WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT THE BOOK
“Most of the photographs in this book have never been seen before. Few were ever printed. So begins the latest volume of discovery from Cahan and Williams, the eloquent archival sleuthing duo who, along with Nicholas Osborn, brought us Who We Were: A Snapshot History of America (2008), among other stellar books.
Between 1894 and 1928, 21,834 meticulously composed and extraordinarily detailed photographs (shot with large-format view cameras using glass negatives), were taken for the Sanitary District of Chicago to document one of the world’s most famous engineering feats: the reversal of the Chicago River to prevent the city’s sewage from fouling Lake Michigan, the source of its drinking water. Many of the photographs fit together in seamless panoramas of a lost world, unspoiled rural Illinois at the close of the horse-and-buggy era, a land of subtle beauty and extraordinary fecundity.
Here, too, are arresting photographs of rapidly growing and hideously polluted Chicago. Cahan and Williams profile the players, elucidate the technological innovations, track the politics, and document the beneficial and catastrophic consequences of this massive and hubristic tinkering with nature. A risky feat that is still rippling through the Great Lakes region and beyond as our infrastructure decays and water becomes an evermore precious and contentious resource.”
“With more than 150 never-before-published duotone images, taken between 1892 and 1930, this collection explores the history of the Chicago River and the impact its reversal had on the watershed all the way to the Mississippi River. Offering the most complete description available of the river reversal, the stories told here provide a better understanding as to how it was done and why it was necessary, as well as how the water from the Chicago River is treated.”
“A gorgeous volume chronicling the development of the engineering marvel, its context and its effects.”
“Features sweeping scenes of the riverbed and its state-of-the-art infrastructure and provides a fascinating view of a true city on the make.”