‘It is hopeless for the occasional visitor to try to keep up with Chicago. She outgrows his prophecies faster than he can make them.’ Chicago was only 46 years old when Mark Twain wrote those words, but it had already grown from a small trading post at the entrance of the Chicago River into one of the nation’s largest cities.
Over the next 20 years, it’s population increased, and the rest of the world was amazed by the city’s ability to constantly reinvent itself. How did Chicago become the global city we know today? Read these interesting facts about Chicago to grasp the city’s progression over the years…
Chicago’s first permanent settler was businessman, Jean Baptiste du Sable, an African-American man who was from what is now Haiti.
Chicago officially became a city in the state of Illinois in 1837. Today, Chicago is the third-largest city in the United States.
The name Chicago comes from the Algonquin word ‘Chicagou’ or ‘Shikaakwa,’ which translates to ‘wild leek’ or ‘onion’, a plant that grew locally.
The Great Fire of 1871 burned over three and a half square miles of the city, destroying 18,000 structures and taking the lives of over 300 people.
Trash and debris from the Great Fire of 1871 were used to fill in a portion of Lake Michigan to expand Chicago’s, Grant Park.
Tall-building construction was invented in Chicago and the city is known as the ‘Home of the Skyscraper.’ It currently has four of the country’s ten tallest buildings.
The world’s first skyscraper, the Home Insurance Company, was built in 1885 in Chicago.
Today, the Willis Tower in Chicago (formally the Sears Tower) is the second tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.
The world’s first elevated railway was installed in Chicago in 1892. The popular transit is often known as the “L,” which is short for “elevated.”
Downtown Chicago is known as “the Loop,” referencing the shadow the elevated train tracks create in the area.
Chicago was home to the largest meatpacking firm in the world in 1893, with the meatpacking stockyards and surrounding district of the ‘packing town’ being the number one tourist attraction in the city at the time.
The 1906 novel ‘The Jungle’ by Upton Sinclair was based on the cruel and unsafe practices in Chicago’s meatpacking industry.
The first automobile race in the United States was held in Chicago in 1895.
In 1900, Chicago successfully reversed the flow of the Chicago River so it would empty into the Mississippi River instead of Lake Michigan. This was considered a hugely difficult and innovative engineering project.
On St. Patrick’s Day, the Plumbers Union dye the Chicago River a bright shade of Irish green.
Lake Michigan has 26 miles of lakefront, including an 18.5 mile foot path. This area along the lake is also home to 26 beaches.
The entire Chicago shoreline along Lake Michigan is man-made.
The term ‘jazz’ originated in Chicago in 1914. Today, there are more than 25 theatres and 225 music venues in the city.
Prohibition, or the outlaw of the sale and consumption of alcohol, began on the 1st of July, 1919, in Chicago. The night before, the city of Chicago experienced over $2 million in liquor sales.
In the 1920s, Chicago was home to the largest membership of the Ku Klux Klan in the US at 50,000 members.
Al Capone, one of Chicago’s most notorious gangsters, sold over US$60 million of illegal alcohol in 1927 alone during the prohibition.
The first controlled nuclear chain reaction occurred under the stands of Stagg Field football stadium at the University of Chicago in 1942.
The first televised presidential debate was broadcast from Chicago’s CBS station on the 26th of September 1960, a debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.
The Harold Washington Library Centre, home to approximately 6.5 million books, was the world’s largest municipal library when it opened in 1991.
At the end of the 19th century, almost the entire city of Chicago was lifted. Buildings were raised over a period of 20 years in order to match the new street level, which had been built up to accommodate a new sewage and draining system.
Chicago has the largest collection of Impressionist paintings outside of Paris. This collection is housed at the Art Institute of Chicago.
The famous US highway Route 66 begins in Chicago in front of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Chicago is home to over 700 public artworks and more than 125 art galleries.
Chicago has many nicknames, including the Windy City, the City of Big Shoulders, the Second City, and the City that Works.
Chicago’s well-known nickname, the Windy City, was thought to be created by newspapers in rival cities. Several publications used the nickname as a reference not only to the weather but also to Chicago’s politicians and the bragging habits of its citizens.
Chicago is known as the United States’ railroad capital, with over 1,300 trains carrying freight and passengers arriving and departing from the city each day.
Chicago’s large transit system of buses and railways carries 1.7 million passengers on any weekday.
The Field Museum, Chicago
Chicago is home to one of the biggest outdoor food festivals in the world – The Taste of Chicago.
There are more than 2,000 hot dog stands in the city of Chicago, more than the number of Burger Kings, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s restaurants in the city combined.
Chicago is home to the first and largest urban medical district in the United States.
Do you have any interesting or fun facts about Chicago that we’ve not mentioned? Share them here in the comments section below!