Windy City Fact
Windy City Fact

50 Unique Facts about Chicago

Tayja Kuligowski
By Tayja Kuligowski, Junior Writer
Published October 9, 2017
  • Chicago officially became a city in the state of Illinois in 1837. Today, Chicago is the third largest city in the United States with a population of about 2.7 million after New York City (8.5 million) and Los Angeles (3.9 million).[4][5]
  • The name "Chicago" comes from the French interpretation of the Native American word for "striped skunk," which was also the name given to the wild onions that grew near the Chicago river.[20]
  • Chicago has many nicknames, including the Windy City, the City of Big Shoulders, the Second City, and the City that Works.[5]
  • Chicago's most 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.[20]
  • 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."[1][8]
  • Sears Tower Fact
    The Sears Tower is the twelfth-tallest building in the world
  • Willis Tower, originally known as Sears Tower, is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere at 110 stories. Four states, including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin, can be seen from the Skydeck Chicago of Willis Tower, and its elevator is one of the fastest in the world, traveling at 1,600 feet per minute.[4][5]
  • Chicago is known as the United State's railroad capital, with over 1,300 trains carrying freight and passengers arriving and departing from the city each day.[17]
  • Downtown Chicago is known as "the Loop," referencing the shadow the elevated train tracks create in the area.[5]
  • Chicago's large transit system of buses and railways carries 1.7 million passengers on any weekday.[8]
  • Some of the many inventions that came from the city of Chicago include roller skates, skyscrapers, Crackerjacks, zippers, pinball, spray paint, softball, and the remote control.[5][9]
  • The first skyscraper ever constructed was the 13-story Tacoma Building of Chicago, built in 1889. It was the first building supported by a riveted steel frame instead of by the walls of the structure. Others argue that Chicago's 10-story Home Insurance Company building, built in 1885 and featuring a fireproof metal skeleton, was the first skyscraper.[11]
  • In 1930, the twinkie was invented in Chicago by Jimmy Dewar, who is said to have named the popular snack after a Twinkle Toe Shoe's advertisement.[5]
  • Over 48 million people visit Chicago each year.[5]
  • Chicago is an October sort of city even in spring.

    - Nelson Algren

  • The first controlled nuclear chain reaction that eventually led to the atomic bomb and nuclear energy occurred under the stands of Stagg Field football stadium at the University of Chicago in 1942.[14]
  • The first blood bank in the United States was founded in Chicago in 1937 by Dr. Bernard Fantus at Cook County Hospital.[4]
  • In 1850, Chicago reversed the flow of the Chicago River to stop city wasted from flowing into Lake Michigan, which to this day is still used for city drinking water. The reversal caused the city's typhoid death rate to drop by 80%, but also resulted in lawsuits from surrounding states and Canada, as it was feared the reversal would cause a drop in the water levels of the Great Lakes. The project took a total of 5 years and cost over $3 million.[12][20]
  • The entire Chicago shoreline (28 miles) along Lake Michigan is man-made.[20]
  • In the 1850s, Chicago's Great Removal Project involved digging up and transporting older bodies to newly established cemeteries in order to make room for still-living people to occupy later in prime burial locations.[20]
  • Art Institute of Chicago
    The Art Institute of Chicago hosts approximately 1.5 million guests annually (AK2 / iStock)
  • The Art Institute of Chicago is home to the largest collection of impressionist paintings in the world outside of Paris, France.[5]
  • 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.[12]
  • The initial spark of the Great Fire of 1871 is unknown, although it is commonly believed that a cow belonging to Catherine O' Leary kicked over a lantern starting the fire, but this story is thought to be unlikely. The fire was able to spread quickly due to the overwhelming number of wooden structures, sidewalks, and streets. The fire department also initially travelled in the wrong direction before finally arriving at the out of control blaze.[11][17]
  • The Great Fire of 1871 burned over three and half square miles, destroying 18,000 structures and taking the lives of over 300 people. However, on the same day as Chicago's Great Fire, there was an even deadlier and costlier, yet less known fire in Peshtigo, Wisconsin.[11][17]
  • Chicago public school's did not have mandatory desegregation until the 1980s.[20]
  • Trash and debris from the Great Fire of 1871 was used to fill in a portion of Lake Michigan to expand Chicago's Grant Park.[20]
  • In the 1920s, Chicago was home to the largest membership of the Ku Klux Klan in the US at 50,000 members.[20]
  • 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.[12]
  • Chicago Hot Dog
    Do not allow ketchup anywhere near a hot dog in Chicago

  • The first gay rights organization, the Society for Human Rights, was founded in Chicago in 1924.[20]
  • In 1966, the Chicago Post Office had to shut down due to an overwhelming volume of mail, which caused the delay of over 10 million letters and other mail from being delivered. This shutdown was a major factor in the eventual creation of the US Postal Service in 1971.[20]
  • The Chicago Post Office is the only postal facility in the world that can be driven through.[13]
  • Chicago-style pizza first appeared in 1943 at Pizzaria Uno in Chicago.[20]
  • The world's largest cookie and cracker factory is the Nabisco Cookie factory in Chicago.[13]
  • Chicago was home to the largest meat packing firm in the world in 1893, with the meat packing 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 meat packing industry.[6][12]
  • In 1955, the first ever McDonald's restaurant was opened in Chicago.[11]
  • Wrigley Field
    Lights weren't added to Wrigley until 1988
  • Wrigley Field, home to the home of the Chicago Cubs, is the second oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball.[5]
  • In 1908, Chicago company Sears offered house kits to their catalog customers called "Sears Modern Houses." The kits were sold until 1940, at which point they had sold over 100,000 kits.[11]
  • The first automobile race in the United States was held in Chicago in 1895. Frank Duryea won the race at an average of 7 miles per hour.[11]
  • Chicago's Field Museum owns the world's most complete T-Rex, which has been named Sue.[1]
  • Some of the many famous people who were born in the city of Chicago include Dorothy Hamill, Robin Williams, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Harrison Ford,Walt Disney, Mandy Patinkin, James Belushi, Jennifer Hudson, Hugh Hefner, Terrence Howard, Michael Clarke Duncan, Dwayne Wade, Mr. T, and Shel Silverstein.[10]
  • In 1918, over 100 waiters were arrested for poisoning bad tippers in Chicago.[1]
  • The Chicago PD is the second largest local law enforcement agency in the United States with more than 12,000 sworn officers and 2,000 administrative and executive employees. In first place is New York City's NYPD with 40,000 sworn officers.[2]
  • In 2013, the nationwide pest control company Orkin announced that Chicago was the most rat infested city in the US, followed by Los Angeles, Washington D.C., New York, and San Francisco. Chicago also won the city with the most bedbug infestations for the years of 2012 and 2013.[21]
  • Chicago Rat Problem
    Chicago fights rats with both dry ice and a fertility-reducing bait called "Contrapest"

  • In 2012, Chicago had over 500 homicides, more than New York City (419) and Los Angeles (299). However, homicide numbers dropped to 407 in 2014, the fewest in 5 decades.[16]
  • Chicago is home to the first and largest urban medical district in the United States, and is often called the medical center of the US due to its large numbers of medical schools and hospitals. About one-fifth of all doctors in the US have received all or part of their medical training in Chicago.[12]
  • The Chicago PD seizes more illegal guns than any other city police department in the United States, including 7 times more than New York City and 3 times more than Los Angeles. About 60% of illegal weapons in Chicago are purchased from surrounding states with fewer gun restrictions.[3][16]
  • Chicago hosted the Columbian Exposition in 1893, drawing over 27 million visitors to the city. The world fair was named to commemorate Christopher Columbus's first voyage to the New World, and featured a park of large, Greek style buildings built specifically for the fair called the White City. It is believed that over 25% of the US population attended the fair.[12]
  • Route 66 Chicago
    Route 66, which is also known as "the Main Street of America," begins in Chicago
  • The famous US highway Route 66 begins in Chicago in front of the Art Institute of Chicago.[5]
  • The first Ferris wheel was invented in 1893 for the World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago. The ride was over 264 feet tall and featured passenger cars that weighed over 1,200 lbs and were roughly the size of a city bus. Although the original was demolished in 1906, a 15-story replica can be found at Navy Pier of Chicago.[5][12]
  • In 1919, the first major aviation disaster in the United States occurred in Chicago. The Wingfoot Express blimp crashed into the Illinois Trust and Savings Bank, taking the lives of 13 people and injuring 27 more.[15]
  • Prohibition, or the outlaw of the sale and consumption of alcohol, began on July 1, 1919 in Chicago. The night before, the city of Chicago experienced over $2 million in liquor sales.[15]
  • Al Capone, one of Chicago's most notorious gangsters, sold over US$60 million of illegal alcohol in 1927 alone during prohibition.[1]
  • Chicago Timeline[6][7][11][15][18][19]
    Important DatesEvent
    1673French explorers Marquette and Jolliet explore the future Chicago area
    1779Jean Baptiste Point du Sable becomes first non-native to settle in Chicago
    1803US Army builds Fort Dearborn in Chicago
    1818Illinois admitted as a state to the Union
    1833Chicago incorporated as a town
    1837Chicago incorporated as a city
    1848First Chicago railroad established
    1855Street grade raised in Chicago
    1860Abraham Lincoln nominated at Chicago's first national convention
    1871Great Fire in Chicago
    1873Chicago Public Library opens
    1879Art Institute of Chicago founded
    1885Home Insurance Building opens in Chicago
    1889Tacoma Building opens in Chicago
    1892The first elevated railway is completed in Chicago
    1893Chicago hosts the World's Columbian Exposition
    1900Flow of the Chicago River is reversed
    1906Upton Sinclair's The Jungle is published
    1909Burnham's Plan of Chicago is created
    1919Race Riots begin in Chicago; Prohibition in the US begins
    1933Prohibition is repealed in the US
    1942First self-sustaining, controlled nuclear chain reaction is discovered at the University of Chicago
    1955First McDonald's restaurant opens in Chicago
    1962Tradition of dying the Chicago River green for St. Patrick's day begins
    1963Chicago's O'Hare airport opens
    1967Pablo Picasso's sculpture unveiled as a gift to the city of Chicago
    1973Chicago's Sears Tower becomes the world's tallest building
    1982Chicago becomes first major US city to ban the sale of handguns
    2006Chicago becomes first US city to ban the sale of foie Gras
    2009Chicago becomes first US city to ban the sale of baby bottles and sippy cups containing BPA
    2013Two Chicago women become first same-sex couple to marry in the state of Illinois
    2015Chicago retains title of most corrupt city in the United States

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