Sunday, May 10, 2009

Historic Photos of Chicago

Now that it's getting a little warmer there's the possibility of exploring the city a little more. We're situated in the near south/south loop neighborhood, which really gives a sense of different eras of development in Chicago's history. Close to Printer's Row, Motor Row, Chinatown, Downtown, and the Prairie Ave. district. A stroll in any direction is a pretty lovely slice of the past.

So when I was asked if I'd like to review a book of Historic Chicago photos from Turner Publishing, I gladly said yes! It's something I can see myself flipping through before and after walks through any of these historic districts.

I expected the book to mainly be about architecture...probably because of my background, I really hadn't given too much thought to what else it might cover. I was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of really great pictures of people, including one I find particularly fascinating of mourners viewing Abraham Lincoln's body at the Chicago Courthouse. You can see that image at, but the print in the book is nicer, and there's a neat time lapse effect that starts to give a sense of just how many people went through.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find many pictures from the Chicago fire. I really hadn't seen images of it before, and it was more of an abstract, from the "hot time in the old town tonight" song I remember hearing as a kid, to learning about how it provided opportunities for architects of the era afterward, a whole downtown that had to be rebuilt. But seeing the photos, you really start to realize the scale of the damage that was done. It's similarly engaging (and perhaps somewhat more pleasant) to pour over the images of the Columbian Exposition, another topic I've learned about (and I'm also currently in the middle of Devil in the White City.)

I could go on, but the book covers a lot, ranging from Lincoln to Martin Luther King Jr.. There is a very good balance though, effectively personalizing the history with not only images of architecture but also families, rallies, sporting events, prohibition and ticker tape parades. There's a moment in The Limits of Control where a character is discussing her love of old movies, because you can really see how people have changed. It really made me think of this collection of photos, you really get a chance to consider that, see how people went about their day to day business and how the city and the clothing looked so much different. It's really a fascinating resource to have on hand.

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