Famous Fields #AtoZChallenge

ChicagoAs in years past, this month I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. 2016 marks my fifth anniversary, so to celebrate, I’m hosting Friday Blog-Ins here in San Diego; you can find out more info about where we’re meeting each week on my A to Z Challenge page.

My monthly theme is Chicago From A to Z, so stay tuned from Monday to Saturday for new posts on the Windy City. Or sign up for my mailing list (delivered weekly, on Fridays) so you don’t miss a thing!

There are at least three notable “Fields” I can think of in Chicago, just off the top of my head. There are probably many more! But here are the three most influential:

  1. Marshall Field’s
  2. The Field Museum
  3. Field Notes

Let’s examine them one at a time, shall we?

Marshall Field’s

Named after its founder, entrepreneur and philanthropist Marshall Field, this department store was a well-known Chicago institution for decades. Founded in 1852, its official name was “Marshall Field and Company,” but as with many Chicago institutions, it was best known locally by its apostrophied shortening.

"With All Your Heart" image via Flickr user John W. Iwanski
“With All Your Heart” image via Flickr user John W. Iwanski

Now owned by the evil Macy’s empire (boo, hiss!), loyal locals continue to protest the rebranding underneath the State Street store’s historic clock every year in September.

"2 Minutes and 27 photos" image by Flickr user Mike Warot
“2 Minutes and 27 photos” image by Flickr user Mike Warot

Indeed, the site of the store itself will never truly be a Macy’s, no matter what the name on the banners outside. The store itself has designated historic (National Register of Historic Places) and landmark (Chicago Landmark) status as the Marshall Field and Company Building. So take that, New York fat cats!

A minty footnote: While I identify Frango Mints with the Marshall Field’s brand, it seems these green and brown chocolate mints were not a Chicago original after all, but were indeed only popularized by the department store.

"Frango Chocolates" image via Flickr user Strapples Dissabled Life...
“Frango Chocolates” image via Flickr user Strapples Dissabled Life…

A bookish footnote: Marshall Field’s even pioneered the concept of book signings at its State Street store – along with the idea of revolving credit and the installation of escalators in a department store.

The Field Museum

"Field museum" image via Flickr user Justin Kern
“Field museum” image via Flickr user Justin Kern

The Field Museum of Natural History is one of the largest natural history museums in the world. Founded in 1893 as part of the World’s Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago, the museum was originally named The Columbian Museum of Chicago.

"Dr. Jesse M. Greenman, Assistant Botany Curator" image via Flickr user The Field Museum Library
“Dr. Jesse M. Greenman, Assistant Botany Curator” image via Flickr user The Field Museum Library

How did it come to be named The Field Museum? In honor of its first benefactor, Marshall Field (yes, the same man who the department store was named after!), the museum changed its name in 1905. So, while Marshall Field’s department store may no longer exist, his legacy lives on in the cultural history of the city through the museum he helped fund.

Field Notes

Made in the U.S.A., Field Notes are a popular brand of notebooks that are made in Chicago by the Draplin Design Company and Coudal Partners.

My favorite of their recent limited editions is definitely the Tournament of Books Rooster notebook:


In addition to being awesome because of the crowing rooster, the Field Notes peeps also donated $4 from every purchase to 826 National, a writing resource for young people. Sweet, right?

If you live in Chicago, you can even order Field Notes’ notebooks online and pick them up in The Loop, instead of paying for shipping.

Your turn!

What “fields” make you want to frolic – in Chicago or elsewhere?

Additional Resources

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Giveaway: San Diego from A to Z

Want to read the book I wrote last April, based on my A to Z posts about San Diego? I’m giving away two paperback copies of San Diego From A to Z over at Goodreads, so click here and enter to win! AND I’m giving away one free ebook copy every day until the end of April to a random commenter here on the blog. Leave a comment every day for another chance to win!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

San Diego from A to Z by Laura Roberts

San Diego from A to Z

by Laura Roberts

Giveaway ends April 30, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway


  • A. Catherine Noon

    Again, thank you for the shout-out! :) Another field I adore is Wrigley Field. Locals have consistently fended off attempts to commit that monstrosity known as “modernization,” that makes Sox Park like wandering into a big box store and not a ball park. I’ve even gotten to attend a game because a former employer gets season tickets every year, and he took us to one of the games. I was so excited!

    All that said, it puzzles me as to why the Cubs just can’t get it together. I’m a Cubs fan by proximity (I live on the north size) but not by birth (born in Boston, raised in the San Francisco Bay Area – RIP Candlestick Park!). I hope, every year, that they’ll be able to pull it together. But the jokes persist, and “maybe this year” is again our mantra. But at least intrepid fans can enjoy the game as the makers intended, in a real ballpark, and not a glorified big box store (I’m resisting naming any particular store because I don’t mean them any ill will for being similar to some ballparks I could mention). :)

    I learned something about Frango Mints; I thought they were originally made here in Chicago, back when the city was the Candy Capital of the U.S. I’ll have to go read up some more. I commend you on a fantastic list of references; I love Arcadia Publishing. I have one of their books on Rogers Park (the neighborhood where we live) and the pictures and narrative are riveting. There’s a reference section at the Sulzer Regional Library that’s specific to Chicago and local research; the hours are quite limited but it’s an awesome resource to anyone doing research. http://www.chipublib.org/northside-neighborhood-history-collection/ Granted, this is focused on the north side (Sulzer is located at Lincoln and Montrose, right in the heart of the northside), but lots of good stuff there. :)

    • Laura Roberts

      The Cubs are indeed a puzzle… I’m not sure why they can’t seem to win it. Maybe they really are cursed!

      I’m more of a White Sox fan, myself, but probably only because they used to use the clever slogan “Good guys wear black,” and I’m also very big on black. ;D

  • Brendan

    A. Catherine already mentioned Wrigley Field. So I’ll just add Soldier Field, which is where the Bears play.

    • Laura Roberts

      Good one! I totally forgot about sporting fields, when I was brainstorming for this post. I’ve been to Wrigley Field, but never Soldier Field. But I had enough of football as a member of my high school’s marching band.

  • Melfka

    I keep reading your posts and it seems like Chicago is a really interesting place.
    Having grown up at the other side of the pond, I knew little about it except for its name (and supposedly big Polish immigrants community), so my brain always went “nothing interesting there”. Your posts are proving me wrong. :)

  • Michele

    I so want to visit Chicago! That’s so sad about Marshall Field’s being taken over by Macy’s. But, like you said, to the local, it will always be Marshall Fields.
    If I come to Chicago, I’d definitely like to visit the Field Museum.

    Hope you’re having fun with the A-Z! Dropping by from John’s team…

    Michele at Angels Bark

  • Lissa Johnston

    I also was expecting sports fields, so nice change of pace. Not that I have an issue with sports – quite the contrary – but it’s nice to be surprised now and then. When we lived in Minnesota I think we got there just as the local Marshall Fields was acquired by Dayton’s? I might be mistaken about that.

    We didn’t have Marshall Fields growing up (too far south), but I can related to the bygone era of grand family-held retailers being swallowed up by the conglomerates. My first job was working at an upscale department store in downtown Dallas called Sanger-Harris. It was originally Sanger Brothers, but in the grand tradition of gobbling up one’s competitors, had become hyphenated by the time I worked there. On the fancy scale it was somewhere between Neiman-Marcus and Sears. I think Dillard’s bought them.

    I have only been through the Chicago airport; never the city. Def on the list for the sports, the museums, the bean, and the food.