Thursday, July 17, 2014

A question answered before it's asked

     This is embarrassing.
     I have lived in Cook County continuously for the past 31 years.
     In various spots: Evanston, Barrington, Oak Park, Chicago and now Northbrook.
     And in all that time, I have investigated many stories.
     Delved into many questions.
     Looked up many facts. 
     Including, on Wednesday, the definition of the word "pozzolanic."
     Which has to do with volcanic ash related to the manufacture of cement.
     From the Italian town of Pozzuouli, where pumice was found by the Romans.
     But one mystery hung in front of my nose.
     Almost every day.
     For 31 years.
     And not only did I not know the answer.
     But I—curious guy, usually—did not even pose the question.
     Did not wonder.
     Not once.
     To my knowledge.
     Until last week.
     When I met my brother to go to lunch.
     At his place of business.
     In the Cook County Building.
     Usually he's there first.
     Waiting for me.
     Punctual guy.
     But this time I was early.
     A couple minutes.
     Just long enough.
     To notice this plaque which.
     In decades of walking through the building.
     I somehow had never seen before.
     Answering  a question.
     I had never thought to ask.
     Cook County,
     So who
     Was Cook?
     Who was the place named for?
     You'd think such a famous place.
     We'd all know.
     We all know "Chicago" means wild onions
     Or at least we're all told that.
     But Cook?
     Gets the short shrift, as always.
     One Daniel Pope Cook, apparently
     Lawyer, newspaper publisher, Illinois' first attorney general
     Friend of John Quincy Adams
     He died early, at 33.
     And four years later Cook County was named for him. 
     In 1831
     Six years before Chicago was voted a city.


  1. I hope you wiped your feet on that $15,000 rug with the county seal on it that Toddler bought & then had the nerve to put there at the east entrance, blocked off with velvet ropes, just out of the photo you took.
    I do that & hope there's dog shit on my shoes!

  2. Cook petitioned the US government to move the northern border of Illinois from the southern tip of Lake Michigan to whatever latitude it's at now. His argument was that the economy of Illinois would vanquish without any economic activity from the Great Lakes. Without his leadership, the City of Chicago would be in *gasp* Wisconsin. (One of a few things I remember from a Chicago history class at UIC.)

  3. I've looked up Colfax, Wentworth, even Crawford (now Pulaski), but that plaque that I've seen (and even noticed) dozens of times didn't stir up the least bit of curiosity. Now the whole Steinbergian world knows.

  4. Lived here forever and never even thought about it! And I love that kind of information. Let me know if you ever find anything on Thacker. Streets named for him (assuming it's a him) in multiple suburbs but I can find nothing on him.


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