Swift began as a cattle buyer and butcher in Massachusetts, eventually moving to Chicago where the railroad nexus had created a centralized market for agriculture and livestock distribution. Swift quickly realized that transporting live cattle was costly since so much of the cow was waste. He turned to the idea of the refrigerated railroad car, which he helped design and implement. Soon after the adoption of the ice-cooled cars in the 1880s, Swift and Co. was transported tens of thousands of tons of beef to New York and beyond.
Swift also led the meat-packing industry in using ever greater portions of the animals until he used "everything but the squeal of the pig." The soap, glue, fertilizer, hairbrushes, knife handles, and pharmaceutical products revolutionized the meat industry. Finally, Swift used vertical integration and mass production line ideas (which later inspired automakers Ransom Olds and Henry Ford) to make the slaughtering and dressing process as efficient as possible.
Biography of America section
Louis Swift, Yankee of the Yards