The most important historical reference that can be found on these pages of The Devil in the White City is a reference to the stresses brought on by the Panic of 1893.
In these pages, we are told that the depression was getting worse. The Panic of 1893 was the worst economic downturn that the country had ever seen up to that point. In these pages, we see a major Chicago bank going bankrupt because of the panic. We see that there had been three suicides at one hotel alone, with the latest being an executive at a major railroad that went bankrupt.
There is also a reference to Samuel Gompers, who was a major labor leader. He is referred to in the context of the idea that labor strife was increasing at the time. There would be a major strike the next year that was centered in the town of Pullman, near to Chicago.
These references to the panic and to labor strife are the main historical references on these pages.