Literary Landmark: The bridges of Chicago, Wacker Drive

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Chicago, Ill.
Dedicated: June 22, 1990
Partners: The Friends of the Chicago Public Library

The Friends of the Chicago Public Library designated the Michigan Avenue Bridge a Literary Landmark on June 22nd, 1990. The bridge was designated a landmark in recognition of the use of bridges as a symbol by such authors as Carl Sandburg, Theodore Dreiser, and Upton Sinclair. The Michigan Avenue Bridge stands as a landmark for all Chicago bridges and honors the city’s rich literary heritage.

Carl Sandburg was born in Galesburg, IL. Sandburg worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News where he covered mostly labor issues and later had his own feature. Sandburg was unknown until 1914 when he published his book Chicago Poems and later an analysis of the Chicago race riots. Theodore Dreiser also used Chicago and its bridge architecture as a symbol in his novel Sister Carrie. The protagonist, Sister Carrie, crossed and re-crossed the bridges looking for her place in Chicago. This was a popular theme for the bridges in literature at this time: crossing them marked a passage into the heart of the city.

Author Upton Sinclair gained critical acclaim with his 1906 novel The Jungle. This famous piece was a report on the dirty conditions of the Chicago meat packing industry and eventually led to the implementation of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906. In the novel, Jurgis Rudkus, only discovers the city he has been living in by crossing the river into the bustling heart of Chicago.

The Literary Landmark program is administered by United for Libraries. More than 150 Literary Landmarks across the United States have been dedicated since the program began in 1986. Any library or group may apply for a Literary Landmark through United for Libraries. More information is available on the United for Libraries website.

United for Libraries: The Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations, is a division of the American Library Association that supports those who govern, promote, advocate, and fundraise for libraries. United for Libraries brings together library trustees, advocates, friends and foundations into a partnership that creates a powerful force for libraries in the 21st century. For more information or to join United for Libraries, visit the United for Libraries website.