Journal of the Proceedings of the City Council of the City of Chicago: Chicago History Classics

At first glance, a half million pages of dull-as-dishwater ordinances do not seem to qualify as a Chicago History Classic. However, like some people I know, the Journal of the Proceedings of the City Council of the City of Chicago may be said to have some redeeming features.

Students and historians who want primary sources or are simply in search of obscure little-known facts love the journal. Perhaps a few thousand pages are actually interesting. Examples are 1932 tunnel maps and the fight to elect a successor to Mayor Washington. Thomas Hoyne, who it turns out was not mayor after all, in his inaugural address delivered a stinging denunciation of the "bandits" opposing him.

Best of all, most dates are now online. The Chicago History Museum has compiled an excellent guide to digital versions.

The journal exists in four distinct forms. Each can have slightly different content, dating, wording and organization. If you wish to exhaust every possibility, you may need to check all forms. We did this when compiling the inaugural addresses of the mayors. Some were in one form, some in two or three. The actual wording and date can vary between the different versions. Below are the versions:

  • Printed: This version is the easiest to use and the most official. We have the printed version of the journal in paper starting with 1858. Most of the journals since 1865 are now online.
  • City Clerk File: The original ordinances as thrown on the City Clerk’s desk at council meetings. These are loose papers that may not be in order. They do have some lengthy reports that may not be in the printed version. The City Clerk file is available electronically back to 2010. The City Clerk has the files in paper since 1907, and the Illinois Regional Archives at Northeastern Illinois University has them from 1833 to 1907. An online index to the City Clerk file exists for 1833-1871.
  • Newspaper: A variety of official newspapers printed the journal in the early years. These papers included the Chicago American, Chicago Democrat, Chicago Daily JournalChicago Tribune and no doubt others. Chicago Public Library has many of these, but they are extremely difficult to use.
  • Video and transcript: Recent videos and transcripts are online. Check with the City Clerk's office for earlier dates. This is the only source that is verbatim, i.e. has actual debates.
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