Chicago, Illinois - officially the City of Chicago and colloquially known as Chicago, the Second City and the Windy City - is the third largest city of the United States after New York City and Los Angeles and is the largest inland city of the nation. According to the 2000 census, it has a population of 2,896,016 people. Classified as a world class city, it is the fourth largest in North America and the seventh largest in the Western Hemisphere. The city itself covers 606.1 km² (234.0 mi²) but when combined with its suburbs and eight collar counties, forming the greater metropolitan area known as Chicagoland, it encompasses more than 5,000 mi² with a population that nears approximately 10 million people. Chicago and Chicagoland, when combined with the greater Milwaukee region, is often considered a megacity or megalopolis with a population that nears approximately 12 million people.
A former frontier town in existence for over 175 years, Chicago is located in the midwest state of Illinois along the western shores of Lake Michigan. With several colloquial nicknames, Chicago is ranked by the Globalization and World Cities Study Group and Network as one of the ten alpha world cities. Chicago is known for its cultural and ethnic diversity and frontier and political history. Its unique cuisine, skyscrapers and sports teams are also the most recognized symbols of the city.
Chicago is located in northeastern Illinois at the southwestern tip of Lake Michigan. When the city we know today was initially founded in the 1830s the land was swampy and 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 Chicago 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 southwest of the city.
Chicago has a climate typical of the U.S. Midwest. Sudden changes of weather, large daily temperature ranges, and random precipitation patterns are all staples of Chicago weather. Chicago is known for having hot summers and brutal winters, with extreme temperature changes. The seasons in Chicago are very unpredictable and, although at times very well defined, can linger into months that they do not traditionally occupy. For example, in Chicago it has snowed in September (1942), been 90°F (33°C) in March (1982), and had a day where the high and low temperatures differed by more than 65°F (31°C) in one day (February 8, 1900).
In a typical Chicago summer, temperatures are usually expected to reach anywhere between 72°F and 84°F (23°C and 28°C). Overnight temperatures in summer are usually around 62°F (17°C). Yearly precipitation comes in at an average of about 33 inches (838 mm). Summer in Chicago is prone to thunderstorms, and rainfall events in Chicago in summer are usually confined to short-lived hit-or-miss storms rather than a prolonged rainfall. In a normal summer, temperatures can be expected to exceed 90°F (33°C) on 14 days. Contrary to what one might think, summer is actually the rainiest season in Chicago.
Winter in Chicago is a variable and fickle season. The average Chicago winter produces 37.0 inches (949 mm) of snow. This number can prove unreliable, as Chicago winters have produced between 9.8 and 87.0 inches (251 and 2231 mm) of snow. Snow tends to fall in light accumulations of around 2 inches (51.2 mm), but about once per year Chicago experiences a storm that can produce 10 to 14 inches (256 to 359mm) of snow in one day. Temperatures can vary wildly within the span of one week, but 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 can be expected to drop below 0°F (-18°C) on 15 days throughout the winter season. Although rare, temperatures in Chicago even in the middle of winter can reach 50°F (10°C). The highest temperature ever recorded in Chicago is an unofficial 109°F (44°C) on July 24, 1935.
Law and government
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 ordinances 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.
The modern era of politics is still in many ways dominated by machine politics, a style honed and perfected by Richard J. Daley after his election in 1955. Further evidence of this is the fact that his son, Richard M. Daley, is the current mayor. 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 city council member is Republican.
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.
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 'wild onions' or 'skunk'. The area was so named because of the smell of rotting marshland onions that used to cover 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.
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 7 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 so to the Gulf of Mexico. The first rail line to Chicago, the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad was completed the same year. Chicago would go on to become the transportation hub of the United States with its road, rail, water and later air connections. Chicago also became home to national retailers offering catalog shopping using these connections like Montgomery Ward and Sears, Roebuck and Company.
Due to the geography of Chicago, early citizens faced 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. History shows that this problem was soon remedied. 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 out 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 went west, crossing the "dismal Nine-mile Swamp," crossed the Des Plaines River, and went southwest to Walker's Grove, now known as Plainfield. There is a dispute about the route of the second road to the South.
Early Chicago was also plagued by sewer and water problems. Many people described it as the filthiest city in America. To solve this problem Chicago embarked on 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. Then in 1855 the level of the city was raised four to seven feet (one to two meters), with individual buildings jacked up and fill brought in 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 twenty years Chicago grew from 4,000 people to over 90,000.
The 1860 Republican National Convention in Chicago nominated home state candidate Abraham Lincoln.
At the election of April 23, 1875 the voters of Chicago choose 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
In 1871, most of the city burned in the Great Chicago Fire. The damage was immense : 300 people had died, 18,000 buildings were destroyed and nearly 100,000 of the city's 300,000 residents were left homeless. One of the factors attributed to the fire's spread was the abundance of wood; the streets, sidewalks and many buildings were built of wood. Due to the extensive damage, the city needed to be rebuilt which gave city planners a clean slate to fix the problems of the past. In the following years, Chicago architecture would become influential throughout the world. The first skyscraper in the world, the Home Insurance Building, was constructed in 1885 using novel steel skeleton construction.
During the Prohibition era, Chicago was arguably the organized-crime capital of the nation. The city's infamous crime lords, including Frank Nitty, George "Bugs" Moran, and most famously, Al Capone, thrived in Chicago, virtually unchallenged by the city's police force. The most famous incident that can be attributed to organized crime in Chicago was the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, in which Capone's men brutally gunned down seven unarmed rival gangsters 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 most of the organized crime operations in Chicago fell with the downfall of prohibition, the city still held a reputation for lawlessness and crime for many years after.
Lake Michigan, the primary source of fresh water for the city, was already highly polluted from the rapidly growing industries in and around Chicago, a new way of procuring clean water was needed. The city embarked on a large tunnel excavation project and began building tunnels below Lake Michigan to newly built water cribs. The water cribs were two miles (three kilometers) off the shore of Lake Michigan. The cribs failed to bring enough clean water because spring rains would wash the polluted water from the Chicago River into them. In 1900 this problem was solved by reversing the direction of the Chicago river's flow with the construction of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. The 20th Century has also seen 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 billionarie Donald Trump on the site of the Chicago Sun-Times building on the Chicago River.
- 2004 : Millennium Park opens.
- 2003 : Meigs Field closed.
- 1995 : The Chicago Heat Wave of 1995.
- 1992 : April 13, the Chicago Flood.
- 1983 : Harold Washington became the first African-American Mayor.
- 1979 : May 25, the American Airlines Flight 191 crashes.
- 1979 : Chicago's first woman mayor, Jane M. Byrne, takes office.
- 1978 : Heavy snowstorm and city's perceived slow response lead to upset of incumbent mayor.
- 1978 : First BBS goes online on February 16.
- 1973 : Sears Tower, the tallest building in the world for next 30 years, was completed.
- 1969 : The Chicago 8 trial opens.
- 1969 : The 100-floor John Hancock Center was built.
- 1968 : August 26-August 29, 1968 Democratic National Convention.
- 1960 : The 1st of the Playboy Clubs, featuring bunnies, opened in Chicago.
- 1958 : Our Lady of the Angels School Fire.
- 1958 : The last streetcar ran in the city. At one time, Chicago had the largest streetcar system in the world.
- 1955 : The first McDonald's franchise restaurant, owned by Ray Kroc, opened in the suburb of Des Plaines.
- 1935 : January 19, Coopers Inc. sells the world's first briefs.
- 1934 : John Dillinger was shot by the FBI in the alley next to the Biograph Theater.
- 1933 : Mayor Anton Cermak was killed while riding in a car with President-elect Roosevelt. The assassin was thought to have been aiming for Roosevelt.
- 1933 : Century of Progress World's Fair.
- 1930 : Shedd Aquarium opens.
- 1930 : Adler Planetarium opened, through a gift from local merchant Max Adler. It was the first planetarium in the Western Hemisphere.
- 930 : The Merchandise Mart was built for Marshall Field & Co. The $32 million, 4.2 million square foot (390,000 m²) building was the world's largest commercial building. It was sold it to Joseph P. Kennedy in 1945.
- 1929 : February 14, the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.
- 1927 : Originally called the Chicago Municipal Airport, Midway Airport opened. It was renamed in 1949 to honor the Battle of Midway in WW II. Midway was the world's busiest airport until 1959.
- 1925 : The Tribune Tower was completed on Michigan Avenue. The building's large Gothic entrance contains pieces of stone from other famous buildings : Westminster Abbey, Cologne Cathedral, the Alamo, the Taj Mahal, the Great Pyramid, and the Arc de Triomphe.
- 1919 : July 27, the Chicago Race Riot of 1919.
- 1919 : Real estate broker Archibald Teller opened the first Fannie May candy store.
- 1915 : July 24, the Eastland Disaster.
- 1913 : Great Lakes Storm of 1913
- 1905 : The Industrial Workers of the World was founded in June
- 1894 : May 11-August 2, the Pullman Strike.
- 1893 : First Ferris Wheel built by George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr..
- 1893 : The World Columbian Exposition (World's Fair).
- 1892 : Masonic Temple is, for two years, the tallest building in the world, using highest occupied floor criteria.
- 1891 : Chicago's first elevated railway "The El," went into operation to begin the "Loop" that would circle the city's downtown area.
- 1886 : May 4, the Haymarket Riot.
- 1885 : Home Insurance Building is world's first skyscraper.
- 1871 : October 8-October 10, the Great Chicago Fire.
- 1868 : Rand McNally is formed as a railway guide company.
- 1867 : Construction began on the Water Tower designed by architect W. W. Boyington.
- 1863 : Mercy Hospital becomes the first hospital in Illinois.
- 1860 : September 8, the Lady Elgin Disaster.
- 1855 : Lager Beer Riot.
- 1854 : A cholera epidemic took the lives of 5.5% of the population of Chicago.
- 1851 : Chicago's first institution of higher education, Northwestern University, is founded.
- 1848 : Chicago Board of Trade opens on April 3 by 82 local businessmen.
- 1848 : Illinois and Michigan Canal opens and traffic begins moving through the city at a much higher rate.
- 1847 : The first issue of the Chicago Tribune is printed on June 10.
- 1840 : Chicago's first legally executed criminal, John Stone was hanged on Friday, July 10, for the rape and murder of Lucretia Thompson, a farmer's wife.
- 1837 : C. D. Peacock jewelers was founded. It is the oldest Chicago business still operating today.
- 1837 : Chicago receives its first charter.
- 1818 : Illinois joins the union.
- 1816 : Ft. Dearborn is rebuilt.
- 1812 : August 15, the Fort Dearborn Massacre.
- 1803 : The U.S. Army constructs Ft. Dearborn near the mouth of the Chicago River.
- 1796 : The Potawatomi Indian wife of du Sable delivers Eulalia Pointe du Sable, Chicago's first recorded birth.
- 1795 : Six square miles (16 km²) of land at the mouth of the Chicago River are reserved by the Treaty of Greenville for use by the United States.
- 1779 : Haitian immigrant Jean Baptiste Point du Sable establishes Chicago's first permanent settlement near the mouth of the Chicago River.
- 1705 : Conflicts develop between French traders and the Fox tribe of native Americans. Fort de Chicago is abandoned.
- 1696 : Jesuit missionary Francois Pinet founds the Mission of the Guardian Angel. It is abandoned four years later.
1683 : French Jesuits establish Fort de Chicago, the area's first true European settlement.
1682 : French explorer René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, passes through Chicago en route to the mouth of the Mississippi River.
- 1673 : French-Canadian explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet, on their way to Québec, pass through the area that will become Chicago.
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