“A wonderfully readable account of Chicago’s early history” and the inspiration behind PBS’s American Experience (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times).
Depicting its turbulent beginnings to its current status as one of the world’s most dynamic cities, City of the Century tells the story of Chicago—and the story of America, writ small. From its many natural disasters, including the Great Fire of 1871 and several cholera epidemics, to its winner-take-all politics, dynamic business empires, breathtaking architecture, its diverse cultures, and its multitude of writers, journalists, and artists, Chicago’s story is violent, inspiring, passionate, and fascinating from the first page to the last.
The winner of the prestigious Great Lakes Book Award, given to the year’s most outstanding books highlighting the American heartland, City of the Century has received consistent rave reviews since its publication in 1996, and was made into a six-hour film airing on PBS’s American Experience series. Written with energetic prose and exacting detail, it brings Chicago’s history to vivid life.
“With City of the Century, Miller has written what will be judged as the great Chicago history.” —John Barron, Chicago Sun-Times
“Brims with life, with people, surprise, and with stories.” —David McCullough, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of John Adams and Truman
“An invaluable companion in my journey through Old Chicago.” —Erik Larson, New York Times–bestselling author of The Devil in the White City
A desolate fur-trading outpost in 1830, Chicago became, within half a century, the nation's railroad hub, livestock and packing center and a manufacturing giant. A glorious anthem to a tumultuous city, this synthesis of industrial, social and cultural history captures the raw, robust spirit of Chicago on every page. Miller, a history professor at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, peoples his big, colorful, engrossing canvas with architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan, railroad entrepreneur George Pullman, settlement-house workers Jane Addams and Florence Kelley, "Meat king" Philip Armour, dry-goods merchant Marshall Field, retailers Richard Sears and Alvah Roebuck, reaper inventor Cyrus McCormick, mail-order pioneer Aaron Montgomery Ward, Theodore Dreiser, Lincoln Steffens and others. Chicago-with its experience of mass transit, a regimented workforce, instant suburbs, the Americanization of diverse immigrant groups and battles between privatism and the public good-serves as a prism through which we watch the emergence of modern American life.