Historical Chicago

City encyclopedias are wonderful resources for research — particularly with the searchability of the internet. I found the Encyclopedia of Chicago while looking for information on life in that city in the 1840s-1850s. Many of the entries were quite helpful–as well as illustrative! I actually found it even more useful the second time round on research. Several of the other sites I used flitted away as unsupported internet sites do–but the Encyclopedia is still around and has lovely, lengthy articles documenting the types of information I originally located on more ephemeral sites. So here’s to the Chicago History Museum, Newberry Library, and Northwestern University for keeping it going!

For those who might be interested, here are some of the topics on which I consulted articles in the Encyclopedia (or verified, when the other sites vanished) or otherwise explored for a story set in an alternate Chicago circa the early 1850s:

  • sidewalks circa 1850 (the city was raising some of them)
  • the railway station (layout, location, building materials)
  • “public” transportation within the city
  • libraries, particularly any accessible to women
  • natural history societies & lyceums
  • hotels, particularly the Tremont
  • cholera epidemics
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