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Sensing Chicago

Sensing Chicago: Noisemakers, Strikebreakers, and Muckrakers

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    Sensing Chicago
    Book Description:

    A hundred years and more ago, a walk down a Chicago street invited an assault on the senses. Untiring hawkers shouted from every corner. The manure from thousands of horses lay on streets pooled with molasses and puddled with kitchen grease. Odors from a river gelatinous and lumpy with all manner of foulness mingled with the all-pervading stench of the stockyard slaughterhouses. In Sensing Chicago , Adam Mack lets fresh air into the sensory history of Chicago in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by examining five events: the Chicago River, the Great Fire, the 1894 Pullman Strike, the publication of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle , and the rise and fall of the White City amusement park. His vivid recounting of the smells, sounds, and tactile miseries of city life reveals how input from the five human senses influenced the history of class, race, and ethnicity in the city. At the same time, he transports readers to an era before modern refrigeration and sanitation, when to step outside was to be overwhelmed by the odor and roar of a great city in progress.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09722-5
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    (pp. 1-10)

    In 1909 theTribunesummoned John Callan O’Laughlin to Chicago to write a series of articles on the “physical, civic, and political” condition of the city. The Chicago-born journalist boasted a wealth of urban experience, having seen most of the major cities in the United States and Western Europe. He seemed the perfect choice to help his hometown readers understand how “others look upon their city.” Yet much to his readers’ chagrin, if not surprise, O’Laughlin found vast sections of Chicago unsightly. Air pollution from locomotives dashed the journalist’s hopes for a view of Lake Michigan from his hotel room....

    (pp. 11-32)

    By 1869 a journey down the Chicago River tested the hardiest of noses. In August an official “smelling committee” set about an inspection tour, a civic ritual that forced them to brave the waters at the hottest time of the year, when the combined stench of the riverside slaughterhouses, rendering concerns, and distilleries reached its noisome zenith. The committee included the acting mayor, the city’s sanitary superintendent, the health officer and other medical officials, as well as an observer, Mr. Stewart Kingsbury from Centralia, who theTribunereported “had heard a great deal of the fame of Chicago as a...

  6. CHAPTER 2 SENSORY OVERLOAD: The Chicago Fire, 1871
    (pp. 33-50)

    John G. Shorthall had fire on his mind when he returned from church early on Sunday evening, October 8, 1871. Yet for this Chicagoan it was not the fiery torments of hell he was thinking about, but fire as spectacle, as conveyed through an eyewitness, one Mr. Hibbard. “You should have seen the fire last night,” Hibbard told Shorthall and his wife as they walked home from services. An “amazing spectacle,” the fire produced flames that “rose higher than [he] had ever seen before.” The eyewitness’s recounting of the previous evening’s fire, one that burned a tiny portion of the...

  7. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  8. CHAPTER 3 TO QUIET THE ROAR OF THE MOB: George M. Pullman’s Model Town
    (pp. 51-70)

    In the second half of the 1870s the clink of the trowel gave way to the roar of the mob. On July 29, 1877, as Chicago reeled from a series of violent protests in support of the national railroad strike, theTribunewarned that labor politics echoed in new and disturbing ways. The pitched battle between the strikers and federal troops around the Halstead Street viaduct three days earlier suggested that a full-blown working-class insurrection might take hold of the city.

    Americans could no longer assume that the truly “dangerous classes” confined themselves to the other side of the Atlantic....

  9. CHAPTER 4 A REVOLUTIONARY AND A PURITAN: Upton Sinclair and The Jungle
    (pp. 71-94)

    The Jungleis the best-known literary evocation of industrial Chicago. One hundred years after the novel first disgusted readers with its descriptions of the city’s meatpacking plants, it continues to inform discussions about food politics. Upton Sinclair’s gastric prose and his eye for revolting detail echo in contemporary exposés about industrially produced meat.¹ Much like those exposés,The Jungleshocked readers’ senses, famously turning their stomachs with descriptions of rats tossed into sausage hoppers. However, Sinclair’s novel also had much to say about how the meatpacking industry robbed the senses of workers. This chapter analyzesThe Jungleto explore the...

    (pp. 95-112)

    Joseph Beifeld, president of the White City Construction Company, visited Coney Island in the summer of 1904. Witnessing what he described as the “intense enjoyment” of the New Yorkers who fled the city proper for the seaside resort, he resolved to bring a similar set of attractions to Chicago. Much like the architects of Coney Island, he saw potential profit in the multiplying urban population, with its growing leisure time and spending power, all of which Chicago’s streetcar lines would deliver to his doorstep. Yet Beifeld had more than dollar signs on his mind. He believed that a respectable amusement...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 113-142)
    (pp. 143-156)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 157-161)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 162-162)