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Newberry Library with the cooperation of the Chicago Historical Society, The Encyclopedia of Chicago is the definitive historical reference on metropolitan Chicago.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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James R. Grossman is Vice President for Research and Education at the Newberry Library and senior lecturer in history at the University of Chicago. Ann Durkin Keating is professor of history at North Central College in Naperville, IL. Janice L. Reiff is associate professor of history and interim director of the Oral History Program at UCLA.From Booklist:
*Starred Review* Developed over the last 10 years by the Newberry Library with the cooperation of the Chicago Historical Society, the monumental Encyclopedia of Chicago will be the definitive historical reference source on Chicago for years to come. Funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the John D and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the City of Chicago, the state of Illinois, and three major Chicago corporations helped ensure a very reasonable price. Some 633 experts from across the U.S. wrote the more than 1,400 entries. The encyclopedia is enhanced with numerous photos, engravings, and maps.
Entries treat such topics as Acting, ensemble; Agrarian movements; Annexation; Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Literary images of Chicago; Machine politics; and much, much more. Besides encompassing Chicago history, ethnic groups, businesses, cultural institutions, sports, crime, architecture, religions, and other topics, the editors wanted to have the broadest geographic coverage. In addition to the 77 recognized Chicago neighborhoods, 298 suburban municipalities in the six surrounding counties in northern Illinois and two in northern Indiana are covered. Biographical entries of prominent Chicagoans are not included since these would duplicate information in such readily available sources as the American National Biography (Oxford, 1999) and Woman Building Chicago, 1790-1990 (Indiana Univ., 2001). Instead there is a "Biographical Dictionary" at the end of the book that lists 2,000 deceased Chicagoans with short entries noting birth, death, and occupation. There is also a separate "Dictionary of Leading Chicago Businesses, 1820-2000" that offers brief historical summaries for 236 for-profit companies. Important companies are also discussed in entries on significant industry sectors such as Clothing and garment manufacturing, Department stores, Iron and steel, and transportation. These entries are very detailed and give a complete history of each industry and its place in Chicago.
The encyclopedia is set up in an A-Z format with three types of entries--broad essays of 1,000 to 4,000 words, midlevel entries of 200 to 1,000 words, and basic entries of 200 words. The broad essays give an overview and synthesize scholarship on a subject, while the basic entries focus on a specific event or institution and give brief information to identify what it is and why it is important. The midlevel entries are meant to fill in the gaps left by the broad essays and give more analysis than is found in the basic entries. All entries are signed and cross-referenced and list a bibliography of related books and articles for further reading. The work also features 21 long interpretative essays that reflect recent scholarship in urban history (for example, Racism, ethnicity, and white identity; Street life); numerous sidebars that offer varying viewpoints on different topics; a time line of Chicago history; a list of Chicago mayors; historical population statistics for all municipalities; several inserts with color photos and maps; and a comprehensive 60-page index. Fifty-six maps cover topics such as blues clubs in Chicago, Chicago's Deep Tunnel system, Indian settlement patterns in 1830, street railways in 1890, and movie theaters in Chicago in 1926, 1937, and 2002. A notable feature of the volume is the 400 thumbnail maps that show where each municipality and neighborhood is located in the Chicagoland region.
The scope of entries and their readability make the encyclopedia outstanding. All ideas, facts, people, and places are explained fully and in terms high-school and general readers can understand. This is a superb ready-reference work on Chicago, a good starting point for students doing research, and just a wonderful book to browse through. There is no other source that contains the breadth and depth of information found here. The Encyclopedia of Chicago is a must purchase for every academic, public, and school library in Illinois. Academic and large public libraries across the U.S. will want it as well. Merle Jacob
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