AMERICAN APOCALYPSE: The Great Fire and the Myth of Chicago by Ross Miller

AMERICAN APOCALYPSE: The Great Fire and the Myth of Chicago

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Densely packed study of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and its effects on the subsequent development of the city. Miller (English/Univ. of Connecticut) examines the ways in which the disaster shaped Chicagoans' images of themselves and how the opportunities provided by the need to rebuild the city drew vigorous and innovative architects such as Daniel Burnham, John Wellborn Root, and Louis Sullivan, writers such as Theodore Dreiser and Frank Norris, educators such as William Rainey Harper and Robert Herrick, and social critics such as William T. Stead to the midwestern metropolis. The result was the establishment of the modern city. Miller explores the dichotomies that existed between the commercial strivings of most Chicagoans and their urge for cultural advancement. He comments perceptively on the divisions that existed between the city's ""haves"" and ""have-nots"" and on the effects of a burgeoning immigrant population; then turns his attention to the hucksterism and boosterism that characterized Chicago during the Final three decades of the 19th century and that culminated in the Columbian Exposition of 1893. Interesting parallels are drawn between ""the black city"" of the Loop and ""the white city"" of the Exposition. Also discussed is the labor unrest that produced crippling strikes and often-fatal riots and heightened fears of anarchist and socialist revolution during the period. Impressive and well-organized research, albeit encased in often turgid prose. In all, a solid work that provides fresh insight into architecture, modernism, and urban growth.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1990
Publisher: Univ. of Chicago Press