Amazingly the Chicago History Museum was founded in 1856, just a few years after the settling of the town. Although twice destroyed by fire (once during the Great Chicago Fire), they still have a vast collection of artifacts celebrating the history of the city.
During our visit to Chess Records I had heard that the History Museum had a nice exhibit on the Chicago Blues, which was our encouragement to go to the History Museum.
In the display is this map showing the amazing collection of recording studios and clubs that featured the blues that have existed in Chicago over the years.
Raeburn Flerlage was a famed photographer of the blues scene from 1959-1971, although his career in music lasted much longer.
His photographs were used for many album covers.
Included in the collection is a copy of what is generally acknowledge as the first blues record of all time, St Louis Blues by W C Handy, from 1925.
The south side of Chicago was the hub of the blues, with Maxwell Street being the epicenter.
All of the blues greats were celebrated here, including Muddy Waters.
In the 1950s record companies were only allowed to have so many records in radio station airplay rotation at one time, so they would just start another record company.
This record of Koko Taylor’s Wang Dang Doodle is on Checker Records, the sister company of Chess Records.
Moving on from the blues display we checked out Chicago – Crossroad of America. This documented Chicago as the transportation hub of the country since the early days of the railroad.
Also on display was one of the original El cars from 1892.
A number of focus displays included one of the infamous gangland activities during prohibition in the 1920s.
Keeping with the infamous Playboy Magazine started in Chicago, as did the original club with the hostess (bunny) outfit on display.
As noted in other postings, Chicago was always mail order center of the country.
Another section celebrated entertainment events in Chicago including the 1893 World’s Fair.
As well as the 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair.
Finally there was a small section celebrating the professional sports teams of Chicago – baseball’s Cubs and White Sox, football’s Bears, basketball’s Bulls and hockey’s Blackhawks.