Playlist History


A group of men stand with heavy equipment amongst rock in a black and white photo from 1904

A Q&A with the Producers of a New Documentary about the Reversal of the Chicago River

A new season of WTTW's Chicago Stories that airs this fall includes a documentary on the reversal of the Chicago River. We spoke to the producers of the film about what new things there are to learn, and why it's relevant. 
John Coltrane plays saxophone in front of a mic with a black background in 1965

Revisiting a Superstar-Packed Predecessor to Chicago's Jazz Festival

The Chicago Jazz Festival has been bringing outstanding musicians to the lakefront for over forty years, but before it, in 1965, DownBeat magazine hosted a festival at Soldier Field with the likes of John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and Muddy Waters.
Morning after a night of riots in Belfast during The Troubles, Northern Ireland, 1976

An Interview with the Director of a Documentary on Northern Ireland's Troubles

The five-part Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland tells the personal stories of people who lived through the decades-long sectarian conflict known as The Troubles in Northern Ireland. "The underlying ambition or agenda for the series was always to try and build empathy," says the director. 
Martin Luther King, Jr. in between two men in a black and white photo from 1963

On This Day in Chicago History: MLK Visits the Century of Negro Progress Exhibition

Sixty years ago today, Martin Luther King, Jr. visited a Century of Negro Progress Exhibition in Chicago. The event celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, and featured a stage show by Duke Ellington.
A black and white image of the SS Eastland capsized in the Chicago River

On This Day in 1915, The SS Eastland Capsized on the Chicago River

Revist the 1915 Eastland Disaster, which took 844 lives when the steamship tipped over onto its side before leaving the dock on the Chicago River.
A black and white image showing a group of people surrounding a long jumper at Soldier Field.

On This Day in Chicago History: Soldier Field Hosts the First-Ever Special Olympics

Chicago hosted the inaugural Special Olympics at Soldier Field on July 20, 1968. Take a look back at the event’s history.
Exterior view of Medinah Temple at 600 N. Wabash Ave. in Chicago, Illinois on August 15, 1938

The Many Colorful Uses of Medinah Temple, Soon to Be a Casino, Over the Years

The Moorish Revival building in River North was initially built for the Shriners, but has seen a circus, demolition threats, the Dalai Lama, an early MLK Day celebration, a Bloomingdale's, and more over its more than century of existence. 
DJ Steve "Silk" Hurley sits behind a keyboard and in front of a mixing board in a studio in 1996

A Look Back at an Important House Music DJ as the Chicago House Music Festival Hits

Chicago native Steve "Silk" Hurley helped bring the Chicago-born genre of dance music known as house to the UK. House music's history is increasingly being recognized, with a landmark and the Chicago House Music Festival.
A black and white photo showing cars lining up at the start of a race at Speedway Park in Maywood, Illinois in 1916. Image: SDN-060847, Chicago Daily News collection, Chicago History Museum

As Chicago Prepares for the NASCAR Race, Take a Look Back at This Old Wooden Race Track in Maywood

The upcoming NASCAR race in downtown Chicago might feel like a brand-new experience for much of the city, but it’s certainly not the first time the Chicago area has hosted an auto race.
Mavis Staples sings into a microphone with her hand up in a black and white 1962 photograph

Watch a Tireless 83 Year-Old Mavis Staples Perform in a Concert Recorded in Chicago

Mavis Staples began performing with her family band, The Staple Singers, when she was eleven. She's still singing at 83, as in a concert recorded earlier this year at Chicago's Symphony Center that WTTW is broadcasting. 
FDR stands next to Chicago mayor Anton Cermak, holding his hand up

The 150th Birthday of the Chicago Mayor Who Was Killed by a Bullet Meant for FDR

One hundred and fifty years ago today, the future mayor of Chicago Anton Cermak was born in an area of Austria-Hungary that is now part of the Czech Republic. The above photo of him with Franklin Delano Roosevelt was taken in 1932, a year before Cermak’s death as a result of his relationship with Roosevelt. FDR won the nomination to be the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate against Herbert Hoover at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago that year.

A black and white image of Harold Washington voting in Hyde Park on April 12, 1983. Image: Chicago History Museum, ICHi-036028; Richard Gordon, photographer

Forty Years Ago, Harold Washington Was Elected Mayor of Chicago

Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson is the second Black man to be elected to office (Eugene Sawyer was appointed), almost 40 years after Harold Washington won election to become the first Black mayor of Chicago. 
Ruth Ellen Church on a cooking television show with children

Nine Chicago Women Who Found Success in Food Before the Age of the Celebrity Chef

Even today there is a huge disparity in the number of women head chefs, but achieving success in the food industry earlier on was even less common. Meet some of the women who influenced Chicago and America's attitudes towards food. 
Mary Field Parton and Ruby Hammerstrom Darrow in a black-and-white image

The Little-Known Social Worker and Writer Who Embodied Chicago’s Role as a “Cauldron” for Social Movements

Though the history books rarely mention her, social worker and avant-garde writer Mary Field Parton embodies Chicago's role as a focal point of political and social movements. 
Father Augustus Tolton in 1887

The First Black Catholic Priest—a Candidate for Sainthood—and His Importance to Chicago

Father Augustus Tolton escaped slavery in Missouri to become the first openly recognized Black Catholic priest, ministering in Quincy, Illinois and establishing the first standalone Black Catholic church in Chicago. While there are currently no African American saints, he is currently a candidate for sainthood.
Subscribe to History