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*Starred Review* Renowned Chicago historian Pacyga has written an urban biography that captures the spirit of Chicago, a heartland metropolis on a Great Lake, and, as Nelson Algren wrote, a city on the make. Pacyga portrays Chicago with time-lapse velocity as it morphs from a swampy portage to a city of skyscrapers. Concentrating on Chicago's ever-changing cultural diversity, notorious politics, and the crucial role technology played in the city's rapid rise, Pacyga seeds the big picture with cameos of fascinating individuals. He begins with the first outsider to build a home along the brackish river, Jean Baptiste Pointe de Sable, of West African and French descent, and moves on to the brash entrepreneurs whose names are immortalized on buildings and street signs, as well as those known only in shadier precincts. Pacyga tracks the coalescence of ethnic neighborhoods, the influx of African Americans from the South, rapid industrialization and rampant pollution, mass transit, and the Chicago bungalow. He backs up his claim that Chicago is the capital of radicalism with electrifying accounts of the struggles of reformers, then moves on to street gangs and mobsters, the Democratic machine, and the first Chicagoan in the White House, Barack Obama. A vivid, streamlined, and superbly well-illustrated portrait of an essential American city.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2009 Booklist
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Columbia College professor and public historian Pacyga (Polish Immigrants and Industrial Chicago, 1991) utilizes a panoply of secondary printed works as well as a wealth of newspapers on microfilm and illustrations from repositories (often helpfully identified by order number) and his own collections to produce an intentionally popular work on Chicago's 300-year history. Generous with his personal commentary, Pacyga proposes that the frequent clash of different forces, such as labor and capital, elites and the masses, and multiple ethnicities, have had creative results. The author characterizes this urban area, with all the complexities and contradictions imparted by a global city with self-contained sections, by both continuity and a willingness to adapt to change. Pacyga traces these traits in the city's successive waves of immigrants, dedication to commerce, evolving political culture, and embrace of new technology. For visitors and residents alike, the author breathes life into the street and neighborhood names that earlier settlers left behind. Encyclopedic in its scope, although understandably less so than the longer, collaborative The Encyclopedia of Chicago (2004; electronic version, CH, Oct'05, 43-0676), but at least as accessible in its presentation, this work merits a place on the reference shelves of libraries seeking to include works on the Second City. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. F. J. Augustyn Jr. Library of Congress
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"My goal is to... tell the story of Chicago through events minor and major that I believe explain its importance to America and the world," says Pacyga, a veteran historian of the Windy City who teaches at Columbia College Chicago. The first permanent settler in a city that would be a magnet for the world's immigrants was probably Jean Baptiste Point de Sable, a fur trader of mixed West African and French descent. From there Pacyga goes on to discuss the economic, political, social and cultural development of the city, from the Erie Canal and the development of the railroads, which were crucial in making the city a thriving port and destination for immigrants, to Chicago's industry boom during the Civil War. The suburbs, the stockyards, Jane Addams's settlement house and public housing projects all receive Pycaga's attention, as does Richard Daley's infamous 20-year reign. Enlivened by archival pictures, this book offers a broad and compressed overview of the Windy City that's generally well written and absorbing and captures most of the highlights, although contemporary Chicago receives short shrift. 145 b&w photos, 7 maps. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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Can anyone convey the essence of that beguiling, cantankerous, and quintessentially American city, Chicago? Public historian (and Chicago-native) Pacyga largely succeeds through his employment of textual portraits of famous figures and a necessarily limited selection of events and neighborhoods over the course of over 300 years of the Windy City's recorded history. Supplemented by anecdotes about Chicago's multicultural populations, this book synthesizes secondary studies and is enhanced by 146 black-and-white illustrations from Chicago repositories and Pacyga's personal collection. Girded by the continuing themes of Chicago's ethnic diversity; resilient economy; centrality of location; politics (of both the machine and progressive varieties); and embrace of technology, this book is a sprightlier counterpart to The Encyclopedia of Chicago from the same publisher. Verdict Satisfying for scholars and highly recommended for general readers-in and beyond Chicago. A fine purchase for both institutions and individuals.-Frederick J. Augustyn Jr., Library of Congress (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.