Magnificent bird’s-eye view of Downtown Chicago

F[rank] Pezolt Chicago del., BIRD’S-EYE VIEW OF THE BUSINESS DISTRICT OF CHICAGO. Chicago: Poole Bros., 1898.
stone lithograph, 57”h x 37”w plus scale, title, legend and margins. Backed with linen and mounted on dowels, as issued.

A large, spectacular, minutely-detailed, and very rare view of Downtown Chicago as seen looking westward from an imaginary point over Lake Michigan.  

The view extends as far north as Erie Street, south to 16th, and west to Halsted and depicts Chicago in minute detail: Every window, arch, skylight, chimney and other significant feature of every building appears carefully drawn, conveying effectively the diversity and power of the city’s muscular post-Fire architectural style. All this is set against the backdrop of the massive infrastructure: rail lines and yards, the many bridges over the Chicago river, and even streetlights are depicted in loving detail. The whole is enlivened by busy train and trolley lines, dozens of steamers and sail boats along the lake shore, and the considerable traffic along the river. An alphanumeric coordinate grid in the margins enables the view to locate many hundreds of public buildings, commercial blocks, hotels, depots, businesses &c., all by means of an index at the base of the view.

Of particular interest are Millenium and Grant Parks, the Art Institute, and the huge rail complex along Lake Michigan, all on new land created in part with the debris from the catastrophic fire of 1871. The overall impression, and it was accurate, is of a booming metropolis. Even before the Fire, Chicago had become the transportation and commercial hub of the Midwest. The Fire was however followed by a reconstruction boom, and from an 1870 population of some 300,000 the city had ballooned to almost 1.7 million by the turn of the 20th century.

Frank Pezolt and the Poole Brothers
Little is known about the view’s artist, Frank Pezolt. Reps lists two 1891 views of Minneapolis by a person of the same name, both published by A.M. Smith in Minneapolis, though one was printed in Chicago. The Library of Congress holds an 1894 bird’s-eye view of the Rockies “drawn and lithographed” by F. Pezolt and published in Denver. Publisher Poole Brothers was founded in Chicago around 1880 by George Amos and William H. Poole (George had previously been a founder and officer of Rand McNally.) Per Wikipedia, “The company was the largest printing house in the country that catered to transportation companies. According to The Inland Printer, “practically every railroad in the country” used Poole Brothers materials. Poole Brothers later expanded to print periodicals.” They should not be confused with prolific viewmaker Albert F. Poole of Brockton, Mass.

One peculiarity of this impression of the view is the phrase “Poole Bros. 200 sheets” written in pencil along the right side in a large, swirling script. It is hard to know exactly what this meant, but perhaps this is the copy retained by the printer—who is not named on the view—for their records.

The view is extremely rare. I find only 3 or 4 institutional holdings and no record of its having appeared on the antiquarian market.

In all, a magnificent, richly-detailed and extremely rare image of the great Midwest metropolis.

Reps #868 (Library of Congress only). OCLC 5447542 (As of November 2017, listing holdings at LC, Newberry, Penn State, and Wisconsin Historical, but the Penn State “example” is a link to the LC image, and I am also suspicious of the Wisconsin Historical attribution.)


A bit dusty, mild staining along lower- and upper-left corners, some fraying to edges. “Poole Bros. 200 sheets” written in pencil along the right half, though barely noticeable. Upper dowel bowed at right and beginning to separate there from the view.