About the Book

In the latter part of the nineteenth century, Welsh settlers who made their way to the shores of lake Michigan in America's heartland became key contributors to the growth and development of, what was to become, the country's second largest city: Chicago. From 1833 on - when there was little more than an Indian trading center on that spot and a population of only 350 - Chicago grew more rapidly than any other urban center on the planet. By 1893, a mere sixty years later, it had evolved into a vibrant, modern metropolis with over one million citizens.

A strong and identifiable Welsh community developed within the city as a number of Welsh churches, active benevolent and cultural societies, and a plethora of Welsh events brought citizens from Wales together in unity and fellowship. Their crowning achievement was the grand spectacle of the largest Eisteddfod (a traditional cultural and music festival) to be held outside Wales during the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. The Cambrian Benevolent Society of Chicago alone - founded by and for Welsh citizens of the city - boasted a membership of 2,000 at that time.

The contributions of the Welsh to the city's growth have been largely overlooked due, maybe, to their comparatively small numbers. But they were undoubtedly here, weaving unquestionably vital threads within the fabric of the young city. A selection of stories of their life journeys, from the old country to the heart of a new America, are revealed within the pages of the book.

"Dilys Rana has written a fascinating account of Welsh people's contributions to Chicago's early growth and development. Extensively researched, attractively illustrated (by North Wales graphic artist George Manley) and engagingly written, the book paints a vivid picture of nineteenth-century Chicago's diverse Welsh community, its Welsh institutions, the great World's Fair Eisteddfod of 1893 and the human experience of the individuals who lived both Welsh and American lives in the city. The Welsh who Built Chicago is at the same time an informative and entertaining history and a record of the author's quest in search of an important but neglected story. It is a valuable and welcome work, a great read, and a must for anyone interested in the history of Chicago and of the Welsh people outside Wales."

William D. Jones, Professor of Welsh History, Cardiff University, South Wales
"The author's links with both Wales and Chicago have allowed her to write in a way that the reader feels a personal connection with those early Welsh immigrants and the mark they made. Not to be missed for those with an interest in Welsh culture and its impact on America."

Dr. Megan Williams, Editor, Ninnau, the North-American Welsh newspaper
"An excellently researched account of one of Chicago's foundational immigrant groups."

Matthew Rutherford, Curator of Genealogy and Local History, The Newberry Library, Chicago

Purchase a copy

This is a limited edition volume; available direct from the author. Prices are as follow:

  • $25 US, plus p&p
  • £15, plus p&p

Send an email to place your order.

Now available for purchase from the following bookstores in Wales

  • The Bookshop, High Street, Mold, Flintshire
  • Siop y Siswrn, Mold, Flintshire
  • Llyffrgell Genedlaethol Cymru, The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth
  • Cardiganshire Family History Society, Llangeithio, Tregaron 
  • Oriel Ynys Mon bookshop, Llangefni, Anglesey. 
  • Siop Clwyd, Denbigh
  • Elfair, Clwyd Street, Ruthin, Denbighshire. 
  • Cwpwrdd Cornel, Llangefni, Anglesey