History of Chicago


Like much of the United States, the original inhabitants of Chicago were Native Americans known as the Algonquian people. Eventually, the areas location as a trading port along the water routes led Europeans to the area. It had come to be known as "Chicago" from the Miami-Illinois language of Native Americans who lived and traded along the Mississippi River and the French immigrants. A combination of French and Miami-Illinois morphed shikaakwa, meaning "wild leek" which grows along the Chicago River, to today's title of Chicago.

French arrivals Louis Jolliert and Henri Joutel saw the areas potential and began building it up as a transportation hub. The fur trade between French Canada and the interior of North America was most easily reached through the Great Lakes and Chicago. More settlers found their way to the area as the fur trade progressed and in 1683 French Jesuits started to Christianize the Native Americans. These beginnings of a settlement were almost completely demolished by the Fox Wars in which the Native American Fox tribe fought back against the settlers. Fighting erupted in 1712 and raged between the two groups for two years. Though the settlers prevailed and controlled the waterway, what remained of the Fox tribe joined the Sac tribe and again tried to fight back in 1728. This time the settlers effectively drove most of the Native Americans from the region where they wandered deeper into the interior of America. The French settlers had won water rights and thus won Chicago.

Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable was a mix of Haitian, African, and French heritage and soon became popularly known as the "Father of Chicago". Continuing the work of French settlers before him, du Sable opened a large fur trading post in the late 1770s and became one of the first non-Native American permanent residents. His marriage into the local tribe helped secure his position and offered him freedom of movement in both the Native American and European settlements. It was not until the Northwest Indian War or "Little Turtle's War" that the area was officially ceded by the native Americans and the United States government formally accepted the area in the Treaty of Greenville on August 3, 1795.

On March 4, 1837 the Town of Chicago was incorporated with a population of 350. Trade fueled the city and with the help of opening the Michigan-Illinois canal, there were over 4,000 residents. Its population grew so rapidly that in 1860 Chicago was the ninth most populous city in the country. Thirty years after that it had grown to become the nation's second largest city, and one of the largest cities in the world. From 1870 to 1900 Chicago grew from a city of 299,000 to nearly 1.7 million, the fastest-growing city in human history at the time. Industry changed and grew to encompass the Chicago Union Stock Yards which dominated the packing trade and Chicago became the world's largest rail hub and one of its busiest ports.

This growth was stymied by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 in which 300 people died and around 18,000 buildings were destroyed. The city was redesigned using steel which catapulted Chicago into its status as a city on par with New York and established the city as the birthplace of modern architecture, also helping to maintain its status as the transportation and trade hub of the Midwest.

With this growth of industry and population came the notorious 1920s where Chicago was the base of operation for the mob and gangsters like Al Capone. Prohibition outlawed the consumption and production of alcohol and the Great Migration would lead thousands of mostly Southern blacks to northern cities for employment opportunities. With this influx of people came the particular musical styling of jazz and blues which is still prominent in the area today.

The following decades continued to be marked with racial unrest, political upheaval, and vast progress. The Sears Tower was erected in 1973 as the tallest building in the world. Jane Byrne was elected mayor in 1979, one of the first female's to hold the office over such a large city. In 1983 Harold Washington became the first African-American to hold the office of mayor. Today, Chicago is classified as an alpha world city with the third largest metropolitan area in the U.S. and is the major transportation hub, as well as the business, financial, and cultural capital of the Midwest.

Update 27/08/2010

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