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Interpretive Digital Essay : The Plan of Chicago
The Plan of Chicago
Chicago in 1909
Planning Before the Plan
Antecedents and Inspirations
The City the Planners Saw
The Plan of Chicago
The Plan Comes Together
Creating the Plan
Reading the Plan
A Living Document
Who Wrote the Plan of Chicago?

Plan of Chicago, Title page
Who wrote the Plan of Chicago? The title page states that the Plan was “prepared under the direction of the Commercial Club” by Daniel H. Burnham and Edward H. Bennett, and that it was edited by Charles Moore. This is certainly true, in that Burnham and Bennett defined what the Plan would discuss, members of the Commercial Club who served on the various committees helped develop the content, and, at Burnham's recommendation, the club hired Moore in the spring of 1908 to edit a draft written by Burnham. But this breakdown of the division of labor is not very precise in explaining just who wrote what parts of the Plan.

Historian of architecture Kristen Schaffer has conducted the most careful examination of the Plan of Chicago ' s authorship, and she has published some of her findings in her introduction to the Princeton Architectural Press 1993 facsimile edition. While Schaffer sees the final version of the Plan as reflecting the collective effort behind it, she maintains that the published version unquestionably bears the mark of Burnham's “genius.” This “genius,” she explains, “lies in his vision and his energy, in his ability to see how all the elements of the city and its functioning are related and his tenacity in making others see it as well.” Schaffer's view squares with that of Charles Moore. In his biography of Burnham, Moore says of the Plan, “The text, prepared from comprehensive notes made by [Burnham], is replete with his striking phrases, his happy characterizations, and is imbued with his settled philosophy: that the chief end of life is service to mankind in making life better and richer for every citizen.”

Despite his warm praise, Moore perhaps shortchanges Burnham somewhat in describing the draft, which consists of about three hundred handwritten pages, as “comprehensive notes.” (The draft is part of the Daniel H. Burnham Collection in the Archives of the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries at the Art Institute of Chicago. ) As Schaffer describes it, the first half of this manuscript is the basis of many major elements of the final version of the Plan. Schaffer characterizes the second half of the manuscript as a more “technical” discussion of “the provision of services,” such as utilities, education, and hospitals.

Comparing the draft not only with the published version but also with many other documents produced in the planning process, Schaffer reaches several noteworthy conclusions. Some of Burnham's “technical discussion” finds its way into the Plan in altered form, as what Schaffer calls “small asides.” Schaffer states that a 1908 report prepared by the Committee on Interurban Roadways is the major source for the Plan's discussion of that topic in chapter 3, while the section of chapter 7 on Michigan Avenue derives from the booklet on the subject by the Committee on Streets and Boulevards that was published before the Plan appeared. Elsewhere Schaffer offers evidence that in writing his draft Burnham integrated material provided by Bennett, and that Moore borrowed from Burnham's speeches and addresses as part of the editing process.

Schaffer finds intriguing those sections of the Burnham manuscript that are “entirely omitted from the final version, or so reduced as to be effectively nullified.” She persuasively argues that they “show a very different side of Burnham and challenge conventionally held assessments of the Plan ” as socially conservative and apparently little concerned with the needs of ordinary citizens. The omitted sections, she contends, reveal a Burnham who believed more fully than the Plan would suggest in the need for the city government to take an active role in improving the living and working conditions of the mass of Chicagoans. Burnham also speaks in a way that the Plan does not of the importance of the government making sure that public utilities serve the community responsibly. He similarly urges the authorities to see that hospitals do a better job of reducing human suffering, and that medical research benefits the common good, not private medical schools and their staffs.

Preliminary Outline for Chapter One of the Plan of Chicago
In addition, Burnham states that schoolhouses must be located nearer to the students who attend them and should be constructed with the health and safety of these students utmost in mind, and he provides details on how to accomplish this. Elsewhere in the manuscript he advocates providing care centers for the children of working parents. While he speaks of the importance of developing a loyal and obedient citizenry, Burnham also expresses concern about the methods of those in power, recommending in language that seems remarkably modern that the police conduct their work in full view of the public lest they abuse their authority. Schaffer asserts that while some of Burnham's statements about the need of the city to provide for the well-being of its citizens are in the final version of the Plan, “had the draft version been published, the Plan of Chicago would hold a very different position in the history of city planning.”

A brief look at the archival material offers additional insights into the evolution of the Plan from draft report to published volume. Moore began his work by preparing an outline that he changed considerably as he proceeded toward the printed version. Chapter 1 in the outline does not include the narrative of how the Plan came to be written that appears in print. The outline also culminates with the intriguing topic, “The City developing a soul.” While the Plan talks about a city having other human qualities, including “spirit,” “soul” is not one of them. More significantly, Moore changed the order of the presentation of topics, and he trimmed the historical background.

Galley Page from the Plan of Chicago
As for more precise editing, it is interesting to compare particular passages. Such a comparison reveals that Moore was an active editor who reworked much of Burnham's writing even as he left its meaning intact. A good example involves the similarities and differences between the first chapter of the Plan and related passages in the Burnham manuscript. A manuscript page on which Burnham has written “For Chap I” begins with a sentence that appears verbatim on page 4 of the Plan of Chicago. From there they diverge radically, though some of the Burnham sentences, much edited, find their way into other pages of the Plan. Burnham also prepared notes headed “History of Movement” that start with the World's Columbian Exposition and then explain how the Merchants Club decided to hire him. These bear some resemblance to the narrative on pages 6 and 7 of the Plan, but there are multiple differences. For example, some of Burnham's phrasing is more exuberantly florid than what appears in print. Of the fair, Burnham writes, “A lily springing from the rich soil of commerce! Commerce the art breeder!” He also is not always shy about acknowledging his own efforts, as when he writes, “Burnham took laboring oar at all above meetings.” Moore's language is generally more restrained, and he does not give Burnham or any of the Commercial Club planners such personal credit. Whether he acted on his own or at their direction is unclear, though they reviewed and approved the galleys before publication.

Burnham certainly does not seem to have simply handed the manuscript off to Moore and then stepped away. He edited his editor. On the top of a galley of the opening page is a handwritten note from Burnham to Bennett, which reads, “Mr. Bennett: I want this paper at the meeting with Mr. Moore. DHB.” Someone, presumably Burnham, suggested changes in the chapter title, which was further altered before publication. On the bottom right of the page is a notation for the printer in Moore's handwriting. All of these are indications of a complex collaboration.