Duck Duck Book

5 – encyclopedia of chicago
11.8.2004, 12:02 am
Filed under: history & geography

The encyclopedia of Chicago / edited by James R. Grossman, Ann Durkin Keating, Janice L. Reiff ; cartographic editor, Michael P. Conzen.
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2004.
[MCL call number: 977.311 E56 2004; two copies, no holds]

An encyclopedia, all about Chicago.  Neighborhoods, communities, political history, municipal projects, businesses, organizations, and famous daughters and sons of the city.  It seems to focus on historical information (that is, before 1980 or so), and has many lovely photographs, maps, and other illustrations throughout. 

As with many encyclopedias, the internal arrangement provides amusement to the reader who examines each subject’s neighbors on the page.  For example, because my mind is not arranged in alphabetical order, I do not think of the Industrial Workers of the World right before I think of Infrastructure.  And yet there these two very useful articles are, side by side. 

In general the range of topics is good.  Some examples of articles I found interesting are: Kindergarten Movement; Housing, Mail-Order; Haymarket and May Day (naturally!); Book Arts; Underground Economy; Leisure (includes maps of where movie theaters were located in different years); Gas Stations; and Religious Geography. 

There is a long section on Racism, Ethnicity, and White Identity, but I wanted an entry for Emmett Till.  He’s not even in the index.  Also, more information about Chicago’s outdoor murals would have suited me (murals are touched on in the sections on Graffiti and Art, Public, but don’t merit their own entry).  But I don’t know if you all care about these things.

The main encyclopedia is followed by a dictionary of leading Chicago businesses (1820-2000), a biographical dictionary, a list of Chicago mayors, population data for Chicagoland cities, and an index.  There is also an extensive timeline in a glossy color section in the middle of the volume.

Even though this book is far from perfect, I wish there were a series of such encyclopedias, one for every city.

[n.b., please see the addendum to this entry, dated 6.9.2005]


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