Chicago

Episode 28 – WWI & Chicago Transformed

Hear from author Joe Gustaitis as we discuss how World War I transformed Chicago from a strongly German city into a modern metropolis.

Episode 27 – The Great Migration

In American history, we were taught that pioneers and homesteaders moved from east to west settling the continent in the greater pursuit of “Manifest Destiny” — killing and obfuscating the First Nations peoples’ way of life.  However, another American pattern often overlooked is the migration from south to the north.  Starting less than a century after a Black man of Haitian decent named Jean Baptiste Point DeSable became Chicago’s first non-indigenous settler; African Americans in large numbers began leaving southern States and moving to the north, which historians now call “The Great Migration”. 

Their motives were that of people everywhere seeking jobs, opportunity, and a better life. Northern States offered jobs and a relief from the weight of Jim Crow. For many Chicago had became a beacon of hope as Black-owned newspapers and in particular the “Chicago Defender”, distributed by Pullman Porters, gave hope to generations of former slaves, farmers, and sharecroppers. 

Beginning as early as the 1880s and then from approximately 1910 to the 1970, rural southern Blacks by the thousands made their way north throughout these decades. And, just as the journey changed them, their music, culture, and customs changed Chicago. 

Northern cities, and Chicago in particular, were not always welcoming, as decent  housing was scarce as restrictive covenants and red-lining forced African Americans to live in “The Black Belt”. This tightly constrained strip of blocks on the city’s south side, initially between 22nd and 31st Streets, later extending south to 39th and eventually to 95th Street and roughly sandwiched between the railroad tracks of the Rock Island on the west and Illinois Central to the east.  But even with forced segregation, many black businesses thrived, and a sense of place was established creating Bronzeville and its famous “Stroll”.

Join the Windy City Historians as we delve into the Great Migration with Dr. Charles Brahnam, author and professor, and the perfect guide to take us on a journey into the Great Migration. A trip populated by famous brave and fearless black Chicagoans such as Ida B. Wells, Oscar DePriest, and Robert S. Abbott and into a better understand of this massive cultural shift for the nation and Chicago in particular.

Links to Research and Historic Sources:

Episode 26 – 1909

In 1909 Chicago changed dramatically both physically and intellectually. Having grown through fits and starts via annexation and experiencing the most rapid population growth of any city in history, to that point, the Chicago City Council approved a new street and address system in 1908. The new address system took effect in 1909 and employed the Philadelphia and furlong systems to renumber, rename, and rationalize street names and addresses across the city.

1909 also ushered in a momentous intellectual shift in perceptions of what Chicago was and could be. Authored by architects Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett The Plan of Chicago offered an idyllic and revolutionary vision for Windy City that still resonate. Join us in this episode as we interview cartographer, historian, and geographer Dennis McClendon to delve into these concrete and esoteric plans that forever changed the physicality and vision of Chicago. Plans and improvements that are still relevant and reverberate acros Chicago’s streets, city planning, development and architecture to this day.

Links to Research and Historic Sources:

Episode 25 – A Book and A Beer: George Ade and the Old-Time Saloon

The path to riches is not often associated with journalism, but in the case of George Ade, writing for Chicago newspapers was his road to wealth and fame. Ade, (1866-1944) who was born and raised in Kentland, Indiana, attended Purdue University and then came to Chicago to work as a reporter in the heydays of newspapers.

Today George Ade is rarely remembered, with his books out of print, and decades since his musical comedies were performed. But from the 1890s to the early 20th century, he was compared to Mark Twain, a friend of his, and had not just one, but two hit plays on Broadway at the same time. Ade earned so much money from his successful books, plays and syndicated newspaper columns, he built an English Tutor on a 400-acre estate in Indiana, named Hazelden. There Ade threw big parties and was visited there by U.S. Presidents such as Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Calvin Coolidge. In fact, Taft began his Presidential campaign of 1908 from Hazelden.

Ade’s name lives on through his philanthropy, like the donation of 65 acres, with fellow alum David E. Ross, to Purdue University, for a football stadium in 1924, which is now known as Ross-Ade Stadium.

What was true then about Ade’s writing is also true now, and that is Ade’s stories are hilarious. His final book “The Old Time Saloon” (1931) is laugh-out-loud funny and a recent edition from the University of Chicago Press is annotated by Bill Savage.

Bill Savage, Ph.D. is a professor of English at Northwestern University and our guide through not only the work “The Old-Time Saloon: Not Wet – Not Dry, Just History” and this podcast. Dr. Savage paints a picture of the Chicago Ade knew from the high-class Saloons downtown to the more seedy establishments frequented by his friend, Finely Peter Dunne, whose literary bartender, Martin T. Dooley, delighted a nation with his quips.

Writers like Ade and Dunne started out as journalists, and along the way captured the rhythms of speech and the vernacular of the working man, and in doing so gave birth to a new type of literature. A style practiced later by authors such as James Farrell, Nelson Algren, Mike Royko and Stuart Dybek. We hope you will enjoy this dive into Chicago’s literary and drinking past.

Links to Research and Historic Sources:



Episode 24 – Bonus: Working on the Railroad

October is Railroad history month in Chicago. Although we already released Episode 24 – The Railroads in honor of railroads history month there was too much good stuff to stop there.

Episode 24 – The Railroads

For 150 years, Chicago has remained the country’s busiest rail hub at the center of the nation’s rail network. In all, 40 railroads provide services from Illinois to every part of the United States and all seven of the major North American freight railways converge in Chicago to make it the largest US rail gateway. Moving anything coast-to-coast by rail is almost guaranteed to pass through Chicago. In 2011, Illinois ranked first in the US for rail freight volume accounting for 490.4 million tons. Today, the state is the world’s third most active rail intermodal hub with 25% of U.S. freight rail traffic and 46% of all intermodal traffic beginning, ending or traveling through Chicago. Each day, nearly 500 freight trains and 760 passenger trains pass through the Chicago region, moving the goods and people that are the life blood of the national economy.

In this episode we talk with retired train engineer and rail historian David Daruszka to discuss Chicago’s rail history from its founding in 1848 to its peak in the 1940s and on into today’s operations. Though the waterways established Chicago the railroads soon became a key connector and transfer link to the continent from east to west and north to south. The development of Chicago from a frontier town into a world-class city could not have happened as it did without the railroads. Chicago became and arguably still is the greatest railroad center in the world. We hope you enjoy this journey into Chicago’s railroad history.

Links to Research and Historic Sources:

Episode 22 – Eyewitness to History: From the Pullman Strike to H.H. Holmes

Looking back on historical events, whether it is the Civil War or the Chicago Fire, they are usually presented in isolation, a individual events separated by subject, pinned to a specific date or period of time.  Yet, history is not nearly so neat and tidy, and to someone who lived through those times, it becomes part of the greater tapestry of life. 

With this in mind our latest and 22nd episode of the Windy City Historians podcast “Eyewitness to History” approaches this historical journey following the experiences of Chicago policeman, John E. Fitzpatrick (1852-1902). As a Patrol Sergeant Fitzpatrick was present at the Haymarket Bombing of 1886, rose rapidly through the ranks to soon attain the position of Inspector and lead the honor guard for President Cleveland for the opening ceremonies of the Columbian Exposition of 1893.  A year later, Inspector Fitzpatrick would be embroiled in a chaotic summer due to the Pullman Railroad Strike, and the following year is assigned as lead detective on the H.H. Holmes serial murder cases that shocked a nation. 

A century later, these remarkable stories and adventures were unearthed by his great-great-granddaughter and our guest, Kim Fitzpatrick. Based on Kim’s diligent research we uncover the life and times of John E. Fitzpatrick and present this fascinating and personal history of his decorated Chicago Police career. We hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed learning the Fitzpatricks’ story.

Note: This episode was updated on May 4, 2021 to correct a missing “great” to Kim Fitzpatrick’s relation and great-great grandfather John E. Fitzpatrick.

Links to Research and Historic Sources:

Episode 21 – The Third Star – part III

As we conclude this three-part mini-series on the Columbian Exposition of 1893, we talk about a few favorite exhibits and stories about the Fair, connections that exist still, and relevancy of the World’s Fair today. A major event for Chicago and honored by a star on the Chicago Flag the Fair brought Chicago and the United States to the world stage to celebrate the 400th Anniversary of Christopher Columbus coming to America.

Join us as we speak with Paul Durica the Director of Exhibitions at the Newberry Library and historian and writer Jeff Nichols. And to complete this show, co-host Chris Lynch shares additional stories and connections with this World’s Fair culled from his research on the topic. Join us for a fascinating ride through Windy City history on this episode about the Chicago Columbian Exposition and World’s Fair of 1893.

Links to Research and Historic Sources:

Episode 20 – The Third Star – part II

We continue our discussion of Chicago’s first World’s Fair to learn why carousels were risque, the Ferris Wheel encouraged voyeurism, Columbus was cool, and unfortunately racism was the norm. In addition, the 1893 World’s Fair was a launching pad for many new products, industries, and processes that were promoted, were popularized or invented as a result of the Fair, like the Post Card, Cracker Jacks, the Zipper, and many more.

In this second World’s Columbian Exposition episode, we talk with historian and Director of Exhibitions at the Newberry Library Paul Durica, to explore the various exhibits, tone, and tenor of the Fair and Chicago in 1893. Plus, additional snippets from our interview with historian Jeff Nichols.

This World’s Fair transformed a swampy patch of lakefront, which is now Jackson Park on Chicago’s south side, and remnant lagoons and three harbors still exist there today. Besides these physical remainders of the Fair, this historic exhibition also marked Chicago history through the gathering of many influential people and ideas from around the world. This Fair was the impetus for the sharing of world cultures and intermixing of peoples and traditions that still impacts us today. Join us on this episode for more fascinating stories surrounding the World’s Columbian Exhibition of 1893.

Links to Research and Historic Sources:

Episode 19 – The Third Star – Part I

In 1893, Chicago is host to one of the most recognized and internationally famous world fairs, which honors the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus arriving in America. Granted it was a year later than planned, but it became known for the advancement and development of many companies and ideas. A specially built exposition landscape was created south of the then city limits in Jackson Park in what was the neighboring township of Hyde Park, which was annexed in 1891.

The White City as this world’s fair became know was the first major use of electricity, which lit the World’s Columbian Exposition buildings and grounds from May 1st until October 30, 1893. This Fair is legendary to Chicago history and commemorated by the third star in the Chicago Flag. With our previous episode we learned about the many things that occurred in Chicago in 1893 and here we dive into the Fair and interview historian and writer Jeff Nichols with some snippets from a future interview with historian Paul Durica. This is the first installment in a three part mini-series on the World’s Columbian Exposition and the White City. We hope you will enjoy it.

Links to Research and Historic Sources: