Technology That Changed Chicago: Gaslight

Street scene

A long forgotten social revolution began on September 4, 1850 with the lighting of Chicago's first hundred-odd gaslights. 75 Years of Gas Service in Chicago quotes the Tribune: "Wednesday marked an era in Chicago. At about 2 o'clock P. M. the gas pipes were filled and brilliant torches flamed on both sides of Lake Street […]

Read More

The Social Evil in Chicago, A Chicago History Classic

Picture of a dance hall

On April 5, 1911, the Chicago Vice Commission released The Social Evil in Chicago. The unusually diverse Commission included religious leaders, doctors and representatives of social service agencies. Members included a rabbi, an African--American and two women. Unlike most 400-page government reports, the report became an instant best seller. The second edition came out April […]

Read More

Chicago Classics: The Oz Books

Long before Lemony Snicket, Captain Underpants, Dr. Seuss, Henry Huggins, Ramona or Pippi Longstocking, there was Oz. Scraps, The Patchwork Girl of Oz, became a movie star before Raggedy Ann was even a twinkle in her parents’ eyes. In 1900, L. Frank Baum, while living on Chicago’s Humboldt Boulevard, published the The Wonderful Wizard of […]

Read More

City of the Century, A Chicago History Classic

A history book that reads like a novel? Well, not quite, but when anybody asks for a readable history of Chicago, I recommend City of the Century. It has a plot. Chicago started the 19th century as a vague far western destination meaning perhaps wild onion, perhaps bad smell or perhaps something else.  It had one […]

Read More

Andreas’ Histories of Chicago and Cook County, Two Chicago History Classics

Picture of 3 dollar bill

It is almost impossible to discuss Chicago history without mentioning A.T. Andreas' 1884 History of Chicago. The Municipal Reference desk keeps the three large volumes of the 1975 reprint close at hand and constantly uses them to answer questions. Andreas did not so much write history, as vacuum up information and print it. Thus, you can […]

Read More

Chicago Negro Almanac and Reference Book, a Chicago History Classic

Chicago Negro Almanac Small

Did you know that Duke Slater became a Chicago attorney and judge after being one of the few African American professional football players of the 1920s? That in 1924, Fannie B. Williams became first female member of the Chicago Public Library's Board of Directors? That Jesse Binga's wife inherited a quarter million dollars in the 1890's? […]

Read More

The Lakeside Classics Series


  Among my favorites is the Lakeside Classics series. Chicago publisher RR Donnelley & Sons Company's website perhaps best explains the series: "The Lakeside Classics series was started in 1903 by Thomas E. Donnelley, then president of RR Donnelley & Sons Company and son of the founder. T.E. believed that a simple book, dignified and […]

Read More

Chicago History Classics

Shelf of books

I am starting a short series of posts on classic Chicago history books.  This is a quirky personal list of great Chicago books, many old and out of print. Emphasis is heavy on Chicago history. Other people will have different preferences. Many of these books would be good for a personal library. These Chicago classics […]

Read More