Chicago Trivia


13th Ammendment
Illinois was the first state to ratify the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery (1865).
16 Billion Oreos
The world’s largest cookie and cracker factory, where Nabisco made 16 billion Oreo cookies in 1995, is located in Chicago.
Abraham Lincoln Battalion
The Abraham Lincoln Battalion was a group of young volunteers from the U.S. who fought on the Republican side during the Spanish Civil War.Composed largely of communists with no military experience, the battalion fought from January 1937 to November 1938.
Adler Planetarium
The Adler Planetarium (located on Chicago’s Museum Campus) was the first planetarium in the Western Hemisphere.
Air and Rail
Chicago is the railroad capital of the world.It also established itself as the world’s largest aviation center with the opening of O’Hare Airport.In addition to handling more passengers than any other airport (67 million in 1995), it has the world’s largest parking garage.
American Nobel Prize
The head of the University of Chicago physics department, Albert Michalson, received the first American Nobel Prize for science in 1907. The University of Chicago has more Nobel Laureates associated with it than any other institution (64). In 1942, the University of Chicago became the site of the world’s first controlled atomic reaction.
On April 3, 1848, the Chicago Board of Trade was opened at 101 South Water Street by 82 local businessmen.
Bear Cub
The first animal purchased for the Lincoln Park Zoo (on Chicago’s north side) was a bear cub, bought for $10 on June 1st, 1874.
Big Impression
The Art Institute of Chicago holds the largest collection of Impressionist paintings outside the Louvre in Paris.
Big Shedd
Chicago’s Oceanarium is the world’s largest indoor marine mammal pavilion and doubles the size of the John G. Shedd Aquarium, which is the largest indoor aquarium in the world.
Biological Specimens
By 1992 the collection in the storage vaults of Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History had grown to 19,430,005 biological specimens, 9,886,646 of which were insects.
Birth of Lincoln Park
In 1864 Lincoln Park was designated as a recreational area. The 120-acre cemetery at the site had most of its graves removed and was expanded to include more than 1,000 acres of woodlands, bridle paths, playgrounds, golf courses, and museums. The cemetery had held the bodies of nearly 10,000 Confederate Civil War soldiers who had died in Chicago prisons. They were relocated to other cemeteries in 1870.
Books from the Queen
In 1871 Queen Victoria and the people of Britain shipped cartons of books to Chicago. English novelist Thomas Hughes helped organize the books, which were the basis of the city’s first library.
Buckingham Fountain
Buckingham Fountain (donated by Kate Buckingham in memory of her brother) was dedicated on August 26, 1927.The largest ornamental fountain in the world, it pushes 14,000 gallons of water a minute through 133 jets.
Buckingham Fountain II
Chicago is home to the world’s largest ornamental fountain: Buckingham Fountain, in Grant Park.
C.D. Peacock Jewelers
C. D. Peacock jewelers was founded in 1837. It is the oldest Chicago business still in existence today.
Candy Capital
Chicago is the candy capital of the world, with such giants as Tootsie Roll, E.J. Brach and Sons, and Fannie May Candies. Chicagoland is also home to the nation’s number one restaurant company (McDonald’s) and the number one food processor (Kraft).
Charles Lindbergh
In 1926, a young pilot named Charles Lindbergh initiated an airmail service between Chicago and St. Louis.And this was before O’Hare or Midway!
Chicago Auditorium
The Chicago Auditorium opened December 9, 1889 with Adeline Patti singing “Home, Sweet Home” to an audience that included President Harrison.
Chicago Cultural Center
The Chicago Cultural Center is the first free, municipal cultural center in the U.S. It is also home to the world’s largest Tiffany Dome.
Chicago Post Office
The Chicago Post Office at 433 West Van Buren is the only postal facility in the world you can drive a car through.
Chicago Public Library
The Chicago Public Library is the world’s largest public library with a collection of more than 2 million books.
Chicago River Was Reversed
In 1900 the flow of the Chicago River was reversed by the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. This engineering feat was undertaken to keep Lake Michigan, the source of the City’s drinking water, from being polluted. The Chicago River was for all intensive purposes Chicago’s sewer system, and was pouring straight into Lake Michigan.
Chicago’s First Espressway
What was the first expressway in Chicagoland? It was just 5 miles long, and when it opened November 1, 1950 it was called the Calumet Expressway and Tri-State Highway.The road stretched from 159th Street to the Indiana state line. It is now part of the Bishop Ford and Kingery expressways.
Chicago’s Murder Rate
In 1900 there were between 102 and 128 homicides in Chicago, depending on the source referred to. This is equal to a rate of 6 to 7 homicides per 100,000 residents, a lower rate than prevailed for the rest of the century, and less than one fourth of the rate which existed after 1970.
Chinese Laundry/Second City
Comedy showcase “Second City” was founded on North Wells Street in a former Chinese laundry in 1959.
Cholera in Chicago
A cholera epidemic took the lives of 5.5% of the population of Chicago in 1854.
Civil War Prison Camp
The worst prison camp during the Civil War in terms of percentages of death was at Rock Island, a city to the southwest of Chicago.
Close Encounter
J. Allen Hyneck, an astronomer at Northwestern University, formed the Center for UFO Studies, insisting that the possibility of UFOs be taken seriously. He coined the phrase “Close Encounter,” which was popularized by Steven Spielberg’s 1977 movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” Hynek himself played a cameo role in the film.
First Allergy Clinic
The city’s first allergy clinic opened in 1920 at Rush Hospital on Chicago’s west side.
First Book
The first book to be printed in Chicago appeared in 1841.It was “Supreme Court Decisions,” published by J. Young Scammon and Stephen F. Gale.
First Coed Roman Catholic University
In 1911, DePaul University became the first Roman Catholic university in the United States to go coeducational.
First Execution
John Stone, 34, was the city’s first legally executed criminal. He was hanged on Friday, July 10, for the rape and murder of Lucretia Thompson, a farmer’s wife.
First Ferris Wheel
In 1893 George Ferris created a giant wheel for Chicago’s World’s Columbian Exposition. It stood 250 feet above the ground and could hold 40 people.
First Interracial Hospital
Chicago’s Provident Hospital was the US’ first interracial hospital (it opened in 1891). Established by black surgeon Daniel Hale Williams, the facility operated the first US training school for black women. In 1893 Dr. Williams performed the world’s first open-heart surgery, saving the life of a street fighter with a knife wound in an artery near his heart
First McDonalds
Des Plaines, a northwest suburb of Chicago, is the home of the first McDonalds.
First Municipal Plan
The first comprehensive municipal plan ever offered to an American city was written for Chicago by Daniel Burnham and published in 1909.
First Nuclear Fission Reactor
On December 2, 1942, Enrico Fermi and a small band of scientists and engineers demonstrated that a simple construction of graphite bricks and uranium lumps could produce controlled heat. The space chosen for the first nuclear fission reactor was a squash court under the football stadium at the University of Chicago.
First Periodical
In 1841 the first issue of the “Prairie Farmer” appeared.A product of the Union Agricultural Society and its visionary editor, John S. Wright, it was the first periodical to be published in Chicago.
First Pinball Game
Chicago produced the first pinball game, in 1930.
First Roller Skates
Chicago produced the first roller skates, in 1884.
First Skyscraper
The world’s first Skyscraper was built in Chicago, in 1885.
First Subway
On October 17, 1943 the first public subway in Chicago opened. Seven years later Chicago’s second subway, the Milwaukee-Dearborn line, opened. The Chicago Transit Authority’s most recent line, to Midway Airport, opened in 1994.
First Trib
The first issue of the “Chicago Tribune” came off the presses on June 10, 1847.
First Zipper
Chicago produced the first zipper, in 1896.
Fort Dearborn Massacre
The outbreak of the War of 1812 with Great Britain moved the government to order the evacuation of Chicago’s Fort Dearborn, and the alliance of local Indians to the British.The threatening attitude of local Potawatomi Indians led the entire population of the settlement around Fort Dearborn to take part in the evacuation. After leaving the fort, the evacuees were attacked; many settlers were slaughtered, and the fort was destroyed.
Four Stars on Flag
The 4 stars on the Chicago flag represent Fort Dearborn, the Chicago Fire, the World’s Columbian Exposition, and the Century of Progress Exposition.
Freed Bovine
On October 7, 1997, the Chicago City Council approved a resolution which absolved Mrs. O’Leary’s cow of all blame for the Great Chicago Fire.
Gangland Hits
In 1995, authorities estimated that of 1,050 reputed gangland hits in Chicago history, only four have been successfully prosecuted.
Green River
The Chicago River is dyed green on Saint Patrick’s Day (though many claim not to notice a difference).
Haymarket Riots
Chicago Police fired into a crowd of striking workers on May 1, 1886, killing 4 and wounding many others. On May 4, the Knights of Labor held a peaceful rally in Haymarket Square to protest the shooting, someone threw a bomb that knocked down 60 policemen, killing one and mortally wounding 6 others. The police fired into the crowd, many more were killed. The Haymarket Massacre marked the beginning of a worldwide May Day as a revolutionary memorial day.
Home of the Bushel
In 1852, Chicago corn buyers established the official weight of a bushel of corn:56 pounds
Ice Cream
The ice cream “sundae” was named in Evanston. The piety of the town resented the dissipating influences of the soda fountain on Sunday and the good town fathers, yielding to this churchly influence, passed an ordinance prohibiting the retailing of ice cream sodas on Sunday.Ingenious confectioners and drug store operators obeying the law, served ice cream with the syrup of your choice without the soda. Objections then were made to christening a dish after the Sabbath. So the spelling of “sunday” was changed. It became an established dish and an established word and finally the “sundae”.
Illegal Snowballs
In Mount Pulaski, Illinois, it is illegal for boys (and only boys) to hurl snowballs at trees. Girls are allowed to do that however.
Incorporated with 350
On August 12, 1833 the town of Chicago was incorporated with a population of 350.
Chicago was the first American city to establish a juvenile court, in 1899.Louise DeKoven Bowen (whose grandmother, incidently, had been the first child born at Fort Dearborn) was prominent in the creation of not only the juvenile court but of the Juvenile Protective Association. She also endowed a summer camp for underpriveleged children.
Lincoln Park Zoo
Chicago is home to one of the first AND last free zoos: Lincoln Park Zoo, which is open every day of the year.
Lincoln-Douglas Debates
Ottawa, Freeport, Jonesboro, Charleston, Galesburg, Quincy and Alton hosted the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates that stirred interest all over the country in the slavery issue.
Lots of Sewage
The world’s largest waste water treatment plant remains the West-Southwest plant in Stickney, IL, which treats 800 million gallons a day (according to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago). It was designed to treat up to 1.2 billion gallons a day.
Lucky Buildings
Other than the Water Tower, four public buildings still standing in Chicago predate the Great Fire of Oct. 8, 1871. They are: St. Ignatius College Prep, 1076 W. Roosevelt Rd.; Holy Family Catholic Church, 1019 S. May St.; St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, 718 W. Adams St.; and First Baptist Congregational Church, 60 N. Ashland Ave.
Magic Bullet
In 1918, G.C. Searle and Company, newly located in Chicago, began mass-producing Dr. Ehrlich’s “Magic Bullet” to battle syphilis.
Merchandise Mart
Chicago is home to the Largest Building in America (not counting the Pentagon): The Merchandise Mart, with 90 acres of floor space.
Mercy Hospital
Chicago’s Mercy Hospital was the first hospital opened in Illinois.
Metropolitan Sanitary District of Greater Chicago
In 1889 the Metropolitan Sanitary District of Greater Chicago was created; it covered 185 square miles of Chicago and some western suburbs. The district now covers 858 square miles including nearly all of Cook County. The district presently serves Chicago, 114 other cities and villages, and 20 smaller local sanitary districts. At the time the sanitary district was formed, the science of sewage treatment was practically unknown. However, research had begun and in 1930 the court ordered construction of sewage treatment plants in order to cut down on water diversion from Lake Michigan. The sanitary district has since built three sewage treatment plants. In 1955, the American Society of Civil Engineers selected the Metropolitan Sanitary District of Greater Chicago as one of the seven engineering wonders of the United States.
Midwest Forests
Sparks from the Chicago Fire started forest fires that destroyed more than a million acres of Michigan and Wisconsin timberland.
Montgomery Ward
Chicago was home to the first mail-order business: Montgomery Ward, which was established in 1872.
By 1925, Chicago had more movable bridges than any other city in the world.They consisted of the following:10 center swing
24 trunnion bascule
12 rolling lift
1 vertical lift
1 Strauss bascule
3 pontoon
Murder Record
On March 12, 1980, John Wayne Gacy was convicted of more murders than anyone else in U.S. history. He waited 15 years on death row until he was finally executed in 1995.
New Palmer House
In 1875 the new Palmer House opened to replace the one burned in the 1871 Chicago Fire. The new building was the first fireproof hotel ever to be constructed. The lavish dining room’s menu included broiled buffalo, antelope, bear, mountain sheep, and blackbirds.
No Chicago Cops
In 1861, John Wentworth fired the entire Chicago Police Department when his term as mayor came to a close. This included 60 patrolmen, 3 sergeants, 3 lieutenants, and one captain. The city was entirely without police protection for twelve hours until the Board of Commissioners swore in some new officers to take their place.
Northwestern U.
Northwestern University, the first university in the Chicago area, was founded in 1851.
Oldest Building in Chicago
Henry B. Clarke built a substantial country house on his farm south of the city, not far from where the Fort Dearborn settlers were massacred.It is the oldest building still standing in Chicago and is open to the public as part of the Prairie Avenue Historic District.
Opium in Chicago
Narcotic drugs were neither well regulated nor as widely regarded as a social problem in 1900. Narcotics were, however, readily available in patent medicines, and probably a higher percentage of Chicagoans were addicted to opium during that time period than at any time before or since. Police efforts were mostly limited to occasional raids on Chinese opium dens. The 1900 Police Dept. Annual Report shows 422 arrests for “Inmates of Opium Den.”
The abbreviation “ORD” for Chicago’s O’Hare airport comes from the original name Orchard Field. O’Hare Airport was named in honor of Lieutenant Commander Edward H. “Butch” O’Hare.
Cook County has more parks and green areas than any other county in the country.
Percent-for-Art Ordinance
Chicago was one of the largest municipalities to include public art funding in its requirements for the renovation or construction of municipal buildings, with the passage of the Percent-for-Art ordinance in 1978.
Plane Crash
In 1979, the second-worst aviation disaster in U.S. history occured. An American Airlines DC-10 crashed shortly after taking off at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, killing all 275 people aboard.
Poison in the Soup
In 1916, three people died and scores became sick at a dinner honoring George Mundelein’s elevation to archbishop of Chicago (George Mundelein is the namesake of a prominent northwestern Chicago suburb). It was later discovered that the soup had been poisoned by an atheist.
Poor Horse
After gangster Samuel “Nails” Morton was killed by a kicking horse on May 13, 1923, three of his enraged henchman led the guilty horse to the spot in Lincoln Park where the accident had occurred and gunned it down. Incidently, Nails Morton was a member of Dion O’Banion’s North Side bootleg operation and a Maxwell Street native. He had won a Croix de Guerre during World War I.
Red Chicago
The Communist Party of the United States was founded in Chicago in 1919.
In 1954 Chicago had 23 theological seminaries – Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant – twice the number of its closest competitor, New York City.
Shedd Aquarium the First
The first Aquarium opened in Chicago, in 1893.
Slaughtered Cattle &the First Constable
In 1843 Alexander Clybourn was Chicago’s first constable.He and Gurdon Hubbard slaughtered the first cattle to be sent from Chicago to markets in the East.
Square Dancing
The Illinois state dance is square dancing.
Sunday Drinking
In 1900 organized vice was widely condemned by society. However vice was still semi-officially tolerated in Chicago, because vice was regarded as inevitable due to flawed human nature. Prominent forms of socially condemned vice included prostitution, gambling and excessive drinking. Many virtuous persons also regarded Sunday drinking as a separate vice, and thought it the worst evil of all.
Taste of Chicago
The Taste of Chicago is the country’s largest free, outdoor food festival. It attracted over three million hungry attendees in 1996.
The 1900 Chicago Police
In 1900, the Chicago Police Department had a total strength of 3,225 including 2,430 patrolmen, and 31 police matrons. Many authors have characterized the Police Department of the time as beset with inefficiency, political cronyism, and corruption, but the police did seem to do a reasonable job of maintaining order.
The Chicago Democrat
Chicago’s first newspaper, the Chicago Democrat, published its first issue in November of 1833.On that day the paper reported that village trustees had made it illegal for a hog to run in the streets without a ring in its nose!
The Museum of Contemporary Art
In 1996, The Museum of Contemporary Art moved to its new home, the first new museum building constructed in Chicago in 60 years.
The Name’s Origin
The name “Chicago” derived from the Indians but it is not known which tribe named the town and many theories have been advanced to explain the origin of the name.One generally accepted is that the name comes from the Indian words for either wild onion or skunk, but some historians believe that the word Chicago denoted “strong” or “great.”Dr. William Barry, first secretary of the Chicago Historical Society, wrote, “Whatever may have been the etymological meaning of the word Chicago in its practical use, it probably denoted strong or great. The Indians applied this term to the Mississippi River, to thunder, or to the voice of the great Manitou.”M. M. Quaife in his book Checagou asserts that the significance of the name was anything great or powerful.
The Segregated District
In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, authorities dealt with prostitution by creating what they called the “segregated district.”The “segregated district” overlapped with areas of Black and Chinese residence, but the “segregation” referred to vice, rather than race.The segregated district was an area on the near south side where brothels were permitted. Similar, but smaller districts existed in other parts of the city.Although the brothels in the district might occasionally be subject to police raids, these raids were often a mere formality, and no actual attempts to close the houses were made.

The business was regulated to a certain extent by periodic attempts to limit advertising or soliciting and the use of prostitutes who were underage, unwilling, or male.

There were slightly over 2,000 arrests for prostitution-related offenses in 1900.

The Silo
The round Silo for farm storage of silage was first constructed on a farm in Spring Grove, a Chicago suburb.
The Thick Merc
Chicago’s Mercantile Exchange building was built entirely without an internal steel skeleton, as most skyscrapers are; it depends on its thick walls to keep itself up.
Three of the Tallest
Chicago is home to three of the world’s tallest buildings:Sears Tower. . .1,450 feet
Amoco Building. . .1,136 feet
John Hancock. . .1,127 feet
Tower of Pisa
A half-size replica of Italy’s “leaning” Tower of Pisa was built in 1933 in Niles, a Chicago suburb. It was erected to supply water to the three swimming pools of industrialist Robert Ilg.Today the 96-foot-tall structure serves as an attention-getter for the YMCA, but is no longer filled with water. A park was built around its base, complete with a Leaning Telefono Booth of Niles.
Tunnel Flooding
In April of 1992, Chicago’s turn-of-the-century freight tunnel system flooded when new pilings were being driven into the Chicago River bed.Dozens of downtown buildings were flooded, resulting in millions of dollars worth of damage.
Typhoid Fever
In 1891 Chicago’s typhoid death rate was 174 per 100,000 persons. Diseases resulting from water polluted by human waste brought about a state of emergency.
Underground Freight Trains
The trains that pass through Chicago’s underground freight tunnels daily would extend over ten miles total in length.
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago opened on October 1, 1892 with an enrollment of 594 and a faculty of 103.
Vanity Plates
Illinois boasts the highest number of personalized license plates, more than any other state.
Water Tower
Chicago is home to the Chicago Water Tower and Pumping Station, two of only a handful of buildings to survived the Great Chicago Fire.
Chicago is along the southwest shore of Lake Michigan and occupies a plain, which for the most part, is only some tens of feet above the lake. Lake Michigan averages 579 feet above sea level, and the city is in a region of frequently changeable weather.
Western Avenue
Chicago has the longest continuous street of any city in the United States.Western Avenue runs the entire north-south length of the city, 24.5 miles.At 92nd Street, Western Avenue passes over the highest elevation in the city: 683 feet.
Windy City
New York Sun editor Charles Dana, tired of hearing Chicagoans boast of the world’s Columbian Exposition, dubbed Chicago the “Windy City.”
Winter on the West Side
In 1674, Father Marquette spent the winter camped at what is now the intersection of Damen Ave. and the river’s South Branch. Frustrated that he couldn’t convince the French government of its strategic importance, he left in the spring and never returned to the area.
Woodfield Mall
The Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg opened in 1971. It was named after Robert E. WOOD, of Sears/Roebuck, and Marshall FIELD.
World Cup Soccer
In 1994 Chicago held the opening ceremonies and the first game of the first World Cup Soccer championship in the United States.
World’s Columbian Exposition
In 1893 Chicago’s World’s Columbian Exposition attracted 27 million visitors, almost 1/2 of US total population at that time. More than $5 million in funds was used to construct the Jackson Park lakefront site.