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Queen of the Lakes: How Chicago Became One of the Busiest Ports in the World

Sunday, January 29

On Sunday, January 29, join the Guild of the Chicago History Museum at the Saddle & Cycle Club for brunch and a presentation by Professor Theodore Karamanski as he recounts the days when Chicago was the busiest seaport in the United States. Friends and guests are very welcome.

Chicago’s usual waterfront scene was vastly different in the 19th century, when Lake Michigan was not a source of recreation but was the reason Chicago was one of the four greatest ports in the world. In the 1870s and 1890s, a hundred tall ships a day would crowd into the river harbor. Professor Karamanski’s illustrated lecture will explore how Chicago rose to maritime prominence, the distinct ways it shaped the city, and how that status was eclipsed.

Questions? Call Nell McKeown at (312) 799-2112.

Theodore J. Karamanski, PhD, is professor of history and director of the Public History Program at Loyola University Chicago. He has served as a heritage consultant to the National Park Service, National Geographic, The History Channel, BBC, and the Travel Channel. He is author of ten books, most recently Mastering the Inland Seas: How Lighthouses, Navigational Aids, and Harbors Transformed the Great Lakes and America (University of Wisconsin Press, 2020).


Passenger boat docked at Municipal Pier (Navy Pier), Chicago, July 23, 1916. CHM, ICHi-025560
Boat passing the Merchandise Mart, c. 1935. CHM, ICHi-066529; artist Richard A. Chase
Ship's steering wheel from the ill-fated steamer Eastland, which capsized in the Chicago River July 24, 1915, with a loss of 812 lives. CHM, ICHi-040878
Schooner Arendal, docked at Clark Street, Chicago, to deliver Christmas trees from Michigan, December 3, 1914. DN-0063691, Chicago Daily News collection, CHM

The Details



29 th

10:30 a.m.



$ 95

Event Location

Chicago History Museum Sharing Chicago Stories