One of the great American metropolises, Chicago rises out of the prairie in the heart of the country, buffeted by winds coming off the plains and cooled by the waters of the inland sea of Lake Michigan. Chicago is a city of size and mass, the cradle of modern architecture, the freight hub of the nation, a city built on slaughterhouses and cacophonous financial trading tempered by some of the finest cultural institutions in the world. While many histories have been written of the city, none can claim the scope and breadth of the long-awaited Encyclopedia of Chicago.
Developed by the Newberry Library with the cooperation of the Chicago Historical Society, The Encyclopedia of Chicago is the definitive historical reference on metropolitan Chicago. More than a decade in the making, the Encyclopedia brings together hundreds of historians, journalists, and experts on everything from airlines to Zoroastrians to explore all aspects of the rich world of Chicagoland, from its geological prehistory to the present.
The main alphabetical section of the Encyclopedia, comprising more than 1,400 entries, covers the full range of Chicago’s neighborhoods, suburbs, and ethnic groups, as well as the city’s cultural institutions, technology and science, architecture, religions, immigration, transportation, business history, labor, music, health and medicine, and hundreds of other topics. The Encyclopedia has the widest geographical reach of any city encyclopedia of its kind, encompassing eight of the region’s counties, including suburbs. Nearly 400 thumbnail maps pinpoint Chicago neighborhoods and suburban municipalities; these maps are complemented by hundreds of black-and-white and color photographs and thematic maps that bring the history of metropolitan Chicago to life. Additionally, contributors have provided lengthy interpretive essays—woven into the alphabetical section but set off graphically—that take a long view of such topics as the built environment, literary images of Chicago, and the city’s often legendary and passionate sports culture.
The Encyclopedia also offers a comprehensive biographical dictionary of more than 2,000 individuals important to Chicago history and a detailed listing of approximately 250 of the city’s historically significant business enterprises. A color insert features a timeline of Chicago history and photo essays exploring nine pivotal years in this history.
The Encyclopedia of Chicago is one of the most significant historical projects undertaken in the last twenty years, and it has everything in it to engage the most curious historian as well as settle the most boisterous barroom dispute. If you think you know how Chicago got its name, if you have always wondered how the Chicago Fire actually started and how it spread, if you have ever marveled at the Sears Tower or the reversal of the Chicago River—if you have affection, admiration, and appreciation for this City of the Big Shoulders, this Wild Onion, this Urbs in Horto, then The Encyclopedia of Chicago is for you.
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