When the first non-Native American settler, the Haitian of African descent Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, settled on the Chicago River in the 1770s, the area was inhabited by the Potawatomi. The name goes back to the Chicago Potowatomi term “Checagou” or “Checaguar”, which means “wild onion” or “skunk”. Back then, the area was covered in stinking field onions. In 1779 Du Sable established a trading post on the north shore of Lake Michigan. In the following years the trade flourished here because of the convenient location.
In 1803 the army fortification “Fort” Dearborn was built on the banks of the Chicago River to protect the trading post. During the war against England (1812-1815) the fort also became a theater of war. In the so-called “Fort Dearborn Massacre”, 52 American settlers were killed by the Potawatomi, allied with England, and the fort was completely destroyed. After the US soldiers returned, most of the Potawatomi were driven out of the area. Since then, their tribal structures have been shattered and they have never been able to settle in the area again. After the war, the trading post on the Chicago River became the most important trading point for raw materials in the region. More and more settlers were attracted and the trading post developed into a village.
City foundation, growth, destruction and reconstruction
Chicago was officially founded on August 12, 1833. About 350 people lived in the village at that time. Due to the attractive economic conditions, the population grew to over 4000 one in the coming years and on March 4, 1837 Chicago was elevated to a city. The waterways were expanded and the newly founded city experienced an unprecedented economic boom. In 1848 the Illinois-Michigan Canal was opened, which from then on enabled goods to be transported from the Great Lakes via Chicago, the Mississippi down to the Gulf of Mexico. In the same year Chicago was connected to the railroad and the city became the main transportation hub in the United States, from which the whole country was supplied with raw materials and goods. Population growth continued unabated, so that. In 1857 already over 90,000 people lived in Chicago. There were many Europeans among the immigrants, especially Irish and Germans.
On October 8, 1871, the “Great Chicago Fire” broke out, which raged for two days and destroyed almost the entire city, which was mainly built of wood. Over 300 people were killed and more than 100,000 were left homeless. It is estimated that around 18,000 buildings were destroyed. The construction of a completely destroyed city opened up new, unimagined possibilities for the architects. The new Chicago was built of stone and grew tall. Up to 18-story apartment buildings with massive steel frame constructions laid the foundations for the modern skyscrapers for which not only Chicago is famous today. To this day, the city has played a leading role in the field of modern architecture. The city quickly recovered from the devastating fire and in 1880 already had 500,000 residents.
The economic boom and advancing industrialization at the end of the 19th century. Century led to massive social problems. The largely impoverished industrial workers began to campaign for social rights. On May 1, 1886, workers went on strike to reduce the daily working hours from 12 to eight hours. The violent protests that followed the crackdown by the police went down in history as the “Haymarket Riots”. The 1st of May goes back to this event as an international day of struggle for workers. The last years of the century were marked by further labor unrest and Chicago became the center of the labor movement. In 1893 the world exhibition took place in Chicago, which had a great influence on the architecture.
The 20th century
At the turn of the century, Chicago, which was still the destination for post-war immigrants, already had a population of just under 1.7 million. Since Lake Michigan was heavily polluted because of the numerous industrial complexes and the rapidly growing population, several tunnels to fresh water sources were dug and a sewage system complex was built. An impressive highlight of this water management was the reversal of the flow direction of the Chicago River. In the first half of the century numerous huge slaughterhouses as well as the run-down workers’ settlements determined the cityscape for the large mass of the rapidly growing workforce.
After the First World War, mainly black workers from the southern states of the country immigrated to Chicago as cheap labor for the slaughterhouses. They primarily related to the South Side and had a decisive influence on this quarter.
In the course of Prohibition (1920-1935) Chicago developed into the “city of gangsters”. Alcohol smuggling became a lucrative source of income for criminal gangs, corrupt politicians and black marketeers. In Chicago, which had a distinctive whiskey and beer culture due to the Irish and German immigrants, the alcohol ban was hardly obeyed by the population and illegal business was tolerated. Shootings among competing gangs resulted in hundreds of deaths and commonplace. From this “breeding ground” a man rose to the top of organized crime in the 1920s: Al Capone. Until the legendary gangster boss was arrested in 1931, he controlled Chicago’s underworld and amassed great fortune. With his “achievements” he is even in the Guinness Book of Records. In a single year, no private individual earned more income than he did in 1927. At the age of 27, Al Capone “earned” $ 105 million at the time. More below.
In the 1930s, the effects of the Great Depression hit Chicago. Many companies went bankrupt and masses of workers became unemployed. Social tensions grew.
1950 Chicago reached the previous high level of population. Over 3.6 million people lived in the city. This made it the second most populous city in the United States after New York City. However, due to the emigration of large parts of the middle class to the emerging suburbs, the population declined changeably.
In 1955 Richard J. Daley, known as “Da Boss”, took over the mayor’s office and held his post until 1976. He ruled with a hard hand and had social protests suppressed with armed violence. Extensive new construction and restructuring measures were carried out under his leadership, and some of the traditional quarters fell victim. A system of streets and social housing projects led to the extensive isolation of the districts inhabited by different ethnic groups. Social separation was the result. The consequences of this policy can still be felt today in the multicultural immigrant city.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Chicago was the scene of heavy protests by black civil rights activists around Martin Luther King and Jesse Jackson and by opponents of the Vietnam War.
Since the 1990s, Chicago began to grow again. Immigrants from Latin America and Asia in particular are contributing to this development. In 2000, just under 2.9 million people lived in the city on the Chicago River.
Short for CCG by Abbreviationfinder, Chicago is the county seat of Cook County. The urban area is divided into 77 districts. The mayor, who has extensive power over the city council, is elected for four years. The Chicago City Council consists of 50 city councilors who are elected for four years. Each constituency has one of them. Chicago has been firmly in democratic hands since 1927. To date, no Republican has won the mayoral election. Barack Obama (born 1961) worked here with interruptions from 1985 until his election in 2009 as President of the USA, including from 2004 as Senator for the State of Iliionois.
Al Capone Alphonse Gabriel “Al” Capone was born in Brooklyn, New York City on January 17th, 1899. To this day, Capone is one of America’s most notorious criminals of the 1920s and 1930s Underworld had dominated his business with illegal gambling, prostitution, racketeering and – during Prohibition – with the illegal alcohol trade. To this day he is considered the US gang boss and has become a symbol of organized crime worldwide. Interestingly, he never became for sentenced his murders “only” for tax evasion, for which he was sentenced to 11 years in prison on October 24, 1931. But for good conduct he was released from his last prison, Alcatraz, on January 6th.A sick and broken man, he had spent the last eight years of his life in Florida, where he died on January 25, 1947 in Palm Island of complications from pneumonia.
Valentine’s Day massacre
The murder of seven people on February 14, 1929 in the course of a gang war between criminal gangs in Chicago is known as the Valentine’s Day massacre. The deed had attracted a great deal of attention at the time because of its sophistication. For this purpose, a five-man firing squad in two limousines – which looked similar to those of the Chicago criminal investigation department – drove up to an auto repair shop owned by the “SMC Cartage Company”, which was actually a front company of the North Side Gang under George “Bugs” Moran. They were a gang competing with Al Capone’s Chicago outfit. In the act, three of the perpetrators wore police uniforms and pretended to carry out a raid, so those present had themselves disarmed and placed against the wall, where they were immediately shot.
The massacre was gimmicked in 1967 by the director Roger Corman in the film “Chicago Massacre”. It became particularly well known as the template for the murder scene in Billy Wilder’s comedy “Some Like It Hot” with Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lennon from 1959.