Urban Green

Nature, Recreation, and the Working Class in Industrial Chicago

By Colin Fisher

248 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 23 halftones, 3 maps, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-1995-8
    Published: May 2015
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4525-2
    Published: May 2015
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-1996-5
    Published: May 2015

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In early twentieth-century America, affluent city-dwellers made a habit of venturing out of doors and vacationing in resorts and national parks. Yet the rich and the privileged were not the only ones who sought respite in nature. In this pathbreaking book, historian Colin Fisher demonstrates that working-class white immigrants and African Americans in rapidly industrializing Chicago also fled the urban environment during their scarce leisure time. If they had the means, they traveled to wilderness parks just past the city limits as well as to rural resorts in Wisconsin and Michigan. But lacking time and money, they most often sought out nature within the city itself--at urban parks and commercial groves, along the Lake Michigan shore, even in vacant lots. Chicagoans enjoyed a variety of outdoor recreational activities in these green spaces, and they used them to forge ethnic and working-class community. While narrating a crucial era in the history of Chicago's urban development, Fisher makes important interventions in debates about working-class leisure, the history of urban parks, environmental justice, the African American experience, immigration history, and the cultural history of nature.

About the Author

Colin Fisher is associate professor of history at the University of San Diego. He teaches classes in U.S. environmental history, environmental visual culture, and history of food. His research centers on landscape and minority cultures of nature.
For more information about Colin Fisher, visit the Author Page.


"Invaluable. . . . Deeply informed by serious scholarship and wide reading, [Fisher's] prose is as accessible as any Chicago park, open to anyone who wants to walk in and enjoy it."--Chicago Tribune

“Fascinating. . . . Could be required reading in social, environmental, labor, ethnic, and racial history courses as well as those in literary studies and urban sociology.”--Journal of American History

“Environmental history, labor history, urban history, transnational immigration history, and cultural history rarely come together in one teachable book, but that is what Colin Fisher has achieved in Urban Green. . . . Fisher’s analysis of multiple transnational cultures of nature deserves a wide audience.”--American Historical Review

“Colin Fisher has shifted the focus of working-class, African American, and ethnic engagement with the city . . . from nightlife and commercial recreation to the pursuit and enjoyment of nature.”--Western Historical Quarterly

“A welcome addition to the growing literature on the nature found in great metropolises.”--Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era

"Cultural, social, and environmental historians will benefit from exploring a side of Chicago and of working-class culture that [have] remained hidden from view."--Journal of Social History