Becoming the Second City examines the development of Chicago's press and analyzes coverage of key events in its history to call attention to the media's impact in shaping the city's cultural and historical landscape. In concise, extensively documented prose, Richard Junger illustrates how nineteenth century newspapers acted as accelerants that boosted Chicago's growth in its early history by continually making and remaking the city's image for the public. Junger argues that the press was directly involved in Chicago's race to become the nation's most populous city, a feat it briefly accomplished during the mid-1890s before the incorporation of Greater New York City irrevocably recast Chicago as the "Second City."
The book is populated with a colorful cast of influential figures in the history of Chicago and in the development of journalism. Junger draws on newspapers, personal papers, and other primary sources to piece together a lively portrait of the evolving character of Chicago in the nineteenth century. Highlighting the newspaper industry's involvement in the business and social life of Chicago, Junger casts newspaper editors and reporters as critical intermediaries between the elite and the larger public and revisits key events and issues including the Haymarket Square bombing, the 1871 fire, the Pullman Strike, and the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893.