Friday, February 03, 2006

Chicago in Maps 1612 to 2002 by Robert A. Holland

Chicago in Maps is the fifth book in a series by Rizzoli. Like Manhattan in Maps and Washington in Maps , it reproduces historical maps held by libraries and archives, such as the Newberry Library and the Chicago Historical Society, and collects them with brief accounts of the history they represent.

Chicago in Maps can be read front to back, as I did, to get a sense of the story of the city. The early maps were drawn by French explorers and missionaries seeking routes through the area to establish trade routes to China. Objectives soon changed to finding routes for the fur trade and commerce with New Orleans. Chicago, with its short but sometimes difficult portage from the Chicago River, which feeds into Lake Michigan, to the Des Plaines River, which flows ultimately into the Mississippi River, was soon identified as a strategic location. The maps that follow show the growth of a small trading post into a large city.

Chicago in Maps will be used more as a reference book than a book to read. The maps in this book show how rail lines entered the city, where the cable cars ran, how far the 1871 fire spread, and how Daniel Burnham wanted to change the city with his 1909 plan. Some of the most interesting maps are ones showing the underground tunnels in the city center, the layout of Graceland Cemetery with its many famous graves and monuments, the grounds of two world's fairs, the vast territory of the Union Stock Yards (can you imagine the smell?), and the distribution of ethnic groups in the neighborhoods.

Bonnie said, and I agree, that it would have been better if pages of this book were larger or folding maps were included, as the maps are sometimes too small to read street names and other details. Still, the book is attractive and useful. I recommend it to all libraries collecting Chicago history.

Holland, Robert A. Chicago in Maps, 1612 to 2002. New York: Rizzoli, 2005. ISBN 0847827437

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