From the lumberyards and meatpacking factories of the Southwest Side to the industrial suburbs that arose near Lake Calumet at the turn of the twentieth century, manufacturing districts shaped Chicago’s character and laid the groundwork for its transformation into a sprawling metropolis. Approaching Chicago’s story as a reflection of America’s industrial history between the Civil War and World War II, Chicago Made explores not only the well-documented workings of centrally located city factories but also the overlooked suburbanization of manufacturing and its profound effect on the metropolitan landscape.
Robert Lewis documents how manufacturers, attracted to greenfield sites on the city’s outskirts, began to build factory districts there with the help of an intricate network of railroad owners, real estate developers, financiers, and wholesalers. These immense networks of social ties, organizational memberships, and financial relationships were ultimately more consequential, Lewis demonstrates, than any individual achievement. Beyond simply giving Chicago businesses competitive advantages, they transformed the economic geography of the region. Tracing these transformations across seventy-five years, Chicago Made establishes a broad new foundation for our understanding of urban industrial America.