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The 1890s were rockin’ times for Chicago. The World’s Fair in 1893, for example, changed the entire landscape of the city. Four hundred temporary buildings were erected surrounded by a maze of fake Venetian canals, all lit up by Edison’s bright new bulbs. The event attracted millions of visitors from around the world. You can read all about it in a great book entitled Devil in the White City.
Meanwhile really big, ‘Chicago style’ steel skyscrapers were soaring up downtown in the Loop, anchored by giant department stores and banks.
Attracted by cheap rents courtesy of housing built for the Fair, writers flocked to the city. The famed Chap Book magazine began publishing, Theodore Dreiser wrote Sister Carrie, a novel about a young woman who sells her body to get ahead here – the first episode of Sex in the City, you might say. Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle recorded the harsh conditions in the city’s meat packing industry, which, as a result, changed food laws for the entire country. Richard Wright wrote Native Son here. Sherwin Anderson wrote Winesburg, Ohio. This is where it all began for Hemingway. And where Harriett Monroe launched Poetry Magazine.
Chicago was a rough, hard city that produced great, similarly styled literature. As such it’s a must-see destination for the literary tourist.