This week I attended a book event for Chicago by Day and Night: The Pleasure Seeker’s Guide to the Paris of America. Originally published in 1893 for the tourists attending the Chicago World’s Fair, this new edition retains many of the illustrations and the tongue-in-cheek style of the original, but has added notes from the editors, Bill Savage and Paul Durica, that provide context and explainations of the text.
The reading was a delight, one editor recited the text in historic garb, while the other interjected with the notations in modern dress. You could tell that these men were not only knowledgable but enthusiastic about the book they were promoting.
The focus of their reading was on the guide’s chapter on “Dangerous Women.” This section warns gentlemen of the dangers of the “adventuress” who might engage in “street flirtation” only to blackmail or pick the pocket of the man receiving her attentions. The fact that these warnings exist in a guidebook is part of its charm, as it addresses risque topics while politely dancing around their vular terminologies (i.e. prostitution), thereby ensuring its continued publication:
“In this way, Chicago by Day and Night perhaps lands more firmly in the urban-expose genre, as it was published to make money off credulous tourists who were looking for a good time. Or trouble. Or both. The Pleasure Seeker’s Guide can be understood a a product of what was known as ‘flash’ press–weekly newspapers…which featured storied about horse races, the theater, and nightlife for men-about-town. These papers resembled today’s tabloid press or trash television with their emphasis on celebrity gossip and inside dope about the underworld of the city, news of a famed criminal’s release from jail, or a popular prostitute’s relocation to a different ‘resort.'” (xvi-xvii)
This is only one aspect of the book, however. It also addresses accomodations, restaurants, city sites, and the fair’s attractions. It is unknown who the original author of this books is, though at least some of the writing has been attibuted to Harold Richard Vynne. Chicago by Day and Night offers a fun look at Chicago through a 19th Century lens. For those interested in history, nostalgia, or trivia, this book will not fail to delight you.