History of Chicago, Illinois

Chicago was incorporated in 1833. That was only 15 years after Illinois became a state, which was only twenty-three years after General "Mad" Anthony Wayne defeated the British in the Battle of Fallen Timbers, making disputed Illinois a territory. In 1833, Chicago had less than 400 residents.

The word "chicago," is said to derive from an Indian word describing the strong smell of decaying flora in the marshes along the river banks. It was French explorer Louis Jolliet and French missionary Jacques Marquette who, in 1673, discovered the one-and-a-half mile's of portage at Chicago. Marquette, in good standings with the Indians, learned of an already established route that connected the Illinois River with the Great Lakes region by way of the Chicago River, and the Des Plains River with the Mississippi River Valley. But, it was the completion of the Illinois and Michigan Canal in 1848 that made the trading of livestock, grain, and lumber between industrious East and the pioneering wild West possible.

The railroad arrived, and Chicago soon became the chief railroad center in the United States. Industry and business were booming, and when the Republican National Convention of 1860 nominated Abraham Lincoln for presidency, it seemed that the great machine that is Chicago could do no wrong. In thirty-seven years the Chicago's population had grown to 300,000, one-thousand times greater than when it began.

Then, on the night of October 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire started on the southwest side of the city, it jumped the river, and in two day's time destroyed 18,000 buildings, killed 300 people, and left 90,000 homeless. It would take twenty years for Chicago to recover.

Before the ashes could cool, the people of Chicago began to rebuild. The introduction of steel made it possible to erect the world's first skyscraper, the 10-story Montauk building in 1882. And ten years later the first elevated train was up and running. In 1893 Chicago proved its vitality by hosting the World Columbian Exposition, commemorating the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America.

Chicago has also had its share of strife. Black and white railroad workers demanding higher wages and improved working conditions, united during the Pulman Strike of 1894. They joined the American Federation of Labor, and by 1905 the Industrial Workers of the World, called Wobblies, was founded. Between 1919 and 1933, Prohibition would see the streets of Chicago turned into a war zone, as rival mob gang's battled for control alcohol distribution and sales.

In 1932 the Democratic National Convention nominated Franklin D. Roosevelt for the presedency. In 1955 Richard J. Daley, the "last of the big city bosses," became mayor of Chicago. The tallest building in the world, the Sears Tower was completed in 1974. In 1995, Michael Jordan returned to basketball after a brief two-year retirement, and helped the Chicago Bulls bring home their fifth NBA Championship. A year later Chicago would host the Democratic National Convention, and William Jefferson Clinton would be nominated for a second term.

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