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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Another Ferris Wheel Made in Chicago

Ferris wheel and old Vienna village

Navy Pier turns 100 this year. Celebrations kick off this weekend, and the new Centennial Wheel will make its maiden voyage. The Ferris wheel is no stranger to Chicago. The first Ferris wheel was built especially for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. was tasked with creating something so stunning and special that it would […]

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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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CPL Welcomes the Chicago Film Archive of Performance


Chicago Public Library is proud to become the new home for recordings created by the Chicago Film Archive of Performance (C-FAP). Founded by Drew Blau in 2013, C-FAP is committed to filming live performance in order to document and preserve Chicago's rich theater community. C-FAP has preserved 18 productions already, and plans to film a total of […]

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The Jungle Comes to CPL

production image from the Jungle

Upton Sinclair published The Jungle 110 years ago. This famous expose of working conditions in Chicago's stockyards and packing houses led President Theodore Roosevelt and Congress to enact the Meat Inspection and Pure Food and Drug Acts of 1906. The Jungle is available in other formats. Sinclair's story is as much about working conditions as […]

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From The Jungle to Jungle Gyms

South Park District Showing Parks and Boulevards, 1908. Source: Chicago Park District Records, Item 1852. Red parks are "new," and represent the neighborhood park plan.

I recently found myself across the street from one of the only remaining parts of Chicago's infamous Union Stockyards: the large stone entry gate. It was jarring to see this imposing, attractive feature on a sunny day with no trace of the stench and filth that accompany the grounds in my imagination. Like many people, when I […]

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