Urban Artifact

A city relic, unearthed

An old cover to The Chicagoan, Chicago's answer to The New Yorker

At the peak of the Roaring Twenties, Chicago produced its own counterpart to The New Yorker: a witty, artsy, slightly snooty journal called The Chicagoan. The magazine arrived in 1926, calling itself “a new-born babe, yelling lustily and quite red in the face.” After nine years of reviewing the arts, dishing gossip, and sarcastically sniping at mobsters and mayors, The Chicagoan vanished. And it remained forgotten until a history professor, Neil Harris, stumbled across some rare bound volumes at the University of Chicago’s Regenstein Library. “I took a volume down off the shelf,” he recalls. “What hits the casual observer first are those covers, which are quite remarkable.” Harris pieced together as much of the story as he could, and in November the U. of C. Press publishes his book, The Chicagoan: A Lost Magazine of the Jazz Age ($65). Along with magazine articles by Groucho Marx, Robert Benchley, and local journalists, the book collects cartoons and 81 color covers by leading Chicago artists of the time, such as Sandor, a muralist (a.k.a. A. Raymond Katz). Despite The Chicagoan’s frequent protests that its city was better than its Al Capone image, the magazine chronicled the doings of Scarface as often as it reviewed opera at Ravinia.

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