You are Julian Street, a New York journalist stopping in Chicago on a 5,000-mile tour across America for a travel book you’re writing. Expenses aren’t a big concern for you — since the publisher’s paying your bills! You were born in Chicago, but you’ve been away for years. (Note: This character is real, and the following postcards feature quotations from Street’s 1914 book Abroad at Home, edited for length.)
You are Jane Wilson, a farmer’s daughter from Waterloo, Iowa. You’ve read about Chicago in books and magazine articles and want to see the opulence of the city for yourself. Your money’s tight, though, so you went looking for a bargain. The 300-mile trip normally costs $17, but you planned ahead for the $3 weekend ticket. (The ticket cost $75 in today’s dollars).
You are Emma Parks, an African-American schoolteacher from Natchez, Mississippi. You’ve read about Chicago in Defender articles — Pullman porters are carrying the newspaper south with them — and you’re eager to see if this big northern city offers more culture and freedom than your hometown. If you see job opportunities for a young black woman in “Chi” (as the Chicago Defender often calls this city), you may decide to move here for good.
You are Joe Schroeder, a 23-year-old department store clerk from Toledo, Ohio. You’ve got a bit more cash than usual — your winnings from a lucky wager on a horse race — and you’re looking for a hot time. You’ve heard whispers from other men that Chicago’s the place to go for some illicit thrills.
Dear Ma and Pa,
Lake Michigan is so big. This is just how I imagine the oceans must look. The lines of the city streets stretch on and on, almost as far as the eye can see — out toward the prairies. But there’s so much smoke in the air, I had trouble seeing some of the skyscrapers.