Chicago Park District Records: Behind the Scenes

This 1917 drawing shows plans to fill in Lake Michigan to extend Grant Park.

If you are anything like me, you spent much of the summer outside, soaking up what warmth you could before it was, well, now. My family was outdoors as much as possible, running, biking, walking the dog, sampling playgrounds and swimming. New to Chicago, I was thrilled by all the green space within walking distance of my Southside […]

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Martin Luther King Day’s Chicago Roots

Mayor Harold Washington with Coretta Scott King

In 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr.  was assassinated in Memphis while there to support sanitation workers striking for higher wages and better working conditions. Five years later, in 1973, Harold Washington, then an Illinois state representative, introduced a bill to make Martin Luther King's birthday a state holiday. The bill passed the Illinois House and Senate, and Washington […]

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A Civil War Thanksgiving for Illinois

Source: Harper's Weekly, 1863 December 5

Thanksgiving started with the pilgrims, right? Well, yes and no. Celebrations of gratitude for a bountiful harvest were traditional for Native Americans and Europeans alike, and these ceremonies have occurred since before the earliest days of Europeans settling in North America. It wasn't until 1863, however, that President Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November […]

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October Is American Archives Month

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When people ask what I do, I usually say, "I'm a librarian." This is true, but my day-to-day work with archives is pretty different from that of many of my CPL colleagues. Telling people I'm an archivist usually elicits blank stares, though. So, in honor of American Archives Month, let me tell you a little about my job. First, what […]

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Labor Day, Labor History

Magnolia Avenue, 8 1/2 foot connection with 11 foot at Glenwood Avenue and Thorndale Avenue looking upstream, August 11, 1933.

Well, it's here: Labor Day. The end of summer, when swimming pools close and schools open. But in all this back-to-school hullabaloo, it's easy to forget the origins of the holiday. Labor Day was first instituted at the city and state levels as early as 1885. Federal recognition came in 1894, and the first Monday of September was designated […]

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10 Years of Millennium Park

A crowd of people interact with Cloud Gate during Millennium Park's opening weekend. The Michigan Avenue street wall is visible in the background.

This summer saw the 10th anniversary of Millennium Park, which opened in July 2004. Planning, fundraising and construction of the park began as early as 1996, when organizers started to investigate who owned the park site. Today, features of the park are some of Chicago's most recognized landmarks. CPL holds two archival collections that allow you to […]

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Long Distance Relationship, 19th Century Style

The heading to one of the letters, dated June 12, 1893.

It's 1891. Albert Hafner is about to move from Florida to Chicago for business. Before he leaves, he meets Bessie Chandler, and they become engaged. Albert moves to Chicago, leaving Bessie behind, and they write letters back and forth. Albert’s letters to Bessie have survived for over 100 years to tell the story of their relationship and what it was like […]

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The library has more than one kind of canon

In 1862 many men of Taylors Battery visited a photographers studio in Memphis to have photographs made, such as this carte-de-visite. Seated, left to right: H.T. Chappel, William J. McCoy and William D. Crego. Standing: Nathan J. Young and Sydney Peckham.

Ever wondered why there are cannons on the 6th floor of the Harold Washington Library Center? Or what's with those marble busts in the 9th floor Special Collections Reading Room? Illinois was undoubtedly important to the Union cause during the Civil War, but just how did CPL get cannons and statues, not to mention swords, uniforms, books, portraits […]

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