Chicago Archives

March 21, 2007

The Commons : a monthly record devoted to aspects of life and labor from the social settlement point of view (Volume 1, 1896-1897) (1897-[1905])
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We have digitized seven of the 10 volumes of this important early publication of the American settlement house movement. The Chicago Commons was one of two important settlement houses started in Chicago in the late 1900s--Jane Addams Hull House being the other. The Chicago Commons still exists today (


April 16, 2007

"Commy": the life story of Charles A. Comiskey, the "Grand old Roman" of baseball and for nineteen years president and owner of the American league baseball team "The White Sox," ([c1919])
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Though rebuilt and renamed U.S. Cellular Field in 2003, to Chicago White Sox fans everywhere it will always be Comiskey Field. Here's the biography of the man who built it--Charles "Commy" Comiskey--former St. Louis Browns manager and first-baseman, and for nineteen years the owner of the Chicago White Socks. Filled with 18 great black and white photos, such as the one below taken on opening day of Comiskey Park in 1910. Don't miss this one, sports fans!


April 29, 2007

Glimpses of the World's fair. A selection of gems of the White City seen through a camera (c1893)
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The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago was one of many world fairs being held around the turn of the century that showcased technological and industrial advancements. The ferris wheel was among the amazing new inventions introduced to the world during the fair (so was shredded wheat cereal!). The ferris wheel, invented by George Ferris, was Chicago's response to the Eiffel Tower built for the International Exhibition of Paris in 1889. The site chosen for the fair was Jackson Park on Chicago’s south side; the fairgrounds came to be known as “the white city” because of the beautiful white marble used in the construction of the buildings, of which only the Fine Arts Building--now the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry--still stands. The photos in Glimpses of the World's Fair were taken with the newly introduced Kodak No. 4 box camera. We’ll be digitizing numerous books about the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Look for this collection soon on the Illinois Harvest web portal.

Read more about the fair here.
And check out The Reason Why the Colored American Is Not in the World's Columbian Exposition by Ida B. Wells at the University of Pennsylvania's digital library website.


Photograph of No. 4 Kodak Box Camera from

July 1, 2007

Hands up! in the world of crime : or 12 years a detective (1906)
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Clifton Woodridge (1854-1933), a Chicago detective in the early 1900s, wrote this popular account of the many arrests he made during his time on the Chicago police force. According to the PBS series History Detectives Wooldridge "was described at the time as 'the incorruptible Sherlock Holmes of America,' and he was on a mission to save Chicago from itself. He considered Chicago the 'wickedest city in the world.' It certainly had the right ingredients. Chicago was seen as the land of opportunity, or at least the gateway to it. People passed through on their way to homesteading further west, the railroad brought folks to the city, in the hopes they would find one of the many possible jobs in this burgeoning city. It became a hotbed for vice and corruption. As a police officer on the beat, Wooldridge saw what was happening. He battled everything: quack doctors, prostitution, gambling, investment swindles, insurance scams, fake banks, clairvoyants and marriage agencies. He associated with the down and out and the richest of the rich. Apparently he would stop at little to learn the ways of the criminal. Wooldridge was adept at disguising himself, and would dress for the part, whether it meant posing as a rube in from the country or even donning black face." (Check out some of Woodridge's disguises.


August 11, 2007

Cranky Ann, the street-walker : a story of Chicago in chunks (1878) and Wicked Nell : a gay girl of the town (1878), by Shang Andrews
View the Flip Book of Cranky Ann. View the Flip Book of Wicked Nell.

The city of Chicago, whose authorities were unprepared to cope with the crime and vice that attended its rapid growth from a small trading post to a large metropolis in barely sixty years, came to be known world-wide as "the wicked city" by the mid-1800s. These two lurid novelistic exposés of corruption and vice in 1870s Chicago--Cranky Ann, the Street-walker: a Story of Chicago in Chunks and Wicked Nell: a Gay Girl of the Town by Chicago journalist Shang Andrews come from the Lawrence J. Gutter Collection of Chicagoana, housed in the Richard J. Daley Special Collections department at the library of the University of Illinois at Chicago. These and many other rare volumes of Chicago history were recently digitized at UIUC's scanning center in the Oak Street Library Facility. View more Chicagoana from the Gutter Collection.


See also The Wicked City by Grant Eugene Stevens digitized by the University of California Libraries and available from the Internet Archive.

September 16, 2007

The lost city! drama of the fire fiend! or Chicago, as it was, and as it is! and its glorious future! a vivid and truthful picture of all of interest connected with the destruction of Chicago and the terrible fires of the great North-west .. (1872)
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The great Chicago Fire of October 1871 killed 200-300 persons and left homeless over a third of the residents of the city whose population at the time was around 300,000. Five square miles of the city were destroyed, along with 25,000 buildings (including the original Palmer House Hotel and Chicago Tribune Building) and 1.6 million bushels of grain stored in the city's grain elevators. As the fire raged, Chicagoans sought refuge on the lake front and in Lincoln Park and city cemeteries. Frank Luzerne's account of the disaster is quite sensational, detailing horrible deaths, miraculous escapes, and heroic rescues, along with a very detailed tour of the Chicago morgue in the days following the fire. With its mostly wooden structures, Chicago at the time was a conflagration waiting to happen. Rebuilding of the city began almost immediately and triggered Chicago's development into one of the largest and most economically important American cities. Some years after the fire, the good name of Irish Catholic immigrant Catherine O'Leary, whose cow supposedly kicked over the lantern that started the blaze, was cleared when Chicago Tribune reporter Michael Ahern boasted about having fabricated the colorful tale, which exploited the anti-immigrant feelings prevalent at the time.


November 10, 2007

Was it a fair trial? An appeal to the Govenor of Illinois by Gen. M. M. Trumbull in behalf of the condemned anarchists (1887)
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On May 4, 1886, labor leaders in Chicago organized a rally at Haymarket Square near the corner of Randolph and Des Plaines streets to protest the killing on the previous day of four striking workers during a rally for the eight-hour work day. As police began to break up the peaceful demonstration, someone threw a bomb into the crowd, and the police began shooting; by the time the ensuing chaos had ended, seven policemen and four workers were dead. Eight men were arrested in connection with the bomb throwing--August Spies, Albert Parsons, Adolph Fischer, George Engel, Louis Lingg, Michael Schwab, Samuel Fielden and Oscar Neebe. After a 63 day trial, during which no evidence was presented that tied any of the eight to the bomb throwing, all were found guilty and seven sentenced to death by a jury that had deliberated a mere three hours. Fielden’s and Schwab’s sentences were commuted to life in prison by Governor Richard James Oglesby, and Louis Lingg committed suicide in jail. On November 11, 1887 Spies, Parsons, Fischer, and Engel were hung to death in a Cook County jail. In 1893, Illinois governor John Altgeld concluded that all eight had been wrongfully convicted, and in a move that ended his political career, pardoned Fielden, Schwab, and Neebe. Numerous books about what has come to be called the Haymarket Riot have been digitized from the collections of the libraries of UI Chicago and UIUC. Click here for a complete list.


November 24, 2007

Bird observations near Chicago ([c1919]) by Ellen Drummond Farwell
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Ellen Drummond Farwell was born in Chicago, December 29, 1859, and was elected an Associate of the American Ornithologists' Union in 1896. In the following year she became one of the chief organizers of the Illinois Audubon Society and was a director or vice-president during the rest of her life. She was much interested in birds and kept notes on the various species that she observed from time to time. Eight years after her death these notes were published under the title 'Bird Observations near Chicago,' with an introduction by her sister, Mary Drummond. (Source: The Auk, Volume 70, Number 4, October, 1953)


December 9, 2007

The W.G.N. : a handbook of newspaper administration, editorial, advertising, production, circulation, minutely depicting, in word and picture, "how it’s done" / by the world’s greatest newspaper. (1922)
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When the Chicago Tribune was founded by Joseph Medill in 1847, Chicago's population was a mere 16,000; Galena was still the commercial center of Illinois; Queen Victoria was on the throne of England; Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre had just been published; the Chicago River still ran into Lake Michigan, and Abraham Lincoln was just 38 years old. From the Civil War, through the great Chicago Fire, through World War I (when the Tribune began publishing the Army Edition of the Tribune in Paris), and ending in 1922 with the announcement of an architectural contest to design the building that was to be known throughout the world as the Tribune Tower, this illustrated early history of the "world's greatest newspaper" is a page turner not to be missed!


January 11, 2008

Chicago Foreign Language Press Survey: Czech (1878-1924)
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The Chicago Foreign Language Press Survey was published in 1942 by the Chicago Public Library Omnibus Project of the Work Projects Administration of Illinois. Its purpose was to translate into English and classify selected news articles appearing in the Chicago area foreign language press from 1861 to 1938. The project consists of a file of 120,000 typewritten pages translated from newspapers of 22 different foreign language communities in Chicago. UIUC Library is now digitizing this entire set from microfilm. The excerpt below is from the September 14, 1917 issue of the Chicago Czech language newspaper Denní Hlasatel. Also included in the set are English translations of Albanian, Chinese, Croatian, Danish, Dutch, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Jewish, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, Swedish, and Ukrainian language newspapers from the late 19th and early 20th century Chicago area immigrant communities.

February 23, 2008

Chicago race riots (c1919)
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This Socialist labor pamphlet, published shortly after a violent race riot in Chicago during the summer of 1919, was digitized from the original in the Lawrence J. Gutter Collection of Chicagoana in the Library of the University of Illinois at Chicago. The passage below is from the article "Our Real Enemy" by Mary Marcy, who urges black and white workers to organize together against their mutual exploitation by capitalist interests, in this case the owners of Chicago's meat packing businesses. Mary Marcy (1877-1922), born in Belleville, Illinois, was a columnist and editor of the International Socialist Review, published in Chicago from 1900 to 1918.


July 12, 2008

Chicago gang wars in pictures; X marks the spot (c1930])
View the Flip Book. View the PDF.

According to the My Al Capone Museum website, this week’s featured book was first published anonymously in 1930 because the author, Chicago reporter Harold “Hal Andrews” feared reprisals from the Chicago mob, and probably with good reason. The book contains gory crime scene photos taken at the sites of some of the most notorious Chicago gangland killings of the 1920s. (Warning! Not for the squeamish!) No less a big boy than Al Capone, who is believed to have ordered the notorious 1929 St. Valentine’s Day massacre of a rival Chicago crime gang, reportedly ordered his minions to confiscate every copy of “X Marks the Spot” from Chicago newspaper stands. The University of Illinois' copy of "X Marks the Spot" bears the author's signature and the following inscription "Chicago, in her 100 years of progress, has borne many crosses, but none greater than the cross that marks the spot X."


November 9, 2008

Chicago Architectural Club Annual (1914)
View the Flip Book.

"In the early 1880's . . . James H. Carpenter, a 42-year-old English born itinerant "draughtsman" in Chicago . . .realized that the need for trained men to finalize designs and produce the working drawings needed for the construction of Chicago's buildings had reached a critical stage. Just what Carpenter's motives were have never before been defined, but it was he who brought eighteen "draughtsman" colleagues together to form The Chicago Architectural Sketch Club in the spring of 1885. This organization, later renamed The Chicago Architectural Club, was responsible for the evolution and development of the Chicago School of Architecture more than any other individual, firm, or professional society. It was through the efforts of this Club that young men, and a few young women, learned the history, the styles, and the functions of architecture to a degree whereby they were able to translate first their employers and later their own clients' needs into buildings." [excerpted from the preface to The Chicago Architectural Club, Prelude to the Modern, by Wilbert R. Hasbrouck (2005). The University of Illinois Library has recently digitized from microfilm the early volumes of the Chicago Architectural Club Annual.


About Chicago

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Digitized Book of the Week in the Chicago category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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