Plates Documenting Chicago Before the Fire, with the Original Prospectus

Chicago Illustrated. 1830. 1866. Literary Description by James W. Sheahan Esq. Illustrations by the Chicago Lithographing Co [wrapper title].

Chicago: Jevne & Almini, 1866-1867.

Price: $35,000.00

About the item

First Edition. 52 two-, three- or four-color tinted lithographed views after Louis Kurz. 52 text leaves describing each view (with a duplicate of one text leaf and the missing text leaf supplied in early manuscript facsimile). With a later typed list of plates inserted. Without title page, as issued. Early manuscript annotations to the plates. [With:] Letterpress broadside prospectus for the work, tipped in at the front. Oblong folio. Plates Documenting Chicago Before the Fire, with the Original Prospectus. Nineteenth century half morocco and cloth, spine with raised bands lettered in gilt, marbled endpapers, minior wear at extremitites. A few short edge tears repaired to endpapers and text leaves, old tear to Trinity Church plate repaired. Original front and rear wrapper to part 6 bound in, upper wrapper creased. Provenance: Chicago Historical Society (inked stamp to the first text leaf and ink inscriptions on two plates); Wright Howes (pencil annotation); Francis J. Gerty (signature on front endpaper). Howes J108; Graff 3747; Sabin 12623; Chicago Ante-Fire Imprints 1047.

Item #332978

A marvelous collection of views of Chicago - drawn, described, and published by Chicagoans - providing the best visual description of the city before the destruction wreaked by the Great Fire of 1871. The scarce prospectus for the work, present here, asserts that Chicago Illustrated would provide views giving "striking evidences of the City's improvement and enterprise." It was promised that there would be twenty-five total parts, "with each to contain at least four tinted Lithographic Views" for a total of 100 or more views, giving "a comprehensive picture of this marvelous city." Ultimately, only thirteen parts were issued, each with four plates, for a total of fifty-two views.

The plates and/or the letterpress description of the plates are as follows:
1) Chamber of Commerce.
2) Tremont House.
3) Great Central Depot / Great Central Depot Grounds With Entrance to Harbor.
4) Second Presbyterian Church.
5) Post Office Building / Custom House.
6) Wabash Avenue Methodist Church.
7) Rush Street Bridge From State Street.
8) Michigan Avenue From Park Row.
9) The Opera House / Crosby's Opera House.
10) Twelfth Street Bridge / View from 12th Street Bridge.
11) Church of the Holy Family / Jesuite Church.
12) The Lake View House / View from Lake House.
13) Court House / Court House Square.
14) Corner State and Washington Streets.
15) Trinity Church.
16) Chicago Harbor.
17) La Salle Street, from Court House Square.
18) Col. Wood's Museum.
19) Universalist Church.
20) Lake Street Bridge.
21) Chicago University.
22) Sherman House.
23) North Presbyterian Church.
24) Corner Lake and State Streets.
25) Douglas Monument.
26) Briggs House.
27) Second Baptist Church.
28) Junction of the Chicago River.
29) The Chicago "Crib."
30) Plymouth Congregational Church.
31) Soldiers' Home.
32) Corner South Water and Clark Streets.
33) Union Stock Yards.
34) Hough House.
35) First Congregational Church.
36) Illinois Central Round House.
37) Great Fire on Lake Street.
38) Third Presbyterian Church.
39) Mr. Vicker's Theatre.
40) Michigan Avenue from the Lake.
41) M.S. & N.I. & C. & R.I. & Pc.R.R. Depot.
42) Centenary Methodist Episcopal Church.
43) Armory and Gas Works.
44) Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Freight Depot.
45) Corner Lake Street and Wabash Avenue.
46) Eighth Presbyterian Church.
47) Corner Lake and Wells Streets.
48) Park Row.
49) Chicago Water Works.
50) First Baptist Church.
51) Marine Bank Building.
52) View from Van Buren Street Bridge.

The publishers, Otto Jevne and Peter Almini, had been best known as decorators specializing in ornamental paintings and frescos. They teamed with the talented lithographer, Austrian-born Louis Kurz, to form the Chicago Lithographing Company, under whose imprint this work was issued. Kurz and two other lithographers, Otto Knirsch and Edward Carqueville, created the lovely views, which show a wide variety of buildings and places in Chicago. Included are views of the Chamber of Commerce, the Great Central Depot Grounds, Tremont House, the Customs House, Michigan Avenue, LaSalle Street, Chicago University, the Union Stock Yards, and the Water Works. A great variety of structures, parks, and commercial enterprises are shown, including churches, banks, busy docks and rivers, parks, theatres, the opera house, hotels, railroads, entertainments, etc., showing a bustling city that had become a great center of commerce and culture. One of the colored illustrations dramatically shows a building being engulfed by the "Great Fire on Lake Street" of 1866. The text was written by James W. Sheahan, a journalist from the Chicago Tribune.

Chicago Illustrated was originally issued in monthly parts (costing $1.50 per part) from January 1866 to January 1867, when the project was ended. This set is notable for containing the original front wrapper for Part 6 (June 1866) and for also containing the original printed prospectus. The wrapper shows views of Chicago past (a Native American family by the lake) and present (an elegantly dressed man and woman walking along the river), and also shows a view of Jevne and Almini's Chicago Lithographic Company offices, a four-story building on South Clark Street. Their office was located in the district destroyed by the 1871 fire which, along with the limited number of sets of Chicago Illustrated that were created, contributes to its rarity.

While not part of his personal collection, this copy passed through the hands of legendary bibliographer and book dealer Wright Howes after having been deaccessioned by the Chicago Historical Society. A note on the front free endpaper notes that this copy was purchased from Howes, and then on the verso of the same free endpaper is a note in Howes' hand. This copy was purchased by Francis J. Gerty (1892-1994), prominent Chicago psychiatrist and collector, whose library is now in the Library of the Health Sciences at the University of Illinois, Chicago.

A beautiful and rare visual tour of Chicago a few years before the Great Fire.