Chicago Quotes

Alive from Snout to Tail I give you Chicago. It is not London and Harvard. It is not Paris and buttermilk. It is American in every chitling and sparerib. It is alive from snout to tail.

H. L. Mencken


Always a Novelty It is hopeless for the occasional visitor to try to keep up with Chicago she outgrows his prophecies faster than he can make them. She is always a novelty; for she is never the Chicago you saw when you passed through the last time.

Mark Twain “Life On The Mississippi,” 1883


American Place [Chicago is] Perhaps the most typically American place in America.

James Bryce, 1888


Bears Fans vs. Sharks Sharks are as tough as those football fans who take their shirts off during games in Chicago in January, only more intelligent.

Dave Barry “Sex and the Single Amoeba: What Every Teen Should Know”


Better Neighbor There’s only one thing for Chicago to do, and that’s to move to a better neighborhood.

Herman Fetzer


Broken Nosed Woman Loving Chicago is like loving a woman with a broken nose.

Nelson Algren


Cement There was no need to inform us of the protocol involved. We were from Chicago and knew all about cement.

Groucho Marx, pressing his hands into the cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.


Chicago Bluesman Anywhere in the world you hear a Chicago bluesman play, it’s a Chicago sound born and bred.

Ralph Metcalfe


Chicago vs. Cincinnati Chicago sounds rough to the maker of verse. One comfort we have: Cincinnati sounds worse.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, January, 1880


Chicago’s Benefactor I am going to St. Petersburg, Florida, tomorrow. Let the worthy citizens of Chicago get their liquor the best they can. I’m sick of the job it’s a thankless one and full of grief. I’ve been spending the best years of my life as a public benefactor.

Al Capone, 1927


City of Contradictions Chicago is a city of contradictions, of private visions haphazardly overlaid and linked together. If the city was unhappy with itself yesterday and invariably it was it will reinvent itself today.

Pat Colander “A Metropolis of No Little Plans” NY Times, May 5, 1985


Dante, Milton, and Sandburg Here is the difference between Dante, Milton, and me. They wrote about hell and never saw the place. I wrote about Chicago after looking the town over for years and years.

Carl Sandburg, in Harry Golden, Carl Sandburg, 1961


Ethnic Taverns A lot of real Chicago lives in the neighborhood taverns. It is the mixed German and Irish and Polish gift to the city, a bit of the old country grafted into a strong new plant in the new.

Bill Granger, 1983


Facade of Skyscrapers A facade of skyscrapers facing a lake and behind the facade, every type of dubiousness.

E.M. Forster


First in Violence First in violence, deepest in dirt, lawless, unlovely, ill smelling, irreverent, new; an overgrown gawk of a village, the “tough” among cities, a spectacle for the nation.

Lincoln Steffens, “The Shame of the Cities,” 1904


Friend of the Fans My friends are the fans, not the owners. Dignity isn’t my suit of clothes.

Bill Veeck, twotime owner of the Chicago White Sox


Full of Crime as a Saw has Teeth The last copy of the Chicago Daily News I picked up had three crime stories on its front page. But by comparison to the gaudy days, this is smalltime stuff. Chicago is as full of crooks as a saw with teeth, but the era when they ruled the city is gone forever.

John Gunther, Inside U.S.A, 1947


Hog Butcher for the World Hog butcher for the world,
Tool maker, stacker of wheat,
Player with railroads and the nation’s freight handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of big shoulders.

Carl Sandburg, “Chicago,” 1916


How Money Was Made? Chicago was a town where nobody could forget how the money was made. It was picked up from floors still slippery with blood.

Norman Mailer, Miami and the Siege of Chicago, 1968


January and February I miss everything about Chicago, except January and February.

Gary Cole


King of Swing I don’t have any great love for Chicago. What the hell, a childhood around Douglas Park isn’t very memorable. I remember the street fights and how you were afraid to cross the bridge ’cause the Irish kid on the other side would beat your head in. I left Chicago a long time ago.

“King of Swing” Benny Goodman, 1976


Lamppost I would rather be a lamppost in Chicago than a millionaire in any other city.

William Hulbert, founder of the Chicago White Stockings


Last of the Great American Cities New York is one of the capitals of the world and Los Angeles is a constellation of plastic, San Francisco is a lady, Boston has become Urban Renewal, Philadelphia and Baltimore and Washington wink like dull diamonds in the smog of Eastern Megalopolis, and New Orleans is unremarkable past the French Quarter.

Detroit is a onetrade town, Pittsburgh has lost its golden triangle, St. Louis has become the golden arch of the corporation, and nights in Kansas City close early. The oil depletion allowance makes Houston and Dallas naught but checkerboards for this sort of game.

But Chicago is a great American city. Perhaps it is the last of the great American cities.

Norman Mailer, Miami and the Siege of Chicago, 1968


Marshall Fields I like to go to Marshall Field’s in Chicago just to see how many things there are in the world that I do not want.

Mother Mary Madeleva, My First Seventy Years, 1959


Metaphysical Elegance Chicago has a strange metaphysical elegance of death about it.

Claes Oldenburg


Modern Capitalism Chicago is the product of modern capitalism, and, like other great commercial centers, is unfit for human habitation.

Eugene Debs, 1908


New Yorkers Move West I think that’s how Chicago got started. A bunch of people in New York said, “Gee, I’m enjoying the crime and the poverty, but it just isn’t cold enough. Let’s go west.”

Richard Jeni


Northwest Gates Gigantic, willful, young, Chicago sitteth at the northwest gates.

William Vaughn Moody “An Ode in Time of Hesitation,” 1901


October in Spring Chicago is an October sort of city even in spring.

Nelson Algren, Newsweek, August 13, 1984


Pete Rose on Sammy Sosa And The Cubs Pete Rose’s comments about Sammy Sosa’s chances of breaking the career home runs record…

“I think Sammy (Sosa) has a better chance at the record than Bonds. One reason is age. One guy (Bonds) is 38. The other (Sosa) is 33. And the second reason, most important, is he’s a Cub. That’s why Barry Bonds walks 190 times and Sammy Sosa walks 110 times because the Cubs lose all the time.


Pocket Edition Hell has been described as a pocket edition of Chicago.

Ashley Montagu “The American Way Of Life,” 1967


Pompous Milwaukee? Chicago a pompous Milwaukee.

Leonard Louis Levinson


Porcupines at Easter I’m a little hoarse tonight. I’ve been living in Chicago for the past two months, and you know how it is, yelling for help on the way home every night. Things are so tough in Chicago that at Easter time, for bunnies the little kids use porcupines.

Fred Allen, Much Ado About Me, 1956


Progressive Cities It’s one of the most progressive cities in the world. Shooting is only a sideline.

Will Rogers, June 22, 1930


Protection No realistic, sane person goes around Chicago without protection.

Saul Bellow


Pulse of America I adore Chicago. It is the pulse of America.

Sarah Bernhardt


Satan to Chicagoan Satan (impatiently) to Newcomer: The trouble with you Chicago people is, that you think you are the best people down here; whereas you are merely the most numerous.

Mark Twain “Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar,” 1897


Savages I have struck a city a real city and they call it Chicago. . . . I urgently desire never to see it again. It is inhabited by savages.

Rudyard Kipling, 1891


Second City Chicago seems a big city instead of merely a large place.

A. J. Liebling, first to designate Chicago “The Second City,” 1949


Slight, General Insanity Could anything be more indicative of a slight but general insanity than the aspect of the crowd on the streets of Chicago?

Charles Horton Cooley, “Human Nature and the Social Order,” 1902


State of Chicago It is wonderful to be here in the great state of Chicago…

Dan Quayle


Take a Chance Chicago will give you a chance. The sporting spirit is the spirit of Chicago.

Lincoln Steffens “The Autobiography of Lincoln Steffens,” 1931


The Blues Brothers It’s a 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes; it’s dark, and we’re wearing sun glasses. Hit it!

The Blues Brothers


Theatrically Corrupt Chicago is not the most corrupt American city. It’s the most theatrically corrupt.

Studs Terkel, 1978


Three Hours That’s great advertising when you can turn Chicago into a city you’d want to spend more than three hours in.

Jerry Della Femina


Trib vs. Syphilis The Chicago Tribune has come out against syphilis. Bet you 8 to 5 syphilis will win.

Anonymous, 1940


Underrated I’ve reported murders, scandals, marriages, premieres and national political conventions. I’ve been amused, intrigued, outraged, enthralled and exasperated by Chicago. And I’ve come to love this American giant, viewing it is the most misunderstood, most underrated city in the world. There is none other quite like my City of Big Shoulders.

Irv Kupcinet, who began Kup’s Column in 1941


Unique City Chicago is unique. It is the only completely corrupt city in America.

Charles Merriam, unsuccessful mayoral candidate in 1911


Vision of Power In the twilight, it was a vision of power.

Upton Sinclair, “The Jungle”


Voting In most places in the country, voting is looked upon as a right and a duty, but in Chicago it’s a sport. In Chicago not only your vote counts, but all kinds of other votes kids, dead folks, and so on.

Dick Gregory, Dick Gregory’s Political Primer, 1972