By J.J. Sedelmaier
A bit of history: Ravinia Park was created in 1904 by A.C. Frost, the owner of the Chicago & Milwaukee Electric Railway (precursor to the North Shore Line, mentioned in a previous blog), which traveled through the area. Frost figured that building a place for the masses to gather could only benefit his railroad’s business.
Unfortunately, by 1911 Frost’s venture confronted financial woes, and Ravinia was looking bankruptcy square in the face. A local group of residents formed an organization to purchase and operate the park, and, except for a brief gap during the Great Depression, Ravinia has been presenting concerts every year from 1904 to the present day! From Enrico Caruso to Steve Martin, the festival has hosted and presented stellar talent and performances of all kinds. When I was a kid, it was also one of the best places to go for fireworks every Fourth of July!
The covers of Ravinia’s programs from its opening in 1904 through the 1930s were gorgeous “mini-posters” designed by well-known Chicago-area illustrators. I’d run across them in used bookstores and junk shops, where they were usually mixed in with old magazines and comic books. By the time I left for college, I’d been able to gather together most of the run. You’ll notice names like Hamilton King, James McCracken, Stark Davis, and intaglio artist Allan Weary. There’s also a 1930 program cover designed/illustrated by then Chicagoan Hal Foster, who was between Tarzan strip assignments.
I’ve also included a poster done by Arthur A. Johnson for the CNS&M railroad in 1925 – you’d think that if anything would be misspelled, it wouldn’t be the name of the park itself! (I’ll be doing a separate featured article on this series of posters in the near future).
This article originally appeared in PrintMag and has been reprinted with the permission of the author. Read the original article here.