Chicago is known for not only being a city of great food, the Cubs, and Willis Tower, but it’s also renowned for being expensive. Being an intern here, I expected this to be the situation, and I’m learning how to balance spending versus worrying about the future. It’s not an easy task, but I find there are plenty of free things to do, which is why I decide to take the opportunity to have a personal tour of the Chicago Board of Trade from a future in-law. With very little knowledge of the purpose and function of this building, I decide to find out more about the world of economics and finances beyond my checkbook.
Chicago Board of Trade
On the outside I was immediately impressed by the Chicago Board of Trade’s elaborate statues and architectural design. A woman with harvested crops and another woman with reminders of the open waters wait near the entrance to the building. While the meaning of this remains a mystery, I follow my guide inside and find the trading floor to be covered with papers and numerous computer screens around the pits, a raised floor where traders can make offers and bids to contract various commodities, in this case crops like corn and beans. Even though it’s a slower, quieter day, I still feel as though I’ve entered the New York Stock Exchange and feel like Dorothy in Oz. While it’s just another day at the office for these traders, to me it’s as though I’m in an entirely new universe and everyone is speaking a foreign language, even though they’re talking in English. It reminds me of my former work backstage in theatre. I might not have been impressed with the backstage area of elaborate stairways, set pieces, and pegs filled with costumes, but to someone unfamiliar with this territory, it’s a fascinating world.
Federal Bank Reserve of Chicago and the Money Museum
Across the street, I’m taken to another point of view regarding money at the Federal Bank Reserve of Chicago’s Money Museum. Although the reserve doesn’t print money, there’s plenty of history about how money is made. Foreign and rare currencies are displayed as well as few bills made into art pieces. There’s even a cube filled with a million dollars just to give you an idea of just how much this amount is in reality. Although I wish I could roll the cube down Jackson Boulevard and on the Red Line to my apartment, I know this is the only place I’ll see this much money in my reach. I’ve had a few friends suggest I find a rich husband so I can have the freedom to do everything I want in life, but I’m beginning to think I’m better off independently building my own future and a significant other will come along when the time is right.
Since I do a very good job of not picking careers that instantly make a fortune, I leave the fortunes I have discovered on Jackson Boulevard. Today has opened my eyes to financial history and understanding, something I have much more appreciation for when I buy produce or cooking supplies at the store. Most of the time I only thought about items on the shelf, but the Chicago Board of Trade and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago have shown me even more about supply chains and transparency. I don’t think I’ll be able to open a can of beans or a bag of flour without thinking about traders in the pit, eagerly attempting an exchange.
Hours and Locations
Federal Bank Reserve of Chicago and Museum of Money: 230 South La Salle St., Open Monday-Friday 8:30am-5pm, Free.