CHICAGO HISTORICAL SOCIETY
RALPH A. PUGH
Clark St. at North Ave. Chicago, IL 60614 (312) 642-4600
THE CHICAGO HISTORICAL Society, the city's oldest cultural institution, was founded in 1856 by a group of prominent Chicagoans who recognized the role that such a society could play not only in documenting Chicago's past but also in securing its position as the new cultural mecca of the Northwest. The society at first enthusiastically collected materials broadly related to national history, creating not so much a historical society of Chicago as an American historical society in Chicago. The apogee of this approach to acquisitions was the society's purchase in 1920 of the Charles F. Gunther collection, an omniumgatherum of Americana. Described in Clement M. Silvestro, "The Candy Man's Mixed Bag," Chicago History, 2 (Fall 1972), the Gunther collection included correspondence from conspicuous individuals and families of all regions of the nation and from all eras, from colonial times onwards.
Although the Chicago Historical Society will always be enriched by these expansive collecting efforts of earlier generations, it has concentrated in recent years on Chicago materials. This collecting scope, if ostensibly narrower, is also deeper. For the Archives and Manuscripts Department, it has meant the acquisition of sources representative of all phases of urban life in Chicago,