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Essay on History of Chicago

The word “Chicago” has not always been the word it is today. There are two main theories as to where the name came from; one, from a Native American Ojibwa folk tale, “Chicago” would mean “Place of the Skunk”; and two, some historians believe it was derived from “Checagou”, meaning strong, great, or powerful.

Jacques Marquette, who was a French missionary, and Louis Jolliet, a Canadian explorer and mapmaker, discovered Chicago in 1673. They were the first people be on the land where the city of Chicago was going to stand. They brought five others with them and found a large Amerindian village (close to the current Ottawa). The men were helped and guided by the affable Amerindians that year, and the two men were the first to land in Chicago.

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In 1779, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, an African American from Haiti, built the first permanent settlement at the mouth of the river just east of the present Michigan Avenue Bridge on the north bank. The exact original name of the settlement is not known but it can be found as Pointe de Sable, Au Sable, Point Sable, Sabre and Pointe de Saible. The first marriage in Chicago was performed in Du Sable’s house, the first election was held, and the first court handed down justice. The religion of the first Chicagoan was Catholic.

In 1803, the first fort was built in Chicago. It was in this year that the War Department demanded that a fort was to be built at the mouth of the river. It began to be constructed on August 17th, 1803 and was finished a year later. It was named “Fort Dearborn” in honour of the Secretary of War. The fort went for many years in peace, with traders thriving. But in 1812 there was a war with Britain and the government ordered an immediate evacuation of the fort. After leaving the fort, the Indians attacked the evacuees, many were murdered, and the fort was destroyed. It was rebuilt in 1816 and was occupied by American troops until 1837 when it was abandoned. It stood until 1856.

Chicago was controlled by Indiana Territory and Illinois Territory from 1801 to 1818. In 1818, Illinois was admitted to statehood.

On March 4th 1837, Chicago was admitted as a city and had a population of 4170. William B. Ogden was elected the first mayor of Chicago in the election on May 2nd, 1837. At the same election, 10 school inspectors were also elected, and in November 1840, free public schools were permanently established and a Board of Inspectors was organized. The first public school was built on Madison Street in 1844. It was later destroyed in the fire of 1871.

The first railroad constructed out of Chicago, the Galena and Chicago Union, was licensed on January 16th, 1836, to connect Chicago with the lead mines at Galena. By 1850, it had extended as far as Elgin. The railroad was absolutely vital in the development of the city, and eventually other railroads were built and Chicago turned out to be the largest railroad centre in the world.

In 1860, the Republican National Convention was held. This was the first national political meeting in Chicago. May 18th was the third day of the convention, and this was the day that nominations were presented. Abraham Lincoln won 231 votes – but 233 were required for nomination. This was when the Ohio delegation changed its four votes from Salmon Chase to Abraham Lincoln, and that was when Lincoln was nominated. 1861-1865 were the years of the Civil War. On April 12th, 1861, Fort Sumter was fired on. On April 15th, the president called for 75,000 volunteer troops. Illinois was asked to provide six regiments. In Chicago, the first companies to come together were the Chicago Light Artillery, the Ellsworth’s Zouaves, and some other volunteer organizations. The success of the Union’s military strategies ended the war in April 1865, but the celebrations didn’t last long – Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 15th.

In 1869, the American Water Works Association chose the Chicago Water Tower to be the first American water landmark in the nation. The tower managed to survive the fire of 1871 and is still standing today.

The Chicago Fire took place in 1871. It started in a cow barn in DeKoven Street, on the west side of Chicago. The fire began on October 8th, 1871 and the entire business district ended up in flames. The water tower survived the blaze, and rainfall began to put out the flames. 300 people were killed and the property loss was enormous. However, by 1875, Chicago had been quickly rebuilt, and evidence that the fire ever took place was hard to spot.

Many of the city’s private libraries had been reduced to ashes during the fire of 1871, so as part of the relief effort; over 8,000 books were donated to the people of Chicago. This was then the State Legislature and the City Council authorized the first free public library.

In 1885, the first skyscraper was built. It is known as the Home Insurance Building, and the architect was William Le Baron Jenney. His structural frame led to the development of many more skyscrapers in later years, and his first skyscraper revolutionized urban life because, with higher buildings like this, more people could live and work in limited areas.

The Haymarket Riot took place in 1886, the year when Labour Unions began to strike for shorter hours. It all began with a movement for the eight-hour day. Workers had been called on to strike and to get employers to yield to the change. Some extremists wanted to use dynamite to force the point. The workers in Chicago were all for the 8-hour day, and about 80,000 went on strike. The actual rioting only started when someone threw a bomb that fatally wounded seven policemen and one civilian. The 8-hour day was passed, and labour movement lived on, after all the events that happened.

Jane Addams opened Hull House in 1889. She helped hundreds of immigrants and others get some self-respect in society. This essay was written by somebody else. Her campaigns for social reforms became known all over the world (later on in 1931 she won the Nobel Peace Prize). Hull House in Chicago is now known as a historical landmark, and it helps people realize the achievements of the past and how it helped point the way to a brighter future for many people.

Many significant events of the 20th Century took place in Chicago, including the stockyards, the First Ward Ball, the Iroquois fire, the Eastland disaster, Prohibition and Al Capone, the reign of Mayor Richard J. Daley, the Democratic convention and the tumultuous summer of 1968, the city’s sports championships, the founding of some of Chicago’s greatest institutions, and the eventual celebration of the city’s great ethnic communities. The first American Nobel Prize Winner in science was from the University of Chicago. His name was Albert Abraham Michelson and won the prize in physics. He was the first American scientist to receive the award, in 1907.

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Essay on History of Chicago. (2021, Feb 12). Retrieved July 23, 2021, from