Mapmakers Lie! Grant Park in 1913

Map showing features described

Previous Post: Grant Park 1909-1914 To show that illustrators and mapmakers can lead you seriously astray, here is an enlargement from Birds Eye View of the Elevated Railroads, Parks and Boulevards of Chicago published in 1913. The unwary sightseer who took “Lincoln Park Boulevard” over the bridge through beautifully landscaped Grant Park to “Fields Museum” […]

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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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Remembering Jane Byrne

Jane Byrne

Chicago's first, and so far only, female mayor, Jane Byrne (1933-2014), died Friday at 81. Learn more about Byrne's term as mayor (1979-1983) with the Jane Byrne biography in our Chicago Mayors chronology. (You can also read her inaugural address.) Nearly every CPL location has a copy of My Chicago, her autobiography. We also have two books written about […]

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Forgotten Chicagoans Rediscovered

poor's field

After all these years, you may be able to find who you’ve been looking for. Barry Fleig, a cemetery historian and member of the Chicago Genealogists Society, has spent the past 20 years sifting through documents to create a searchable database of the people buried at Cook County Cemetery. Nearly 38,000 people are buried at the site, […]

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History of Grant Park 1830-1871

Train on trestle

I am taking a break from “Technology that Changed Chicago,” or at least the title, to do a series of posts on Grant Park. Grant Park, sometimes known as Chicago’s front yard, is by far the most engineered of Chicago's parks. It has almost entirely been built with landfill in Lake Michigan. Additionally a huge […]

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Technology that Changed Chicago: Air Rights

Aerial photo

Some of Chicago’s most famous buildings exist because of air rights. Examples are the Merchandise Mart, the Prudential Building and the old Main Post Office. The basic concept is that a property owner, for example a railroad, retains the right to use the ground, but sells or leases the right to use the air above […]

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Chicago vs. Smallpox

Previous Post: General George Washington vs. Smallpox According to Pox Americana, historical records indicate the epidemic of 1775-82 killed up to ninety percent of the Indians along trade routes from Mexico City, New Orleans and Canada. The devastation in the middle of the continent was not recorded, but during the 1790s European explorers of the […]

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Guest Blog: Introducing the Ed Paschke Art Center

Nico, Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground

Today we're featuring a guest blog by Thea Nichols, director of community engagement at the new Ed Paschke Art Center. She joins us to talk about the center, its namesake and its collaborations with the Chicago Public Library. Ed Paschke is one of Chicago’s most renowned artists. Born and raised on the North Side, Paschke became […]

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Whodunit? The Mystery of Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow

etching depicting Mrs. O'Leary, the cow and the broken lamp being kicked over

Humans love to explore ancient mysteries and assign blame. After all, people are still searching for Jack the Ripper, Amelia Earhart and Judge Crater. Therefore, librarians are sometimes asked the name of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow that started the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Thereupon lies the mystery. Everyone knows the words to the song: “A hot […]

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The Great Chicago Fire Knocked the Loop for a Loop

Field, Leiter & Co. (later Marshall Field & Co.) before the 1871 Fire

The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 burned the heart of Chicago, starting on DeKoven Street on the Near West Side (558 West, 1100 South) and going north to Fullerton Avenue. The Loop was destroyed, as can be seen in these maps. City Hall, Palmer House, Field, Leiter & Co.—all gone. But, with the rubble still […]

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