What Was

Becoming fascinated by history. Specifically the latter part of the 19th century. It was an amazing period. I started out reading about Chicago, which is fascinating enough, but Chicago was only a microcosm of the whole period, a sort of Petri dish in which the diseases of the time festered and bloomed.

Here’s a lovely quote from the Introduction of The Rise of Industrial America by Page Smith: “Americans, in the absence of any of the traditional ways of authenticating themselves and finding their places in the system — caste, clan, or ‘order’ — had to depend primarily upon money; making money became the validation of personal worth….”

From what I’ve read so far, that description fits Chicago in the 1880s like a glove.

Maybe one of the reasons I’m captivated by the 19th century is that the dominant cultural idiocies of the day are far enough removed from our own (if only barely) that I can look at the unfolding human drama as tragedy and comedy rather than as a struggle that I need to participate in. What happened, happened. Most of it happened because people, with a few happy exceptions, are cruel and stupid. But I can observe the cruelties and stupidities of the 19th century with a pleasant detachment.

Plus, top hats. What’s not to like about top hats?

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