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Miller set out to write a history of Chicago that "gives prominence to geography and personality," a comment marking the starting point for a certain kind of hyperbole that undergirds the rest of the narrative. Still, Miller's history is convincing and does not seem too strained. He writes about such explorers as Marquette and Joliet; the early pioneers as personified in the long, varied career of Gurdon Hubbard; displaced Indians like Black Hawk the Sauk chief; William Butler Ogden, real estate tycoon; Stephen A. Douglas, the first Chicago politician; Philip Armour, king of the packing plants; Cyrus McCormick, reaper king; Ida B. Welles, the indomitable black educator; and so on. Miller proves the people of Chicago were an enthusiastic, highly energetic people to whom capitalism was the mantra that drove them to superhuman strength, like rebuilding their city of wood after the Great Fire of 1871 and subsequently hosting the spectacular World Columbian Exposition in 1893. It's a solid book and makes a good companion volume to Ross Miller's Here's the Deal [BKL F 15 96], which covers recent years. The Democratic National Convention will be held once again in Chicago in 1996. In the spirit of capitalism, a few major books are bound to be published, perhaps one with a fresh take on Chicago's middle, and dark, ages. Stay tuned. --Bonnie Smothers
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A desolate fur-trading outpost in 1830, Chicago became, within half a century, the nation's railroad hub, livestock and packing center and a manufacturing giant. A glorious anthem to a tumultuous city, this synthesis of industrial, social and cultural history captures the raw, robust spirit of Chicago on every page. Miller, a history professor at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, peoples his big, colorful, engrossing canvas with architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan, railroad entrepreneur George Pullman, settlement-house workers Jane Addams and Florence Kelley, "Meat king" Philip Armour, dry-goods merchant Marshall Field, retailers Richard Sears and Alvah Roebuck, reaper inventor Cyrus McCormick, mail-order pioneer Aaron Montgomery Ward, Theodore Dreiser, Lincoln Steffens and others. Chicago-with its experience of mass transit, a regimented workforce, instant suburbs, the Americanization of diverse immigrant groups and battles between privatism and the public good-serves as a prism through which we watch the emergence of modern American life. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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No other American city experienced the growth and development, destructive natural disaster, and rebirth that Chicago did in the 19th century. The Great Fire of 1871 was potentially the end of the largest city in America's heartland, but by 1893 Chicago had rebuilt and hosted the World's Columbian Exposition. The story of that growth, loss, and reemergence is remarkable, and historian Miller (Lewis Mumford: A Life, LJ 6/1/89) has written an equally remarkable story of Chicago, what he terms an industrial history. Miller carefully develops the saga of Chicago's growth, despair, and recovery in an extraordinary text that is readable yet scholarly. In his narrative Miller tells of Chicago's historical and literary figures, reform leaders, architects, industrialists, and entrepreneurs. Several histories of the city have appeared over the years (e.g., Edward Wagenknecht's Chicago, LJ 3/15/64), yet Miller's is a model for future historians. Highly recommended for all libraries.Boyd Childress, Auburn Univ. Lib., Ala. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.