Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Historic Photos of Chicago: Text and Captions by Russell Lewis of the Chicago History Museum

Russell Lewis observes in his preface to Historic Photos of Chicago that many photographs of the city are locked in archives and not readily available to the students and researchers who could use them. With help from the staff of the Chicago History Museum (formerly called the Chicago Historical Society), he selected 167 representative photos from its archives to arrange by era and publish in this book. Lewis hopes that the book will serve as a good visual introduction to the city.

The book fulfills his wish, as the sequence of images does suggest the passing of time and the complexity of urban history. Most famous buildings and people of the city are included, as are the world's fairs, presidential conventions, and other events. The Great Fire of 1871 is especially well-covered. All the images are black and white and untouched, except for simple restoration.

As a reference librarian, however, I would have liked a little information for my clients. The captions are short, and the notes in the back of the book do not give dates that the photographs were taken; I realize that the dates may be unknown for some of the older images, but estimates would have helped. There is no index to the subjects in the photos.

Many of the images taken between 1902 and 1933 are from the Daily News Collection at the Chicago History Museum. The museum has 55,000 images from this collection available for viewing on its website. These are searchable.

Most public and academic libraries in the Chicago area should add this attractive book. Outside the area, libraries strong in American history or urban studies should consider it.

Historic Photos of Chicago: Text and Captions by Russell Lewis of the Chicago History Museum. Nashville: Turner Publishing Company, 2006. ISBN 1596522550

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