Subversives in the City: Responses to Radical Politics in Chicago, 1886-1958

From the 1880s through the 1960s, Chicagoans engaged in a passionate debate over how government should respond to political radicalism. Introduction The city of Chicago provided a crucial battleground for a national struggle over the meaning of political radicalism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The term political radicalism refers to individuals and[…]

Faith in the City: Religion and Urban Life in Chicago, 1870-1920

How, if at all, did religious communities change their inherited traditions in the midst of new surroundings? Introduction In the fifty years between the Civil War and World War I, the United States experienced a dramatic transformation. In 1870, three-quarters of the population lived in rural areas; by 1920, over half the nation lived in[…]

The Anti-Slavery Movement in Chicago and Illinois, 1830-1850

How did the abolitionist movement evolve and respond to national events that shook the nation in the 1850s? Introduction Illinois was never a slave state, but there were struggles within the state between pro-slavery and anti-slavery forces. Article 6 of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 stated that slavery would not exist in the states that[…]

The Haymarket Affair: Labor Exploitation and Violence in Chicago, 1886

Introduction The Haymarket affair (also known as the Haymarket riot or Haymarket massacre) on Tuesday May 4, 1886, in Chicago, began as a rally in support of striking workers. The strikes began on May 1st in Chicago and other locations in support of an eight hour work day. After several days of strikes, an unknown[…]

The Golden Age of Chicago Baseball in an Era of Social Turmoil, 1901-1919

One of the leisure activities some Chicagoans could enjoy was a day at the ballpark. Chicago in 1900: An Industrial, Immigrant City with a Strong Baseball Tradition In the early twentieth century, Chicago, along with a number of other American cities, experienced dramatic social dislocations caused by industrialization, an influx of European immigrants, and the[…]

Flappers, G-Men, and Prohibition’s Legacies

Prohibition evokes vivid images from fiction and history. Introduction Prohibition evokes vivid images from fiction and history: wild parties from The Great Gatsby, the Valentine’s Day gangland murders in Chicago, or presidential candidate Herbert Hoover’s 1928 comment, when he called Prohibition a “great social and economic experiment, noble in motive and far reaching in purpose.” That[…]

Jazz, Chicago, and the Great Migration

How did the Great Migration of African-Americans in the twentieth century affect the development of jazz music in Chicago? Introduction During the period known as the Great Migration (1915-1970), six million African-Americans moved from southern states to urban areas in the North and West. In 1900, ninety percent of black people in the United States[…]

Co-Living, the Hot New Trend of 1898

Chicago’s “Eleanor Clubs” were designed to give young, working women affordable and congenial places to live. By Livia Gershon The PodShare company offers a new way for young people try out living in expensive cities without long-term commitment. They provide a bunk bed in a shared room, a locker, toiletries, and ramen at a cost of $1,200[…]

The Jungle and the Community: Workers and Reformers in Turn-of-the-Century Chicago

How does Upton Sinclair’s representation of this community in The Jungle compare to the accounts of sociologists and reformers? Introduction In November and December of 1904, the New York writer Upton Sinclair spent seven weeks in Chicago’s meatpacking district—the Union Stock Yard and the surrounding neighborhood, known as Packingtown or Back of the Yards. Sinclair[…]

Chicago Workers during the Long Gilded Age

What were working conditions like in Chicago during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries? What efforts did workers make to change these conditions? Introduction The United States experienced extraordinary social and economic change between the end of Reconstruction and the beginning of World War I. In 1870, only one-quarter of Americans lived in cities.[…]