In the area located between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River, now known as Chicago, the Miami, Sauk and Fox people called this part of the country home for several hundred years to be followed by the Potawatomis, Ottawa, and Ojibwa in the late 1600 and 1700s. The first known European settlers in the area included Haitian Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable, who married a Potawatomis woman and founded the first trading post around 1779. Soon after, in 1803 the United States Army built Fort Dearborn. After the fort was destroyed in a battle with the local tribes, the United States Government negotiated the Treaty of St. Louis with the Ojibwa, Potawatomis and Ottawa. Soon after the treaty was signed the town of Chicago was formed and the city was officially incorporated in 1837.
The name Chicago is a French rendering of "shikaakwa," meaning wild leek, which was an interpretation of the scent of leeks or the sent of skunks, which once identified the smells in the area during spring and summer. Chicago in its first century was one of the fastest growing cities in the world, heavily promoted by Yankee entrepreneurs and land speculators. Starting in 1848, the city became an important transportation link between the eastern and western United States with the opening of the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad, Chicago’s first railway, and the Illinois and Michigan Canal, which allowed steamboats and sailing ships on the Great Lakes to connect through Chicago to the Mississippi River. With a flourishing economy that brought many new residents from rural communities and Irish American, Polish American, Swedish American, German American and numerous other immigrants, Chicago grew to nearly 1.7 million between 1880 and 1900. The city’s manufacturing and retail sectors dominated the Midwest and greatly influenced the American economy, with the Union Stock Yards dominating the meat packing trade.
The 1920s brought notoriety to Chicago as gangsters, including the notorious Al Capone, battled each other and the law during the Prohibition era. The 1920s also saw a large increase in industry with arrivals of the Great Migration, which led thousands of Southern blacks to Chicago and other northern cities. In 1933, Mayor Anton Cermak was shot dead, possibly as a part of the gangland reprisal. 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.
Since the early 1990s, some of Chicago’s formerly abandoned neighborhoods are showing new life. Neighborhoods such as the South Loop, West Loop, Wicker Park/Bucktown, Uptown, and others have attracted middle-class and younger residents. The city has made considerable investment in infrastructure, revitalizing downtown theaters and retail districts, and improving lakefront and riverfront cityscapes.
Today, the city of Chicago is the largest city in Illinois, the largest in the Midwest, and, with a population of over 2 million people, the third largest city in the United States. The Chicago metropolitan area is commonly referred to as Chicagoland and has a population of over 9.5 million people from Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana, making it also the third largest metropolitan area in the country.
Over one-third of the city population is concentrated in the lakefront neighborhoods. The North Side has a large gay and lesbian community. Two neighborhoods in particular, Lakeview and Andersonville (in Edgewater), are home to many LGBT businesses and organizations. The area adjacent to the intersection of Halsted and Belmont is a gay neighborhood known to Chicagoans as "Boystown." The city has many upscale dining establishments as well as many ethnic restaurant districts. These include "Greektown" on South Halsted, "Little Italy" on Taylor Street, just west of Halsted, "Chinatown" on the near South Side, and "South Asia" on Devon Avenue.
Chicago’s theater district is famous for its modern improvisational comedy and theater companies. The most well known comedy troupe is The Second City and the Chicago theater companies include the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, the Goodman Theatre, and the Victory Gardens Theater. Other theaters sprang from nearly 100 storefront performance spaces such as the Strawdog Theatre Company, The House Theatre of Chicago, TimeLine Theatre Company and Remy Bumppo Theatre Company in the Lakeview area. Broadway In Chicago, created in July of 2000, hosts touring productions and Broadway musical previews at: LaSalle Bank Theatre, Cadillac Palace Theatre, Ford Center for the Performing Arts (Oriental Theatre), and the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Joffrey Ballet, and several modern and jazz dance troupes perform. The city's classical music mediums include Music of the Baroque, Chicago Opera Theater, the Chicago Chamber Musicians, Chicago a cappella, and others.
Various forms of music are distinct to Chicago. Among them are Chicago blues, soul, jazz, and gospel. The city is the birthplace of the house style and is the site of an influential hip-hop scene. In the 1980s, the city was a center for industrial, punk and new wave. This influence continued into the alternative music of the 1990s. The city has been an epicenter for rave culture since the 1980s. A flourishing independent rock music culture brought forth the Chicago indie scene. Annual festivals feature various acts such as Lollapalooza, the Intonation Music Festival and Pitchfork Music Festival.
Chicago attracts about 33 million visitors annually. Upscale shopping along the Magnificent Mile, thousands of restaurants, as well as Chicago's eminent architecture continue to draw tourists. The city is the United States' third-largest convention destination. Most conventions are held at McCormick Place, just south of Soldier Field. Navy Pier houses retail, restaurants, museums, exhibition halls, and auditoriums. Its 150-foot-tall ferris wheel is north of Grant Park on the lakefront and is one of the most visited landmarks in the Midwest, attracting about 8 million people annually. The historic Chicago Cultural Center (1897), originally serving as the Chicago Public Library, now houses the city's Visitor Information Center, galleries, and exhibit halls. The ceiling of Preston Bradley Hall includes a 38-foot (11 m) Tiffany glass dome.
Millennium Park is a rebuilt section of a former rail yard that was planned for unveiling at the turn of the 21st century, though it was delayed for several years. The park includes the Cloud Gate sculpture (known locally as "The Bean"). When facing Cloud Gate and Lake Michigan, a curved skyline image is reflected. A Millennium Park restaurant transforms into an ice skating rink in the winter. Two tall glass sculptures make up the Crown Fountain. Architects Krueck & Sexton implemented this design concept of artist Jaume Plensa. The fountain's two towers display visual effects from LED images of Chicagoans' faces, with water spouting from their lips. Frank Gehry's detailed stainless steel bandshell, Pritzker Pavilion, hosts the classical Grant Park Music Festival concert series. Behind the pavilion's stage is the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, an indoor venue for mid-sized performing arts companies, including Chicago Opera Theater and Music of the Baroque. Gehry's stainless steel BP Bridge connects Millennium Park with Daley Bicentennial Plaza.
In 1998, the city officially opened the Museum Campus, a 10-acre lakefront park surrounding three of the city's main museums: the Adler Planetarium, the Field Museum of Natural History, and Shedd Aquarium. The Museum Campus joins the southern section of Grant Park, which includes the renowned Art Institute of Chicago. Buckingham Fountain anchors the downtown park along the lakefront. During the summer of 2007, Grant Park hosts the public art exhibit, Cool Globes: Hot Ideas for a Cooler Planet. The Museum of Science and Industry, in Hyde Park, is the only remaining building from the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. The Oriental Institute, part of the University of Chicago, has an extensive collection of ancient Egyptian and Near Eastern archaeological artifacts, while the Freedom Museum is dedicated to exploring and explaining the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Other museums and galleries in Chicago are the Chicago History Museum, DuSable Museum of African-American History, Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, the Polish Museum of America, Museum of Contemporary Art, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, the Hyde Park Art Center and The Renaissance Society.
Chicago has some signature foods which reflect the city's ethnic and working-class roots. These include the deep-dish pizza and the Chicago hot dog, which is almost always made of Vienna Beef and loaded with mustard, chopped onion, sliced tomato, pickle relish, celery salt, sport peppers, and a dill pickle spear. Chicago is also known for Italian Beef sandwiches and the Maxwell Street Polish (always served topped with grilled onions and mustard). Grant Park celebrates the Taste of Chicago festival in late June and early July. Every type of food in the city is represented, with free concerts and events daily.
Chicago was named the best sports city in the United States by The Sporting News in 2006 due in part to the 17 sports teams that call the city home. Five of those teams play in the four major North American professional sports leagues. They include the Chicago Bears of the National Football League, the Chicago Cubs of the National Baseball League, the Chicago White Sox of the American Baseball League, the Chicago Bulls of the National Basketball Association, the Chicago Sky of the Women's National Basketball Association, the Chicago Blackhawks of the National Hockey League, the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League, the Chicago Rush of the Arena Football League, and the Chicago Fire, members of Major League Soccer. The city has also held the Chicago Marathon every October since 1977. This event is one of five World Marathon Majors.