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Bessie Louise Pierce’s Classic A History of Chicago To Be Republished

August 27, 2007

I learned over the weekend that University of Chicago Press is re-publishing, in paperback, Bessie Louise Pierce’s three-volume A History of Chicago set. The news came in a Chicago Tribune article by Patrick T. Reardon, long-time reporter on book news and print culture.

This is a great development for those interested in the history of Chicago. Published in 1927, 1940, and 1957, respectively, Pierce’s trilogy has long been considered a touchstone for subsequent efforts. This is evident in the quotes Reardon marshaled from living historians of the city, including Ann Durking Keating, Perry Duis, and James R. Grossman.

Pierce’s life is interesting in and of itself. Here’s a bullet point excerpt from Reardon’s piece:

– Born: April 20, 1888, in Caro, Mich;
– First career: A high school teacher in Iowa;
– Second career: Historian. Her first two books were on educational history in the United States;
– Mentor: Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr. She was his first graduate student. She also was the baby-sitter for his son Arthur Jr., later a famous historian;
– Moved to Chicago: In 1929 for a “temporary” appointment overseeing the History of Chicago Project at the University of Chicago. She stayed in the city for 44 years;
– Chicago books: “As Others See Chicago” (1933) and the three-volume “History of Chicago” (1937, 1940, 1957) ; and
– Died: Oct. 3, 1974, in Iowa City, Iowa.

A biographical note on Pierce’s papers, electronically available through the University of Chicago’s Special Collections Research Center, is quite informative. It is clear that she is an important part of Chicago’s intellectual heritage.

The Tribune article also contained a head shot of Pierce. This was not a part of the online edition, and I couldn’t find a picture at either Wikipedia or the University of Chicago’s page. – TL

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  1. Mike N. permalink

    Is there really enough there for three volumes?


  2. Mike: I remember scanning it briefly while at CHS/M several years back. It's pretty comprehensive. – TL


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