The Newberry Library houses over 500 collections relating to the history and culture of Chicago.
Manuscripts in the Edward E. Ayer Collection document the city’s early settlement and economy and 20th century urban Indian life. The extensive Midwest Manuscript Collection focuses on Chicago from the mid-19th century to the present. Subject strengths include the arts, business, clubs and organizations, dance, family, newspaper journalism, literature, music, the Newberry, politics, printing and book arts, railroads, religion, social activism, theater, and women. The city’s late 19th and early 20th century literary, artistic, social, and political development is well-documented in a number of collections (for example, the archives or personal papers of Sherwood Anderson, Ben Hecht, Eunice Tietjens, Floyd Dell, Arts Club, Charles H. Kerr Co., IWW, Graham Taylor, Carter H. Harrison, etc.). Evidence of the flourishing activity of newspaper journalism, especially that of the Chicago Daily News, appears in the papers of publishers, editors, reporters, foreign correspondents, cartoonists, and columnists. The rising importance of corporations in modern American life is documented with particular thoroughness in the corporate records of major Chicago railroad firms - Pullman; Illinois Central; and Chicago, Burlington & Quincy - and in the family papers of 19th and 20th century businessmen. Dance collections include the records of Chicago companies, dancers, and choreographers, and the extensive Ann Barzel Dance Research Collection. Chicago printing and book arts is represented in corporate archives (Rand McNally, A.C. McClurg) as well as in the personal papers of calligraphers, printers, designers, and illustrators. The Newberry’s own comprehensive archives document the history of this 125-year-old independent research library and its engagement with the city.