For a so-called “Second City,” Chicago lays claims to no shortage of firsts. The zipper, cell phone, spray paint, softball, vacuum cleaner, and deep-dish pizza are just a few innovations for which you can thank Chicago. In today’s post, we highlight other Windy City firsts and fun facts about the great American city of Chicago.
No matter how you translate it, “Chicago” doesn’t smell like roses
The first known reference to Chicago as “Checagou” appears in a Robert de Salle memoir dating from around 1679. Robert de Salle first referred to the present-day Chicago area as “Checagou” in a memoir dating from around 1679. Around the same time, another French explorer named Henri Joutel noted in his journals the abundance of wild garlic, which the local Algonquin tribes called “chicagoua.” Another translation for this Miami-Illinois word is “striped skunk,” a species that has long thrived in and around the Windy City. Whatever Chicago was named for probably didn’t smell like roses.
Route 66 starts in Chicago
US-66, quite possibly the most famous road in the country, ran 2,248 miles from Chicago to Santa Monica via Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. The road was officially removed from the United States Highway System in 1985. But some drivable portions of the old route now constitute a National Scenic Byway called “Historic Route 66.” The byway, like the old historic route, begins on Adams Street near Grant Park, next to the Art Institute of Chicago.
The “Founder of Chicago” was a Caribbean-born trader
Chicago’s first permanent settler was a wily frontier trader named Jean Baptiste Point du Sable from Saint-Domingue in present-day Haiti. Point du Sable settled in Chicago in 1779, where his family’s residence would host the city’s first marriage ceremony, election proceedings, and legal trial.
Chicago was home to the world’s first skyscraper
In 1884, William Le Baron Jenney designed a 138-foot-tall, fireproof-metal framed office building in the heart of the Loop. The Home Insurance Building was completed in 1885, and is widely considered the world’s first skyscraper. The Home Insurance Building was demolished in 1931 to make way for the art deco Field Building, a 535-foot-tall skyscraper and designated Chicago landmark since 1994. You may no longer be able to see the world’s first skyscraper in person, but the Field Building ls a 15-minute walk from AMLI’s South Loop apartment rentals and AMLI River North.
PBR debuted at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893
The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition Chicago World’s Fair introduced nearly 30 million people to an array of impressive new architectural and engineering marvels, including the Ferris Wheel, travelator, third rail. The Expo also introduced us to CrackerJax, Cream of Wheat, Juicy Fruit, and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.
The second open heart surgery was performed at Provident Hospital
The same year the Columbian exposition bolstered American confidence and wowed the world, Chicago was the site of a monumental medical event. On September 7, 1893, Northwestern University Medical School graduate Daniel Hale Williams performed the country’s second successful open-heart surgery. His patient, who’d been stabbed near the heart, made a full recovery in just two months.
Wrigley Field is MLB’s second oldest ballpark
Any time you attend a home Cubs game (or the rare Sox game at Wrigley Field), you’re a part of sporting history. Wrigley Field was constructed in 1914, just two years after Boston’s Fenway Park. The third oldest ballpark, Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium, was constructed a whole half-century later in 1962.
Chicago hosted the first televised presidential debate
On September 26, 1960, 74 million Americans gathered before their new TV sets in anticipation. Presidential candidates John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon were going head-to-head in the country’s first televised debate. Broadcast live from CBS Studios, the debate warmed millions to the idea of the young, still relatively unknown JFK as president. The election is widely believed to have been decided on the night of the debate.
“Jazz music” was coined in Chicago
Jazz music’s roots can be traced to New Orleans. But the first recorded use of the word “jazz” in a musical context was in a 1915 publication of The Chicago Tribune.
The atom was first split at University of Chicago… under the bleachers at Stagg Field
On December 2, 1942, a team of scientists led by Arthur H. Compton and Enrico Ferni successfully split an atom using the first atomic reactor, CP-1. The experiment, carried out on a squash court under the University of Chicago’s Stagg Field bleachers, paved the way for the development of nuclear power and the atomic bomb.
Chicago boasts North America’s largest convention center
New York City, Mexico City, and Los Angeles all have larger populations than Chicago. But the Windy City boasts the continent’s most spacious convention center. McCormick Place’s four interconnected buildings and Wintrust Arena have a combined 2.7 million square feet of of exhibition space. The Chicago Auto Show, International Home and Housewares Show, and National Restaurant Annual Association Show are three of the largest annual events held at McCormick Place. The Near South Side complex is two miles south of AMLI’s Printers Row apartments.
The Twinkie originated in Chicago
Hostess’ iconic Twinkie snack cake ranks among America’s guiltiest gastronomic pleasures. The sinful treat can be traced back to Depression-era Chicago, where baker James Dewar created the Twinkie. The first “Golden Sponge Cake with Creamy Filling” was served in Schiller Park on April 6, 1930.