Synopsis by Hal Erickson
An outgrowth of historian Donald L. Miller's massive City of the Century, this three-part, 270-minute series traces the history of Chicago from a settlement of only 300 or so transients in 1830, to the heavily populated site of the 1893 Columbian Exposition. After synopsizing Chicago's roots as a stopping-off point for explorers Marquette and Joliet in the 17th century, the series focuses on that era of the city's past that has been meticulously chronicled in print and on camera: the Great Fire of 1871, the Haymarket Riot of 1886, the ascension of the meatpacking "barons" to Gold-Coast aristocracy, the dominance of such high-profile figures as Cyrus McCormick, George Pullman, and Marshall Field (described in the narration as "buccaneers"), and the seeds of the social-consciousness movement sown by Jane Addams and her Hull-House. It is shown how the "landed gentry" of Chicago not only scorned the incoming Irish, Polish, and African-American immigrants, but also did everything in their power to expunge these minorities from the social mainstream (for example, the myth that "Mrs. O'Leary's cow" sparked the Chicago Fire is debunked as anti-Irish propaganda); it is also shown how those minorities ultimately battled their way to predominance in Chicago's political machine. Narrated by actor David Ogden Stiers, Chicago: City of the Century was produced for the PBS anthology American Experience in association with Chicago's Historical Society and the city's powerful public-TV outlet WTTW. The series originally aired on January 13, 14, and 15, 2003.
big-city, roots [origins], chronicle, determination, hardships, ingenuity, immigration, labor [work]