17 AMAZING Facts about the History of Chicago!

Have you been hankering to know more about the Windy City? The birthplace of Walt Disney, the place where the Twinkie was invented, the city where the first all-color TV station debuted?

The Chicago Bears and the Chicago Bulls really are all that and a bag of chips, but let’s go deeper Chicago and find out what fascinating facts we can unearth! Get ready for seventeen awesome facts about Chicago, Chicago, Chicago!

One tip before we start: Snag a slice of deep-dish pizza while you’re perusing this post for the ultimate reader experience!

History of Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

History of Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

Photo credit – Chicago HQ

#1 – Credit Where Credit Is Due

Pizzeria Uno invented the beloved Chicago-style deep-dish pizza in 1943. The restaurant founder was Ike Sewell, who was actually a big University of Texas football star! The credit of this cheesy, gooey perfection goes to chef Rudy Malnati. On behalf of all of us, thank you Rudy!

#2 – Upping The Pizza Game

In the middle of the 1970s, there were two Chicago pizzeria chains, Nancy’s and Giordano’s, that decided to step the deep-dish pizza game up a notch. They invented stuffed pizza! Take that pizza crust and push in more cheesy goodness please!

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History of Chicago Gangs

History of Chicago Gangs

Photo credit – themobmuseum.org

#3 – When Athletic Clubs Aren’t For Getting Fit

By the 1880s, Chicago already had a big gang scene. There were large Irish gangs like the Dukies and the Shielders to name just a couple. The Irish gangs commonly had political and businessmen as patrons who took the gangs and transformed them into “athletic clubs.” Their purpose was to have around 100 young men in their clubs to help intimidate voters at the election boxes!

#4 – Poljay & Little Sicily

In the early 20th century, the most numerous gangs in Chicago were Polish and Italian gangs. The Polish gangs were located in the “Pojay” area and fought with other Polish gangs, with lots of territorial fights breaking out. Of course, their Italian Gangs were located in the “Little Sicily” neighborhood. Sometimes things just make sense.

Editor’s Note: You might also like to look at our best hotel recommendations in Chicago.


History of Chicago Music

History of Chicago Music

Photo credit – WTTW

#5 – Music Melting Pot

Chicago is a huge hub for music. We’re talking about the blues and jazz, of course! Between 1916 and 1970, six million African Americans migrated up from the South and spread across the East, West, and Midwest. This movement was called the Great Migration. This migration resulted in the creation of Chicago blues and “Chicago-style” Dixieland jazz.

Need some advice? You can read about some popular things to do in Chicago (with a few hidden ones too)!


Architectural History of Chicago

Architectural History of Chicago

Photo credit – archdaily.com

#6 – The Birth of the Skyscraper!

Chicago is essentially the delivery room for one of the greatest architectural feats of modern times: the skyscraper! Built in 1885, the first steel-frame skyscraper was the Home Insurance Building. It was 10 stories high and 42 meters tall. The tallest skyscraper in the world now is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai which clocks in at 163 stories high and 828 meters tall. Times sure have changed since 1885!

#7 – Time To Rebuild

After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, much of the city was destroyed which clearly meant one thing: time to rebuild. Architects flooded the city to seize the opportunity to reimagine the city. Famous architects like Frank Lloyd Wright and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe were keen on getting in on the ground floor of the rebuilding process and helping Chicago rise to new architectural heights!

Excited to visit Chicago? Get excited to take an amazing day trip too!


History of the Great Chicago Fire

History of the Great Chicago Fire

Photo credit – Wikipedia

#8 – Cows and Meteors

The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 burned for two days: October 8 to October 10. It decimated thousands of buildings causing over $200 million in destruction and damage. 300 people were killed. Just how did this fire begin? According to rumors, a cow kicked over a lantern. Another theory is that a meteor caused the fire. The real cause, or culprit, is still unknown.

#9 – Fire -> Architecture Boom -> Population Growth

Although 17,000 buildings were destroyed and it was estimated that 100,000 people were left homeless, somehow the fire didn’t take a toll on the city’s population. At the time of the fire, the population was nearly 324,000. In under ten years, the population grew to 500,000. Just tack on another ten years and in 1890, there were an estimated 1 million Chicagoans!


Do you appreciate the finer things? You’ll find them at one of our favorite museums in Chicago!

History of Chicago Flag

History of Chicago Flag

Photo credit – britannica.com

#10 – Unsurprising Surprises

The year was 1915 and the Chicago mayor was desperate for a flag. He made it his mission to get Chicago their own physical representation in cloth and color. After issuing a call for proposals, the mayor received over 1,000 designs! He chose the design by Wallace Rice. Who, surprise surprise, was a lecturer of flag history at the Art Institute of Chicago.

#11 – Symbolism

The original design only had two stars, one to represent the Chicago Fire and the other to represent the Columbian Exposition. The city decided to add a third and fourth star in the 1930s, one for the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition and the other for Fort Dearborn. Ever since, the city has campaigned to add more stars to the flag but nothing else has made the cut.

Like good weather? These are the best times to visit Chicago!


The History of the Chicago Cubs

The History of the Chicago Cubs

Photo credit – Wikipedia

#12 – How Many Socks (or Stockings) Can There Be?

The Chicago Cubs are a professional baseball team who call Wrigley Field their home. Although their rivals are the Chicago White Sox, the Cubs’ first team name was actually the White Stockings when they were founded in 1876. That would have been mega confusing. The White Sox versus the White Stockings? Luckily, they smartened up and rebranded as the Chicago Cubs in 1903.


Editor’s Tip: Check out all the top places in Illinois before you lock in your itinerary.

History of Chicago Bulls

History of Chicago Bulls

Photo credit – http://history.bulls.com

#13 – Giant Court Puzzle

The Chicago Bulls are a professional basketball team that are part of the NBA, founded in 1966. The Bulls call the United Center in Chicago their home turf. Interestingly, they share their arena with the local hockey team, the Chicago Blackhawks. You don’t normally think of basketball courts and hockey arenas going hand in hand, do you? To get an ice rink to become a basketball court, they put plywood over the ice and then they piece the basketball court together like a puzzle over the top!

#14 – Repeats of Three-peats!

The Chicago Bulls are actually credited with popularizing the NBA worldwide due to their great success in the 1990s. They won six championships between 1991 and 1998 with two three-peats. You read that right folks, two repeats of three-peats! They are the only NBA team to win multiple championships while not losing an NBA Finals series in their history. Talk about teamwork! Greatness! Stardom!

History of Chicago CNN

History of Chicago CNN

Photo credit – newscaststudio.com

#15 – 24-Hour News Coming At You!

This is CNN. You may have heard these words a time or two if you’ve turned on your television and went looking for some news. CNN stands for Cable News Network and was established in 1980 by Ted Turner as a 24-hour news channel. Their headquarters are in Atlanta, Georgia but one of their biggest operating locations is right here in the Windy City of Chicago!

History of Chicago Neighborhoods

History of Chicago Neighborhoods

Photo credit – newberry.org

#16 – The Cabbage Patch

It’s quite charming that Old Town Chicago is known as the “Cabbage Patch.” While it is evocative of those cute toy dolls, the name actually derives from the original German immigrants who came to this part of Chicago for farming. Old Town is a neighborhood in Chicago that is preserved by the Chicago Historic District and is filled to the brim with lovely Victorian homes.

#17 – What It Once Was…

The popular Lincoln Park neighborhood is known these days for being flooded with college students walking to and from their classes at DePaul University, which just happens to be located right in the neighborhood. Lincoln Park wasn’t always the cool spot for youths to roam; it wasn’t even a spot for the living! Lincoln Park was a Chicago cemetery until the 1860s. Spooky!


Final Thoughts

We did mention the invention of the Twinkie earlier, but we never quite got around to mentioning it again. Just in case you were drooling a little and hoping for another bite of Twinkie trivia, the original Twinkie invented during the Depression was originally filled with banana cream! They didn’t switch to vanilla for taste reasons, but because bananas were becoming harder and harder to find during WWII.

Twinkie trivia aside, we hope you found these seventeen facts about the Windy City a breath of fresh air. From the first skyscraper to the first deep dish pizza, Chicago sure has a lot of claims to fame!

The Windy City, the City of Big Shoulders, the Second City, and the City That Works… Chicago has a lot of names and a lot of interesting history to dig into. We hope you enjoyed every last drop!

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About the Author Lily Allen-Duenas

Lily Allen-Duenas is a wandering yoga instructor, massage therapist, and reiki healer. For the last two years she’s been journeying around the world, teaching yoga on island resorts in Cambodia, surf hostels in Sri Lanka, and wellness centers in the Phillipines. Lily loves building her life around her passions, health, wellness, and travel. You can follow her journey at wildyogatribe.com or get social with her @wildyogatribe

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