Tanglefoot: An (almost) True Story of Civil Wars and Cities

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DFI Books, Dada Foundation Imprints, 2005 - Biography & Autobiography - 365 pages
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Tanglefoot, an illustrated factual fiction, follows the trail of Captain George Wellington Streeter from the Civil War, through his traveling road show featuring a trunkless white elephant, and, thence, on to Chicago where he built a steamboat. A tremendous storm stranded her on a sandbank. As he could not tow her free, he filled in the surrounding area with sand and debris from construction sites. When he claimed formal title to his homemade island as the federal District of Laake Michigan and connected it to the shore and began selling cheap lots he precipitated a long and dramatic struggle with a consortium of neighboring millionaires who coveted his land and loathed the sight of the shacks and tents of Streeterville. For decades, resorting to legal actions and police raids and thugs and hired killers, his adversaries tried to drive him out. With the help of writs and Winchesters, butt strokes and bludgeons, amiable judges and friendly reporters, and of the widespread sympathy generated by this dramatic struggle staged in full view of everyone, the Captain defended Streeterville until he died at eighty-four. In 1916 the Chicago Tribune said, "Not in the history of any city in the world has there been another case like this." Streeter's story is one of dramatic confrontations between selfish aspirations to to rise to the summits of society and power and the pioneer spirit with its egalitarian vision. In a deeper sense, Tanglefoot is about a civil war going on inside all of us. It is a real life dramatization of the many faceted American dream. Today Captain Streeter's District of Lake Michigan, the area on the lakeshore just north of the Chicago River, is part of the Gold Coast, theMiracle Mile. People still call it Streeterville, but they don't remember why.

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About the author (2005)

Ph.D. American history, University of California, Berkeley 1

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