Chicago and the Midwest


The Newberry's collections contain extensive research materials relating to the history of Chicago and the Midwest, including their settlement, growth, politics, and eclectic inhabitants. Use the sections below to explore.  Please call the reference desk at (312) 255-3512 with questions on our holdings, or Contact A Librarian with research questions.

Searching the Catalog 

For more manageable results on the city of Chicago, search the catalog for the subject “Chicago (Ill.)” in conjunction with an additional subject term, for example: 

Chicago (Ill.) Race relations 

Immigrants Illinois Chicago 

Great Fire Chicago Ill. 1871 

For the Midwest in general, use the subject term “Middle West”: 

Middle West in Literature 

For a particular state, use the state name and an additional subject term, e.g: 

Minnesota Politics and government 

Reference Sources 

Greasley, Philip A. Dictionary of Midwestern Literature. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002. Call number: Ref PS273 .D53 2001 

Hine, Darlene Clark. Black women in the Middle West:  the Michigan experience. Ann Arbor: Historical Society of Michigan, 1990.  Call number:  E185.93.M3 H5 1990 

Karrow, Robert W.  Checklist of Printed Maps of the Middle West to 1900. Boston, Mass: G.K. Hall, 1982. Call number: Ref Z6027.M53 C54 

Sleeper-Smith, Susan. Indigenous prosperity and American conquest: Indian women of the Ohio River Valley, 1690-1792. Williamsburg, Virginia : Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture; Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2018. Call number: Ayer E78.O4 S58 2018 

Ozanne, Robert W. The labor movement in Wisconsin: a history. Madison, WI: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1984. Call number: HD6517.W5 O93 1984 

Highlights from the Newberry Library Collections 

[Photograph Album of Automobile Trips in the Midwest, Canada, and the West]. United States?: N.p., 1934. Black-and-white photographs mounted in album with handwritten captions, some dated 1933-1937. Midwest MS 197

Evening Journal--Extra. Chicago, Monday, October 9, 1871. Chicago: Evening Journal, 1871. Evening Journal--Extra: Chicago, Monday, October 9, 1871. The great calamity of the age! Chicago in ashes!! Hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of property destroyed. The South, the North and a portion of the West divisions of the city in ruins. VAULT Ruggles 111 

Ferrucci, Kate, Winifred Bixler, and Michael Bixler. Limestone Lives : Voices from the Indiana Stone Belt. Bloomington, Indiana: People to People Press, 2002. Artist’s book with oral history interviews conducted between 1999 and 2002 with stone cutters in Monroe, Lawrence and Owen Counties in Indiana. Wing oversize ZPP 2083 .P45  

Peck, John Mason. A Guide for Emigrants: Containing Sketches of Illinois, Missouri, and the Adjacent Parts. Boston: Lincoln and Edmands, 1831. The western tourist and emigrant's guide through the states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin, and the territories of Minesota[sic] Missouri, and Nebraska. Accompanied with a large and minute map, exhibiting the township lines of the United States' surveys, the boundaries of counties, and the position of cities, villages and settlements, etc., etc. VAULT Ruggles 275 

Thompson, Era Bell. American Daughter. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1946.  Thompson's autobiography, American Daughter, traces her experiences growing up in the Dakotas as one of just a few African American families. Written while on fellowship at the Newberry, Thompson later had a lengthy career with Ebony magazine as an editor. E 5 .T3723 

Manuscript Collections 

Arts Club of Chicago. Arts Club Records, 1892-2004. 
112.2 linear feet - (200 boxes, 16 oversize boxes, and 51 volumes) 
Corporate records of the Arts Club of Chicago, an institution incorporated in 1916 and devoted to exhibiting and showcasing innovative artists and performers. Records include extensive exhibition files, files on the Club's music, lecture, film, and drama series, and administrative and financial files. 
Call Number: Midwest.MS.Arts Club 

Black Lives Matter (Chicago). Chicago Black Lives Matter Protest Collection, 2014-ongoing. 
4.4 linear feet - (1 box and 2 oversize boxes) 
Announcements, flyers, artwork, buttons, newsletters, photographs, posters, t-shirts, and other materials collected by various individuals at Chicago protests, 2015-2016, responding to recurring police violence and civil rights violations against black citizens. This documentation was solicited as part of a 2016 Newberry Library exhibition, From Civil War to Civil Rights, and also includes responses to events posted by visitors to the exhibition. 
Call Number: Midwest.MS.ChicagoBLM

Chicago Reader. Chicago Reader Records, 1971-2000 
33 linear feet - (77 boxes, 1 oversize box) 
Original copy of articles, legal files, miscellaneous administrative files, and unsolicited manuscripts of the Chicago Reader alternative weekly newspaper. See also the Chicago Reader Photographs: Performance Collection (Midwest MS Chicago Reader PP), the Chicago Reader Artwork Collection (Midwest MS Chicago Reader A), and the Chicago Reader Photographs: News Collection (Midwest MS Chicago Reader PN). 
Call Number: Midwest.MS.Chicago Reader R 

D'Arcy McNickle Center for the History of the American Indian. Chicago American Indian Photography Project Photographs, approximately 1950s-1987 
3.8 linear feet - (5 boxes and 1 oversize box) 
Photographs taken by Dan Battise, Ben Bearskin, Orlando Cabanban, Joe Kazumura, F. Peter Weil, and Leroy Wesaw for the Chicago American Indian Photography Project. Images document the social life and customs of the American Indian community in Chicago during the late 1950s to the mid-1980s. Many of these photographs were displayed in the Hermon Dunlap Smith Gallery at the Newberry Library as part of an exhibition entitled Seeing Indian in Chicago from July 22 to September 21, 1985 (see Ayer.Modern.MS.Seeing Indian). 
Call Number: Ayer.Modern.MS.Photo Project

Field Enterprises. Field Enterprises Records, 1858-2007 
163 linear feet - (154 boxes, 17 oversize boxes, and 12 bound volumes, and 107 scrapbooks) 
Administrative, promotional, and legal materials, correspondence, photographs, and artifacts of Field Enterprises, the umbrella conglomerate under which the Chicago Daily News, the Chicago Sun and Times company, the Chicago Sun-Times, and Field Communications Corporation eventually fell. 
Call Number: Midwest.MS.Field Enterprises 

Related Research Guides 

Chicago Biography and Industry File 

Chicago History 

Chicago Neighborhood Guide 

Chicago and Midwestern Writers 




World’s Columbian Exposition 

Digital Resources 


Most of the databases at the Newberry are subscription databases; therefore, access is available to registered readers only within the library building. Those listed below are subscription databases. 

Chicago Defender: Searchable full-text archive for the years 1909-1975. 

Chicago Tribune: Searchable full-text archive for the years 1849-1991. 

Newspaper Source: Provides selected full-text for nearly 30 national (US) and international newspapers. Also contain full-text television and radio news transcripts, and selected full-text for more than 200 regional (US) newspapers. 

For a comprehensive list of all our databases, visit our Databases webpage.  


Encyclopedia of Chicago: published by the Chicago History Museum and the Newberry.  Available online and in book format, Chicago Browsing F548.3 .E53 2004.

Sanborn Maps for Illinois, 1867-1970: Historic maps of Illinois towns and cities, from the collection of Sanborn maps at the Library of Congress.  

World’s Fairs: A Global History of Expositions: A diverse range of digitized primary source material including Newberry collection materials on the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. 

Collections at Other Institutions 

Explore Chicago Collections: Search for thousands of archival collections and digital images at member institutions all over the Chicago area. 

Research Center at Chicago History Museum: The Chicago History Museum’s Research Collections encompass a broad category of documents, images, publications, and printed materials that are generally available for hands-on use by the public in the Museum’s Research Center; core strengths include neighborhood photographs and manuscript collections. 

Vivian G. Harsh Collection at Woodson Regional Library (CPL): The largest African American history and literature collection in the Midwest, the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature documents the Black experience with a strong focus on Chicago.