Chicago Made

Factory Networks in the Industrial Metropolis


From the lumberyards and meatpacking factories of the Southwest Side to the industrial suburbs that arose near Lake Calumet at the turn of the twentieth century, manufacturing districts shaped Chicago’s character and laid the groundwork for its transformation into a sprawling metropolis. Approaching Chicago’s story as a reflection of America’s industrial history between the Civil War and World War II, Chicago Made explores not only the well-documented workings of centrally located city factories but also the overlooked suburbanization of manufacturing and its profound effect on the metropolitan landscape.
            Robert Lewis documents how manufacturers, attracted to greenfield sites on the city’s outskirts, began to build factory districts there with the help of an intricate network of railroad owners, real estate developers, financiers, and wholesalers. These immense networks of social ties, organizational memberships, and financial relationships were ultimately more consequential, Lewis demonstrates, than any individual achievement. Beyond simply giving Chicago businesses competitive advantages, they transformed the economic geography of the region. Tracing these transformations across seventy-five years, Chicago Made establishes a broad new foundation for our understanding of urban industrial America. 
  • University of Chicago Press; May 2009
  • ISBN 9780226477046
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF format
  • Title: Chicago Made
  • Author: Robert Lewis
  • Imprint: University of Chicago Press

In The Press

“Without question, this book is the best interpretation to date of Chicago’s industrial development from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century. Even as Chicago has been touted as the epitome of American urban-industrial growth, the specifics of its internal expansion have remained opaque. Robert Lewis’s contribution is to demonstrate that the key actors—individuals and their firms—operated through highly structured and extensive networks that must have provided competitive advantages to the city’s industrialists. While individual achievements were consequential, Lewis shows that these industrialists were embedded in this immense set of networks, making the collective perhaps more important than any one individual or firm.”

— David R. Meyer, author of Networked Machinists

“Theoretically sophisticated and exhaustively researched, Robert Lewis’s Chicago Made is a compelling, inclusive, and badly needed analysis of the Second City’s vast industries and their extraordinary (and extraordinarily complex) spatial and economic networks. Essential reading for urban, suburban, business, labor, and social historians, for geographers of all stripes, and for Chicagoans who sometimes wonder where their metropolis’s factories and railways came from. If you’ve read Cronon on Chicago, now read Lewis.”

— Philip Scranton, author of Figured Tapestry

“Robert Lewis is a creative historian who, in this ambitious exploration of Chicago’s industrial geography between the Civil War and the Great Depression, tackles a very broad subject in an interesting way. He has done a monumental job of tracing the links between Chicago businesses during that period. This work adds considerably to our knowledge of Chicago’s history and urban history more generally.”

— Ann Durkin Keating, author of Chicagoland

Chicago Made is a singular achievement. It is an invaluable addition to the history of Chicago; the ‘city of broad shoulders’ now has a definitive study of its industrial sinews.  Moreover, it is the best study of industrialization in any American city since Scranton’s history of Philadelphia textiles and Vernon and Hoover’s great survey of the New York metropolitan region. And, more than just good history, Chicago Made is a major theoretical contribution that bears close analysis by economists and geographers.”

— Richard A. Walker, author of The Country in the City

"Lewis has created an excellent study of the very networks that made industrial Chicago possible. . . . This well organized, researched, and argued book throws much light on Chicago's development as an industrial giant."
— Dominic Pacyga, Journal of Illinois History

"Well-written, concise, packed with elegant summaries of detailed information . . . Chicago Made is a masterful contribution to our understanding of American industrial districts and urban growth processes. . . . Innovative and informative."`
— Gordon M. Winder, Journal of Economic Geography

About The Author

Robert Lewis is associate professor of geography at the University of Toronto. He is the author of Manufacturing Montreal: The Making of an Industrial Landscape.