The Devil in the White City

by Erik Larson

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Who is Codman in The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson?

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In this book, “Codman” is a man typically called Harry Codman.  His given name was Henry Sergeant Codman.  He worked for Frederick Law Olmstead as a landscape architect and the two men were very close.  Codman died very young.  He died on January 13, 1893.  At the time of his death he was only twenty-nine years old.

We hear about Codman’s death in the chapter entitled “The Cold-Blooded Fact.”  We are told that Codman had undergone surgery for an illness that had turned out to be appendicitis.  The doctors thought that the operation had gone well, but Codman ended up dying even so.  This is where we find out very explicitly how close he and Olmstead had been.  Larson characterizes Codman as “his protégé, whom he loved like a son” (I cannot give a page number as I have this only on Kindle.)  We also see that Olmstead wrote to Gifford Pinchot, calling Codman’s death “our great calamity” and saying that he feels that “I am as one standing on a wreck…”

As these lines show, Codman was very dear to Olmstead and Olmstead was devastated by his death. 

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