The role of Chicago in shaping America’s cultural, economic and political history is huge. Chicago has been the dominant Midwest Metropolis since the1850’s. The late 17th century saw the advent of the French missionaries, explorers and fur traders in the area. In fact the first recorded history of the area is an account of the interaction between the French and the native Potawatomi Indias.
The Chicago area was initially inhabited by the Algonquian people, including the Mascouten and the Miami. The first known reference to Chicago as “Checagou” was by Robert de La Salle in 1679 in a memoir named after the wild garlic that grew abundantly in the area.
Jean Baptiste Point du Sable was the first settler in Chicago. He built a farm near the Chicago River in the 1780s. He left Chicago in 1800. In 1968, he was honoured as the city’s founder at Pioneer Court.
There was a constant struggle to claim the upper hand from the native Indians. The small settlements were protected by a U.S army fort, but all the settlers and soldiers were driven away from the area in 1812. The northern businessmen reclaimed the settlements and incorporated the modern city of Chicago in 1837.Rapid growth was fuelled by the huge speculation in real estate and superior geographical position that placed it as a forerunner in inland railway and waterways.
The city quickly became the nation’s rail center and claimed a commanding position in the emerging inland transportation network. The city rapidly grew into a center for finance, manufacturing, higher education and even religion. The prosperous city was a magnet for the Germans, Irish and Scandinavians.
The 1890’s to 1914 saw the influx of the Jews, Poles, Czechs and the Italians. The powerful ward based political machinery made it an easy job to absorb the immigrants into the diverse cultural fabric that was Chicago.
The great migration saw the advent of the African Americans from the south as an aftermath of the 1st World War. Mexicans and Puerto Ricans found their way here in 1910 and 1945 respectively. The Yankees were settled in the Chicago Illinois area in the 1830’s. the Irish catholic followed suit in the aftermath of the great famine. The latter half of the 19th century saw exponential growth in the heavy industry, railroads and the stockyards. This saw the influx of skilled European immigrants from Germany, England, Sweden, Norway and Holland.
With the rapid industrialization that was the hallmark of the late 19th and early 20th century Chicago rapidly became the most populous city of the Northwest. In fact it was the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 that saw a setback to the burgeoning prosperity of the city. The massive loss of life and wealth slowed the growth just a little. The city soon limped back to normal.
The heavy industrialization took its toll and the Irish and other ethnic groups began to move to the less populous suburbs. The City built public housing for the working class to upgrade residential quality. This was the beginning of the growth of high rise buildings that are a hallmark of the Chicago skyline today. The building of office areas was resumed in the 1960’s. A historical landmark building was the Sears Tower (now called the Willis Tower) completed in 1974. It was registered as the world’s tallest building at 1451 feet.
Chicago city has been the home of many firsts.
Chicago is the melting pot of many cultures and ethnicities, and the multi-cultural background of the city has given rise to a strong social fabric ably supported by successive municipal boards that have done their bit in building adequate schools, libraries and health care facilities. It is no doubt one of the most prosperous and prominent cities of the USA.
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