Chicago (pron. Shekahgo) is situated in the north-east corner of the state of Illinois, about the fork and mouth of the Chicago River, on the west shore and near the head of Lake Michigan. It is 850 miles from Baltimore, and 2415 from San Francisco. The city is divided by the river and its branches into north, south, and west 'sides,' which are connected with each other by upwards of thirty bridges and two tunnels. The river frontage, counting both sides, extends 41 miles. From a small trading village Chicago has expanded into a great metropolis, ranking, in the United States, second only to New York. The area, in 1887 only 367 sq. m., had in 1904 increased to 190; while the city extended lengthwise for 21 1/2 miles, and from east to west 10 1/2 miles. It is the largest grain market in the world; and more hogs are killed, and mere pork, bacon, and lard shipped, than in and from any other two cities on the continent. The site was at first barely on a level with the lake; but thoroughfares were gradually raised from 8 to 12 feet, and the surrounding lots progressively filled in. Now Chicago has some of the finest streets (laid out with mathematical regularity) in all America, notably Michigan Avenue and Drexel Boulevard. Among the public buildings of Chicago are the Board of Trade building, of granite; the county court-house and city-hall, erected at a cost of nearly $6,000,000; the criminal court and county jail; the United States custom-house and post-office; the Art Institute building; the Dearborn Observatory; the Auditorium, with a seating capacity of 7500; besides some 300 churches, public schools, numerous hospitals, theatres, music-halls, and many palatial hotels. The Chicago University, opened in 1892, has 2600 students, and assets valued at $15,500,000, of which $9,000,000 were given by Mr Rockefeller.
There are also medical and commercial colleges, a university at Evanston, 12 miles to the north, and several theological seminaries in the city and its suburbs. The public library, with 320,000 volumes, is one of the largest in the United States; and the Newberry Library, founded in 1888 as a reference library by a legacy of $3,000,000, has over 250,000 volumes. Many of the office buildings are enormously tall, accessible in the upper stories by rapid elevators; these ' sky-scrapers' are built on the steel-frame system, the brick walls not actually serving as a support.
The park system is without a parallel in America; it embraces Lincoln Park, on the lake, shore to the north, and five others, all connected or nearly so by magnificent boulevards, the system measuring some 35 miles. Among other open spaces are 20 large cemeteries, besides numerous smaller parks and squares, and several driving parks. The water-supply system has 640 miles of pipe; a new tunnel, capable of furnishing 100,000,000 gallons a day, and running 4 miles out into Lake Michigan, was constructed in 1888. The sewerage of the city is emptied, by a canal connecting the Chicago and Illinois rivers, into the Mississippi, and thence to the Gulf of Mexico; this scheme, adopted in 1892 (opened in 1900), included an open canal combining a sewage system with a system of navigation between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi, practically between the North Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. The city garbage is disposed of by fire in destructors. The great secret of Chicago's phenomenal growth is its transportation facilities by rail and water. Fully one-third of the railroad system of the United States centres there. But the great waterway by Lake Michigan and its connections is unquestionably of most importance for the prosperity of the city. In 1888 for the first time a steamer from London direct landed her cargo at this city. The manufactures of the city include nearly every variety of production, from a child's toy to the largest steam-engine.
Joliet and Marquette visited the place in 1673, and ere long the French built a fort here. ' Fort Dearborn' was built in 1804. The history of Chicago as a city dates from 1837, when its population was 4170; in 1845 it was 12,088. Since that time the city has made prodigious strides in extent and in the acquisition of wealth. Pop. (1880) 109,206; (1880) 503,185; (1900) 1,698,575. In 1900 the number of native-born was 1,111,460 (59 per cent, of foreign parentage), and 587,115 were foreign-born, largely Germans, next Irish, Bohemians, Poles, Swedes.Norwegians, English and Scotch, French, Canadians - besides 30,150 negroes. The manufactures of the city are very various. Over 300,000,000 bushels of grain are dealt with annually in the Chicago elevators. Over 5.000,000 hogs, 2,000,000 cattle and as many sheep are slaughtered annually. The city income is about $35,000,000 yearly.
The great fire, which broke out on Sunday, October 7, 1871, devastated a total area of nearly 3 1/3 sq. m.; about 17,450 buildings were burned, 98,500 persons rendered homeless, and some 200 lives sacrificed, the total money loss being estimated at $190,000,000. As a result of this disaster, when this central portion was rebuilt, brick, iron, and stone structures were erected, and stone pavements also were substituted for wood. Another conflagration, on July 14, 1874, destroyed about $4,000,000 worth of property. In 1886 occurred the ' Haymarket Massacre,' in which eight policemen were killed and sixty maimed by a dynamite bomb thrown by an anarchist from among a crowd of labour agitators. Another anarchist plot was detected in July 1888. In Jackson Park, to the south-east of the city, was the site chosen for the great World's Columbian Exposition or World's Fair, held 1st May to 30th October 1893, in celebration of the fourth centenary of the discovery of America by Columbus. The buildings were dedicated with elaborate ceremonies on 21st October 1892. The area occupied for the purpose, 633 acres, had a frontage of a mile and a half on Lake Michigan; the enormous building for manufactures itself covering 30 1/2 acres of ground, and having 13 1/2 acres of gallery space. The number of visitors was, from first to last, 23,529,400. See histories by Andreas (1884) and Moses and Kirklaud (1895).