A Way of Life: A Story of the Sioux City Stockyards, volumes I & II comprise more than 450 pages and cover almost 150 years of Sioux City as one of the titans of the livestock marketing industry. Both books are sold at the Center for $20 apiece. The books were written by Marcia Poole and published by the
Sioux City Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center Association with funding from Missouri River Historical Development, Inc. (MRHD). Richly illustrated, they were designed by Lou Ann Lindblade of G.R. Lindblade, Sioux City. George Lindblade and Christine McAvoy were photo editors. Stanley Evans, retired president and chairman of the board of the Live Stock National Bank, was advisor to the project until his death in December 2006.
"A Way of Life" volumes I and II are above all colorful reminders of the Yards' role in shaping Sioux City's very identity – from its growth as a small frontier settlement to a national power that once rivaled Omaha, Kansas City, South St. Paul, and even Chicago.
There is virtually no element of local and area life that it didn't touch – industrial development, the downtown economy, labor relations, immigrant life and culture, scandals, natural and man-made disasters, education, technology, and civic pride. It made fortunes for enterprising industrialists and sustained tens of thousands of farm families and packinghouse families. "More than anything, I want readers to appreciate the people and the geographic advantages that helped make Sioux City 'Home Market for the Great Northwest,'" says author Marcia Poole. "The Yards was a way of life that never can be duplicated."
The sprawling Yards story
Poole begins the story with the role of hogs as the "mortgage lifters" of the nation's meatpacking industry, first in Cincinnati and then Chicago. She moves on to the arrival of James Booge in Sioux City in 1858 and his rapid ascent as a national leader in meatpacking.
The chronology follows milestones, including the arrival of the railroad in Sioux City, Booge's move to the South Bottoms, development of refrigerated technology, the rise of beef in the latter part of the 19th century and the advent of farm-to-market trucking in the early 20th century.
Poole illuminates the unique connection between Corps of Discovery history and the Sioux City Stockyards Company. "The connection speaks to the very heart of our Center's mission of 'Commemorating a history of encounters,'" she says.
Pork Days attracted more than 20,000 people for a single event on Dace Street; Truckers' Days honored the people who moved millions of head of livestock in and out of the Yards each year; and masterful communicators and boosters, including the Stockettes, supported the Yards as Sioux City's economic core.
Challenges and tragedies
"A Way of Life" volume I highlights great challenges and tragedies, including labor strikes, devastating floods and the Swift & Co. plant explosion in December 1949. Festivals and fairs, 4-H kids and Babe Ruth exhibitions figure into the colorful history.
"You can't talk about the history of the Yards without talking about the South Bottoms and immigrants, urban development, Floyd River flood control, the White Horse Mounted Patrol, Half Moon Lake and dozens of allied industries," says Poole.
The theme that runs throughout is the Yards' tradition of integrity. Sales were finalized with a handshake that was honored virtually without question.