In 1894, photographers set out to document the

reversal of the Chicago River, an engineering

feat known at the time as the eighth wonder of

the world. They took 22,000 photographs that

are more meaningful today than ever before.

These photos, all from long-lost glass negatives,

connect us to a world gone by and help us

better understand the world today. And like all

evocative photographs, they act as metaphors.

This is the untold story of an audacious scheme

as well as the consequences. It is the story of

how a big city sacrificed the natural world in

order to survive and prosper.

The Lost Panoramas

When Chicago Changed its River and the Land Beyond

By Richard Cahan and Michael Williams

Hardcover: 160 pages, 105lb paper  + flood varnish over duotone images

ISBN: 9780978545079

Product Dimensions: 12.2 x 9.2

x 1 inches

Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds

Retail: $45.00

Web Price: $40.00

(including tax and shipping)

US Orders only

r Signed by the authors



* (Starred review) “Most of the photographs in this book have never been seen before. Few were ever printed.” So begins the latest volume of discovery from Williams and Cahan, the eloquent archival sleuthing duo who, along with

Nicholas Osborn, brought us Who We Were: A Snapshot History of America (2008), among other stellar books. Between 1894 and 1928, 21,834 meticulously composed and extraordinarily detailed photographs (shot with large-format view cameras using glass negatives), were taken for the Sanitary District of Chicago to document one of the world’s most famous engineering feats: the reversal of the Chicago River to prevent the city’s sewage from fouling Lake Michigan, the source of its drinking water. Many of the

photographs fit together in seamless panoramas of a lost world, unspoiled rural Illinois at the close of the

horse-and-buggy era, a land of subtle beauty and extraordinary fecundity. Here, too, are arresting

photographs of rapidly growing and hideously polluted Chicago. Williams and Cahan profile the players,

elucidate the technological innovations, track the politics, and document the beneficial and catastrophic

consequences of this massive and hubristic tinkering with nature. A risky feat that is still rippling through the Great Lakes region and beyond as our infrastructure decays and water becomes an evermore precious and contentious resource.

— Donna Seaman