Chicago (shĬkä´gō, shĬkô´gō), city (1990 pop. 2,783,726), seat of Cook co., NE Ill., on Lake Michigan; inc. 1837. The third largest city in the United States and the heart of a metropolitan area of over 8 million people, it is the commercial, financial, industrial, and cultural center for a vast region and a midcontinental shipping point. A major Great Lakes port, it is also an historic rail and highway hub. O'Hare International Airport is the second busiest in the nation. An enormous variety of goods are manufactured in the area. Despite an overall decline in industry, Chicago has retained large grain mills and elevators, iron- and steelworks, steel fabricators, and meatpacking, food-processing, chemical, machinery, and electronics plants. The city has long been a publishing center; the Chicago Tribune is among the most widely read newspapers in the country.
Chicago covers over 200 sq mi (520 sq km); it extends more than 20 mi (32 km) along the lakefront, then sprawls inland to the west. Its metropolitan area stretches in the north to the Wisconsin border and in the south to industrial suburbs on and beyond the Indiana border. In addition to its noted expressways and boulevards, Chicago has a system of elevated (partly underground) railways that extend into the heart of the city, making a huge rectangle, the celebrated Loop, which gives its name to the downtown section.
Neighborhoods and Points of Interest
In or near the center of the city are the Merchandise Mart, the world's largest commercial building; the Chicago Public Library, with the Harold Washington Library Center downtown as well as neighborhood and traveling branches; the Chicago Board of Trade building; and the homes of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chicago Civic Opera. La Salle Street is the financial center. On the lakefront, which has many beaches, are Grant Park, with the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Natural History Museum, the Adler Planetarium, the Buckingham Memorial Fountain, and the John G. Shedd Aquarium; and Millennium Park, with the Jay Pritzker Pavilion (designed by Frank Gehry). Nearby is Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears (National Football League). To the north is the Navy Pier recreation and entertainment complex (opened 1995) and along Michigan Avenue lies the
Chicago's famous shopping district.
In the residential district to the north lies Lincoln Park, with the Chicago Historical Society building, the Chicago Academy of Sciences, a zoological garden, and a conservatory; sculpture in the park includes the noted standing figure of Abraham Lincoln (1887) by Augustus Saint-Gaudens and the John P. Altgeld memorial monument (1915) by Gutzon Borglum. The North Side is also the site of Wrigley Field, the home of the National League Cubs, one of Chicago's two major league baseball teams.
The American League's White Sox play on the South Side at U.S. Cellular Field. The South Side of Chicago also is the seat of the Univ. of Chicago, with its imposing Gothic buildings; the John Crerar Library of scientific books is there. Nearby is Jackson Park, with the Museum of Science and Industry. Much of the South Side, however, comprises poor and working-class residential areas, including the homes of the nation's largest African-American population. There, also, were the Union Stock Yards (founded 1865 and closed in the 1970s). Toward the southern edge of the city is Pullman, a neighborhood originally developed as a model industrial town by George M. Pullman; the once-enormous iron- and steelworks were also in the area.
The vast West Side is usually spoken of as a region of nationalities because of the many groups living there, in close proximity yet more or less separate culturally. These neighborhoods grew rapidly in the late 19th and early 20th cent. In the West Side and the suburbs to the west are large industrial areas and two well-known parks—Garfield Park, with its noted conservatory, and Humboldt Park. The west is famous for Hull House, the settlement house founded (1889) by Jane Addams. In 1961 the Hull House location, part of an urban renewal project, was selected as the site of the Chicago campus of the Univ. of Illinois.
Other points of interest in Chicago are McCormick Place, the mammoth convention and exhibition center on the lakefront; the Auditorium, designed by Louis H. Sullivan; St. Patrick's Church (dedicated 1856); and a water tower that survived the great fire of 1871. Besides the Univ. of Chicago, the city's institutions include De Paul Univ., Northeastern Illinois Univ., Illinois Institute of Technology, Loyola Univ. of Chicago, Mundelein College, Roosevelt Univ., St. Xavier College, Chicago State Univ., Columbia College, North Park College, parts of Northwestern Univ., and the Univ. of Illinois at Chicago (including the medical center). There are a number of theological seminaries, and schools of music, art, and law. The noted Newberry Library and the Library of International Relations are in Chicago, and the city has a vibrant theatrical community. The city's other major sports teams are the Bulls (basketball) and Blackhawks (hockey).
From the Early Days to 1850
Notable as dividing lines in the city are the two branches of the Chicago River. In early days the river was important because the narrow watershed between it and the Des Plaines River (draining into the Mississippi through the Illinois River) offered an easy portage that led explorers, fur traders, and missionaries from the Great Lakes to the Great Plains. Father Marquette and Louis Jolliet arrived here in 1673, and the spot was well known for a century before Jean Baptiste Point Sable (or Point DuSable or Point de Sable), a black man possibly of Haitian origin, set up a trading post at the mouth of the river. John Kinzie, who succeeded him as a trader, is usually called the father of Chicago.
A military post, Fort Dearborn, was established in 1803. In the War of 1812 its garrison perished in one of the most famous tragedies of Western history. Fort Dearborn was rebuilt in 1816, and the construction of the Erie Canal in the next decade speeded the settling of the Midwest and the growth of Chicago. Harbor improvements, lake traffic, and the peopling of the prairie farmlands brought prosperity to the city. The Illinois and Michigan Canal, however, authorized by Congress in 1827 and completed in 1848, was soon rendered virtually obsolete by the arrival of railroads.
The Fire and Industrialization
By 1860 a number of rail lines connected Chicago with the rest of the nation, and the city was launched on its career as the great midcontinental shipping center. Gurdon S. Hubbard had already contributed to the establishment of the meatpacking industry, with its large stockyards. In 1871 the shambling city built of wood was almost entirely destroyed by a great fire (according to legend started when Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicked over a lantern), which killed several hundred people, rendered 90,000 homeless, and destroyed some $200 million worth of property.
Chicago was rebuilt as a city of stone and steel. Industries sprang up, attracting thousands of immigrants. Many ethnic groups contributed to the modern city, including Germans, Scandinavians, Irish, Jews, Italians, Poles, Czechs, African Americans, Lithuanians, Croats, Greeks, and Chinese. With industry came labor strife, highlighted by the Haymarket Square riot of 1886 and the great strikes at Pullman in 1894 (see Debs, Eugene Victor, and Altgeld, John Peter). Upton Sinclair's novel of the Chicago stockyards, The Jungle, aroused public indignation and led to investigations and improvements.
Center of Culture
The city, although proud of its reputation for brawling lustiness, was also the center of Midwestern culture. Theodore Thomas and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra founded a great musical tradition. Chicago's literary reputation was established in the early 20th cent. by such men as Carl Sandburg, Theodore Dreiser, Eugene Field, Edgar Lee Masters, and James T. Farrell. Saul Bellow and Studs Terkel would continue this tradition later in the century.
Most notable in the development of American thought and taste in art was the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. One of the architects at the fair was Louis H. Sullivan, who, together with D. H. Burnham, John W. Root, Dankmar Adler, Frank Lloyd Wright, and others, made Chicago a leading architectural center. In 1909, D. H. Burnham and Edward Bennett devised their Plan of Chicago, later known as the
a forward-looking piece of city planning containing many features that were implemented later. It was here that one of the distinctive U.S. contributions to architecture, the skyscraper, came into being. Chicago's continuing interest in this type of structure is seen in the John Hancock Center (1968), the Aon Center (1974, formerly the Amoco Building, earlier the Standard Oil Building), the Willis Tower (1974, formerly the Sears Tower), and the Trump International Hotel and Tower (2009).
The Twentieth Century
Between World War I and 1933, Chicago earned unenviable renown as the home ground of gangsters—Al Capone being perhaps the most notorious—and its reputation for gangster warfare persisted long after that violent era had passed. Despite the worldwide depression of the 1930s, Chicago's world's fair, the Century of Progress Exposition (1933–34), proved how greatly the city had prospered and advanced. Perhaps the most significant event in World War II occurred (Dec. 2, 1942) under the stands of the Univ. of Chicago's Stagg Field, when Enrico Fermi and a group of scientists working on the government's atom bomb project achieved the world's first nuclear chain reaction. With the war came considerable growth in the Chicago metropolitan area, especially in outlying suburbs.
The city itself declined 23% in population between 1950 and 1990, although its diverse economic base spared it the worst of the economic decay of other large Midwestern cities. The population decline was reversed between 1990 and 2000, when it grew some 4%, largely due to the influx of Hispanic and Asian residents. Chicago's many cultural and other attractions make it a popular convention city; among the 25 national political conventions held there were the Republican national conventions of 1952 and 1960 and the Democratic national conventions of 1952, 1956, 1968, and 1996. The 1968 Democratic National Convention saw violent clashes between demonstrators and Chicago police and the National Guard. Mayor Richard J. Daley was criticized by the media for his manner of putting down the demonstrations, but Chicagoans overwhelmingly supported him. Chicagoans subsequently elected their first woman mayor (Jane Byrne, 1979–83) and their first African-American mayor (Harold Washington, 1983–87). Richard M. Daley was first elected to the office his father long held in 1989, and subsequently became the city's longest serving mayor. Rahm Emanuel was elected to succeed Daley in 2011.
See N. Algren, Chicago: City on the Make (1951, repr. 2011); R. A. Cromie, The Great Chicago Fire (1958); C. Condit, The Chicago School of Architecture (1964); T. A. Herr, Seventy Years in the Chicago Stockyards (1968); H. M. Mayer and R. Wade, Chicago (1969); B. Berry et al., Chicago (1976); I. Cutler, Chicago (1982); M. H. Ebner, Creating Chicago's North Shore (1988); W. Cronon, Nature's Metropolis (repr. 1992); A. Ehrenhalt, The Lost City (1995); D. L. Miller, City of the Century (1996); D. A. Pacyga, Chicago (2009); L. Bennett, The Third City (2010); T. Dyja, The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream (2013); J. R. Grossman et al., ed., The Encyclopedia of Chicago (2004).