Chicago, Illinois

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Jump to: navigation, search
"Chicago" redirects here. For other uses, see Chicago (disambiguation).
Chicago, Illinois
City flag City seal
City nickname: "The Windy City"
City motto: Urbs In Horto (Latin: "City in a Garden")

Location in the state of Illinois

Location in Chicagoland
Counties Cook County, Illinois

DuPage County, Illinois[1]

 - Total
 - Water

606.1 km² (234.0 mi²)
17.8 km² (6.9 mi²) 2.94%
 - Total (2000)
 - Metropolitan
 - Density

Time zone Central: UTC–6
Location 41° 54′ 00″ N, 87° 39′ 00″ W
Mayor Richard M. Daley
City website

Chicago, colloquially known as the "Second City" and the "Windy City", is the third-largest city in population in the United States, following New York City and Los Angeles, and the largest inland city in the country. Chicago is located in the Midwestern state of Illinois along the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan. When combined with its suburbs and eight surrounding counties, the greater metropolitan area known as Chicagoland encompasses a population greater than 9 million people.

Growing from a frontier town in 1833 to one of the world's premier cities, Chicago is ranked as one of 10 "Alpha" (most influential) world cities by the Globalization and World Cities Study Group & Network. The city has long been known as a financial, industrial, and transportation center and for its ethnic diversity. Chicago's skyscrapers, local cuisine, political traditions, and sports teams are some of the most recognized symbols of the city. A variety of colloquial nicknames reflect Chicago's unique character.

A resident of Chicago is referred to as a Chicagoan. About one-third of Chicagoans are White, another third African-American, and the rest Hispanic or from other ethnic groups. Chicago also has many dozen distinct neighborhoods to match the ethnic diversity; the city is divided into 77 official community areas.



Main article: History of Chicago

Early days

During the mid 1700s, the Chicago area was inhabited primarily by Potawatomis, who took the place of the Miami and Sauk and Fox who had controlled the area previously. The name Chicago originates from "Checagou" (Chick-Ah-Goo-Ah) or "Checaguar," which in the Potawatomi language means "garlic" (not "onions" or "skunk"). The area was so named because of the smell of rotting marshland wild leeks (ramps) that once covered it.

The first non-native settler in Chicago was Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, a Haitian of African descent, who settled on the Chicago River in the 1770s and married a local Potawatomi woman. In 1795, following the War of the Wabash Confederacy, the area of Chicago was ceded by the Native Americans in the Treaty of Greenville to the United States for a military post. In 1803, Fort Dearborn was built and remained in use until 1837, except between 1812 and 1816 when it was destroyed in the Fort Dearborn Massacre during the War of 1812.

Incorporation and growth

Chicago, looking North from State and Washington Streets
Chicago, looking North from State and Washington Streets

On August 12, 1833, the Town of Chicago was incorporated with a population of 350. The first boundaries of the new town were Kinzie, Desplaines, Madison, and State streets, which included an area of about three-eighths of a square mile (1 km²).

Within seven years the primarily French and Native American town had a population of over 4,000. Chicago was granted a city charter by Illinois on March 4, 1837. The opening of the Illinois and Michigan Canal in 1848 allowed shipping from the Great Lakes through Chicago to the Mississippi River and on to the Gulf of Mexico. The first rail line to Chicago, the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad, was completed the same year. These projects foreshadowed Chicago's eventual development into the transportation hub of the United States. Chicago also became home to national retailers, including Montgomery Ward and Sears, Roebuck and Company, offering catalog shopping using the city's expansive transportation connections.

The Home Insurance Building in Chicago, the world's first skyscraper.
The Home Insurance Building in Chicago, the world's first skyscraper.

The geography of Chicago presented early citizens with many problems. The prairie bog nature of the area provided a fertile ground for disease-carrying insects. Early on, Chicago's population and commerce growth was stymied by lack of good transportation infrastructure but this soon changed. During spring, Chicago was so muddy from the high water that horses would be stuck past their legs in the street. One dirt road was so hazardous that it became known as the "Slough of Despond". Comical signs proclaiming "Fastest route to China" or "No Bottom Here" were placed to warn people of the mud.

To address these transportation problems, the Board of Cook County Commissioners decided to improve two country roads toward the west and southwest. The first road crossed the "dismal Nine-mile swamp" and Des Plaines River to the west, then continued southwest to Walker's Grove, now known as Plainfield. The second road headed south, but its exact route is disputed.

Early Chicago was also plagued by sewer and water problems. Many people described it as the filthiest city in America. To solve the problems, the city initiated the creation of a massive sewer system. In the first phase sewage pipes were laid across the city above-ground, with gravity moving the waste. The second phase, executed in 1855, involved raising the level of the city by four to seven feet (one to two meters); this was done by jacking up buildings and placing fill in order to raise streets above the swamp and the newly-laid sewer pipes.

By 1857, Chicago was the largest city in what was then known as the Northwest. In a period of 20 years, Chicago's population grew from 4,000 to over 90,000 people.

The 1860 Republican National Convention in Chicago nominated home-state candidate Abraham Lincoln for U.S. president.

At the election of April 23, 1875 the voters of Chicago chose to operate under the Illinois Cities and Villages Act of 1872. Chicago still operates under this act in lieu of a charter. The Cities and Villages Act has been revised several times since, and may be found in Chapter 65 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes.

Great Chicago Fire

Main article: Great Chicago Fire

In 1871, most of the city burned in the Great Chicago Fire. The damage from the fire was immense; 300 people died, 18,000 buildings were destroyed and nearly 100,000 of the city's 300,000 residents were left homeless. One of the factors contributing to the fire's spread was the abundance of wood; the streets, sidewalks and many buildings were built of wood. Some would say that this is what has led to the current tradition of most Chicagoans building with brick and steel.

While at the time the fire damage was devastating, history has shown that it proved to be a benefit to the city and surrounding communities. It afforded city planners the opportunity to begin with a clean slate and fix the mistakes of the past. In the following years it lead to a building boom that cemented the city's status as the transportation hub of america, the building of the world's first skyscraper and the adoption of the grid system. All of these factors contributed to a long term framework for robust and continued growth.

20th century

State Street circa 1907
State Street circa 1907

Lake Michigan, the primary source of fresh water for the city, became highly polluted from the rapidly growing industries in and around Chicago. Needing a new source of clean water, the city built tunnels below Lake Michigan to new water inlet stations ("cribs") two miles (three km) offshore. However, spring rains and the Chicago River still carried pollution to the inlet stations. In 1900 the water-supply problem was solved by an engineering project that switched the flow of the Chicago river away from the lake and into the new Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

During Prohibition, Chicago was arguably the organized-crime capital of the nation. Infamous crime lords, including Frank Nitti, George "Bugs" Moran, and Al Capone, thrived in Chicago, virtually unchallenged by the city's police force. The most famous incident attributed to Chicago's crime syndicates is the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, in which Capone's men gunned down seven unarmed rivals in a warehouse on the North Side. The only group that was ever able to threaten Capone and his fellow gangsters was The Untouchables, a special taskforce led by U.S. Treasury Officer Elliot Ness. Although organized crime in Chicago is no longer as active as it was during Prohibition, the Chicago chapter of the Italian-American Mafia, known as "The Outfit," is still considered to be very powerful.

In 1955, the head of the city's Democratic political machine, Richard J. Daley, was elected mayor. His twenty-one year tenure until his death is arguably one of the most powerful and impacting mayoralties in the city's history. Under Daley's rule, Chicago's Loop had a building boom that continues to this day while many residential neighborhoods became impoverished, some extremely so. O'Hare International Airport, many skyscrapers including the Sears Tower, and most of Chicago's expressway system were built or expanded during his tenure.

The late 20th century was also witness to a massive construction of new skyscrapers, especially in the downtown area. The newest of these buildings is the Trump Tower Chicago, which is being built by billionaire Donald Trump on the site of the Chicago Sun-Times building on the Chicago River. A recent plan by developer Fordham Co. to build a 2,000 foot tall tower (with spire) along Lake Shore Drive has been proposed but will have to clear major political and financial hurdles before it is approved.

Related topics


Main article: Geography of Chicago
USGS Landsat Image
USGS Landsat Image
Chicago River from Michigan Ave.
Chicago River from Michigan Ave.

Chicago is located in northeastern Illinois at the southwestern tip of Lake Michigan. When Chicago was founded in the 1830s most of the early building began around the mouth of the Chicago River. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Chicago has a total area of 606.1 km² (234.0 mi²), of which 588.3 km² (227.1 mi²) is land and 17.8 km² (6.9 mi²) is water. The total area is 2.94% water. The city has been built on relatively flat land; the average height of land is 579 feet (176 meters) above sea level. The city lies beside Lake Michigan and two rivers, the Chicago in downtown and the Calumet in the industrial far South Side, entirely or partially flow through Chicago. The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal connects the Chicago River with the Des Plaines River, which runs to the west of the city.


Main article: Climate of Chicago

Chicago has a temperate climate, typical of the U.S. Midwest, with hot summers and frigid winters, subject to extremes in both seasons (though Lake Michigan has a moderating effect close to shore). Weather typical of each season can arrive unusually early or late. For example, it has snowed in September (1942) and reached 90 °F (33 °C) in March (1982). The greatest recorded single-day temperature difference was more than 65 °F (31 °C) on (February 8, 1900).

Chicago in winter
Chicago in winter

In a typical Chicago summer, average high temperatures are 72 °F to 84 °F (23 °C to 28 °C), with overnight lows averaging 62 °F (17 °C). Yearly precipitation averages about 33 inches (838 mm). Summer is the rainiest season, with short-lived rainfall and thunderstorms more common than prolonged rainy periods. On average, temperatures exceed 90 °F (33 °C) on 14 days each summer. The highest temperature reached in Chicago is an unofficial 109 °F (44 °C) on July 24, 1935.

Winter in Chicago is a variable and fickle season. On average Chicago receives a total of 37.0 inches (95 cm) of snow, though total snowfall has ranged from 9.8 to 87.0 inches (25 and 223 cm). Typical snowfall accumulation is around 2 inches (5 cm), but about once a year Chicago experiences 10 to 14 inches (26 to 36 cm) of snow in one day. Temperatures can vary widely in the span of one week, and extended periods of temperatures below 32 °F (0 °C) are not uncommon in January and February. The temperature in January averages about 25 °F (-4 °C) in the afternoon and 10 °F (-12 °C) at night. Temperatures drop below 0 °F (-18 °C) an average of 15 days each winter. Although rare, the temperature can climb to 50 °F (10 °C) or higher in winter.

2004 Chicago Earthquake

An earthquake registering about 4.3 on the Richter scale shook some buildings in Chicago at 1:10 A.M. on June 28, 2004. The epicenter of the earthquake was in Ottawa, Illinois and sparked worries that the New Madrid fault might become active again. An earthquake of 6 or higher in the Missouri Fault might cause moderate to high damage in Chicago.

Law and government

Main article: Law and Government of Chicago

The government of the City of Chicago is divided into executive and legislative branches. The mayor is the chief executive, elected by general election for a term of four years. The mayor appoints commissioners and other officials who oversee the various departments. The current mayor is Richard M. Daley, a Democrat. In addition to the mayor, Chicago's two other citywide elected officials are the clerk and the treasurer. The City Council is the legislative branch and is made up of 50 aldermen, one elected from each ward in the city. The council enacts local ordinance and approves the city budget. Government priorities and activities are established in a budget ordinance usually adopted each November. The council takes official action through the passage of ordinances and resolutions.


Former Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley once led a political machine called the Chicago Democratic Machine. Another point of interest is the party leanings of the city. For much of the last century, Chicago has been considered one of the largest Democratic strongholds in the United States. For example, the citizens of Chicago have not elected a Republican mayor since 1927, when William Thompson was voted into office. Today only one Alderman member is Republican.

Chicago's politics lean famously to the left compared to the rest of the midwest, and it is often said that Chicago is the "East Coast" of the Midwest. All precincts of the city voted for Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004. Social liberalism is strong in the city, with a strong majority of Chicagoans supporting welfare programs and the pro-choice movement. In 2004, Mayor Richard M. Daley rejected a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage in the city. The issue was controversial especially in Illinois, since the state is arguably the most varied in terms of liberal urban areas vs conservative rural areas. In partisan elections, such as for the State Legislature and U.S. Congress, most elections are won by Democrats, such as the landslide win of Barack Obama in 2004.

Law enforcement

A Chicago police car
A Chicago police car

The Chicago Police Department, also known as the CPD, is the principal law enforcement agency of Chicago, under the jurisdiction of the mayor of Chicago. It is the largest police department in the U.S. Midwest and the second largest in the nation (with 13,619 sworn officers and 2,625 other employees as of 2003), and one of the oldest organized police forces in the world. Currently, the Chicago Police Department is nationally accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. There are twenty-five police districts, each led by a commander. Each commander oversees a network of administrative and operational departments that include patrol officers, detective forces, and other investigative units. Commanders report to the superintendent of police who in turn is subject to the authority of the mayor of Chicago.

Related topics

People and culture


City of Chicago
Population by year [2]
1840 4,470
1850 29,963
1860 112,172
1870 298,977
1880 503,185
1890 1,099,850
1900 1,698,575
1910 2,185,283
1920 2,701,705
1930 3,376,438
1940 3,396,808
1950 3,620,962
1960 3,550,404
1970 3,366,957
1980 3,005,072
1990 2,783,726
2000 2,896,016

People living in Chicago are called "Chicagoans." The term is also sometimes applied to those living in one of the neighboring communities.

As of the census2 of 2000, there are 2,896,016 people, 1,061,928 households, and 632,909 families residing in the city of Chicago proper. This encompasses about one-fifth of the entire population of the state of Illinois and 1% of the population of the United States. The population density is 4,923.0/km² (12,750.3/mi²). There are 1,152,868 housing units at an average density of 1,959.8/km² (5,075.8/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 41.97% White, 36.77% Black or African American, 0.36% Native American, 4.35% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 13.58% from other races, and 2.92% from two or more races. Of the population, 26.02% are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

Children playing in Chicago's Millennium Park
Children playing in Chicago's Millennium Park

The city itself makes up 23.3% percent of the total population of Illinois, down from a top 44.3% in 1930.

Chicago's unique culture arises from it being a melting pot, with nearly even percentages of Caucasians and African-Americans and a sizeable Hispanic minority. The main European ethnic groups in Chicago are the Irish, Germans, Italians and Polish. Chicago has a large Irish-American population on its South Side. Many of Chicago's politicians have come from this population, including the current mayor, Richard M. Daley. Chicago has the largest populaton of Swedish-Americans of any city in the US, numbering 123,000. After the Chicago fire, many Swedish carpenters helped to rebuild the city, which is why it is sometimes called the city the Swedes built. Chicago has the largest ethnically Polish population outside of Poland, making it one of the most important Polonia centers. It is also considered to be the second-largest Serbian, Lithuanian and Greek city in the world. The city also has the country's largest Assyrian population, numbering as many as 80,000.

There are 1,061,928 households, of which 28.9% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.1% are married couples living together, 18.9% have a female householder with no husband present, and 40.4% are non-families. Of all households, 32.6% are made up of individuals and 8.7% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.67 and the average family size is 3.50. Of the city population, 26.2% are under the age of 18, 11.2% are from 18 to 24, 33.4% are from 25 to 44, 18.9% are from 45 to 64, and 10.3% are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 32 years. For every 100 females there are 94.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 91.1 males. The median income for a household in the city is $38,625, and the median income for a family is $42,724. Males have a median income of $35,907 versus $30,536 for females. The per capita income for the city is $20,175. Below the poverty line are 19.6% of the population and 16.6% of the families. Of the total population, 28.1% of those under the age of 18 and 15.5% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

Museums and galleries

In 1998, the City of Chicago officially opened the Museum Campus, a 10 acre lakefront park surrounding three of the city's main museums, the Field Museum of Natural History, the Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium. The Museum Campus was constructed on the southern section of Grant Park. The construction project involved re-routing Lakeshore Drive to make room for the new park. Grant Park is also home to Chicago's other major downtown museum, the Art Institute of Chicago. Some other major museums and galleries of the Chicago area include:

  • Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave. One of the premier art museums in the United States. Famous pieces include American Gothic by Grant Wood, and A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat. The Museum is partnered with The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
    The skull of the T. rex Sue on display at the Field Museum
    The skull of the T. rex Sue on display at the Field Museum
  • Chicago Cultural Center (Home Page), 78 E. Washington St. Built in 1897 as Chicago's first public library, the building now houses the city's Visitor Information Center, galleries, and exhibit halls. The ceiling of Preston Bradley Hall includes a 38-foot Tiffany glass dome.
  • Field Museum of Natural History, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago's natural history museum. Highlights include Sue, the largest Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton in the world as well as a great, kids-friendly Egyptian exhibit.
  • Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Ave. Art of all types from around the world made since 1945.
  • Oriental Institute, part of the University of Chicago, one of the best collections of ancient Egyptian and Near Eastern archeology in the world.
  • Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. Lake Shore Dr. Located on the Museum Campus, the Shedd Aquarium is home to a large collection of marine life from throughout the world. The Pacific Northwest–themed Oceanarium features dolphins, whales, and other animals from the region, as well as a panoramic view of Lake Michigan. The aquarium is also largest indoor aquarium in the world.
  • Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive,
  • Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, 1300 S. Lake Shore Dr.

Performing arts

A Promotional Sign for Chicago's "Second City" Comedy Troupe.
A Promotional Sign for Chicago's "Second City" Comedy Troupe.
See also: Chicago theatre

Chicago is a well-known theater capital and a mecca for improvisational comedy. The city is home to The Second City and ImprovOlympic, two of the largest comedy troupes in the world. Many world-famous actors and comedians are Chicagoans or came to study in the area, particularly at Northwestern University in Evanston.

Since its founding in 1976 as an ensemble effort, Steppenwolf Theatre Company on the city's north side has nurtured a generation of gifted actors, directors and playwrights and grown into an internationally renowned company of thirty-five artists. Many other theatres, from new performances spaces to landmark houses like the Chicago Theatre on State and Lake, present a wide variety of plays and musicals, both touring shows and original works, such as the premiere in December 2004 of the Tony Award winner for Best Musical in 2005, Spamalot.

The Lyric Opera of Chicago was founded in 1954 and performs in the Civic Opera Building, which was built in 1929 on the east bank of the Chicago River and is the second-largest opera auditorium in North America, with 3,563 seats. The Lyric Opera purchased the Civic Opera House from the building's owner in 1993. The company has reported an average of 100% sales for the past 16 years and approximately 34,000 subscribers for its six-month season.


Chicago has made many significant pop-cultural contributions. In the field of music, Chicago is well-known for its Chicago blues, Chicago soul, Jazz, and Gospel. It is known as the birthplace of the House style of music, whose history is related to the development and fostering of the techno electronic style of music in nearby Detroit. The Hip-Hop scene in Chicago is also very influential.

The rock band Chicago was named after the city, although its original name was the Chicago Transit Authority. The band's name was shortened to Chicago after the CTA threatened to sue them for unauthorized use of the original. Chicago also has its own Symphony Orchestra, which rivals that of New York as the nation's best.


Chicago's signature foods reflect the city's ethnic and working-class roots. Chicago deep-dish pizza, popularized by Uno and Due pizzerias, is world renowned, although thin-crust and other styles of pizza are also popular throughout the city. A traditional Chicago hotdog is typically loaded with mustard, chopped onion, sliced tomato, pickle relish, celery salt and a dill pickle spear. It is somewhat taboo to put ketchup on a Chicago hotdog, there are actually some small hotdog shops and stands that will refuse service to you if you make the request. A Chicago hotdog is almost always made out of Vienna Beef, the largest provider of hot dog meat for Chicago. Chicago is also known for Italian Beef sandwiches and the Maxwell Street Polish (always served topped with grilled onions and mustard).

Chicago also has a long list of world-renowned upscale dining establishments serving a wide array of cuisine from some of the most well-known chefs in the nation. Some notable destinations include Charlie Trotter's (chef Charlie Trotter) on Armitage in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood, Frontera Grill, a gourmet Mexican restaurant owned by Food Network star Rick Bayless, and The Everest, a new-French restaurant on the top floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange building downtown.


Chicago commands the third-largest market in North America (after New York City and Los Angeles; although Mexico City is larger, its market does not hold such importance) and as such has many different forms of media and outlets to support its status. All of the major US television networks have subsidiaries in Chicago. Chicago's local WGN-TV, which is owned by the Tribune Company, is carried (with some programming differences) as "Superstation WGN" on cable nation-wide.

There are two major daily newspapers published in Chicago, The Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times, with the former having the larger circulation. There are also a number of regional and special-interest papers such as the Daily Southtown and the Chicago Defender.

Chicago is also home to many bloggers and blogs. Local blog sites of note are Gapersblock, FlowFeel and Bookslut.


Despite its prosperity and reputation as a safe city, Chicago's crime situation in the latter half of the 20th century, and the early years of the 21st, has often been less than ideal. In addition to its gangland problems, starting in the late 1960s Chicago, like many other major American cities, saw a major rise in violent crime which took decades to reverse. Murders in the city peaked first in 1974, with 970 murders for the year when the city's population was over three million, resulting in a murder rate of around 28.8 per 100,000; and again in 1992, with 943 murders for the year when the city had fewer than three million people, resulting in a murder rate of 33.87 per 100,000. Following 1992, the murder count slowly petered down to 703 by 1999; by this time, it had the most murders of any big city in the country and continued to until 2004. That year, after adopting crime-fighting techniques recommended by the New York Police Department and the Los Angeles Police Department, Chicago recorded 448 homicides, the lowest total since 1965. Despite the impressive gains, however, the city's murder rate of 15.65 (going by the 2004 population estimate) is still higher than those of New York, Boston, San Francisco, and even Los Angeles.

Chicago has been among the first US cities to build an integrated emergency response center to coordinate the city's response to terrorist attacks, gang violence, and natural disasters in the city. Built in 1995, the center is integrated with over 2000 cameras, a direct link to the National Counter-Terrorism Center, and communications with all levels of city government. Recently installed anti-crime cameras have been introduced and are capable of pinpointing gunshot sounds, calculating where the shots were fired, and pointing and zooming the cameras in the direction of the shots. So far early results show these new cameras to be highly effective in reducing crime within a 2 block radius. Placed in residential areas, these cameras cause some Chicagoans to feel uneasy about being so closely watched. They have prompted some calls of discrimination since these cameras are prevelant in Black and Latino communities.

The FBI often does not accept crime statistics submitted by the Chicago Police Department, which tallies data differently than other cities. For instance, the police record all criminal sexual assaults as opposed to only rape, like other police departments do; and aggravated battery is counted along with the standard category of aggravated assault. As a result, Chicago is often omitted from studies like Morgan Quitno's annual "Safest/Most Dangerous City" survey.


Main article: Economy of Chicago

Chicago has been a center for commerce in the United States for most of its modern history. Today, Chicago remains the United States' second financial center with the nation's second largest central business district and third largest gross metropolitan product. In fact, Chicago's gross metropolitan product would rank 18th in the world if it were a nation-state, at approximately 380 billion dollars.

Before it was incorporated as a town in 1833, the primary industry was the fur trade. Chicago's early explosive growth led many land speculators and enterprising individuals to the area. Situated on the Great Lakes and with so many new people settling the area, Chicago became an ideal location for shipping and receiving goods. With that, many railroads started to be built from Chicago to other parts of the country, further aiding the growth of the city. Additionally, the building of the Illinois and Michigan Canal helped move goods south down the Mississippi River. In the 1840s, Chicago became the largest grain port in the world, shipping food from the Mississippi Valley region which was also growing into the largest food-producing region in the world. In 1848, Chicago built its first grain elevator, and, in 1858 there were twelve grain elevators dotting the skyline. Carl Sandburg described Chicago as a "stacker of wheat", and some would argue that the grain elevators were Chicago's first skyscrapers. In the 1850s and 1860s Chicago's pork and beef industry exploded. Great entrepreneurs such as Gustavus Swift and Philip Armour helped the area to become the largest producer of meat products in the world at the time. By 1862, Chicago had displaced Cincinnati, Ohio, as "Porkopolis". During the 1860s two factors helped this development: first, the Civil War increased the demand for food products, and Chicago's transportation network ensured that goods could be delivered quickly to soldiers all over the northern United States; and second, meat packing plants began to utilize ice. Before this time, meat production and distribution facilities, otherwise known as disassembly plants, had to shut down in the hot summer months. More operating months meant hundreds of thousands of new man-hours in which people could work. The efficiency of Chicago's meat packing industry and its disassembly plants inspired others such as Henry Ford when he developed Model-T assembly lines. Today, we consider industries such as steel, oil, and banking to be the great global market segments, but in the 1860s Chicago's pork and beef industry represented the first global industry. As the major meat companies grew in Chicago many, such as Armour, created global enterprises and communicated with divisions spread across the globe via telegraph.

Modern-day futures and commodity trading markets were pioneered in Chicago. A number of events led to this, along with Chicago's transportation systems and geographic proximity to the rest of the country. Massive amounts of goods passed through Chicago from places in the Mississippi Valley such as St. Louis, Missouri. Grain was stored in Chicago, and people began buying contracts on it. Later, people as far away as New York City began buying contracts by telegraph on the goods that would be stored in Chicago in the future. From this were established the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT), the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), and the modern systems we use today for futures and commodity trading.

Related topics


Entrance to the University of Chicago's main quadrangle
Entrance to the University of Chicago's main quadrangle

Public education

The Chicago Public Schools (commonly abbreviated as CPS) is the school district that controls over 600 public elementary and high schools in Chicago. It is currently the third largest school district in the United States, with more 400,000 students enrolled in the school district and is led by CEO Arne Duncan. The CPS also includes a number of selective-admission "magnet" schools, including some of the best in the country. Whitney Young Magnet High School (longtime United States Academic Decathlon winners), Albert G Lane Technical Academy, Walter Payton College Prep and Northside College Preparatory High School have all topped the lists.

Higher education

Chicago and nearby Evanston are home to two of the nation's most prestigious universities, Northwestern University in Evanston and the University of Chicago in Hyde Park. The Illinois Institute of Technology in Bronzeville has notable engineering and architecture programs. The city is also home to several honored Catholic universities, including DePaul University in Lincoln Park, and Loyola University in Rogers Park and Edgewater. The Chicago campus of the state's top public university, the University of Illinois at Chicago, is one of the nation's largest urban public universities. Many of these institutions have downtown campuses as well as suburban locations. A number of smaller colleges are known for fine arts education, including Roosevelt University, Columbia College Chicago, and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The Chicago region boasts 12 accredited theological schools representing most mainline Protestant traditions, including the city's oldest institution of higher education, the United Church of Christ-related Chicago Theological Seminary, the United Methodist run Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, the Epsicopal Seabury-Wesleyan and multiple Roman Catholic institutions; the schools are joined in a consortium known as the Association of Chicago Theological Schools (ACTS). Another well-known Christian school in downtown Chicago is the Moody Bible Institute. The city also has a community college system known as the City Colleges of Chicago.

Related topics


U.S. Cellular Field on Chicago's South Side. Home of the Chicago White Sox
U.S. Cellular Field on Chicago's South Side. Home of the Chicago White Sox

Chicago is one of the few cities in the United States with two professional baseball teams (Cubs, White Sox), professional football (Bears), soccer (Fire), basketball (Bulls, WNBA Sky), and professional hockey (Blackhawks). In addition, Chicago has a minor-league hockey team (Wolves). Chicago sports teams have a high visibility throughout the nation for many reasons. The Chicago Cubs play in one of the most famous stadiums in baseball, Wrigley Field, reknowned for age, historic value, and classic style. "Da Cubs" are also famous for being "loveable losers" who despite not being the most successful team always seem to be have a full stadium of dedicated fans. The Chicago White Sox won the World Series in 2005, with a police estimated crowd of 1.75 million Chicago fans turning out to cheer on the victory parade. The Chicago Bears football team has been home to some favorite NFL personalities and icons like George Halas, Dick Butkus, William "Refrigerator" Perry, Mike Ditka, and legendary Walter Payton to name a few. The Chicago Bulls of the NBA are argueably the the most recognized basketball team in the world thanks to the heriocs of the player who is usually cited as the best basketball player the world has ever seen, Michael Jordan. The hometown TV station WGN being broadcast nation-wide also has helped spread the visibility of Chicago sports, much like TBS has helped make the Atlanta Braves one of America's famous teams. In the early history of the city, sports were at the heart of some founding legends. During the city's boomtown days local authorities staged a dog fight, knowing that it would attract some of the more unsavory characters on the town's crime scene. As soon as the fight began, police moved in and arrested every criminal and escorted them to the city borders. While the complete truth of the story is sometimes doubted, it is important as an early Chicago legend and does reflect the early days of sports in the city. Early Chicago had only the most primitive of sports. Until about 1850, men outnumbered women and this male-dominated subculture encouraged gambling and drinking, as well as activities such as billiards and horse racing. The city of Chicago has announced that it will bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Club Sport League Stadium Logo
Chicago Bears Football National Football League Soldier Field Chicago Bears Logo
Chicago Blackhawks Hockey National Hockey League United Center Chicago Blackhawks Logo
Chicago Bulls Basketball National Basketball Association United Center Chicago Bulls Logo
Chicago Cubs Baseball Major League Baseball: National League Wrigley Field Chicago Cubs Logo
Chicago Fire Soccer Major League Soccer Soldier Field Chicago Fire Logo
Chicago White Sox Baseball Major League Baseball: American League U.S. Cellular Field (New Comiskey Park) Chicago White Sox Logo

Related topics


Chicago is considered to be the premier transportation hub in America. Much of this status stems from its geographic proximity during a time when the United States was growing quickly in population and area. The Illinois and Michigan Canal, completed in 1848, allowed for transportation around the world with connecting waterways through Chicago all the way to New York and the Atlantic Ocean, west to St. Louis, and south to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico. Chicago then became one of the largest grain and lumber ports in the world, with grain being sent to more established populations and lumber being sent to the forest-starved prairies where new settlers needed to build. Even today, Chicago's importance in global distribution remains, as it is the third largest inter-modal port in the world after Hong Kong and Singapore.

Public transportation

Chicago 'L'
Chicago Transit Authority
  Red Line
  Orange Line
  Yellow Line
  Green Line
  Blue Line
  Purple Line
  Brown Line
edit this box
Main article: Mass transit in Chicago

The Chicago Transit Authority, or CTA, operates the second largest public transportation system in the United States (to New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority) and covers the City of Chicago and 40 surrounding suburbs. The CTA operates 24 hours a day and, on an average weekday, 1.4 million rides are taken on the CTA. CTA has approximately 2,000 buses that operate over 152 routes and 2,273 route miles. Buses provide about 1 million passenger trips a day and serve more than 12,000 posted bus stops. CTA's 1,190 rapid transit cars operate over seven routes and 222 miles of track. CTA trains provide about 500,000 customer trips each day and serve 144 stations in Chicago, Evanston, Skokie, Wilmette, Rosemont, Forest Park, Oak Park and Cicero. Chicago is one of the few cities in the world that provides rapid transit service to two major airports. From the downtown area the CTA's Blue Line takes customers to O'Hare International Airport in about 40 minutes and the Orange Line takes customers to Midway Airport in about 30 minutes from the loop.

Metra operates commuter rail service at over 200 stations in Chicago and its suburbs.

Pace operates a primarily-suburban bus service that also offers some routes into Chicago.

Street system and highways

Main article: Streets and highways of Chicago

The streets of Chicago primarily follow the grid system established by the Chicago City Council in 1908 and implemented on September 1, 1909. The baselines for numbering streets and buildings are State Street (east-west numbering) and Madison (north-south numbering). Street numbers begin at "1" at the baselines and run numerically in directions indicated to the city limits. Letters, N,S,E and W indicate directions.

The City of Chicago is divided into one-mile sections which contain eight blocks to the mile (though the street grid is not entirely uniform). Each block's addresses occupy a 100-number range, so a range of 800 address numbers covers approximately one mile. There are three exceptions to the 800-to-a-mile rule: Madison (the north-south zero point) to Roosevelt at 1200 south is one mile, as is Roosevelt to Cermak at 2200 south, and Cermak to 31st Street (3100 south). The regular 800-per-mile range resumes south of 31st Street so that 39th Street (3900 south) is one mile south of 31st Street. Even-numbered addresses are on the north and west sides of streets; odd-numbered address are on the south and east sides.

Seven interstate highways run through Chicago, more than any other city in the nation. Segments that link to the city center are named after influential politicians, and traffic reports tend to use the names rather than interstate numbers. The named interstate segments are the Kennedy Expressway (I-90 From the 'Loop' to O'Hare International Airport), Dan Ryan Expressway (I-90/94, From South of the 'Circle Interchange' to the I-57 Split), Stevenson Expressway (I-55), Edens Expressway (I-94), Eisenhower Expressway (I-290), and the Tri-State Tollway (I-294). Interstate 57 is not named.


The American Airlines terminal at O'Hare International Airport
The American Airlines terminal at O'Hare International Airport
Main article: Airports of Chicago

In the 20th century, Chicago held on to its status as the nation's transportation hub with the building of three airports: O'Hare International Airport, Midway Airport, and Meigs Field. Meigs Field, which was closed by Mayor Richard M. Daley in a nighttime coup, was a relatively small airstrip but unique because of its proximity to Chicago's downtown, and as an airstrip for private planes it was one of the busiest in the world. Northerly Island, the land on which Meigs sat, reverted to its original status as parkland, and is now a park and nature center. In the 21st century, Chicago is working toward maintaining its status as the U.S. and international transportation hub by working to expand O'Hare International Airport. Additionally, a new airport has been proposed for Peotone, Illinois, and the city is working toward expanding its ties with the Gary/Chicago International Airport in Gary, Indiana.

Related topics

Health and medicine

The United States has the largest health care system in the world, and Chicago is arguably the capital of that system. The city is first among the major dental and medical training centers in the United States. It is also home to the sprawling Illinois Medical District on the Near West Side, which includes Rush University Medical Center, the University of Illinois at Chicago medical center, and Cook County Hospital, the largest trauma-center in the city and the basis for the hospital in NBC's popular drama ER, as well as the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the American Dental Association, and the American College of Surgeons. The University of Illinois at Chicago includes the largest medical school in the United States (1300 students, including those at campuses in Peoria, Rockford and Urbana-Champaign). Chicago is also home to a large number of nationally recognized medical schools. These include the above-mentioned University of Illinois medical school, Rush Medical College, Chicago Medical School,University of Chicago, Loyola University Chicago, and Northwestern University. The American Osteopathic Association is also located in Chicago.

See also


This audio file was created from the revision dated 2005-07-22, and does not reflect subsequent edits to the article. (audio help)
Wikimedia Commons has media related to:

When creating references please refer to the Wikipedia Cite Sources guidelines.

External links

Local Image Galleries

Flag of Chicago City of Chicago
Geography | History | Government | Places and Landmarks | Schools | Sports | Community Areas | Neighborhoods | Counties of Chicagoland | Economy | Parks
Map of Chicagoland Metropolitan area of Chicagoland
States: Illinois | Indiana | Wisconsin
Largest cities (over 30,000 in 2000): Aurora | Berwyn | Calumet City | Chicago | Chicago Heights | Crystal Lake | Des Plaines | East Chicago | Elgin | Elmhurst | Evanston | Gary, IN | Hammond, IN | Harvey | Highland Park | Joliet | Kenosha, WI | Naperville | North Chicago | Park Ridge | Waukegan | Wheaton
Largest towns and villages (over 30,000 in 2000): Addison | Arlington Heights | Bartlett | Bolingbrook | Buffalo Grove | Carol Stream | Carpentersville | Cicero | Downers Grove | Elk Grove Village | Glendale Heights | Glenview | Hanover Park | Hoffman Estates | Lombard | Merrillville, IN | Mount Prospect | Mundelein | Niles | Northbrook | Oak Lawn | Oak Park | Orland Park | Palatine | Schaumburg | Skokie | Streamwood | Tinley Park | Wheeling | Woodridge
Counties: Cook | DuPage | Kane | Kendall | Kenosha | Lake (IL) | Lake (IN) | McHenry | Will
Personal tools