The City Of Big Shoulders: Chicago's Most Incredible Stories

Tue Oct 24 2023

Chicago's Most Incredible Stories

Are you looking for an exciting way to explore the history and culture of Chicago? "The City Of Big Shoulders: Chicago’s Most Incredible Stories" offers a unique and captivating look at how this robust metropolis was developed from marshy origins.

Spanning key people, events, institutions, cultures, landmarks and more - this book covers every interesting aspect about the Windy City in detail. Discover all the incredible stories behind turn-of-the-century heroes, villains and ghosts that made their mark on this iconic city.

So get ready to dive into one of America's most vibrant histories!

Key Takeaways

  • Fort Dearborn was built in 1803 as a United States fort and is one of the key aspects of early Chicago history.
  • The Great Fire of 1871 destroyed much of the city and was started when a cow kicked over a lantern.
  • Harold Washington made history by becoming mayor in 1983, establishing youth programs throughout all parts of Chicago
  • Iconic architectural masterpieces like The Sears Tower, The Bean at Millennium Park and Wrigley Field are visited everyday by eager travelers from around the world.

Chicago's History: From Marshland to Metropolis

Chicago's development began in the 1600s when French missionaries and trappers explored the area and Anglo-American settlers arrived to claim land in the 1700s.

French missionaries and trappers in the 1600s

In the 1600s, French missionaries and trappers were among the first Europeans to enter the Indian world in Chicago. Seeking converts from among the native populations, they were primary traders of fur, exchanging it with indigenous people for goods and other trade.

Fort Dearborn was built during this period as a leading post for such activity. In addition, many European settlers used their presence to establish small villages that would eventually lead to further colonization of Chicago's land by Europeans.

Their arrivals marked an important point in history: bringing about changes that shaped not only local culture but also what we know today as modern-day Chicago. Through their interactions with Native Americans and establishment of fur trading posts at strategic locations around today’s city, these missionaries and trappers set the stage for future growth into a thriving metropolis – making them instrumental players in its development from marshland into a vibrant destination on Lake Michigan's shoreline.

Anglo-American frontiersmen in the 1700s

were a major part of the early settlers who established a trading post, engaged in Indian trade and fur trappers to benefit economic ties with Native American communities. The role of these frontiersmen has significantly impacted Chicago's history as they played a prominent role in the region's economic developement and interacted deeply with native cultures that had come before them.

Their most influential contribution regarded Fort Dearborn which was instrumental in how America began expanding westward. Through their exploration efforts, settlements were able to establish bases connected by trails that allowed further connection and growth between those living on either side for future generations.

The Great Fire of 1871

Quickly spreading with the help of strong winds, "the Great Fire of 1871" consumed much of Chicago in a matter of days. The blaze is believed to have started when a cow kicked over a lantern, though some suspect arson was at play.

In any case, the destruction that followed was devastating; city blocks full of wooden buildings were simply engulfed in flames until they disappeared into smoking piles of embers and ash.

More than 300 people perished as homes and businesses burned to cinders while firefighters fought bravely to put out the inferno—to no avail. It took two full days before enough rain came down to douse the fire's hunger for ruin.

The World's Fair of 1893

The World's Columbian Exposition was a grand event that took place in Jackson Park, Chicago to mark the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus voyage to the Americas. Here, an enormous area measuring 600 acres of marsh land was transformed into exhibition space with beautiful architecture and fireworks displays where 27 million visitors experienced exotic foods and drinks never seen before such as Cracker Jacks, Juicy Fruit Gum and Aunt Jemima pancake mix.

The iconic Ferris Wheel also made its debut here - standing at a mammoth 264 feet! This expo had an immense impact on Chicago’s development from then onward transforming it into a modern metropolis that we know today.

Key People and Moments

Explore the key figures of Chicago's past and unravel the stories of its iconic moments from Fort Dearborn to Cabrini-Green, and Marquette to Mayor Harold Washington. Find out more by reading this blog!

Fort Dearborn to Cabrini-Green

Fort Dearborn to Cabrini-Green are two places that represent the growth and development of Chicago from its earliest beginnings. Fort Dearborn was built as a United States fort in 1803, and it saw historic Native American massacres during the War of 1812.

The Battle of Fort Dearborn symbolized an important moment in early Chicago history—the attempted removal of Native Americans from what would become known as modern day Chicago. Following this battle came significant waves of population growth, city development, and industry.

One such example is Cabrini-Green Public Housing built during World War II to house those who were migrating to the area searching for jobs new in shipbuilding factories or other service employment opportunities.

Marquette to Mayor Harold Washington

Chicago has a very long and storied history, with the French missionaries and trappers in the 1600s paving the way for later Anglo-American frontiersmen in the 1700s. By 1983, Chicago was on its rise from the ashes of The Great Fire of 1871 and marked by expositions like The World's Fair of 1893.

That year saw an unprecedented event: Harold Washington won a historic election, making him African American Mayor of Chicago—the first time such had happened in over 120 years! Washington had been born and raised in Bronzeville neighborhood; he ran a narrow victory that April and served as mayor until his death just five years later in November 1987.

He may have had a short tenure as mayor but his impact on city politics was far reaching—from making economic reforms to establishing youth programs throughout all parts of Chicago, thereby influencing many lives.

The City's Architectural Marvels and Landmarks

Whether it's the iconic Sears Tower, the bean or Wrigley Field, come explore all of Chicago's favorite landmarks and architectural wonders.

The Sears Tower

Built in 1974, the Willis Tower - formerly known as the Sears Tower - is an iconic architectural landmark located in downtown Chicago. It stands at a remarkable 1,450 feet tall (442 meters), making it the second tallest building in North America and 8th highest across the world.

The unique structural design of this skyscraper allows it to soar above its fellow downtown buildings, even though its two antenna towers are excluded from its total height. These exceptional heights held immense significance for nearly 25 years when upon completion of construction; it was declared to be the world’s tallest building for that period – a title made all more special by being developed right here in Chicago! Designed with exceptionally strong materials such as steel and reinforced concrete columns seen along its exterior perimeter walls, over 2,000 workers were involved during construction that spanned three years before being completed on May 3rd 1975.

A must-visit place for travelers looking to explore one of “The Second City’s” jaw dropping architectural marvels!

The Bean

Wrigley Field

Located in the historic Wrigleyville neighborhood of Chicago, Wrigley Field is one of the most iconic and historical sports stadiums in America. It has been home to professional baseball team the Chicago Cubs since 1916.

Originally built in 1914 as a venue for teams from a now defunct minor league baseball organization, it was officially named 'Wrigley Field' after goat rancher and later owner of the Cubs William Wrigley Jr.

three years prior to its centennial anniversary. The stadium remains beloved today for its important place in American sporting history, being part of only ten National Historic Landmarks dedicated solely to sports venues anywhere in the country.

The Chicago River

Always a key part of the history of Chicago, the river's waters have seen French missionaries and trappers in the 1600s, Anglo-American frontiersmen in thee 1700s, and even survived The Great Fire Of 1871.

Nowadays, its meandering waterfront provides visitors with close views of many architectural masterpieces on its two main branches – from Fort Dearborn to Cabrini-Green to Wrigley Field.

In order to end pollution into Lake Michigan caused by overflowing runoff sewers during heavy rains, an ambitious engineering project was carried out between 1900 and 1930: reversing the flow of the river so that it flows away from instead of into Lake Michigan.

Chicago's Culture and Nicknames

From the iconic 'Second City' nickname to famous Chicagoans, gangs and ghost stories, explore the city's cultural roots and its impact on its history.

The Second City

Chicago, also known as "The Second City," has been the city of dreams to many. As one of America's bustling cultural and commercial hubs since the late 19th century, it is a city with an incredible history and culture.

Situated along an ancient Native American trail and later domesticated by French missionaries in the 1600s, Chicago was once nothing more than a marshland before its rapid growth as a major metropolis in the 1800s saw it earn its nickname.

By 1890, it had overtaken Philadelphia's population according to national census figures - giving Chicago its iconic place amongst great cities all over the country. Currently known colloquially for rememberable monikers such as “the Windy City” or “Chi-Town”, each name carries with them decades of stories that still captivate citizens today.

The City That Works

Chicago has a rich history of hard work and productivity, earning it the renowned nickname ‘The City That Works’. It is known for its strong work ethic and labor movements that were critical in establishing trade unions - giving workers rights, higher wages, and improved conditions.

This industriousness is woven into the very fabric of Chicago; through times of tragedy like The Great Fire of 1871, to success such as hosting the World's Fair in 1893 – no challenge could ever deter Chicago’s ambitious spirit.

Even today people travel from all around to see some of its architectural marvels & landmarks: Sears Tower, Wrigley Field & Cloud Gate (aka The Bean!) all serve as homage to the city’s amazing resilience.

Murder and Mayhem

Chicago's history has been marred by a reputation for its high crime rates, particularly in terms of homicide. True crime stories have capitalized on this image and long tainted the city's otherwise illustrious legacy.

Such were the stories immortalized in Erik Larson's book The Devil in the White City about the cold-blooded murder concealed within a period of immense technology breakthroughs and cultural progression emanating from Chicago World Fair of 1893 -demonstrating that even as society progressed, with it often came horrific violent crimes.

However, since then initiatives have been taken to reduce homicides such as "Cure Violence" which utilizes healthcare approaches to reducing violence, advocating daylight outdoor Presence whereby teams connect youths potentially involved in gangs into resources appropriate to them.

Ghost Stories

Chicago, the "City of Big Shoulders," is home to many that go bump in the night. From Resurrection Mary's hitchhiking ghost on Archer Avenue and Suicide Bridge's mysterious specter to other urban legends full of murder and mayhem, this city’s streets are steeped in paranormal activity.

Ghost stories form a larger part of Chicago’s history—indeed, they reveal more about its culture than any textbook ever could. After all, it was here first were referred to as the “Second City” after New York due to its reputation for harboring almost every kind of supernatural phenomena imaginable - some even occurring before the Great Fire of 1871! Whether it is Fort Dearborn or Marquette Park early settlement stories, Cabrini-Green neighborhood culture or Mayor Harold Washington illuminating figures; from The Bean and Wrigley Field iconic landmarks down through The Chicago River labyrinthine waterways – each location offers a unique story beyond our mortal realm that generations have come to know endearingly as “The Windy City.".

Famous Chicagoans

Chicago is a city filled with legendary individuals. Oprah Winfrey was born and raised in Chicago, later hosting her famous talk show “The Oprah Winfrey Show” at the same address where she had to live in poverty when she was younger.

Basketball legend Michael Jordan helped lead the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships during his time playing for the team; while President Barack Obama began his political career in Chicago representing the city as a Senator before becoming Commander-in-Chief of the United States.

During Prohibition era, Al Capone ran criminal activity from within this historic city; and Frank Lloyd Wright changed architecture forever with many of his innovative and influential designs located throughout downtown Chicagoland!These remarkable figures have all left an indelible mark on present day Chicago – making it both richly diverse, hardworking, proud….


The book “The City Of Big Shoulders: Chicago’s Most Incredible Stories” provides readers with a comprehensive and captivating look into the dynamic history of one of America's greatest cities.

It delves into the city's past, from its marshy origins to its rise as a bustling metropolis. The book explores key figures and events that have shaped the city over time, such as Fort Dearborn, Major Nathaniel Yates and Harold Washington's election as Mayor in 1983.

In addition, it looks at Chicago’s architectural marvels like The Sears Tower, museums like The Bean, stadiums such Wrigley Field all of which feature prominently in iconic acts like Blues Music or Jazz Clubs.

Finally ,the book takes an entertaining approach by recounting ghost stories and profiling notorious villains that cast dark shadows on this neoclassical midwesterner town giving it its distinctive charm no matter how traumatic some have found these stories over time.

This landmark literary work brings us closer to understanding why so many love to call this place ‘home'.

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