Chicago (city), Illinois, United States. Chicago is the third-largest city in the United States and one of the country's leading industrial, commercial, financial, and transport centres. It extends some 47 km (29 mi) along the south-western shore of Lake Michigan, occupying flatland traversed by two short rivers: the Chicago River and the Calumet River. Both rivers have been linked by canals with the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, establishing Chicago as the connecting point in the waterway route between the Mississippi Valley and the Great Lakes-St Lawrence Seaway. The city's rapid growth was due in large part to its location, with ready access to markets and raw materials; it has the world's busiest airport, Chicago-O'Hare International Airport. The population of Chicago in 1992 was estimated to be 2,768,483 (3,005,072 in 1980). The immigrant heritage of Chicago's population remains very strong, and there is hardly an ethnic group in America not represented there. In 1990, German ancestry was claimed by more people in Chicago (270,334) and in the metropolitan area (1,429,336), than any other, and this was followed by Polish (261,899) and Irish (237,113) ancestry in the city. Among the major minority groups, blacks account for almost one in five in the metropolitan region as a whole, while Hispanics represent approximately one in nine residents.
Black presence in the suburban zone has hardly altered in the recent past, whereas Hispanic proportions outside the central city are growing.
II INDUSTRY AND LEISURE
Aided by an excellent distribution network, Chicago is America's most important rail and haulage centre and is a significant port handling both domestic and international trade. Great Lakes freighters and river barges deliver bulk commodities such as iron ore, limestone, coal, chemicals, oil, and grain. Some of this freight is destined for processing plants in the heavily industrialized Calumet River area. Foreign vessels arrive via the St Lawrence Seaway, bringing such products as cars, steel, fish, and alcoholic beverages and carrying away machinery, farm equipment, hides, and timber, as well as a variety of food products.
The Chicago metropolitan area has the highest number of manufacturing employees in the United States. Chicago's largest employer is the electrical goods industry, followed by the steel, machinery, fabricated metals, foods, printing and publishing, chemicals, and transport equipment industries. It is one of the nation's leading producers of steel, metal goods, confectionery, surgical appliances, rail equipment, soap, paint, cosmetics, cans, industrial machinery, printed materials, and sporting goods. Chicago houses the headquarters of numerous corporations and is a major wholesale market for grain, machine tools, food produce, fish, and flowers. The Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange are among the world's largest commodity markets. The city is a leading convention centre, with extensive hotel facilities, including McCormick Place-on-the-Lake, a multi-purpose exhibition complex on Lake Michigan. Chicago is divided into three sections—the North (largely residential), West (mainly industrial), and South (diversely residential) Sides. The centre, known locally as the Loop, shares shops and entertainment facilities increasingly with the city's multiplying suburbs.
Chicago has one of the world's most beautiful lakefronts. With the exception of a few miles of industry on its southern extremity, virtually the entire lakefront is devoted to recreational uses, with beaches, museums, harbours, and parks, which include Grant Park opposite the city centre, Lincoln Park to the north, and Jackson Park to the south.
The world's first skyscraper was constructed in Chicago, in 1885, spawning the innovative Chicago School of architecture. Among the renowned architects whose buildings have shaped the city's skyline are Louis Sullivan, William Le Baron Jenney, Daniel H. Burnham, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The central part of the city has several of the world's tallest buildings, including the Sears Tower, which at 110 storeys high is the tallest in the United States. Construction of tall office buildings continues.
Chicago is home to the Cubs baseball team at Wrigley Field; the White Sox baseball team at Cominskey Park; the Bears American football team; the Blackhawks ice hockey team; and Bulls basketball teams.
Chicago is a major centre of higher education, with numerous colleges and universities. The prestigious University of Chicago (1890) was the site in 1942 of the world's first controlled nuclear chain reaction. Other schools of higher learning include Northwestern University (1851), the Illinois Institute of Technology (1940); Loyola University of Chicago (1870), De Paul University (1898), and the Chicago State University (1867).
Chicago contains several distinguished museums. These include the Art Institute of Chicago (1879), one of the country's largest art museums; the Field Museum of Natural History (1893); and the Du Sable Museum of African-American History. In Hyde Park are the Oriental Institute and the Museum of Science and Industry (1893). In Lincoln Park are the Chicago Academy of Sciences (1857) and the Chicago Historical Society (1856). Also notable is the Museum of Contemporary Art. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1891, is considered one of the world's finest.
In 1673 the French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet passed through what is now the site of Chicago. They found a low, swampy area that Native Americans, mainly Sauk, Mesquakie, and Potawatomi, called “Checagou”, referring to the wild onion that once grew in marshlands along Lake Michigan. About a century later, Jean-Baptiste Point du Sable, a Haitian trader of African and French descent, established the first permanent dwelling near the mouth of the Chicago River. By 1837, helped by harbour improvements and the start of construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal, Chicago's population had reached 4,000. Growth was very rapid, bolstered by the completion of the canal in 1848 and the coming of the railways in the early 1850s. The consolidated Union Stock Yards opened in 1865 to handle the cattle, pigs, and sheep shipped by rail to Chicago for slaughter and packing. The city was first predominantly a port and trading centre for raw materials from the Midwest and finished goods from the East, but it soon developed as a major national railway junction and an important manufacturing centre.
Waves of immigrants from Europe, which included Poles, Jews, Russians, Czechs, Lithuanians, Serbs, Italians, and Greeks, meant that Chicago became a chequerboard of different ethnic communities. The generally low paid jobs and sub-standard living conditions of immigrants were exposed in the 1906 novel The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. Southern blacks seeking better opportunities migrated north after World War I.
During the second half of the 19th century, the city's large industrial worker population campaigned actively for an eight-hour work day, better working conditions, and better wages. Workers clashed with police on several occasions, including the Haymarket Square Riot of May 4, 1886. Two civilians and seven policemen were killed, and approximately 150 people wounded. In nearby Pullman on June 27, 1894, workers of the Pullman Company, manufacturer of sleeper trains, struck in response to unfair wage practices and the living and working conditions of the company town. The American Railway Union responded with a support strike. Workers and their families were attacked by rail deputies, federal troops, and city police. At least 30 people were killed and 100 wounded before the strike was broken on July 17.
By 1890, due largely to its annexation of several suburbs, Chicago's population had surpassed one million. Alternate periods of corruption and reform characterized the city's political history for many years. In the summer of 1919, race riots erupted throughout America, the worst occurring in Chicago when a black youth swimming in Lake Michigan drifted into an area reserved for whites and was stoned and drowned. Police refused to arrest a white man whom black observers considered responsible, and angry crowds gathered on the beach. Violence erupted and continued throughout the city for 13 days, resulting in 38 dead, 537 injured, and 1,000 black families left homeless. The shocked national reaction helped launch efforts towards racial equality through volunteer organizations and reform legislation. During the Prohibition era (1919-1933) Chicago became notorious for its bootleggers and gangsters, such as Al Capone, and for gang warfare, epitomized in the St Valentine's Day Massacre of 1929. The city's physical expansion in the 20th century was largely guided by the Burnham Plan of Chicago (1909), a design for the city's future inspired by the world's Columbian Exposition. Population continued to grow until it reached a peak of more than 3.6 million in 1950. In recent decades extensive road building and slum clearance have been undertaken to alleviate urban decay.