Cities Dominic A. Pacyga Chicago: A Biography

ISBN 13: 9780226644288

Chicago: A Biography

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9780226644288: Chicago: A Biography

Chicago has been called by many names. Nelson Algren declared it a “City on the Make.” Carl Sandburg dubbed it the “City of Big Shoulders.” Upton Sinclair christened it “The Jungle,” while New Yorkers, naturally, pronounced it “the Second City.”

At last there is a book for all of us, whatever we choose to call Chicago. In this magisterial biography, historian Dominic Pacygatraces the storied past of his hometown, from the explorations of Joliet and Marquette in 1673 to the new wave of urban pioneers today. The city’s great industrialists, reformers, and politicians—and, indeed, the many not-so-great and downright notorious—animate this book, from Al Capone and Jane Addams to Mayor Richard J. Daley and President Barack Obama. But what distinguishes this book from the many others on the subject is its author’s uncommon ability to illuminate the lives of Chicago’s ordinary people. Raised on the city’s South Side and employed for a time in the stockyards, Pacyga gives voice to the city’s steelyard workers and kill floor operators, and maps the neighborhoods distinguished not by Louis Sullivan masterworks, but by bungalows and corner taverns.

 Filled with the city’s one-of-a-kind characters and all of its defining moments, Chicago: A Biography is as big and boisterous as its namesake—and as ambitious as the men and women who built it.

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About the Author:

Dominic Pacyga is the award-winning author or coauthor of several books, including Polish Immigrants and Industrial Chicago: Workers on the South Side, 1880–1922, also published by the University of Chicago Press. He teaches in the Department of Humanities, History, and Social Sciences at Columbia College Chicago.

Review:

“A wonderful achievement from someone who has devoted much of his career to studying Chicago’s history. Pacyga gives us the singular story of Chicago in his own inimitable voice.”

(Ann Durkin Keating, coeditor of The Encyclopedia of Chicago and author of Chicagoland: City and Suburbs in the Railroad Age 2009-03-30)

“When I first moved to Chicago, I was told that ‘if you really want to know the city, you have to take a tour with Dominic Pacyga. He knows it block by block.’ When Pacyga took me around, I found that he also knew the city’s history, decade by decade. I continue to learn from his vast store of knowledge on Chicago—and now, thanks to his book, everyone can.”

(Garry Wills, professor emeritus of history at Northwestern University and author of Why I am a Catholic 3009-03-30)

“Well paced and clearly organized, Pacyga’s Chicago tells the compelling story of this uniquely American city. Pacyga’s narrative provides a particularly enjoyable time-lapse view of the successive waves of change that have seen this settlement in a swamp grow into a modern metropolis.”

(Stuart Dybek, author of The Coast of Chicago and I Sailed with Magellan 2009-05-07)

“A thoughtful and compelling addition to the great shelf of essential Chicago books. Rarely have I encountered a work of scholarship that is at once enlightening and wildly entertaining.”

(Rick Kogan, host of WGN’s “The Sunday Papers” and author of A Chicago Tavern: A Goat, a Curse, and the American Dream 2009-05-07)

“The suburbs, the stockyards, Jane Addams’s settlement house and public housing projects all receive Pacyga’s attention, as does Richard [J.] Daley’s infamous 20-year reign. Enlivened by archival pictures, [Chicago: A Biography] offers a broad and compressed overview of the Windy City.”

(Publishers Weekly 2009-08-04)

“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. . . . 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 Journal 2009-07-17)

“[Pacyga] decided not to write a chronological history of the city, something that could take up multiple volumes, but to treat Chicago as if it were a person — hence the title Chicago: A Biography. . . . His attention is taken up by what really does define the city: a fight for fairness for laborers, for the poor, and for children; capitalism and corruption run amok; the work produced and the people who do it.”

(Jessa Crispin The Smart Set 2009-10-08)

“[The book] includes the usual characters and events: early French traders, the Chicago Fire, Haymarket Square, George Pullman, Jane Addams, the Columbian Exposition, various mayors and Al Capone. But Pacyga seeks out the stories of the not-so-famous as well.”

(Chicago Sun-Times 2009-10-11)

“Those new to Chicago and its history will find this book to be a great place to start. For those who know something
about it already, they will find a comprehensive history that is bound to show them something new about this ever-changing city.”

(PopMatters 2009-11-25)

“Highly recommended.”

(Choice 2010-02-01)

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