JF Ptak Science Books [An earlier post from 2008, expanded]
This short pamphlet is a very strong tonic to those thinking about Chicago's "Century of Progress" celebration and World's Fair that was taking place in the middle of the Depression in 1933. (It was intended to instill hope and foster a little forgetfulness during a time in which the Depression in full swing nationwide, plus native-Chicago problems of gangsterisms, race riots, red scare, and economic distress ) As a matter of fact this pamphlet didn't seem to find much distribution, or at the very least it didn't get saved in spite of the fantastic documentary images that it contains. This copy of Herman O. Duncan's Chicago on Parade (1933), was his own, sent to the Library of Congress as a gift in 1942 before it came to me in 1999. I can find only three other copies of this pamphlet located in libraries world wide (Oxford, Duke, Chicago), and it seems very strangely underrepresented.
Duncan addressed the work directly to the Rufas Dawes (President of the Century of Progress Celebration), and to the mayor of Chicago and governor of Illinois as a very blunt request to not forget the actual world of real Chicagoans living in dire straits within site of the fairgrounds. Duncan was obviously taking issue with the many statements of wonderment and flourishes of progress that accompanied the propaganda surrounding the fair, so that the attention of the public would not be "diverted by our political and civic leaders". Duncan continued that these photographs, "none of which had been published previously in the United States" could "perhaps suggest a point of reference from which Chicago can measure its Second Century of Progress".
Duncan (who unfortunately did not identify the photographer(s)) was very strong in the use of images. He was not afraid to show long bread lines, people (including children) scavanging at the city dumps, blacks and whites marching together in protest of police brutality, (many hundreds) of people sleeping out of doors in Grant Park (Chicago's "front yard"),because they had no where else to go, and much more. The photographs had a real touch of journalistic acumen, and none of the images look forced or posed--they are the real stuff of social documentary, and how they have escaped wide notice is not known to me
Perhaps the strongest statement (outside of the
photos of the children scrounging for food in dustbins and at the dump) is this series (below) showing views of the city of Chicago that were within site of the tower for the Century of Progress Sky Ride ("See the Fair / Come Up in the Air"). The series make an elegant and strong and incontrovertible point, and that there was definitely something very wrong going on outside the walls of the celebration which had been scooped out of the city's east side. (The images remind me of series of photos of the US Capitol Building that appeared in the great classic of social and cultural recording of class division, Neglected Neighbors, which my friend Andy Moursund introduced me to many years ago in Georgetown.)
The logo design for the event is terrific and I'm sure that everyone had seen it at least once in their lives, but out of the many hundreds of other pamphlets and display materials that I have here for the expo I've got to say that the overwhelming majority of them are luridly colored with a palette found outside nature.
And anti-nature colors are somewhat schizoid-happy colors, like MGM technicolor cartoons from 1949, which applies a massively ugly chromo-palette to the blight of the surrounding Depression problems. Mr. Duncan was determined that this not happen, at least so far as he could help it, and published these arresting images to remind the rest of Chicago that the vividly colored happy face placed over the city like a stamp for the Century of Progress was not the case in fact.
There are another few images in the "continued reading" section.
Note: click on the photos for a larger, more detail view.