Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Entries : People's Gas Light & Coke Co.
People's Gas Light & Coke Co.

People's Gas Light & Coke Co.

Chicago's first gas company, the Chicago Gas Light & Coke Co., was organized in 1849 and began to sell gas (used for lighting) in 1850. People's Gas Light & Coke Co. was chartered in 1855 and started delivering gas to Chicago customers in 1862. In 1897, after the Illinois legislature authorized gas company mergers, People's Gas merged with seven other firms. By this time, the company was a leading seller of gas stoves: it sold over 20,000 stoves to Chicago customers in 1898 alone. By 1907, People's Gas had a local monopoly, and it struggled with the city to establish fair rates. In 1913, Illinois created a Public Utilities Commission (which became the Illinois Commerce Commission in 1921) to regulate gas companies. By the beginning of the 1920s, People's Gas was delivering about 22 billion cubic feet of gas a year to Chicago customers via 3,100 miles of street mains. At this time, the company still manufactured gas out of coal and oil; in 1921, it used over 700,000 tons of coal and coke and 77 million gallons of oil. A critical shift in the company's operations occurred at the end of the 1920s, when it invested in long pipelines that connected Chicago to natural gas fields in Texas. By 1950, People's Gas had annual sales of over $80 million and employed over 4,500 people. The company changed its name to People's Gas Co. in 1968; 12 years later, it became part of People's Energy Corp. This entity controlled both People's Gas and the North Shore Gas Co., which operated in northeastern Illinois. By the early 2000s, People's Energy grossed more than $2 billion and had employed over 3,000 workers in the Chicago area.