Book Review - Five Stars
City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America
by Donald L. Miller
A classic book worthy of more then five stars. It is extensively researched and magnificently edited. Miller tells this awesome story of American propulsion in the first century of the Industrial Revolution where explosive expansion set a standard that would be a tough act to follow.
I absolutely loved It!
“A terrible calamity is impending over the city of Chicago! More I cannot say; more I dare not utter.” The following night, around nine o’clock, a fire broke out on the West Side of the city in the cow barn of Mrs. Patrick O’Leary. Aided by strong winds off the prairie, it turned into a one-and-a-half-day holocaust that consumed the entire core of the city of some 300,000 people, leaving 90,000 homeless and nearly 300 dead. It was the greatest natural disaster up to that time in American history. Frederick Law Olmsted, sent by The Nation to the stricken city, reported that many of those caught in the inferno thought they were witnessing “the burning of the world.”
The morning after the fire, fear gave way to disbelief. Everything was gone.
But more amazing than the destruction was the recovery. The rebuilding began while the ground was still warm in the burned district, and within week after the fire more than five thousand temporary structures had been erected and two hundred permanent buildings were under construction.
1893, when the city held the World’s Colombian Exposition to celebrate—one year late—the four hundredth anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of the New World, Chicago had the busiest and most modern downtown in the country, with a dozen and more of the highest buildings ever constructed. Chicago would never become as big or as consequential as New York, its greatest rival, but it had made good its boast as the city that could accomplish almost anything.
The epic of Chicago is the story of the emergence of modern America. Child of the age of steam, electricity, and international exchange, Chicago “[is] the very embodiment of the world-conquering spirit of the age,” an English writer observed in 1893.