This fascinating account explores the significance of the Chicago Portage, one of the most important—and neglected—sites in early US history. A seven-mile-long strip of marsh connecting the Chicago and Des Plaines Rivers, the portage was inhabited by the earliest indigenous people in the Midwest and served as a major trade route for Native American tribes. A link between the Mississippi River and the Atlantic Ocean, the Chicago Portage was a geopolitically significant resource that the French, British, and US governments jockeyed to control. Later, it became a template for some of the most significant waterways created in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The portage gave Chicago its name and spurred the city’s success—and is the reason why the metropolis is located in Illinois, not Wisconsin.
A History of the Chicago Portage: The Crossroads That Made Chicago and Helped Make America is the definitive story of a national landmark.
“A History of the Chicago Portage is an important resource for anyone interested in the development of the region. It tells the fascinating story of the waterway that made Chicago possible. Meticulously researched and illustrated with detailed maps and illustrations, this study details the portage’s importance in history providing a key to the continent and unlocking the vast resources of the Midwest.” —Dominic A. Pacyga, author of Chicago: A Biography
“Benjamin Sells offers a lively and wide-ranging account of the history of the Chicago Portage from the time of the glaciers to the present. He makes clear that no place is as significant to our understanding the history of this region and that more attention should be given to the Chicago Portage National Historic Site.” —Ann Durkin Keating, author of The World of Juliette Kinzie: Chicago Before the Fire
“There is a place for this book on the Chicago History shelf.” —Theodore Karamanski, author of Civil War Chicago: Eyewitness to History