It is said that the geographical position predetermines the destiny of a city. Due to its location in the center of the United States, Chicago has got a rich history. A permanent exhibition at the Chicago History Museum Chicago: Crossroads of America provides its visitors with an opportunity to learn new aspects of the city history in the context of the history of the whole country. Among all the historical artifacts, the pioneer locomotive an exhibit of the City on the Make exemplifies the cornerstone of the building of the city best symbolizing the cause and effect of its industrialization and urbanization.
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The part of the exhibition entitled City on the Make allows Chicagoans and tourists to learn some additional details of the history of the city from the days of Fort Dearborn to the period of the Union Stock Yards dominance. Nelson Algren, the author of the 12,000- word essay Chicago: City on the Make, expressing his affection to the city, admitted that “Yet once you’ve come to be part of this particular patch, you’ll never love another” (Algren 23).
The same perspective was chosen by the authors of the exhibition, shedding light upon the most remarkable moments of Chicago history. Observing the wooden model of Fort Dearborn and the American flag streaming in the wind as a part of the exhibit, the visitors can imagine all the historical events that took place at the site. A new perspective on the Fort Dearborn Massacre allows considering the motivation of Native Americans for burning the fort. It is an amazing fact that the approximate sites of the first and the second forts are marked in the pavement at Michigan Avenue. Drawing parallels between the contemporary realities and historical artifacts make the exhibition more realistic.
The pioneer locomotive is the exhibit of the City on the Make collection exemplifying the building of the city best. It is exciting that the construction allows climbing aboard this outdated car and observing it inside out. The first iron horse named Pioneer was built in 1848 and has always been perceived by Chicagoans as a symbol of the city’s rapid urbanization. It was after the development of the railroad that Chicago became a leader in the cattle and wheat industries.
Between 1830 and 1890, Chicago was the fastest-growing city in the United States and the world. Within this period its population increased, and its borders expanded significantly. As a result of the rapid tempos of the 19th-century urbanization and industrialization, the city became the national crossroads. This fact may explain the choice of the title for the whole permanent exhibition: Chicago: Crossroads of America.
Nowadays, the Chicago ‘L’ remains the symbol of the developing transportation system and the period of the city flourishing. Built about 125 years ago, it is an integral part of contemporary life. “Born in the crucible of Chicago’s urban prospects and problems, the ‘L’ survives and thrives as a quintessential, and enduring feature of the city’s ever-changing landscape” (Borzo 9). The pioneer locomotive may be regarded, as a cornerstone of the exhibition symbolizing the period of its rapid growth, having a significant impact on the following development of the city.
A permanent exhibition at the Chicago History Museum Chicago: Crossroads of America would be interesting for both native Chicagoans and tourists. Disclosing the secrets of the past, the visitors are enabled to view the present-day realities in the context of the historical development of Chicago. The pioneer locomotive symbolizing the modification of the transportation system as the cause and effect of urbanization is the central artifact of the exhibition.
Algren, Nelson, Studs Turkel. Chicago: City on the Make. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001. Print.
Borzo, Greg. The Chicago “L”. Arcadia Publishing, 2007. Print.