Even before the Plan of Chicago was published, Daniel Burnham and other proponents of the Plan made presentations to influential individuals and groups on the virtues of its recommendations and the importance of implementing them. To enhance some of these presentations, they ordered the preparation of lantern slides to illustrate the Plan ’s proposals.
Lantern slides are a technology that dates to the Renaissance, when so-called “magic lanterns” were used to project images painted on glass. By the middle of the nineteenth century, it was possible to display photographic images this way, and soon processes were developed for mass and even amateur production of lantern slides. Lantern slides remained a popular medium until they were succeeded by two-inch square plastic transparencies and more sophisticated slide projectors in the years following World War II. In recent years these modern slides have themselves been extensively replaced with computer-generated presentations of digital “slides.”
In the decades following the Plan ’s publication, its promoters created several thousand more lantern slides to accompany the numerous speeches they made to public officials and organizations of all kinds. Promoters of the Plan used a wide variety of images, many of which were hand-colored. Some were closely based on illustrations that originally appeared in Plan of Chicago, though these were commonly altered to emphasize certain points. Others were new images specifically created for promoting the Plan ’s proposals.
Below is a manuscript document that reveals how Daniel Burnham integrated lantern slides in his own presentations of the Plan of Chicago. This is followed by nineteen slides from the Archives of the Burnham and Ryerson Libraries of the Art Institute of Chicago. These slides were originally prepared to promote the Plan. This slide show extends over this and three other linked pages.
Daniel Burnham’s preliminary notes for his presentation of the Plan to a special closed meeting of the Commercial Club on January 25, 1908 includes his list of which slides he planned to use.
Like the Plan itself, slides such as this one, based on Guerin’s breathtaking bird’s-eye view of an improved Chicago, tried to woo supporters with the beauty and grandeur of the planners’ vision.
The Civic Center, adapted from the Plan and bathed in celestial blue.
The promotional efforts, like the Plan, presented Paris as the model for a redesigned Chicago. Here, a view looking up the Champs-Elysees toward the Arc de Triomphe.
In order to convince Chicagoans of the importance of remaking the city, the Plan Commission reminded them of some of its problems. This is a colorized photograph of downtown traffic, which the caption on the slide attributes to rapid (and unplanned) growth.
The Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago © 2005 Chicago Historical Society.
The Encyclopedia of Chicago © 2004 The Newberry Library. All Rights Reserved. Portions are copyrighted by other institutions and individuals. Additional information on copyright and permissions.