This illustration from a national periodical, Appleton's Journal, provides an idea of the scale and variety of human movement in and out of Chicago in the second half of the nineteenth century. The range of social types depicted here gives a good sense of the cultural mix in Chicago. Both a fashionably dressed family and a trapper conversing with Indians occupy the center of the image. There is little explicit indication, however, of how many people getting on and off these trains were foreign-born.

The phrase "magnet attracting" is taken from the title of the first chapter of Theodore Dreiser's classic novel, Sister Carrie (1900), which opens with an account of the one-way journey of eighteen-year-old protagonist Carrie Meeber into Chicago on a train from her hometown in rural Wisconsin. Carrie's entrance into the city was a representative event enacted literally millions of times in the late-nineteenth century by people either arriving to stay or just passing through.