Magazine article The Spectator

Nine-Year Wonder

Magazine article The Spectator

Nine-Year Wonder

Article excerpt

THE CHICSGOAN: A LOST MAGAZINE OF THE JAZZ AGE edited by Neil Harris University of Chicago Press, £34, pp. 385, ISBN 9780226-17618.

£27.20 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Think quiz.

'A crescentshaped town, 26 miles by 15, along a great lake.

An unchallenged murder record -- a splendid university -- hobo capital to the country -- and the finest of grand opera.

Altogether the most zestful spectacle on this earth.' Where are we? In case of doubt, the city's short-lived house magazine spelled out the answer in 48 point type, 'Chi - CA - go.' Actually the emphasis should have been on the Chic, because as demonstrated by this elegant collection of covers, illustrations and stories from The Chicagoan, in its heyday Chicago was the most stylish, exciting and quintessentially American of all the cities that encircle the United States landmass.

New York looked over its shoulder to Europe, New Orleans pretended to be French, San Francisco was a rootless amalgam of Spanish mission and Pacific piracy, but Chicago sucked pure Americana out of the corn, cattle and railroads of the mid-West to create a culture that was unique to the continent. Forget Al Capone and the stench of the stockyards, this is where Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman made an art out of jazz, where Frank Lloyd Wright created modern architecture, where skyscrapers, city parks and suburbs were born.

The Chicagoan lasted only nine years, but they were well chosen, from 1926 to 1935, straddling prohibition, the depression and the jazz age. …

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