Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Graveyards of Chicago : The People, History, Art, and Lore of Cook County Cemeteries by Ursula Bielski and Matt Hucke.
As the authors note, this volume, now in an expanded second edition, is both the most comprehensive book to date on the topic of Chicago cemeteries, and a primer that merely scratches the surface. At the same time, it provides not only orientation to the cemeteries of the area, but a wide-ranging anecdotal history as it contextualizes celebrity graves (political leaders, entertainers), religious and ethnic groups, economic developments, and social and political movements represented in the burial sites.
It’s a shame that the many photos in the book are all in black and white. But the book was grown in some measure out of author Matt Hucke’s graveyards.com website, where he has collected much of his photography on the subject, including color versions of many of the images here. These high-tech underpinnings are further leveraged with the promise of “QR codes … leading to additional photos and bonus material.” Not being furnished with the necessary gadgetry, I can’t tell you for sure what’s on the other end of those codes, but I suspect it’s some version of the material at graveyards.com, which along with photos has more descriptions, and maps, among assorted info that would be useful to cemetery visitors armed with this book and a smartphone.
Although it’s designed as a reference book, with articles on individual cemeteries arranged by location, I found the book a pleasure to read from cover to cover. There were many startling facts, not all of them having to do with the graveyards themselves, that I felt compelled to share immediately with my Other Reader.
I appreciated the extensive information on Masonic cemeteries, and I was especially thrilled to learn about Waldheim Cemetery, with its impressive monument for the United Ancient Order of Druids, and more significant Haymarket Martyrs’ Monument with its neighboring “Communist Plot”! I was also gratified to find information on the burial sites of the early leaders of the Moorish Science Temple and Nation of Islam, but neither of these organizations are found in the index or much noted in the text, so readers will need to know for themselves about Noble Drew Ali and his successors.
Reading this book has inspired me to get a better fix on the burial places of my own relatives in the area, and fueled an ambition to tour their graves as well as to visit many of the sights described in the volume. Authors Hucke and Bielski have my gratitude. [via]