Chicago History

Ben Hecht, A Thousand and One Afternoons in Chicago
Ben Hecht. A Thousand and One Afternoons in Chicago. 1922. Case PS 3515.E18 T5 1922.

The Newberry collections contain extensive research materials relating to the history of Chicago, including its birth, growth, politics, and eclectic inhabitants. The following resources will help you search the Newberry’s collections for information on the Windy City. Reference librarians on the second and third floors are happy to help you find additional information on Chicago, or you can email questions about your research to reference@newberry.org. 

Reference Resources

The open shelves on the second and third floors of the Newberry contain several encyclopedias, dictionaries, and bibliographies related to Chicago. Some resources that you may find especially useful are:

Andreas, A. T. History of Cook County, Illinois. Chicago, A. T. Andreas, 1884. Newberry Library Call Number: Local History Ref F 547 .C7 A5 1973 (2nd Floor)

Checklist of Chicago Region Maps at the Newberry Library. Chicago: Newberry Library, 2005. Newberry Library Call Number: Local History Ref Z 6028 .N48 2005 (2nd Floor)

Chicago: A Chronological & Documentary History: 1784-1970.  Dobbs Ferry, NY: Oceana Publications, 1974. Newberry Library Call Number:  Chicago Browsing F 548.3 .F87 (2nd Floor)

Chicago and Cook County: A Union List of their Official Publications. Chicago: University of Chicago Libraries, Document Section, 1934. Newberry Library Call Number: Local History Ref Z 1278 .C5 C45 1934 (2nd Floor)

Chicago Historic Resources Survey. Chicago: Chicago Department of Planning and Development, 1996. Newberry Library Call Number: Chicago Browsing NA 735 .C4 C395 1996 (2nd Floor)

Currey, J. Seymour. Chicago: Its History and Its Builders. Chicago: S. J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1912. Newberry Library Call Number: Chicago Browsing F 548.3 .C97 (2nd Floor)

Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004. Newberry Library Call Number: Chicago Browsing F 548.3 .E53 2004b (2nd Floor)

Ethnic Chicago: A Multicultural Portrait. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1995. Newberry Library Call Number: Chicago Browsing F 548.9 A1  E85 1995 (2nd Floor)

Guide to the History of Illinois. New York: Greenwood Press, 1991. Newberry Library Call Number: Ref Z 1277 .G96 1991 (3rd Floor)

Jewell, Frank. Annotated Bibliography of Chicago History. Chicago: Chicago Historical Society, 1979. Newberry Library Call Number: Local History Ref Z 1278 .C4 J4 (2nd Floor)

Women Building Chicago 1790-1990: A Biographical Dictionary. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001. Newberry Library Call Number: Local History Ref HQ 1549 .C47 W66 2001 (2nd Floor)

Searching the Online Catalog

The Newberry collections contain so many materials on the city of Chicago that keyword searching can be overwhelming. For more manageable results, search the catalog for the subject Chicago (Ill.). You can further divide this subject to focus your search:

• Chicago (Ill.) – Bibliography
• Chicago (Ill.) – Biography
• Chicago (Ill.) – Buildings, structures, etc.
• Chicago (Ill.) – Church History
• Chicago (Ill.) – Commerce
• Chicago (Ill.) – Description and travel
• Chicago (Ill.) – Economic conditions
• Chicago (Ill.) – Ethnic Relations
• Chicago (Ill.) – Guidebooks
• Chicago (Ill.) – History
• Chicago (Ill.) – Intellectual life
• Chicago (Ill.) – Maps
• Chicago (Ill.) – Newspapers
• Chicago (Ill.) – Pictorial works
• Chicago (Ill.) – Politics and government
• Chicago (Ill.) – Race relations
• Chicago (Ill.) – Social conditions
• Chicago (Ill.) – Social life and customs
• Chicago (Ill.) – Statistics

To find information on Chicago in works on wider topics, search for the following phrases as a subject:

• African Americans – Illinois – Chicago (also: German Americans, Hispanic Americans, Irish Americans, etc.)
• Architecture – Illinois – Chicago
• Education – Illinois – Chicago
• Fires – Illinois – Chicago
• Immigrants – Illinois – Chicago
• Neighborhoods – Illinois – Chicago
• Public housing – Illinois – Chicago
• Riots – Illinois – Chicago
• Social settlements – Illinois – Chicago

For information on significant Chicago events, search for the following phrases as a subject:

• Century of Progress International Exposition (1933-1934: Chicago, Ill.)
• Fort Dearborn Massacre, Chicago, Ill., 1812
• Great Fire, Chicago, Ill., 1871
• Haymarket Square Riot, Chicago, Ill., 1886
• Pullman Strike, 1894
• World’s Columbian Exposition (1893: Chicago, Ill.)

To find information on particular neighborhoods and places in Chicago, search for their names as a subject:

• Englewood (Chicago, Ill.)
• Graceland Cemetery (Chicago, Ill.)
• Millennium Park (Chicago, Ill.)
• Pilsen (Chicago, Ill.) 

Locating Directories at the Newberry

Directories are an excellent resource for information about Chicago. The Newberry collections hold examples of city directories, business directories, professional directories, social directories, and telephone directories for the city of Chicago. Many of these resources are not included in the online catalog. Instead, a guide to the Newberry City Directory Collection is available on our website.

The guide is in alphabetical order by location. State directories are listed first, followed by county directories, and then city, business, and social directories, followed by telephone directories. Directories are listed chronologically within each category. The guide will tell you whether you need to page an item from the stacks, and what the call number is for materials kept in the stacks building. Chicago directory listings begin on page 33 of the guide.

Chicago city directories are available on microfilm for the years 1839, 1844, 1849-1850, 1851, 1853-1857, 1859-1868, 1870-1917, 1923, and 1928-1929. These films are kept behind the reference desk on the second floor.

Some directories are listed in the online catalog. To find these, search for the following phrase as a subject:

• Chicago (Ill.) – Directories

For directories centered on particular industries or professions, search for phrases such as the following as subjects:
 
• Education – Illinois – Chicago – Directories
• Lawyers – Illinois – Chicago – Directories
• Railroads – Directories
• Real estate business – Directories

Locating Manuscript Collections at the Newberry

Many of the Newberry’s manuscript collections are searchable in the online catalog. To search only within the Midwest Manuscript Collection, select the More Limits option on the Quick Search screen for the catalog, and select Location: Midwest Manuscript Collection. You can also search the following phrases as a subject in the online catalog to locate manuscript materials:

• Chicago (Ill.) – History – Sources
• Correspondence – Illinois – Chicago
• Diaries – Illinois – Chicago
• Manuscripts, American – Illinois – Chicago
• Photographs – Illinois – Chicago
• Scrapbooks – Illinois – Chicago

To browse collection abstracts and to locate manuscript collections that are not accessible in the online catalog, use the Checklist for Modern Manuscript Collections, 1700-present.

The checklist can be searched by collection name or by subject. Please note that since the bulk of the Newberry’s manuscript collections are concerned with Chicago and Chicagoans, the Chicago subject list is not exhaustive: it contains only obscure names and family collections. 

Locating Maps at the Newberry

The most complete record of the Newberry’s map collections and related reference materials is the Newberry Library Cartographic Catalog.

This catalog often duplicates, but is separate and distinct from, the Newberry’s online catalog, so be sure to consult both catalogs to search the library’s collections completely.

The Newberry’s collection of maps contains many Chicago-specific resources. The Chicago Region Map Collection consists of more than 1,300 maps of Chicago and Cook, DuPage, Lake, Kane, McHenry and Will counties, ranging in date from 1779 to 2003. To locate these resources, search the Newberry Cartographic Catalog for the “author” Chicago Region Map Collection (Newberry).

You can search the following phrases as a subject in both catalogs to retrieve maps:

• Chicago (Ill.) – Maps
• Chicago Region (Ill.) – Maps
• Loop (Chicago, Ill.) – Maps (also, Hyde Park, Lakeview, etc.)

The following Reference Resources describe Chicago maps in the Newberry collections:

Checklist of Chicago Region Maps at the Newberry. Chicago: Newberry Library, 2005. Newberry Call Number: Local History Ref Z 6028 .N48 2005 (2nd Floor)

This work is available on the open shelves in the General Reading Room, the Reference Center, and the Map Reading Room. Because the printed version of the Checklist has been superseded by hundreds of new editions described only online, it should be used in conjunction with the Newberry Cartographic Catalog to search our Chicago holdings completely.

Holland, Robert A. Chicago in Maps: 1612 to 2002. New York: Rizzoli, 2005. Newberry Call Number: Chicago Browsing F 548 .H96 2005 (2nd Floor) 

Locating Newspapers and Periodicals at the Newberry

The Newberry has strong collections of newspapers and periodicals covering the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The open shelves on the second and third floors of the library contain several print indexes you can use to locate materials about Chicago.

America, History and Life. Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio, 1964-. Newberry call number: Ref Z 1236 .A48 (3rd Floor)
This index is also available online at all Newberry Library computers.

Combined Retrospective Index Set to Journals in History, 1838-1974. Arlington, Va.: Carrolton Press, 1977-1978. Newberry call number: Ref Z 6205 .C6 (3rd Floor)

Index to Chicago History: The Magazine of the Chicago Historical Society. Chicago: The Society, 1970-. Newberry call number: Chicago Browsing F 548.1 .C465 Index (2nd Floor)

Nineteenth Century Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature, 1890-1899. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1944. Newberry call number: Ref AI .R47 (Checklist area, 3rd Floor)

Poole’s Index to Periodical Literature. New York: P. Smith, 1938. Newberry call number: Ref AI .P7 1938 (Checklist area, 3rd Floor)

Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature. Minneapolis: H. W. Wilson Co., 1905-. Newberry call number: Ref AI 3 .R48 (3rd Floor)

The Newberry Newspaper Collection Guide, which is available in print in both reading rooms, is a comprehensive guide to city newspapers in the Newberry collections. The guide is arranged alphabetically by state and city, and then chronologically within each city. Both English and German language papers are included in the Chicago listings.

Online Resources

Subscription Databases:
In recent years, the Newberry has supplemented its Chicago collections by subscribing to several databases. These are available for use on all Newberry computers and, in some cases, on personal laptops within the library.

Ancestry Library Edition.
This database, which contains the largest collection of family history documents on the web, is also useful for learning more about particular locations. Ancestry allows you to search the US Federal Census by location. The database also provides access to bibliographies and biographical indexes, as well as to digitized gazetteers, maps, and periodicals.

Digital Sanborn Maps.
The development of cities and neighborhoods can be traced using fire insurance maps. This database contains fire insurance maps of Chicago that were published by the Sanborn Map Company between 1894 and 1951.

Footnote.
This database of American primary source materials contains many documents held by the National Archives, including census data, city directories, correspondence, court records, military records, newspapers, photographs, and vital records. Several Chicago city directories are available in full-text on this site.

HarpWeek.
This database provides a searchable index to all issues of Harper’s Weekly published between 1857 and 1912, and allows access to illustrations, cartoons, and advertisements in addition to articles.

HeritageQuest Online.
HeritageQuest is another database centered on family history materials. Like Ancestry Library Edition, this database contains many tools useful for local historians, including the Periodical Source Index, the US Federal Census, and digitized books and periodicals.

Historical Chicago Tribune.
Using this database you can search issues of the Chicago Tribune published from 1849 through 1985.

Free Resources:
Illinois cultural institutions have created several free online resources that contain information on the history of Chicago.

CARLI Digital Collections
Members of the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries of Illinois created this repository of digital materials. The Booth Library Postcard Collection, the Century of Progress World’s Fair collection, Daily Life along the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad, and the Hull House Yearbooks are among the many collections here that contain information on Chicago history.

Chicago Ancestors
Chicago Ancestors, a project of the Newberry, allows you to search for historical information by address. Searching a particular address will pull up information about nearby churches and other historic buildings and structures. In some cases you will also be linked to photographs and historic postcards of the neighborhood, or to a citation for an article in Chicago Genealogist magazine that pertains to the location. In addition to the main search page, the Tools section of the site contains selected digitized city directories, address conversion tools, maps, and links to other Chicago history materials.

Chicago History Museum Online Resources
This page of the Chicago History Museum’s web site provides links to the Museum’s digital collections and exhibit web sites, including the Chicago Daily News Photograph Collection and the Haymarket Affair Digital Collection.

Chicago Landmarks
The City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development developed and maintains this resource, which is focused on Chicago’s built environment. You can access photographs and building histories for Chicago’s landmark buildings, as well as an architectural style guide, biographical information on significant architects, a database of historically significant buildings, and an interactive map of Chicago landmarks.

Chicago Neighborhood Research at the Newberry
This guide to neighborhood history resources, compiled by the Genealogy Department at the Newberry, is a useful starting point for researching particular areas of Chicago.

Chicago Public Library Digital Collections
These images from the Chicago Public Library’s Special Collections department illustrate the history of the city. You can search the images by date, by neighborhood, or by subject.

Encyclopedia of Chicago
The Chicago History Museum, the Newberry, and Northwestern University, creators of the Encyclopedia of Chicago, envisioned this resource as a print/online hybrid from the start. The online resource provides all of the entries from the print encyclopedia, as well as interactive maps and full-text digital copies of historic resources such as Burnham and Bennett’s 1909 Plan of Chicago.

Mapping the Stacks
The University of Chicago leads the Mapping the Stacks project, which creates finding aids for archival collections on African-Americans in twentieth-century Chicago. Their web site contains the finding aids for collections the project has processed, as well as digital images of selected materials from the collections.

Outspoken: Chicago’s Free Speech Tradition
The Newberry and the Chicago History Museum created this exhibit on free speech in Chicago. In addition to the online exhibit, this site contains primary sources, a list of online resources on free speech and Chicago history, and a bibliography.

Urban Experience in Chicago: Hull House and its Neighborhoods
This site contains historic photographs, primary source documents, and scholarly essays related to Hull House and the Near West Side Neighborhood. The Jane Addams Hull House Museum and the University of Illinois Chicago created and maintain the site.

These free electronic resources also contain useful information about Chicago:

American Memory Project
The Library of Congress maintains the American Memory Project in order to allow access to materials that document the history of culture of the United States. This site contains thousands of materials related to the history of Chicago, including digitized books, maps, and photographs.

American Social History Online
More than 175 collections of material about life in nineteenth and twentieth century America are accessible through this repository, a project of the Digital Library Federation. You can search by place, subject, or time period, and the site contains more than 2,000 Chicago-specific items.

Google Books
Google Books contains full-text digital versions of many publications created by, for, and about Chicago. To limit your search to retrieve the most relevant results, use the advanced search interface, search by subject, search “full view only,” and limit the dates of publication.

Illinois Harvest
A project of the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, this digital repository contains digital content about the state of Illinois, digital content created by University of Illinois scholars, and digitized materials from the collections of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign library collections. Though the content covers the state of Illinois, Chicago-specific materials are well-represented in the collection, which contains more than 700 digitized books about the city.

Internet Archive
The Internet Archive is creating an online library of audio materials, books, moving images, photographs, software, and web sites. The Newberry has collaborated with the Internet Archive, as have other Illinois institutions such as the University of Illinois. You can search the archive by contributor to locate all materials provided by the Newberry. Alternatively, you can search by subject, or by title. The University of Illinois provided the Internet Archive with a copy of the Chicago Foreign Language Press Survey, a Work Projects Administration undertaking that translated and compiled selected articles published in the Chicago foreign language press.