“The Fuller” is awarded by the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame to a Chicago author who has made an outstanding lifetime contribution to literature.
The award was inspired by the literary contributions of Henry Blake Fuller, one of Chicago’s earliest novelists and author of The Cliff-Dwellers and With the Procession. Both novels use the rapidly developing city of Chicago as their setting and are considered by many to be the earliest examples of American realism.
Theodore Dreiser called With the Procession the first piece of American realism that he had encountered and considered it the best of the school, even during the days of his own prominence.
Fuller, in his literature, rebelled against the commercialistic tendencies of post-Chicago Fire Chicago, questioned the wisdom of upward sprawl, and explored themes of homosexuality in a time when to be so was strictly unacceptable. His boldness and commitment to high literature made him one of, if not the, most important first Chicago writers.
There are additional layers of meaning to the word ”fuller.”
A fuller is also a tool used to form metal when it’s hot, an important part of building and a nice metaphor for Chicago, home to the “First Chicago School” of architecture that rose up from the ashes of the Chicago Fire of 1871. Between 1872 and 1879, more than ten thousand construction permits were issued. Chicago emerged as a resilient city that took risks and made bold decisions—using iron and steel to frame its buildings, giving rise to the world’s first skyscraper. The fuller was one such tool that made it happen, a symbol of possibility and perseverance.
Inspired by the sleek lines and art deco style of Chicago sculptor, John Bradley Storrs whose sculpture Ceres is on top of the Board of Trade building, the award statue for the Fuller was based on Hephaestus, the Greek god of the blacksmith’s fire and patron of all craftsmen. According to legend, Hephaestus was the only god who worked, and he was honored for having taught mankind that work is noble and one should excel at their craft. The patron of artists and craftsmen, he seemed a fitting symbol to capture the spirit of excellence embodied by the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame’s Fuller Award.
The Chicago Literary Hall of Fame only inducts historical writers into the Hall of Fame, and so the Fuller was created as a way to acknowledge our greatest living Chicago writers. Gene Wolfe, Harry Mark Petrakis, Haki Madhubuti and Rosellen Brown received the first four Fuller Awards.