Technology that Changed Chicago: Standard Time

Plaque at LaSalle and Jackson commemorating the 1883 General Time Convention. Photo: Municipal Reference Guy

Today, everybody may show up at a meeting within seconds of each other and every part of the world is in a time zone offset from English time by an exact number of hours (in some cases by 15, 30 or 45 minutes). It is difficult for us to realize that this system only started […]

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Who Can I Marry? A Chicago History

Photo Credit: firemedict58

As we approach February 26, the first anniversary of the day same-sex marriage began in Chicago, it is interesting to take a look at the history of marriage restrictions in Chicago. Pre-Statehood (Prior to 1818) I haven’t researched this period in great detail, as marriage did not seem to be overly regulated. In early Chicago, […]

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Crown Point, Indiana: Chicago’s Gretna Green

Looking down a street. Old automobiles and buildings

Fans of Regency romances will recognize Gretna Green, a small village in Scotland. English laws of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries required couples to be 21, give public notice and wait several weeks before marrying. Scotland did not require a waiting period and sixteen-year-olds could get married. Eloping couples would flee to Scotland and get […]

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The Books behind the Memes

In popular internet culture, a meme is a viral idea. Memes existed before the internet. Here are the books behind some popular memes. I can’t swear to these books’ truth, but they are taught in some university courses and they will certainly make you think. The first meme is the idea of a meme.  Richard […]

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Lieutenant Cushing, My Favorite Whacked-Out Hero


President Obama has Seal Team Six. President Lincoln had William Cushing. Although Cushing was expelled from the Naval Academy, he talked his way into a commission in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War. He was soon promoted to lieutenant. In all navies, the higher your rank, the bigger the ship you command. Commanders command […]

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A Look Back at Illinois Inaugural Addresses

Group Picture

Illinois governors have included heroes, crooks, bureaucrats, intellectuals and types in between.  Chicago Public Library has many governors' messages and inaugural addresses, allowing you to read how the governors perceived Illinois’ challenges in their own words. Often the speeches provide an unexpected look into history. The early governors, such as Thomas Carlin in 1840, were […]

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Technology that Changed Chicago: Artesian Wells

Large Building with pond

Have you ever wondered what a street named Artesian Avenue is doing tucked between the likes of Western and Campbell Avenues? In 1863 a clairvoyant convinced A.E. Swift and Thomas Whitehead that Chicago was the perfect place to drill for oil. Here is the story as told by materials in Special Collection’s West Town Community […]

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The Great Lakes Naval Arms Race

Sailing ships in battle

Two hundred years ago today, on December 24, 1814, the Treaty of Ghent was signed, officially ending of the War of 1812. The War of 1812 between the U.S. and Britain was a minor part of the worldwide Napoleonic Wars. Largely forgotten nowadays, fierce naval battles and a strange naval arms race took place on […]

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Rudolph, the Most Famous Chicagoan of All

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

President Obama and Nancy Reagan are very famous Chicagoans. However, the most famous Chicagoan of all is a youth who overcame adversity to become an international leader. Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer's story was first told by Robert Lewis May in 1939. The Montgomery Ward Company commissioned May to do a children’s storybook. The book was […]

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History of Grant Park 1931 to 1970

Bandshell with crowd in front

By 1931, Chicago was deep in the Great Depression and the South Park Commissioners were unable to build on the scale of the 1920s. According to the Historical Register of the Twenty-two Superseded Park Districts a band shell was constructed at 9th and Columbus in the early 1930s, starting a long tradition of free concerts in […]

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