Descriptive inventory for the Lois Weisberg papers, 1896-2015, bulk 1953-2011

Lois Weisberg papers

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Descriptive inventory for the Lois Weisberg papers, 1896-2015, bulk 1953-2011

Prepared by Laura Herlocher, 2016; ed. by Julie Wroblewski, 2017.
Please address questions to:
Chicago History Museum, Research Center
1601 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60614-6038
Instructions for accessing this collection

Collection Overview +/-

Title: Lois Weisberg papers, 1896-2015 (inclusive), 1953-2011 (bulk)
Creators: Lois Weisberg
Chicago (Ill.). Department of Cultural Affairs
Chicago (Ill.). Mayor's Office of Special Events
Dates: 1896-2015 (inclusive), 1953-2011 (bulk)
Accession number: 2016.0035
Bib number: 00235671
Call numbers: MSS Lot W
2016.0035 PCLF
2016.0035 PCP-263
Size:392 linear feet, including approximately 1,000 black and white images (75 boxes)
approximately 600 color images
40 film negatives
1 sound reel
3 vinyl records
2 DVDs
2 VHSs
3 CDs

Provenance statement:

Materials were a gift of the Weisberg family, 2016 (accession #: 2016.0035)

Terms governing use:

Copyright may be retained by the creators of items, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law, unless otherwise noted.


Advance appointment required to view material from cold storage.

Research use of this collection is governed by the standard rules and regulations of the Chicago History Museum Research Center.

For listening or viewing purposes, it is necessary to use a copy, not the original (and to have a listening or viewing copy made if one is not available).

Please cite this collection as:

Lois Weisberg papers (Chicago History Museum) plus a detailed description, date, and series/box/folder of a specific item.

Additional Materials +/-

Related material:

Related collections at Chicago History Museum, Research Center, include the Bernard Weisberg papers (M1981.0008 and 2010.0037.1), the Chicago Mayor's Office of Special Events collection, and the Business and Professional People for the Public Interest records (M1976.0038; M1984.0171; 2010.0015), and the Sidney R. Yates papers (1998.0174).

Separated material:

Some materials were separated and added as accruals to the Bernard Weisberg papers (accession # 2016.35).

Collection Summary +/-

Scrapbooks, meetings, minutes, newsletters, programs, scripts, publications, publicity materials, correspondence, and other materials documenting Lois Weisberg's personal and professional activities. Materials document Weisberg’s roles in and the activities of the South Shore Railroad advocacy organization; the Harold Washington administration, the Chicago chapter of the George Bernard Shaw Society; Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs, where she served as the first Commissioner; Chicago's 150th anniversary celebration; Cows on Parade; the Chicago Jazz, Blues, and Gospel festivals; and "The Paper," an independent arts newspaper she founded. The collection also contains audiovisual materials, including a sound reel, 3 vinyl records, 3 CDs, 2 video tapes, 2 DVDs, 40 film negatives, approximately 600 color images, and approximately 1,000 black and white images.

Biographical/Historical Note +/-

Lois Weisberg was born Lois Porges in May 1925 in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago, where she attended Austin High School. In 1946, she graduated from Northwestern University, where she studied directing at its School of Speech. While at Northwestern, she met pharmacist Irv Solomon, whom she later married. In 1962, she married her second husband, Bernard Weisberg, a Chicago civil liberties lawyer who later became a federal judge.

Weisberg is best known for her position as Commissioner of Cultural Affairs for the City of Chicago. Before becoming Commissioner, Weisberg served as the Assistant to the Mayor and Director for the Mayor’s Office of Special Events under Harold Washington beginning in 1983. She was then appointed Commissioner in 1989 under Mayor Richard M. Daley and remained in the position until 2011, making her one of Daley’s longest serving employees. As Commissioner, Weisberg was charged with making the arts accessible to all and to promote the city of Chicago through its arts and cultural attractions. Known as the “Cultural Czar,” some of Weisberg’s major achievements include establishing the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E Washington St.), the first American incarnation of Cows on Parade (1999), Gallery 37 (66 E Randolph St.), the Chicago Blues Festival, and Taste of Chicago.

In addition to her work for the city of Chicago, Weisberg worked with numerous political and civic organizations including Business and Professional People for the Public Interest and the Chicago Council of Lawyers, and acted as campaign manager for Congressman Sidney Yates. She helped organize South Shore Recreation, an Indiana and Illinois citizens group dedicated to preserving rail service on the Chicago, South Bend, and South Share Railroad. She was also involved in the formation and development of a number of other Chicago cultural initiatives including Friends of the Park, a musical production called “The Song of Songs,” a weekly independent arts and news publication called “The Paper,” and multiple societies devoted to the author George Bernard Shaw. Her involvement and dedication to organizations throughout the city of Chicago were vast and important. As Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his “The New Yorker” article (January 11, 1999), “Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg,” “Lois is far from being the most important or the most powerful person in Chicago, but if you connect all the dots that constitute the vast apparatus of government and influence and interest groups in the city of Chicago you’ll end up coming back to Lois again and again.” Weisberg left the office of Cultural Affairs in 2011 when it was merged with the Office of Special Events. She died in January of 2016.

Catalog Subject Headings +/-

Gospel music--Illinois--Chicago
Washington, Harold--1922-1987
Weisberg, Lois--1925-2016--Archives
Chicago (Ill.). Department of Cultural Affairs
Chicago (Ill.). Mayor's Office of Special Events
Chicago Blues Festival
Chicago Sesquicentennial Committee
Chicago, South Shore and South Bend Railroad
Cows on Parade (1999 : Chicago, Ill.)
Jazz Showcase (Chicago, Ill.)
Shaw Society of Chicago
Digital video discs
Film negatives
Photographic Prints--Color
Programs (documents)
Sound recordings
Video recordings
Chicago (Ill.)--Intellectual life--20th century
Chicago (Ill.)--Music

Organization and Arrangement of Collection +/-

The collection is arranged in five series with subsequent subseries by topic.

Click on heading to view series description.

Series 1. Early organization and committee files, 1946-2011 and undated (box 1-6, 8-16, 73 and folder 1)
Subseries 1. Song of Songs, 1953-1966 and undated (box 1-4)
Subseries 2. South Shore Railroad, 1974-2011 and undated (box 5-6, 8-11, 73 and folder 1)
Subseries 3. The Paper, 1946-1980 and undated (box 12-16)
Series 2. George Bernard Shaw societies, 1896-2014 and undated (box 16-33 and folder 3)
Series 3. Writings and speeches, 1939-2013 and undated (box 16, 34-46)
Series 4. The Department of Cultural Affairs, 1932-2015 and undated (box 4, 16, 46-62, 73 and folder 2)
Subseries 1. Weisberg memorabilia, 1947-2014 and undated (box 4, 16, 46-54, 73)
Subseries 2. Department of Cultural Affairs papers, 1974-2014 and undated (box 4, 55-58)
Subseries 3. Special events, 1932-2015 and undated (box 16, 59-62, 73 and folder 2)
Series 5. Subject files, 1941-2015, and undated (box 4, 7, 16, 63-75)

About This Finding Aid +/-

Creation: Finding aid encoded by Laura Herlocher using Oxygen editor, 2016; ed. by Julie Wroblewski, 2017.
Language: Finding aid is written in English.
Other Finding Aids: Finding aid also submitted to the Explore Chicago Collections portal.
Processing Note:The arrangement of this collection adheres close to the original order established by Weisberg and her assistant prior to the donation. Minor rearrangement was done within each series when necessary to follow chronological or alphabetical order.
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