History of Futures: The University Club of Chicago

University Club of ChicagoI’ve always wondered what goes on in those exclusive clubs downtown. Have you ever noticed them? Their closed doors make it easy to just walk right by. I had the unexpected opportunity the other day to find out for myself at the University Club, a 124-year-old institution. It’s located on Michigan Avenue, right by where our Loop and 1893 Tours end. In the early part of the 19th century these were the primary social outlet for the middle and upper classes. Examples are the Medinah Shriners, the Freemasons, the University Club, and Men’s and Women’s Athletic Associations. Once you paid your membership dues, you could use their facilities, such as the library or smoking lounge, and attend their luncheons, parties, and grand balls. You got to hobnob with the best, basically. In other words, these were the old headquarters of the “Old Boys Network.”

New Book on Private Clubs

Lucky for me, a friend’s partner had to cancel last-minute for a luncheon. I was just a block away, so I said absolutely yes to lunch and a talk about new book, Zero-Sum Game: The Rise of the World’s Largest Derivatives Exchange, led by author Erika Olson (side note: It was a little awkward for some at the luncheon table who suspected I was some sort of young mistress. Ha ha!)

I’m fascinated with Chicago’s history as a financial center, and Erika lead an engaging presentation of the roots of the Chicago Board of Trade (founded in 1848) and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (1898). Of course the photographs and the quotes were my favorite part: she showed an image of stock traders in front of a chalkboard – which was how they communicated the fluctuating value of futures until 1967. And for quotes, she had some colorful adages in standard Chicago style: rife with both strong opinions and expletives. As a public speaker myself, I appreciated the alternating between serious points and playful ones since this topic could have easily been made dry.

Visiting the University Club of Chicago

As a side note, “Floored” is a fun documentary that examines the culture of futures trade (which encompasses “derivatives”), focusing on the slow extinction of the custom of open outcry. You know – the gesticulating and crazy suits.

So what it is like to enter this elite club? When you step into the lobby, numerous guards welcome you, immediately asking if you are a member or who you are meeting. And they make sure you will abide by rules and dress code: absolutely no jeans or tennis shoes, no cell phone use, no photos, no if’s and’s or but’s. However I did see a man who did not take his bluetooth off his ear the entire talk. And yes, the “no photos” rule is why you won’t be seeing any pictures from me! The walls are of well-oiled wood, the staircase with elegantly carved banisters. We were in too much a hurry to see the library, but what I did see had books stacked to high ceilings. This building of the University Club of Chicago dates to 1909, and if only the walls could speak…Oh well, don’t expect any Chicago tour of history or architecture to stop in this building any time soon!

–Amanda

When you walk in the door, numerous friendly guards check to see if you are a member or who you are meeting. And they make sure you will abide by rules and dress code: absolutely no jeans or tennis shoes, no cell phone use, no photos. Yes, no photos is why you won’t be seeing any pictures! (However I did see a man who did not take his bluetooth off his ear the entire talk.) The walls are of well oiled wood, the staircase with elegantly carved banisters. We were in too much a hurry to see the library, but what I did see had books stacked to high ceilings. This building of the University Club of Chicago dates to 1909, and if only the walls could speak…

Share:

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on pinterest
Pinterest
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

be a
curious
person!

SIGN UP FOR OCCASIONAL UPDATES FROM CHICAGO DETOURS.

Ellen

Private Tour Coordinator and Tour Guide

There is no shortage of things to discover in Chicago—I love being an urban explorer and uncovering its hidden places. I have an MA in Public History from Loyola University Chicago, and I have worked as a museum educator and kindergarten teacher. My desire to learn new things fuels my passion for educating others, which I get to experience every day as a Chicago tour guide. I live in the northern neighborhood of Rogers Park.

“Our guide Ellen was exceptional and gifted with a great personal touch.”
Robert
GetYourGuide

Jen

Tour Guide

Whether you are a first-time visitor or a lifelong resident, the vibrant history and modern majesty of Chicago never ceases to amaze. I’m a graduate of Columbia College with an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Art. I’ve worked for many years as an educator at City Colleges of Chicago. As tour guide at Chicago Detours, I integrate my enthusiasm for culture and architecture with my passion as an educator. West Town/Noble Square area is home for me.

“Jen was a perfect storyteller and kept us spellbound for hours.”
Heather
TripAdvisor

Elyse

Tour Guide

With our Chicago neighborhoods, vibrant cultural institutions and nearly two centuries of larger-than-life stories, there’s never a dull moment here! I’m a fifth generation Chicagoan and a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. In addition to guiding tours, I’m a creative writer and amateur genealogist. I also enjoy the city’s dynamic theater scene. You can also read overlooked stories from 19th-century newspapers on my “Second Glance History” blog. I live in River North.

Anthony

Tour Guide

Chicago is unique as it always evolves into the future while holding on to the past. I’m fascinated by how people latch on to old architecture but happily pave over others. My background is in theater and performance and I’ve been a tour guide here for more than 10 years. Currently I’m finishing my Master’s in Public History at Loyola University because I love to teach the history of this scrappy city. I’m in the Edgewater neighborhood.

Marie

Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

Chicago’s history is so fascinating, you could spend a lifetime uncovering its secrets…I’m willing to give it a try! I have an M.A. in US History from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and then pursued doctoral studies in Urban History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I love to learn new aspects of Chicago’s rich history and then share my knowledge as a tour guide with Chicago Detours. I live in Ravenswood.

“Marie was a bubbling fountain of information and contagious enthusiasm.”
Lorit
TripAdvisor

Sonny

Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

As a fourth generation Chicagoan, I have been living and loving Chicago by bike, on foot, public transit or automobile. I am a graduate of UIC where through the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, began my eagerness to understand the nature, history and impacts of urban planning and development. It is incredibly rewarding to give back to this wonderful city by helping out in the office of Chicago Detours. I live in the incredibly diverse neighborhood of Albany Park.
“Sonny was extremely knowledgeable about all things Chi-town.”
Wade K
TripAdvisor

Alex

Content Manager and Tour Guide

Chicago has so many neighborhoods, buildings, and by-ways that it’s hard to go long without seeing something new, or something familiar from a new angle. I studied Cinema History for my M.A. from the University of Chicago. I’ve worked as a culture writer for various publications and as an educator of the humanities at the City Colleges of Chicago. I’m thrilled to share my love of this city’s busy past and unique architectural spaces with Chicago Detours. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park.

“Alex was fascinating to listen to. He clearly knows his history and it shows.”
Katie K
Yelp

Amanda Scotese

Executive Director and Tour Guide

I’m an interpreter of personal stories from the past and the city’s landscape. I love to imagine what originally happened inside old unmarked buildings, and what forces have shaped their design. I studied Chicago history, architectural history, and anything Chicago-related through my M.A. in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. My love for stories was enriched by my B.A. in Literature from the University of Michigan. I’ve written travel articles for publications like Rick Steves’ Italy best-selling travel guides, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and The Chicago Food Encyclopedia. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of West Avondale.
“You can TELL Amanda is hyper-passionate about doing the research and getting the story that nobody’s heard before.”
Shelby F
Yelp

Book a virtual tour

Fill in your details below