This chapter looks into the growth of Chicago the city to understand why Chicago the musical occupies so unusual a spot in the history of American art. It explores the ways in which Chicago the city has become the site of many myths, memes, and signifiers and how these in turn have come to affect the musical. Chicago had the reputation of the can-do city, mixing its engineering marvels with an obsessive love of commercial activity. For two generations in the middle of the nineteenth century, Chicago (and St. Louis, its at times bitter rival) marked the western edge of America’s calendar of cities, the embarkation point for continental development. Chicago thus becomes a concentration of energies.
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