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The Encyclopedia of Chicago Hardcover – October 15, 2004
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*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with the cooperation of the Chicago Historical Society, the monumental Encyclopedia of Chicago will be the definitive historical reference source on Chicago for years to come.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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Personal accounts of Chicago's history which you can't get from an ordinary book/encyclopedia.
Just about every topic you can imagine is covered and the impact it had on the region's history and culture.