Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Gallery : How Chicagoans Remember Their History
How Chicagoans Remember Their History
What We All Know: Icons of Memory
Reproduction of Memory
Institutions of Memory
Forgetting, Misremembering, and Contesting Memories
Case Study: Jean Baptiste Point DuSable
Case Study: Fort Dearborn
Forgetting, Misremembering, and Contesting Memories

Inventing a Revolutionary War Connection

David Kennison arrived in Chicago in the 1840s as an old man. He was a veteran of the War of 1812, but became a local celebrity by falsely claiming to be the last survivor of the Boston Tea Party and a veteran of the Revolution. Though historians have established that he was approximately 85 years old when he died in 1852, Chicagoans believed he was 115, and buried him with the pomp they thought was owed to the last survivor of the Tea Party. In 1903 aging Chicagoans who still remembered the 1850s erected a monument to Kennison at his gravesite in Lincoln Park. Even in the age of the Internet the official city Web site has presented Kennison's story as fact.

See also: War Monuments

Haymarket Memorial, 2005

The 1886 Haymarket violence and the subsequent trial of eight anarchists, and execution of four, for their political beliefs has been a much-contested memory. In 1889 a statue commemorating the policemen who died was installed on the site. The statue was bombed in 1969 and 1970, and eventually was relocated inside the city police academy. A Haymarket martyrs monument was dedicated in Waldheim Cemetery in 1893 to honor the cause of the executed labor activists. There was little to mark the significance of the site until in 2004 the city installed a statue by Mary Brogger intended to accommodate multiple views of the event.

See also: Art, Public; Haymarket and May Day; Labor Unrest, 1886 (Rich Map)

Welcoming the Fascists

At the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition, Chicagoans looked back at the past as a way of celebrating progress and anticipating the future. To advertise its own modernizing vigor, Fascist Italy sent a squadron of twenty-four seaplanes under the command of Italo Balbo, the Minister of Aviation, on a transatlantic flight to Chicago. When Balbo arrived on July 15, 1933, the city enthusiastically greeted him as a second Lindbergh, renaming 7th Street for him. It later installed an ancient Roman column uprooted from Ostia, a gift of Fascist Italy to commemorate Balbo's flight, on the fair grounds near Soldier Field. In what was perhaps part of a complex imperial imagination of American antiquities, Sioux participants of the Fair's Indian Village adopted Balbo as "Chief Flying Eagle." Chief Blackhorn presented Balbo with a headdress, while Balbo in turn presented the chief with a Fascist medallion pendant. Though Balbo Drive and the Roman column persist, along with muted awareness of Balbo's visit, memory of the warmth with which Chicagoans welcomed a Fascist General has been too embarrassing to sustain in detail since World War II.

See also: Century of Progress Exposition; Great Depression; Italians; Native Americans

A Storehouse of Memories Becomes a Memory

By the time of the demise of the original Comiskey Park in 1991, baseball fans had had more than 80 years to attach to the site their memories of parents and friends, of hot dogs, sunny afternoons, and favorite players. By persisting through time, places like Comiskey can become monuments of a sort, meaningful because of past events and not solely because of their present uses. Yet present uses may conflict with the role of serving as a repository of memories. The new Comiskey Park opened across the street from the old one in 1991, and in 2003 the name itself became a matter of memory.

See also: Comiskey Park; Baseball; City as Artifact; Places of Assembly; Historic Preservation; White Sox