Chicago Collection of Cecilia Cooper
Scope and Contents
The collection consists of Chicago ephemera, illustrations, newspapers, theater programs and stereoscopic view cards, also called stereographs, collected by Cecilia and Allen R. Cooper. The topics of interest include the Chicago Fire of 1871, pre-Fire theater and Col. Wood’s Museum, in particular. The bulk of the items date from the 1860s-1875.
- Creation: 1812 - 1996
- Creation: Majority of material found within 1860s-1875
Conditions Governing Access
Materials are open without restrictions.
Conditions Governing Use
Please consult staff at Chicago Public Library Special Collections to determine ability to reuse materials from collection.
Biographical / Historical
Cecilia and Allen R. Cooper collected historic items related to noteworthy events and venues in Chicago’s history such as the Battle of Fort Dearborn, the Chicago Fire of 1871, pre-Fire theater and Col. Wood’s Museum, in particular. Many of the collected sources relate to the topic of Allen R. Cooper’s 1974 Roosevelt University master’s thesis, Colonel Wood’s Museum: A Study in the Development of the Early Chicago Stage. A copy of his thesis can be found in Box 2, Folder 20.
The Battle of Fort Dearborn was an engagement on August 15, 1812 between the United States military and the Potawatomi Native Americans. Located in the Illinois Territory that is now Chicago, the fort’s evacuation during the War of 1812 led to a complete Native American victory. The fort was rebuilt in 1816.
On October 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire spread across the city from the area around 588 West DeKoven Street. Dry conditions and wooden structures helped to propel the fire into an inferno that burned for three days and destroyed over 17,000 buildings across 2,100 acres, including the central business district. An estimated 300 residents died.
Col. Wood’s Museum was founded by Col. John H. Wood and opened in 1864 at Randolph and Clark Streets. The establishment housed museum curiosities that included natural history objects along with a hall of paintings and a panorama of London. Performances were held in the exhibition hall. Destroyed in the Chicago Fire of 1871, the museum reopened in 1875 only to suffer another fire in 1877. Col. Wood’s Museum has an intertwining history with Aiken’s Dearborn Theatre. In 1869, Chicago actor, Frank E. Aiken, reopened the Dearborn Theatre and was also the manager and lessee of Col. Wood’s Museum. During his management, these spaces were referred to as Aiken’s Dearborn Theatre and Aiken’s Museum.
Uranus H. Crosby opened Crosby’s Opera House in 1865 on Washington Street, between State and Dearborn Streets. The five-story Italianate palace was designed by architect W. W. Boyington. It was destroyed in the Chicago Fire of 1871. McVicker's Theater was built for actor James Hubert McVicker in 1857. Known for comedic performances, the theater often hosted performances by Edwin Booth (brother of John Wilkes Booth) who married McVicker’s daughter, [Mary]. Destroyed by two fires, including the Chicago Fire of 1871, the theater was rebuilt and operated until 1984.
1.5 Linear Feet (in 4 boxes (11 oversize folders, 144 photographs, 1 framed artwork, 1 artifact))
Language of Materials
The collection consists of Chicago ephemera, illustrations, newspapers, theater programs and stereoscopic view cards, also called stereographs, collected by Cecilia and Allen R. Cooper. The topics of interest include the Chicago Fire of 1871, pre-Fire theater and Col. Wood’s Museum, in particular.
The collection is arranged into 4 Series: Series 1: Chicago Ephemera, 1861-1996, undated; Series 2: Chicago Theater, 1866-1974, undated; Series 3: Chicago Views, 1863-1930, undated; and Series 4: Newspapers with Selected Chicago Events, 1812-1897.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated by Cecilia Cooper, 2006 and 2009
- Cooper, Cecilia (Person)
- A. Ackermann and Sons, Inc. (Organization)
- Abbott, J. H., active 1860-1879 (Person)
- Alschuler, S. (Samuel G.), 1826-1882 (Person)
- Carbutt, John, 1832-1905 (Person)
- Col. Joseph H. Wood's Museum and Art Gallery (Organization)
- Copelin & Hine (Organization)
- Copelin & Melander (Organization)
- Copelin & Son (Organization)
- Crosby’s Opera House (Organization)
- Gates Brothers (Organization)
- Lovejoy & Foster (Organization)
- McVicker's Theatre (Organization)
- Melander & Henderson (Organization)
- Greene, P. B. (Plymon B.), -1892 (Person)
- Varin, Raoul, 1865-1943 (Person)
- Guide to the Chicago Collection of Cecilia Cooper
- Michelle McCoy
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English
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