yawl dealer, two boat and ship yards, a dry goods merchant, four cooperages, a flour and feed dealer, an ice dealer, two harness makers, three soap and candle makers, two tallow dealers, a tanner, a wagon maker, a wine/liquor dealer, two meat markets, two boot and shoe makers, and a boot & shoe retailer. In the eastern portion (some of which is now located in Armour Square) we find: a dock builder, two blacksmiths, a sheet metal smith, a steel works, a boot and shoe retailer, a tanner, a saddle/harness maker, a wagon maker, two wood/coal yards, a brewer, a dry goods dealer, and a merchant tailor.   [note 2]    


Bridgeport Packers

Animal slaughtering was one of the earliest (and longest running) economic activities. Many a herd was driven up Archer Road from the southwest and from the south (Blue Island Plank Road, thence Archer) before most of that traffic fell to the railroads. Oramel S. and Roselle M. Hough built a large packing house on Lime (Green) street near the river in the 1850s. While more important to "Back of the Yards" and "Canaryville," the opening of the the Chicago Union Stock Yards in 1865 provided plenty of jobs that many Bridgeporters gravitated to. The big meat "disassembly" factories made famous by the large packing companies companies like Swift, Armour, and others, however, were not at the stockyards in the early years of operation. Chicago Union Stock Yards was principally livestock exchange market. Packing houses were located in the surrounding neighborhoods. In 1871, just before the Great Chicago Fire, Bridgeport had a major, though more localized, fire of its own -- at the Armour packing house near Halsted street and the river. At that time it was the largest such plant in the city. Robinson's Atlas of Chicago (1886) shows that the downtown provision dealer, J. B. Turner, had his packing plant located on Archer avenue by Poplar street. This was in the "Healy's Slough" (named after Robert Healy, an old farmer) neighborhood near the quarry. In the southern part of Bridgeport, Christian and Louis Wahl operated a huge glue factory on the South Fork of the South Branch, just south of Thirty-first street. This plant was sold to Armour and Swift in 1884 and continued to operate as the Armour Glue Works. See an advertisement for the former company from the mid 1860s below.

Wahl & Lighthall Glue Works

First the canal and later the railroads spurred the development of some other basic industries. The largest influence brought about by the canal in terms of local employment during the latter part of the 19th century was in the development of the lumber industry, not only of itself, but also of the related businesses that sprouted up as a result. The first railroad to open was the Joliet & Chicago railroad in 1857, followed in 1858 by the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago railway. The Joliet & Chicago paralleled Archer Road, and the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, and Chicago ran the length of the eastern margin of Bridgeport along Stewart street.


Grain and lumberland

The canal was instrumental in developing the lumber trade of Chicago and the Great Lumber District -- most of which was located on the left bank (i.e: north side) of the river opposite Bridgeport. Lumber firms were situated on the right bank in Bridgeport proper as well. The firm responsible for development of the lumber district, the South Branch Dock Company, was incorporated in 1859.   [note 3]     During the 1860s, slips intended for lumber vessels were dug out by the company perpendicular to the river. The blue clays here were of commercial quality, so before the lumber companies came here, this was the site of several brick dealers. About 1868 lumber firms began moving their yards into this area. In the early 1880s the new lumber district was filled out. Expansion to the west had been precluded by the South Branch Industrial District, which had been established about the same time as the lumber district had, but it saw little use before the Chicago Fire. Because the industrial district closed off that area to the west, the lumber district began expanding along the South Fork in the early 1880s, toward the glue works and the livestock yards. That meant brick yards, planing mills, lumber dealers and so fourth made this their home. This was still not enough room for the lumber firms, so they leap-frogged to South Chicago by the Calumet river.

Like lumber, grain was a staple canal-going commodity. Five major grain elevator operations were situated in the Bridgeport area: the Chicago and St. Louis elevator at Halsted street and the river; the Danville elevator at Ashland avenue and Levee street (this street ran along the Illinois and Michigan canal); Dennis Sibley's elevator at Thirty-first and Stewart avenue, which was along the railroad right-of-way; the National elevator at Twenty-fourth street and Archer avenue; and the Wabash elevator at Thirty-third and Waterville (now Benson) streets. Additionally, the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy railroad had an elevator on one of the slips opposite Bridgeport. Facilities for handling coal, stone, sand and so forth were also located along the waterways.   [note 4]    

In terms of volume, 1882-92 were the peak years of lumber traffic. Thereafter, lumber traffic coming through Chicago fell sharply, as timber stands in the the upper Great Lakes region were found less and less along waterways, and the forests as a whole were being quickly depleted. Nevertheless, the lumber business continued to be important in the local area even after the turn of the century -- not in merely raw lumber, which had been the case when the lumber district had first set root, but also in semi-finished and finished wood products, such as shingles, lath, and furniture. With the diminishing significance of the lumber trade, though, manufacturing began to take on a new importance. Indeed, wood and meat products themselves were more and more resembling manufactured or processed items rather than simple raw materials meant to change hands.



Even though Bridgeport could be in the packing house hall of fame, meat slaughtering jobs were not the only work available. The Union Rolling Mills, one of the biggest employers in Bridgeport for several decades, opened on Archer Road at the left bank (west side) of the South Fork of the river in 1865 -- the same year as the Chicago Union Stock Yards had opened. This was the first large industrial concern to locate in Bridgeport. It was also a prominent fixture in the life and identity of Bridgeport, as in evidence in Finley Peter Dunne's fictional Mr. Dooley chronicals (see the ethnic chapter). In 1868-9 American Bridgeworks established a plant at Egan avenue (Thirty-ninth street, now Pershing road) and Stewart street, which was on the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago railway. This is one of the early industries that had located away from the canal or river.

The addition of street (horse) cars added to the flexibility of location initiated by the railways. The trunk (or steam) railroads handled mainly freight and intercity passengers, and later suburban riders. The street cars, on the other hand, moved people. Those who earned the lowest wages usually lived within walking distance of their places of employment, while the more skilled workers earning higher wages could afford to ride the street cars on a daily basis. Many different types of jobs were already found in Bridgeport after the Civil War. According to the 1870 census, for example, occupations listed among the people of the Sixth Ward (comprised of today's communities of Bridgeport, McKinley Park, and Armour Square) included: bridge builders, cabinet makers, carpenters, cigar makers, store clerks, coachmen, coopers, copper smiths, engine builders, grocers, laborers, lumber inspectors, omnibus drivers, railroad brake men, other railroad employees, teamsters, tinsmiths, and others. Female positions included: domestic servants, dressmakers, and housekeepers.

The development of manufacturing in Bridgeport was stimulated by the Chicago Fire of October 1871. Factories located in the central city began moving out after the fire. For one thing, they could not build any wooden sheds and the like, due to a new fire prevention ordinance. The same applied to homes, and most workers could not afford to build the brick or stone ones stipulated by the ordinance, so they were moving farther out at the same time as the factories were. In 1872, for example, Marinus Vanderkloot moved his recently founded iron works to Twenty-sixth and Halsted streets. Other factories sprouted up along the canal and riverways, the railroads and their spur tracks.

To the northeast of Bridgeport, plenty of employment was available in the industrial area along the South Branch of the Chicago river. An area thick with industrial concerns was located along Archer from Bridgeport and the river bend to State street and all the way down the river to downtown. The river bend to State street segment (in today's Armour Square) was easily accessible since Bridgeport was the terminus of the Archer avenue horse car line. The Halsted street bridge opened in 1860, and a street car line came across in 1877, providing for better access to the lumber district (and the immense railroad facilities near 16th street) to the north and at once made the Chicago Union Stock Yards to the south much more accessible.


The roots of the industrial district

In the newly begun tradition of districting, such as the Chicago Union Stock Yards and the so-called Great Lumber District, an industrial district, known as the South Branch Industrial District grew in great strides immediately following the Chicago Fire. Located to the west of Lisle (or Reuben street, now Ashland avenue) on both sides of the canal, by 1873-74 thirteen manufacturing firms and some thirty brickyards were found here. The Mc Cormick Reaper Works was one of them, along with iron or metal manufacturers and railroad equipment suppliers. The South Branch district had been planned by Samuel J. Walker as early as 1854 (just before the Joliet & Chicago railroad was chartered), when he had purchased over 1400 acres of land on both sides of the Illinois and Michigan Canal. But before the fire only three firms were doing business here. Like the lumber district, the South Branch company excavated a number of slips (on the West Fork of the South Branch of the Chicago river in this case) and laid private railway spur tracks between them. Most brick yards relocated to this area.   [note 5]     The remainder of the 1870s saw little in the way of new industry here due to an economic bust period. By 1880 or so, the economy had revived and business began growing again. By 1887, the Bridgeport economy was more diverse than ever before.

In 1887, ten years after the Halsted street car line opened, the Bridgeport general area was home to four planing mills, eighteen lumber dealers, thirty-one coal and wood dealers, six cooperages, twelve blacksmiths, four horse-shoers, six harness and horse furnishing shops, two teaming and draying operations, three wagon makers, thirty-nine boot and shoe makers/retailers, five hardware and cutlery stores, a soda water manufacturer, thirteen flour and feed dealers, ten pork and beef packers or provision dealers, fifteen bakeries, well over a hundred grocers, numerous meat markets and saloons, quite a few tailors, and even a florist.   [note 6]    

While an economic slowdown in the 1890s reduced growth, the area had not ceased to develop by the turn of the century. Immigrants continued to pour in, mainly from eastern Europe during this period. The area south of Thirty-first, in particular, grew rapidly. Industry was set to expand. The Chicago Junction Railway, having all the rail traffic that could be had out of the Union Stock Yards, extended its rails and began to promote the land along them for industrial uses. In 1905 came the inauguration of the Central Manufacturing District, which was the first planned industrial park in the nation. The railway company's experience with the stockyards   [note 7]     no doubt gave rise to the planned nature of the district. See sections below for a brief sketch and some views of the so-called "Great Central Market" and other industrial views.

Central Manufacturing District of Chicago
Industrial views of Bridgeport, 1900-10s


Industrial peak and decline

Industry, even after the Central Manufacturing District filled up, continued to develop. Factories and warehousing operations supplanted the waning lumber and later the meat packing industry. Eastern industrial sections stopped growing by about 1920 (in Armour Square, especially), but expansion continued in the areas adjacent to Bridgeport, such as New City (better known as "Back of the Yards"), Mc Kinley Park, and Brighton Park. Portions of Bridgeport's Central Manufacturing District also saw redevelopment in the 1940s and 1950s. The stockyards and related firms in the area employed roughly 30,000 persons in the early 1940s (which included workers on all sides of the Union Stock Yards). While local figures have not been compiled, presumably Bridgeport's increasingly diversified economy wooed workers away from the less desirable packing jobs.

The late 1940s to the early 1950s represent the peak years of industrial activity near Bridgeport. Starting in the late forties through the mid-fifties the major packing companies relocated to Midwestern states further west. The number of Bridgeport workers at the yards had been dwindling long before the yards closed in 1971, so Bridgeport was much less affected by the closure than poorer neighborhoods such as the Douglas community area. A few small meat processors, though, still exist in the area even today. Waterborne traffic (going via the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal by then) was still a considerable commerce in the 1950s. Most of the water dependent businesses were located west of Ashland avenue, centered on two large terminals -- the North Pier River Barge Terminal (at Western avenue/Sanitary canal) and the John I. Hay company (on Robinson street, just west of Ashland avenue/Sanitary canal). An estimated 550 plus manufacturing and related establishments were located within a short distance of the two (of six major Chicago) terminals.   [note 8]     The following table gives employment figures for the major industrial districts adjacent to Bridgeport in 1951.

Industrial district establishments and employment near Bridgeport, 1951
ClassificationArmour Sq.CMDStockyards
Heavy service7711
Total establishments81101104
Number employed29701149831953
Table 2
  [note 9]    

Waterborne commerce, however, has declined since then. Truck and inter-modal oriented rail traffic, on the other, hand has increased dramatically. A motor freight terminal in Mc Kinley Park had been one of the first of two established in Chicago. Bridgeport is the "tip of the iceberg" of an extensive zone on the southwest side devoted to such inter-modal facilities. Many of these, though, are land-extensive, low-intensive uses such as ocean/train-container and semi-trailer yards. While this represents a reduction of employment throughout the area, there have also been sections of "industrial renewal." The Stockyards district in particular -- despite some environmental difficulties -- is slowly being remade into a first-class industrial park. In fact the current city industrial policy, implemented under Mayor Richard M. Daley, might be owed in part to the redevelopment of the Stockyards district. According to Melvin Holli:

During his campaign for mayor, Rich Daley dismissed the need for an urban industrial policy as a modern-day version of cargo culting (a reference to South Pacific primitives who hoped to bring down big shiny birds, [World War II] airplanes, and their goods by grubbing out mock airstrips in the jungle). But by his reelection in 1991, Daley had flip-flopped completely and came out in support of "Planned Manufacturing Districts." Why? Young Rich saw how new businesses and industries were moving into cleared spaces of a one-mile-square rubble heap that had once been the city's fabled stockyards and how they had began a phoenix-like revitalization of that region. Seeing was believing for Rich, who then lived in the nearby neighborhood of Bridgeport.   [note 10]    

Other developments have been fraught with problems. One particular recurrent failure has been the "Produce" or "Wholesale Food" distribution center, slated for the South Branch Industrial District just west of Ashland avenue. Plans have been proposed and tried numerous times over many years but have amounted to nought. The last failed attempt was made in the early 1990s. Northern sections of Bridgeport fall within the new Pilsen Industrial Corridor, which is comprised of those sections along the South Branch of the Chicago river, including the I & M canal origin site, former Stearns' Quarry, and the river bend area south of Twenty-second street in the current community areas of Bridgeport, McKinley Park and the Lower West Side.   [note 11]    


The growth of the service sector economy

The service sector has always been an important ingredient in the Bridgeport economic menu; though the huge industrial-oriented sector has overshadowed it. In the canal days, facilities for tending to the needs of sailors, cargo handlers, and livestock drovers (and their horses) are notable as were a variety of businesses serving local residents. Ethnic shops became important at an early time.

Irish and German proprietors opened up their own shops, initially along Archer Road. Especially numerous were grocers and taverns, followed in time by a proliferation of meat markets. The newer south/eastern European immigrants were quick to follow suit.

In the two decades prior to and about the same time the Central Manufacturing District had been founded, Polish, Lithuanian, and soon enough Italian immigrants were opening their own businesses. Polish shops were opened up on first on Thirty-second and Laurel (Morgan) streets and later on Archer avenue. Lithuanian businesses were mainly on Halsted street centering on Thirty-third street and some others on Thirty-third street or Auburn street (Lituanica avenue). Italians opened their shops in the northeast section of Bridgeport, particularly on Twenty-sixth street. Several were located to the east on Wentworth avenue as well. Generally speaking, most businesses in Bridgeport were located on the street car streets, such as Archer, Halsted, Wallace, Morgan, Twenty-sixth, Thirty-first, and Thirty fifth; although grocers and taverns were scattered all over. Some of Bridgeport's east end residents shopped at stores on Wentworth avenue in today's Armour Square.

Archer avenue and Halsted street were the principal business streets. A shopping district (or 'center' as they came to be called) eventually developed at Halsted and Thirty-fifth streets; it was well developed as such by 1911 and continued to be a significant retailing district into the 1960s. Other writers have noted that this was not a large one. Several possible reasons can be identified. One theory is that Bridgeport was a lower income community and could not support a large shopping district. Such explanations tend to be more presumptive than real. Bridgeport had a fairly large population, and not all Bridgeporters were in low income brackets. Moreover, the Englewood neighborhood, which had the largest business district on the South side, had a lower median income (at least by the 1950-60s) than Bridgeport did. Another more compelling anecdotal explanation stems from Bridgeport's location. A street car ride put the Loop, the Maxwell street market, the Forty-seventh and Ashland shopping district ("Back of the Yards"), and the Sixty-third and Halsted business district of Englewood within easy reach. Yet this isn't the full story.


Bridgeport local retailing   [note 12]

Since the Bridgeport community area was a collection of ethnic neighborhoods, ethnic businesses played a pervasive role in the local economy. Thus Bridgeport had little reason for a centralized shopping district. Rather, Bridgeport shopping was composed of a quilt-work of small districts and scattered stores. The Works Project Administration Chicago Land Use Survey of 1939 had found 1103 residential-with-business uses. Purely residential uses amounted to 5177, while purely commercial uses amounted to a total of 258. (Cf. Table 3 and Table 4 for details.) In terms of dwellings, rather than numbers of land uses, nearly thirteen percent were connected with a business in 1940. For comparison, New City had over twelve percent of such dwellings, and fifteen percent of those in Armour Square fell into this category. In contrast, Brighton Park (which had a similar ethnic make-up) had under eight percent of its dwellings connected with a business. The city average in 1940 was five percent. (Cf. Table 5 for details.)

In terms of sales, Bridgeport did a brisk business until the 1950s. The 1948 Census of Business reported annual sales of over 117 million dollars, which was a large figure at that time. Bridgeport had just over one percent of the city's population in 1950 and just over three percent of the city's sales outside the Loop in 1948. In comparison, Englewood, a major railroad junction, had sales of over 150 million dollars (more than four percent of the city's sales while having under three percent of the city's population). But Englewood, the site of the South side's largest retailing district, was an exceptional case. New City's 1948 annual sales were over 70 million dollars, but New City had nearly thirty thousand more residents. Brighton Park's sales amounted to nearly 31 million dollars and was only about five thousand shy of Bridgeport's population in 1950. (Cf. Table 6 for details.)

Over the next decade, however, Bridgeport retailing fell drastically. In 1948 Bridgeport had 753 retail stores, again with sales of over 117 million dollars. By 1958 the number of stores was down to 532 and sales had dropped to roughly 39 million dollars. In contrast, sales in neighboring Armour Square, though small, decreased only slightly. Sales in Englewood, still the largest retail center on the South side, decreased by six percent. Sales in New City registered a small increase. Those in Brighton Park had grown by over twenty million dollars (up seventy percent), and sales in some outlying areas at the far end of the Archer avenue corridor had more than tripled. In terms of dollars, Bridgeport lost over 78 million sales dollars, while the total increase of the combined communities of Archer Heights, Gage Park, Garfield Ridge, and New City was nearly 78 million dollars. (Cf. table 7 and and table 8 for details.) By this time over half of Bridgeport retailing was being done at the Thirty-fifth and Halsted business district. The reason that this had developed as the largest commercial area was owed to two factors. Firstly, the main Lithuanian business area coincided with the northern part of the district. Secondly, it was situated between ethnic neighborhoods. The Irish neighborhood was directly south; the Polish neighborhood was a short distance west, as was the Central Manufacturing District; German neighborhoods were either east or west; and the Italian neighborhood was to the northeast. In short it was centrally located. (Cf. table 9 for details of the district.)

Any number of factors could influence the drop in retailing. Without a detailed study, the explanation is speculative. Czechs, Poles, and Lithuanians were moving to communities like Gage Park, Chicago Lawn, and other localities, so persons moving out of the community could be one possible cause. But the population of Bridgeport declined by only about 10 percent, while sales had fallen by two-thirds. It could have been that the richer families were the ones leaving, but median income had risen over the same course of time. The retailing category with the largest decrease (-46%) was the food store group (including meat markets, grocers, and a few other types) and might be said to owe to the growth of chain grocery stores. As a counter anecdote, the next largest decrease came from the eating and drinking establishment group (-36%), and this would not be caused by increased competition from chain stores outside the community. So why did retailing plummet?


The decrease in local retailing explored

Only a tentative explanation can be offered here. In 1948 Bridgeport had a percent of city sales well in excess of its percent of city population, whereas New City, for example, had a rough equivalency. Outlying communities, such as Brighton Park and Archer Heights had city sales percentages below those of their population percentages. Bridgeport, then, was apparently a place that people were traveling to for shopping. The outlying areas were under-served by comparison. The visiting shoppers were likely young families, whose householders had once lived in Bridgeport and continued to go back to the old neighborhood but fell out of the habit of shopping there once new businesses grew in the newer communities. Generally speaking, the residents of the newer communities had higher median incomes than in Bridgeport, so the loss was more pronounced.   [note 13]     Another factor that may have been more important was the decrease in employment in the meat-packing and related industries, particularly the jobs at the Glue Works in Bridgeport's case. Many employees of the stockyards area had already moved to southwestern communities west of Western avenue. When these employees no longer traveled to stockyards area jobs, shopping in Bridgeport would have required a special trip, which presumably fewer and fewer people were willing to make as the 1950s wore on. It may have also been that Bridgeporters, with higher median incomes than ever before, were themselves shopping elsewhere, but the stronger factor would appear to have been the loss of visiting shoppers.


Changes in occupations and economic branches of work

Over the four or five decades from 1940/50 to 1990, the employment picture of Bridgeport was altered significantly. This can be seen as a trend of gradual economic betterment over the long-term. The first residents had been nearly all laborers, then came a movement from low paid primitive industrial work to well-paid, skilled industrial positions, and, from the 1950s onward, came increased representation in other fields.

In 1950 nearly forty-four percent were employed in the economic branch of manufacturing. The retail-related branch came second at seventeen percent. In the 1958-60 period roughly over half of those employed in retailing worked in the local area. Transportation was third-ranked at about thirteen percent of those employed. Manufacturing and retailing have continued to hold the top two spots, but retail had become the top category by 1990 at twenty-three percent. Those employed in manufacturing by then had dropped to twenty-one percent of the number employed. Transportation-related work (under seven percent) was in sixth place by 1990, while professional work was in third place, and finance/insurance/and real estate (FIRE) related employment came in fourth. (Cf. table 10 for details.)

In terms of occupation (rather than economic branch, as above) the story is similar. Workers in operative (e.g. a machinist is an operative) occupations made up thirty-four percent of the employed workforce in 1940. Those classified either in laboring occupations or in clerical occupations were about eighteen percent each. By 1980, percentages employed in operative versus clerical occupations had flip-flopped (over thirty-two percent for clerical and over eighteen percent for operative). Service-related occupations went from under ten percent to fourteen percent over the same period. By 1990 service-related occupations reached nineteen percent of the total employed workforce. Percentages working in professional classifications in 1960 were more than double what they had been in 1940. The 1960 figure had doubled again by 1980, reaching eight percent. In 1990 professionals hit twelve percent; whereas laborer classifications had fallen to six percent of the employed workforce. The share of the work force in government positions peaked in 1980 at fourteen and one-half percent, falling back by 1990 to about the same level as in 1970 (about twelve percent). Median income has consistently risen over the period -- from less that four thousand dollars in 1950 to over thirty-thousand dollars per year in 1990. All in all, forty-nine percent of Bridgeport workers are now classified as working in white-collar occupations. (Cf. Table 11 and the summary table for more detailed figures.)

To sum up a long story, the economic evolution of Bridgeport has been one of increasing diversity as well as a gradual expansion of the economic means of Bridgeport citizens. This has taken place even when many of the young and upwardly mobile members of the community had moved on. At the same time, Bridgeport has had a high number of long-time residents. In 1970, for example, twelve percent reported living in the same home as they had in 1949; ten percent had reported always living in the very same home.   [note 14]     This set of circumstances is owed to many factors -- jobs were there, alternative employment was always reasonably near and could be reached without the need to move, since Bridgeport has always occupied a relatively strategic location. Bridgeport was historically an ethnically-based community. Residents weren't so quick to leave the solid old neighborhood, even if they could afford to. Today the economic picture in Bridgeport can be viewed with a renewed sense of optimism: the new rail transit line has prompted interest in the community, the Stockyards Industrial Park is now attracting new industry, and the Pilsen Industrial corridor, part of which includes Bridgeport's river front, is being set for redevelopment. Local shopping is not what it once was, but the local Mexican businesses have pumped some new life into the tired business district on Halsted street. The old Archer avenue district, on the other hand, is still waiting for better days.