The Lost Panoramas: When Chicago Changed Its River and the Lands Beyond by Richard Cahan and Michael Williams.
Why did the Sanitary District of Chicago (predecessor of the MWRDGC) take thousands of pictures along the Chicago, Des Plaines, and Illinois rivers between 1894 and 1928? The District anticipated lawsuits from property owners along the rivers affected by the digging of the Chicago Sanitary Canal to reverse the flow of the Chicago River, which sent all of the sewage and industrial waste away from Lake Michigan and the city into the center of the state, and it believed it could prove dilution rendered the wastes inoffensive and of no harm to the people downstream. Of course, this proved wrong in the long run, but District lawyers won many cases with the photos.
The legacy left by the photographers has transcended the narrow intent of the District Board and politicians to defend Chicago's cause. As shown in the recent book, their photographs captured a rich and fertile downstate landscape with small towns, farms, and woodlands. In the city, however, they showed terrible industrial abuse of the river from the uncontrolled flow of wastes from factories and the southside stockyards. If I had a time machine, I'd steer away from the river in the city. Until such a machine is developed, I'll enjoy more photo books like The Lost Panoramas.
Cahan, Richard and Michael Williams. The Lost Panoramas: When Chicago Changed Its River and the Lands Beyond. Cityfiles Press, 2011. 160p. ISBN 9780978545079.