James S. Dunham's Crusade for the River
By Thomas J. Lutz (About Lutz) A Must-Read for Boatnerds and Chicagoans
Chicago would not be the world-class city that it is today if not for the tireless efforts of ship captain, business owner, and politician James Sears Dunham, whose life during the 1800s—a century dependent on the water—is the embodiment of everything that is and was Chicago maritime. This recounting of his life’s story reveals how the maritime community in Chicago shaped not only the city’s waterfront, but also the very image the city presents to the world today. Among his peers, Dunham served as the Chicago River’s greatest advocate understanding its significance in developing the city into one of the world’s great ports, a role woefully misunderstood to this day. He battled politicians, business rivals, and the railroads to do what he felt best for the good of all. A review of his accomplishments provides insight into how Chicago’s lakefront, “The Loop,” and its bridges developed into familiar icons, offers new revelations about the river’s famous reversal, explains why the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 was so needlessly tragic, and examines the staging of the 1893 World’s Fair far south of the city. Award-winning historian Thomas J. Lutz brings to life Chicago’s forgotten maritime man, whose deeds have gone unheralded since his death in 1901, but whose lifelong crusade for the river helped shape the great metropolis.