Fur traders and farmers
—Chicago Tribute —
Considered the founders of Chicago, Catherine (1756 - 1809) and Jean Baptiste (1745 - 1818) Point du Sable established a fur trading post on this site in the 1770s or early 1780s, approximately a half century before Chicago was incorporated. This commercial enterprise helped shape the American government's vision of the potential of this area and therefore its decision to build the first Fort Dearborn in 1803 across the river, at what is now the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive.
Much about the du Sables' lives is unknown. Scholars say Jean Baptiste probably was born in Saint Dominique (now Haiti) in the West Indies. At least one of his parents was a slave; he is best described as Afro-French. Catherine was Potawatomi; her Native American name is unknown. Native women who married fur traders and converted to Catholicism, as she did, constructed female kin networks that linked fur settlements throughout the Great Lakes and Mississippi River valley, and Catherine's connections were essential to her husband's commercial success. By the time the du Sable family left Chicago in 1800, their prosperous farm included a large house, a bake house, smokehouse, poultry house, stable, barn, 2 mules, 30 cattle, 38 hogs, and 44 hens. Du Sable's post, with its diverse clientele of Indian, French and American traders, established
a tradition of commerce that would provide the foundation of Chicago's economy for decades to come.
(on reverse of marker
Chicago history rings with the names of men and women who have moved our city and nation forward — farmers, explorers, pioneers, traders; athletes, architects, workers, labor organizers, industrial giants, lawyers, teachers, inventors, writers, musicians, and artists. Chicago Tribute Markers of Distinction commemorate notable individuals who have lived in Chicago by marking the significant places where they lived or worked.
Walking through the streets of Chicago, one can hear echoes of the past in Lawndale where Benny Goodman began playing clarinet before becoming the "King of Swing", on the Near Westside, where immigrants were welcomed and assisted by the Women of Hull House, in pioneering architecture that rose from the ashes of the Great Fire of 1871.
Chicago Tribute Markers articulate the connection between the city of today and the historic individuals and events that continue to shape our world.