Our city's back passageways involve more than drug deals and rats. Behold the most outlandish moments in their history.
The sea lion (1863)
What’s now the heart of the staid financial district was once known as Post Office Alley—between Clark and Dearborn Streets—and contained a phantasmagoria of Victorian attractions thrilling enough for Phileas Fogg. An albino, a fat woman and a kangaroo all vied for the paid attentions of passersby, but none was so spectacular as their briny neighbor, the sea lion. The sea lion’s owner, a well-dressed man with an organ in one hand and a fistful of cash in the other, sang the praises of his whiskered charge. For a fee, onlookers could gawk at a saltwater tank that housed the flippered fellow, who had been purchased from the Barnum Museum in New York City.