Chicago, city in Illinois, on the southwest shore of Lake Michigan, with 2.7 million inhabitants. (urban area approx. 8 million inhabitants).
Chicago is the third largest city in the United States by population (New York, Los Angeles) and a very important industrial and transport center, as well as a world port.
Due to its location between the agricultural area (Corn Belt) in the west, where iron ore and coal are also mined, and the largest consumption area of America in the east, as well as the favorable traffic location, Chicago developed very quickly into the economic capital, the industrial, financial and commercial center of the Midwest.
The city is one of the most important national production centers for the metal and machine industry, publishing and printing, and the food and chemical industry. The food industry includes slaughterhouses, meat canning and dairy, as well as large companies for processing agricultural by-products: tanneries, textile, fertilizer and soap factories.
However, the city is primarily a transportation hub, due to its location where the Great Lakes connect to the Mississippi system. Since the creation of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, the port has also been accessible to ocean-going vessels. The city is the largest rail hub in the world and of the three airports on site, Chicago-O’Hare is one of the busiest in the world. The intensive trade also gave rise to a large number of mail order companies, many of which have huge turnovers, and a highly developed banking system.
The city’s educational function is mainly in the field of higher education: there are several universities, of which the medical schools are especially important (a large proportion of doctors in the United States have studied wholly or partly in Chicago), and the Illinois Institute of Technology. The approximately 1200 institutes for scientific research are of great importance to industry. Chicago also owns the Adler Planetarium, and the Shedd Aquarium. It has many libraries, including the public library at the Harold Washington Library Center (1991), numerous major publishing houses and museums, the most important of which are the Art Institute of Chicago (with academy), which houses an important collection of Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. houses, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Field Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Science and Industry. The city has its own orchestra (Chicago Symphony Orchestra) and opera company (Lyric Opera).
Chicago originated at the mouth of the Chicago River in Lake Michigan; the lower reaches of the river were later diverted and now flows westward through the city. The oldest part of the city (‘Downtown Chicago’) is now mainly an office district. This also includes The Loop, the business center.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Chicago was a center of new architecture (Chicago School). As a result of the enormous immigration (in 1940 25% of the total population was born outside the United States) extensive slums (slums), mostly immigrant neighborhoods, such as Little Sicily, Greektown, Chinatown, Black Belt, etc. wholly or partially cleaned up. As a result of the migration to the suburbs and the associated remediation of the old quarters, wide boulevards to the center and a number of parks could be built.
Recreational area par excellence is the coast along the lake, a wide strip of park. Chicago’s most notable buildings include the old water tower, predating the great fire of 1871, and the skyscrapers (all post-WWII) skyscrapers Prudential Building, John Hancock Center (337 m high), Marina City (two circular residential, shopping and office towers) and Sears Tower (1973; 422 m high, 110 floors).
Founded in 1833 as a small wilderness town, Chicago had a population of 4,000 by 1837 and grew at an amazing rate due to its lakeside location. The canal connecting Lake Michigan to the Mississippi was completed in 1848, and the first railroad reached the city the same year. More and more it became a center of trade and industry. In 1871 it was struck by a very large fire; in 1893 the great world exposition was held there.
The rapid industrialization and the unlimited immigration of heterogeneous elements caused social abuses (riots, crime). Chicago became the site of violent clashes between police and workers, such as the railroad strike of 1877, the Haymarket collision of 1886, and the Pullman Strike of 1894.
In the 1920s and 1940s, the city became notorious as a crime center, especially for bootlegging from Canada. The name of the gangster Al Capone took on a legendary meaning here. In the 1920s, Chicago played a major role in the history of jazz.