Chicago has been called the “most American of cities” and the “great American city.” Not the biggest or the most powerful, nor the richest, prettiest, or best, but the most American. How did it become that? And what does it even mean? At its heart, Chicago is America’s great hub. And in this book, Chicago magazine editor and longtime Chicagoan Whet Moser draws on Chicago’s social, urban, cultural, and often scandalous history to reveal how the city of stinky onions grew into the great American metropolis it is today.
Chicago began as a trading post, which grew into a market for goods from the west, sprouting the still-largest rail hub in America. As people began to trade virtual representations of those goods—futures—the city became a hub of finance and law. And as academics studied the city’s growth and its economy, it became a hub of intellect, where the University of Chicago’s pioneering sociologists shaped how cities at home and abroad understood themselves. Looking inward, Moser explores how Chicago thinks of itself, too, tracing the development of and current changes in its neighborhoods. From Boystown to Chinatown, Edgewater to Englewood, the Ukrainian Village to Little Village, Chicago is famous for them—and infamous for the segregation between them.
With insight sure to enlighten both residents and anyone lucky enough to visit the City of Big Shoulders, Moser offers an informed local’s perspective on everything from Chicago’s enduring paradoxes to tips on its most interesting sights and best eats. An affectionate, beautifully illustrated urban portrait, his book takes us from the very beginnings of Chicago as an idea—a vision in the minds of the region’s first explorers—to the global city it has become.