So which Chicago do you want to read about? Pioneer Chicago? Capone’s Chicago? The City of Big Architecture? The City of Hot Dogs With Celery Salt? The Sports City? The City That Works? The City Where Politicians Wear Wires and Their Girlfriends Wear Underwires?
We can sell you any of those Chicagos and throw in a city of industry, a city of constant municipal planning, a city of cultural opportunity, and a city with cows in the streets. We can show you Chicago at any time in the last four hundred years and dare you to call it the Second City. (Hey, we can sell you books about Second City, too.) Could you expect less of the home of the Encyclopedia of Chicago? (And we’ll sell you THAT.)
To get specific, this year we can offer you the first two volumes of Bessie Louise Pierce’s landmark history of Chicago (hardcover edition), Josiah Currey’s historical and biographical masterpiece, John M. Wing’s promo picture book published one year after the Chicago Fire to show all the new buildings going up, Reminiscences of Chicago During the Civil War, End of Watch, Haunted Chicago…. We can even offer you an expert who will tell you which ones you really want to buy and which ones to leave for the less informed customer. And we’ve got a coloring book.
It’s a special uncolored coloring book, published in 1881 on the tenth anniversary of the Great Fire. Whether it was meant for children to color or for adults to laugh over is moot at this point. I’d just as soon you didn’t give it to your granddaughter to try out her new watercolor set on.
It tells a simple little story, beginning with a picture of the shore of Lake Michigan. “This is the City.” The next picture is one of panic, as cows and an assortment of fat men and small children dash through the street. “This is the Fire That burned the City.” Then we see a simple household utensil. “This is the Lamp that started the Fire that burned the City.”
Don’t get ahead of me! “This is the Cow, forlorn and weary, That kicked the Lamp, that started the Fire that Burned the City.” “This is the famous Mrs. O’Leary, Who milked the Cow, forlorn and weary, That Kicked the Lamp, That started the Fire that Burned the City.”
Oh, you know where it goes from there. There’s a double-page spread showing a city in flames, with an inset showing an imp swinging on an alarm bell. But it goes on to note the gifts that poured in for the homeless, and finishes on a big picture of the shore of Lake Michigan, where bustling docks show everything’s fine now, thank you, with a final verse that begins, “This is Chicago! Mark her well!” The rebuilt city holds the promise of the Everleigh Sisters and John Dillinger and Ernie Banks and Mike Ditka and Oprah and Michael and Rod and all, and all.
It’s a little book called The City that a Cow Kicked Over, published by A.H. Andrews, and we’d like a thousand dollars for it, thank you very much. It’s not just the collectible value; it’s that you see so few really good cow books for kids these days.