The Book of Chicago


Sponsored by the Newberry Library, the Chicago Historical Society and the Illinois State Library, a new hefty (7 pound) volume of facts, figures and history about the city of Chicago has arrived.

The State Register (IL) profiles the newly published "Encyclopedia of Chicago" 1,100 pages from A (Abolitionism) to Z (Zoroastrianism). Once initial preparations got under way, some of the most animated discussions among planners revolved around what topics would - or wouldn't - be included. "We yelled at each other a lot," joked Grossman, the Newberry's vice president for research and education.

    "One of those ongoing arguments was the relationship between what one might call what's historical, what's trivial and what's minutia," he added. "If it's historical, it belongs in. If it's trivial, it might be interesting and important trivia, and therefore it could go in. And if it's minutia, it probably doesn't belong here. In the nature of things, some people will think something is historically important, whereas we think it's trivia or even minutia."


By far my favorite event in Chicago history is the reversal of the Chicago River in 1900.

It took 50 years, from the failed try in 1848, for canal construction technology to become powerful enough to make the results permanent. And it was almost stopped by a court order from St. Louis (who, surprise, didn't want Chicago's sewage flowing their way). It only went through because the construction engineers dynamited the last dam in the middle of the night so as to avoid the injunction that would come the next morning. For more than a hundred years now, there's been a continuous water flow over the continental divide!

Subscribe to Comments for "The Book of Chicago"