The Chinese Laundryman, a Chicago History Classic

Chinese Laundryman

The Chinese Laundryman documents Chicago's role in a shameful, largely forgotten, yet quite recent era of American history. In addition to widespread racial prejudice, Chinese Americans had fewer civil rights than other Americans in the time between the Civil War and World War Two. Legal equality was only slowly achieved between 1943 and 1965. The […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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