views updated May 18 2018


Pop/rock, jazz group

For the Record

Selected discography


With distinctly midwestern roots and a distinctive big-band sound, Chicago took the pop music world by surprise in the 1970s with their jazzy, full instrumental arrangements. Though they were often compared with another big-band-sounding pop group, Blood, Sweat and Tears, member Robert Lamm points out one of their differences by saying, Our roots are basically rock, but we can and do play jazz; Blood, Sweat and Tears is basically a jazz-rooted combo that can play a lot of rock.

Originally called the Big Thing, a phrase Lamm said Mafia types used to describe the bands unique music, the group later changed their name to Chicago Transit Authority, then, after their first album, simply Chicago. The musical diversity in the group was astounding from the beginning, with only two of the original six members (Robert Lamm, James Pankow, Danny Seraphine, Terry Kath, Walt Parazaider, and Lee Loughnane, with the addition of Peter Cetera in the late sixties, and, in 1974, percussionist Laudir De Oliverira) being self-taught, and the rest having considerable

For the Record

Group originally formed in Chicago, Illinois, in 1967 as the Big Thing; original members included keyboardist Robert Lamm (born October 13, 1944); trombonist James Pankow (born August 20, 1947); drummer Daniel Seraphine (born August 28, 1948); guitarist Terry Kath (born January 31, 1946; died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, January 23, 1978); trumpeter Lee Loughnane (born October 21, 1946); and woodwind player Walter Parazaider (born March 14, 1945); subsequent members have included bassist Peter Cetera (born September 13, 1944; joined band during late 1960s; now pursuing solo career), percussionist Laudir De Oliveria (joined band in 1974), and guitarist Donnie Dacus (replaced Terry Kath in 1978), group name changed to Chicago Transit Authority (also called CTA), 1968; released first album, April, 1969; name changed to Chicago, 1970.

Awards: Grammy Award for best pop vocal performance by a duo, group, or chorus, 1976, for song If You Leave Me Now.

Addresses: Management Front Line Management, 80 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608.

formal training. The group boasted competent musicians not only on drums or guitar, but also on clarinet, trumpet, trombone, and piano. The groups impressive blend of jazz and rock elements and improvisational energy attracted a varied audience.

Before gaining national popularity, the band played at a number of rock clubs in the Los Angeles Sunset Strip district, eventually receiving a small following and favorable reviews from underground papers. They stepped into the spotlight with Chicago Transit Authority in 1969, an album that slowly made its way onto the charts to stay there well into 1971. Lamms pop ballad Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is, became a hit single in 1969 and remains one of the groups most popular songs. A series of hit singles, including Make Me Smile and the curiously titled 25 or 6 to 4 followed the release of the groups second album, Chicago, in 1970. The disc also contained one of the first of many unusual tracks, a six-movement rock composition entitled Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon.

More orchestral work was to follow in the bands third LP (a two-record set) with multiple-movement suites Hour in the Shower and the entire-side-long Travel Suite. Another two-record set came in the form of a live album, Chicago at Carnegie Hall, released in 1971. According to Rolling Stone, the latter was probably the worst live album in history. Released against Chicagos wishes, the band blamed their sloppy performance on the constant interference of the records producer on stage. Said Pankow, The horns on that record sound like kazoos. How can you play? Every two seconds a curve was being thrown to everyone onstage. Nevertheless, the set rose swiftly into the top ten.

Subsequent albums were released almost every year, with two released in a single year on more than one occasion, and all were certified gold. Top-selling singles rose out of almost every album and included such songs as Saturday in the Park in 1972 and Feelin Stronger Everyday in 1973. The group was immensely popular in concert as well, including a number of college and university campuses among as many as 200 concerts a year. The group also traveled to Europe and were extremely well-received in Scandinavia, belying any suggestion that their brand of jazzy pop was only a U.S. phenomenon. Their 1976 Chicago X album garnered three Grammys, with the single If You Leave Me Now recognized for both best arrangement and best pop vocal performance by a duo or group for the year.

Despite the overwhelming success enjoyed by the band, Rock Whos Who maintains they were a big-band rock group that initially utilized jazz-style improvisations, later degenerating into a pop group of huge popularity, issuing album after album of formulaic, predictable, middle-of-the-road fare. Again, the group members found fault with their producer and what they interpreted as a lack of enthusiasm. It took so long to do things Parazaider told Rolling Stone. Thats when it becomes like a factory gig, then youre just pumping it out. The band began coproducing their albums, then, finally, began coming in after-hours to record alone. With [producer] Jimmy [Guercio] everything had to be technically correct, adds Seraphine. Sometimes he would lose some of the magic because he was so meticulous. Eventually, toward the later seventies, the groups popularity seemed to fade, their vitality weakened by the tragic death of Terry Kath in 1978 and their previous cessation of ties to longtime producer/manager Guercio. This low point was not to last long.

Finding new confidence and enthusiasm in guitarist Donnie Dacus and co-producer Phil Ramone, the band turned out one of their finest albums, Hot Streets, in 1978. Instead of perfection, Ramone emphasized the groups natural sound, drawing on the excitement of an essentially live recording. Strong tracks from the album included the Bee Gees-backed Little Miss Loving and the chart-topping Alive Again, which People described as exploding with an awesome blend of power and finesse. Addressing the longstanding problem of the band having a recognizable logo but not ego, the members were photographed on their albums cover for the first time. Newly focused and pushing foward as professional musicians concerned with the vitality of their music and its potential impact on future generations, the group did indeed appear to be alive again.

After the release of Chicago 17, however, longtime member Peter Cetera left the group to pursue a solo career. His departure appeared to have little effect on the group, whose corporate, or maybe its municipal, kind of sound (as reproduced on Chicago 18) remained unchanged. Still, People noted the album included a remake of the early hit 25 or 6 to 4, suggesting a certain desperation for hits that would lead them to resuscitate its old ones. Despite such criticism, though, the LP found favor as basic, hard-core Chicago, which history has shown to be a lot of peoples kind of music.

Selected discography

As Chicago Transit Authority

Chicago Transit Authority, Columbia, 1969, reissued, 1989.

As Chicago

Chicago, Columbia, 1970.

Chicago III, Columbia, 1971.

Live at Carnegie Hall, Columbia, 1971.

Chicago V, Columbia, 1972.

Chicago VI, Columbia, 1973.

Chicago VII, Columbia, 1974.

Chicago VIII, Columbia, 1975.

Chicago IXChicagos Greatest Hits, Columbia, 1975.

Chicago X, Columbia, 1976.

Chicago XI, Columbia, 1977.

Hot Streets, Columbia, 1978.

Chicago XIII, Columbia, 1979.

Chicago XIV, Columbia, 1980.

Chicagos Greatest Hits, Vol 2, Columbia, 1981.

Chicago XVI, Full Moon, 1984.

Chicago 17, Full Moon, 1984.

Chicago 18, Warner Bros., 1986.

Chicago 19, Reprise, 1988.



Helander, Brock, Rock Whos Who, Schirmer, 1982.

Nite, Norm N., Rock On, Volume 2, Harper, 1984.

Stambler, Irwin, Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock, and Soul, St. Martins, 1977.


People, October 16, 1978; November 17, 1986; February 2, 1987.

Rolling Stone, December 14, 1978.

Time, June 2, 1975.

Meg Mac Donald


views updated May 29 2018


Carl Sandburg 1916

Author Biography

Poem Text

Poem Summary



Historical Context

Critical Overview



For Further Study

Carl Sandburg’s first major volume of poems, Chicago Poems, published in 1916, offered the poem “Chicago,” which would go on to be one of the most famous poems that Sandburg wrote. It is a classic example of his form and subject as it uses free verse to reveal, explore, and celebrate the lives of common people. The themes of hard work, suffering, and survival are presented alongside those of laughter and youth with an almost brutal honesty that Sandburg extracted from the everyday language he listened to so closely throughout his life. The opening lines set the poem apart from much of the poetry of the time with “Hog Butcher of the World,” and the list of epithets that follow. Sandburg’s poetry relied on themes of common, daily life in the same way that the poems of Walt Whitman had. Using a major urban landscape as a focus, the speaker goes on to mention the harsh yet vibrant aspects of American progress. There is violence and hunger in the city, and also the pride of a city so alive. The poem then offers another list, descriptions of work actions, and the line “Building, breaking, rebuilding” which could be seen to represent the cyclical nature of production and consumption in modern industrial life. The poem finishes with a definite emphasis on the experience of laughter, which offers another side of America often found in Sandburg’s poetry—that of a country worthy of joyous celebration and livelihood in the face of hardship and progress.

Author Biography

Sandburg was born in 1878, one of seven children of hardworking, conservative Swedish immigrants in Galesburg, Illinois. Despite his interest in reading and writing, Sandburg was forced to leave school at age thirteen to help supplement the family income. He held a number of odd jobs, including work as a milk delivery boy, a barber shop porter, and an apprentice tinsmith. Looking for adventure, Sandburg spent three-and-a-half months traveling around the country via railroad at age nineteen. In 1898 he volunteered for service in the Spanish-American War and was stationed in Puerto Rico. Upon his discharge he enrolled at Lombard College in Galesburg and studied there for four years. He left in 1902 before graduating and held a number of jobs before finding his niche as a writer. In 1908 he married Lillian Paula Steichen, sister of photographer Edward Steichen, and eventually fathered three daughters.

Sandburg finally became a recognized writer in 1914 when Poetry: A Magazine of Verse published six of his poems. In addition to poetry, Sandburg wrote a number of books—from children’s stories to biographies. He won the Pulitzer Prize twice, once (in history) in 1939 for Abraham Lincoln: The War Years (a detailed work larger than the collected writings of Shakespeare) and again in 1951 for Complete Poems (1950), a cumulation of his six previous volumes of poetry. Sandburg wrote his final book of poetry at age 85 and died four years later, in 1967, at his home in Flat Rock, North Carolina, where he and his family had lived since 1945.

Poem Text

   Hog Butcher for the World,
   Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
   Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight
   Stormy, husky, brawling.
   City of the Big Shoulders:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them,
      for I have seen your painted women under
      the gas lamps luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer:
      Yes, it is true I have seen the gunman kill
      and go free to kill again.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is:
      On the faces of women and children I have
      seen the marks of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those
      who sneer at this my city, and I give them
      back the sneer and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head
      singing so proud to be alive and coarse and
      strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job
      on job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid
      against the little soft cities;
Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action,
      cunning as a savage pitted against the
   Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing
      with  white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a
      young man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who
      has never lost a battle,
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the
      pulse, and under his ribs the heart of the
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of
      Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be
      Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of
      Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight
      Handler to the Nation.

Media Adaptations

  • The Poetry of Carl Sandburg, read by Melissa Manchester, Carl Reiner, Burt Reynolds, Jean Smart and others was released on audio cassette by Dove Audio in 1996.
  • An audio cassette titled A Lincoln Album is available through Caedmon’s “Voices in Time” series.
  • A record titled Carl Sandburg Sings His American Songbook was released by Caedmon in 1967.
  • Decca released the album Carl Sandburg Reads the Poems of Carl Sandburg in 1957.

Poem Summary

Lines 1-5

Sandburg begins the poem with a list of names or epithets for the city that reflects its gritty, earthy, tough spirit. In the early twentieth century Chicago was a center for the industries Sandburg mentions. In these lines the speaker personifies the city by likening it to a “Stormy, husky, brawling” worker, with “Big Shoulders.” This list also evokes the human workers who actually perform the work associated with these industries, thus establishing a link between the city and its inhabitants, and beginning a process of merging human qualities with the abstract “idea” of the city. In addition, by being identified with the city, each person seems to represent a combination of the individual and the universal. This is consistent with Sandburg’s desire to elevate the working people to a level of great importance and claim them to be essential elements of larger social organizations.

Lines 6-8

In these lines the speaker addresses a series of criticisms of the city followed by concrete images from the speaker’s own experience which illustrate the criticisms. The city’s wickedness is demonstrated by its prostitutes that corrupt innocent boys, its crookedness by killers that go unpunished, and its brutality by the hunger seen in the faces of its women and children. Here the speaker advances the personification of the city begun in the first stanza by directly addressing it as “you” and also by attributing the human qualities of wickedness, crookedness, and brutality to it. At this point in the poem Sandburg shifts to much longer lines and a more lyrical use of language, partially to mimic the conversational language of the direct address, but also as a way to increase the tempo and energy of the lines.

Notice how Sandburg has used rhetorical strategies to help hold lines 6-8 together. First, he has used parallelism by having each set of two lines begin with a criticism, and then offers an image to illustrate it. He also begins the first line of each set of two (lines 6, 8, and 10) with almost the same phrase: “they tell me.…” This repetition of a phrase at the beginning of lines is called anaphora, and as well as providing a certain organization to a poem it can create a smoother, more musical sound.

Line 9

At this point, while not breaking the form of long lines, the poems shifts from criticism of the city to a defense. The speaker of the poem, having admitted the presence of negative elements, prepares to respond to “those who sneer,” or the anonymous critics of the city.

Line 10

Here the speaker continues the double reference to the “you” of the poem, describing it as a “city and lifted head,” as a town and as a person. This is then followed by a number of positive adjectives with which the speaker attempts to balance or even override whatever negative conditions may exist in America’s modern cities. It is implied that the negative conditions are the result of being alive, of living, and also that the city and its people are “strong and cunning” enough to survive and be proud.

Line 11

Although struggling with work and toil, the speaker asserts that Chicago, “tall and bold against the little soft cities,” is better than smaller, perhaps kinder cities. This also inverts the comparison earlier in the stanza where the city was “wicked” and “brutal” to its citizens.

Line 12

As a last gesture before the poem moves back to a focused, short-lined list, the speaker reinforces the resourcefulness and survival abilities of the city in the face of hardship. This is done with the use of simile, a poetic technique that compares two unlike things to offer further insight or description. In the example here, Chicago is compared to a wild dog struggling for survival, relying on his instincts to keep him alive.

Lines 13-17

Here Sandburg shifts back to the list form which gives particular emphasis to the words in these lines and also slows the pace of the poem. This list describes the city, drawing a comparison to a laborer. As in the first stanza the description of the city reflects all of the individuals who make up the city. This list might also be taken as a way of seeing the circular nature of modern, industrial America as it moves from “building,” to “breaking,” and then back to “rebuilding,” as well as the cycle of each individual as he or she works, encounters hardship, and carries on through it to better times.

Lines 18-21

With line 18 the poem turns toward the sentiment that will take it to its end. This is a feeling of celebration—even in the fatigue and dirt of work—found in the universal symbol of laughter. Again the lines are extended as the poem reinvokes the youthful energy and joy found even “Under the terrible burden of destiny.” To emphasize his point, Sandburg uses the repetition of the word “laughter” as it appears in some form nine times from this line to the end of the poem. It is this celebration of people’s ability to overcome nature’s hardship, to laugh and enjoy life despite it, that made Sandburg known as a poet of the people. Notice too how in line 21 the speaker of the poem synthesizes the individual and the communal by claiming that under the city’s ribs lies “the heart of the people.” This could be seen as a unifying gesture in the same way that the earlier list of laborers was melded into a collective city.

Line 22

In one final attempt to focus attention on celebration, and again to alter the pace of the lines just before its conclusion, Sandburg uses another one word line and this time indents the line further than those previous. This is a good example of how free verse uses form to denote pacing and give emphasis to certain lines or words within the poem.

Line 23

In the final line the poem continues with this concept of laughter, enforcing the positive tone of the ending of the poem. The laughter leads into a list of epithets almost exactly like that at the beginning of the poem. This technique provides a certain closure to the poem, ending back where it started. This time, the speaker makes it clear that Chicago is “proud” of what it is. Here also, the list of epithets is run in—one right after another—rather than being broken up into shorter lines as in the first stanza. One argument for this technique might be to lead the reader to the poem’s ending with a constant rhythm and pace.


Strength and Weakness

This poem praises the city of Chicago for its power and vitality, using sharp, powerful, vital words to make the reader experience the writer’s idea. The images in the first stanza, as well as the isolated words in the second (“bareheaded,” “shoveling,” etc.) would not generally be considered flattering, but they are so frequent, so unrelenting, that they serve to make the reader more aware of the strength that is required for a brutal city to survive. Left unexamined is the other standard component of brutality, the absence of intellect, even though intellectualism is usually associated with poetry. Sandburg takes us back to a more primitive perspective. It is a point of view we see more frequently in ancient poetry, from times when civilization was just being organized; Sandburg’s idea of the city hearkens back to The Iliad or the Bible’s Old Testament. The poet provides us with an explanation for why a city needs to be strong with the image of “a savage pitted against the wilderness”: if the world at large is seen as a wilderness, then it would certainly take a city of great physical strength to hold its nastier aspects at bay. This point is made more explicitly when the poem mentions “the little soft cities” that surround Chicago and set it off. From an urban perspective, the small farm towns of the American Midwest are seen as places of naive, passive victims just ready to fall prey to disasters—both natural and social. In 1914, when the population was beginning its great shift from rural to urban life, the strength of cities must have stirred strong emotions. This would, in part, have accounted for why such a shift occurred and why America is predominantly urban today. Ironically, today’s city dwellers find the urban life threatening, not protective, and they look nostalgically at “weak” small-town life for its civility.

Topics for Further Study

  • The tone of pride in Sandburg’s poem has remained part of the city of Chicago’s image. Write a poem to the town or city you live in, retaining the tone that Sandburg used.
  • Compare this poem to Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing,” also included in this volume of Poetry for Students. What similarities are there in style? In images? How do you think these elements help an author write about a place?
  • Do you think the things Sandburg says about Chicago are true about most big cities, or does each city have its own particular character?

Moral Corruption

The opening lines of this poem are delivered with a lofty tone of reverence, even though the specific graces that are attributed to Chicago—from hog butchering to big shoulders—are not the sort of features that usually elicit praise. Having established the working-class ethos that he will use to measure the city’s greatness, Sandburg goes on to directly address the charges of moral corruption that get pinned on large urban centers. The charge of wickedness he accepts without offering any justification, but in his reply he makes a point of mentioning the “farm boys” who are presented as victims of the “painted ladies,” but who are also outsiders: the poem seems to suggest that at least some of the blame for this seduction lies with the boys, for coming to the city in the first place. His second response is even more unapologetic: there is no way to accept or justify murder, and in the case he states it is even more horrible because the killers are not repentant (since they do it again), yet are set free due to crookedness. There is nothing in either the individual’s crime or society’s response to it to soften or mitigate the evilness. In the third example, though, Sandburg’s reply is specifically presented to suggest a whole world of psychological insight. As before, he does not pretend that the accusation, in this case brutality, is not true. Instead, he attributes its root cause to innocence. The hungry women and children may be victims of the city’s brutality, but their struggle to survive is just as likely brutality’s root cause. From that point on, the poem links struggle with glory, indicating that moral compromise is a necessary step on the path to that glory.


The adjectives that the poem applies to Chicago tell the whole story: “proud,” “coarse,” “strong,” “cunning,” “fierce,” and even the quick, unnecessary mention that the teeth of the city’s personification are “white.” The phrase “this my city” tells us not only the facts, but also about Sandburg’s emotional relationship with Chicago: underlying any conceptual points that this poem is trying to make about Chicago is the poet’s admission that the subject is personal. He holds off until the middle of the poem to make this bond clear, but for the first half we know that we are supposed to admire the city, even with its wickedness, crookedness, and brutality. Sandburg is able to steer the reader’s emotions in the beginning of the poem because of his controlled language. Once it is called his city, we can see that the speaker of the poem identifies himself with Chicago, and so it is easy to see why he has wanted us to see through the city’s darker aspects to its greatness.

Given the oppressive labor and moral corruption associated with the day-to-day operations of a big city, it is reasonable to ask why Chicago is shown, in the end, so proud of itself. The key is in the poem’s one isolated word, “laughing.” Laughter absorbs indignation and horror, allowing the city to concentrate upon its accomplishments. Sandburg presents the city’s faults in this poem, but he allows the city to remain untouched by its own faults: the pride the city feels for itself might be based on ignorance, but the poet still admires it.


“Chicago,” is written in free verse, which means that it conforms to neither a particular meter nor rhyme scheme. It is a style that caused many people difficulty in recognizing works like “Chicago” as poems. One reason Sandburg might have chosen to break from traditional form is that he wanted to speak in the language of the common people, which does not come in careful, predictable cadence. Sandburg felt that common speech had its own particular music and he wanted to capture it. This would allow him to offer his poems back to the people in a language familiar to them. He also believed that the poems could more accurately represent the American experience with extended lines that sprawl and stretch out like the American landscape itself. In “Chicago” he alternates between a list form:


and more extended lines such as this:

  Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of
        Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be
        Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of
        Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight
        Handler to the Nation.

This shift of form gives the poem moments of focus and brevity, and then moments of expansive breadth and energy, both of which Sandburg wanted to express in his poetry.

Historical Context

The Chicago that Sandburg moved into in 1905 was a prime example of the growing American industrial town that was starting to find out how the economic growth of the late nineteenth century would affect it. Across the nation, improvements in construction, transportation, and communications drew people from the country to great manufacturing cities in the Northeast and Midwest, including Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Cleveland. (After the decline of the manufacturing era, these cities that came to be known as comprising the “Rust Belt” because they were built of steel and were almost obsolete.) Adding to the shift of the U.S. population was the greatest surge in immigration in the history of America. Between 1880 and 1920, for instance, more than 20 million immigrants arrived from Europe. This increase in the labor supply helped with the growth of industry, and large industries attracted people looking for jobs to the cities. There were not, however, enough jobs to absorb all of the workers who arrived, and so the cities were jammed with unemployed people, the high crime rate that accompanies poverty, and the unsanitary conditions that result from overcrowding people into tenements and ghettos. Labor unions, which had existed in America since the middle of the nineteenth century, were regaining the public’s support, and they enjoyed increased negotiating power after 1910, when the flood of cheap labor from immigrants slowed. Workers who were tired of being taken for granted and who were influenced by the political philosophy of Karl Marx joined political parties that vocally and sometimes violently opposed the capitalist structure of government. This atmosphere of poverty, destitution, and social chaos was a breeding ground for crime, and as city government organized so did its evil alter ego, the crime syndicate. In Chicago, organized crime became so prominent in the 1920s that the city became known, even in remote corners of the world, for its criminal activities.

Chicago provided a prime example of the growing pains suffered by major American cities. Its relative newness (although the city had been incorporated in 1835, the famous Chicago fire of 1871 had led to a new beginning), its size, and its extensive immigrant population made it an ideal place for writers to study the phenomenon of modern urban life. For example, Chicago was the home of Hull House, the original prototype of the settlement house. Established in 1889 through the efforts of social reformers, most notably Jane Addams, Hull House provided various forms of support for the city’s underprivileged: it gave housing and financial assistance to the unemployed; it ran special programs for juveniles, to help combat delinquency; it held classes and provided referrals for newly arrived immigrants. With the unending efforts of Ms. Addams, settlement homes modeled on Hull House sprang up around the country in the early decades of this century. She was Hull House’s resident head from its inception in 1889 until her death in 1935, as well as being president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom from 1919 to 1935, and one of the founders of the American Civil Liberties Union in 1920.

Chicago was also a center for the labor movement that was growing both in the nation and around the world. One of history’s most famous confrontations between workers and authorities took place at the McCormick reaper plant in Chicago in 1886. After police tried to break up a protest meeting during the strike, a bomb was thrown into the crowd, killing workers and policemen alike. Eight of the protest’s leaders were arrested, tried, and found guilty, even though the source of the bomb was never identified. Rather than intimidating union organizers, the jailing of the Haymarket protest leaders inspired greater resistance to the government’s unrestrained support of business: to this day, the decision remains a monument

Compare & Contrast

  • 1916: “I believe that the business of neutrality is over,” President Woodrow Wilson said in October. “The nature of modern war leaves no state untouched.” The next year America entered World War I.

    1941: Although many European nations were already involved in World War II, the United States did not become involved until U.S. territory at Pearl Harbor was directly attacked.

    1991: More than 60 nations from around the world gathered together to oppose Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, a key supplier of the world’s petroleum.

    Today: Various regional conflicts around the world bring multinational peacekeeping forces together to help stabilize the situations.

  • 1916: Germany conducted 41 air raids by zeppelin against England, as World War I continued.

    Today: American scientist have been working fervently without much success to develop the Star Wars initiative, which is supposed to stop long-range missiles from reaching the United States by shooting them down from space.

  • 1916: The United States Supreme Court upheld laws banning the sale and use of opium products.

    Today: After battling the flow of drugs into the country for decades, some social theorists have suggest legalizing the less dangerous ones, ending the profit in criminal trafficking and using the subsequent tax revenues to treat addicts.

  • 1916: An act of Congress created the National Parks Service to preserve millions of acres of forest land for the enjoyment of future generations.

    Today: With the population of the United States increasing at an unprecedented rate, the argument between environmentalists who want to preserve forests and developers who think land should be used for industry and construction is becoming increasingly heated.

to suppression of the Constitutional right to free speech. Chicago was also the site of the historic strike against the Pullman company in 1894, which led to a resurgence of union activity in this country. This strike made a national hero of strike organizer Eugene V. Debs, a Chicago labor leader who went on to help organize the Industrial Workers of the World in 1905. A composite of trade unions and socialist groups, the I.W.W. (or “Wobblies”) supported the Marxist theory of struggle between workers and capitalists. In 1897 Debs organized the Social Democratic Party of America. Carl Sandburg met the wife he was married to for 59 years at a Social Democratic party meeting, and his first job in Chicago in 1912 was for The Daily Socialist. Between 1900 and 1920, Eugene Debs unsuccessfully ran for president of the United States five times.

In addition to being a center for the study of urban poverty and for the labor movement, Chicago was also a crime capital in Sandburg’s day. Its reputation was much worse than other large cities, and it became so notorious that in the 1920s the town was synonymous with gangster activity. By 1919, organized crime in Chicago was so powerful that gangsters were able to bribe eight members of the Chicago White Sox baseball team to lose the world series; this was deemed the Black Sox Scandal. At the time, various organized crime syndicates vied for control of gambling and prostitution in Chicago, with the Johnny Terrio gang foremost among them. The image that the city has been known for worldwide, of gangsters with tommy guns killing each other in the streets, started with Prohibition, a ban on liquor that began on midnight, January 16, 1920. A byproduct of this legislated ban was the luring of vicious criminals toward the high profits available from bootlegging (selling illegal liquor). Famed crime figure Al Capone came to Chicago in 1920 and took over control of the Terrio gang in 1925. In 1929 Capone took over all organized crime activity in Chicago by killing off his competition in the legendary St. Valentine’s Day massacre.

Critical Overview

“Chicago,” was possibly Carl Sandburg’s most famous poem. Like much of his other work, its free form, folk subject matter, and depiction of the American landscape and its people, helped, in the words of Herbert Mitgang, “to free poetry from the old strictures.” This style is admittedly similar to that of Walt Whitman. Sandburg presented the tales and talk of the American people, which, according to Daniel Hoffmann, resulted from “his ear for a good yarn, his sense of revealing detail, [and] his empathy for folk wisdom.” This all came together in 1916 in the volume The Chicago Poems. Louis Untermeyer in The Dial described this collection as being “so determined to worship ruggedness that one could hear [Sandburg’s] adjectives strain to achieve a physical strength of their own.” This emphasis on physicality and strength was always a part of Sandburg’s work, as it focused on the people who were the heart of his democratic sensibility.

Sandburg’s popularity and success as a voice for the American people did not go without criticism. Possibly one of the strongest claims made against his poetry came from another revered, distinctly American poet, William Carlos Williams. Although Williams thought “Chicago” to be a “brilliantly successful poem,” he went on to say in his essay “Carl Sandburg’s Complete Poems” that “technically the poems [in the collection] reveal no initiative whatever other than their formlessness; there is no motivating spirit held in the front of the mind to control them.” This leaves the bulk of the poems, Williams then concludes, to be “an aimless series of random and repetitious gestures.” Daniel Hoffmann responded to this criticism by arguing that even if the poems did lack the imaginative, unifying vision of Whitman or Williams, Sandburg still managed to create an individual style, one based, in Hoffmann’s words, “on the faith that poetry is a quality of life itself.”


Sean Robisch

Sean Robish holds a Ph.D. in American Literature from Purdue University and has taught composition and literature for eight years. In the essay below, Robisch examines the often contradictory images Sandburg applies to Chicago, complimenting the city’s industry on one hand and criticizing working conditions on the other:

At least one bridge in Illinois has its spans inscribed with lines from Carl Sandburg’s poetry. A good way to read Sandburg is standing in a cornfield with the skyline of Chicago to the north, distant pillars of billowing smokestacks beyond the farms, and finding a line that was painted onto the bridge for a dedication ceremony. The best bridge to choose would be one in disrepair, one replaced by a highway suspension bridge up the river, because Sandburg’s best work masks what appears to be a simple anthem or dedication. Often with great poems the superficial read gives us one message, while re-reading and considering the tangles, the untidiness of verses, may leave us with a touch of suspicion. So, in time, we return to the work, and try to work the knots, to abandon our expectations about neatness, to discover that the poet might have wanted us to grapple with an idea that lesser language would have called a foregone conclusion. This is Sandburg’s expertise, and it is no better articulated than in “Chicago.”

After moving with his wife Lillian (Paula) Steichen and their first child to Chicago, Sandburg worked as a journalist for several newspapers, writing poems all the while and receiving rejection slips, until he composed some “Chicago poems” while working for a trade magazine. Two of the papers that had employed him had socialist political agendas, and Sandburg was a strong proponent of their ideals during the era of American modernism, when populism and socialist activism had great political currency and helped create better working conditions for those under the industrial wheel. Sandburg’s poetry is filled with praise for the laborer; it lacks references to college professors, chief executive officers, or the landed gentry. The poem’s first stanza is written as a formal greeting, ending with a colon, like a letter to the editor. This championship of the blue-collar worker is one of the characteristics which causes critics to compare Sandburg’s work to Walt Whitman’s.

That championship has also often tempted readers to appropriate Sandburg as a champion of

What Do I Read Next?

  • Nelson Algren was well-known writer among writers, but too few people remember his works today. He wrote about the street life in Chicago that Sandburg praises in this poem, including the workers, the prostitutes, and the small-time crooks. His book Chicago: City on the Make, most recently reprinted in 1983, takes the same stance of pride in corruption and survival that Sandburg took.
  • To find out what life in Chicago was like for normal people who seldom come in contact with literature, the authoritative source is Studs Turkel’s Division Street: America. Turkel, now in his eighties, is considered the dean of Chicago writers, and his books of interviews with regular people from all walks of life, such as this one, Working, and The Good War, have received international praise and scholarly attention.
  • The influence of Walt Whitman’s style on this poem is obvious to anyone who has read both poets. Whitman’s finest work is the book Leaves of Grass, which, like “Chicago,” draws our attention to the greatness of common people. Whitman revised the book often over the course of almost forty years, but the 1997 Doubleday edition is safely authoritative, taking most of its poems from the 1892 “deathbed” revision.
  • To get a sense of how horrible the conditions for workers could be in large cities early in the twentieth century, read Upton Sinclair’s classic, The Jungle. Set among Lithuanian immigrants working at the Chicago stockyards, this 1906 novel is based on an actual 1904 strike at “the yards.” Sinclair’s reputation as a social crusader was built upon this novel and lasted until his death in 1968. This book is continually in print: try to find an edition with the author’s 1946 introduction.

industry. In his book America’s Literary Revolt, Michael Yatron refutes such an position; Sandburg thought the city “a hell-hole, but it is the people of this milieu who are heroic figures—because Sandburg believed in them with mystic faith.” A close look at “Chicago” reveals how the poet may bait us into cheering, then quickly admonish us for too quickly unfurling our flags. The first line is an excellent example of one of the principle devices at work in the poem—the dubious compliment. “Hog Butcher” may be merely a fact of the city’s booming turn-of-the-century slaughterhouse business, but it certainly does not constitute the kind of slogan that would entice people to move to Chicago. And why wouldn’t hog butchery, an occupation employing thousands of workers, be considered an occupation worth compliment? Sandburg immediately responds by dignifying the title with global importance. The city may be a hog butcher, but for the whole world. We see the technique again when the city is addressed as a “Player” with railroads. This indicates power, that Chicago may move railroads around as a child might, “Building, breaking, rebuilding.” Yet “Player” could also be pejorative, implying that a real railroad is hardly a toy, and is too clumsily handled here. In such titles as “Hog Butcher for the World,” and “Player with Railroads” we have the paradigm of the entire poem, the implicit question of whether Sandburg is glorifying the city or insulting it. The blue-collar titles our narrator values beg us to find the humanity in the metropolis.

When Sandburg brought the first set of Chicago poems to Harriet Monroe at Poetry magazine, he probably expected one more rejection. What he received instead was not only publication, but an award for producing the best of the magazine’s poems that year. During those months after the first appearance of his poems, Sandburg received some harsh reviews, particularly from The Dial, a magazine competing with Monroe’s Poetry. The criticism of “Chicago” in particular echoed Monroe’s first reaction, but did not share her deeper considerations. Critics thought the poem to be clumsy, vulgar, metrically inferior and too prosaic. These had been criticisms of Whitman during his time as well, and Monroe, initially startled by such elements in the poem, decided that Sandburg’s work was part of the wake-up call American poetry needed. Monroe became one of the many women in Sandburg’s life who supported his experimentation with identity, language, and presentation, and it was she who introduced him to one of the most important artists’ communities in American history.

Even after Whitman shook up the literary world, poetry was still largely romantic and formalist, controlled by an effete and largely old-guard male constituency. What we now think of as literary modernism would contest that role, freeing poets to pursue inventive forms. Sandburg was hardly the most experimental of the writers to whom Monroe introduced him: they included Ezra Pound, H.D., and Amy Lowell. Any change in Sandburg’s politics or ideals would remain imperceptible throughout his writing life, which was long, and his poetry would eventually be eclipsed by other modernists. But “Chicago” remains one of the great works to connect midwestern urbanism to a broad and complex view of people at work, and was one of the first poems to bring modernism into the national consciousness.

Just as Emerson had called for a national poet to represent an American language and Whitman responded, around the turn of the twentieth century so too did Edward Arlington Robinson and Harriet Monroe call for a poet to contest the conventions of formalism and perpetuate a dynamic language. Sandburg was among the first to respond. Written under the influence of the Native American poetry he had been reading at the time, “Chicago” ironically jolted American formalism with its borrowings from the only truly indigenous literature of the country. He was a multi-faceted writer, not merely a hobbyist in other genres. He won his first Pulitzer Prize not for poetry, but for a six-volume history of Abraham Lincoln that heavily influenced much of his work to follow. He judged Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt along with Clarence Darrow and Illinois Governor John Peter Altgeld according to their action on behalf of the oppressed rather than by their party affiliations. Sandburg’s conclusions about leaders, as about cities, were built on what those entitites produced, not in machinery, but in humanity.

Critic Mark Van Doren cited a dark humor as one of Sandburg’s chief poetic virtues, a trait that

“Late in the poem we see the city take a human shape, appearing like a Cheshire catthe white teeth of a man laughing through smoke and dust. He laughs in ignorance; he has never lost a battle, and this is his greatness, so far his destiny.”

enabled him to see what Thomas Carlyle called “what is beneath him and about him as well as what is above him,” and a trait that separated Sandburg from Whitman. Sandburg used his wit to depict the person who would laugh regally through economic hardship, though that laughter might be grim, even mistaken. In this light, “Chicago” succeeds in avoiding overt propaganda by investing it with clever subtleties, unlike many other Sandburg poems. After casting the city as wicked, crooked, and brutal, and fitting each epithet with journalistically observed examples, the narrator claims the city as his own and returns the skeptic’s sneer. He understands that city loyalists often claim the right to complain: No one may insult my city but me and those who understand it as I do. After assuming this elitist position, the narrator delivers a few more questionable compliments to the city’s greatness. It is a “tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities” only after it has been “flinging magnetic curses,” and “piling job on job.” So the sneer is returned with a wink. If we place ourselves in the position of the personified Chicago, of being addressed in this manner, we may imagine frowning for being called “coarse,” puffing up a little with “strong and cunning,” then scandalized by being called a curse flinger and an oppressor; and just as we are about to respond in self-defense, we’re praised as that “tall bold slugger.” Sandburg keeps Chicago, the recipient of his letter, precariously positioned between the sloganeering of city fathers and the cries for justice of sweatshop workers.

Late in the poem we see the city take a human shape, appearing like a Cheshire cat—the white teeth of a man laughing through smoke and dust. He laughs in ignorance; he has never lost a battle, and this is his greatness, so far his destiny. But destiny is a “terrible burden,” and the implication is that a lost battle is on its way. We must remember, too, that the narrator is still personifying the city, now engendering it as a man. So the repetition of laughter up to the long indentation and exclamation point, becomes almost maniacal or deluded the laughter of the city that thinks it holds power “under his wrist,” or “under his ribs.” But the heart of the people, the poet implies, may not, after all, remain under the wrist, the cage of ribs, or by implication, under the thumb, of the city. So the compliments that close the poem are dubious indeed; they echo the greeting of the letter, but now depict a youth covered in grime, the human being in the midst of all the city’s capitalized titles. Here we see that the greatness of a city is not one-dimensional: at its heart is the person building it. But that person must fight to prevent becoming as “savage” as the city and as ugly as its smoke and dust.

In 1916, the poem appeared as the first in a muscular collection called Chicago Poems, and began Sandburg’s long and prolific career not only as a poet, but as a historian and folklorist as well. In the context of the larger book, the poem takes on a stronger persona than in its 1914 appearance in Poetry. Many of the poems following “Chicago,” such as “They Will Say,” are much more clear about the narrator’s harsh reaction to urban hardship. Amy Lowell pointed out the subtle turns from brutality to tenderness, and critic William Alexander posits that the presence of tenderness throughout the collection of poems is often reserved for the lake, the pastoral outside the city and away from the urban poor. Strikes and riots were frequent in Chicago during the early modern era, and Sandburg continued to view them both with the journalist’s eye and the poet’s language. He understood how to meld these worlds, having been a manual laborer through his twenties, a journalist into his thirties, and a poet all his life.

As a child, Sandburg had signed his name “Charles A. Sandburg” because it sounded more American, to which his parents responded with understanding and gave Carl the nickname “Cully.” He wrote under psuedonyms when working for papers whose ideals he could not support, and when he finally established himself as a poet, did so as “Carl,” a child of a hard-working Swedish immigrant family. His struggle for identity was not only as a poet, but as a socialist, a presidential historian, a collector of American folk songs, and as a Swedish-American, a war correspondent in Stockholm who was later honored by that nation as well as the United States. Even The Dial eventually published some of his work, acknowledging that his poetry deserved a public forum. Sandburg’s identity began to solidify with the publication of Chicago Poems and gave American poetry a purveyor of the human landscape, a new poet for the people.

Source: Sean Robisch, in an essay for Poetry for Students, Gale, 1998.

Chris Semansky

Chris Semansky is a freelance writer, teacher, and sole proprietor of Apocalypse Joe’s, a merchandising firm specializing in millennial kitsch. In the following essay, Semansky examines how the poem’s narrative voice, the use of personification, and the “manner of presentation” illustrate the “confidence and recklessness” of Chicago.

To personify something is to make it human and to speak or to write about it as if it were an animate being. We hear this everyday when people refer to the planet we live on as “mother earth” or when journalists write that the stock market has been “stingy” or “generous.” Personifying an idea or an object makes it easier for readers to visualize it in more concrete terms and to develop emotional responses to it. To use personification successfully a poem needs to produce an image in the reader’s mind that makes sense and also forges a connection between the thing or concept being personified and the human characteristic linked to the inanimate object. Carl Sandburg uses personification in his well-known poem, “Chicago,” where the relationship between the object—in this case the city—and the means of personification is more complex and difficult to visualize. In this poem, the poet describes the city as a volatile and energetic working-class man full of machismo.

In the short first section of the poem, Sandburg lists not only the industries the city is known for but also describes how a person possessing similar traits might look and behave, creating an image of a strong, working-class man:

Hog butcher of the world,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the big shoulders.

While it is true, as Sandburg critic Philip Yan nella suggests in The Other Carl Sandburg, that the opening “sounds like a chamber of commerce blurb [whose] capitalized words suggest the advertiser’s craft,” the portrait Sandburg presents also depicts the city as a bad boy. The narrator, assuming the role of parent, dismisses complaints that his city child is “wicked,” “crooked,” and “brutal,” replying in turn: “I turn once more to those who sneer at this my city / and I give them back the sneer.” Complaints of the city’s “immoral” nature were common during the early twentieth century in Chicago, where social reformers, anti-urban crusaders, and temperance groups battled forces of modernization and industrialization. Defiantly—again reminiscent of a parent who recognizes his son’s faults yet remains obstinately proud of him—Sandburg’s narrator refuses to renounce his city-child. “Come and show me another city and lifted head singing so proud to be alive,” he says, echoing the cockiness of his own offspring. It is the narrator’s own aggressive yet forgiving attitude toward the city that provides the poem with so much of its energy.

Sandburg expresses the city’s hyper-masculine, arrogant energy in his personification of the city, describing it as alternately “a bold slugger”; “a savage pitted against the wilderness”; or “an ignorant fighter who has never lost a battle.” Chicago is depicted not so much a city as it a testosterone-laden, 18-year-old who lives purely on instinct. By juxtaposing images of poverty and corruption with the “bragging and laughing” behavior of the personified city, Sandburg intentionally brings to the forefront the effects of a capitalist economy on the working class. An ardent socialist keenly aware of the inequalities to which unfettered capitalism leads, Sandburg recognized that the city was a place of both hope and despair for many in early twentieth-century America. While farmers and the rural poor flocked to Chicago and other large cities seeking better jobs and opportunities, they often ended up broke and worse off than when they arrived—victims of hustlers, low-wage jobs, and their own unrealistic expectations. Harry Golden, a journalist and Sandburg scholar, observed in his book Carl Sandburg that “while the city is a bold enterprise on the part of men, it is also an enterprise which corrupts natural emotions.” These natural emotions include the trust and goodwill that many men and women have toward one another.

Yannella connects Sandburg’s politics more directly to the poem’s central idea, saying that “Thematically, ‘Chicago’ was an orthodox radical statement about labor as the creator of wealth.”

“The poet describes the city as a volatile and energetic working-class man full of machismo.”

Finding the material origin of Sandburg’s personified city in images of the proletariat hero, Yannella claims in The Other Carl Sandburg that:

Visually, Sandburg’s myth-man was a perfect replica of the Adam-like American worker depicted in cartoon and poster art in left-leaning magazines and union propaganda. Sometimes, looming heroically above industrial landscapes, this familiar figure—powerfully muscled, square-jawed, grinning or looking resolute—was shown already victorious over his circumstances. Other versions stressed the potential of victory, with the worker tensed to catapult into a future beyond wage slavery, his broken chains dangling from his powerful wrists.

Sandburg displays the confidence and recklessness of Chicago in the construction of the poem as well. By this I mean that his method of presenting his ideas and the ideas themselves dovetail. Not only does Sandburg write about the city of Chicago as a vibrant, relentlessly active, innately amoral place of embodied contradictions, but he writes about the city in a manner that celebrates and embraces these very attributes. His use of short and long stanzas, his choppy sentences and anarchic prose rhythms, and his use of slang and colloquialisms underscore the theme of the poem: that Chicago cannot be tamed because it embodies the life force itself. In this way we can say that the form (manner of presentation) of Sandburg’s poem cannot be divorced from its content (ideas). “The aim [of Chicago Poems]” Sandburg himself said, “was to sing, blab, chortle, yodel, like people, and people in the sense of human beings subtracted from formal doctrine,” according to a 1978 New Republic article by Mitgang Herbert. Donald Barlow Stauffer echoes this sentiment in his own response to Chicago Poems (in A Short History of American Poetry), saying that Sandburg demonstrates “a sure and strong voice, with a deep underlying love of people; people in the abstract, but seen in individuals, in particulars.” Calling him “the poet of social consciousness” Stauffer applauded Sandburg for being “the champion of the little guy and the underdog, the fellow who never had a chance.”

Such an approach to poetry offended many readers who were accustomed to “loftier” subject matter, more refined language, and nuanced metaphors in their verse. Sandburg biographer North Callahan wrote in Carl Sandburg that the poet’s use of slang and the earthy idiom of the common man “outraged” readers. His poetry astonished them. “It was verse of massive gait,” Poetry editor Harriet Monroe said, “whether you call it poetry or not.” Some critics suggested that Sandburg’s writing didn’t constitute poetry but was closer to the “ill-regulated speech” of Walt Whitman. Indeed, Sandburg’s colloquialisms, his use of compound descriptions, his long awkward lines, and his praise of the common working man in his Chicago poems mark him as a poetic heir of Whitman and to Whitman’s vision of America. Roger Mitchell wrote in his essay “Modernism Comes To American Poetry,” “The lines [of “Chicago”] are not without strength, and Sandburg was one of the first after Whitman to catch in poetry, something of the brute reality of the emerging American City. But, typical of Sandburg, the poem reflects Whitman’s wordiness without his sensitivity to the delicately exact image, Whitman’s uncoiling line without his grace of movement.” “Sensitivity to the delicately exact image,” however, is precisely a feature of a poetic tradition that did not interest Sandburg, who was more drawn to the raw language of the working class and who was interested in speaking for those who couldn’t speak for themselves precisely because they didn’t possess the “delicately exact image.” This included the city of Chicago itself. His distinctly rough, male voice was also a response to the other modernist tradition that Mitchell deemed “urban and international, aesthetically intricate, politically and socially conservative, and difficult to grasp.” According to Mitchell, Sandburg wanted to rescue poetry “from its reputation, cultivated and flaunted by the English Aesthetes and Decadents, as effete and unmasculine.”

By ending the poem with the same words with which it began, Sandburg underscores the idea that Chicago is a process, not a product—that finally it exceeds even our own understanding and his own descriptions. Like human beings, cities have cycles, their own ups and downs, virtues and vices; also like human beings, they often contain irreconcilable contradictions. We may not necessarily “understand” the city of Chicago at the end of the poem, but we do understand Sandburg’s own unabashed love for its vitality and the resilience and often unconquerable will of its people.

Source: Chris Semansky, in an essay for Poetry for Students, Gale, 1998.

Daniel Hoffman

In the following excerpt, Hoffman maintains that the strength of Sandburgs’s poems, which “celebrate the infinite variety of American life,” comes not from Sandburg’s craft but from his colorful subject matter.

Mark Van Doren, speaking in The Library of Congress shortly after [Carl] Sandburg’s death, said of his life of Lincoln that “It may even be Sandburg’s greatest poem, if our definition of poetry is liberal enough to include it.” Such praise can be given to nearly all of Sandburg’s prose—his autobiography, his children’s stories. We say this of course because Carl Sandburg was a poet first; from his earliest book, Chicago Poems in 1916, it was as a poet that he was regarded, and as a poet that he regarded himself. On this hundredth anniversary of his birth is seems appropriate to take a retrospective look at Sandburg’s achievement. It is my hope to present his work in a way that makes possible a fair revaluation of the writings of this attractive, generous, likeable man who pitched his verses to a scale of possibilities so different from those of his contemporaries or successors.…

If completion of his first century qualifies a departed poet for a celebration among the shades, then somewhere on or near Olympus there must be tonight a gathering like this one, with the ghost of Sandburg himself at its center, singing “The Boll Weevil” or “The Streets of Laredo” to his guitar, and saying his poems in that voice at once warm and rough. He’d be in workman’s clothes, and have his audience in the palm of his ghostly hand. For Sandburg was the Will Rogers of the poetry circuit, a masterful entertainer. Only Robert Frost could rival him in this. He brought a sense of color, of liveliness, of beauty in their own lives to many who don’t read other poets at all. His poems came as near to being prose as they can, and yet they are poetry. There’s little in Sandburg of the virtues most readers value in the poems of his contemporaries. Most recent critics and scholars of modern verse have had other fish to fry, and have passed Sandburg by. Not that he didn’t get lots of praise in his time, but it was more often from those who prized the life his work reflects than from those whose chief concerns were with the art of poetry.…

I assume that everyone at all familiar with Sandburg knows his most famous poem, the one that begins

HOG Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders …

This poem, perhaps overly famous, has become a sort of albatross to Sandburg’s reputation. He was capable of many other notes than “Stormy, husky, brawling,” but they may be drowned out in the memories of everyone who has read “Chicago.” One such note is joyousness in the most ordinary life, in sights other poets had not noticed, sounds made by people other poets hadn’t listened to, as in “The Shovel Man”.…

This is perhaps the first poem in American literature in which an Italian immigrant is presented as a serious subject; until Sandburg’s Chicago Poems appeared, the immigrant was to be found only as a comic stereotype, speaking in the dialect poems of T. A. Daly. Writing at the time not only of the free-verse movement in poetry, but also when the Armory Show had dramatized the new, democratic aesthetic of the Ash Can school in painting, Sandburg too could look up and down a teeming street of city tenements and find subjects whose innate beauty and joy in life invited treatment in his art.…

[“The Shovel Man” and “Fish Crier”] are but two from Sandburg’s scores of poems that describe and celebrate the infinite variety of American life. The first fact one confronts in reading Sandburg is his inclusiveness, his liberality. Although many of his poems are brief—I believe the best ones to be so—the sensibility of the poet embodies what Whitman once called “acceptation.” Sandburg excludes nothing, or at any rate very little, of his own experience from his poetry. If what he sees on a crowded city street on a wintry day includes a fish peddler, his poem will tell us this, and will tell us what feelings the sight of that peddler evokes in him.

Sandburg touches many emotions as well as observing facts and faces. Alongside his celebrations of the various fulfilments of human life are his moments of poignance, of longing, as in “Gone”.…

So much has been said about Sandburg’s vitality and his celebration of life that his ability to see sharply the darker side of life—its doubts, its defeats, its despairs—is often overlooked. Yet these too are among the emotions his poems keenly define.…

“[Sandburg’s] purpose would be to take poetry out of the parlor and clothe it in overalls.…”

His rejection of meters and rhymes made possible Sandburg’s style, but what made possible his rejections? It’s not only that he lived through the vers libre period; after all, by the time free verse came along Carl Sandburg was in his thirties. It was in search of hints of what made his style possible that I recently read his autobiography, Always the Young Stranger(1953).

This book re-creates the first twenty years of a fellow who didn’t yet know where he was going in life or what he would become. Luckily, Sandburg had a memory as retentive as flypaper, and he recollected details like a magpie hoarding spoons. His account is perhaps overfull, even garrulous, but it is richly informative and steeped with affection for the small town on the prairies that was the young Sandburg’s entire world. To help out his family and, later, to strike out on his own, Sandburg worked successively as milk delivery driver, barber-shop attendant, tinsmith, bottle-washer, potter, and many another odd job until he left town to ride the rails and sleep in hobo camps around the country. He returned to enlist in the Illinois Volunteers in 1898 and served in Puerto Rico.

To this observant boy, Galesburg was a miniature of the country at large. Its population ranged from hoboes and drunks to the boss of the State Republican Party and the United States Ambassador to Denmark. There were immigrants like the Sandburgs and their Polish, Hungarian, German Jewish, Irish, and Italian neighbors among the older Anglo-American stock and blacks. In one chapter Sandburg tells of a settler whose plough broke the plains when Galesburg was founded only fifty years before his own birth, and of another neighbor who invented a mechanical cornplanter, production of which became the town’s principal industry. These two overlapping lives take the history of the country from the frontier into the industrial era.

This town of 20,000 had its honky-tonks, its red-light district, its railroad yards and feed stores, its shacks and its mansions. Across Berrien Street from the Sandburgs, young Charlie, as he was then called, would see a neighbor milk his cow every morning, then get up from the milking stool and walk a few hundred yards to meet his classes at Lombard College. Knox College, better known, was in Galesburg too, and still is there. By the time he was twenty Sandburg had learned a lot of American life through living it to the full in Galesburg. His book about that life bears comparison with Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer, with Peck’s Bad Boy, with the first volume of W. D. Howell’s autobiography. Always the Young Strangers is one of the best books about small town American boyhood that we have.

But where in all this experience are the sources of Sandburg’s style in his poetry? One must begin with the fact that Sandburg was indeed of the salt of the earth. His father and mother were immigrants from Sweden, and of all American poets of stature, Sandburg is the only one I know for whom English was not the language of family life, of home, of his own tradition. The one book his father read was the Swedish Bible. Sandburg attended public schools through the eighth grade, but seems not to have absorbed the poets in Palgrave’s Golden Treasury. He seems never to have had to memorize passages from The Vision of Sir Launfall, or Hiawatha, or “Thanatopsis,” or “The Deacon’s One Horse Shay.” Or if he did, they did not impress him. Sandburg grew up unexposed or immune to the pieties of the Anglo-American poetry tradition. It was there, in the books, but it didn’t have to do with him. And how could it have, for what he would have in his mind to express when the time came were things none of the poets in Palgrave, none of the bearded bards on the schoolroom wall, had ever touched. His purpose would be to take poetry out of the parlor and clothe it in overalls.…

Sandburg did not encounter literature until, after service in the Army, he enrolled as a special student at Lombard College. There a teacher of unusual intellectual power and literary sensitivity befriended and guided him. It is an overstatement to say that Sandburg lacked cultivation or was ignorant of the literary traditions he did not use in his poems. He became in fact a reader who, with the pertinacity of one who gets a late start, devoured books of all kinds. But the mould had been set: Sandburg to the end was a writer who prized direct experience over literary tradition, raw power over finesse. He was a writer who evolved his own cadences pragmatically, whose sense of rudimentary poetic structure reflects his adaptation of folksong and ballad, and whose vignettes in free verse recall the brevity of feature articles in a daily paper. For it was as a journalist that Sandburg schooled himself to write and this was how he made his living until the first volume of his Lincoln, researched and written under these conditions, brought him security.

It is often said that Whitman is Sandburg’s model, even that Sandburg is Whitman’s successor. Surely he learned from Whitman the possibilities of a long prose-rhythmed strophe. And just as surely he learned even more from the Bible, where Whitman learned it, of the uses of incremental repetition. But anyone leafing through Sandburg’s Collected Poems may be surprised at how often he used short lines, a different swing altogether from Whitman’s lyrical legato. True Whitman preceded him in glorifying the details of the common life; but I agree with Professor Gay Wilson Allen that Sandburg’s divergences from Whitman are greater than his resemblances. Chief of these divergences is in these poets’ attitude toward death. Sandburg has little of Whitman’s welcoming of death as the unifier and completion of life; for Sandburg death is merely life’s end, not its fulfilment. Death is central to Whitman’s work, the deep dark river that flows through all of his lines, while Sandburg is a poet of living. His vision of life does not include tragedy.

Impatient of theory, Sandburg in the preface to his Collected Poems tells us that “the more rhyme there is in poetry the more danger of its tricking the writer into something other than the urge [he had] in the beginning.” As Mark Van Doren justly said of him, “He feels free only when he thinks he has escaped from form. He seems to have known nothing about the freedom that flows from mastery of form.” Yet at his best Sandburg contrived his own form—without apparently being aware of it as form at all. He regarded his free verse as entirely free. The question his readers ultimately have to face, because the experience of reading more than a few anthology pieces by any poet raises it, is whether the structures as well as the language Carl Sandburg devised to take the place of those he spurned have the look and the feel of necessity. As the pioneers of the prairies knew, it takes more than sod to build sod houses. There must be a rudimentary architecture to hold up the roof, keep the doors and windows hung squarely on their sills, let the smoke go up the chimney. This principle is equally true of those other indigenous structures, the skyscrapers, which Sandburg was among the first to praise in his poems.

As a preface to his volume Good Morning, America (1928), Sandburg offered “Tentative (First Model) Definitions of Poetry”; from those we may infer his convictions about the nature of poetry itself. Where Archibald MacLeish, in his familiar “Ars Poetica,” offered only three such definitions, Sandburg with typical prodigality sets down thirty eight. It is hard to find any thread of connection or development among them, but on inspection his definitions prove to be of three sorts. On the one hand there are these:

5. Poetry is a sequence of dots and dashes, spelling depths, crypts, cross-lights, and moon wisps.

9. Poetry is an echo asking a shadow dancer to be a partner.

37. Poetry is a mystic, sensuous mathematics of fire, smokestacks, waffles, pansies, people, and purple sunsets.

These strophes are simple imagism gone to seed with sentimentality. But strewn among them are definitions in which the given images dramatize a state of feeling:

7. Poetry is a plan for a slit in the face of a bronze fountain goat and the path of fresh drinking water.

10. Poetry is the journal of a sea animal living on land, wanting to fly the air.

32. Poetry is a shuffling of boxes of illusions buckled with a strap of facts.

And there are also definitions which offer a sense not only of the effects of poetry on the reader but of the means of creating those effects:

1. Poetry is a projection across silence of cadences arranged to break that silence with definite intentions of echoes syllables, wave lengths.

3. Poetry is the report of a nuance between two moments, when people say, ‘Listen!’ and ‘Did you see it?’ ‘Did you hear it,’ ‘What was it?’

38. Poetry is the capture of a picture, a song, or a flab, in a deliberate prism of words.

Yet compared to the metapoetics of Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, or Marianne Moore, these definitions seem impressionistic rather than analytical. Sandburg is concerned with the effects and materials of his poetry but not with creating those effects from new modes of perception. He would, as he says in yet another definition, “achieve a synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits,”—or of moonlight and mittens—simply by juxtaposing the one with the other. And yet we know that his practice is a little more uncasual than his protestations. His best poems, and the best passages in his longer, uneven poems, are shaped with a kind of caring of his own.

The case against Sandburg was made by William Carlos Williams, reviewing the Collected

“Sandburg to the end was a writer who prized direct experience over literary tradition, raw power over finesse.”

Poems in Poetry (September 1951). Williams’ review states the reasons for that neglect of Sandburg by critics, scholars, and most other poets against which Roy Basler (in The Muse and the Librarian, 1974) and his other defenders have protested. Williams faulted Sandburg for having no development in his work. Sandburg, said Williams, “although the best of him was touched with fire,” made the “mistake of trying to substitute the materials of a new territory for the great and universal power of art itself.… The formlessness of his literary figures was the very formlessness of the materials with which he worked.… He didn’t see that the terms the people use are so often the very thing that defeats them. It is by his invention of new terms that the artist uniquely serves.”

One can see why Karl Shapiro, then editor of Poetry, chose Dr. Williams to review Carl Sandburg’s work. For Williams was the one poet of their generation most like Sandburg in his use of the industrial landscape of contemporary life, and the one most determined to discover in his experiences their own principle of form. And for Williams it is here that Sandburg is fatally deficient: lacking a theory of poetry, he has no formal principle to make his poetry cohere. The charge is a grave one, from which Sandburg’s reputation suffers still.…

But Dr. Williams’ objections cannot be completely obviated. Here, as everywhere, he would say, Sandburg accepted that which is, while it is demanded of a great poet that he impose upon reality his own imaginative vision. Such is the unification of experience we find in Whitman, in Emily Dickinson; such is what Williams, Pound, Eliot, Stevens, and Frost each in his own way strove for.

I find something like this in Sandburg too, though not as powerfully crafted as in these other poets. What I find as the unification of his vision is in fact inherent in the very amplitude, vitality, and inclusiveness with which Sandburg’s work spreads itself before us. We must accept the seeming artlessness of his diction, the sprawl of his forms, and the fact that the tensile strength of his individual lines is seldom taut, as we expect great verse to be. Yet his ear, his tone, his lilt, his voice are unmistakable. Out of what Williams termed his weaknesses Sandburg made an individual style. His work is based on the faith that poetry is a quality of life itself. It is easy to oversimplify Sandburg’s view of “the people”; sometimes he oversimplified it himself. And it is easy to dismiss his conviction that in the demotic diction of American life there is a vein of real poetry; he himself often quarried more dross than the genuine article. But Sandburg’s conviction that the real thing was there, that he could find and shape it into poetry, is not a mere submission to whatever is. It is this conviction that I take to be Sandburg’s democratic ideal, his insistence that the lives and lingo of blue-collar people could bring him not only the subjects of art but the materials of art, and that from these he could make poetry.

Much of his work is flawed, but in at least two periods of his long career he achieved a democratic art that lasts. Sandburg’s best poems still speak of lives of people in small towns, in city ghettoes, and of the energy and broken patterns of industrial life with the force, the clarity, and the pleasure that first was found in them. And the poetic vision in The People, Yes is felt, not in the invention of a new language or a novel presentation for poetry, but in the poet’s faith that “the bookless people” could, in their adversity, provide a thesaurus of idioms commensurate with their strength to endure and their will to survive.

Like the men who broke the plains in Illinois, Carl Sandburg was a pioneer. His vision of life was neither tragic nor cheery, but inclusive of defeat, of doubt, of despair even; these conditions he found life to transcend by its own resilience. He was deeply in the American grain in his pragmatism, his hopefulness. He once said, “The past is a bucket of ashes.” He wrote of the present he knew. Now that that present and his work have become parts of our past, we can look back at Sandburg’s best poems with gratitude for their capturing a portion of the reality of his time. We can thank Sandburg, too, for enlarging the possibilities of subject and language for other poets who came in our century.

Source: “‘Moonlight dries no mittens’: Carl Sandburg Reconsidered” in The Georgia Review, Vol. XXXII, No. 2, summer 1978, pp. 390-406.


Alexander, William, “The Limited American, the Great Loneliness, and the Singing Fire: Carl Sandburg’s Chicago Poems,” in American Literature, Vol. 45, No. 1, March, 1973, pp. 63-83.

Brumm, Anne-Marie, “The Cycle of Life: Motifs in the Chicago Poems of Carl Sandburg,” in Zeitschrift fur Anglistik und Amerikanstik, Vol. 31, No. 3, 1983, pp. 237-55.

Callahan, North, Carl Sandburg, College Station, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996.

Crowder, Richard, “The Lure of the Big City,” in Carl Sandburg, New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1964.

Furer, Howard B., editor, Chicago: A Chronological History, Dobbs Ferry, NY: Oceana Publications, 1974.

Golden, Harry, Carl Sandburg, NY: The World Publishing Company, 1961.

Hacker, Jeffrey H., Carl Sandburg, New York: Franklin Watts, 1984.

Hoffmann, Daniel, “‘Moonlight Dries No Mittens’: Carl Sandburg Reconsidered,” The Georgia Review, Vol. XXXII, No. 2, Summer, 1978, pp. 390-407.

Mitchell, Roger, “Modernism Comes To American Poetry,” in In A Profile of Twentieth-Century American Poetry, edited by Jack Myers and David Wojahn, Carbondale, II: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992, pp. 25-54.

Mitgang, Herbert, “Carl Sandburg,” The New Republic, Vol. 178, No. 2, January 14, 1978, pp. 24-6.

Niven, Penelope, Carl Sandburg: A Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1991.

Reid, Robert L., “The Day Book Poems of Carl Sandburg,” in The Old Northwest: A Journal of Regional Life & Letters, Vol. 9, No. 3, Fall, 1983, pp. 205-18.

Sandburg, Carl, Complete Poems, Harcourt, Brace, & Company, 1950.

Stauffer, Donald Barlow, A Short History of American Poetry, New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1974.

Untermeyer, Louis, “Strong Timber,” The Dial, Vol. XLV, No. 774, October 5, 1918, pp. 263-64.

Van Doren, Mark, introduction to Carl Sandburg’s Harvest Poems: 1910-1960, Harcourt, Brace, & Company, Inc., 1960, pp. 5-10.

Williams, William Carlos, “Carl Sandburg’s Complete Poems,” Poetry, LXXVIII, No. 6, September, 1951.

Yannella, Philip, The Other Carl Sandburg, Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 1995.

Yatron, Michael, America’s Literary Revolt, Philosophical Library, Inc., 1959.

For Further Study

Andrews, Clarence A., Chicago in Story: A Literary History, Iowa City, IA: Midwest Heritage Publishing Co., 1982.

This book gives a comprehensive overview of works written about Chicago and things that have been written about the city.

Callahan, North, Carl Sandburg: His Life and Works, University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1987.

This scholarly extended biography gives a concise history of Sandburg’s life and works.

Miller, Donald L., City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996.

The century referred to in the title is the nineteenth, but this book is very useful and interesting to anyone who is trying to understand any big American city at the time Sandburg was writing.

Wilson, Gay Allen, Carl Sandburg, University of Minnesota Pamphlets on American Writers No. 101, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1972.

As with all of the pamphlets in this series, this one is well-written, concise, and very informative for its length.


views updated Jun 08 2018


Getting There
Getting Around
Public Safety
Health Care
Parks and Recreation
Performing Arts
Libraries and Museums
Holidays and Festivals
Famous Citizens
For Further Study

Chicago, Illinois, United States of America, North America

Founded: 1830; Incorporated: 1837
Location: Northeast Illinois, Lake Michigan coast, United States, North America
Motto: "I will" in Latin
Flag: Two blue stripes representing Lake Michigan and the Chicago River, and four six-pointed red stars representing events in Chicago history, all on a white field.
Flower: Violet (state flower)
Time Zone: 6 am Central Standard Time (CST) = noon Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)
Ethnic Composition: White 56.9%; Black 39.1%
Elevation: 181 m (595 ft)
Latitude and Longitude: 41°88'N, 87°65'W
Coastline: 40 km (25 mi)
Climate: Continental climate; cold winters, with heavy snowfall from cold fronts off Lake Michigan, and hot summers
Annual Mean Temperature: 9.5°C (49.2°F); January-4.3°C (24.3°F); July 23.7°C (74.7°F)
Seasonal Average Snowfall: 102 cm (40 in)
Average Annual Precipitation (total of rainfall and melted snow): 86 cm (34 in).
Government: Mayor-council
Weights and Measures: Standard U.S.
Monetary Units: Standard U.S.
Telephone Area Codes: 312, 630, 708, 773, 847
Postal Codes: 60601-64

1. Introduction

Long the United States's second-largest city (now its third-largest), Chicago is the only Midwestern metropolis to rank with the great cities of the nation's east and west coasts. Its nickname, "the Windy City," though thought by many to refer to a climate influenced by the city's location on the southwest shore of Lake Michigan, actually has its origin in the civic pride that has inspired its citizens to boastfulness for generations. The "City of Big Shoulders" and "Hog Butcher to the World"in the words of poet Carl Sandburg, one of its most famous sonsChicago has undergone important changes in the latter half of the twentieth century, most notably its population shrinkage in the face of growing suburbanization. Nevertheless, the legendary city of skyscrapersstill home to the world's tallest buildingremains a vital commercial, intellectual, and cultural center.

2. Getting There

Chicago, the seat of Cook County, is located in northeastern Illinois, on the southeastern shore of Lake Michigan and at the junction of the lake and the Chicago River.


Chicago is accessible by several interstate highways. The city is approached from the northwest by I-94, which merges with the John F. Kennedy Expressway and the Dan Ryan Express-way, traversing the city north-south before turning into the Calumet Expressway heading south out of (or into) the city. To the west, I-294 rings much of the Greater Chicago area, turning into the Tri-State Tollway further south and intersecting I-290, which runs east-west, becoming the Dwight D. Eisenhower Expressway into the heart of the city. I-55 leads to Chicago from the southwest, turning into the Adlai E. Stevenson Expressway.

Bus and Railroad Service

Chicago is an Amtrak hub, servicing travelers from the renovated Union Station. The Greyhound station, on West Harrison Street, is slightly to the southwest of downtown.


More than 66 million passengers a year arrive at and depart from O'Hare International Airport, on more than 880,000 flights annually. Located 27 kilometers (17 miles) outside downtown Chicago, O'Hare is said to be the busiest airport in the world. As a hub for both American and United Airlines, it offers nonstop service to most major destinations in the United States, and many foreign cities as well. Also servicing the Windy City is Midway Airport.

Chicago Population Profile

City Proper

Population: 2,732,000
Area: 591 sq km (228 sq mi)
Ethnic composition: 56.9% white, 39.1% black, 3.7% Asian/Pacific Islander
Nicknames: The Windy City, The Second City, The City of Broad Shoulders

Metropolitan Area

Population: 6,945,000
Area: 13,118 sq km (5,065 sq mi)
World population rank 1: 29
Percentage of national population 2: 2.5%
Average yearly growth rate: 0.3%
Ethnic composition: 76% white; 19.5% black; and 4.3% Asian/Pacific Islander

  1. The Chicago metropolitan area's rank among the world's urban areas.
  2. The percent of the total US population living in the Chicago metropolitan area.


Its central location and Great Lakes coastline have always made Chicago an important shipping center, especially since the 1959 opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway connecting the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. Some 750 motor freight carriers ship over 45 million metric tons (50 million tons) of ground freight to and from the city every year; another 36 million metric tons (40 million tons) are handled by rail. More than one million metric tons (1.1 million tons) per year are shipped through Chicago's airports.

3. Getting Around

Downtown Chicago is laid out in a grid pattern, with State Street (north-south) and Madison (east-west) as the main points of reference. Lake Shore Drive borders the Lake Michigan shoreline, and Grant Park extends along much of the coast. The Chicago River, running east-west, divides the North Side from the central Loop section, and the north and south branches of the river run northwest to south, further demarcating parts of the city.

Bus and Commuter Rail Service

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) runs the city's bus and rail service, offering access to both Chicago and its suburbs. The CTA operates over 1,000 rapid transit, or El, cars over five rail lines whose routes are designated by different colors. The CTA also operates numerous bus routes, with most buses running at intervals of every five to 20 minutes daily and many running at night.


Several walking tours of downtown Chicago landmarks are available, including a taped, self-guided tour put together by the Chicago Office of Tourism. The Friends of the Chicago River offers walking tours along the river and boat cruises along the shoreline as well. Sightseeing tours of the downtown area are also offered on both regular and double-decker buses and open-air trolleys. In addition, a variety of tours and cruises on Lake Michigan are available.

4. People

Chicago is the third most populous city in the United States, surpassed only by New York and Los Angeles. In 1990, the population of Chicago was 2,784,000, with the following racial composition: 56.9 percent white, 39.1 percent black, 3.7 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, 0.3 percent American Indian. Hispanics (an ethnic rather than a racial designation) accounted for 19.6 percent of the population. The 1994 population estimate for Chicago was 2,732,000. The population of Chicago's Primary Metropolitan Statistical Area was estimated at 7,773,896 as of 1997. The region's racial composition was listed by the U.S. Census Bureau in 1996 as 76 percent white; 19.5 percent black; and 4.3 percent Asian/Pacific Islander.

5. Neighborhoods

The heart of Chicago is the rectangular downtown section known as the Loop, extending southward from the Chicago River and east from its south branch, and encircled by the elevated train route with the same name. Although most of the retailers have departed from legendary State Street, the Loop is still a bustling commercial center filled with corporate and government offices. Its La Salle Street has been called "the Wall Street of the Midwest."

The South Side, the area south of the Loop, has seen considerable redevelopment. Today it is home to a number of communities, including Hyde Park, Morgan Park, and Beverly. The area to the west of the Loop has traditionally been an industrial district, although many of its businesses have relocated in recent times. It is also home to an Italian community and the site of the historic Hull House, where Nobel Prize winner Jane Addams ministered to the needs of the city's working-class poor at the turn of the century. The West Side Medical Center, with seven hospitals and two medical schools, is the largest medical complex in the world.

Chicago's North Side, to the north and northwest of the Chicago River, is a mostly residential area. The part nearest to the Loop has undergone a renaissance since the 1980s, as artists and other city trendsetters set up lofts in a former industrial and warehouse district that has drawn comparisons to New York's SoHo neighborhood. Today known as River North, it has become an increasingly upscale locale of galleries, studios, and clubs. Another successfully redeveloped area north of the Loop is North Michigan Avenue, also known as the Magnificent Mile, home to pricey retailers, hotels, and restaurants.

City Fact Comparison
(United States)(Egypt)(Italy)(China)
Population of urban area16,945,00010,772,0002,688,00012,033,000
Date the city was founded1830AD 969753 BC723 BC
Daily costs to visit the city2
Hotel (single occupancy)$130$193$172$129
Meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner)$44$56$59$62
Incidentals (laundry, dry cleaning, etc.)$26$14$15$16
Total daily costs (hotel, meals, incidentals)176$173$246$207
Major Newspapers3
Number of newspapers serving the city5132011
Largest newspaperChicago TribuneAkhbar El Yom/Al AkhbarLa RepubblicaRenmin Ribao
Circulation of largest newspaper673,5081,159,450754,9303,000,000
Date largest newspaper was established1847194419761948
1United Nations population estimates for the year 2000.
2The maximum amount the U.S. Government reimburses its employees for business travel. The lodging portion of the allowance is based on the cost for a single room at a moderately-priced hotel. The meal portion is based on the costs of an average breakfast, lunch, and dinner including taxes, service charges, and customary tips. Incidental travel expenses include such things as laundry and dry cleaning.
3David Maddux, ed. Editor&Publisher International Year Book. New York: The Editor&Publisher Company, 1999.

A less heartening part of Chicago's North Side is the Cabrini-Green public housing project to the northwest of the River North district. Further to the north of the city, beginning with the Mid-North Side to the west of shore-front Lincoln Park, are upscale residential neighborhoods, including Edgebrook and Sauganash. To the southeast is an industrial area traversed by the Chicago skyway. To the southwest are Bridgeport and Chinatown.

Chicago is the center of an eight-county metropolitan area extending about 65 kilometers (40 or so miles) from the city, to the north, west, and south. Its suburbs include such wealthy communities as Oak Park, Evanston, Skokie, and Lake Forest. Some nearby towns in Indiana, including Gary and Hammond, have also become de facto suburbs of Chicago.

6. History

The first Europeans to arrive at the site of present-day Chicago were French explorer Louis Joliet and Father Jacques Marquette in 1673. Over a century later, in 1783, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable became the first permanent resident of European descent in the area when he established a fur-trading post there. Early in its history, the settlement endured the massacre of 53 Americans when 500 Potawatomi warriors stormed Fort Dearborn, which had been built to protect the settlers, during the War of 1812. (The fort was rebuilt by 1816.) The first major spur to the growth of the town was the building of the Illinois & Michigan Canal linking the Great Lakes with the Mississippi River basin. Planned in 1830, the canal wasn't completed until 1848, although a speculative land boom was already underway in the 1830s, and the population surged upward. The city was incorporated and held its first mayoral election in 1837.

By 1848, when the canal was completed, the first railroad arrived in the city, and Chicago became the rail hub of the growing nation and a marketing center for farm produce and livestock, as well as the center of the meatpacking industry and home to the country's first financial exchange, the Chicago Board of Trade. By mid-century, the arrival of Irish, German, and Scandinavian immigrants was providing a labor force to spur the growth in industry, and the Irish established one of the city's first ethnic communities in Bridgeport. The city's population grew from 4,470 in 1840 to 28,000 in 1850, and then to 110,000 by the following decade. By 1890 it passed the one-million mark to become the nation's second-largest metropolis after New York.

In 1860 Chicago hosted the Republican Convention that nominated Abraham Lincoln for the presidency, and the city played a vital role in the Civil War by serving as the primary supplier of beef to the Union soldiers. In the postwar era, Chicago became the country's major lumber market as well as its grain-handling capital, as well as a manufacturing center for farm machinery. While the city's upper classes enjoyed unprecedented wealth, its thousands of working-class residents suffered the overcrowded and unsanitary conditions common to the urban poor of the industrial age. Jane Addams's Hull House became famous for its efforts to improve conditions for immigrant tenement dwellers on the city's West Side. Eventually sanitary conditions became so lethal that the course of the Chicago River was reversed at the turn of the century to keep its sewage-and industrial waste-laden waters from further polluting Lake Michigan and to end recurring outbreaks of waterborne infectious diseases.

Although the Great Fire of October 8, 1871, devastated the city, killing between 250 and 300 people and destroying more than 17,000 buildings, Chicago's economic baseits stockyards, freight yards, and industrial areawere spared, enabling the city to rebuild rapidly. Much of the city was restored within a year, and Chicago continued to grow. In 1893, in the face of a nationwide economic depression, the city hosted the World's Columbian Exposition, which attracted some 21 million visitors. The 1890s was also the decade when Chicago became famous as the home of a new form of architecture that was to transform America's urban landscapethe skyscraper. During this period, the city's wealth also financed the creation of major cultural institutions such as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Art Institute.

By the late nineteenth century, Chicago was already notorious for its political corruption, and reform efforts were implemented by the 1890s. However, the city reputation as the vice capital of the nation was renewed with the rise of mobsters Al Capone, John Dillinger, and their cohorts in the 1920s and 1930s. Chicagoans suffered keenly from the Great Depression but, like other areas of the country, recovered during World War II (19391945), becoming one of the nation's top centers for defense-related production, as well as the site of its first controlled nuclear reaction, overseen by Enrico Fermi at the University of Chicago in 1942.

A major development of the post-war era has been the suburbanization of the city, whose population, which accounted for roughly two-thirds of the metropolitan area in 1950, shrank to only one-third by 1990, and Los Angeles replaced Chicago as the nation's second most populous city. Chicago's racial balance has also changed during this period, with blacks becoming the major ethnic group in an increasingly segregated city, and suburban sprawl has replaced formerly populated areas in the heart of the city with teeming expressways.

The first postwar decades were the Daley era (19551976), when Mayor Richard J. Daley oversaw a period of robust expansion and modernization that included the construction of O'Hare International Airport and the world's tallest building, the Sears Tower. However, it was also during the Daley years that the disturbances at the 1968 Democratic convention etched themselves indelibly on the consciousness of the nation. Since then Chicago has had a woman mayor (Jane Byrne, 19791983) and its first black mayor (Harold Washington, 19831987), as well as its first female black senator (Carol Moseley-Braun, 1992). The Daley name regained its prominence in city politics in the 1990s with the election of Richard M. Daley to the post of mayor.

7. Government

Chicago's municipal government operates under a 1971 charter, providing for a mayor-council form of government. The city's mayor and the 50 alderman who make up the council are all elected for four-year terms.

8. Public Safety

The Chicago Police Department is the second-largest municipal police force in the United States. In 1997 the department employed 13,466 sworn officers, 2,060 civilian employees, as well as 1,000 crossing guards. In 1995, violent crimes reported to police (per 100,000 population) included 30 murders, 1,094 robberies, and 1,426 aggravated assaults. Property crimes totaled 7,198 and included 1,463 burglaries, 4,418 cases of larceny/theft, and 1,316 motor vehicle thefts.

9. Economy

Chicago has long been one of the country's major manufacturing and distribution centers. Important manufacturing industries include steel, telecommunications equipment, automobile accessories, agricultural equipment, scientific instruments, diesel engines, consumer electronics, paint, and food products. The city's central location, inland port, and rail accessibility made it a major market for Midwest farmers by the nineteenth century, and it remains a significant transport center today. Retailing is another dominant sector in the economy of Chicago, which is home to thousands of wholesalers and retailers, including such retail giants as Sears, Marshall Field, and Montgomery Ward.

Home to the Midwest Stock Exchange, the Chicago Board of Trade (the nation's oldest financial exchange), and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Chicago is one of the top financial centers in the United States. Its LaSalle Street is considered the Wall Street of the Midwest. The city is also a publishing powerhouse, ranked second only to New York, and a leader in industrial research and biotechnology. Chicago's largest employers include Jewel Food Stores, Motorola, Advocate Health Care, Ameritech, and First Chicago Corporation.

10. Environment

Two bodies of water have been central to the history and development of the city of Chicagothe Chicago River and Lake Michigan, the third largest of the Great Lakes and the only one completely within the United States. The southwestern shore borders an urban area that includes not only Chicago, but also Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Gary, Indiana. The concentration of industrialization has led to growing pollution problems.

The Chicago River formerly flowed into Lake Michigan, but its course was reversed, because of pollution, in 1900. In the waning years of the twentieth century, significant efforts were made to clean up the river, which had suffered from the effects of unhampered industrialization since the nineteenth century. The Chicago River became a repository of refuse from the slaughterhouse industry and other forms of industrial pollution. By 1999, over 50 species of fishincluding salmon, carp, and perchreturned to the river's waters, and the Friends of the Chicago River began to lead walking tours along the riverfront.

Encircling the city along its northern, western and southern boundaries, the Cook County Forest Preserves cover 66,746 acres, providing woodlands, open spaces, and recreational facilities. About five percent of the preserves belong to the Illinois Nature Preserve system, which protects the natural habitats of endangered species and other animals.

11. Shopping

Although many of the major retailers have left Chicago's central Loop district, the city still offers abundant and varied shopping outlets. Today its premier shopping area is the "Magnificent Mile" on North Michigan Avenue, stretching north of the Chicago River to Oak Street. Its multi-story shopping complexes boast such top-notch department stores as Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman-Marcus, Lord & Taylor, and Marshall Field's, as well as upscale retailers including Louis Vuitton, Tiffany, Cartier, Brooks Brothers, and Gucci. Further north is the Armitage-Halsted-Webster shopping area. In contrast to the exclusive shops found in these shopping districts, Chicago is also the home of the world's largest wholesale store, Merchandise Mart on North Orleans Street. The waterfront North Pier Mall offers a shopping complex in a renovated warehouse. Another interesting shopping district is the Andersonville area on the North Side, whose specialty stores include a feminist bookstore (Women and Children First), an apothecary shop stocked with fragrances and other personal-care products, a store featuring American-made crafts, a Swedish bakery, and a canine deli bakery (Fido's Food Fair).

12. Education

As of 1995, 84 percent of Chicago metropolitan area residents had completed high school; 31 percent of males and 26 percent of females had completed a bachelor's degree.

The Chicago Public Schools District, the state's largest, operated 567 schools in the fall of 1996 when it enrolled 408,201 students. Close to 90 percent were minority students, mostly black (54 percent) and Hispanic (32 percent). The system employed 23,433 teachers, with a pupil/teacher ratio of 20 to one; support staff totaled 27,827. The school district has won national attention for its Stephen Decatur Classical School, an elementary school for gifted students, and also operates the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, which is located on a farm within the city boundaries. Chicago also has over 200 parochial schools and more than 100 secular private schools.

The University of Chicago, founded in 1891 and endowed by John D. Rockefeller, has a national reputation for excellence, in both the sciences and the humanities. Its research facilities include the Enrico Fermi Institute and the Argonne National Laboratory. The University of Illinois at Chicago offers bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and professional degrees to some 25,000 students. Chicago is also home to three Catholic universities: DePaul, Loyola, and Saint Xavier. The city has a variety of other institutions of higher learning, including Chicago City-Wide Colleges, Roosevelt University, the Illinois Institute of Technology, the Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine, Vandercook College of Music, and the prestigious Art Institute of Chicago.

13. Health Care

Chicagothe site of prime-time television's most famous medical drama of the 1990s, ER is also a top health-care center in real life. The city has a total of more than 60 hospitals. Its University of Chicago Hospitals are renowned both for their treatment and research facilities. Among these facilities are Wyler Children's Hospital, Chicago Lying-in Hospital, and Bernard Mitchell Hospital. In 1998 the hospital system logged 23,470 admissions and 428,396 outpatient visits and employed 1,593 people. Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center is affiliated with Rush Medical College and Rush School Nursing. The Chicago area's major public health facility is Cook County Hospital. Other hospitals include Chicago Memorial Hospital, Edgewater Hospital, Grant Hospital, Holy Cross Hospital, John F. Kennedy Medical Center, Roseland Community Hospital, South Chicago Community hospital, and Weiss Memorial Hospital.

14. Media

Chicago has two major daily newspapers, both published in the morningthe Chicago Tribune (daily circulation 584,097, Sundays 1,019,458) and the Chicago Sun-Times (daily circulation 332,047, Sundays 411,334). The Chicago Daily Defender is a well-known daily newspaper serving the black community, and there are many more newspapers published for the city's various racial and ethnic populations. Crain's Chicago Business is produced by the Crain media chain; The Reader is an alternative weekly that circulates primarily on the North Side, and Streetwise is published for the benefit of Chicago's homeless. Chicago Monthly magazine contains feature articles and dining and entertainment information, and the bimonthly Chicago Life also covers the metropolitan area.

In addition to local publications, Chicagoas one of the country's major publishing centersis the source of hundreds of nationally distributed newspapers and magazines, including Ebony, American Libraries, and Jet, as well as a number of scholarly journals published at the University of Chicago.

All the major television networks have affiliated stations in Chicago, which has a total of about 20 commercial, public television, and cable stations, as well as some 60 am and FM radio stations. A major regional broadcast center, Chicago is also home to the Oprah Winfrey show and to Winfrey's production company, Harpo Productions.

15. Sports

Chicago's long history as an avid sports town had its nadir in baseball's infamous "Black Sox" scandal of 1919, when members of the White Sox baseball team were bribed to lose the World Series championship, and its crowning glory in the 1990s, when superstar Michael Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to six National Basketball Association (NBA) championships in eight years under the stewardship of coach Phil Jackson. Chicago is also home to two major-league baseball teamsthe National League's Chicago Cubs, who play at Wrigley Field, and the American League's White Sox, whose home games take place at Comiskey Park. The Chicago Bears of the National Football League (NFL) play at Soldier Field, and Chicago is also home to the Chicago Black Hawks of the National Hockey League (NHL). Horse racing takes place at Arlington International Racecourse, Balmoral Park Racetrack, Hawthorne Downs Racetrack, Maywood Park Racetrack, and other venues, and auto racing can be seen at the Santa Fe Speedway.

16. Parks and Recreation

Chicago has 2,954 hectares (7,300 acres) of parkland. Its largest and best-known park is Grant Park, extending along Lake Michigan at the city's eastern edge, and encompassing within its boundaries Soldier Field, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Field Museum of Natural History. The second-largest park is the 242-hectare (598-acre) lakefront Burnham Park. Of Chicago's inland parks, the largest is Washington Park. Lincoln Park, on the North Side, extends from Lake Michigan to Clark Street.

In addition to parks located within city limits, Chicagoans also enjoy the Cook County Forest Preserves that ring the city, offering open space, as well as 13 golf courses and driving ranges, swimming pools, bicycle paths, picnic areas, and over 30 fishing lakes and ponds.

The Shedd Aquarium's 170,000-square-foot Oceanarium is the world's largest indoor marine mammal exhibit. One of the last free zoos in the United States, the privately managed Lincoln Park Zoo houses over 1,000 animals and receives support from the Chicago Park District.

Chicago has over 24 kilometers (15 miles) of swimming beaches and 29 kilometers (18 miles) of lakefront bicycle paths. Other popular participant sports include canoeing, fishing, golf, tennis, cross-country skiing, ice skating, and toboganning.

17. Performing Arts

Chicago is renowned for its theater tradition. Stage performances draw around three million attendees annually. Among the two best-known theatrical organizations in the city are the Goodman Theater, its oldest resident troupe; Steppenwolf Theater Company, associated with playwright David Mamet; and the famed improvisational group Second City, training ground for many talented comic performers who have since gone on to achieve nationwide success in film and television. Other theater groups include the Court Theatre, the Pegasus Players, Victory Gardens, and Wisdom Bridge. Touring performances of Broadway productions can be seen at the Schubert Theatre.

The Chicago Symphony, one of the best in the nation, performs from fall through spring at Orchestra Hall on Michigan Avenue and at the Ravinia Festival on the North Shore in the summer months. Chicago has two opera companies, Lyric Opera of Chicago, which performs operas in their original languages with supertitles displayed above the stage, and Chicago Opera Theater, which performs in English. Chicago's resident ballet troupe is Ballet Chicago, founded in 1988. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago stages contemporary dance performances.

Known as "the Blues Capital of the World," Chicago has been a prime venue for blues clubs and performers since the 1930s, and this tradition is vibrantly renewed every spring at the lakefront Chicago Blues Festival, which draws crowds of as many as 400,000 during its three days.

18. Libraries and Museums

Founded in 1872, the Chicago Public Library serves over two-and-a-half million people, with an annual circulation of 8,305,158. Its book holdings total nearly six-and-a-half million volumes while its non-book holdings comprise some four-and-a-half million items. The library operates the central Harold Washington Library Center, 77 neighborhood branches, and two regional libraries. Special collections include the Chicago Theater Collection, the Chicago Blues Archives, an early American newspaper collection, and many others. Besides its public library, Chicago is also home to a number of university and government libraries, as well as private libraries run by historical and cultural societies, private corporations, medical facilities, and other groups. The main library of the University of Chicago, serving some 10,000 students and over 1,000 faculty members, maintains a collection of over six million books, more than 20,000 compact disks, and other materials. The university's libraries house special collections in modern poetry, anatomical illustration, English Bibles, and numerous other areas. The university's Newberry Library also houses a well-known research collection.

The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the country's premier art museums. It houses more than 300,000 artworks, cared for by ten curatorial departments. It has one of the world's great collections of Impressionist art, as well as outstanding collections of twentieth-century art and Japanese woodblock prints. Its print and drawing collections is also one of the nation's finest. With a collection of over 16 million items, the Field Museum of Natural History ranks as one of the world's great natural history museums. Chicago has over 40 other museums of all kinds, including the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Contemporary Photography; Chicago Academy of Sciences, featuring lively inter-active exhibits; the hands-on Chicago Children's Museum; the Chicago Historical Society museum; the International Museum of Surgical Sciences; the May Weber Museum of Cultural Arts, which displays folk art from many countries; the Museum of Broadcast Communications; and the Museum of Science and Industry. Among the city's many museums dedicated to the heritage of specific racial and ethnic groups are the Du Sable Museum of African American History, the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, the Spertus Museum of Judaica, the Swedish American Museum Center, and the Ukrainian National Museum.

19. Tourism

Chicago is a popular tourist destination for both domestic and overseas visitors. In 1995 approximately two-and-a-half million foreign travelers visited the city, ranking it ninth nationally in this category. In August 1999, the city expected to attract $192.7 million in convention business.

20. Holidays and Festivals

Chicago Boat, Sports, and RV Show

Chicago Auto Show
Chinese New Year Parade
Navy Pier County Fair
Winter Break
3 on 3 Basketball Tournament
Azalea and Camellia Show

Chicago Flower and Garden Show
Maple Syrup Festival
St. Patrick's Day Celebration & Fireworks
South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade

Chicago Latino Festival

Wright Plus House Walk
Printer's Row Book Fair

Chicago Blues Festival
Chicago Country Music Festival
Chicago Gospel Festival
57th Street Air Fair
Boulevard-Lakefront Bicycle Tour
Andersonville Midsommarfest

Mid-June to mid-August
Grant Park Music Festival

Late June-early July
Taste of Chicago

Fiesta de Hemingway
Venetian Night
Lakefront fireworks (July 3)
Chicago to Mackinac Island Boat Race
World's Largest Block Party
Newberry Library Book Fair

Chicago Air & Water Show
Latin Music Festival
Chicago Triathlon

Late August-September
Chicago Jazz Festival

Berghoff Oktoberfest
Chicago International Film Festival
LaSalle Banks Chicago Marathon

Ski Snowmobile & Winter Sports Show
Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

Chicago Park District Winter Festival Flower Show

21. Famous Citizens

Famous citizens who were born in Chicago include:

Mayor Richard J. Daley (19021976).

Hillary Rodham Clinton (b. 1947), First Lady of the United States.

Jesse Jackson (b. 1941), African-American civil rights leader.

Walter Elias (Walt) Disney (19011966), animator and filmmaker.

Jack Benny (18941974), comedian.

Saul Bellow, Nobel Prize-winning author.

John Dos Passos (18961970), author.

Jane Addams (18601935), founder of Hull House.

Benny Goodman (19091986), clarinetist.

David Mamet (b. 1947), playwright.

Michael Jordan (b. 1963), basketball superstar.

22. For Further Study


Chicago City Net. [Online] Available (accessed October 11, 1999).

Chicago City Page. [Online] Available (accessed October 11, 1999).

Chicago Home Page. [Online] Available (accessed October 11, 1999).

City Insights Chicago. [Online] Available (accessed October 11, 1999).

Government Offices

Chicago City Hall
121 N. La Salle St.
Chicago, IL 60602
(312) 744-0000

Chicago Office of Tourism
78 E. Washington St.
Chicago, IL 60602
(312) 744-2359

Mayor's Office
121 N. La Salle St. Rm. 507
Chicago, IL 60602
(312) 744-3300

Tourist and Convention Bureaus

Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau
2301 S. Lake Shore Dr.
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 567-8500


Chicago Magazine
500 N. Dearborn Ave. Suite 1200
Chicago, IL 60610

Chicago Sun-Times
401 N. Wabash Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611

Chicago Tribune
435 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611

Crain's Chicago Business
740 N. Rush St.
Chicago, IL 60611


Abrams, Isabel S. The Nature of Chicago: A Comprehensive Guide to Natural Sites In and Around the City. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 1997.

Addams, Jane. Twenty Years at Hull-House. New York: Macmillan, 1910.

Bellow, Saul. Humboldt's Gift. New York: Viking, 1975. [Fiction]

Crimi, Carolyn. Kidding Around Chicago: What to Do, Where to Go, and How to Have Fun in Chicago. Santa Fe, N.M.: John Muir Publications, 1998

Dale, Alzina Stone. Mystery Reader's Walking Guide, Chicago. Lincolnwood, Ill.: Passport Books, 1995.

Farber, David. Chicago '68. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988.

Figliulo, Susan. Romantic Days and Nights in Chicago: Romantic Diversions in and Around the City. 2nd ed. Old Saybrook, Conn.: Globe Pequot Press, 1999.

Granger, Bill, and Lori Granger. Fighting Jane: Mayor Jane Byrne and the Chicago Machine. New York: Dial Press, 1980.

Hayner, Don, and Tom McNamee. Metro Chicago Almanac. Chicago: Chicago Sun-Times, 1991.

Hayner, Don, and Tom McNamee. Streetwise Chicago, A History of Chicago Street Names. Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1988.

Liebling, A. J. Chicago: The Second City. Drawings by Steinberg. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1952.

Miller, Ross. American Apocolypse: The Great Fire and the Myth of Chicago. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990.

Rowe, Mike. Chicago Blues: The City and the Music. New York: Da Capo Press, 1975.

Royko, Mike. Boss: Richard J. Daley and His Era. Chicago: Dutton, 1971.

Saliga, Pauline A., ed. The Sky's the Limit: A Century of Chicago Skyscrapers. New York: Rizzoli, 1990.

Sandburg, Carl. Chicago Poems. New York: Holt, 1916.

Terkel, Studs. Division Street: America. New York: Pantheon, 1967.

Uhl, Michael. Frommer's Memorable Walks in Chicago. New York: Macmillan USA, 1998.


Chicago: One Magnificent City. San Ramon, CA: International Video Network, 1991.


views updated Jun 11 2018


CHICAGO , the third largest metropolis in the United States is located in northeastern *Illinois. In 2000 it had an estimated population of 2,896,000 in a metropolitan population of 8,091,719. In 2000 the Jewish population of Chicago and its suburbs was estimated at 270,000, making it the fifth largest Jewish community in America. In 1930 Chicago had the second largest American Jewish community, an estimated 350,000 Jews, and in 1959 it was the third largest, with an estimated 282,000 Jews. The numerical decline is a result of migration primarily to the West Coast, especially Los Angeles, and to the Southwest and South, as well as a relatively low birth rate, intermarriage, and a decline in immigrants from overseas.

Early Settlement

Jews were among Chicago's earliest settlers. In 1832, a year before the little settlement was officially incorporated as a "town," Morris Baumgarten resided there. In 1834 Aaron Friend and Isaac Hays advertised in the Chicago Democrat concerning unclaimed mail, and Peter Cohen advertised "a large and splendid assortment of winter clothing" as well as a "fresh supply of provisions, groceries, and liquors" for sale in his store. In 1836 the "Jewish Peddler," J. Gottlieb, made his mark on the growing western town. In 1837 Chicago, with 5,000 inhabitants, was incorporated as a city; between 1840 and 1844 about 20 Jews settled in the city, most of them immigrants from Bavaria and the Rhenish Palatinate in Germany. The first High Holy Day service was held on the Day of Atonement, 1845. As in other cities in the Colonies and the States, the first community organization was the Jewish Burial Ground Society, which came into being late in 1845 and purchased an acre of land from the city to be used as a cemetery. On October 3, 1846, in the dry-goods emporium of Rosenfeld and Rosenberg, 15 Jews founded the first Jewish congregation in the city, Kehillath Anshe Ma'arav ("the Congregation of the People of the West"), subsequently referred to as kam. They practiced the traditional Minhag Ashkenaz and worshiped in a room above a clothing store. The Jewish Burial Ground Society merged with kam, and kam dedicated the first Chicago synagogue in 1851. The Reverend Ignatz Kunreuther (b. 1811) from Frankfurt on the Main was invited to be ḥazzan and shoḥet; in 1853 he presided over a "Constituted Rabbinate Collegium" that converted a woman to Judaism. That same year Kunreuther was succeeded in his congregational post by Godfrey Snydacker from Westphalia, Germany; Snydacker, a trained teacher, laid the foundation of the day school at kam, where Hebrew, English, and German were taught "in addition to the common branches." By the middle of the century two additional community organizations came into being: the Hebrew Benevolent Society of Chicago, a group of semi-religious character, dissatisfied with kam's orthodoxy, and Kehillath B'nai Sholom (kbs), primarily consisting of Jews from Posen who practiced the traditional Minhag Polen. The latter was organized in September 1849 (not May 1852, the anniversary date given by many). The Hebrew Benevolent Society purchased three acres of land for a cemetery, part of which kbs purchased. In 1856 a segment of kbs formed the Chevrath Gemilath Chassodim Ubikur Cholem. A year later the Ramah Lodge No. 33 of B'nai B'rith was organized. By 1860 Chicago was home to the Juedischer Reformverein, founded as the Israelite Reform Society in 1857; the United Hebrew Relief Association, the charity organization founded in 1859; the Young Men's Fraternity; the Clay Literary and Dramatic Association; the Ladies' Benevolent Society; and the Young Ladies Benevolent Society. In 1860 the Jewish population stood at 1,500, out of the city's total population of 112,260.

After 1860

In 1861 the Reform Congregation Sinai was founded, a development of the Juedischer Reformverein, organized four years earlier. Its spiritual leader was Bernard *Felsenthal, who in 1859 had published Kol Kore Bammidbar ("Voice Calling in the Wilderness"), a German brochure, in favor of reform in Judaism. Three years later Felsenthal founded the Zion Congregation, and was succeeded at Sinai by Isaac Loew Chronik of Koenigsberg. Chronik was the first to publish a German-Jewish magazine in Chicago, Zeichen der Zeit ("Signs of the Time"). A year later Chronik returned to Germany and was succeeded by Kaufman *Kohler. In November 1861 the Chevrah Kedisha Ubikur Cholem seceded from the Chevrah Gemilath Chassodim Ubikur Cholem and evolved into a synagogue that became known as "Secesh [i.e., secessionist] Shule." By this time Russian, Polish, and Lithuanian immigrants from Eastern Europe began to arrive in the city. Their vernacular was Yiddish, and their chief occupation peddling. As early as the autumn of 1862 the East European Jews organized Congregation B'nai Jacob, and a year later, Beth Hamedrash Hagodol; in 1867 both congregations merged under the name Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Ub'nai Jacob. Soon after, the Russian-Polish Jews organized the Ohave Emuno ("Lovers of Faith") congregation. The decade closed with the organization in 1870 of Congregation Ohave Sholom Mariampoler and Congregation Ahavath Achim. The former grew out of a controversy over a straw hat that a Mariampoler man was wearing during Sabbath services at the Beth Hamedrash Hagodol and because of which he was ejected. The Mariampoler Aid Society had been organized earlier. During this decade some Jews from Germany and Bohemia organized the Congregation B'nai Abraham on the "southwest side." In August 1868 the Jewish Hospital built by the United Hebrew Relief Association was opened for patients, including many non-Jews. When Civil War hostilities began, the Jewish community in Chicago had increased to the extent that it was able to recruit a complete company of a hundred Jewish volunteers to join the 82nd Regiment of Illinois Volunteers. The Jewish community of Chicago quickly recovered from the Great Fire of 1871, which affected the neighborhood of the German Jews, and from the fire of 1874, which affected mostly East European Jews. The 1871 fire destroyed the new Jewish hospital, five of the city's seven synagogues, many Jewish institutional buildings, and most of the downtown Jewish-owned businesses and homes. The neighborhood of the Russian and Polish Jews received the cognomen "the ghetto" and that of the German Jews, the "golden ghetto." The so-called ghetto was described by a contemporary in 1891 as follows:

On the West Side, in a district bounded by Sixteenth Street on the South and Polk Street on the north and the Chicago river and Halsted street on the east and west, one can walk the streets for blocks and see none but Semitic features and hear nothing but the Hebrew patois of Russian Poland. In this restricted boundary, in narrow streets, ill-ventilated tenements and rickety cottages, there is a population of from 15,000 to 16,000 Russian Jews. Every Jew in this quarter who can speak a word of English is engaged in business of some sort. The favorite occupation, probably on account of the small capital required, is fruit and vegetable peddling. Here, also is the home of the Jewish street merchant, the rag and junk peddler, and the "glass pudding" man. The principal streets in the quarter are lined with stores of every description. Trades, with which Jews are not usually associated, such as saloonkeeping, shaving and hair cutting, and blacksmithing, have their representatives and Hebrew signs. In a narrow street a private school is in full blast. In the front basement room of a small cottage forty small boys all with hats on, sit crowded into a space 10 × 10 feet in size, presided over by a stout middle-aged man with a long, curling, matted beard, who also retains his hat, a battered rusty derby of ancient style. All the old or middle-aged men in the quarter affect this peculiar headgear.… The younger generation of men are more progressive and having been born in this country are patriotic and want to be known as Americans and not Russians.… The commercial life of this district seems to be uncommonly keen. Everyone is looking for a bargain and everyone has something to sell. The home life seems to be full of content and easygoing unconcern for what the outside world thinks.… (Chicago Tribune, July 19, 1891).

This area contained the famous Maxwell Street Market, which flourished from the 1870s until it was closed by the city in 1994. For many years it was the third largest retail area in the city. Jews lived in the Maxwell Street area in large numbers until the 1920s. Among the prominent people who lived in the Maxwell Street area were Benny *Goodman, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Arthur *Goldberg, the father of the atomic-powered submarine, Admiral Hyman *Rickover, cbs founder William *Paley, novelist Meyer *Levin, Academy-Award-winning actor Paul *Muni, social activist Saul *Alinsky, movie mogul Barney *Balaban, world champion boxers Jackie *Fields and Barney *Ross, and a number of well-known local politicians and businessmen.

Economic Activity

Of the large migration from Germany, Prussia, Hungary, Bohemia, and Poland in the 1840s and 1850s, most became peddlers, and later many opened small businesses. In the 1860s Jews began to enter the medical and legal professions; some also went into banking, even founding Jewish banking houses. The new Russian immigrants of the 1880s preferred factory work and small business. The greatest number of them, 4,000 by 1900, were employed in the clothing industry, mainly its ready-made branches. The second largest number, 2,400 by 1900, entered the tobacco industry, primarily the cigar trade, many of them in business for themselves. The Russian immigrants had been preceded in these trades by the earlier Jewish immigrants, but now far outnumbered them. Among the Russian Jews at the turn of the century were also about 2,000 rag peddlers, 1,000 fruit and vegetable peddlers, and a good number of iron peddlers; others found work ranging from common laborers to highly skilled mechanics and technicians. The growth of sweat-shops in the needle trade in the 1880s with their unsanitary conditions and excessive hours was the determining factor in the development of the Jewish socialist movement and the Jewish trade-union movement. The Chicago Cloakmakers Union, predominantly Jewish, was the first to protest against child labor, which persisted despite compulsory education, and conditions in the sweatshops. They succeeded only in establishing a 14-year-old age limit and limiting any one sweatshop to the members of one family. In that period there were many short-lived unions and several strikes in the clothing industry in Chicago, mainly by East European workers against German-Jewish shopowners, but the first successful strike did not take place until 1910; it included workers from the latest influx of Russian immigrants, who fled the Russian revolution of 1905 and among whom were many revolutionary idealists. The strike was conducted in the face of the hostile leadership of the United Garment Workers, their union, which sent in strike-breakers. Nevertheless, it was this strike that in 1911 established collective bargaining in the clothing industry. It spurred the New York Tailors locals to organize nationally, and ultimately, laid the foundations for a new and lasting union, the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, under the leadership of Chicagoan Sidney *Hillman. An alternative to sweatshops and peddling was provided for a few by the Jewish Agriculturalists Aid Society of America, founded in Chicago in 1888 by Abraham R. Levy. It made loans to prospective farmers in the Midwest, 89 of whom were still farming at that time.

Although they began as peddlers and small store owners, German Jews came to Chicago early and with a relatively good secular education. They soon prospered and went into the professions and large business. They ran such well-known national companies as Florsheim, Spiegel, Aldens, Kuppenheimer, Hart Shaffner and Marx, A.G. Becker, Albert Pick, Brunswick and Inland Steel. Julius *Rosenwald oversaw the growth of Sears Roebuck. He was a major philanthropist for Jewish and non-Jewish causes and for the establishment of the Museum of Science and Industry. His brother-in law Max Adler, also of Sears Roebuck and a philantopist, founded the Adler Planetarium. For a number of generations there was some friction between the German Jew and the Eastern European Jews, mainly due to differences in religious beliefs, tradition, language, and economic status. The two groups lived apart and each had their own institutions. Today in Chicago – as elsewhere – the former divisions of the two groups are virtually nonexistent.

Population Growth and Demographic Changes

From the 1880s to the 1920s the Jewish population grew from 10,000 to 225,000, or from 2 percent to 8 percent of the general population. In 1900 about 65 percent of Chicago's Jews were of East European origin; in 1920 about 80 percent were. Between World War i and World War ii the west side, with the largest number and proportion of foreign-born, was the seat of the large Orthodox and smaller secular Jewish movements. The community of North Lawndale with an estimated 110,000 Jews in 1930 was the most intensively Jewish area and the center of Jewish life. The North Lawndale Jewish community was the largest such community that Chicago ever had. It was the home of 60 synagogues, all but two being Orthodox. It claimed Yiddish theaters, the Hebrew Theological College, the very active Jewish People's Institute, a much used community center, Mt. Sinai Hospital, facilities for the aged, blind, and orphans, and numerous Zionist, religious, cultural, educational, and social organizations. For a while Gold Meyer-son (*Meir) lived in this area and worked in the local public library. Most of the area residents had previously lived in the Maxwell Street area. By contrast, the Albany Park area on the northwest side, which in 1930 accommodated an estimated 29,000 persons, was attractive to families desiring more rapid acculturation. In 1930 the Jewish population of Chicago increased to 265,450. A survey in 1937 revealed that of the adult Jewish population over 15 years of age, 57 percent were born outside the United States. Of the latter, 78 percent had come from the former Russian Empire; 18 percent from Central Europe (Germany, Austria, Bohemia, Hungary, and Romania); 2 percent from Western and Northwestern Europe; and 2 percent from the East and Near East. In 1930 other Chicago areas with sizable Jewish populations included the north lake-front area of Lakeview-Uptown, Rogers Park with 27,000 Jews; West Town-Humboldt Park-Logan Square with 35,000 Jews on the northwest side; and Kenwood-Hyde Park and Woodlawn-South Shore on the south side, The south side Jewish communities had the highest economic status, and consisted mainly of German Jews, followed by the north and northwest side Jews. Of all these communities, only Kenwood-Hyde Park in the University of Chicago area still has a small, but viable, Jewish community, as does the north lakefront area.

As of 1940, Jewish families were substantially smaller than those of other religious and ethnic groups. Among Jewish men, self-employment (employers and own-account workers) was much more prominent than among men of other groups. White-collar occupations, such as proprietors, managers, and clerical workers, were especially attractive to them. In local, as in national politics, Jews were predominantly identified with the Democratic Party. In the 1936 presidential election Franklin Delano Roosevelt received 95.95 percent of the vote in the Jewish 24th ward in North Lawndale, leading President Roosevelt to comment that it was the best ward in the whole country.

With the end of World War ii the settlement pattern of the Jewish population of Chicago underwent a radical change. From the 1940s through the 1960s, Jews relocated their residences in the northern part of the city and in the suburbs to its north, including Skokie, Lincolnwood, Wilmette, Winnetka, Glencoe, Highland Park, and Evanston; south, including Park Forest; and west, including Oak Park and Des Plaines. In 1947 the Chicago Tribune recorded the Jewish population in the city and within a 40 mile radius of it as 342,800. By 1952 the Jewish population of Chicago had declined to approximately 300,000, mostly English-speaking and native-born. In 1963 it was estimated that 80 percent of the total Jewish population resided in the northern sector that stretches roughly from Albany Park in the city to the suburb of Wilmette in Cook County. In 1970 West Rogers Park and suburban Skokie were the largest Jewish communities, each with a Jewish population of almost 50,000, constituting about 70 percent of the total population of each area. In the late 1970s a small group of American Nazis tried to schedule a march in Skokie, specifically targeting its large Holocaust survivor population, who supported the efforts to ban the march and faced stiff opposition from the aclu and other free speech advocates. To a considerable extent, the development of these new communities with religious, educational, cultural, and social service facilities was the result of a conscious effort to perpetuate the cohesion of Jewish groups. Community leaders held the opinion that a modicum of Jewish education and voluntary segregation in a high-status residential area would forestall assimilation. By 1969 there were growing Jewish communities in such other Chicago suburbs as Arlington Heights, Deerfield, Morton Grove, Mt. Prospect, Northbrook, and Buffalo-Groves. Yet the city of Chicago remained the center of the community, with many of the area Jews commuting into town for work and Jewish institutional life remaining there.

The 1970s and After


During recent decades the Chicago Jewish community has been able to identify changes in the Jewish population through scientific surveys conducted by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. In 1970 the population was estimated at 251,000; in 1980 at 248,000; in 1990 at 261,000; and in 2000 at 270,000. In 2000 it was also learned that there were an additional 50,000 non-Jews living in Jewish households, including non-Jewish spouses, children, and partners.

Several trends were evident, which parallel those in other communities. The first involves the growth in the number of households, from approximately 97,000 in 1970 to 134,000 in 2000; the increase is related to more households with singles, empty nesters (i.e., families in which the children have grown and left home), and the elderly. The percentage of households with married couples having children has steadily declined, while the proportion of households with single adults has steadily increased.

The second trend is the suburbanization of the population. In the early 1950s, it was projected that only 4 percent of the Jewish population lived in the suburbs outside the city of Chicago. By 1971 the population was evenly split between city and suburbs, in 1980 nearly 60 percent lived in the suburbs and by 2000 nearly 70 percent lived in the suburbs. There were still neighborhoods with a significant Jewish population in the city, the most prominent being West Rogers Park on the north side of the city, in which nearly 30,000 Jews live, many of them Orthodox or Traditional, with some 20 synagogues and other community institutions, including the Bernard Horwich Jewish Community Center and Ida Crown Academy. Although the majority of the Jews live in the northern suburbs, the area of fastest growth has been the northwest suburbs (Buffalo Grove, Northwood, Deerfield). There were also areas of limited new Jewish concentration in the western and southern suburbs. Two new synagogues also existed in the far northwest McHenry County more than 50 miles from downtown Chicago. With every movement farther outward, Jewish density, political influence, and yiddishkeit decline.

While the population has become increasingly American-born, with only 10 percent of the adults foreign born, the community has witnessed an influx of Jews from the former Soviet Union. During the past 30 years, the Chicago Jewish Community, through the Jewish Federation, its agencies and congregations, has resettled nearly 25,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union. Further, the community continues to attract Jews from elsewhere in the United States. The most recent population study shows that nearly 50 percent of adult Jews come from outside the Chicago area, including many young adults.

contemporary community

As a community with more than one-quarter million Jews, Chicago has a rich and varied institutional network. Within the religious sphere in 2004 there were 140 synagogues including 39 Orthodox, 14 Traditional (which includes Orthodox rabbis and services, but with mixed seating and sometimes the use of microphones), nine Lubavitcher congregations, 31 Conservative, 36 Reform, three Reconstructionist, one Humanist, and seven Non-Denominational. Among those who are affiliated with synagogues – less than half of the Chicago Jewish community – nearly 26 percent identify as Orthodox, Traditional, or Chabad, 35 percent as Conservative, and 35 percent as Reform, and the remainder to other groupings. The majority of households do not belong to a congregation – it was estimated that in 2000 the affiliation rate was 42 percent of all households – although other data show that households move in and out of synagogue affiliation – hence more than 62 percent are currently or have been members at some point in time during their adult lives. The two major rabbinic organizations are the Chicago Board of Rabbis (cbr) and the Chicago Rabbinical Council (crc). The cbr, which in 1959 developed out of the Chicago Rabbinical Association (founded 1893), serves all denominational groups and had a membership in 1995 of 250 members; the exclusively Orthodox Chicago Rabbinical Association numbers some 200 Orthodox rabbis. In addition, the community has four mikva'ot and two battei din, or religious courts, one Orthodox, the other Conservative.

Many of the Jewish educational and social service organizations receive support from the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. This organization traces its origins back to the Associated Jewish Charities (1900), which went through some organizational changes, becoming the Jewish Charities in 1922, when it incorporated the Federated Orthodox Jewish Charities. In 1936 the Jewish Welfare Fund was organized to assume responsibility for allocation overseas as well as local Jewish education and culture. In 1968 the Jewish Federation and Welfare Fund combined its fund-raising efforts with those of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago (juf). In 1974 the Welfare Fund merged into the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. In addition to funding overseas needs, the Jewish United Fund dollars also assist many Chicago and national community institutions through allocations via the Jewish Federation. These include employment service, services directed at families and children with emotional problems, comprehensive at-home and residential services for the elderly, seven community centers, as well as Jewish educational institutions and schools. For many years the Federation supported two hospitals, Michael Reese (founded in 1881) and Mount Sinai (founded in 1918 as the successor to Maimonides Hospital); following the sale of Michael Reese to a national health care organization, the Federation now supports only Mount Sinai.

educational and cultural institutions

The Chicago Jewish community hosts a variety of Jewish educational and cultural institutions, many of them supported by the Jewish Federation with annual grants or allocations. Institutions of higher learning include the Hebrew Theological College, which for a generation was the home of Jewish philosopher Eliezer Berkovits and Rabbi Aaron Soloveitchik, also houses a residential high school program, a Teacher's Institute serving women, a kolel, and the Saul Silber Memorial Library; the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies which includes the Asher Library (with more than 400,000 books) and Spertus Museum of Judaica; a branch of Telshe Yeshiva, Brisk Yeshiva, and kolelim, many of the last arriving on the scene in the 1980s; two central agencies of Jewish education, the Associated Talmud Torahs (established in 1929), which oversees Orthodox programs, and the Community Foundation for Jewish Education (organized in 1993 and based upon a partnership of the Jewish Federation, religious movements, and the Board of Jewish Education), which serves a non-Orthodox constituency, primarily through supplementary congregational schools, early childhood programs, and its own high school program. During the past decade, the educational trends show a significant increase in day school enrollment (up from 3,000 to 4,000 in 12 elementary day schools in eight years), increased Jewish early childhood enrollment, expansion of adult Jewish education opportunities, and stable supplementary school enrollment. Projections are that nearly 80 percent of Jewish children receive some Jewish education during their childhood years.

The Zionist movement began in Chicago in pre-Herzlian days, when in 1886 a branch of Ḥovevei Zion was established. This was followed by the organization of several Zionist groups including the Chicago Zionist Organization No. 1 in 1896, the Knights of Zion on October 28, 1897, and young Zionist groups called B'nai Zion in 1898. By 1995 Zionist groups included the Zionist Organization of Chicago, a chapter of Hadassah, the Amit Women, Na'amath U.S.A., and the Aliyah Council, a community-based organization which promotes aliyah and is a beneficiary agency of the Jewish Federation. The Chicago Israel Bonds organization was active as well and the Israel Consulate General for Midwestern states is situated in Chicago. So, too, is the Midwest office of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the most successful of all its fundraising offices. In 1913 the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith was founded in Chicago to combat antisemtisim.

The change over time, however, in the culture of the immigrant population was most evident in the decline in lands-mannschaften, which numbered 600 in 1948 (including those added by survivors of the Holocaust settling in Chicago) but only 13 in 1995. The Yiddish Theater, which made its Chicago debut in 1887, still existed in 1951.

Very early in the history of the Jewish community, Chicago Jewry began to participate in the civic and political lives of the larger community. In 1856 Henry Greenbaum of a prominent family was elected Alderman of the sixth ward. Abraham Kohn was City Clerk. In 1860 Kohn presented Lincoln, on his departure for Washington, with an American flag inscribed with Hebrew verses from Joshua. Throughout the history of Chicago, Jews have achieved positions of prominence in the local, state, and national communities. Jacob M. *Arvey was a National Committee member of the Democratic Party. Philip *Klutznik was the United States representative to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations and secretary of commerce under President Jimmy *Carter. Abraham Lincoln Marovitz was a federal judge of the Northern District of Illinois. Abner Mikvah initially served as a congressman, then was appointed to the federal bench, and still later became Counsel to the President of the United States. Sidney Yates served in the House of Representatives for nearly 50 years, as did Adolph J. Sabath. The tradition of political involvement continues with Rahm Emanuel, an Israeli-born Clinton White House official who won election to the House of Representatives and Jan Schakowsky who replaced Sidney Yates upon his retirement. On the Republican side, University of Chicago Dean Edward Levi served as attorney general under President Ford; Leon Kass, the University of Chicago ethicist, who also wrote brilliantly on Genesis, chairs the President's Council on Bioethics and was instrumental in the compromise decision on stem-cell research. President Ronald *Reagan appointed Richard *Posner to the U.S. Court of Appeals and he has become the most intellectually prolific of federal judges. In recent years, Chicago Jewish leaders have assumed leading roles in national and international Jewish organizations. Maynard Wishner, a former president of the Federation, was president of the Council of Jewish Federations in 1995. Charles H. Goodman, also a past president of the Jewish Federation, was elected chairman of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel in 1995, and David Kahn became national president of the American Jewish Congress in 1995. Steven Nasatir headed juf for 25 years and after the merger of the Council of Jewish Federations and uja served for a limited period of time as the president of the United Jewish Communities; rather than "going national," he returned home to Chicago. Unlike other cities where there is a conflict between cosmopolitan and local leadership, Chicago Jewry respects those who assume national leadership and they in turn maintain their active involvement in the local community.

The Jewish community of Chicago represents a blending of Jews from many lands into a generally flourishing community that has produced people who have made significant contributions in diverse fields on local and national levels, including eight Jewish Noble Prize winners such as Saul *Bellow and Milton *Friedman. This success came about only after much adversity, toil, and perseverance.


A bibliography of Hebrew and Yiddish publications published in Chicago between 1877 and 1950 shows 492 titles (L. Mishkin, in S. Rawidowicz (ed.), Chicago Pinkas, 1952). The Yiddish press in Chicago was most prolific. It made its bow in 1877 with the appearance of the Izraelitishe Presse, edited by Nachman Baer Ettelsohn, followed in 1881 by the Chicagoer Israelit and in 1885 by Di Yidishe Presse. In 1885 the weekly Chicagoer Vokhenblat under the editorship of Kathriel H. *Sarasohn appeared, followed a decade later by the Yidisher Vokhenblat. From 1887 to 1891 the Yidisher Kurier appeared as a weekly, changing into a daily in 1910; it continued publication under the title Der Teglikher Yidisher Kurier until 1934. Another Yiddish weekly, Di Yidishe Velt, appeared in 1893 under the editorship of Leon Zolotkoff. In 1947 the socialist element in the community began to publish the Chicago Forward, not to be confused with the later Chicago edition of the New York Jewish Daily Forward. A number of similarly inclined Yiddish newspapers followed, such as Der Neyer Dor, a weekly, in 1905. Yidishe Arbeter Velt, founded as a weekly in 1908, became a daily as Di Velt in 1917. Numerous Yiddish weeklies, monthlies, and other publications appeared over the years. The Hebrew press in Chicago was not as successful as its Yiddish counterpart. It made its debut in 1877 with the weekly Heikhal ha-Ivriyyah, which was a supplement to the Israelitishe Presse and was published until 1879. Keren Or, a monthly, followed in 1889. In 1897 the weekly Ha-Pisgah made its appearance and was replaced in 1899 by Ha-Teḥiyyah, which bore the English subtitle Regeneration. The first Jewish periodical in English to appear in Chicago was the weekly Occident in 1873, which continued publication until 1895. In 1878 another weekly, The Jewish Advance, made its appearance; it was superseded by The Maccabean, a monthly, in 1882. The Chicago Israelite, 1854–1920, a society paper, was a local edition of the American Israelite. The most outstanding Anglo-Jewish weekly was the Advocate, founded in 1891 and called the Reform Advocate from 1937. The Chicago Jewish Chronicle first appeared in 1919. In 1969 there was one Anglo-Jewish weekly, the Sentinel, founded in 1911; a Chicago edition of the Jewish Post and Opinion; the Chicago Jewish Forum, a quarterly, founded in 1942; and The Jewish Way, appearing before every major holiday, founded in 1948. Three principal Jewish newspapers existed in 2004. They were the weekly Chicago Jewish News, the bi-weekly Chicago Jewish Star, and the juf News. In addition to Bellow, other prominent Jewish writers who have lived in Chicago for at least some of their lives include Ben *Hecht, Edna *Ferber, Studs *Turkel, and Maxwelll *Boidenheim. Others in the literary field include playwright David *Mamet, advice columnist Ann *Landers, and movie critic Gene Siskel.


P.P. Bregstone, Chicago and Its Jews (1933); S. Rawidowicz (ed.), Chicago Pinkas (1952); Chicago Tribune (July 19, 1893); Felsenthal, in: ajhsp, 2 (1894), 21–27; H. Eliassof, in: je, 4 (1903), 22–27; idem, in: ajhsp, 11 (1903), 117–30; M.A. Gutstein, A Priceless Heritage: the Epic Growth of Nineteenth Century Chicago Jewry (1953); H.L. Meites (ed.), History of the Jews of Chicago (1924); B. Postal, in: B'nai B'rith Magazine, 47, no. 10 (1933), 299ff.; 47, no. 11 (1933), 33Off.; The Sentinel: One Hundred Years of Chicago's Jewish Life (1948); The Sentinel: History of Chicago Jewry, 1911–1961 (1961); L. Wirth, The Ghetto (1928); E. Rosenthal, in: The American Journal of Sociology, 66, no. 3 (1960), 275–88; idem, in: jsos, 22, no. 2 (1960), 67–82; Sophia M. Robison (ed.), Jewish Population Studies (1943). add. bibliography: I.Cutler, The Jews of Chicago: From Shtetl to Suburb (1996); idem, Jewish Chicago: A Pictorial History (2000); R. Heimovics, The Chicago Jewish Source Book (1981); The Sentinel, History of Chicago Jewry, 1911–1986 (1986); I. Berkow, Maxwell Street (1977).

[Morris A. Gutstein and Erich Rosenthal / Irving Cutler (2nd ed.)]


views updated May 14 2018


The city of Chicago is in many ways a wonderful barometer of American history, progress, and culture between the years 1880 and 1920. Recovering from the devastation of a massive fire in 1871 that all but destroyed the foundations of the city, Chicago grew at a remarkable rate, spreading along the shores of Lake Michigan and, perhaps more significantly, reaching up into the sky. A combination of hard bedrock and architectural daring meant that Chicago became synonymous with the building of skyscrapers, pushing the limits of new building materials and new models for urban development.

The Home Insurance Company Building, designed by William Le Baron Jenney and completed in 1885, laid the groundwork for this building boom. Use of new methods of construction, specifically the employment of strong but relatively light steel beams for the structural framework, allowed architects to build higher and higher. The skyscrapers led to the image of "cliff dwellers" living in them, an idea at the center of some of the early novels written about Chicago as a major city and commercial center by writers such as Henry Blake Fuller. Rethinking the framework of a building allowed designers freedom in the use of elevators, wiring, and control of the interior climate. While other cities, especially on the eastern seaboard, were still highly influenced by classical Greek and Roman styles, the architects in Chicago were reimagining what public buildings could be. Jenney was instrumental in training Daniel Burnham, William Holabird, Martin Roche, and Louis Sullivan, who went on to mentor Frank Lloyd Wright.

As a junction between East and West, Chicago flourished as railroad traffic increased through the city, and one of its major industries, beef, was a direct result. The enormous stockyards and slaughterhouses in Chicago became central to the meat industry of the nation. Chicago was immensely accessible to both people and industry thanks to improved transportation, including canals that linked the city to the Atlantic Ocean and to the Mississippi River. Blessed by its geographic position, the development of natural resources such as coal, lumber, and ore, and the pathways that met there, the population of the city grew from around 50 settlers in 1830 to 300,000 by the time of the fire in 1871, more than a million by 1890, and double that number by 1910. The World's Columbian Exposition in 1893 announced the arrival of Chicago as a modern city and as a key player on the national and international stage. As industry developed, immigrants from Europe, taking advantage of an unrestricted immigration policy, flooded into the city, choosing it as an alternative to New York. Inevitably the excess of cheap labor led to exploitation and unscrupulous profiteering, often at the expense of public health.

Upton Sinclair spent months talking to the immigrant workers of Packingtown and observing the conditions of meat preparation in the slaughterhouses and stockyards. He made contact with many of them through the settlement houses, and while completing his research, he tried (unsuccessfully) to convert Jane Addams to socialism. His novel The Jungle, published in 1906, led to institutional changes in the handling of meat, but it did not necessarily have much effect on the protection of workers. Sinclair's main purpose was to expose the exploitation of the employees, but as he famously said later: "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach." The furor caused by the novel eventually led to the creation of the Food and Drug Administration and, more immediately, to sweeping changes in the way meat was prepared and handled through the passing of the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act. Sinclair was one of the new breed of Chicago writers, but some of those associated with the Chicago Renaissance of the late nineteenth century were still very influential as the modern era dawned.


Placed in the center of this rapid change were writers who were well positioned to document what they saw. Some of them, like Henry Blake Fuller, were descended from the old settlers of the city, while others, like Hamlin Garland, moved into the urban sprawl from rural areas. Chicago pulled writers into the modern world, forcing them to deal with issues like commerce, industry, immigration, technology, and rapid urban expansion. Apart from Fuller and Garland, other writers such as Theodore Dreiser, Frank Norris, Sherwood Anderson, Carl Sandburg, Upton Sinclair, and Edgar Lee Masters helped document Chicago as a place of "primary cultural consequence" (Smith, p. 3). Not all of the writing about the city was laudatory, however. Writers felt threatened by a city that seemed "inimical or, perhaps worse, indifferent to them," and they often reflect that Chicago "was a dispiriting place to live" (Smith, p. 7).

Literary society in Chicago grouped around a few significant meeting places. Lorado Taft's sculpture workshop on the Midway became a regular salon, and it was here that Hamlin Garland met his future wife, Taft's sister Zulime. Mrs. J. W. A. Young's summer home on Lake Michigan was opened up to artists, who could work or relax there, and older members of the literary circle could spend time mentoring the upand-coming writers. This was known as the Top o' Dunes Club, and Fuller formed lasting friendships with some of the young people he met there, including the poet and dance critic Mark Turbyfill. The Little Room, an informal gathering of writers, artists, architects, and thinkers, met at least once a month, often at the studio of Anna Morgan in the Century Building on the lakeshore. It was inevitable that such a lively and eclectic literary scene developed its own outlets, including the influential literary review The Dial, Chap-Book, Little Review, and Harriet Monroe's Poetry.

Poetry, founded in 1912, began with the purpose of operating an open door policy. Any poet—published or unpublished, famous or undiscovered—was promised access to the editorial board for an honest review. As Monroe wrote in the inaugural issue, the magazine desired to publish "the best English verse which is being written today, regardless of where, by whom, or under what theory of art it is written." Poetry offered a forum for poets such as Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, and Wallace Stevens, and it provided the first U.S. publication of T. S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Monroe and the board of editors and advisers, including Fuller, also championed Carl Sandburg (1878–1967). Sandburg'sChicago Poems captured the industrial and cultural changes of his city in free verse: the city he called the

Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders.

(P. 4)


Henry Blake Fuller (1857–1929) was heavily influenced by the art, architecture, and literature of the Old World, but he saw a chance for the New World to define its own terms and conditions in aesthetic matters, and he worked toward this aim for the whole of his writing life. Fuller wrote two groundbreaking novels of urban and economic American realism, The Cliff-Dwellers (1893), and With the Procession (1895). Hailed by Theodore Dreiser and William Dean Howells (1837–1920) as one of America's leading and most important novelists of the era, alongside Henry James (1843–1916), Fuller was influential in Chicago literary circles but increasingly as a mentor and adviser rather than as a practitioner.

Fuller called The Cliff-Dwellers "my first essay in 'realism'" ("My Early Books"). He wrote the book, he says, "when the Columbian Exposition helped along a hearing for Chicago fiction" ("My Early Books"). Fuller captured the reality of Chicago as no one ever had, producing a city novel of accuracy and insight, not all of it pleasant or welcome to its subjects. William Dean Howells said of The Cliff-Dwellers and the later With the Procession: "I do not know how conscious Mr. Fuller may have been in his fealty to Chicago when he was writing his story, but it seems to me that I have never read a book more intensely localized, that is to say realized" (Howells, p. 214). Others, however, were outraged by the "warts and all" depiction of their beloved home city. Fuller focused on the conflict between material success and the price paid for it by family, friends, and conventional morality, the driving force of which was Chicago itself. In his obituary of Fuller, Robert Morss Lovett of the University of Chicago reflected that "it was a little disappointing to Fuller's backers that he should choose the World's Fair year for dwelling on the sordid side in The Cliff-Dwellers, but after all, realism was the coming thing" (p. 17). While the book was regarded outside the city as a huge success and Howells and others praised it as the first major work of midwestern realism, Chicagoans themselves were not so sure. It was the first step toward what would become a tempestuous relationship between the city and its first major writer.

In The Cliff-Dwellers (1893), Henry Blake Fuller writes about the underside of Chicago life, showing the growing pains of the huge and expanding city:

Each of these long canyons is closed in by a long frontage of towering cliffs, and these soaring walls of brick and limestone and granite rise higher and higher with each succeeding year, according as the work of erosion at their bases goes onward—the work of that seething flood of carts, carriages, omnibuses, cabs, cars, messengers, shoppers, clerks, and capitalists, which surges with increasing violence for every passing day. This erosion with a sort of fateful regularity has come to be a matter of constant and growing interest. . . .

So many miles of flimsy and shabby shanties and back views of sheds and stables; of grimy, cindered switch-yards, with the long flanks of freight houses and interminable strings of loaded or empty cars; of dingy viaducts and groggy viaducts and dilapidated fences whose scanty remains called to remembrance lotions and tonics that had long passed their vogue; of groups of Sunday loungers before saloons, and gangs of unclassified foreigners picking up bits of coal along the tracks; of muddy crossings over roads whose bordering ditches were filled with flocks of geese; of wide prairies cut up by endless tracks, dotted with pools of water, and rustling with the dead grasses of last summer; then suburbs new and old—some in the fresh promise of sidewalks and trees and nothing else, others unkempt, shabby, gone to seed; then a high passage over a marshy plain, a range of low wooded hills, emancipation from the dubious body known as the Cook County Commissioners.

Fuller, The Cliff-Dwellers, pp. 1, 175–176.

Fuller's career shows many lengthy gaps in production sparked by aesthetic disillusion, when he restricted himself to book reviewing and literary articles. Despite praise from his peers, Fuller's name and reputation have been allowed to fade from canonical circles, and he has been wrongly ignored for many years. Part of the explanation lies in his unwillingness to stay with what worked for him. He quickly tired of the novel of realism and tried (among other genres) the short story about Americans abroad, the one-act play, free verse in the style of Edgar Lee Masters, and the shorter modern novel. He effectively committed professional and economic suicide in 1919, when he published Bertram Cope's Year, an openly gay novel, at his own expense. Ironically it is the only book of Fuller's that is still in print. He confined himself to writing periodic book reviews for the next nine years before a final spurt of creativity produced two novels—Gardens of This World and Not on the Screen—in just over six months. The second of these appeared after Fuller's death in July 1929, when he succumbed to heart failure in the middle of a Chicago heat wave.


Fuller's friend Robert Herrick (1868–1938) was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and was educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); he moved to Chicago in 1893 to take up a post at the University of Chicago. His major theme, the conflict between personal values and the moral ambiguities of capitalistic success, was close to Fuller's concern in his realist works. Although Herrick complained about the teaching duties that consumed much of his time, he still managed to write thirteen novels between 1893 and 1923, when he resigned his position. His major novels include The Common Lot (1904), a thinly veiled account of his own battle to build a house on University Avenue, and Chimes (1926), which depicts the university as a creation of new wealth and a president who is uncultured but enthusiastic. The Web of Life (1900) takes the destruction of the world's fair site as a backdrop to a key scene. Herrick was not a very content man, but he found a niche for himself at the end of his life when his administrative skills earned him the post of governor of the Virgin Islands.


Jane Addams (1860–1935) was one of the most prominent female social activists of her era. In 1889, with Ellen Gates Starr, she founded the social settlement Hull-House on Chicago's Near West Side, a home for the disadvantaged that provided child care, education, language and arts classes, help in finding employment, a meeting place for trade union groups, and facilities for single working girls. As the population of Chicago grew and became more diverse, Addams became aware that support services were needed by the underprivileged. In a time of great racial and ethnic discrimination, Hull-House supported Italian, German, Russian, and Irish immigrants. By the 1920s the area around Hull-House was populated by Mexicans and African Americans who had chosen to settle there, and they joined the cultural mix. As the demand on Hull-House grew, the complex expanded until there were thirteen buildings, including a Labor Museum and the Jane Club for young women.

The aftermath of the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893 brought problems to Chicago. Being a city on the world stage brought an influx of immigrants who were now, more than ever, aware of the city of Chicago, its reputation, and the lure of its promise. Once the fair had passed, so did much of the welcome outstretched to the peoples of the world. The pressures of the city confines, the need for accommodation, and the quest for decent, regular work squeezed the resources of the city and led to economic and social tensions. Robert Herrick set his novel The Web of Life (1900) in and around the ruins of the fair's White City. In the novel he looks back to the days following the closure of the fair and reflects on it in this way:

These days there were many people on the streets, but few were busy. The large department stores were empty; at the doors stood idle floorwalkers and clerks. It was too warm for the rich to buy, and the poor had no money. The poor had come lean and hungry out of the terrible winter that followed the World's Fair. In that beautiful enterprise the prodigal city had put forth her utmost strength, and, having shown the world the supreme flower of her energy, had collapsed. There was gloom, not only in LaSalle Street where people failed, but throughout the city, where the engine of play had exhausted the forces of all. . . . Tens of thousands of human beings, lured to the festive city by abnormal wages, had been left stranded, without food, or a right to shelter in its tenantless buildings. . . . The laborer starved, and the employer sulked.

Herrick, The Web of Life, pp. 135–136.

The experience of working at Hull-House motivated Addams and her supporters to begin a program of political social activism. They saw intrinsic discrimination on a racial and class basis and developed programs to fight this through legislation. In 1893 the Illinois legislature passed a bill protecting the rights of women and children. The Federal Children's Bureau, created in 1912, and the federal child labor laws from 1916 reflected the local efforts of Addams and her fellow reformers. Addams also was directly responsible for the projects that resulted in the Immigrants' Protective League, Juvenile Psychopathic Clinic, and Juvenile Protective Association. She continued to spread her message of social reform through her writing, including Twenty Years at Hull-House (1910), and speaking engagements.

The list of organizations that Jane Addams either created or served with is impressive and extensive. These include the National Federation of Settlement and Neighborhood Centers, National Conference of Charities and Corrections, National Consumers League, Camp Fire Girls, and National Playground Association. She was an active supporter for the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (1909) and the American Civil Liberties Union (1920), and she was heavily involved in the campaign for woman suffrage. It seems natural and appropriate that Addams would become a key figure in the international peace movement at the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1915, during the First World War, she and women from both neutral and involved nations met to try and stop the war. She remained a pacifist as the United States entered the war in 1917, and she founded the Women's Peace Party (WPP) to protest the conflict. The WPP became the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom in 1919, and in recognition of her work, Addams was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. When she died on 21 May 1935 she was buried in Cedarville, Illinois, her hometown.


The American Baptist Education Society and the oil baron John D. Rockefeller founded the University of Chicago in 1890. The university was nondenominational from the beginning and gained a reputation for admitting minorities and women when other major institutions would not. The campus was developed in Hyde Park, a recently annexed suburb of the city, on land donated by the department store magnate Marshall Field. The architecture of the campus copied the English gothic of Oxford and Cambridge, with cloisters, towers, and gargoyles. Under its first president, William Rainey Harper, the university developed a program that combined the undergraduate liberal arts college with graduate study and research after the German model. Classes ran all year, an innovation for the time, allowing students to graduate when they finished the requirements of the degree. By 1910 the university had adopted a Latin motto, Crescat scientia, vita excolatur (Let knowledge increase so that life may be enriched) and a coat of arms bearing a phoenix emerging from the flames.

See alsoThe Jungle; Poetry: A Magazine of Verse; Sister Carrie; World's Columbian Exposition


Primary Works

Addams, Jane. Twenty Years at Hull-House. 1910. New York: Signet Classic, 1961.

Fuller, Henry Blake. The Cliff-Dwellers. 1893. Ridgewood, N.J.: Gregg Press, 1968.

Fuller, Henry Blake. "My Early Books." Henry Blake Fuller Papers, Midwest Manuscript Collection, The Newberry Library, Chicago.

Fuller, Henry Blake. With the Procession. 1895. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965.

Herrick, Robert. The Web of Life. New York: Macmillan, 1900.

Howells, William Dean. Selected Literary Criticism. Vol. 2, 1886–1897, edited by Donald Pizer. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.

Lovett, Robert Morss. "Fuller of Chicago." New Republic, 21 August 1929, pp. 16–18.

Sandburg, Carl. Chicago Poems. New York: Henry Holt, 1916.

Secondary Works

Duffey, Bernard I. The Chicago Renaissance in American Letters: A Critical History. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1954.

Miller, Donald L. City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996.

Pilkington, John. Henry Blake Fuller. New York: Twayne, 1970.

Scambray, Kenneth. A Varied Harvest: The Life and Works of Henry Blake Fuller. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1987.

Smith, Carl S. Chicago and the American Literary Imagination, 1880–1920. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984.

Williams, Kenny J. In the City of Men: Another Story of Chicago. Nashville, Tenn.: Townsend Press, 1974.

Keith Gumery

Chicago: Recreation

views updated Jun 11 2018

Chicago: Recreation


Chicago is an ethnically diverse, architecturally important, and culturally rich city. It can be appreciated from the observation floor of the Sears Tower, at 110 stories the third-tallest manmade structure in the world. In fact, three of the world's 10 tallest buildings are located in Chicago, along with the tallest apartment building, the largest hotel, the largest commercial structure, and the largest post office. Guided sightseeing tours are available for viewing the city's architecture, finance and business districts, ethnic neighborhoods, cultural institutions, and even gangland sites from the Prohibition Era.

The distinctive Chicago School of Architecture, with its aesthetic credo, "form follows function," was shaped by such masters as Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, and a later functionalist architect, Ludwig Mies van der Roheall of whom designed buildings in the city and produced in Chicago a veritable living architectural museum. Also important are the city's outdoor sculpture and art works. Pablo Picasso's gift to Chicago, a 50-foot-tall sculpture of rusted steel at the Civic Center Plaza, has become a symbol of the city's modernity. Other works include Claes Oldenburg's Batcolumn, Alexander Calder's 53-foot-high red Flamingo stabile, Marc Chagall's Four Seasons mosaic, Louise Nevelson's Dawn Shadow, Joan Miro's Chicago, and Jean Dubuffet's Monument with Standing Beast.

The Shedd Aquarium, the world's largest indoor aquarium, cares for more than 21,000 aquatic mammals, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, and fishes. A major attraction is the Oceanarium, the world's largest indoor marine mammal pavilion, featuring beluga whales, dolphins, Alaskan sea otters, seals, and penguins. In 2003 the aquarium unveiled its Wild Reef shark exhibit. Next to the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum sits on a peninsula that juts a half-mile into Lake Michigan. The Museum of Science and Industry, founded in 1933, houses thousands of exhibits, including the Idea Factory and Omnimax Theatre; a full-scale, working coal mine, a WWII captured German submarine, a Boeing 727 airplane that visitors can walk through, and a walk-though model of a human heart. It was the first museum in North America to feature the concept of hands-on exhibits. The Chicago area's two zoos are the Brookfield Zoo and the Lincoln Park Zoo. Just north of the city, the Chicago Botanic Garden features an international collection of flora on 385 acres.

Arts and Culture

Chicago's major cultural institutions rank with the best in the world. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra plays a season of more than 100 concerts at Orchestra Hall from September to June and performs summer concerts at Ravinia Park in Highland Park. Equally prestigious is the Lyric Opera of Chicago, which stages classical and innovative operas at the recently renovated Civic Opera House.

Other musical offerings range from Dixieland jazz imported by the late Louis Armstrong to the electrified urban blues sound pioneered by Muddy Waters, frequently referred to as Chicago Blues. All-night jazz and blues clubs are a Chicago tradition. The Ravinia Festival is a summer season of outstanding classical, popular, and jazz concerts performed by well-known artists.

More than 50 producing theaters delight Chicago audiences with fare ranging from serious to satirical. The Goodman Theatre, Chicago's oldest and largest non-profit professional theater, presents a season of classical and modern dramatic productions. Chicago theater is perhaps best represented by Steppenwolf Theatre Company, a Tony Award-winning repertory company that focuses on new plays, neglected works, and re-interpretations of masterpieces. Since 1959, The Second City, a resident comedy company that produces biting satires, has had a direct influence on American comedy as its members have gone on to star on the "Saturday Night Live" and "SCTV" television programs and in Hollywood movies. Chicago's historic and architecturally significant theater houses include the restored 1920's Chicago Theatre, Shubert Theatre, and Auditorium Theatre, built by Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan in 1889. Chicago's active theater scene includes young companies such as the Lookingglass Theatre Company and dinner theater groups. There are also several dance companies in the city, including the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago.

The Art Institute of Chicago is another local institution with an international reputation. Its collection is recognized for French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings and for comprehensive holdings of American arts and photographs. The Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum is the first Mexican museum in the United States and the only Latino museum accredited by the American Association of Museums; galleries of Polish, Swedish, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean art have opened in the city as well. The National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum houses a permanent collection of more than 500 pieces focusing on war from the soldiers' perspective. Chicago's love of art is even evidenced in the Loop's parking garage, where famous paintings are reproduced.

The Field Museum of Natural History, founded in 1893, is rated among the top museums in the world; its holdings number more than 16 million artifacts and specimens from the fields of anthropology, botany, geology, and zoology. A scientific research institution, the Field Museum examines life and culture from pre-history to the present time.

The Chicago Academy of Sciences, founded in 1857, was Chicago's first museum and features natural science exhibits as well as timely scientific displays. Among the special attractions are life-size dioramas on natural areas of the Great Lakes and the children's gallery with its lifelike animated dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures. The Academy's Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum features 73,000 square feet of interactive, environmental education. The city's oldest cultural institution is the Chicago Historical Society; its galleries are filled with folk art, furniture, costumes, and manuscripts and a unique audiovisual presentation of the Great Chicago Fire. The DuSable Museum is the nation's first museum dedicated to preserving, displaying, and interpreting the culture, history, and achievements of African Americans. The Museum of Contemporary Art, one of the largest of its kind in the country at 151,000 square feet, focuses on contemporary works that are often risk-taking and controversial. Its permanent collection includes works by Christo, Rene Magritte, and Andy Warhol, and at the Chicago Cultural Center, where admission is free, visitors can see the world's largest Tiffany stained-glass dome; the center houses the Museum of Broadcast Communications and hosts free daily concerts, films, lectures, and dance performances. The Chicago Public Library Cultural Center presents hundreds of free programs, concerts, and exhibitions annually.

Arts and Culture Information: Chicago Fine Arts Exchange, telephone (312)850-2787. Chicago Dance and Music Alliance, telephone (312)987-9296

Festivals and Holidays

The Mayor's Office of Special Events, The Chicago Park District, and the city's major cultural institutions sponsor events throughout the year, but special summer programming is designed to tap into Chicago's heritage and to attract tourists. The Chicago Blues Festival takes place the second weekend in June at the Petrillo Music Shell and brings the best blues musicians to one of the world's blues capitals for concerts, food, and exchange of memorabilia. The Printers Row Book Fair, in June, is the largest free literary event in the Midwest. Taste of Chicago, held over two weeks in late June and early July, features food sampling from Chicago restaurants as well as entertainment in Grant Park. Viva Chicago, held in August-September, is a festival celebrating Latino music, food, and arts and crafts at the Petrillo Music Shell. Other music festivals held annually in Chicago include Chicago Gospel Festival (June), Chicago Country Music Festival (June-July), Chicago Jazz Festival (August-September), Celtic Festival Chicago (September), and World Music Fest Chicago (September-October). Mayor Daley's Holiday Sports Festival is held in December. October's Chicago International Film Festival is one of the largest in the country.

Chicago's city parks offer a wealth of free activities in the summer, such as the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra's four weekly concerts at the nation's largest free symphonic music festival.

Festivals Information: Mayor's Office of Special Events, 121 North LaSalle Street, Room 703, Chicago, IL 60602; telephone (312)744-3315

Sports for the Spectator

Chicago fields at least one team in each of the major professional sports and is one of the only cities in the United States with two professional baseball teams in the Major League Baseball Association. The Chicago Cubs compete in the central division of the National League and play their home games at Wrigley Field, a turn-of-the-century steel and concrete structure where seats are close to the field. The Chicago White Sox of the American League's central division play their home games at U.S. Cellular Field on the city's South Side. The teamsand their fansenjoy a fierce rivalry. The Chicago Bears of the National Football League's National Conference compete in central division home games at the recently renovated Soldier Field. The Chicago Fire, Chicago's Major League Soccer franchise, also play at Soldier Field. The Chicago Blackhawks of the National Hockey League and the Chicago Bulls of the National Basketball Association play their home schedules at the United Center.

Auto racing fans can view competition at Chicago Motor Speedway in Cicero, while horse racing action takes place from July to November at Hawthorne Race Course in Stickney/Cicero.

Sports for the Participant

The Chicago Park District maintains some 552 parks spread out over 7,300 acres, including Lincoln Park, Grant Park, Jackson Park, and Washington Park. Chicago's paved lakefront pathway stretches along the shore from the south side of the city to the north side; thousands of Chicago residents and visitors use the path daily for cycling, strolling, running, in-line skating, and even commuting from one end of the city to the other. Located in the metropolitan area are forest preserves, six golf courses, tennis courts, swimming pools and lagoons, 29 beaches, and more than 1,000 athletic fields. In the summertime Chicago becomes the country's largest beach town as sun fanciers flock to 29 miles of lakefront beaches and yacht clubs to enjoy watersports. Lake Michigan, once one of the most industrially abused regions of the Great Lakes, has experienced a remarkable environmental recovery. The fishing season on Lake Michigan runs year round, while the lake's boating season generally extends from May 15 to October 15; the Park District maintains jurisdiction over the city's nine harbors.

A major attraction is the annual Chicago to Mackinac Island (Michigan) sailboat race, during which participants sail the length of Lake Michigan. Chicago boasts two golf courses built atop a former solid-waste dump. The prize-winning environmental engineering project, called Harborside International Golf Center, is only 16 minutes from downtown Chicago.

The LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon, started in 1977 as the Mayor Daley Marathon, has become one of the most prestigiousand largestmarathon events in the world. Held each October, nearly 40,000 elite and recreational runners complete the 26.2 mile race that begins and ends at Grant Park. Hundreds of thousands of spectators line the course, which passes through the downtown Loop and many of the city's ethnic neighborhoods. Due to its fast, flat course, several world records have been set at the Chicago Marathon.

Shopping and Dining

Chicago's commercial district, formerly confined to the area known as The Loop, which was defined by a circuit of elevated trains, now pushes north of the Chicago River to Oak Street. Known as the "Magnificent Mile," the shopping area is considered the Rodeo Drive of the Midwest. Here, in and around buildings of architectural interest, are located some of the world's finest specialty stores. Water Tower Place on North Michigan is a seven-level modern shopping emporium with Chicago-based Marshall Field's and Lord & Taylor. A block away, Chicago Place, an eight-level mall, is anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue and houses Talbots, Ann Taylor, and Chiaroscuro. American Girl Place is a popular destination for young girls and their parents, where they can purchase American Girl dolls and accessories, have tea in the café, or view a show in the American Girl Theater. At 900 North Michigan Shops are Blooming-dale's, Coach, Gucci, and teuscher Chocolates of Switzerland. On nearby Oak Street one can find designs from Paris, Milan, and New York. North of the bustling Michigan Avenue shopping area is the Armitage-Halsted-Webster shopping area, with upscale restaurants and shops. Newly refurbished State Street, located downtown, offers a seven-block shopping experience at such landmarks as Carson Pirie Scott & Company and the flagship Marshall Field's.

Downtown Chicago features a remarkable diversity of bookstores, ranging from the Afrocentric Bookstore to The Savvy Traveler. Book lovers might like to pick up a copy of the Greater Loop Book District's pamphlet, showing the location of more than 20 bookstores in the Loop. It is available at airports, bookstores, and all visitor information centers.

On the waterfront, Navy Pier offers more than 50 acres of parks, promenades, gardens, shops, restaurants, and entertainment in a renovated warehouse. On North Orleans Street are the Merchandise Mart, the world's largest wholesale center, and the Chicago Apparel Center.

Chicago is served by some of the nation's finest restaurants. Every type of cuisine, from ethnic to traditional American fare, is available at restaurants in metropolitan Chicago. The city's eateries, housed in elegant turn-of-the century hotels, modern chrome and glass structures, and neighborhood cafes, are recognized for consistently high quality. Among Chicago's most renowned restaurants are Ambria, Benkay, Charlie Trotter's, The Dining Room (Ritz-Carlton Hotel), Entre Nous (Fairmont Hotel), Frontera Grill, Gordon, Jackie's, La Tour (Park Hyatt), Nick's Fish Market, Restaurant Suntory, Seasons (Four Seasons Hotel), and Yoshi's Cafe. Once known as the city of steak houses by the dozens, Chicago's superior steak restaurants now include Morton's of Chicago, Gibsons Steakhouse, the Palm Restaurant, Eli's The Place for Steak, Chicago Chop House, and The Saloon. The deep-dish style of pizza originated in Chicago.

Visitor Information: Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau, 2301 South Lake Shore Drive Chicago, IL 60616; telephone (312)567-8500. Chicago Office of Tourism, telephone (312)744-2400. Visitor Information Centers are located at the Chicago Cultural Center and Chicago Water Works.


views updated Jun 27 2018


CHICAGO, the largest city in the Midwest, is located at the southwest corner of Lake Michigan. In 1673, the French explorers Louis Jolliet and Father Jacques Marquette led the first recorded European expedition to the site of the future city. It was a muddy, malodorous plain the American Indians called Chicagoua, meaning place of the wild garlic or skunkweed, but Jolliet recognized the site's strategic importance as a portage between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River valley. The French government ignored Jolliet's recommendation to construct a canal across the portage and thereby link Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River. Not until 1779 did a mulatto fur trader, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, establish a trading post along the Chicago River and become Chicago's first permanent resident. In 1803, the U.S. government built Fort Dearborn across the river from the trading post, but during the War of 1812, Indians allied to the British destroyed the fort and killed most of the white inhabitants. In 1816, Fort Dearborn was rebuilt and became the hub of a small trading settlement.

The state of Illinois revived Jolliet's dream of a canal linking Lake Michigan and the Mississippi Valley, and in 1830 the state canal commissioners surveyed and platted the town of Chicago at the eastern terminus of the proposed waterway. During the mid-1830s, land speculators swarmed to the community, anticipating a commercial boom once the canal opened, and by 1837 there were more than 4,000 residents. In the late 1830s, however, the land boom busted, plunging the young settlement into economic depression.

During the late 1840s, Chicago's fortunes revived. In 1848, the Illinois and Michigan Canal finally opened to traffic, as did the city's first rail line. By 1857, eleven trunk lines radiated from the city with 120 trains arriving and departing daily. Moreover, Chicago was the world's largest primary grain port and the point at which lumber from Michigan and Wisconsin was shipped westward to treeless prairie settlements. Also arriving by ship and rail were thousands of new settlers, increasing the city's population to 29,963 in 1850 and 109,260 in 1860. Irish immigrants came to dig the canal, but New comers from Germany soon outnumbered them and remained the city's largest foreign-born group from 1850 to 1920. In the 1870s and 1880s, Scandinavian immigrants added to the city's diversity, and by 1890, Chicago had the largest Scandinavian population of any city in America.

Attracting the New comers was the city's booming economy. In 1847, Cyrus McCormick moved his reaper works to Chicago, and by the late 1880s, the midwestern metropolis was producing 15 percent of the nation's farm machinery. During the 1860s, Chicago became the nation's premier meatpacking center, and in 1865 local entrepreneurs opened the Union Stock Yards on the edge of the city, the largest of its kind in the world. In the early 1880s, George Pullman erected his giant railroad car works and model industrial town just to the south of Chicago. Meanwhile, Montgomery Ward and Sears, Roebuck Company were making Chicago the mail-order capital of the world.

The Great Fire of 1871 proved a temporary setback for the city, destroying the entire central business district and leaving approximately one-third of the city's 300,000 people homeless. But Chicago quickly rebuilt, and during the 1880s and 1890s, the city's architects earned renown for their innovative buildings. In 1885, William Le Baron Jenney completed the first office building supported by a

cage of iron and steel beams. Other Chicagoans followed suit, erecting iron and steel frame skyscrapers that astounded visitors to the city. Chicago's population was also soaring, surpassing the one million mark in 1890. In 1893, the wonders of Chicago were on display to sightseers from throughout the world when the city hosted the World's Columbian Exposition. An estimated 27 million people swarmed to the fair, admiring the neoclassical exposition buildings as well as enjoying such midway attractions as the world's first Ferris wheel.

Some Chicagoans, however, did not share in the city's good fortunes. By the last decades of the century, thousands of New comers from eastern and southern Europe were crowding into slum neighborhoods, and disgruntled workers were earning the city a reputation for labor violence. The Haymarket Riot of 1886 shocked the nation, as did the Pullman Strike of 1894, during which workers in Pullman's supposedly model community rebelled against the industrialist's tightfisted paternalism. In 1889, Jane Addams founded Hull-House, a place where more affluent and better-educated Chicagoans could mix with less fortunate slum dwellers and hopefully bridge the chasms of class dividing the city.

Meanwhile, the architect-planner Daniel Burnham sought to re-create Chicago in his comprehensive city plan of 1909. A model of "city beautiful" planning, Burnham's scheme proposed a continuous strand of parkland stretching twenty-five miles along the lakefront, grand diagonal boulevards imposed on the city's existing grid of streets, and a monumental neoclassical civic center on the near west side. Although not all of Burnham's proposals were realized, the plan inspired other cities to think big and draft comprehensive blueprints for future development. It was a landmark in the history of city planning, just as Chicago's skyscrapers were landmarks in the history of architecture.

During the post–World War I era, violence blemished the reputation of the Midwest's largest city. Between 1915 and 1919, thousands of southern blacks migrated to the city, and white reaction was not friendly. In July 1919, a race riot raged for five days, leaving twenty-three blacks and fifteen whites dead. Ten years later, the St. Valentine's Day massacre of seven North Side Gang members con-firmed Chicago's reputation for gangland violence. Home of the notorious mobster Al Capone, Prohibition-era Chicago was renowned for bootlegging and gunfire. The Century of Progress Exposition of 1933, commemorating the city's one-hundredth anniversary, drew millions of visitors to the city and offered cosmetic relief for the blemished city, but few could forget that in Chicago bloodshed was not confined to the stockyards.

In 1931, Anton Cermak became mayor and ushered in almost fifty years of rule by the city's Democratic political machine. The greatest machine figure was Mayor Richard J. Daley, who presided over the city from 1955 to his death in 1976. Under his leadership, Chicago won a reputation as the city that worked, unlike other American metropolises that seemed increasingly out of control. During the late 1960s and early 1970s a downtown building boom produced three of the world's tallest buildings, the John Hancock Center, the Amoco Building, and the Sears Tower. Moreover, the huge McCormick Place convention hall consolidated Chicago's standing as the nation's premier convention destination. And throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the city's O'Hare Field ranked as the world's busiest airport.

Yet the city did not necessarily work for all Chicagoans. The bitter demonstrations and "police riot" out-side the 1968 Democratic National Convention signaled trouble to the whole world. By the 1970s, a growing number of African Americans felt that the Democratic machine was offering them a raw deal. A combination of black migration from the South and white migration to the suburbs had produced a marked change in the racial composition of the city; in 1940, blacks constituted 8.2 percent of the population, whereas in 1980 they comprised 39.8 percent. By constructing huge high-rise public housing projects in traditional ghetto areas, the machine ensured that poor blacks remained segregated residentially, and these projects bred as many problems as the slums they replaced. As the number of manufacturing jobs declined in rust belt centers such as Chicago, blacks suffered higher unemployment rates than whites. Meanwhile, the Democratic machine seemed unresponsive to the demands of African Americans who had loyally cast their ballots for the Democratic Party since the 1930s.

Rebelling against the white party leaders, in 1983 African Americans exploited their voting strength and elected Harold Washington as the city's first black mayor. Although many thought that Washington's election represented the dawning of a new era in Chicago politics, the mayor was forced to spend much of his four years in office battling white Democratic aldermen reluctant to accept the shift in political power. In any case, in 1989, Richard M. Daley, son of the former Democratic boss, won the mayor's office, a position he was to hold for the remainder of the century.

Despite the new skyscrapers, busy airport, and thousands of convention goers, the second half of the twentieth century was generally a period of decline during which the city lost residents, wealth, and jobs to the suburbs. Chicago's population peaked at 3,621,000 in 1950 and then dropped every decade until 1990, when it was 2,784,000. During the last decade of the century, however, it rose 4 percent to 2,896,000. Much of this growth could be attributed to an influx of Latin American immigrants; in 2000, Hispanics constituted 26 percent of the city's population. A growing number of affluent whites were also attracted to gentrifying neighborhoods in the city's core. But during the last two decades of the century, the African American component declined both in absolute numbers and as a portion of the total population. The black-and-white city of the mid-twentieth century no longer existed. Hispanics and a growing Asian American population had diversified the Chicago scene.


Cronon, William. Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West. New York: Norton, 1991.

Green, Paul M., and Melvin G. Holli, eds. The Mayors: The Chicago Political Tradition. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1987.

Mayer, Harold M., and Richard C. Wade. Chicago: Growth of a Metropolis. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969.

Miller, Donald L. City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996.

Pacyga, Dominic A., and Ellen Skerrett. Chicago, City of Neighborhoods: Histories and Tours. Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1986.

Pierce, Bessie Louise. A History of Chicago. 3 vols. New York: Knopf, 1937–1957.

Jon C.Teaford

See alsoArt Institute of Chicago ; Chicago Riots of 1919 ; Chicago Seven ; Haymarket Riot ; Illinois ; Midwest ; Museum of Science and Industry ; Sears Tower .

Chicago: Economy

views updated Jun 08 2018

Chicago: Economy

Major Industries and Commercial Activity

Chicago's diversified economy is based on manufacturing, printing and publishing, finance and insurance, and food processing (the city is still considered the nation's "candy capital") as primary sectors. A substantial industrial base and a major inland port contribute to the city's position as a national transportation and distribution center. The source of nationally distributed magazines, catalogs, educational materials, encyclopedias, and specialized publications, Chicago ranks second only to New York in the publishing industry. The city is home to the Federal Reserve Bank, the Chicago Board of Trade, and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

Items and goods produced: telephone equipment, musical instruments, surgical appliances, machinery, earthmoving and agricultural equipment, steel, metal products, diesel engines, printing presses, office machines, radios and television sets, auto accessories, chemicals, soap, paint, food products and confections

Incentive ProgramsNew and Existing Companies

Local programs

The City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development (DPD) actively promotes growth and development in Chicago's diverse neighborhoods with a focus on the continued economic development of the city. The department works with the existing business community and also works to attract new business to Chicago. All of this is done in the context of holistic, community-based planning, closely coordinating activities with residents and community organizations. The department's Technology Development Division works with the Chicago Partnership for Economic Development to strengthen the city's information technology sector.

DPD promotes effective neighborhood planning by coordinating the strategic allocation of public funds to maximize private investmentand the attraction of new companiesby providing a menu of financial resources, neighborhood improvements, site location assistance, and the expediting of permits and licenses. DPD also has the primary responsibility for preserving city landmarks and protecting the Chicago River and the Lake Michigan shoreline.

State programs

In 1977 the Illinois legislature adopted the Tax Increment Allocation Redevelopment Act to provide municipalities with a unique tool to finance and stimulate urban redevelopment. Through the use of Tax Increment Financing (TIF), cities can stimulate private investment by offering incentives to attract and retain businesses, improve their community areas, and maintain a well-educated and highly trained labor force. TIF is by far the most popular incentive program in Chicago; by the end of 2003, Chicago had invested $870 million in TIF funds and benefitted from $5.4 billion in private investment

Job training programs

The Mayor's Office of Workforce Development (MOWD) assists job seekersincluding those who have been laid offin finding and keeping jobs. The five Chicago Workforce Centers located throughout the city, as well as 30 community-based affiliate organizations, offer services such as basic job skills courses, access to job listings, seminars in resume writing and interviewing, and veterans services. Mayor Daley's WorkNet Chicago assists ex-offenders in reentering the workforce.

Development Projects

In the summer of 2004, the long-anticipated Millennium Park opened. Conceived in the late 1990s with the goal of creating more usable space in Grant Park, the $475 million park is a state-of-the-art example of modern city green space. The Jay Pritzker Pavilion, designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, is an outdoor concert venue that seats 4,000 people. The Cloud Gate, sculpted by Anish Kapoor, is a 110-ton elliptical sculpture made of stainless steel. Visitors can walk under and around the sculpture, which resembles a giant bean and reflects Chicago's skyline. Another popular attraction is the Jarume Plensa-designed Crown Fountain, two 50-foot high towers made of glass blocks and situated in a reflecting pool. The towers feature changing video images of the faces of Chicagoans, from which jets of water appear to descend.

In 2001 The Art Institute of Chicago unveiled plans to construct a new museum wing on the museum's northeast corner. Expected to be completed in 2007, the new wing, designed by architect Renzo Piano, will add approximately 220,000 square feet of space to the museum. The $198 million addition will add a contemporary appeal to the museum's 19th century building.

The O'Hare Modernization Program is Chicago's O'Hare International Airport's plan to add a new western terminal facility and reconfigure existing runways. The $6.6 billion project, to be funded through passenger facility charges, general airport revenue bonds, and federal Airport Improvement Program funds, will require a total of 433 acres in Chicago and surrounding suburbs. Plans for the proposed improvements were submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration for review in October of 2003.

McCormick Place, North America's largest exhibition hall, broke ground in 2004 for McCormick Place West. The $850 million expansion will add approximately 470,000 square feet of exhibition space and 250,000 square feet of meeting space, which will include more than 60 meeting rooms and a 100,000 square foot ballroom. The five-story facility will connect to the existing McCormick Place campus. McCormick Place West is expected to open in 2008.

Economic Development Information: Chicago Department of Planning and Development, 121 N. LaSalle Street, #1003, Chicago, IL 60602; telephone (312)744-4190

Commercial Shipping

Since its founding, Chicago has been an important transportation and distribution point; at one time it was a crucial link between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River waterways and today the city ranks among the world's busiest shipping hubs. The city became a world port in 1959 with the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, which provides a direct link from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. The Port of Chicago handles marine, rail, and overland freight. The state of Illinois maintains the third-highest combined mileage of railroads and paved highways in the country. Approximately 750 motor freight carriers serve the metropolitan area, and trucking companies ship more than 50 million tons of freight each year; railroads average more than 40 million tons. Chicago's airports handle more than one million metric tons of cargo annually.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

Chicago's unemployment rate exceeds the national average. The loss of jobs for both unskilled and college-educated workers can be attributed to the Internet bust, an ailing economy, plant closings, and the relocation of companies once headquartered in Chicago. However, the unemployment rate seems to be on a decline; March of 2005 showed the largest gains in employment since 2000. Like many large cities, Chicago has a large immigrant population. The immigrants come from all over the world, including Poland, Mexico, India, the former Soviet Union, the Philippines, and China. Despite fears that low-skilled immigrants would not be assimilated into an increasingly high-tech economy, local analysts say the newcomers are following the success track of earlier groups, working their way into the middle class after performing service and laboring jobs.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Chicago metropolitan area civilian labor force, 2004 annual average:

Size of civilian labor force: 4,231,500

Number of workers employed in . . .

construction and mining: 175,300

manufacturing: 402,300

trade, transportation and utilities: 763,400

information: 87,000

financial activities: 292,400

professional and business services: 601,100

educational and health services: 466,600

leisure and hospitality: 319,600

other services: 171,200

government: 469,600

Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $15.44 (Chicago-Naperville-Joliet metropolitan area, 2004 average)

Unemployment rate: 6.4% (February 2005)

Largest employersNumber of employees
U.S. Government88,000
Chicago Public Schools39,402
City of Chicago35,978
Cook County26,505

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Chicago is higher than the national average. The following is a summary of data regarding several key cost of living factors in the Chicago area.

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Average House Price: $427,451

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Cost of Living Index: 130.4 (U.S. average = 100.0)

State income tax rate: 3.0%

State sales tax rate: 6.25% (1% on food and drugs) (2005)

Local income tax rate: None

Local sales tax rate: 9%

Property tax rate: 7.247 mills (2002)

Chicago: History

views updated Jun 08 2018

Chicago: History

Lakeshore Site Begins With Trading Post, Fort

The earliest known inhabitants of the area they called "Chicaugou" were Native Americans of the Illinois tribe. The meaning of the word "Chicaugou" is variously interpreted to mean great, powerful, or strong, depending on the dialect. In the Chippewa dialect the word "shegahg" meant "wild onion"; it is said that an abundance of wild onions grew in the region.

The first people of European descent to reach Chicago were the explorers Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet, who encamped on the Lake Michigan shore at the mouth of the Chicago River in 1673. A century later, in 1783, Jean-Baptiste Du Sable, the son of a French merchant from Quebec and a Haitian slave, left New Orleans and established a fur-trading post in the same area. The site was advantageous for transportation, because it afforded a short portage between the Chicago River, part of the Great Lakes waterway, and the Des Plaines River, connected to the Mississippi waterway via the Illinois River. Sable mysteriously vanished in 1800, and John Kinzie, the region's first English civilian settler, took over the trading post. Soon a United States garrison, Fort Dearborn, was built to defend the post. In 1812 angry Potawatomi killed most of the traders, except for the Kinzie family, and destroyed Fort Dearborn, which was rebuilt in 1816.

A survey and plat of the growing settlement were filed in 1830, at which time the area numbered 350 inhabitants. Chicago was chartered as a town in 1833 and rechartered as a city in 1837. The completion of the Illinois-Michigan Canal in 1848 turned the city into a marketing center for grain and food products. The first railroad arrived the same year the canal was opened, and within a decade Chicago was the focal point for 3,000 miles of track. The productive grain industry fed cattle and hogs, and Chicago emerged as the site of a major livestock market and meatpacking industry, surpassing Cincinnati as the nation's pork packer. Cattle merchants formed the Union Stock Yards and Transit Company.

Cyrus McCormick opened a factory in the city in 1847 to manufacture his reaper, leading the way for Chicago to become a farm implements hub. The city also became a leader in the processing of lumber for furniture, buildings, and fencing. Chicago industries outfitted Union troops during the Civil War, when the grain and farm machinery industries also experienced wartime growth. George Pullman began to produce railroad sleeping cars in Chicago in 1867. The next year the city's first blast furnace was built. At this time merchants Potter Palmer, Marshall Field, and Levi Leter began shipping consumer goods to general stores in the Midwest.

Growth Creates Challenges, Opportunities

Chicago's rapid growth resulted in congested residential sectors where the poor were relegated to shabby housing without proper sanitation. Chicago was radically changed, however, on October 8, 1871, by a cataclysmic fire that burned for 27 hours. At that time two-thirds of the city's buildings were made of wood and the summer had been especially dry; high winds spread the fire quickly. Although the stockyards, freight yards, and factory district were spared, Chicago's commercial area was completely destroyed; 8,000 buildings and property valued at just under $200 million were lost. More than 90,000 people were left homeless and 300 people lost their lives.

Since the city's industrial infrastructure was unscathed by the fire, rebuilding progressed rapidly, and Chicago was essentially rebuilt within a year. When the economic panic of 1873 swept the rest of the nation, Chicago was relatively protected from the ensuing depression. The city's prosperity in the post-fire era was founded on an expansion of its industrial and marketing base. Assembly-line techniques were introduced in the meat packing industry, and technological improvements benefitted the steel and farm machinery makers. The United States Steel South Works, based in Chicago, became one of the largest such operations in the world. At that time George Pullman established his Palace Car Company in a nearby town he owned and named after himself, which was later annexed to Chicago.

Chicago celebrated its two decades of growth by sponsoring the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, which also marked the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's discovery of America, and which attracted more than 21 million visitors to the city. Chicago at this time was in the forefront of architectural innovation and became known as the birthplace of the skyscraper. Of particular architectural importance is the Chicago Board of Trade, where commodities futures are bought and sold. A politically active city, Chicago underwent a period of reform in the late 1890s. A civil service was inaugurated in 1895, and numerous reform organizations attempted to influence public opinion.

Political Trends Shape City's Future

Five-term Mayor Carter H. Harrison Jr. brought the reform spirit to a high point, but weak law enforcement and other factors allowed gangsters such as Alphonse "Scarface" Capone and John Dillinger to rise to power in the 1920s and 1930s. Chicago was characterized the world over as a gangster headquarters long after Democratic reform Mayor Anton J. Cermak initiated cleanup efforts. He also introduced a style of ward and district politics copied after the New York City Tammany Hall political machine. Cermak was killed by an assassin's bullet intended for President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt, but Cermak's political organization continued under Mayor Edward J. Kelly.

In 1933 Chicago gained world attention once again when it hosted A Century of Progress, a world exposition that celebrated the city's incorporation as a municipality; Chicago's industrial and financial advances and prosperity were on display despite the era's economic depression. In 1942 scientists working in Chicago produced the first nuclear chain reaction and thus advanced the creation of atomic weaponry and energy. During its history, Chicago has frequently been the site of national political meetings, including the Republican Party gathering to nominate Abraham Lincoln in 1860 and the Democratic Party convention that nominated Hubert H. Humphrey in 1968. The latter brought protestors against the Vietnam War to Chicago's streets and drew national attention to Mayor Richard J. Daley's handling of the demonstrators.

The Mayors Daley

The most powerful symbol of Chicago politics, Richard J. Daley served as mayor from 1955 until his death in 1976. Daley was a major force in the national Democratic Party and was considered the last "big city boss." His son, Richard M. Daley, ran for Chicago's mayoral office in 1989 in an election that Time magazine characterized as "an ethnic power struggle" that divided the city along racial lines. Chicago's first African American mayor, Harold Washington, had been elected in 1983 and reelected in 1987, but after his death the coalition of African Americans and white liberals that had elected him broke down; African American voter participation was down from previous elections while, according to Time, Daley's "richly financed campaign produced a large turnout among whites. Result: Daley, by 55% to 41%." Daley won 58 percent of the vote in 1995. As mayor of a city known for its widely diverse neighborhoods of Germans, Scandinavians, Irish, Jews, Italians, Poles, Eastern Europeans, Asians, Hispanics, and African Americans, Daley has faced the challenge of uniting the spirit of a divided city entering the twenty-first century as an internationally important urban center. With a national reputation as a skilled and astute negotiator, with powerful political supporters at the national level, Mayor Daley received another vote of confidence when the Democratic Party selected Chicago as the site of the 1996 National Convention. Mayor Daley has privatized a number of city government operations and by 1996 had passed balanced budgets seven years in a row; this and other successes accounted for his selection as national spokesperson for the U.S. Conference of Mayors in 1996. In 2005 Mayor Daley outlined his goals for the city in his annual City of Chicago address. These goals included a city in which every family could afford housing in a safe neighborhood, a city in which every child receives a quality education, and a city where good jobs are available to those who want to work.

Today's Chicago exists as a cultural mecca, with world-class museums, restaurants, theater, and arts. Still, the "other side" of Chicago is not as shiny, in terms of blighted housing projects and crimea stigma hard for any large city to overcome, yet continually addressed by the mayor and city leaders.

Historical Information: Chicago Historical Society, 1629 North Clark Street at North Avenue, Chicago, IL 60614; telephone (312)642-4600

Chicago: Education and Research

views updated Jun 11 2018

Chicago: Education and Research

Elementary and Secondary Schools

With 613 elementary and high schools, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system is the largest public elementary and secondary educational system in Illinois. Several initiatives, such as the Chicago Reading Initiative and the Chicago Math and Science Initiative are programs that have been implemented district-wide to ensure students meet minimum achievement standards in basic subjects. The After School Matters program is a partnership between CPS, the Chicago Park District, the Chicago Public Library, and the City of Chicago. Apprenticeships and club activities offer teens exposure to and on-the-job training in the arts, sports technology, and communications.

Because of the city's large foreign-born population, the school system employs bilingual teachers in 20 languages. Special schools include Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, situated on the last farm in the city of Chicago, which prepares students for jobs in "anything to do with food and fiber," and Curie Metropolitan High School, with magnet programs in the performing and creative arts and electronic repair and maintenance. Construction is expected to begin in 2006 on two new high schools, a selective enrollment college prep school and a vocational magnet high school, to be housed in one building on Chicago's west side. When opened in 2008, the schools will replace the existing Westinghouse High School.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Chicago public schools as of the 20042005 school year (middle schools are included in the elementary school count).

Total enrollment: 426,812

Number of facilities

elementary schools: 486

high schools: 107

Student teacher ratio: elementary, 22.7:1; high school, 19.6 (2003)

Teacher salaries

average: $62,985 (2003)

Funding per pupil: $8,786 (2003)

The Archdiocese of Chicago operates 235 elementary and 41 high schools in Cook and Lake counties, with an enrollment in excess of 107,000 students. There are also approximately 52 state-recognized public schools in Chicago.

Public Schools Information: Chicago Public Schools, 125 South Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60603; telephone (773)553-1000

Colleges and Universities

Chicago-area institutions of higher education include private, state, and religious universities of national note. The University of Chicago, founded with an endowment by John D. Rockefeller in 1891, enjoys an international reputation for pioneering science research and the "Chicago plan" in undergraduate education. The university claims more than 70 Nobel laureatesfar more than any other university in the country. The university, with research funding of $236 million in 2003, administers advanced scholarship and research centers, including the Enrico Fermi Institute, the Enrico Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and the Argonne National Laboratory, among others. The University of Illinois at Chicago enrolls approximately 25,000 students earning bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees and first professional degrees in dentistry, medicine, and pharmacy.

The city's three leading Catholic institutions are DePaul University, offering undergraduate, master's and doctorate and law programs to more than 23,000 students; Loyola University of Chicago, which awards bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees, first-professional degrees in dentistry, law, and medicine, and a master's degree in divinity to its more than 13,000 students; and Saint Xavier College, where popular recent majors among its 5,700 students were business, nursing, and education. The Illinois Institute of Technology enrolls more than 6,000 students and offers professional programs in the sciences, engineering, law, art, and architecture. The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, with more than 2,700 students, holds national stature in art instruction.

Among the city's many other institutions of higher learning are Chicago City-Wide College, Roosevelt University, Chicago State University, Columbia College, Dr. William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine, Illinois College of Optometry, Rush University, and Vandercook College of Music. Northwestern University is located in nearby Evanston.

Libraries and Research Centers

The Chicago Public Library encompasses 75 branches, two regional libraries, and the central Harold Washington Library Center, which opened in 1991 and is one of the foremost educational and cultural resources in the city of Chicago. At 756,000 square feet, the library center is the largest municipal building in the world. The library's collection consists of about 6.5 million books, 14,500 periodicals and serials, 90,000 audiovisual titles, and 3 million microfiche. A special collection of books and materials in 90 foreign languages is maintained, and the library center is the repository for the Chicago Theater Collection, the Civil War Collection, and the Chicago Blues Archives. The library center also boasts an 18,000-square-foot children's library, a bustling business/science/technology division, and a Teacher Resource Center offering print and online resources to assist educators. On display throughout the building is an extensive public art collection.

Staff members in each library of the public library system build their own collections and tailor services to meet the needs of their local community. Since 1989, the city has built or renovated more than 40 branch libraries. Currently, new construction projects, renovations, expansions, and consolidation projects are underway. All of Chicago's public libraries offer free Internet access and free access to research databases.

The approximately 275 other libraries located in Chicago are affiliated with such entities as government agencies, colleges and universities, cultural and historical societies, professional organizations, research institutes, religious organizations, hospitals and medical associations, private corporations, and law firms.

The University of Chicago, internationally recognized for excellence in education and research, maintains a central library facility with more than 7 million printed works and 30 million manuscripts and archival pieces. Special collections are maintained in American and British literature, American history, theology and biblical criticism, American and British drama, and Continental literature. The University of Chicago operates seven separate facilities, including the D'Angelo Law Library and the Social Service Administration Library.

The Newberry Library, an independent research library, was founded in 1887. Free to the public, the library's non-circulating research materials number more than 1.4 million volumes; among the special collections are materials pertaining to Americana and American Indians.

One of the largest research libraries in Chicago is the Center for Research Libraries, an international not-for-profit consortium of colleges, universities, and libraries that makes available scholarly research resources to users everywhere. It houses more than 5 million books and periodicals; fields of study include Africa, South Asia, South East Asia, Latin America, and war crime trials. The Chicago Academy of Sciences' International Center for the Advancement of Scientific Literacy (ICASL) is the leading research organization in the world studying and measuring the impact of science and technology on public awareness. The National Opinion Research Center collects current opinion poll reports conducted for commercial television networks, newspapers, state governments, professional pollsters such as Gallup and Harris. The Chicago Historical Society maintains research collections on Chicago, the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, Illinois, and United States history.

The Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at Northwestern University is the only cancer center in Illinois. The center is dedicated to cancer care, research, prevention, and education. Other research centers in the Chicago area include those maintained by Bell Labs, Nalco Chemical, the ITT Research Institute, the Institute of Gas Technology, the Illinois State Psychiatric Institute, the Institute for Psychoanalysis, and the Institute on the Church in Urban-Industrial Society.

Public Library Information: Chicago Public Library, 400 South State Street, Chicago, IL 60605. Information Center, telephone (312)747-4300

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