Rudolph, the Most Famous Chicagoan of All

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

President Obama and Nancy Reagan are very famous Chicagoans. However, the most famous Chicagoan of all is a youth who overcame adversity to become an international leader. Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer's story was first told by Robert Lewis May in 1939. The Montgomery Ward Company commissioned May to do a children’s storybook. The book was […]

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The Auditorium Theatre Turns 125

auditorium theatre stage

On Monday, December 9, 1889, the Auditorium Theatre "formally opened with ceremonies of unprecedented impressiveness." The evening featured an ambitious dedication program concert beginning with Theodore Dubois’ “Triumphal Fantasie,” a work composed for the occasion and the Auditorium’s grand organ. The program concluded with the “Hallelujah” chorus from Handel’s Messiah. In between were performances by a […]

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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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