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What is the history of Chicago, Illinois, USA?

People, Pictures, Old Postcards and Stories From the Past

Explore Chicago, Illinois, USA. Discover its history. Learn about the people who lived there through stories, old newspaper articles, pictures and genealogy.
Chicago, Cook, Illinois, USA

"Chicago, she-kah'go, the largest city of Illinois, and second in point of population in the United States, is situated at the mouth of Chicago River, on the southwestern bend of Lake Michigan. Lat. of city hall, 41° 53' 3" N.; lon. 87° 37' 30" W.

The name “Chicago” is of Indian origin, signifying the widely-varying titles of a king or deity, a skunk, and a wild onion. It was also applied to a valiant line of chiefs, and to the voice of the Great Manitou. The first Europeans Known to have visited the site were two French fur-traders in 1654. In August, 1673, the two explorers Louis Joliet and Father Jacques Marquette passed down the river to the lake, and for a time this region was in the possession of France. In 1795 the Indian residents ceded to the United States an area of six miles square, on which, in 1803, Fort Dearborn was erected. The first permanent white settler was John Kinzie, a Canadian, who came to Chicago in 1804. The fort was burned by the Indians in 1812, and most of the white people, about 50 in all, were massacred, Four years later the fort was rebuilt, and two years after wards the surrounding territory was organized into the State of Illinois. In 1831 the county of Cook was created, with Chicago as the county seat. It was incorporated into a town on August 10, 1833, at which time there were about a dozen families settled around the fort. In the same year the first newspaper, known as the Chicago Democrat, was established.

The city was formed in 1837, with a population of 4170. This was followed with 4853 in 1840,29,993 in 1850, 112,172 in 1860,298,977 in 1870, 503,185 in 1880, 1,099,850 in 1890, and 1,450,000 at the close of 1892.

Chicago is a port of entry, and the most important centre of commerce in the Northwestern states. The business portion of the city stands approximately 600 feet above sea-level, and about 15 feet above the level of the lake. The length of the city from N. to S. is 24 miles, breadth E. to W. about 10 miles,—covering an area of about 181 square miles. Chicago is divided by the Chicago River and its branches into 3 parts, called the N., S., and W. divisions, which are connected by 53 bridges, besides which are 2 stone cable-cur tunnels built under the river-bed, one 1890 feet long, under the main river, the other 1608 feet long, under the South Branch. The city is well laid out. the streets being in the main so arranged that those parallel to the river are intersected at regular intervals and at right angles by the others. Thus the buildings, especially in the business portion, are grouped and separated into convenient blocks. There are, owing to recent annexations, over 2426 miles of streets and alleys, the former being principally 80 feet wide, of which over 868 miles are paved, mostly with granite and wooden block paving. There are over 400 miles of horse and cable street railways, extending to all parts of the city and its suburbs, besides 3 steam elevated railways. The sewers make a total of 978 miles. The streets, and public and private buildings, mammoth office structures, stores, and dwellings, are well lighted by gas and electricity. The city has a superbly appointed fire department, with a complete system of fire-alarm stations, and steam fire-engines, chemical engines, river fire-boats, &c., operated by about 1100 men and 450 horses. The water supply is ample, and the water pure, the supply being obtained from Lake Michigan through five brick tunnels running parallel under the lake, with a total capacity of 480,000,000 gallons of water per day. Chicago has also a system of parks, 9 in number, covering nearly 2600 acres, and boulevards which afford a drive of about 95 miles. It is one of the healthiest of the large cities of the country. The rate of mortality for 1892 was 19.93...

The greatest event in the history of Chicago was the Great Fire, as it is termed, which broke out on the evening of October 8, 1871. The total area of the land burned over was 2100 acres. Nearly 20,000 buildings were consumed. The lives lost were 200, and the grand total of values destroyed is estimated at $200,000,000. This was followed, July 14, 1874, by another conflagration, in which 600 houses were devoured, the loss aggregating $4,000,000...

The buildings for the World's Fair Columbian Exposition, occupying, with the grounds, 664 acres in Jackson Park and Midway Plaisance, were dedicated October 12, 1892 and opened to the public on May 1, 1893."

Lippincott's Gazetteer of the World: A Complete Pronouncing Gazetteer Or Geographical Dictionary of the World Containing Notices of Over One Hundred and Twenty-five Thousand Places ...
Joseph Thomas
January 1, 1895
J.B. Lippincott

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  • 1696 - Guardian Angel mission
    Jesuit priest Pierre François Pinet (1660-1704?) establishes the Guardian Angel mission at present Chicago. resources/state-history-timeline/ illinois.html

  • 1779 - Trading Post
    Jean Baptiste Point du Sable (1745?-1818) establishes a trading post at present Chicago. resources/state-history-timeline/ illinois.html

  • 1796 - First birth on record in Chicago was of Eulalia Pointe du Sable, daughter of Jean-Baptiste Pointe du Sable and his Potawatomi Indian wife. resources/ state-facts/ illinois.html

  • 1803 - Fort Dearborn
    United States Army establishes Fort Dearborn at present Chicago. resources/state-history-timeline/ illinois.html

  • 1833 - August 10 - Chicago incorporates as a village of about 200

  • 1835 - August 18 - Last Pottawatomie Indians leave Chicago

  • 1837 - Chicago receives a city charter; William Ogden (1805-1877) becomes the first mayor. resources/ state-history-timeline/ illinois.html

  • 1847 - Chicago Tribune
    Joseph Medill (1823-1899) founds the Chicago Tribune.

    Inventor Cyrus Hall McCormick (1809-1884) opens a plant in Chicago for manufacturing wheat re...Read MORE...

  • 1848 - Chicago Board of Trade
    The Chicago Board of Trade, located on West Jackson Street in Chicago, is a connection to agriculture that affects the everyday consumer of farm produ...Read MORE...

  • 1856 - April 17 – The Chicago Historical Society Museum is established at 1601 N. Clark Street, Chicago.
    April 17, 1856

  • 1856 - Rand McNally
    William Rand opens a small printing shop in Chicago's Loop, forming the precursor of Rand McNally. about/history

  • 1866 - November 30 - Work begins on 1st US underwater highway tunnel, Chicago

  • 1867 - Pullman Palace Car Company
    George M. Pullman (1831-1897) founds the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago, manufacturing railroad sleeping cars. resources/state-history-timeline/ illinois.html

  • News 1869 - Alcohol from Soap Grease and Garbage
    A company has been formed in Chicago, and will soon be in operation, for distilling alcohol and extracting soap grease from ordinary city garbage. It ...Read MORE...

  • 1872 - Montgomery Ward
    Chicago merchant Aaron Montgomery Ward (1844-1913) establishes the first large-scale mail order business. Ward, a young traveling salesman of dry good...Read MORE...

  • Chicago, Illinois, USA
    King of Malaria
    Chill Tonic
    Made in Chicago, IL

    Found at Old Drugstore, St Augustine, Florida
  • Chicago, Illinois, USA
    Oberne Hosick & Cos
    White Velvet Soap
    Chicago, Ill.
  • News 1884 - First metal-framed skyscraper - The Home Insurance Building is generally noted as the first tall building to be supported, both inside and outside, by a fireproof metal frame.
    ...The most expensive and probably the most substantial of the structures that can be included in this year's list in the new office section is the te...Read MORE...

  • News May 4, 1886: Haymarket Affair, Chicago, Illinois
    A general strike begins in the United States, which escalates into the Haymarket Riot and eventually wins the eight-hour day for workers.
    The Old Farmer's Almanac
    May 4, 1886

  • 1887 - George Hancock, at the time a reporter for Chicago Board of Trade, invented the game of softball in 1887.
    The first game was played indoors, inside the Farragut Boat Club in Chicago. Someone found a boxing glove and threw it and someone else hit it with a ...Read MORE...

  • 1890 - February 24 – Chicago is selected to host the Columbian Exposition
    February 24, 1890

  • Chicago, Illinois, USA
    Dewitt's D & C Expectorant
    For Coughs Due to Colds
    E. C. Dewitt & Co., Chicago, Illinois
    Found at The Way It Was Museum, Virginia City, Nevada
  • Chicago, Illinois, USA
    Foley Cathartic Tablets
    Foley & Co., Chicago, Illinois
    Found at The Way It Was Museum, Virginia City, Nevada
  • Chicago, Illinois, USA
    Metaphen in Oil
    Abbott Laboratories
    Chicago, Illinois
    Found at The Way It Was Museum, Virginia City, Nevada

    Chicago, July 13...

  • 1891 - April 1 - The Wrigley Company is founded in Chicago.
    April 1, 1891

  • 1891 - Man Killed While Lowering Flag
    Janitor David Leonard Fatally Injured.

    David Leonard, janitor of the county building and a member of the G.A.R., was fatally injured last night whi...Read MORE...

  • 1892 - University of Chicago opened on October 1, 1892 with an enrollment of 594 and a faculty of 103. resources/ state-facts/ illinois.html

    Special to the Record-Union.
    Chicago, June 14. - One man was killed and five other people badly injured by an accident that occurred on the ice railw...Read MORE...

  • News 1893 - October 30 – The 1893 World's Fair, also known as the World's Columbian Exposition, closes.
    October 30, 1893

  • 1893 - July 10 - The cold storage warehouse at the World's Fair was destroyed by fire; may firemen killed and injured.

    The World Almanac and Book of Facts, Volume 1894 Press Publishing Company. 1894

  • Chicago, Illinois, USA

  • Chicago, Illinois, USA
    Ticket to 1893 Chicago World's Fair (World's Columbian Exposition)
  • News 1894 - BIG BLAZE AT CHICAGO. Five Buildings at the World's Fair Grounds Destroyed.

    Special to the Record-Union.
    CHICAGO, July 5. - The World's Columbian Exposition is a billowy sea of...Read MORE...

  • 1894 - Pullman strike
    The Pullman Strike was a nationwide railroad strike in the United States in the summer of 1894. It pitted the American Railway Union (ARU) against the...Read MORE...

  • News 1895 - November 25 - Chicago Times-Herald race: The first American automobile race in history is sponsored by the Chicago Times-Herald. Press coverage first arouses significant American interest in the automobile.
    November 25, 1895

  • Chicago, Illinois, USA
    1897 Sears, Roebuck and Co.

    A New Scientific Help to Nature. Combined with the use of the bust cream or food, forms a full, firm, well developed bust. It is designed to build up and fill out shrunken and undeveloped tissues, form a rounded,... Read MORE...

  • News 1898 - The Largest Search-Light in the world
    was exhibited at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The reflecting lens, 60 inches in diameter, weighs 800 pounds and is mounted in a brass ring whi...Read MORE...

  • News 1898 - The Largest Stockyards in the world
    are in Chicago, Illinois. The combined plants represent and investment of over $10,000,000. The yards contain 20 miles of streets, 20 miles of water-t...Read MORE...

  • Chicago, Illinois, USA
    Carpets by Mail
    The Russell Carpet Co.
    Chicago, Ill.

    The Ladies' Home Journal
    March 1898
  • Chicago, Illinois, USA
    The Sanitary Still
    The Cuprigraph Co.
    79 North Green Street
    Chicago, Ill.

    The Ladies' Home Journal
    July 1898
  • News 1899 - July 17 - America's first juvenile court is established in Chicago.
    July 17, 1899

  • News 1900 - May 17 - L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is published in Chicago.
    May 17, 1900

  • Chicago, Illinois, USA

  • Chicago, Illinois, USA

  • Chicago, Illinois, USA

  • Chicago, Illinois, USA

  • 1901 - Chicago - Large in Every Way by Lyman J. Gage
    The plotting of the site of Chicago was characteristic of the practical sentiment that has ever stimulated the city. No less a personage than Washingt...Read MORE...

  • News 1903 - December 30 – Iroquois Theater fire in Chicago kills 600
    A safety standard for theaters and public buildings rises from the ashes of the Iroquois Theater (in Chicago), where more than 600 people were killed....Read MORE...

    Chicago, March 15. -- Three persons were killed and eight other employes were injured today by the explosion of toy pistol caps in the two-story brick...Read MORE...

  • 1905 - President of the Chicago Cubs filed charges against a fan in the bleachers for catching a fly ball and keeping it. resources/ state-facts/ illinois.html

    Chicago, Ill., Aug. 16. - Five persons were killed and eleven others were injured, three seriously, early today by the collapse of a two-story frame b...Read MORE...

  • Chicago, Illinois, USA
    Metropolitan "L" Train, Crossing Jack-Knife Bridge, Over Chicago River, Chicago
  • News 1916 - April 20 – The Chicago Cubs play their first game at Weeghman Park (modern-day Wrigley Field), defeating the Cincinnati Reds 7–6 in 11 innings.
    April 20, 1916

  • 1916
    Chicago, shl-ka'go or shi-kaw'go, a city, port of entry, and capital of Cook CO., Ill., situated near the S. extremity of Lake Michigan, on its W. sho...Read MORE...

  • News 1918 - June 22 – Suspects in the Chicago Restaurant Poisonings are arrested, and more than 100 waiters are taken into custody, for poisoning restaurant customers with a lethal powder called Mickey Finn.
    June 22, 1918

  • News 1919 - July 27 - Race Riots
    July 27 – The Chicago Race Riot of 1919 begins when a white man throws stones at a group of four black teens on a raft.

    Chicago race riots leave th...

  • News 1920 - March 28 - The worst tornado disaster of record occurred in Chicago IL as a tornado killed 28 persons and caused three million dollars damage.
    March 28, 1920

  • 1921 - August 2 - A Chicago jury brings back a not guilty verdict against eight Chicago White Sox players for throwing the 1919 baseball World Series against the Cincinnati Reds.
    The Reds win the series 5 games to 3. The trial is dubbed the “Black Sox Scandal.”

  • News 1926 - September 20 – Twelve blue cars full of gangsters open fire at the Hawthorne Inn, Al Capone's Chicago headquarters. Only one of Capone's men is wounded.
    September 20, 1926

    Chicago, July 26. - (United Press) - Two circus trapeze performers, FRANK CROMWELL and his wife, MAUDE, were in a Chicago hospital today suffering fro...Read MORE...

  • 1926 - Charles Lindbergh
    Aviator Charles Lindbergh (1902-1974) begins daily mail delivery flights between Chicago and St. Louis. resources/state-history-timeline/ illinois.html

    Chicago, March 11 - (AP) - The ranks of engine companies numbers three and six were depleted late today when an explosion killed one fireman and serio...Read MORE...

    Chicago, April 16 (UP) - A moonshiner's still is believed by police to be responsible for an explosion Saturday which killed eight persons, all but wi...Read MORE...

  • 1929 - St Valentine's Day Massacre
    Gunmen of Alphonse Capone (1899-1947) murder seven rival Chicago mobsters in the "St. Valentine's Day Massacre." resources/state-history-timeline/ illinois.html
    February 14, 1929

  • 1930 - Pinball was invented by In and Outdoor Games Company in Chicago resources/ state-facts/ illinois.html

  • Chicago, Illinois, USA
    Michigan Ave. Bridge
  • News 1933 - May 27 - The Century of Progress World's Fair opens in Chicago.
    May 27, 1933

  • 1933 - Assassinated
    Anton "Tony" Joseph Cermak (May 9, 1873 – March 6, 1933) was an American politician of Czech origin who served as the mayor of Chicago, Illinois from ...Read MORE...

  • News 1937 - May 30 - The Chicago Police Department shoot and kill ten unarmed demonstrators in Chicago in what is known as the Memorial Day massacre.
    May 30, 1937

  • 1940 - June 19 - “Brenda Starr, Reporter” the first cartoon strip by a woman, appears in Chicago Tribune.

  • News 1949 - January 31 - First TV Soap Opera Debuts. On Jan. 31, 1949, an NBC station in Chicago aired the first episode of Irna Phillips' “These Are My Children,” the first daytime soap opera on a major television network.
    January 31, 1949

  • 1954 - October 9-11 - A deluge of 6.72 inches of rain in 48 hours flooded the Chicago River, causing ten million dollars damage in the Chicago area.

    The Weather Channel

  • 1958 - School Fire
    Fire at Our Lady of Angels elementary school in Chicago claims the lives of ninety-two children and three nuns. resources/state-history-timeline/ illinois.html

  • 1966 - May 11 - The 1.6 inch snow at Chicago, IL, was their latest measurable snow of record. Previously the record was 3.7 inches on the 1st and 2nd of May set in 1940

    The Weather Channel

  • January 27, 1967 - Residents of Chicago, IL, began to dig out from a storm which produced 23 inches of snow in 29 hours. The snow paralyzed the city and suburbs for days, and business losses were enormous.

  • 1968 - Civil Disorder Results in 650 Arrests
    Civil disorder erupts during the Democratic National Convention in Chicago; police report 650 arrests. resources/state-history-timeline/ illinois.html

  • 1972 - Trains Collide
    Two Illinois Central commuter trains collide in Chicago; forty-five passengers are killed and more than two hundred are injured. resources/state-history-timeline/ illinois.html

  • 1974 - Sears Tower
    The Sears tower was constructed in 1974. It was the world's tallest building, eclipsing New York's twin-towered World Trade Center by 25 meters (83 ft...Read MORE...

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Updated: 5/17/2019 8:22:32 AM

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