Sam’s Tavern is a proof of the concepts that drive our organization. It proves also that we practice what we preach about the privilege, obligation, and benefits of setting down life stories. In lieu of a snake-oil sales pitch conveying how passionate we are to fulfill the undeniable need for life-writing, we hope this short book speaks for itself and inspires you to connect with us as clients and co-authors.

This little blue book began as an internal experiment to perfect the Discover phase of our Process (see the inside flap). Painting in broad strokes, projects typically filter into one of two types during this phase. The first are where clients present us an overabundance of materials and archival records. In this instance, our task is to make organized sense by separating the signal from the noise. By contrast, the second type of project, exemplified by “Sam’s Tavern,” involves clients who cannot provide treasure troves from the vaults of their memories.

This story evolved from a mere 45 minutes of impromptu interviews, a picture of patrons inside the tavern, newspaper clippings, genealogical research, and fragments of family lore – some recollected from passing exchanges over the years, others pried out with urgent insistence as days piled up and we grew wise enough to want to learn our history straight from the horse’s mouth. “Sam’s Tavern” began as an experiment to test our hypothesis that dearth during the Discover phase yields books that are just as powerful as projects springing from more copious caches. This humble blue book is the result of that experiment.

“Sam’s Tavern” reflects our fascination with correspondences between, for example, a Chicago tavern and the world stage; between the past and the present; and between our bookmaking and the bookmaking of our great-grandparents Sam and Gladys. This imperfect but authentic life story – born from our mission to make books that enlighten, entertain, and inspire – intends not to romanticize Chicago’s underworld or glorify the past but rather to review our lives by refracting their light through prisms of generational perspective. If it accomplishes nothing else, this experimental recreation of our origins has succeeded in making us better bookmakers.

bioGraph LLC emerged from our interdisciplinary curiosity, obsession with optimization, and instinctual need for human connection. Fueled by a relentless sense of urgency, we established bioGraph to help clients gather answers to questions which they never got around to asking while there was time. Too much faith in the Cloud and social networks lulls us into a complacent assumption that the best stuff of our lives has been documented and preserved; that the wisdom of our predecessors, not to mention our own hard-won wisdom, will be ready to call upon when we want and need it most. But deep down we know that the accumulated scraps of life – posts, paystubs, tweets, receipts, and selfies – mean a heap of nothing if they are not purposefully contextualized by the animating spirit that lived them. We therefore conceive the preservation of life stories not merely as retrospective recollection of ancestors and origins, but also as pre-serving: a proactive form of service for self, family, community, and posterity. Our work is inherently philanthropic in its love for humanity – we engage clients at a level where professional and personal differences, while not ignored, become tributaries of common humanity.