Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Editor's Page

Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Editor's Page

Article excerpt

In 1893 Chicago welcomed the world to the World's Columbian Exposition that commemorated the 400th Anniversary of Columbus's discovery of America. Building this monumental undertaking demanded a broad range of skilled and unskilled workers beyond what Chicago itself could provide. Workers from all over the country flocked the city for employment and a chance to be part of this wondrous undertaking - from college students looking for adventure and a chance to be part of this collective undertaking to rootless individuals from across the country. In "Workers in the White City: Working Class Culture and the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893," David Silkenat examines this unique labor force. The Exposition, with as many as sixteen-thousand workers, was the largest employer in Chicago during its operation and one of the largest employers in the nation. What Silkenat discovers is that these workers, many of whom were college students and tramps, had no traditional sources of working class support and identity as they were not part of traditional ethnic neighborhood institutions or other economic institutions, such as unions. To function effectively in this milieu they had to develop their own definition and identity of what it meant to be a dignified worker in the Gilded Age work force . Silkenat concludes that "Remarkably. . .both tramps and college students behaved, thought, and acted in a manner that bears a striking resemblance to other workers in Chicago. During their relatively brief tenure in the city, these workers created ideas about their work, their identity, and their community, forming a working class culture out of whole cloth."

In "Military Music in the 106th Cavalry: The Mounted Band of the Chicago Black Horse Troop, 1929-1940," Bruce P. Gleason explores how these mounted musicians became a notable part of Illinois' National Guard Cavalry and received federal recognition in 1929. Chicago had a devoted equestrian community among Chicago elites willing to support this unit, yet they were willing to recruit student musicians from De La Salle Institute on the city's South Side and other high schools from across the city. …

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