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Ebook Information

Sensing Chicago

Noisemakers, Strikebreakers, and Muckrakers
Awards and Recognition:

Award of Superior Achievement, Illinois State Historical Society, 2016

Urban history from amidst the oleaginous perfume, greasy exudations, and black froth of a growing metropolis

A hundred years ago and more, a walk down a Chicago street invited an assault on the senses. Untiring hawkers shouted from every corner. The manure from thousands of horses lay on streets pooled with molasses and puddled with kitchen grease. Odors from a river gelatinous and lumpy with all manner of foulness mingled with the all-pervading stench of the stockyard slaughterhouses.

In Sensing Chicago, Adam Mack lets fresh air into the sensory history of Chicago in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by examining five case studies: the Chicago River, the Great Fire, the 1894 Pullman Strike, the publication of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, and the rise and fall of the White City amusement park. His vivid recounting of the smells, sounds, and tactile miseries of city life reveals how input from the five human senses influenced the history of class, race, and ethnicity in the city. At the same time, he transports readers to an era before modern refrigeration and sanitation, when to step outside was to be overwhelmed by the odor and roar of a great city in progress.

"Demonstrates how much of the sensory field of an earlier era can be reconstructed, and why doing so can be of interest."--Inside Higher Ed

"Sensing Chicago is expertly researched yet accessible to readers of all backgrounds, and a welcome addition to public and college library urban history shelves."--Midwest Book Review

"In Sensing Chicago, Mack tells the familiar story of Chicago's rise to preeminence from a different perspective. Asking the questions and employing the methods common to sensory history, Mack presents an alternative vision of life in the industrial metropolis. . . . Mack's discussion of noises, smells, and other sensate phenomena yield's a number of original insights."--Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Volume 47, Number 1, Summer 2016

"Fills an important gap in urban social history, applying to nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Chicago the sensory attention that others have brought to bear on similar periods in cities such as New York, London, and Paris."--Journal of Social History Advance Access

"A significant contribution to urban studies and a persuasive application of sensory history methods and questions to a particularly appropriate case study. It changes our understanding of the history and particularly the experience of life in the industrial city."--James R. Barrett, author of The Irish Way: Becoming American in the Multiethnic City

"Adam Mack puts the senses and sensations at the center of this vivid exploration of social distinction and the regulation of the noxious in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Chicago. This highly evocative work in sensory studies highlights the politics of perception, the changing sensescape of the city, and some intriguing experiments in sensory rejuvenation."--David Howes, co-author of Ways of Sensing: Understanding the Senses in Society

Adam Mack is assistant professor of History in the Department of Liberal Arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

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