Best Trove of Historic Chicago Photos

Critics' Picks

Chicago Daily News Archive

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Just about everyone and everything photographed by the Daily News between 1902 and 1933 (the afternoon daily published from 1876 to 1978) is now searchable online: more than 55,000 vivid pictures scanned from the newspaper’s glass-plate negatives. The originals are housed at the Chicago History Museum, but the rather utilitarian site is maintained by the Library of Congress. It’s far more fascinating for local purposes than sites that focus on photos of celebrities. (For instance, the Tribune’s recently launched tribunephotos.com is selling 78 original prints of Bette Davis and 18 of Ernie Banks, but its search engine turns up zero pictures of Mayor Richard J. Daley, Mayor Richard M. Daley, the Union Stock Yards, or the Sears Tower.) These random glimpses of the last century are not always explained, making them all the more intriguing: In one peculiar shot, a boy lies inside a big pneumatic tube, apparently part of some experiment. In another, a bald man with a mustache sits in a police station, wearing a black dress. Mark Jacob and Richard Cahan’s 2007 book Chicago Under Glass (University of Chicago Press) beautifully showcased 260 of these pictures, but what makes the online archive so fun is the sheer quantity of images. It’s one massive time capsule.