Wayback Wednesday: Winter Comes for Chicago’s Newspapers

This was the scene on January 15, 2010 — ten years ago today.  One of Chicago’s multi-holed newspaper racks braving the cold on the corner of Michigan and Chicago Avenues. 

The corner of Chicago and Michigan January 10, 2010.
The corner of Chicago and Michigan January 10, 2010.

Newspaper stands, and the racks that replace them, have a long history in Chicago. They proliferated in the early 20th century, in part because of new regulations on street vending in the city.  Everything from water troughs for horses to cigar stands to ice cream pushcarts were banned on public ways under Chicago’s 1922 General Ordinances.  Commerce was for stores, not streets.  There were two exceptions: from December 15th until Christmas, and for newspapers.

By the end of the 20th century, it was not uncommon to see a dozen or more newspaper boxes lined up on Chicago sidewalks in busy areas.  They were metal, plastic, even wood, and in every shape and color, often chained to light poles or each other.

What some saw as a rainbow of free speech, Mayor Richard M. Daley saw as visual clutter.  It was he who decided the individual boxes had to go, and in the late 1990’s the city contracted with JC Decaux to install the eight-foot-long, four-foot-tall multi-paper boxes like the one you see in the photograph.   With the exception of a few bandit boxes, freedom of speech downtown had been safely organized in sanitized, containerized cubby holes by the summer of 2005.

This rack, in particular features the following publications:

  • The RedEye — Launched in 2002 as a daily short-form version of the Chicago Tribune, it was a staple of CTA commuters.  Today it’s only printed one day a week, if you can find one.
  • The Red Streak — The Chicago Sun-Times version of the RedEye.  It folded after just three years in print.
  • Newcity — At the time this photo was taken, it was an upscale alt-weekly.  It’s now evolved into a monthly magazine, but retains its upscale, arts-focused coverage.
  • Cars — Classified ads for gearheads
  • CityGuide — I have no idea what this was.  Maybe it was for tourists?
  • The Chicago Sun-Times — While the Tribune aspires to be The New York Times of the prairie, the Sun-Times is focused on the city. If you want to know what wine pairs with Portillo’s for your ironic Winnetka pool party, you read the Tribune.  If you want to know why your bus is late, you read the Sun-Times.
  • Hoy — The Spanish-language daily newspaper published by the Tribune.  It died last month.
  • After Dark — No idea.  If you have an idea, let us know in the comments section below.
  • Chicago Social — Free glossy social scene zine for people who live in Wicker Park, Lincoln Park and Bucktown and shop on the streets adjacent to Michigan Avenue.
  • Employment Source – Want ads.
  • Can’t make out the last one.  It appears to show someone snowboarding.  As a point of interest, snowboarding was invented not that far away from Chicago: across the lake in Muskegon, Michigan.

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at chicagoarchitectureinfo@gmail.com.

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