Pritzker Military Museum and Library in Chicago

The Pritzker Military Museum and Library is located in the heart of Chicago’s business district and tourist destination known as The Loop. The Pritzker is a research library and is open to the public. There’s a $5 entrance fee for non-members. The museum has special exhibits (WWI is their current focus), an art gallery, and some relatively permanent exhibits such as the one focusing on The Medal of Honor.

They also have a fantastic auditorium for author and speaker events, some of which are streamed or broadcasted. When I lived in the area I attended some of their author events. One that sticks out for me is Karl Marlantes, author of Matterhorn

I was recently back in Chicago for a visit. My mom had never visited the Pritzker, which we were passing en route to lunch at The Berghoff, so we ducked in for a quick look. Here are some photos of our visit.

The Pritzker Military Museum & Library in Chicago, IL (
The Pritzker Military Museum & Library is located on the second floor of The Monroe Building on Michigan Ave, across the street from Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago.
The Pritzker Military Museum & Library in Chicago, IL, Lobby (
When you walk into the Monroe building, you enter this stunning lobby. The Pritzker is on the second floor. You can take the stairs or an elevator up.
Entrance to The Pritzker Military Museum & Library in Chicago, IL (
The entrance to the actual museum & library.
Inside The Pritzker Military Museum & Library in Chicago, IL (
Notice the window clings. General Pershing on the left and President Wilson to the right. The current exhibit focuses on World War I.
Inside the Pritzker Military Museum & Library (
This is a view from the back of the library looking east, towards Michigan Ave and Lake Michigan.
The Kaiser at the Pritzker Military Museum and Library (
A paper-mâché mask of the Kaiser Wilhelm II, the monarch of Germany at the start of WWI, circa 1917. The card below states it was probably used on a parade float or in a play to mock the monarch.
Songs of WWI at the Pritzker Military Museum and Library (
This station played popular songs of the Great War. There are two handsets so two visitors can listen at the same time. I listened to “Over There” and “Good-bye Broadway, Hello France!”
Armia Polska poster at the Pritzker Military Museum and Library (
“Armia Polska We Francyi” or Polish Army in France poster.

I was curious about this poster. Although I was visiting the museum with my German mother, my father was Polish. I don’t know much about Polish history, but I did know that Poland didn’t really exist as a country back then and so didn’t have an army. I found this explanation of the poster on the Boston Athenaeum’s Digital Collections:

In 1914, Poland did not exist as an independent state, and Poles around the world saw the war as an opportunity to re-establish their homeland. It was widely believed that the Allies were more sympathetic to the Polish cause, a belief confirmed by Tsar Nicholas II’s announcement in 1916 that an independent Poland was a goal of the war. In June of 1917, the French government authorized the formation of a Polish Army on French soil, the so-called “Polish Army in France” (also known as the “Blue Army” or “Haller’sArmy”). Nearly 22,000 North American men of Polish descent joined the Blue Army. Most of the recruits were recent immigrants; Polish-Americans citizens eligible to fight in the US Army were prohibited from joining the Polish Army in France. 

The artist W. T. Benda came from his native Poland to New York City in the late 1890s and studied with Robert Henri and Edward Penfield. A highly successful magazine illustrator, Benda was deeply committed to the Polish cause and produced posters for both Poland and America during the World Wars. This poster was one of his most popular; it shows a heroic Polish soldier, gun in hand, and dressed in the grayish-blue French uniform. The Polish eagle is shown prominently on the flag and the soldier’s armband. [source link]

“Even a dog enlists, why not you?”
Eight samples of The Sands of Iwo Jima at the Pritzker Military Museum and Library (
Eight sand samples from the beaches of Iwo Jima.

John Wayne starred in a movie called The Sands of Iwo Jima. I’m not a devotee of The Duke, but I do love that movie. But these sands of Iwo Jima give an idea of how rough the fighting was. Knowing the sand composition of a beach is a crucial factor when planning a military operation. 

William Henry Johnson, Medal of Honor recipient, Pritzker Military Museum and Library (
Henry Johnson received France’s highest award for bravery, the Croix de guerre, in 1918. He was the first American to receive this honor. Johnson wouldn’t receive highest honors from the United States until 2015 when President Obama posthumously awarded him the Medal of Honor. He received 21 wounds while engaged in hand-to-hand combat holding off a German unit. Read about Johnson here.
Foyer of the Monroe Building, Chicago, IL (
After our quiet time in the Pritzker, it was quite the contrast to head back onto the busy streets of Chicago’s Loop.

The Mission of the Pritzker Military Museum & Library is to acquire and maintain an accessible collection of materials and to develop appropriate programs focusing on the citizen soldier in the preservation of democracy.

The Pritzker Military Museum and Library was founded in 2003 by billionaire philanthropist and businesswoman, Colonel Jennifer Pritzker. I was excited to learn it was founded by a woman and then delighted to learn Jennifer was born a man and transitioned in 2013. People easily assume military service and courage go hand-in-hand. I agree, and also believe transgender people are among the most courageous people on earth.

Whether you’re a bookworm, a history buff, or a tired tourist looking for some peace and quiet, the $5 you’ll spend visiting the Pritzker is definitely worth the price of admission.

The Pritzker Military Museum and Library
104 S. Michigan Ave. 2nd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603

To learn more visit their extensive website:


  1. That lobby is stunning – it looks like a cathedral nave in miniature. Its years since I was in Chicago and I didn’t have much time there (it was a business trip) so I just did the main sights but always meant to return

  2. Wow, I’ve never heard of the Pritzker. It looks like a beautiful building, museum, and library – and your photos are wonderful!

    Looks like an interesting visit. My grandfather was at Iwo Jima – he got shot in the butt there and actor Lee Marvin carried him out of the way and saved his life 🙂 Family legend!

    Looks like a nice day spent with your mom.


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