From its humble beginnings as a fur-trading outpost, Chicago has become one of the foremost centers of world finance and trade. With its blue-collar work ethic and an economic history that extends into virtually every segment of American industry, it certainly lives up to its moniker as the City That Works.
Drawing on the award-winning Encyclopedia of Chicago, Janice L. Reiff has compiled a unique history of work in the Windy City. Beginning with an overview of the city’s commercial development, Chicago Business and Industry considers how key industries shaped—and were shaped by—both the local and global economies. The city’s phenomenal population growth, its proximity to water, and its development of railroads made Chicago one of the most productive markets for lumber and grain throughout the nineteenth century. The region’s once-booming steel industry, on the other hand, suffered a dramatic decline in the second half of the twentieth century, when already weakened demand met with increasing international competition. Chicago Business and Industry chronicles the Chicago region’s changing fortunes from its beginning.
Reiff has compiled and updated essays from the Encyclopedia covering the city’s most historically famous—and infamous—companies, from the Union Stock Yard to Montgomery Ward to the Board of Trade. The book concludes with a historical account of labor types and issues in the city, with attention to such topics as health-care workers, unemployment, and unionization. Today, Groupon and a host of other high-tech firms have led some experts to christen Chicago the Silicon Valley of the Midwest. Reiff’s new introduction takes account of these and other recent trends.
Engaging, accessible, and packed with fascinating facts, Chicago Business and Industry invites readers into the history and diversity of work in the city, helping them understand how Chicago became Chicago.