Chicago1 referat


Main facts

Chicago is the third largest city in the US with a population of 2,886,251 (2002). It is located in the state of Illinois and directly at the shores of Lake Michigan.

Its name comes from the Indian word for wild onions, “Checaguar” because of the strange smell of wild onions that used to be there.

Now, Chicago has one of the highest and most impressive skylines, along with New York City and Hong Kong.

Historical and economical development of Chicago

In 1779, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable was the first to settle permanently at the mouth of Chicago River. At this time, Chicago was an Indian territory, but later in 1795 the Indians ceded Chicago to the Americans, so that they could use it as a military post.

In 1803 Fort Dearborn was built. Chicago was essential for trade, so they needed protection against attacks of the Native Americans. Fort Dearborn was destroyed later in the “Fort Dearborn massacre” during the War 1812 – 1826. The government had ordered Fort Dearborn to be abandoned and on the escape to Indiana, the inhabitants of Fort Dearborn were captured, half of them killed by Indians and Fort Dearborn was burned down.

After the war, it was rebuilt and remained in use until 1837. The name “Fort Dearborn” was changed to “Chicago” in 1830.

On August 12th in 1833, Chicago was incorporated as a town with about 350 inhabitants. Only seven years later, the population had grown to about 4,000. People from Western Europe started to move to America and eventually, some of them ended up in Chicago.

The people from the eastern coast of the United States began to move west towards Chicago and into Chicago. Some of those people became the first political and business leaders, as Chicago grew from a marshy wilderness into a city.

Before Chicago grew into town, its primary industry as an outpost was fur trade. But then with many people living in the city and still moving into it, railroads started to be built to transport goods.

On March 4th in 1837, Chicago was granted a city charter by Illinois.

Because Chicago was shipping food from the Mississippi Valley, the largest food production area in the world, it became the largest grain port in the world.

In 1848, the Illinois and Michigan Canal opened. Now products could be shipped from the Great Lakes through Chicago to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. In the same year, the first railroad connection to Chicago has been completed. Those were the first steps for Chicago to become a hub of the United States with water, road and later air connections.

At the same time, Chicago built its first grain elevator and ten years later there were twelve of them in what today is called “downtown”. Some argue that the grain elevators were Chicago’s first skyline.

But at this time, Chicago had also many problems. The swampy ground invited many disease-carrying insects to visit the town. The deep mud also caused difficult transport of goods. It was so muddy, that the horses simply got stuck in it, especially in the spring after the high water. There were a lot of warnings to prevent people from getting stuck in the mud (for example: “No bottom here”; “Fastest route to China”). To solve the transportation problem, the Cook County Board of Commissioners resolved to improve and extend country roads, with one going to the west, and the other one going to the southwest.

There was also a sewer problem in young Chicago. To solve this problem, they embarked to build a huge sewer system. Sewage pipes were laid above the ground and later, as some buildings were jacked up, they began to raise the street-level above the pipes.

But, to no avail – there was still a water problem. The city, with its permanently rising population, had a lack of clean water. Because of the increasing numbers of industry in and around Chicago, the water of Lake Michigan became polluted. So they began to build tunnels underneath Lake Michigan, leading to water cribs that provided the city with clean water from two miles off shore. To prevent polluted water to get into the cribs, the Army Corps of Engineers reversed the flow of the water so that no sewage could get into it anymore.

In 1857 Chicago had about 90,000 people living there and was the biggest and greatest city in what they called “Northwest” at that time.

In the 1850s and 60s the pork and beef industry in Chicago absolutely exploded. The area around Chicago was one of the largest meat producers in the whole world! The demand for meat products increased during the Civil War because of Chicago’s quick and sprawling transportation links to all over the country.

The other reason for the perpetually increasing meat production was the use of ice in meat packing plants. Before the use of ice became ubiquitous in the meat packing industry, they had to shut down the plants in the hot summer months. With the utilization of ice they could produce meat during the summer. The meat industry began to expand and with the help of the telegraph, the plants could spread all over the country. But the headquarters were still in Chicago.

The Great Fire of Chicago, in 1871, burned down a great portion of Chicago (that by then, had a population of 300,000) between October 8th and October 10th. It had been a very hot and dry summer day, and as the fire started, and the summer wind helped the fire to get from house to house. There were a few buildings that survived the great fire. One of them was the Water tower, one of the few buildings that had not been made out of wood. So even today it stands proudly as a memorial of the Great Fire in 1871 (picture!). When the fire was over, 300 people of the 300,000 in Chicago were killed, 100,000 were left homeless, 17,500 buildings were destroyed, 73 miles of street were destroyed and an estimated $200,000,000 of  property was destroyed. City planners used this opportunity to rebuild the city and solve the problems of the past by implementing different architecture and structure for the city.

In 1885 the first skyscraper in the world, the Home Insurance Building, was finished, built using a completely ingenious steel skeleton construction.

The greatest fair of the times was the Chicago Columbian Exhibition. This fair celebrated the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in America and took place in Chicago. It lasted about six months and was visited by over 27,000,000 people (that was about half of the US-population!!!). Within sixty years Chicago had become a splendid city and this exhibition was its own way to show it.

In 1970, they started to build the Sears Tower, the highest skyscraper at this time and still one of the tallest buildings now. It is 1,454 feet tall, weighs 445,000,000 pounds and its 110 stories high.

Today, Chicago has three airports: O'Hare International Airport, Midway Airport, and Meigs Field. O’Hare is the world’s busiest airport with 1,200 flights every day with take-offs and landings every 11 seconds!

Midway Airport is Chicago’s oldest airport. Once it was the busiest airport, but now it has runways that are too small for the landings of big planes. Although it is a very small airport, that is only able to manage landings and take-offs of small planes, it is a very fast growing airport. It even became the fastest growing airport in the US in 1998 and in 1999 it served more that 13,000,000 passengers.

Meigs Airport is the smallest one. It’s only used for businessmen/women and private jets.

Some important companies based in Chicago:

Bank One


Chicago Board of Trade

Chicago Stock Exchange

National Stock Exchange

Rotary International

WM. Wrigley Jr. Company


Kraft Foods

Some important people that are born in Chicago or citizens:

Gillian Anderson (actress “X Files”)

Al Capone (famous gangster)

Hillary Rodham Clinton (U.S. Senator and former First Lady)

Walt Disney (creator of Mickey Mouse)

Harrison Ford (actor)

Benny Goodman (musician)

Ernest Hemmingway (writer)

Donald Rumsfeld (current United States Secretary of Defence)

Robin Williams (actor)

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