25 Things You Might Not Know About Chicago

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The next time you’re in the Windy City, impress locals with this know-how.

1. The name Chicago comes from the Algonquin word “Chicagou” or “Shikaakwa,” which translates to “onion field” or “wild garlic.”

2. Planning a road trip? Route 66 starts in Chicago.

3. The Field Museum owns the world’s most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. Its name is Sue.

4. The Chicago River flows backwards.

5. In the late 19th century, the river was reversed to empty into the Mississippi River instead of Lake Michigan.

6. Chicagoans can’t resist messing around with their river. On St. Patrick’s Day, the Plumbers Union dyes it a bright shade of Irish green and every summer the Special Olympics holds a fundraiser where tens of thousands of rubber ducks race down the waterway.

7. In 1917, writers Ben Hecht and Maxwell Bodenheim hosted the shortest known debate in history. The topic? “Resolved: That People Who Attend Literary Debates are Imbeciles.”

8. Seeing a room full of people, Hecht argued, “The affirmative rests.” Bodenheim took to the podium and nodded. “You win,” he said.

9. Wrigley Field was originally named Weeghman Park. Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

10. In 1927, Chicago bootlegger Al Capone made nearly $60 million selling illegal hooch.

11. Even before Capone’s activities, the city had a reputation for crime. In 1918, over 100 waiters were arrested for poisoning stingy tippers.

12. In the 1850s, the entire city was hydraulically raised several feet to fix a drainage problem.

13. Speaking of the underground, Enrico Fermi conducted the first sustained atomic fission reaction under the University of Chicago’s football field.

14. In 1930, the Twinkie was invented in Chicago.

15. Rebuilding after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 was swift and legendary—rubble and ash were pushed into the lake to make new neighborhoods.

16. Chicago banned pay toilets in 1973.

17. The World’s Fair (or Columbian Exposition) in 1893 saw its share of impressive feats and small oddities: A U.S. map made of pickles, a suspension bridge made of soap, and the first Ferris Wheel were just a few.

18. It’s also where Pabst won its famous blue ribbon.

19. When Bavarian Anton Feuchtwanger couldn’t convince fairgoers to eat his sausages, he served them in a bun. The hot dog was born.

20. A massive city of 200 buildings was created from the ground up for the World's Fair. It was meant to be temporary, however, and only two of the original structures remain.

21. You don’t take the subway in Chicago, you take the ‘L’—this is the name for the city’s rapid-transit rail system and is an abbreviated form of “el,” for “elevated.”

22. Tall-building construction was invented in Chicago and the city is known as the “Home of the Skyscraper.” It currently has four of the country’s ten tallest buildings.

23. Be careful parking in the Windy City. Leaving her car at O'Hare International Airport for a few years, Jennifer Fitzgerald received 678 tickets and was whacked with a $105,000 fine.

24. In 1902, an elephant named Alice at the Lincoln Park Zoo fell ill. The zookeepers gave her whiskey as a pick-me up. Unfortunately, it turned her into an alcoholic.

25. Chicago has 26 miles of public beaches that offer a refreshing respite from the summer heat.

Now that you're a Chicago expert, sign up for the Great Urban Race on May 28, 2014 for the smartest, most active way to test your knowledge!


All images courtesy of Thinkstock

February 21, 2014 - 2:00pm
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