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The personal—and often intimate—diaries of fledgling journalist and entrepreneur John Mansir Wing create a unique portrait of a rough-and-tumble Chicago in the first few years following the Civil War. Wing writes of a city filled with new immigrants, ex-soldiers, and the thriving merchant class making its fortunes from both before the great fire of 1871 left much of the city in ashes.
Transcribed and edited by noted Chicago bibliophile and historian Robert Williams, and published in cooperation with the Caxton Club, this volume also details the early adventures of a rural Eastern who came to the “Metropolis of the West” in his early twenties and worked for some of the most influential journalists of his day. Wing shared cigars and conversation with notable politicians, businessmen, and war heroes including Sherman and Grant, all the while conducting an active romantic life with members of his own sex in boarding houses and barrooms.
Wing’s greatest passion was for book collecting. Following a successful later career in trade journal publishing and investing, he provided an endowment to create the John M. Wing Foundation at Chicago’s famed Newberry Library. The Wing Foundation became the first American public collection devoted to the history of printing; it remains today among the nation’s best resources for the study of the bibliographic arts.
Despite his lasting importance in publishing and philanthropy, and the fact that no serious history of Chicago can be written without reference to many of his publications, John M. Wing has been largely absent from most histories of the city’s movers and shakers. Complete with historical annotations and a bibliography of Wing’s writings for the press, this fascinating personal account reclaims his deserved place in Chicago life and lore.