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Chicago, Illinois

This article concerns the city of Chicago, Illinois. For other uses of the term Chicago, see Chicago (disambiguation).

Chicago is the third largest city in the United States with a population of 2,896,016 (2000). It is located in the state of Illinois, on the shores of Lake Michigan. The city is the county seat of Cook County. The greater Chicago metropolitan area is known colloquially as Chicagoland. The name Chicago comes from "Checagou" or "Checaguar" which in the language of the Potawatomi Indians means 'wild onions' or 'skunk'. The area was so named because of the smell of rotting marshland onions that used to cover it.

Four ships called the USS Chicago were named after the city by the U.S. Navy.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Geography
3 Demographics
4 Government
5 Communications & Media
6 Arts & Culture
7 Famous Attractions, Landmarks & Areas of Interest
8 Colleges & Universities
9 Business & Commerce
10 Sports Teams
11 Events
12 Health
13 Transportation
14 External Links


Chicago was first settled by Europeans when Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, an African American from Haiti, settled on the Chicago River. In 1795, the area of Chicago was ceded by the Native Americans in the Treaty of Greenville to the United States for a military post. In 1803, Fort Dearborn was built and remained in use until 1837 except between 1812 and 1816 when it was destroyed in the Fort Dearbon Massacre dring the War of 1812. On August 12, 1833, the Town of Chicago was incorporated as a town with a population of 350. Chicago was granted a city charter by Illinois on March 4, 1837. The opening of the Illinois and Michigan Canal in 1848, allowed shipping from the Great Lakes through Chicago to the Mississippi River and so to the Gulf of Mexico. The first rail line to Chicago, the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad was completed the same year. Chicago would go on to become the transportation hub of the United States with it road, rail, water and later air connections. Chicago also became home to nationwide retailers offering catalog shopping utilizing these connections like Montgomery Ward and Sears, Roebuck and Company.

A simulated-color image of Chicago,
taken by Landsat 7

In 1855 the level of the city was raised 4 to 7 feet with individual buildings jacked up and fill brought in to raise streets above the swamp. The 1860 Republican National Convention in Chicago nominated home state candidate Abraham Lincoln. In 1871, most of the city burned in the Great Chicago Fire. In the following years, Chicago architecture would become influential throughout the world. The first skyscraper was constructed in 1885 using novel steel skeleton construction. The direction of flow of the Chicago River was reversed in 1900 to prevent sewage from running into Lake Michigan, the city's water source.

On December 2, 1942, the world's first controlled nuclear reaction was conducted at the University of Chicago as part of the top secret Manhattan Project.

Mayor Richard J. Daley was elected in 1955, in the era of so-called machine politics. In his time in office, the 1968 Democratic National Convention visited Chicago, four major expressways were built, the Sears Tower became the tallest building in the world and O'Hare Airport was constructed which later became the busiest airport in the world. In 1983, Harold Washington became the first African American mayor of Chicago. Richard M. Daley, son of Richard J. Daley, became mayor in 1989.

Important Historical Events

Important Citizens or people born here



According to the
United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 606.1 km² (234.0 mi²). 588.3 km² (227.1 mi²) of it is land and 17.8 km² (6.9 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 2.94% water.

Major Neighborhoods & Areas

See Also


As of the
census of 2000, there are 2,896,016 people, 1,061,928 households, and 632,909 families residing in the city. The population density is 4,923.0/km² (12,750.3/mi²). There are 1,152,868 housing units at an average density of 1,959.8/km² (5,075.8/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 41.97% White, 36.77% African American, 0.36% Native American, 4.35% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 13.58% from other races, and 2.92% from two or more races. 26.02% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 1,061,928 households out of which 28.9% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.1% are married couples living together, 18.9% have a female householder with no husband present, and 40.4% are non-families. 32.6% of all households are made up of individuals and 8.7% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.67 and the average family size is 3.50.

In the city the population is spread out with 26.2% under the age of 18, 11.2% from 18 to 24, 33.4% from 25 to 44, 18.9% from 45 to 64, and 10.3% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 32 years. For every 100 females there are 94.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 91.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $38,625, and the median income for a family is $42,724. Males have a median income of $35,907 versus $30,536 for females. The per capita income for the city is $20,175. 19.6% of the population and 16.6% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 28.1% are under the age of 18 and 15.5% are 65 or older.


The City of Chicago is divided into executive and legislative branches. The mayor is the Chief Executive and is elected by general election for a term of four years. The mayor appoints commissioners who oversee the various departments.

The city council is the legislative branch and made up of 50 aldermen, one elected from each ward in the city. The city council makes local ordinances and passes the city budget.

Government priorities and activities are established in a budget ordinance usually adopted in November of each year. The city takes official action through the passage of ordinances and resolutions.

In addition to the mayor, Chicago's two other city-wide elected officials are the clerk and the treasurer.

Chicago is considered to be one of the largest Democratic strongholds in the United States, as an example, the citizens of Chicago have not elected a Republican mayor since 1927 when William H. Thompson was voted into office.

City Departments

Municipal Flag of Chicago

The three white stripes of the flag represent, from top to bottom, the North, West and South sides of the city. The top blue stripe represents Lake Michigan and the North Branch of the Chicago River. The bottom blue stripes represents the South Branch of the Chicago River and the Great Canal. Finally, the four red stars on the center white stripe represent, from left to right, Fort Dearborn Massacre, the Great Chicago Fire, the World Columbian Exposition, and the Century of Progress Exposition.

In addition, each of the six points of the stars stand for something.

On the Fort Dearborn Massacre star (added in 1939): transportation, labor, commerce, finance, populousness, and salubrity.

On the Great Chicago Fire star (on the 1917 flag): religion, education, esthetics, justice, beneficence, and civic pride.

The points on the World Columbian Exposition star (on the 1917 flag) represent political entities Chicago belonged to: France 1693, Great Britain 1763, Virginia 1778, the Northwest Territory 1798, Indian Territory 1802, Statehood 1818.

The Century of Progress star (added in 1933: World's Third Largest City, City's Latin Motto (Urbs in horto - City in a garden), City's "I Will" Motto, Great Central Marketplace, Wonder City, Convention City.

Sister Cities

Chicago is sister cities with:

See Also

Communications & Media

Broadcast Television Stations

Radio Stations


Community Newspapers

Business, Legal, Entertainment and Other Local Periodicals

Arts & Culture

Chicago is notable for Chicago Blues &
Chicago House styles of music, Chicago style deep dish pizza, Chicago School in architecture, economic theory and urban sociology.

Historically Chicago is remembered for machine politics, meat packing and gangster violence during Prohibition.

Novels set in Chicago

Musicals set in Chicago

Movies & TV Shows set in Chicago

Famous Attractions, Landmarks & Areas of Interest

Colleges & Universities

Nearby Evanston has Northwestern University. Hamburger University, a training facility for McDonald's, is located in Oak Brook.

Business & Commerce

Companies based in Chicago & surrounding suburbs

The following companies are based in the city limits:

McDonald's Corporation is headquartered in nearby Oak Brook. United Airlines is headquartered in Elk Grove Village. Sears has its headquarters in Hoffman Estates. Motorola is based in Schaumburg. Kraft Foods is based in Northfield. Walgreens is based in Deerfield. Abbott Laboratories is based in North Chicago. ComDisco is based in Rosemont.

Sports Teams



United States has the largest healthcare system in the world and Chicago is arguably the capital of that system. In addition to the sprawling Illinois Medical District on the Near West Side, the city is home to the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the American Dental Association, the American College of Surgeons, and other health-related organizations, schools and institutions.


Listed below are the ten largest hospital systems in the Chicagoland region.




Mass Transit

Chicago boasts a world class mass transit system based on three major entities. The
CTA (Chicago Transist Authority), Metra Rail (subsidary of the Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation) and Pace. The primary responsibility of the CTA is to provide Bus, Subway and Elevated Train (Nickname "The El") service throughout the city. The Metra provides commuter rail service to over 200 surrounding suburbs on a daily basis and Pace provids bus service connection points to many suburbs from CTA stations positioned at outlying portions of the city.

Street Layout

The streets of Chicago for the most part follow the grid system. The base lines from which all streets and houses in Chicago are numbered are State Street, which runs North and South, and Madison Street, which runs East and West. Street numbers begin at "1" at the base lines and run numerically in directions indicated to the city limits. Letters, N,S,E and/or W indicate directions.

The City of Chicago is divided into one mile sections which contain 8 blocks to the mile. Every average block is assigned a new series of 100 numbers. Therefore, every 800 in numbers is approximately one mile.

Even numbers are found on the North and West sides of the street. Odd numbers are found on the South and East sides.

Lowest and highest house numbers for all streets are given regardless of the continuity of the street.

South of Madison street many of the streets are simply numbered. These streets run East and West and the number of the street indicates its location and distance.

Many of the suburbs of Chicago continue with the Chicago numbering system, and their exact location can be determined by street names and numbers. However, some suburbs do have their own numbering system.

See Also

External Links