December 29, 2007
Chicago's Dim Past
No study of the history of Chicago would be complete without an understanding of its natural origin or its founding. While my focus is primarily the late 19th and early 20th century, Early Chicago is a website dedicated to the city’s ancient and earlier history. Based on the self-published book Early Chicago: A Compendium of the Early History of Chicago to the Year 1835, when the Indians left by Ulrich Danckers and Jane Meredith, the authors take us back to a time when “one could stand on the lake dunes and gaze west across a prairie stretching to the horizon. With luck or by chance, clouds of passenger pigeons might pass overhead,darkening the sky.”
Early Chicago offers many opportunities for study and research. You'll find a chronology that outlines the geological formation of the site that would some day become Chicago going back to the creation of the universe. Also included are maps, as early as 1507, an encyclopedia, essays by noted scholars and an extensive bibliography.
I'm looking forward to reading the book, which is available for purchase on the website. As a fan of James Michener, I always enjoyed the first chapter or so of his novels when he would dig into the natural history and formation of an area, such as in Hawaii. I think every historian has a touch of the poet in them and from what I have read on the website, the authors are clearly in that category. Both the website and the book on Early Chicago promise to satisfy my frustrated archeologist's desires in my study of the city and are a recommended preface to my feeble offerings.
For more information on Chicago's natural origins you might want to add the following to your library:
A Natural History of the Chicago Region by Joel Greenberg
Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West by William Cronon
The Chicago River: A Natural and Unnatural History by Libby Hill