Probably the most iconic view of Chicago ever made…

The City of Chicago.


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SKU: NL-01974 Category: Tag:
Date: (1874) 1892
Place: New York
Dimensions: 34.25 x 23.25 inches
Condition Rating: VG


This rare bird’s-eye view of Chicago offers a unique perspective on the urban landscape of The Windy City in the 1870s. It vividly portrays the evolution of a place transformed from a sleepy frontier settlement along a marshy lakefront to an industrial and economic powerhouse in just fifty years. The hand-colored lithograph was originally created by Parsons & Atwater and published by the iconic New York firm of Currier & Ives in 1874 – only three years after the Great Chicago Fire. This example was a special issue for the 1892 Columbian Exposition World’s Fair in Chicago.

In this captivating aerial view, we are witnessing the city’s transformation into a modern metropolis. Rising from the ashes of the old city, Chicago began to expand dramatically, and the boom naturally attracted a growing number of working-class immigrants. By the late 1870s, Chicago’s population had surged to more than 400,000 residents, a staggering increase from the 1850 census, which counted just over 30,000 inhabitants. Fueled by employment opportunities, the population boom is seen clearly in the tightly packed housing surrounding a well-organized industrial infrastructure.

In addition to a growing population, Chicago established itself as a vital hub for transporting raw materials and manufactured goods from the east to the Western Frontier. This was mainly accomplished through an elaborate network of rivers and canals and an ever-expanding railway. Both of these features are clearly represented in this view. Along the canals, factories bustle with marine traffic, while the active lakefront is full of tall ships and steamers. The city is teeming with life, from moving trains and horse-drawn carriages to people strolling along the lakefront.

Along the bottom, the view labels several prominent Chicago landmarks and buildings, most of which are also rendered in vivid detail. Notable locations include the Union Stock Yards, Brighton Trotting Park, McCormick Reaper Works, Chicago Malleable Iron Works, the Michigan Southern, Chicago Rock Island & Pacific railroad depot, the Palmer House, Tribune Building, Douglas Park, St. James Church, Water Works (featuring the Chicago Water Tower), Washington Square, and Lincoln Park.


Nathaniel Currier & James Ives

Currier and Ives was a highly successful American printmaking firm that operated from 1834 to 1907. The company was named after its founders, Nathaniel Currier and James Merritt Ives. They specialized in producing lithographic prints that depicted a wide range of subjects, including landscapes, historical events, portraits, and genre scenes.

Nathaniel Currier, born in 1813, started his career as a lithographer in the 1830s, creating images of current events and scenes of everyday life. He formed a partnership with James Merritt Ives, a bookkeeper, in 1857. Ives had a keen business sense and contributed greatly to the success of the firm. Together, they established Currier & Ives, with Currier as the primary artist and Ives managing the business operations.

Currier & Ives became renowned for their high-quality lithographs, which were affordable and accessible to a wide audience. The company employed a team of talented artists who produced the original artwork, which was then transferred onto lithographic stones for mass production.

Parsons & Atwater

The artistic duo consisting of Charles R. Parsons and Lyman Atwater, renowned for their depictions of maritime scenes and urban landscapes, produced more than thirty artworks for Currier and Ives.

Condition Description

Very good. Repaired tears, some entering image area, backed on archival tissue.