Fun Chicago History

The Windy City, The City of Broad Shoulders, and the City that Works. Chicago has many nicknames, but those of us that call it home know that the “Second City” nickname is not only lame, but also very far from the truth because our city will always be number one in our hearts. All of that hometown bias aside, though, Chicago has brought the world many notable innovations, including a beloved American pastime: roller skating.

We took some time to revisit Chicago’s past and pulled some fun historical facts you may not know. This list of fun city facts should help you stay positive as we head into another one of those notorious Chicago winters (that we all should be used to by now, but love to commiserate and complain about anyway).

So when you have your first ice slip of the winter or find yourself boiling water to pour on your frozen car door, just remember that you are lucky to call this innovative, first class city home.



    • 1. The name Chicago comes from the Native American word shikaakwa. Shikaakwa is a species of wild onions that is very similar in appearance to scallions and tastes like a cross of garlic and onion. 

    • 2. Illinois Medical District in Chicago is the country’s largest concentration of hospitals and medical universities. About 20% of all American doctors receive all or part of their training in Chicago.

    • 3. Historic Route 66 starts in Chicago, right in front of the Art Institute of Chicago

    • 4. Al Capone sold $60 million dollars of illegal alcohol from his Chicago headquarters in 1927.


    • 5. Roller skates
    • 6. Skyscrapers
    • 7. Zippers
    • 8. Pinball
    • 9. Spray Paint
    • 10. Softball
    • 11. Remote Control
    • 12. Twinkies!!!
    • 13. Brownies
    • 14. Yellow pencils
    • 15. The vacuum cleaner
    • 16. Electric Dishwasher


    • 17. First Auto Race, 1895. Cars blazed past at an impressive (for the times) 7 mph

    • 18. First elevated railway in the world. Still standing and is known as the “L”, short for elevated.

    • 19. First controlled nuclear chain reaction. This led to the creation of the atomic bomb.

    • 20. First Blood bank

    • 21. First gay rights organization, Society for Human Rights, was founded in 1942

    • 22. First Ferris Wheel was built in 1893 for the Columbian Exposition

    • 23. First professional film critic, Jack Lawson, was hired by the Chicago Tribune in 1914

    • 24. First skyscraper, the Chicago Home Insurance Building, was built in 1884. At ten stories tall, it was the first building to utilize a fireproof structural steel and metal frame.

    • 25. First Parking “Dibs” System for snow-covered streets.


    • 26. Chicago Style pizza invented in 1943 at Pizzeria Uno

    • 27. Nabisco Cookie Factory is the largest in the World

    • 28. Chicago was home to the largest meat-packing firm in the late 1800s. The Jungle, a novel based on Chicago’s meat-packing industry highlighted the bad practices of the industry.

    • 29. Chicago Style Hot Dogs voted better than New York Hot Dogs by Anthony Buordain, a New York native. Need we say more?

    • 30. Raising of the ground level of city buildings, 1860. Chicago’s entire downtown area was lifted 5-6 ft from the ground to make space for the construction of a new sewage and draining system, which the city did not have at the time.

    • 31. Reversed flow of the Chicago River. The river was reversed and redirected to meet the Chicago Drainage Canal, a canal which was built in the late 1800s to create a functional waterway connecting the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River, which ultimately flows out to the Gulf of Mexico. Many Irish Immigrants labored to build the canals, so it is no surprise that the city dyes the Chicago River green each year on St. Patrick’s Day. 

    • 32. Railroad Capital of the US. 1300 trains arrive/depart per day.

    • 33. Burnham’s Plan of Chicago is created in 1906, an innovation in urban planning 

    • 34. Sears Tower – built in 1973 and was the tallest building in the world until 1998

    • 35. Chicago Style of architecture was born here thanks to advances in structural steel engineering and is arguably the backbone of modern American architecture

    • 36. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 was the worst in the city’s history, but also led to better planning for the city and a preference for brick-laid buildings, birthing the city’s iconic aesthetic.

    • 37. Columbian Exposition in 1893 drew over 27 million visitors to the city. The Museum of Science and Industry and the Art Institute of Chicago buildings were both built to house sections of the fair.


While living in such an impressive city is great, after a while it becomes the norm and you can forget how great it is to live here. We hope this stroll down memory lane has restored some Chicago love in your hearts and made dealing with this early-onset winter a little easier. Stay warm and spread the hometown pride around with your neighbors next time you’re shoveling out your parking spots.