Author! Author! 2006-2010
Author! Author! is a list of publications that credit the collection or staff of the Museum. Whether a work is distributed by a famous publishing house or self-published, fiction or history, DVD or book, we have included it on our list. Some of the publications result from a formal collaboration with the Museum; others are the result of individual research using our resources. Our name may come up in the photo credits, or perhaps you will find it in the acknowledgments. Whatever the case, we want to know more and share more about our impact.
Once a month, President Gary Johnson or Chief Historian Russell Lewis comment on a publication that provides a window into our collections. Authors and publishers who have used and credited our research resources and wish to be included in this list should send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Commentary on 2006-2010 Publications
Foner, Eric. The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery. New York: Norton, 2010.
President's Commentary, December 2010: We live in an era when a politician is condemned as a "flip-flopper" for having an open mind and allowing stands on issues to change as circumstances change. Foner's very thoughtful study of Lincoln's evolving views on race and slavery, and of the political choices that Lincoln made, should be a strong counter-argument to that simplistic way of thinking. The problem for readers like us is that no matter how nuanced the account of the arc of Lincoln's life may be, we know too much about where the story of race in America was heading - toward Civil War, Reconstruction, and beyond. Whenever we see personal attitudes in Lincoln that history later would condemn, it always is unsettling. That reaction, however, should lead us to redouble our own efforts in our own lives to keep an open mind and to question our assumptions, always open to the possibility that we might not have the complete answer.
Haas, Shirley Lowry. “Genealogical Research Solves a Family Mystery,” Chicago Genealogist. Chicago Genealogical Society: Vol. 43, No. 1 (fall 2010).
President's Commentary, November 2010: This article from Chicago’s leading family history publication is a reminder of the Chicago History Museum’s impact on personal lives. A family researcher tells the story. She discovered that our Research Center has copies of the Chicago Daily Socialist, where she found a report of the 1910 murder of her grandfather, Armand Lilien. Lilien had broken up a street fight between two boys. The father of one of the boys then assaulted him, and he died. Lilien had immigrated to Chicago from Belgium. He had been the first international president of the Hod Carriers and Building Laborers Union, and he also served as President of Local 4 in Chicago. The author had grown up without a grandfather, but family members had not shared the story of his death with her. Now she knows what happened.
Titone, Nora. My Thoughts Be Bloody: The Bitter Rivalry Between Edwin and John Wilkes Booth that Led to an American Tragedy. New York: Free Press (2010).
President's Commentary, October 2010: The Lincoln bicentennial generated literally hundreds of new books, and, in the end, very few genuine surprises. The surprise here is that the relationship of the two famous Booth brothers is such an obvious subject, yet we know so little about it. Think of this: A third-rate actor who is the brother of possibly the world's most famous actor stages an episode literally out of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar." How did this come about? It turns out that their father, too, was a famous actor, but his messy family life on two continents was guaranteed to promote insecurity on top of sibling rivalry among his children. Nora Titone makes great progress with her subject, and I highly recommend this book, but, in the end, questions of motivation can only be somewhat speculative.
Grandin, Madame Léon. A Parisienne in Chicago: Impressions of the World’s Columbian Exposition. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press (2009).
President's Commentary, September 2010: One of the pleasures of this account by a French observer is to look up her descriptions of well-known individuals. She describes Bertha Honoré Palmer, the President of the Board of Lady Managers for the exposition, as “a charming American woman who lives in Paris and is a distinguished art critic.” Palmer was “attractive and witty with a Parisian sort of distinction”, someone who has “a very French appearance….” You might gather from this that her observations all were predictable, but sometimes I find even a throw-away comment arresting. On her way to Chicago, she visited New York. While she liked the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she preferred the New York’s Museum of Natural History. Why? “More than fine arts, American instinctually appreciate works of nature. No expense has been spared in assembling the most varied and unusual examples.” Superficial, perhaps, but maybe at that time, she was right. If so, doesn’t this help to explain why, over a century later, our great natural history museums hold such a vast legacy?
Windhorst, Edward and Kevin Harrington. Lake Point Tower: A Design History. Chicago, IL: Chicago Architecture (2009).
President's Commentary, August 2010: A brief study of one of America’s architectural treasures, one that has stood the test of time. Some of the beautiful architectural photographs are from the Hedrich-Blessing Collection.
Titone, Nora. My Thoughts Be Bloody: The Bitter Rivalry Between Edwin and John Wilkes Booth that Led to an American Tragedy. New York: Free Press (2010).
President's Commentary, July 2010: The Lincoln bicentennial generated literally hundreds of new books, and, in the end, very few genuine surprises. The surprise here is that the relationship of the two famous Booth brothers is such an obvious subject, yet we knew so little about it. Think of this: A third-rate actor who is the brother of possibly the world's most famous actor stages an episode literally out of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar." How did this come about? It turns out that their father, too, was an actor, but his messy family life on two continents was guaranteed to promote insecurity on top of sibling rivalry. Nora Titone makes great progress with her subject, and I highly recommend this book, but, in the end, questions of motivation can only be somewhat speculative.
Ford, Liam T. A. Soldier Field: A Stadium and Its City. New York: Free Press (2010).
President's Commentary, June 2010: Wrigley Field may be better-known, but the author has it right when he says of Soldier Field “a stadium and its city.” It turns out that far more than athletic events have been held in this massive facility. For example, it used to be the setting for the annual Chicagoland Music Festival which attracted both performers and spectators in Brobdingnagian proportions. (I remember in particular the massed accordions.) It has hosted memorable religious events, such as the Catholic Eucharistic Congress in 1925 and the Billy Graham Crusade of 1962. Some of the best photos are from the Chicago Park District, which justifiably prides itself on its special collections.
Schlachtmeyer, Sandra Spatz. A Death Decoded: Robert Kennicott and the Alaska Telegraph. Alexandria Virginia: Voyage Publishing Inc. (2010).
President's Commentary, May 2010: This short book tells the gripping story of one of Chicago’s great figures, Robert Kennicott. This 30-year-old naturalist died mysteriously in Alaska. The author describes the efforts to take a forensic approach to explore unanswered questions. This is a truly fascinating account. This young man, by the way, left a remarkable legacy. Kennicott worked for the Smithsonian Institution, and in 1856 helped to found the Chicago Academy of Sciences. Only a year later, he helped to found Northwestern University’s own natural history museum. His legacy lives best at The Grove National Historic Landmark in Glenview, one of my favorite Chicago-area museum treasures.
Barnhart, Bill and Gene Schlickman. John Paul Stevens: An Independent Life. DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois Press. (2010).
President’s Commentary: April 2010: Barnhart and Schlickman offer a completely original and readable approach that connects the life and career of a future Supreme Court justice with his distinguished contributions on the court. This is a new direction for legal scholarship and a great service to our democracy.
Beito, David T. and Linda Royster Beito. Black
Maverick: T.R.M. Howard’s Fight for Civil Rights and Economic
Power. Urbana and Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press
President's Commentary: March 2010: This book is a prime example of how the unconventional life of one man can shed new light on an historical movement. T.R.M. Howard was a medical doctor and businessman in Mississippi. He became personally involved in the search for the truth after the death of Emmett Till in 1955. Faced with death threats, he moved to Chicago, where he opened a medical practice, got into legal trouble for performing abortions – and ran for Congress against William L. Dawson as a Republican. Howard battled at times with the NAACP, as both gave considerable attention to the positioning of civil rights activities, so that the movement would not be dragged into Cold War anti-communist politics. It is a delicious irony that records about Howard that were created under orders from J. Edgar Hoover became primary sources for this valuable biography.
Waugh, Joan. U. S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth (Civil War America. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press (2009).
President's Commentary: February 2010: This book is more about memory than it is about Grant himself. Ronald Reagen, it might be said, is an example of a President whose stock has gone up since he died—the collapse of communism confirmed a key view of his presidency, and the publication of his letters revealed a thoughtful and articulate human side. Joan Waugh's book on Grant reveals a President whose reputation collapsed after his death. This would have been very hard to predict. The writing of his memoirs as he lay dying created a best-seller and induced sympathetic feelings. The Union general who won the war by risking the lives of his troop was mourned at his funeral by veterans from the Confederacy. His personal weaknesses were well-known and were forgiven. Memorials were built in the form of his tomb in New York and his monument on in Washington, D.C. More than anything, it seems, his reputation was overshadowed by the myth of the South as a lost cause and by the apotheosis of Robert E. Lee as a kind of saint. Will the record correct itself? This excellent book may help, but I wouldn't bet the ranch on it. The best-known movie portraying the Civil War remains Gone with the Wind. Subsequent events have made us harsher on corruption in presidential administrations. Grant's incomplete efforts at Reconstruction probably will be remembered not for their good intentions but for their missed opportunities. One point to remember: as we read Douglas Brinkley's very complete portrayal of Teddy Roosevelt as an environmentalist, let's not forget that it was U.S. Grant in 1872 who created the first national park—Yellowstone.
Lewis, Dan A. Gaining Ground in Illinois: Welfare Reform and Person-Centered Policy Analysis. DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press (2009).
President's Commentary: January 2010: This is a very unusual and valuable book. First, it is a rare example of a legislatively-mandated review of a major policy change. The sponsor of the legislation mandating the review was none other than Barack Obama, then an Illinois State Senator, and the subject was the application in Illinois of federal welfare reform. Second, the studies included in the book reflect a methodological breakthrough by focusing on individuals who were affected by reforms, in addition to statistics that review the experience as a whole. Professor Lewis richly demonstrates that a "person-centered strategy is within reach" for researching the effectiveness of policy initiatives. We come to know certain individuals, but fortunately this is not a string of colorful, unrelated anecdotes. Lewis dares to categorize the individuals surveyed into types and in doing so, draws a common-sense conclusion that had eluded the polemicists of the left and the right, that a reform will have differing impacts on different kinds of people. Summarizing this approach in a brief review such as this may raise the question that the approach is circular, that people are grouped not because of their characteristics, but because of their differing reactions. Read the studies, and you will see that author avoided that trap. Each and every study includes some surprising results, which, I imagine, is exactly why State Senator Obama wanted this work to be done. This book is a ray of hope that in a polarized democracy, dispassionate scholars can shed light on policy initiatives when they focus their attention on real individuals, and not on the cartoon versions that illustrate our political rhetoric.Cahan, Richard, and Williams, Michael. Edgar Miller and the Hand-Made Home: Chicago's Forgotten Renaissance Man. Chicago, IL: CityFiles Press (2009).
President's Commentary: December 2009: Chicago is known for its modern functional elegance, but take a look at Edgar Miller and you will come away with a completely different impression of what Chicago could produce. Miller drew on ideas from other eras, including the medieval period. "Renaissance man" understates Miller's accomplishments and his mastery of some two dozen crafts. The photographs are gorgeous, as they need to be in order to do justice to the color, variety and texture of Miller's work in every medium. Most of the shots are from private homes, so even experts on Chicago buildings will find new material. Scholars will welcome that the book is comprehensive and definitive, but everyone will be astonished by the warmth and variety of Miller's creations. This is a great book for anyone who loves Chicago and anyone who cares about true craftsmanship.
Schwartz, Michael (director). The Botany of Desire Featuring Michael Pollan (DVD). Washington, D.C.: PBS (2009).
President's Commentary: November 2009: This highly-regarded PBS documentary included images from the Chicago Daily News photo collection of the Chicago History Museum. The focus is on four specific plants, the apple and the potato (as you might expect), but also marijuana and the tulip. At the forefront is each plant’s on-going relationship with human beings, which gives rise to wider insights.
Harpster, Jack. The Railroad Tycoon Who Built Chicago: A Biography of William B. Ogden. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press (2009).
President's Commentary: October 2009: William B. Ogden was the first Mayor of the City of Chicago, serving from 1837-38. He was a giant in Chicago’s history, who played a leading role both in canal and railroad development. What sets this book apart is that it includes much about his life apart from the Chicago years. Too often in accounts of Chicagoans, they seem to parachute into the city, with only a brief reference to some place back east where they came from. Jack Harpster includes information about Ogden’s background in upstate New York, as well as his interactions with business and political circles on the east coast. This comprehensive approach to a key Chicago figure is a real gift.
Haverty-Stacke, Donna T. America’s Forgotten Holiday: May Day and Nationalism, 1867-1960. New York, NY: New York University Press (2009).
President's Commentary: September 2009: Have you ever wondered why the rest of the world celebrates Labor Day on May 1st and we don’t? The answer is fascinating, and there is a Chicago connection.
Hough, Jessica and Monica Ramirez-Montagut, eds. Revisiting the Glass House: Contemporary Art and Modern Architecture. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press (2009). (Published in association with the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum and Mills College Art Museum).
Byrne, John B. Cuneo Museum and Gardens. Charleston,
South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing (2009).
Brosens, Koenraad. European Tapestries in the Art
Institute of Chicago. Chicago, Illinois: The Art Institute of
Schulman, Daniel, ed. A Force for Change: African American
Art and the Julius Rosenwald Fund. Chicago, Illinois: Spertus
Institute of Jewish Studies (2009).
President's Commentary: August 2009: Four books involving other museums, and all credit images from the Chicago History Museum. This random selection of new publications graphically illustrates how dependent museums are upon each other’s intellectual property, even when putting a book together about a museum’s own collections and specialized interests. Sometimes the connection is not obvious. Why would a work on European tapestries need an image from the Chicago History Museum? This book includes a photograph of a room in the Potter Palmer residence, with tapestries visible, reproduced from our photograph collection. A Force for Change: African American Art and the Julius Rosenwald Fund is another stunning example of the impact of Julius Rosenwald on the lives of African Americans. It is remarkable to learn about the individuals who were supported by his fund, and stunning to see their artistic output. In this instance, we were proud to play a bit part in a beautiful book with a 1930 Hedrich-Blessing photograph of the Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments, which were financed by Julius Rosenwald and designed by Ernest A. Grunsfeld.
Burnham, Daniel H. and Bennett, Edward H. Charles Moore, ed. Plan of Chicago: Centennial Edition. Chicago, IL: Great Books Foundation (2009).
President's Commentary: July 2009: We now have a reasonably-priced edition of the Plan of Chicago, as well as a special gold-leaf edition - both a public service at the time of the Plan's centennial. The reproduction of the color images from the digital archives of the Chicago History Museum is gorgeous. Upon rereading the Plan, what struck me was not so much the visionary images of Chicago, which are iconic, but the many images from Europe.
On almost every point, the authors turned to precedents from London, Berlin, Vienna, and, above all, Paris. Some lessons remain unfulfilled to this day, such as the point that "It has been the experience of European cities that the banks of a river, although at first devoted only to commercial purposes, sooner or later are transformed into places which combine business uses with drives and promenades for traffic and for the pleasure of the people." Sometimes Europe is held as a counterexample, including the swipe at London for failing to implement Christopher Wren's plans following the 1666 Great Fire of London.
This all demonstrates a great familiarity with European capitals on the part of Chicago's wealthy. Our blockbuster exhibition, Chic Chicago, closing this month, proves this connection. What has fashion to do with infrastructure? Whatever the motivation, the era of the Burnham Plan was one in which Chicago saw itself in a worldly context and the insights of its leaders were based on extensive travel.
Wiche, Glen N., ed. Dispatches from Bermuda: The Civil War Letters of Charles Maxwell Allen, United States Consul at Bermuda, 1861-1888.Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press (2008).
President's Commentary: June 2009: Something new on the Civil War? You might think that is impossible, even as the bicentennial approaches, now less than two years away. Here's something new, thanks to the meticulous editorial work of Chicago scholar and antiquarian bookseller, Glen N. Wiche. The letters of Charles Maxwell Allen, the U.S. Consul to Bermuda, largely have escaped the attention of historians, but that no longer will be the case because of this compilation and the editor's invaluable commentary. If you think that Bermuda is a sideshow to the Civil War, then think again: its location was central to the Union blockade of southern seaports and the efforts to defy the blockade and slip war supplies to the Confederacy. These potentially were game-changers in the Civil War as a whole, and occupied considerable attention by Lincoln. Allen was virtually alone in representing the interests of the United States on an island of Confederate sympathizers. This is a fascinating window into citizenship and foreign service, one that is a reminder of the courage and personal sacrifices made by our own foreign service representatives during today's dangerous times.
Satter, Beryl. Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America. New York: Henry Holt and Company (2009).
President's Commentary: May 2009: It is unusual for an academic work to include family history, but this is the strength of Beryl Satter’s valuable account, which begins with her father. In 1957, attorney Mark Satter was among the first to blow the whistle on contract-buying as the only option open to many of Chicago’s Blacks for buying a home. There were two terrible abuses: the buyer had no equity in the property until the final payment was made, and even one missed payment could result in a loss of the property. Contract-buying, unfortunately, was legal. This practice was challenged by creative and persevering lawyers, such as Thomas Boodel, Jr., Marshall Patner, Tom Sullivan, and John Tucker, all of whom followed the path started by the author's father. (The record of Jenner & Block in representing the Contract Buyers League over the years is one of our country’s greatest stories of pro bono law firm commitment.)
Important figures make appearances but did not always agree on tactics, including Saul Alinsky, Monsignor John Egan, Rabbi Robert J. Marx, and Dempsey Travis (who is a Life Trustee of the Chicago History Museum.) Here is the author's key insight: “The reason for the decline of so many black urban neighborhoods into slums was not the absence of resources but rather the riches that could be drawn from the seemingly poor vein of aged and decrepit housing and hard-pressed but hardworking and ambitious African Americans…The problem was not that racially changing neighborhoods were unprofitable. On the contrary, the problem was that the pickings were too easy, and the scale of profits too tempting, for many of the city’s most prominent citizens – attorneys, bankers, realtors, and politicians alike – to pass up.”
Carder, P.H., George F. Root, Civil War Songwriter: A Biography. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. (2008).
President's Commentary: April 2009: George Root's biography evokes a world that is very foreign to us, one when the public was offered songs on topical subjects almost instantly. The only analogy I can suggest is the speed that the day's news hits today's late-night monologues. Some songs became instant hits and helped to shape attitudes, such as "The Battle Cry of Freedom" and "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp (the boys are marching)." More were of minor consequence (Root used pseudonyms to write a song supporting each side in the Franco-Prussian War!)
Root's publishing business was based in Chicago and he lived in Hyde Park, but being in the music business meant an itinerant life, with endless conventions and events around the country. Big names from Chicago move through this book, including Dwight L. Moody (Root helped to develop the concept of hymns to accompany Moody's Sunday School movement), and Florenz Ziegfeld, Sr., who founded the Chicago Music College (now part of Roosevelt University) as America's fourth music conservatory. Root became its President in 1872. The account of Root's recovery from the destruction of the Chicago Fire opens a new window on business during that period in Chicago history.
Campbell, Tom, Fighting Slavery in Chicago: Abolitionists, the Law of Slavery, and Lincoln. Chicago: Ampersand, Inc. (2009).
President's Commentary: March 2009: New England did not have a monopoly on abolitionism. Campbell masterfully reveals a resourceful circle of activists who made Chicago their base. This group influenced Lincoln, but the courage of Charles Volney Dyer and other Chicago abolitionists stands on its own as a proud chapter in the struggle against slavery.
Alop, Alan and Doc Noel. The Best Team Ever: A Novel of America, Chicago, and the 1907 Cubs. Minneapolis, MN. Mill City Press (2008).
President's Commentary, February, 2009: This novel lets the statistics speak for themselves in their contention that “largely due to a great pitching staff, this team was the best ever.” During the season, their opponents only scored 370 runs. The team’s ERA for the 1908 season was “a phenomenal 1.73, the lowest team ERA in baseball history. Five out of the top six lowest individual ERAs in 1907 were by Cubs…” The team finished the season seventeen games ahead of runner-up Pittsburgh, and went on to win the World Series handily against Detroit. Chicago won four games, Detroit none, and one game was called a tie after darkness ended play. Apart from the tie game, the Cubs allowed only three Detroit runs. Four team members made the Hall of Fame (Mordecai Brown, Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and Frank Chance). 1907 was the high point in a great run of National League pennants for the Cubs that also included 1906, 1908, and 1910.
But this book is not about the statistics or even about a play-by-play analysis of key games. Pay attention to what follows the colon, because Best Team Ever is at least as much about Chicago as it is about the 1907 Cubs. It does what books about baseball so rarely do–convey a real sense of what it was like to be a member of that team, during those times, and in that place. No doubt, we can expect more novels from Chicago a century ago. The combination of burgeoning growth, colorful politics and unsolved crimes is a rich one. Let’s hope that, one glorious day, a novel about the heyday of the Chicago Cubs will find a more contemporary setting.
DePaul University. "University News," DePaul Magazine. Chicago: Department of University Relations (fall 2008).
President's Commentary, January, 2009: This year, DePaul dramatically expanded its physical presence on South State Street with its acquisition of the historic Lytton Building at 14 E. Jackson Blvd, helping DePaul to lead the way in making the South Loop the largest "college town" in Illinois and surrounding states. A request went out to the CHM Research Center for an image of the building when it functioned as the flagship of the Lytton department store. A photo from 1913 was found, showing the building's lower floor windows shaded by striped awnings. The blow-up was used at the ceremony announcing the purchase, and is reproduced in this article. This is typical of the short-order requests that the Museum receives. This particular issue of DePaul Magazine is remarkable for its profile of Saint Vincent de Paul and how his legacy continues to guide the global university, based in Chicago, that bears his name.
President's Commentary, December, 2008: This is one of our own, a publication edited by Elliott J. Gorn with the encouragement of the Chicago History Museum. Sports are a window to a rich variety of social and economic histories, as we constantly rediscover. Consider the titles of some of the book's articles: "Baseball Palace of the World: Commercial Recreation and the Building of Comiskey Park," and "The Plow the Broke the Midway: Bronko Nagurski." My favorite is "Serbs, Sports, and Whiteness." Curator Peter T. Alter traces how sports were used by Chicago's Serbian community to develop a self-identity and to establish a profile in Chicago's mainstream, at a time when suspicions of new immigrant groups had racial and ethnic implications.
Baatz, Simon. For the Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb, and the Murder that Shocked Chicago. New York: HarperCollins (2008).
President's Commentary, November, 2008: You may be relieved to learn that the book's title gets it wrong. This masterful account is less about the crime than it is about the lawyers and the courtroom drama. Such an account is long overdue. Simon Baatz's Darrow displayed two consistent traits throughout his professional career: his resourcefulness and his unrelenting opposition to the death penalty. Darrow's opponent, Cook County State's Attorney Robert Crowe, is not portrayed as a foil, but as a resourceful and ambitious lawyer. This is a book for both lawyers and non-lawyers. In addition to his meticulous research, the author knows how to tell a story.
Poole, Gary Andrew. The Galloping Ghost: Red Grange, an American Football Legend. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company (2008).
President's Commentary, October, 2008: College football was popular and well-established when Red Grange starred for the University of Illinois, but professional football was seen as a kind of carnival freak show. That all changed when Grange went to play for George Halas, the young owner of the Chicago Bears and a "missionary" for what professional football could become. The third indispensible ingredient was Charles C. Pyle, a theatre-owner in Champaign and a promoter with a shadowy reputation. Grange's college coach, Robert Zuppke, was disgusted at Grange's decision to go pro and tried to talk him out of it, but what followed was the creation of a pro football world with stars and loyal fans, a world that we would recognize today. Still, the most interesting details about Grange himself come from his college years, when working off-season as an iceman in his hometown of Wheaton kept him in shape. On the day in 1924 when the University of Illinois stadium was dedicated, Grange scored six touchdowns against the University of Michigan, a day that always will be remembered in college football.
Campi I Valls, Isabel. La idea y la meteria: Vol. 1: El diseño de producto en sus origenes. Barcelona, Spain: Editorial Gustavo Gili, SL (2007).
President's Commentary, September, 2008: This two-part work offers the Spanish-speaking audience both sources and analysis for those who want to study product design. The focus primarily is Europe and North America. The collection of the Chicago History Museum appears with an 1880 print illustrating the different stages of processing in the meat-packing business. This is seen as an example of the assembly line, which already was used in the meat-packing context well in advance of Henry Ford's innovations. Including this book in our series is a reminder that our collection also impacts international audiences, even if the subject area, in this case, is not a surprise. (The chapter on Art Nouveau is particularly interesting, as it explores whether this was art or design, a style or a movement. Too bad the author did not draw on our collection for that topic, as well!)
Saint, Andrew. Architect and Engineer: A Study in Sibling Rivalry. New Haven: Yale University Press (2008).
President's Commentary, August, 2008: This is a very important study of the line between the professions of architecture and engineering. The juxtaposition, however, often is expressed in terms of the artist and the engineer, with the architect showing the artistic tendency. The Chicago story line is excellent, beginning in 1844 with John Van Osdel, the city’s first professional architect. There is particular attention to William LeBaron Jenney, who is categorized as an architect, but one who breaks the mold by having more practical training than any major American architect of his generation. In Chicago, "Those like Jenney whose skills straddled architecture and engineering came to the fore." The account of Chicago, I am happy to say, has a wider sweep than steel framing, and also includes innovations in fireproofing and foundations.
President's Commentary, July, 2008: This is a startling original novel by a Chicago author who was born in Sarajevo. The novel depicts a Chicago author, also born in Sarajevo, who is researching a book about an immigrant who came to Chicago only to be shot by the chief of police in 1908. It was not enough for the author in the novel to be immersed in Chicago of 100 years ago; he also explored the immigrant's background by visiting Eastern Europe. The two stories of author and subject, separated by 100 calendar years, circle back on each other. As the name "Lazarus" suggests, the book is about bringing the past to life and reimagining what cannot be seen. Alongside contemporary photos, the book uses many historical photos from the Chicago History Museum and draws on other material. Aleksandar Hemon is the winner of a "genius grant" from the MacArthur Foundation, a status he could qualify for all over again, based solely on the evidence of this one novel.
Arredondo, Gabriela F. Mexican Chicago: Race, Identity, and Nation 1916-39. Urbana and Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press (2008).
President's Commentary, June, 2008: This important book has three great strengths: its careful examination of the Mexican background to emigration, the tight focus on immigrant life in Chicago, and the contrast drawn between the identity formed by Mexicans in the US and the trajectory noted by social scientists for European immigrant groups. The jockeying for position among neighbors, such as relations between Mexican and Polish immigrants, has a particular resonance for Chicagoans. Given the challenges of racial issues in this period, it should not come as a surprise that the status of Mexicans was often mediated in racial, rather than ethnic, terms, with Mexicans often marginalized as "not white." One fascinating observation was the author's documentation of "adventure" as one important motivation for immigration, on the part of Mexican women, as well as Mexican men.
O'Neill, Francis, with editors Ellen Skerrett and Mary Lesch. Chief O'Neill's Sketchy Recollections of an Eventful Life in Chicago. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press (2008).
President's Commentary, May, 2008: After adventures on the high seas as a sailor, Francis O'Neill emigrated from Ireland to Chicago. Who could guess that this career police officer also would become a pivotal figure in music history by meticulously collecting and preserving traditional Irish music? With the publication of this book, O'Neill also will take his place as an observer of life in Chicago. O'Neill records so many encounters with the humble and the great that anyone researching Chicago history from 1871 through 1905 needs to consult this book. The depth of his thinking on issues of his time is impressive, and issues such as political patronage reverberate today. A truly remarkable life.
Keaton, Amy E. Stiched Together: Early American Samplers from the Collections of the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America & Friends. Chicago, IL: The Chicago Cultural Center and The Clarke House Museum (2007).
President's Commentary, April, 2008: The excellent photography in this exhibition catalogue makes it possible to study the individual stitches of the 71 featured samplers. The dates range from 1663–1862. There is a fine effort to tell what is known about each girl, but, quite literally, the samplers speak for themselves. They tell of different educational levels and reveal a range of world views. There are some common themes, such as the alphabet, but there are surprises, such as a map. The Chicago History Museum loaned two samplers to this exhibition, both from Illinois. The exhibition catalogue is not commercially available, you can order it through The Chicago Cultural Center website at www.culturalcentershop.com.
President's Commentary, March, 2008: As the February 2009 bicentennial of Lincoln's birth approaches, expect to find more books about Lincoln and the Civil War. Just as Andersonville, the hellish prison in Georgia that incarcerated Union soldiers, is well-known in the North, so Camp Douglas, the over-crowded and disease-ridden prison in Chicago that held Conferate prisoners, is well-known in the South. The images of the prisoners are few, but it is haunting to see pictures of the prison itself and to think of its location near the lake on Chicago's South Side. Nobody knows how many Confederate soldiers died in Chicago's Camp Douglas, but there were at least six thousand who did. Two former Chicago mayors were incarcerated there: Levi Boone, a medical doctor, was arrested for passing legal tender to Confederate prisoners, as part of what he characterized as a humanitarian act. He was released after Lincoln sent a letter of support. Buckner Stith Morris, arrested on suspicion of plotting a prison break, was acquitted in a military court.
Hall, Amy Laura. Conceiving Parenthood: American Protestantism and the Spirit of Reproduction. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (2007).
President's Commentary, February, 2008: How would a provocative book by a "self-described pro-life feminist" make use of the Chicago History Museum's collection? The answer is that there is a long chapter focusing on images from Chicago's Century of Progress of 1933–34 that is at the center of the author's argument about the application of new technologies to "scientific motherhood" and child-rearing. She points, for example, to a popular exhibit at the fair, the "Baby-Incubators," that featured "living babies." The Dairy Industry's building reflected "the growing assumption regarding the use of cows' milk for infant feeding," replete with imagery "in which both mother and Mother Nature had been methodically supplanted." Official material referred to: "The Dairy Building, where is portrayed the foster mother of mankind, the cow." Books like this are a reminder that the temporarily-constructed fantasy worlds of expositions and fairs, with their peculiar intensity, continue to offer rich veins of material for authors documenting a variety of viewpoints.
Bachrach, Julia S. and Nathan, Jo Ann. Inspired by Nature. Chicago, IL: Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance (2007).
President's Commentary, January, 2008: Garfield Park Conservatory's 2008 centennial inspired this lushly-illustrated book. It includes both historical pieces and stories from those who have lived in the area. Architect William LeBaron Jenney leads off the story with his plans for West Side boulevards and gardens and continues to the Conservatory's present rebirth. Chicagoans' memories are fresh of the dramatic reglazing project of 2003, which, for a time, made the Palm House look like a dinosaur skeleton on display in a museum. I loved reading about the double coconut trees, the "Mona Lisa of palms," which were moved after the reglazing to the center of the structure where they would have room to grow. The forward by Alex Kotlowitz is a gem.
Russick, John, (ed: text and captions). Historic Photos of Chicago Crime the Capone Era. Nashville, TN: Turner Publishing (2007).
President's Commentary, December 2007: The editor—one of our own curators—rises to the challenge he sets for himself to caption photographs about the Chicago underworld in the 1920s, "a place inhabited by characters who wished to remain anonymous, who concealed their true identities and masqueraded as simple businessmen or even defenders of the poor, and who conducted their illicit trade behind closed doors to protect both themselves and their customers." He succeeds by offering not only photo identification but the wider urban context, both in the captions and in the introductory materials. As you meet characters such as "Umbrella" Mike Boyle and look in on funerals such as that of John "Dingbat" O'Berta, the editor will not allow colorful names or romanticism to blind the reader to the cost in human lives caused by this bygone era.
President's Commentary, November 2007: This is a dozen interrelated chapters written by statesmen, scientists, colleagues, and supporters who served with Adlai E. Stevenson II—Governor of Illinois, twice candidate for President and Ambassador to the United Nations. This book appears at just the right time because this is the last moment for a fresh look drawing on personal recollections. The generation of those who worked at his side and knew him is vanishing, and some of the best contributions, such as that of Adelle Simmons, come from those who knew him when they were children. It is sobering to consider that some of Stevenson's initiatives are still in process, including a mobile peacekeeping U.N. strike force and a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty. The chapters dealing with the bomb are a particular strength. He courageously urged a ban on further hydrogen bomb testing during the 1956 presidential campaign, a proposal later adopted and expanded upon by President Eisenhower. In advocating limits on testing, Stevenson drew on the work of a wide-ranging number of scientists and talked about threats to life on earth. This pre-figured by 50 years the kind of advocacy regarding environmental issues epitomized by Albert Gore.
Jacob, Mark and Richard Cahan (in association with the Chicago History Museum), Chicago Under Glass: Early Photographs from the Chicago Daily News. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (2007).
President's Commentary, October 2007: Yes, of course—the visiting celebrities and the charming curiosities that you expect to find in any photo album are here, but this is not an ordinary photo album. This is a well-documented portrayal of the first three decades of the 20th century, told with fabulous news photographs, but also with searching commentary by the authors. Example: a photo of immigrants packed up for their return to the old country from Chicago evokes this commentary, "An enduring myth of American immigration is that almost all new arrivals found their niche in this county. It's true that the United States welcomed eighteen million new residents between 1890 and 1920, but it also waved good-bye to millions who either didn't like what they saw or were here only temporarily to make money." That was true in many families of that era, and it remains true for immigrant families today, but the phenomenon of the returning immigrant never has been given its due by historians. You will get a much better sense not only of the great Daily Newsphotographers, but of the journalists and editors, such as Henry Justin Smith, Ben Hecht and Carl Sandburg. Did you know that Wrigley Field (originally Wheegman Park), was first built in less than seven weeks in 1914? Or that the rooftops were packed at Comiskey Park during the 1917 World Series? See the photos and believe! The series with evangelist Billy Sunday modeling his athletic preaching style in the basement of a Daily News photographer will make you understand why being "the town that Billy Sunday couldn't shut down" was such a remarkable feat that people still sing about it!
Pierce, Bessie Louise, A History of Chicago: The Beginning of a City 1673-1848, From Town to City 1848-1871, and The Rise of the Modern City 1871-1893. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (2007) (paperback reprint of three volumes published 1929 - 1957).
President's Commentary, September 2007: The paperback reprinting of this history of Chicago's formative years is very welcome. Credit given throughout by Pierce to the Chicago Historical Society qualifies it as an "Author, Author!" entry for September 2007, even though the actual work ended in the 1970s. (The notes for her incomplete and unpublished fourth volume are available for reference in our Research Center.) Her strength is the comprehensive treatment of the subjects she addresses. Consider the volume II chapter entitled, "The Quest for the Refinements of Life," which records the long list of educational and cultural establishments founded during the remarkable decade of the 1850s, ranging from the founding of universities such as Northwestern and Lake Forest, institutions including the Chicago Academy of Sciences and the Chicago Historical Society, as well as the Chicago YMCA, over 200 new schools and many other examples of the quest for refinement—even the "Chicago Phrenological Society"!
Sweeney, Kevin W., ed., Buster Keaton: Interviews. Jackson, MS. University Press of Mississippi (2007).
President's Commentary, August 2007: Why would a book about a Hollywood star cite our collection? The answer is Studs Terkel, of course. The Museum has his taped legacy and counts Studs as a staff member. The book includes the transcript of an interview of Keaton by Studs from 1960. One passage discussed Keaton’s observation that "there are just certain people you just don’t hit with a pie. That’s all there is to it." Yes, you can throw a pie at a "grand dame who is dogging it, and putting it on...but not an old lady and a sincere character--you wouldn’t dare hit her." We even learn that back in 1949, Studs played summer stock theater with Keaton in a play by George Abbott. With the Studs Terkel archives, I often get the feeling that we are only one degree of separation from the whole twentieth century.
Chappell, Sally A. Kitt, Chicago's Urban Nature: A Guide to the City's Architecture and Landscape. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (2007).
President's Commentary, July 2007: This is a rich book woven with many unexpected strands: gorgeous new photos and historic images; hidden places around the city alongside fresh insights on the familiar ones; maps and background pieces, along with captions and essays. It ambitiously considers both architecture and landscape, not simply as two related topics but as proof of the thesis that architecture and landscape uniquely merged in nineteenth-century Chicago. That merger is a dynamic process, and Chappell is unafraid to make contemporary observations. Note to Chicago's Olympic Committee: Here is Exhibit A for Chicago's status as a global city with long experience in welcoming the world. Even back in the 1980s, "I found members of nineteen different ethnic groups occupying a single acre [of Lincoln Park] on a warm summer day. When presenting my findings, I claimed that Lincoln Park had the greatest ethnic diversity of any park in Chicago. My colleague, Kenneth Fidel, a sociologist, later told me I had understated my case; I should have said 'in the world.'"
Keating, Ann Durkin, Chicagoland: City and Suburbs in the Railroad Age. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (2005).
President's Commentary, June 2007: The subtitle understates the scope of this book, which also covers Chicago and suburbs in the plank road age, the canal age and even the highway age. It links rural sites to the metropolitan region and offers critical tools for understanding the types of development that form the whole -- not only the downtown, or the city's community areas, but places that began as agricultural trade centers, satellite cities, railroad commuter suburbs and recreational towns. I was particularly please to see Keating sketch the history of picnic grounds and beer gardens that used to dot the fringes of the city, the best known of which evolved into Riverview Park.
President's Commentary, May 2007: If you have any doubt that history is an integral part of Chicago's Olympic bid, let me quote from the film: "This is a city that reversed the flow of a river. A city that rose from the Great Fire of 1871. A city that works, but also a city that plays…with world-class festivals, museums, sports teams and more. Chicago has always been associated with fire. This time, it would be at the end of an Olympic torch." The Chicago History Museum is proud that its archives and images are playing a role in Olympic history in the making.
Samors, Neal, Chicago in the Sixties: Remembering a Time of Change. Chicago: Chicago's Books (2006).
President's Commentary, April 2007: What has Newton Minow to do with Moose Skowron? Or Leon Despres to do with Dick Biondi? They all figured in Chicago in the 1960s, and their interviews all appear in this thought-provoking book. If the pairings listed above create cognitive dissonance, then consider the lives that some of the interviewees lived: Leonard Amari was the son of a bookie who lived in public housing and became the honored President of the Illinois State Bar Association. Others had colorful escapades during that turbulent decade, but landed on their feet. Interviewees from different groups often note circumstances that led their families to leave their original neighborhoods, and it is striking how often they give the names of their parishes and neighborhood schools. This was a decade when those boundaries still meant more to many Chicagoans than community area names do today. The photo selections are wonderful and will bring back memories to those of us who remember the 1960s.
Lyons, Stephen and Llewellyn M. Smith, Forgotten Genius, (a television documentary on the life of Dr. Percy Julian, produced for Nova (PBS)) (2007).
President's Commentary, March 2007: Percy Julian was born in 1899 Alabama and lived his most productive years in Chicago as a pioneering organic chemist. He worked on a variety of industrial applications, but he is best-known for his research on alkaloids and steroids, including applications that offered cures for diseases. Every step of the way, he encountered racial barriers, including in post-World War II Oak Park, where his large home on East Avenue was bombed when his children were at home with a baby-sitter and Julian and his wife were out of town. The film combines historical footage with dramatization, drawing on his own words. This documentary also sets the standard for portraying complex scientific ideas in a way that the educated viewer can understand.
Masters, Charles J. Governor Henry Horner, Chicago Politics, and the Great Depression. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press (2007).
President's Commentary, February 2007: Masters brings a lawyer's understanding to solving the enigma that was Henry Horner, who was Governor of Illinois from January 1933 through October 1940. Born to a well-do-do Jewish family, he had a great sympathy for the common man. His relations with the political establishment were complex. He rose from Probate Judge to Governor, but was unafraid to take on both the Kelly-Nash organization and FDR. He was married to public service, and spent his Sundays while Governor making surprise visits to mental institutions, where he would visit patients and compare purchase vouchers against supplies to see if there were any discrepancies. A dedicated collector, his extensive Lincoln collection is now among the treasures of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. This is a welcome and revealing account of a complex man. His story is a true hidden gem of Illinois history.
Lewis, Russell (ed.: text and captions). Historic Photos of Chicago. Nashville: Turner Publishing Company (2006).
President's Commentary, January 2007: Our own Chief Historian, Russell Lewis, provided the text for this beautifully-produced volume with 200 images from the collection of the Chicago History Museum. The oldest photos, of course, are the most revealing, first of a city destroyed by the Great Chicago Fire and then a city that often destroyed its landmarks as it continued to rebuild itself. What I personally found most appealing was the last chapter, The Modern Chicago, 1940-1970. This is the city so many of us grew up with. A dramatic photo of a shining new Prudential Building was just the way I remember it, before its taller competitors arrived. The political leaders of the older generation are there: Adlai Stevenson II and Richard J. Daley. The images of Bronzeville, though, are a reminder that the worlds of Chicago in those days did not always cross-over from neighborhood to neighborhood. This is a striking and informative book.
Borzo, Greg, Suzanne Haynes and Bernard Turner. The Windies' City. Chicago: Highlights of Chicago Press (2006).
President's Commentary, December 2006: This is one of our own, a lively look at Chicago’s hidden historical treasures by the people who know where to look – the Chicago History Museum’s volunteers. Each of the 26 sites includes: a description, why I recommend visiting this site, highlights of the visit and three things I learned. Because it is written by three individual volunteers, the ideas are very personal. Follow the tour ideas in this book, and you will feel that one of our guides is at your side.
Bruce, Susannah Ural. The Harp and the Eagle: Irish-American Volunteers and the Union Army, 1861-1865. New York: New York University Press (2006).
President's Commentary, November 2006: This book is an example of how our collection at the Chicago History Museum can help to illuminate a national story. The Irish and the Civil War risks over-simplification when New York City’s draft riots are viewed as the defining experience. That only was one of many, in a community that saw 150,000 of its own fight for the Union. The author brings to life the issues of religious, ethnic and national identity through the reading of letters and other personal accounts. Chicago and Illinois play a vital part in the story, before, during and after the Civil War. While the author says that Irish immigrants experienced more tolerance in the Midwest than in the East, everything was relative. Abolitionist hero, Elijah Lovejoy departed St. Louis for Illinois in 1836, blaming not slaveholders, but the “foreign despotic influence of the Jesuits.” The Irish community would not soon forget the support of the Republican Chicago Tribune for the Know-Nothing candidate for mayor in 1855, support that was expressed in vituperative anti-Irish terms. Nevertheless, when war broke out, a Chicago Irish-American, James A. Mulligan, organized the 23rd Illinois, known as the “Irish Brigade.” Its achievements sometimes were mixed, the author explains, because toward the end of the war, it attracted new and very poor immigrants whose motivation for enlistment was more financial than ideological. This book will appeal not only to the Civil War buffs among us, but to students of immigration and community identity.
Smith, Carl. The Plan of Chicago: Daniel Burnham and the Remaking of the American City. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (2006).
President's Commentary, October 2006: If you think you know the man, and you think you know the plan, what will startle you about this account is the extent to which its proponents needed to engage the broader community to achieve implementation. "The Plan itself was forward-looking, but in some respects the publicity techniques the planners used to generate support, especially after its release, were even more innovative and modern." How could it be otherwise, when between 1912 and 1913, Chicago voters approved some 86 plan-related bond issues? The Plan was reshaped into easy-to-digest versions. Eighth-graders were targeted to be impressionable bearers of the Plan's ideals. Is the contrast between the business elite that supported the Plan and the average Chicagoan a false dichotomy? Not entirely. When it came to improving the lives of working families, the proponents of the city beautiful and the advocates of the eight-hour work day were talking past each other. Nevertheless, when you hear the Plan invoked in debates such as what to do with Meigs Field, remember that the continuing power of the Plan owes much to the successful efforts to promote the idea outside of the business circles. The well-timed appearance of this book will shape our understanding of Burnham's Plan of Chicago as we head into its centenary in 2009.
Marsh, Robert C., with Norman Pellegrini. 150 Years of Opera in Chicago. DeKalb: Northern Illinois Press (2006).
President's Commentary, September 2006: Readers of Robert C. Marsh -- for 35 years music critic of the Chicago Sun-Times -- will see this as a capstone to a marvelous career, but it is more than that. This is an original work, not a collection of critical pieces. It combines scholarship and judgment, not only on the artistry of opera in Chicago over 150 years, but also on the business of the arts: "both filled boxes and a packed gallery are essential for a firm base of operations." For those who agree with Marsh that "an opera house is a constant invitation to personal growth and discovery," the book will offer fresh insights. The listing of all the operas offered at Chicago's major opera companies from 1850 - 2005, both by composer and by year, is an important new reference tool.
President's Commentary, August 2006: The author portrays a very complex world, part French, part British, part American, part Native American. He shows how even this remote outpost and the surrounding communities were roiled by larger forces affecting the region and the nation. This is a captivating story, and even the experts on the early history of Chicago will find fresh insights.
Blakely, Robert J. with Marcus Shepard. Earl B. Dickerson: A Voice for Freedom and Equality. Evanston: Northwestern University Press (2006).
President's Commentary, July 2006: If you want to deepen your understanding of the forces that transformed Chicago during the twentieth century, begin with this excellent biography. Longevity is one reason: Dickerson's life spanned 1891 to 1986. He first arrived in Chicago from Mississippi in 1907 — nine years before historians date the beginning of the Great Migration. His list of affiliations is another: board member of the national NAACP, President of the Chicago Urban League almost continuously from 1939-1955, and member of President Franklin Roosevelt's first Fair Employment Practices Commission, among many other posts. All of these are notable, but what makes Dickerson's life so illuminating is that he was a moving force in so many different sectors. Yes, lawyers are often aldermen, and lawyers sometimes are businessmen, but how many insurance company executives have been civil rights activists? Dickerson was all of these, and he also handled a landmark case before the U.S. Supreme Court: Hansberry v. Lee. This 1940 decision ended racially restrictive covenants on Chicago's South Side.
Ascoli, Peter M. Julius Rosenwald: The Man Who Built Sears, Roebuck and Advanced the Cause of Black Education in the American South. Bloomington: Indiana University Press (2006).
President's Commentary, June 2006: How provocative Rosenwald's ideas still are. He seems to have invented modern philanthropy. His emphasis on challenge grants and his focus on social impact remind me very much of today's Young Turks among philanthropic families who oftern turn to causes that will have social impact and turn away from traditional charities and familiar approaches to endowment. Meticulously researched and well written, the book's judgments about personalities are well-grounded and its handling of complex topics masterful.
President's Commentary, May 2006: There never will be an end to important new books about Lincoln. This is one of the best of the new books because of its fresh insights. For example, Carwardine examines how a man who paid a political price for not being a church member nevertheless was shaped by the Calvinist doctrines of his childhood and by the prevailing religious attitudes of his time. He may not have believed in the Trinity, but he believed in Providence and his religious outlook and language evolved over time, just as his views on slavery and other important matters also evolved. The book also includes the clearest charting I have ever seen of the very confusing sea changes in political parties and coalitions. Carwardine mines interactions with the many individuals and delegations that called on him at the White House to record the information that Lincoln must have received on a daily basis and also to underline the importance of these interactions to Lincoln as a consummate communicator. Such meetings generally are dismissed by historians as a nuisance and a distraction from more important matters, but it should not surprise us that the many hours that Lincoln chose to spend in this way are quite revealing to a patient and thorough historian.
Wasik, John F. The Merchant of Power: Sam Insull, Thomas Edison, and the Creation of the Modern Metropolis. New York: Palgrave Macmillan (2006).
President's Commentary, April 2006: This book will help the reader to make sense of the city we live in because we are still living in the world that Insull helped to create. I am not speaking only of the electrical generators and the infrastructure, such as the South Shore Railroad, but also the world of finance and the world of consumerism. We also live in a city full of reactions against Insull's world. In the utility reformers of his day — including economist and later Senator, Paul Douglas — we can see a straight line to reform groups such as the Citizens Utilities Board. When his empire collapsed and Insull was brought to trial in Chicago amid death threats, you can see a haunting resemblance to the trial of the top Enron executives. (Insull was found not guilty on all charges, by the way.) My only quarrel is that the subject and his world are too large for a short book. There is so much to tell that every account leaves the reader wanting even more.
Waldheim, Charles and Katerina Ruedi Ray, eds. Chicago Architecture: Histories, Revisions, Alternatives. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2005.
President's Commentary, March 2006: The seminal article in this collection is Robert Bruegmann's "Myth of the Chicago School." It takes up the editors' challenge to offer alternatives to the story line we all know so well of the Chicago school of architecture, particularly with his analysis of Holabird & Roche's Marquette Building. The building's on-going renovation underlines his point by revealing more and more of the ornamental and classically-inspired features that have been glossed over in telling the familiar story of form and function in Chicago. David Van Zanten tells of "The Centrality of the Columbian Exposition in the History of Chicago Architecture" — a heretical title to the storytellers of "progressive functionalism." Robert A. Sobieszek gives the architectural photography of Hedrich-Blessing its due, with its "consummate photographic artistry, verve, and authority." Its photographs of the Century of Progress reveal "the visual exuberance, the flare for the operatic, and the essential spirit of futurism that is shared by both image and building." Thank goodness that Hedrich-Blessing continues to capture our city's new architecture, with its "consummate photographic artistry, verve, and authority"! Who would have guessed that my father's boyhood church, St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Park Ridge, was the largest commission for Elisabeth A. Martini, at the time the only woman architect licensed in private practice in Illinois? Martini ran an advertisement in 1921: "Only girl architect lonely. Wanted — to meet all the women architects in Chicago to form a club." Susan F. King focuses on Martini as "emblematic of the cyclical pattern of women in America of alternating progress and backlash."
Venet, Mary Hamand. A Strong-Minded Woman, The Life of Mary Livermore. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press (2005).
President's Commentary, February 2006: Venet's portrayal of an activist who was just below the top bracket in the women's sufferage movement offers many insights into women's studies, as well as Chicago and national themes. Married to a Universalist minister, she arrived in Chicago in 1857. She and her husband edited New Covenant, a newspaper devoted to social activism, and later Agitator, dedicated to women's rights. She was conspicuous as the only woman on the floor and the only female journalist at the press tables at the 1860 convention in Chicago's Wigwam that nominated Lincoln for President. She broke the taboo that women could not give a public address. Her work in Chicago during the Civil War is particularly revealing, demonstrating how wartime transformed the lives of strait-laced women into lives of activism that quickly found a focus in the post-war women's sufferage movement and also in many other reform causes. She met with President Lincoln and persuaded him to donate the original Emancipation Proclamation to be auctioned at a grand fair of the Northwestern Sanitary Commission, held in 1863 to raise funds for medical relief for the troops. The highest bidder donated it to the Chicago Historical Society, but, alas, it was destroyed during the Great Chicago Fire.
President's Commentary, January 2006: What happens when urban worlds collide? In Tom Wolfe's The Bonfires of the Vanities, what emerged was a grotesque entertainment set in New York. To Love Mercy is something very different: a portrait of scences of 1940s Chicago — from Riverview Park to the South Side — with a focus on two boys: one from Bronzeville and one from Hyde Park. The voices are authentic and the details are carefully researched, though the story line is a kind of fantasy. Chicagoans who remember the forties, fifties or sixties will recognize their city. They will relish some of the memories, but others will make them uncomfortable. The book relies heavily on the Douglas/Grand Boulevard Community oral history project, available at the Chicago History Museum.
Bingham, Dennis with Russell A. Schultz. A Proud Tradition: A Pictorial History of the Chicago Police Department. Chicago: An Official Publication of the Chicago Police Department. (2005).
President's Commentary, December 2005: The photos bring the history to life, but this is not simply a picture book. The text is well-written and well documented. The department was created officially in 1835; before then, the garrison of Fort Dearborn offered some protection to the citizens, along with a town crier and occasional visits by a county constable. The book does not shy away from some controversial subjects, such as the Haymarket Riot. The photos remain the heart of the book and reveal important aspects of Chicago's social history. The photo of the suspect standing on one leg while his foot is being measured according to the exacting standards of the French criminologist, Alphonse Bertillion, is one of this book's many priceless shots.