The Devil in the White City

by Erik Larson
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On Page 210 of the novel Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, What historical Reference is discussed word for word? What does that Historical reference mean?

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There is a mention of how people in Chicago compared themselves to New York.  If the leading families of New York had long been established, most of the Chicago families were “new” money.

No one topped Chicago in terms of business drive and acumen, but within the city’s upper echelons...

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There is a mention of how people in Chicago compared themselves to New York.  If the leading families of New York had long been established, most of the Chicago families were “new” money.

No one topped Chicago in terms of business drive and acumen, but within the city’s upper echelons there was a veiled anxiety that the city in its commercial advance may indeed have failed to cultivate the finer traits of man and woman. (p. 210)

At the same time, there is the mention of comparisons between New York and Chicago on page 210.  The “blue bloods” of New York’s leading families deem themselves superior to the more self-made types in Chicago.  The “leading citizens” of Chicago fear being “second class” compared to New York.

 

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The thing that most clearly resembles a historical reference on this page is the reference to “mesdames Palmer, Pullman, and Armour.”  This is a reference to people that might have been called “robber barons” or who at least typified the idea of conspicuous consumption that was going on in the late 1800s.

During this time, some people, like Palmer (department stores), Pullman (railroad cars), and Armour (meat packing) were becoming very rich.  They were able to live very lavish lifestyles.  As can be seen on this page, their wives would be written about in the society pages of newspapers.  This lifestyle was very much a part of the time period in which this book is set.

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