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Topel Family Photograph Album

Identifier: spe-w00182

Scope and Contents

The Topel Family Photograph Album is comprised of 64 pages containing 476 photographs, the majority of which are candid images and portraits of unnamed individuals (likely members of the Topel family and their friends and ancestors). The photographs taken in Chicago primarily feature the Loop, Grant Park, and the west and south sides, including Garfield Park, Jackson Park, and the Sears, Roebuck, & Co. Campus (now the Sunken Gardens Park) in North Lawndale. Many photographs in the album highlight natural environs outside Chicago, including Photographs 1.95-1.113 of a presumed Art Institute of Chicago retreat at the Michillinda summer resort in Whitehall, Michigan.

Of particular significance are the photographs in the album related to World War I, especially Photographs 1.10-1.53 which were taken at Camp Grant, a United States Army training facility that was located near Rockford, Illinois. In addition, Photographs 1.276-1.281 from the United States Government War Exposition—a traveling exhibition held in Grant Park from September 2-15, 1918—and Photographs 1.34 and 1.53 taken at a November 18, 1918, United War Work Campaign rally provide insight into a typical visitor’s experience of World War I morale-boosting events held in Chicago.


  • Creation: circa 1860s-circa 1930s
  • Creation: Majority of material found within circa 1917-circa 1925


Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Please consult staff to determine ability to reuse materials from collection.

Biographical / Historical

The photographs in this album center around the experiences of Conrad and Adele Topel, and were likely assembled by Adele Topel (née Cook).

Adele Cook was born in Chicago in December 1886 to William Cook and Catherine Davis Cook. She married Conrad Topel in June 1922, and they had one daughter, Evelyn Ruth Topel, born in 1927. Conrad worked for Sears, Roebuck, & Co. at the company’s mail order plant on S. Homan Avenue in Chicago for over 40 years; he began as a mail room clerk and eventually advanced to become an accountant.

The Topel family relocated to Oak Park, Ill., in approximately 1930, where they lived until Adele’s death on July 31, 1957. Adele, Conrad (died 1989 in Lyons, Ill.) and Evelyn (died 1996 in Lyons, Ill.) are all buried at Forest Home Cemetery in Forest Park, Ill.


0.5 Linear Feet (in 1 box, includes 476 photographs)

Language of Materials



The photographs in the Topel Family Photograph Album—the bulk of which date from circa 1917 to circa 1925—document the experiences of a Chicago-area family in the early twentieth century. Of particular significance are the photographs related to World War I and Chicago-area war efforts, including a substantial group of images taken at Camp Grant, a United States Army training facility in Rockford, Ill.


The photograph album has been disassembled and the cover preserved. Items are arranged in the original order of the album.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased and donated by James A. Pierce in 2021

Related Materials

  • Chicago City-Wide Collection
  • World War I Collection

Guide to the Topel Family Photograph Album
Rachel Esser
June 2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Unit at Harold Washington Library Center Repository

Harold Washington Library Center, 9th Floor
Chicago Public Library
400 S. State Street
Chicago IL 60605 United States
(312) 747-4875