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Chicago History

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History of Chicago, Illinois

During the mid-18th century the Chicago area was inhabited by a group of Native Americans called the Potawatomis. The first non-native permanent settler in the area was Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable. He arrived in the 1770s and founded the areas first trading post.

In 1795 following the Northwest Indian War, part of Chicago was turned over to the United States by the Native Americans. The U.S. used the area for a military post. By 1816 the Potawatomis ceded all of the land to the United States in the Treaty of St. Louis.

By 1833 the town of Chicago had a population of 350. Within seven years Chicago grew to a population of over 4,000. In 1848 the Illinois and Michigan Canal opened. This allowed for shipping from the Great Lakes to go through Chicago. The Galena and Chicago Union Railroad also opened up the same year. Both of these helped Chicago to become a major transportation hub in the United States.

In 1871 tragedy struck when the Great Chicago Fire destroyed a third of the city, including the central business district. Chicago quickly rebuilt itself and even constructed the world’s first skyscraper in 1885. Also between 1870 and 1900 the city grew to a population of nearly 1.7 million. It was the fastest-growing city at that time.

In 1893 Chicago hosted the World’s Columbian Exposition. The expo drew more than 27.5 million visitors. It is considered to be the most influential world's fair in history.

The 1920s brought a lot of attention to Chicago due to the many gangsters in the area battling each other. Chicago had over 1,000 gangs. During this time Chicago also expanded different industries and had many available jobs. This attracted many African Americans to the area. During this wave Chicago became a center for Jazz music.

During the 1960s many citizens left the city and moved to the suburbs. There were also many job losses during this time. In 1968 Chicago held the Democratic National Convention. Due to the convention there were many riots in the streets of the city.

In 1974 Willis Tower became the tallest building in the world. Other major construction projects took place around this time including the University of Illinois at Chicago and the O’Hare International Airport. In 1979 the city’s first female mayor was elected. She helped the city to become a popular tourist destination and movie location.

In 1983 Harold Washington became the first African American to be elected as mayor. In 1989 Richard J. Daley became mayor and was re-elected his sixth time in 2007. In 2008 Chicago was named “City of the Year” by GQ. The city has also been rated as having the most balanced economy in the U.S. As of 2008 Chicago had a population of 2.8 million, making it the 3rd largest city in the U.S.

Chicago Timeline

1673- Canadian Explorer, Louis Jollet and French-born Jesuit Jacques Marquette were first Europeans to discover Chicago area

1770s- Jean Baptiste Point du Sable becomes first non-native permanent settler

1795- Part of Chicago ceded to U.S. by Native Americans

1816- Treaty of St. Louis, all of Chicago ceded to U.S.

1848- Opening of Illinois and Michigan Canal

1848- Opening of Galena and Chicago Union Railroad

1871- Great fire of Chicago

1885- Chicago constructs world’s first skyscraper

1892- University of Chicago founded

1893- Chicago hosts World’s Columbian Exposition

1968- Democratic National Convention

1979- Jane Byrne, city’s first female mayor elected

1983- Harold Washington, city’s first African American mayor elected

1989- Richard J. Daley elected as mayor, re-elected multiple times

2008- GQ names Chicago “City of the Year”

2008- Population reaches 2.8 million making Chicago 3rd largest city in U.S.