Mistakes in the Past | Letters | Chicago Reader

Mistakes in the Past 

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Dear Letters:

Science at the Chicago Academy of Sciences does not extend to historical accuracy, as demonstrated by its press release uncritically run in the Reader's City File of August 1.

Boasting of its 140 years in Chicago, the Academy would have us believe that in 1857 Illinois had "zero miles of railroad." According to the Illinois Fact Book and Historical Almanac, 1673-1968, Illinois in 1860 had "2,790 miles of railroad, second only to Ohio." The railroad boom had begun 23 years earlier when the Illinois General Assembly authorized building 1,300 miles of track.

"Fewer than 30,000 people lived in Chicago" in 1857, trumpets the Academy of Sciences, attempting to capitalize on its longevity. In fact, Chicago in 1857 had a population of more than 87,000, and was on its way to an 1860 census count of more than 112,000.

The Academy of Sciences proves to be less than scientific, and City File forgot the City News Bureau dictum: "If your mother says she loves you, check it out."

Richard C. Bjorklund

W. Wilson

Harold Henderson replies:

The errors are mine, not the Academy's. I'll try to do better for its 200th.

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