Chicago: A Biography

Chicago: A Biography

Dominic A. Pacyga

Language: English

Pages: 472

ISBN: 0226644286

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Chicago has been called by many names. Nelson Algren declared it a “City on the Make.” Carl Sandburg dubbed it the “City of Big Shoulders.” Upton Sinclair christened it “The Jungle,” while New Yorkers, naturally, pronounced it “the Second City.”

At last there is a book for all of us, whatever we choose to call Chicago. In this magisterial biography, historian Dominic Pacygatraces the storied past of his hometown, from the explorations of Joliet and Marquette in 1673 to the new wave of urban pioneers today. The city’s great industrialists, reformers, and politicians—and, indeed, the many not-so-great and downright notorious—animate this book, from Al Capone and Jane Addams to Mayor Richard J. Daley and President Barack Obama. But what distinguishes this book from the many others on the subject is its author’s uncommon ability to illuminate the lives of Chicago’s ordinary people. Raised on the city’s South Side and employed for a time in the stockyards, Pacyga gives voice to the city’s steelyard workers and kill floor operators, and maps the neighborhoods distinguished not by Louis Sullivan masterworks, but by bungalows and corner taverns.

 Filled with the city’s one-of-a-kind characters and all of its defining moments, Chicago: A Biography is as big and boisterous as its namesake—and as ambitious as the men and women who built it.

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and went on to promote libraries. They joined the legendary booster John Stephen Wright, born in Sheffield, Massachusetts, who took the first census of the city and published a handsome lithographed map of the town’s shacks that he termed edifices and buildings. Wright also went into the real estate business and made a fortune in those wild speculative early years. He made $200,000 by the age of twenty-one but due to the economic depression of 1837 went bankrupt at twenty-two. He then founded the

the city’s busy streets. The city council began to plank the principal streets in 1849. Drainage continued to be a problem, and several attempts to deal with the dilemma by the city ended in failure. At the end of 1850, only 9.59 miles of the city’s streets were planked with some minimal sewers put in place. Lakeshore erosion also presented a quandary for the young city, as did a need to widen the harbor and create more docks and wharfs.10 Even Mother Nature sometimes created problems. On March

Collection.) large annual fairs to raise money for the quickly growing Parish of the Holy Family. Local politicians such as “Honest John” Comiskey and Patrick ­Rafferty took part in the drives. The construction of parishes and then parochial schools were central events in the Catholic neighborhood experience. When the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary arrived in 1867 to establish a school, local families rushed to enroll their children. In 1870, the nuns opened St. Aloysius School on Maxwell

Pullman and Addams, Ferdinand Peck believed that beauty could lift up the working class and win it over to the middle-class viewpoint. Involved in music and especially opera, Peck supported the Chicago Athenaeum, a kind of workers’ college started just after the 135 Figure 46. Adler and Sullivan’s Auditorium Building, ca. 1900, provided an outlet for various social and cultural experiments for the city. (Chicago Public Library, Special Collections and Preservation Division.) Figure 47. This

representative of the ARU advised Pullman workers against violence and drinking. Thomas Heathcoate, the chairman of the strike committee, told workers to stay away from plant gates. Daily meetings would be held at the Turner Hall in Kensington. The union placed three hundred men along the gates of the Pullman plant in order to guard it against any kind of damage. Pullman management called this picket­ ing. The men stayed on watch until July 6 when the military replaced them to safeguard Pullman’s

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