“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

Shanghai 1925 – Just Like Chicago

Posted: December 5th, 2012 | 2 Comments »

Regular readers will know that I like to collect random examples of people comparing Shanghai to various other places – see here and here for instance. In general I have found after exhaustive study (or at least more study than anyone else I suspect) that the Americans make much more sensible comparisons than the Brits who invariably have their tongue in their cheek when they comment on such things – much to the delight of other Brits and the bemusement of everyone else. Of course, as everyone knows (except themselves perhaps), Americans lack this particular gene and so tend to only something looks like something when it does indeed look rather like it. Boring…but true and so…Shanghai like Chicago

“November 26th (1925 I think): Thanksgiving Day in Shanghai … Streetcars clang and rickshaw pullers yell … Really, except for the Chinese faces all about and the scarlet and gold shop signs, we might be in Chicago – same cold air, tall buildings, busy streets – the Bund reminds me of the lakefront. Our hotel, the Plaza, and the theatre are both modern and comfortable, our meals American” 

A rather useful comparison from Jane Sherman in  Soaring: The Diary and Letters of a Denishawn dancer in the Far East, 1925-1926

Chicago – mid-1920s

Shanghai – mid-1920s

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2 Comments on “Shanghai 1925 – Just Like Chicago”

  1. 1 Gregory McCormick said at 5:00 am on December 6th, 2012:

    I feel like in many key ways, Shanghai was like Havana at a certain point in their histories (roughly the same time though Havana was, perhaps, a decade later than Shanghai): both expoitative, ruled by oligarchs and mobsters, under the thumbs of foreign governments, swinging nightlife, etc. etc.

    Of course, historical forces would quickly change any similarities that the cities had (though both were shuttered at similar times and under similar circumstances) and now these similarities must be uncovered…

  2. 2 meredith l. clausen said at 12:04 am on December 25th, 2018:

    In a session proposed for an international professional meeting of architectural historians, I am wanting to include Shanghai among cities and places architectural historians and urbanists have, in thinking of the mid-1920s, tended to ignore. I noted the blogroll on Shanghai Art Deco. Can you recommend further reading (I’m an old-fashioned scholar, not a blogger here).

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