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Chicago History

The Township of Chicago was organized in 1833 and settlers poured in from New England and other eastern states. One of the factors that influenced Chicago’s rapid growth was its Midwest proximity and it soon became the central link between eastern and western United States. The first railroad line to Chicago was completed in the late 1840s and the Illinois and Michigan Canal opened around the same time. In 1860, the National Republican Convention nominated home-state candidate Abraham Lincoln for President. Life was good in Chicago until in 1871 when most of the city was destroyed by the Great Chicago Fire.  Nevertheless, disaster did not hold the city back for long. Before the smoke cleared, city planners were determined to make the “new” Chicago famous throughout the world for its architecture. The Home Insurance Building in Chicago became the world’s first skyscraper was completed in 1885.  By 1890, Chicago was the second largest metropolitan city in the U.S. with 1.1 million people.


The 20th century brought a different notoriety to Chicago.  Italian and Sicilian groups sought to control to a booming bootlegging industry during Prohibition. Al Capone became head of a network of gangsters called the “Outfit.” Chicago had the highest rate of crime and violence in the country. Eventually, Prohibition ended and a massive government clean-up reduced the city’s crime rate.  Chicago once again set records in metropolitan growth. The Sears Tower became the world’s tallest building for a brief time and is now the tallest skyscraper in the U.S. The world's longest street is Chicago's Western Avenue. Chicago is home to the Harold Washington Library, the world's largest public library. O’Hare International Airport opened and became the world’s busiest airport. Twenty-first century Chicago continues to collect accolades from all corners of the world.

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