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, city, United States

Chicago (shĭkäˈgō, shĭkôˈgō), city (2020 pop. 2,746,388), seat of Cook co., NE Ill., on Lake Michigan; inc. 1837. The third largest city in the United States and the heart of a metropolitan area of over 9.5 million people, it is the commercial, financial, industrial, and cultural center for a vast region and a midcontinental shipping point. A major Great Lakes port, it is also an historic rail and highway hub. O'Hare International Airport is the second busiest in the nation. An enormous variety of goods are manufactured in the area. Despite an overall decline in industry, Chicago has retained large grain mills and elevators, iron- and steelworks, steel fabricators, and meatpacking, food-processing, chemical, machinery, and electronics plants. The city has long been a publishing center; the Chicago Tribune is among the most widely read newspapers in the country.

Chicago covers over 200 sq mi (520 sq km); it extends more than 20 mi (32 km) along the lakefront, then sprawls inland to the west. Its metropolitan area stretches in the north to the Wisconsin border and in the south to industrial suburbs on and beyond the Indiana border. In addition to its noted expressways and boulevards, Chicago has a system of elevated (partly underground) railways that extend into the heart of the city, making a huge rectangle, the celebrated Loop, which gives its name to the downtown section.

Neighborhoods and Points of Interest

In or near the center of the city are the Merchandise Mart, the world's largest commercial building; the Chicago Public Library, with the Harold Washington Library Center downtown as well as neighborhood and traveling branches; the Chicago Board of Trade building; and the homes of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Lyric Opera of Chicago. La Salle Street is the financial center. The Chicago Riverwalk, a pedestrian park, borders the river from State Street to the lake. Along the lakefront, which has many beaches, are Millennium Park, with the Jay Pritzker Pavilion (designed by Frank Gehry), and Grant Park, with the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Natural History Museum, the Adler Planetarium, the Buckingham Memorial Fountain, and the John G. Shedd Aquarium. Nearby is Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears (National Football League). To the north along Michigan Avenue is the “magnificent mile,” Chicago's famous shopping district, and, on the lakefront, the Navy Pier recreation and entertainment complex (opened 1995).

In the residential district to the north lies Lincoln Park, with the Chicago Historical Society building, the Chicago Academy of Sciences, a zoological garden, and a conservatory; sculpture in the park includes the noted standing figure of Abraham Lincoln (1887) by Augustus Saint-Gaudens and the John P. Altgeld memorial monument (1915) by Gutzon Borglum. The North Side is also the site of Wrigley Field, the home of the National League Cubs, one of Chicago's two major league baseball teams.

The American League's White Sox play on the South Side at U.S. Cellular Field. The South Side of Chicago also is the seat of the Univ. of Chicago, with its imposing Gothic buildings; the John Crerar Library of scientific books is there. Nearby is Jackson Park, with the Museum of Science and Industry. Much of the South Side, however, comprises poor and working-class residential areas, including the homes of the nation's largest African-American population. There, also, were the Union Stock Yards (founded 1865 and closed in the 1970s). Toward the southern edge of the city is Pullman, a neighborhood originally developed as a model industrial town by George M. Pullman; the once-enormous iron- and steelworks were also in the area.

The vast West Side is usually spoken of as a region of nationalities because of the many groups living there, in close proximity yet more or less separate culturally. These neighborhoods grew rapidly in the late 19th and early 20th cent. In the West Side and the suburbs to the west are large industrial areas and two well-known parks—Garfield Park, with its noted conservatory, and Humboldt Park. The west is famous for Hull House, the settlement house founded (1889) by Jane Addams. In 1961 the Hull House location, part of an urban renewal project, was selected as the site of the Chicago campus of the Univ. of Illinois.

Other points of interest in Chicago are McCormick Place, the mammoth convention and exhibition center on the lakefront; the Auditorium, designed by Louis H. Sullivan; St. Patrick's Church (dedicated 1856); and a water tower that survived the great fire of 1871. Besides the Univ. of Chicago, the city's institutions include De Paul Univ., Northeastern Illinois Univ., Illinois Institute of Technology, Loyola Univ. of Chicago, Mundelein College, Roosevelt Univ., St. Xavier College, Chicago State Univ., Columbia College, North Park College, parts of Northwestern Univ., and the Univ. of Illinois at Chicago (including the medical center). There are a number of theological seminaries, and schools of music, art, and law. The noted Newberry Library and the Library of International Relations are in Chicago, and the city has a vibrant theatrical community. The city's other major sports teams are the Bulls (basketball) and Blackhawks (hockey).


From the Early Days to 1850

Notable as dividing lines in the city are the two branches of the Chicago River. In early days the river was important because the narrow watershed between it and the Des Plaines River (draining into the Mississippi through the Illinois River) offered an easy portage that led explorers, fur traders, and missionaries from the Great Lakes to the Great Plains. Father Marquette and Louis Jolliet arrived here in 1673, and the spot was well known for a century before Jean Baptiste Point Sable (or Point DuSable or Point de Sable), a black man possibly of Haitian origin, set up a trading post at the mouth of the river. John Kinzie, who succeeded him as a trader, is usually called the father of Chicago.

A military post, Fort Dearborn, was established in 1803. In the War of 1812 its garrison perished in one of the most famous tragedies of Western history. Fort Dearborn was rebuilt in 1816, and the construction of the Erie Canal in the next decade speeded the settling of the Midwest and the growth of Chicago. Harbor improvements, lake traffic, and the peopling of the prairie farmlands brought prosperity to the city. The Illinois and Michigan Canal, however, authorized by Congress in 1827 and completed in 1848, was soon rendered virtually obsolete by the arrival of railroads.

The Fire and Industrialization

By 1860 a number of rail lines connected Chicago with the rest of the nation, and the city was launched on its career as the great midcontinental shipping center. Gurdon S. Hubbard had already contributed to the establishment of the meatpacking industry, with its large stockyards. In 1871 the shambling city built of wood was almost entirely destroyed by a great fire (according to legend started when Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicked over a lantern), which killed several hundred people, rendered 90,000 homeless, and destroyed some $200 million worth of property.

Chicago was rebuilt as a city of stone and steel. Industries sprang up, attracting thousands of immigrants. Many ethnic groups contributed to the modern city, including Germans, Scandinavians, Irish, Jews, Italians, Poles, Czechs, African Americans, Lithuanians, Croats, Greeks, and Chinese. With industry came labor strife, highlighted by the Haymarket Square riot of 1886 and the great strikes at Pullman in 1894 (see Debs, Eugene Victor, and Altgeld, John Peter). Upton Sinclair's novel of the Chicago stockyards, The Jungle, aroused public indignation and led to investigations and improvements.

Center of Culture

The city, although proud of its reputation for brawling lustiness, was also the center of Midwestern culture. Theodore Thomas and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra founded a great musical tradition. Chicago's literary reputation was established in the early 20th cent. by such men as Carl Sandburg, Theodore Dreiser, Eugene Field, Edgar Lee Masters, and James T. Farrell. Saul Bellow and Studs Terkel would continue this tradition later in the century.

Most notable in the development of American thought and taste in art was the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. One of the architects at the fair was Louis H. Sullivan, who, together with D. H. Burnham, John W. Root, Dankmar Adler, Frank Lloyd Wright, and others, made Chicago a leading architectural center. In 1909, D. H. Burnham and Edward Bennett devised their Plan of Chicago, later known as the “Burnham Plan,” a forward-looking piece of city planning containing many features that were implemented later. It was here that one of the distinctive U.S. contributions to architecture, the skyscraper, came into being. Chicago's continuing interest in this type of structure is seen in Marina City (1967), the John Hancock Center (1968), the Aon Center (1974, formerly the Amoco Building, earlier the Standard Oil Building), the Willis Tower (1974, formerly the Sears Tower), the Trump International Hotel and Tower (2009), and 150 North Riverside (2017). The noted Chicago Architecture Center celebrates the city's innovative architectural heritage through tours and education.

The Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries

Between World War I and 1933, Chicago earned unenviable renown as the home ground of gangsters—Al Capone being perhaps the most notorious—and its reputation for gangster warfare persisted long after that violent era had passed. Despite the worldwide depression of the 1930s, Chicago's world's fair, the Century of Progress Exposition (1933–34), proved how greatly the city had prospered and advanced. Perhaps the most significant event in World War II occurred (Dec. 2, 1942) under the stands of the Univ. of Chicago's Stagg Field, when Enrico Fermi and a group of scientists working on the government's atom bomb project achieved the world's first nuclear chain reaction. With the war came considerable growth in the Chicago metropolitan area, especially in outlying suburbs.

The city itself declined 23% in population between 1950 and 1990, although its diverse economic base spared it the worst of the economic decay of other large Midwestern cities. The population decline was reversed between 1990 and 2000, when it grew some 4%, largely due to the influx of Hispanic and Asian residents. Chicago's many cultural and other attractions make it a popular convention city; among the 25 national political conventions held there were the Republican national conventions of 1952 and 1960 and the Democratic national conventions of 1952, 1956, 1968, and 1996. The 1968 Democratic National Convention saw violent clashes between demonstrators and Chicago police and the National Guard. Mayor Richard J. Daley was criticized by the media for his manner of putting down the demonstrations, but Chicagoans overwhelmingly supported him. Chicagoans subsequently elected their first woman mayor (Jane Byrne, 1979–83) and their first African-American mayor (Harold Washington, 1983–87). Richard M. Daley (1989-2011), Richard Daley's son, became the city's longest serving mayor. Rahm Emanuel was elected to succeed Daley in 2011 and reelected in 2015; Lori Lightfoot was elected to succeed Emanuel in 2019. She is Chicago's third Black mayor, and the first openly lesbian person to be elected mayor of any major U.S. city.


See N. Algren, Chicago: City on the Make (1951, repr. 2011); R. A. Cromie, The Great Chicago Fire (1958); C. Condit, The Chicago School of Architecture (1964); T. A. Herr, Seventy Years in the Chicago Stockyards (1968); H. M. Mayer and R. Wade, Chicago (1969); B. Berry et al., Chicago (1976); I. Cutler, Chicago (1982); M. H. Ebner, Creating Chicago's North Shore (1988); W. Cronon, Nature's Metropolis (repr. 1992); A. Ehrenhalt, The Lost City (1995); D. L. Miller, City of the Century (1996); D. A. Pacyga, Chicago (2009); L. Bennett, The Third City (2010); T. Dyja, The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream (2013); J. R. Grossman et al., ed., The Encyclopedia of Chicago (2004).


, river, United States
Chicago, river, formed in Chicago by the junction of its North Branch (24 mi/39 km long) and South Branch (10 mi/16 km long), and flowing southeast via a canal into the Des Plaines River at Lockport, Ill. The river formerly flowed east, then northeast via a channel, into Lake Michigan. Its course was reversed by the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, 30 mi (48 km) long, 22 ft (6.7 m) deep, and from 162 to 290 ft (49–88 m) wide, built (1892–1900) on the South Branch to prevent the pollution of Lake Michigan by Chicago's sewage; locks prevent the river from entering the lake. The use of Lake Michigan's water to flush the canal was a heated political issue finally settled in 1930 when the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a reduction in the amount of water being diverted from the lake. This decision forced Chicago to build sewage treatment plants. The channels of the Chicago River and the North Branch have been improved to aid deep-draft vessels and barges.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a city in the USA, in the state of Illinois. Second among US cities in economic importance and population and the largest center of industry, commerce, transport, and finance west of the Appalachian Mountains. Situated on the southwestern end of Lake Michigan where the Chicago River meets the lake, at the beginning of the canalized waterway that extends from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River. Area, 575 sq km. Population, 3.2 million (1975), 33 percent of whom are Negroes.

Chicago forms part of one of the largest conurbations in the USA. Called the Chicago-Northwestern Indiana Standard Consolidated Area, the metropolitan area includes Chicago and various cities in Illinois and Indiana, such as Gary, Hammond, and East Chicago. It covers an area of 9,000 sq km and has a population of 7.7 million (1975). In 1974 the economically active population totaled 3.3 million; 31 percent were employed in industry, 5 percent in construction, 7 percent in transport, 6 percent in finance, 39 percent in commerce and the service sector, and 12 percent in the civil service. Approximately two-thirds of those working in industry are employed in heavy industry, and more than one-tenth, in the food-processing industry.

Chicago’s location on the principal east-west arteries of the USA and at the junction of land and water routes has made it an important transportation center of the USA (more than 30 railroad lines converge at the city) and a major center of domestic air traffic. The Port of Chicago, which includes piers on Lake Michigan, is the largest port on the inland waterways of the USA, and it handled more than 50 million tons of freight in 1974.

Chicago is the center of US ferrous metallurgy; its steel-melting furnaces have a capacity of approximately 30 million tons. Leading products of the city include communication facilities, electronic equipment, electrical machinery, transportation equipment, agricultural machinery, and various types of equipment for industry, construction, and road building. The printing, chemical, petroleum-refining, garment, and furniture industries are well developed, as is the food-processing industry, which is dominated by flour milling and the production of canned meat. Heavy machine building and the metallurgical, petroleum-refining, and chemical industries are located primarily along Lake Michigan in southeast Chicago (near the port) and in the adjacent suburbs of Indian Harbor, Gary, and East Chicago. Machine building is most highly developed in the western section of the industrial complex, in such areas as Cicero.

Chicago is the most important market in the USA for wheat, maize, soybeans, and livestock, and its stock exchange is second in importance only to the New York Stock Exchange. The Chicago financial group is one of the major groups of finance capital in the USA. Capitalist monopolies dominate the city’s industry and commerce, with the firms International Harvester and Pullman playing a major role in machine building and the General Foods Corporation occupying a leading position in the food-processing industry. The country’s largest grain exchange is located in Chicago.

For a long period the area that is now Chicago belonged to the Indians. The city developed on the site of Fort Dearborn, a military post established in the early 19th century. In 1833 the settlement that grew up around the fort was incorporated as a city. The city’s rapid population growth, which was particularly marked after the completion of the Illinois-Michigan Canal in 1848 and a railroad line to the Atlantic Ocean in 1852, made Chicago the country’s largest city after New York by the end of the 19th century; it had 550 inhabitants in 1830, 4,500 in 1840, 109,000 in 1860, and 1,100,000 in 1890. In the 1840’s industry began to expand rapidly, and in 1893 an international fair, the World’s Columbian Exposition, was held in the city.

Chicago was an important center of the working-class and democratic movements. In 1870, sections of the First International were formed in the city. Notable events involving the Chicago proletariat in the late 19th century included the Haymarket Square Riot of 1886 and the Pullman strike of 1894. The trade union organization Industrial Workers of the World was founded in Chicago in 1905, and the Communist Party of the USA was founded in 1919. In 1937 police, in an incident known as the Memorial Day Massacre, fired on workers demonstrating against Republic Steel. In the 1960’s and 1970’s Chicago became a center of the civil rights movement, and during the American aggression in Vietnam (Vietnam War) massive antiwar demonstrations were held in the city.

Chicago, a city of sharp social contradictions and contrasts, is noted for its elegant lakefront; for its business center of huge skyscrapers, called the Loop, which is located near the place where the Chicago River meets Lake Michigan; and for its area of private residential buildings north of the Loop, known as the Gold Coast. The city is also renowned for its parks, its wide boulevards, and its drive that runs along the lakeshore. Alongside these attractions, however, are neglected slum areas and the ethnic ghettos of Chinatown and the Negro districts; in the west and southeast lie the industrial areas.

After the fire of 1871, which virtually destroyed the city, Chicago was completely rebuilt, and skyscrapers with metal skeletons were erected. The Chicago school of architecture, a precursor of the rational architecture of the 20th century, produced such structures as the second Leiter Building (now Sears and Roebuck; 1889–91, architect W. Le Baron Jenney), the Reliance Building (1890–94, architects D. H. Burnham and J. W. Root, assisted by C. B. Atwood), and the Carson Pirie Scott department store (1899–1900, architect L. Sullivan).

In the 20th century, rebuilding has been restricted to the construction of skyscrapers in the Loop, such as the Tribune Tower (1923–25, architects J. M. Howells and R. Hood); elegant complexes, such as the Civic Center (1963–65, architect J. Brown-son); and expressways that are incongruous with the city’s layout.

Chicago remains an important center of architectural design. Among its notable structures are F. L. Wright’s Robie House (1909), now part of the University of Chicago, and numerous buildings by L. Mies van der Rohe—including the Illinois Institute of Technology (1942–58), high-rise apartment buildings on Lake Shore Drive (1950–51), and the Commonwealth Promenade Apartments (1957). B. Goldberg designed the Marina City high-rise apartment buildings (1964), and the architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill designed the 100-story Hancock Building (1971) and the 109-story Sears Tower (1970–74), which, with a height of 442 m, is the world’s tallest building.

A major scientific and cultural center of the USA, Chicago is the location of such nationally important universities as the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, De Paul University, and the Illinois Institute of Technology. Museums include the Field Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Science and Industry. Other cultural and educational institutions include the Art Institute of Chicago, the John G. Shedd Aquarium, the Chicago Public Library, and the Shubert and Blackstone theaters.


Pierce, B. L. History of Chicago, vols. 1–3. New York-London, 1937–57.
Peisch, M. L. The Chicago School of Architecture. London, 1964.
Chicago’s Famous Buildings, 2nd ed. Edited by A. Siegel. Chicago-London, 1969.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a port in NE Illinois, on Lake Michigan: the third largest city in the US; it is a major railway and air traffic centre. Pop.: 2 869 121 (2003 est.)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


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