Hello, everyone! As some of you may know, over academic breaks, I tend to become antsy within hours of my newfound and temporary freedom; thus, I often pursue short-term independent projects. (This past summer’s “Echoes of the Exposition” series serves as an extreme example of this circumstance.) If you were not aware of this tendency of mine, please be aware of the fact that over academic breaks, I tend to become antsy within hours of my newfound and temporary freedom; thus, I often pursue short-term independent projects.
Anyway, over this past winter break, I ended up developing several new assignments for myself, one of which I am eager to share with you all in its completion. Just as with my previous projects, I will also take some time to detail and reflect on my entire researching and writing process.
Selecting a Topic
Over the Fall 2017 semester, I anticipated the time I would have over winter break to pursue more research efforts to a great degree, thanks to the encouragement I received from professors following my incessant self-promotion for the aforementioned summer undertaking. Up until I had the time to finalize my goals, I believed I would extend my work on my research regarding how the hospitality industry in Chicago was impacted by the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, and specifically, The Wellington Hotel that had distinctly piqued my interest with its undefined narrative. On Christmas Day, as I began my preliminary research efforts, I set my eyes on some different topics that could allow me to express a reinvigorated self (at least in theory).
By the end of that Christmas night, I went from focusing on The Wellington Hotel, to A.S. Gage (its primary proprietor), The Wellington Catering Company that A.S. Gage ran, concepts such as elongated coins and moving walkways that first appeared at the World’s Columbian Exposition, and the Chicago Hotel Association (of which the same proprietor was a member). As I scanned through the sources I could find regarding the final subject in said list, due to my burgeoning interest, one book I viewed online that detailed the novelty of the association also happened to state the same characteristic of a magazine entitled The Hotel World.
As I went about the next couple of days, the burden that had come of my debate concerning which topic to select for my project followed me; my constant thoughts about what had to be an imminent decision did allow for some positive consequences, though, at least in retrospect. On the afternoon of December 27, 2017, I essentially took the deep dive into research on The Hotel World, which resulted in some extensive and gratifying work by the end of the night.
With this subject, I believed I could once again combine many of the areas of study I find intriguing, including Chicago history and the hospitality industry, into an exercise of composition of my own. Even further, for this undertaking, I could focus on a specific aspect of said industry that I actually have held some interest in targeting for a while: hospitality journalism. As I will likely explain in a future blog post, I recently have been itching to become more involved in the daily happenings and developments of the hospitality industry, and hotels specifically; thus, the opportunity I had at hand to explore an underreported (no pun intended) historical publication from which I could personally take inspiration was one that I could not help but pursue whole-heartedly.
Conducting Research Online
Once I chose my topic of The Hotel World, arguably the most consequential stage of my project went into motion: my actual research. Although I spent some time pondering and looking into this subject over several weeks, a few days in particular actually seemed to involve most of my work on my finalized plan, which were are December 27, 2017; December 29, 2017; January 5, 2018; and January 7, 2018.
My first few stints of research were completed primarily on Google Books and the ProQuest Chicago Tribune Historical Newspapers database (thanks to my college’s online resources), which happened to mirror my tactics for the “Echoes of the Exposition” series. While I did work to improve upon my previous strategy by incorporating the long-term analyses of actual historians, I did continue to consciously focus my efforts on the Chicago hospitality industry and its coverage. Likewise, as I found applicable sources, I noted them in my “Winter Break 2017/2018” Google Doc in chronological order (the list of which ended up in a separate, more concentrated and organized document), often along with a short description of its contents; this procedure held many similarities to that of the aforementioned summer undertaking.
During my stints of research, I spent much of the time simply searching various terminology on Google and databases under which beneficial information could be found about the magazine at hand, and fortunately, I believe my constant quests (no pun intended) led to some enlightening observations. Whether I found a profile on one of the publishers of The Hotel World from a university that hosts a collection of said individual’s fascinating menu collection, Tribune articles detailing the mysterious death of the editor of the magazine or the opinion held from the publisher regarding the Bull Moose Party, or documents of recency from the National Park Service that cite pieces of The Hotel World as reputable sources of insight, virtually any piece of information was one that I found vital with regard to my goal of creating an extensive look into the publication.
Once I felt comfortable with the amount of sources and corresponding content I found about the history, personality, and perception of The Hotel World and its management, I took the time to actually delve into several of the twelve volumes of the magazine that are currently in the public domain. Of course, I knew that generalizations could not be drawn from this limited amount of source material I could view from the entire, lengthy history of the publication; nevertheless, I used what I could find to seek out commonalities between the volumes available to me, while making sure to acknowledge my limitations.
One major section of my write-up that pertains to this portion of my research efforts is the one regarding the formatting of the magazine, and specifically, its recurring sections. After reading though and typing out on my Google Doc the titles of apparent sections (along with major articles) featured in a couple of issues that immediately piqued my interest, I ultimately decided to cover six issues of the magazine in total. These copies would represent two issues that were published in each of the years of 1917, 1919, and 1922; such selections (all from different months of the calendar year, spanning across the beginning, middle, and end of such a period of time) would represent volumes 84, 89, 94, and 95 of the 84-95 volume range on the HathiTrust Digital Library. From then on, I continued my process of going through each of the six issues and noting the details and major sections I spotted, the latter of which I selected based on my original viewings of these issues at large and their peculiar ornate typography and designs. Afterward, I transferred this information onto a spreadsheet, on which I could place these trends in order of appearance in terms of publication information, the discernible recurring sections, and major articles. Afterward, and before I started writing out all of my discoveries into an a full-fledged analysis, I typed out the resulting apparent number of appearances of certain segments and changes in publication details onto a Google Doc.
With the conclusion of my research efforts, the writing of my research project was imminent. As I took on this entire assignment over my winter break, during which I elected to complete other projects as well, I set aside the final two weeks of this period (starting on January 8, 2018) to outline, write, and edit my analysis. Naturally, I started to conceptualize how I would organize all of the information I had located into one cohesive document while I worked on such research; still, deciding on a specific outline required more metal exertion. In fact, after I established my major sections, the subsections evolved quite a bit as I wrote them out (such as the entire portion about the front cover of each issue as a medium), since the key themes and components of The Hotel World and its history made themselves clear at this time.
The final outline can be represented as such:
A. The Front Cover
B. Recurring Sections
a. “Twenty-Five Years Ago”
b. “Hotel Building World”
c. “Index to Hotel Purveyors”
d. “Editorial”/”Editorial Comment”
f. “Association Activities”
g. “Town Talk”
i. “Between You and Me and the Lamp-Post”
j. “Among the Employes [sic]”
k. “Review of Reviews”
l. “Hotels for Sale and (for) Rent” & Other Hotel News
n. “Hotel Help Advertising”
C. Major Topics
A. Potential Conflicts of Interest
B. The Bohn Brothers in the News
C. Credibility in the Hotel Community
From January 9, 2018 and through January 11, 2018, I involved myself in major writing sessions for the research project, which eventually adopted “Chicago’s ‘Hotel World'” as its name. Admittedly, putting myself in the best mindset in which to write these intensive sections was quite difficult at times, but at the end of each (typically, nighttime) session, I felt a sense of accomplishment that only boosted my motivation moving forward. In the end, the write-up itself extended into 22 pages’ worth of content, which represents the level of relatively controlled indulgence in organization and writing that I wanted to embrace with regard to this undertaking. (Yes, I did allow myself to write a page-long introduction full of seemingly varied quotations that I would then tie together for the potential reader.)
Since I had planned on finishing this portion of my work on the analysis on Friday, January 12, 2018, I could not only be satisfied with my early completion of my goal, but also take some time to start preparing my bibliography before I would pay a visit to a special institution on the following day. While on that Friday, I merely typed out a numbered list of the links to each source I utilized, doing so aided me as I created complete Chicago Style citations on January 12, 13, and 14 of 2018. After taking on this taxing work, I finally could declare the completion of a proper research write-up.
Visiting a Research Center
As previously indicated, I had a novel experience ahead of me as I wrote out the rough draft of my analysis, toward which I was working throughout the past few weeks, and even further, the months prior.
Along with recommendations to conduct more research on my own over the winter break at hand, the same professors also indicated the benefits I could garner from spending time at institutions such as the Chicago History Museum, at which relevant documents and photographs would be available in accordance with my efforts. Consequently, even from the start of my ambiguous conception of a winter research project, I knew I had to actualize this suggestion. As shown by my scheduled research and writing process, I (thankfully) was able to coordinate my visit to the Chicago History Museum’s Research Center with the completion of my rough draft.
Back on January 6, 2018, I found in my exploration through the Research Center’s online catalogue that a copy of the February 17, 1917 issue of the magazine was in their possession; thus, I set all of my focus on viewing this one document on my upcoming visit, for better or for worse. I did not plan on incorporating the actual content of this copy into my write-up; rather, I hoped to use this opportunity to take some photographs to accompany my writing and become acclimated to the proper use and subsequent benefits of the offerings of research institutions.
To be quite honest, I held much nervousness with regard to what would come of my time, which would inevitably be in solitude, in the Research Center. As one may expect, then, I scoured through practically every online resource published by and about the institution in order to prepare for the forms, rules, and procedures I would encounter on that Saturday. With a completed registration form and a Moleskine notebook (sans my new pen, due to the pencil-only rule) in tow, I was ready to face any inhibitions I harbored.
Thankfully, by 2:10 PM, I was able to enter the Research Center itself, which can be found within the museum, and receive help from the incredibly kind staff members on hand. Throughout my time in the small area, I took notes with regard my feelings (“I feel odd right now”), what employees told me in response to my constant references to the Research Center’s website and forms (“You clearly read through the website”), surroundings (the titles of books around me that looked interesting), and, of course, the actual magazine issue in question. At 2:32 PM, I received said issue, much to my delight and slight nervousness. Even though I was aware that the issue is already online and in the public domain, I felt obligated to write out specific details of this fascinating piece of history; what did go unwritten was the level of emotion and reverence I felt in the moment, as a direct consequence of the honor I felt to simply view this magazine of which I had independently pursued the study.
At 3:15 PM, I hesitantly returned the magazine issue, collected my belongings, and departed from the Research Center and its somehow comfortably claustrophobic scent (of which I clearly took note). Back to these sorts of institutions I certainly will go, as the insight these sorts of collections provide are truly invaluable, especially for a student such as myself.
Starting on the evening of January 15, 2018, I dove into the editing process for my “Chicago’s ‘Hotel World'” write-up. As I knew of the inevitable mistakes and gauche phrasing that I would soon find to my dismay, sitting down for my first lengthy editing session took much coercion on my part; just as with the writing process itself, though, the progress I ended up making (through the lengthy “Format” section) that night helped me garner some hope. (Yes, I did extend my page-long introduction, all the while.)
In fact, by 5:03 PM on the following day, I had finished reading through my analysis, sans any dramatic necessary revisions. Once again, minute changes in my verbiage, inclusions of some clarification where necessary, and improvements in terms of sentence structure were my foci at this time. After making just a couple of small adjustments on January 17, 2018, I was ready to decide on how I would distribute my finalized document.
As readers of this blog of mine may know, I am always eager to display some of my independent compositional efforts for the world to (theoretically) see; my “Echoes of the Exposition” series aptly depicts this attitude of mine. For my “Chicago’s ‘Hotel World'” piece, I wanted to be a bit more subtle with the issuing of my work, largely due to the humbling experience that was sharing my indulgent and amateurish aforementioned summer project with actual academics.
As such, instead of posting what was yet another self-taught and self-monitored production directly onto my blog, after some thought, I decided to take two forms of action. First, I would print out my write-up and place it into a binder (which would be similar to the ones that host my “Echoes of the Exposition” series and first year of work on my “Ongoing Trends in My Vocabulary” project) that I could show to essentially anyone in-person who shows interest in my independent endeavors. (Yes, I do carry around such binders with me to school.) Next, I would write a reflection on the project at hand that could be published on this blog, along with a link to a Google Doc that features the analysis, sans the copyright-restricted photographs I took at the Chicago History Museum’s Research Center, of course. By doing so, visitors who genuinely want to read through my 31-page document can do so in its original and most convenient formatting.
Well, without further ado, I will leave the link to my “Chicago’s ‘Hotel World'” Google Doc here.
As previously indicated, I cannot say that my work is as extraordinarily comprehensive and commendable as I wish it could be, but with my resources, I am proud of what I was able to accomplish within such a short period of time. Perhaps when I do have the requisite amount of time, money, and credibility to travel around to different institutions in order to investigate my topics of choice and subsequently write to even greater lengths, I will be able to produce content worthy of recognition. Nevertheless, I am grateful for the opportunity I had during this past winter break to act as my own boss, utilize my desire to constantly learn in a relatively productive way, push myself out of my comfort zone, and learn more about who I am as I writer, thinker, student, and human being in general.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me in this project and those of the past; you all motivate me to harness my ambition and create the kinds of opportunities I seek.