A Timeline of Chicago History
When explorers first happened upon the area of land situated between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River, they quickly recognized the strategic possibilities that could be had by settling the area. The word "Chicago" likely came from a Native American word that described plants that grew freely on the banks of the river. After Chicago was officially founded, it quickly grew into a thriving city. Today, this metropolitan area is the largest city in the Midwest.
1673 - Father Jacques Marquette and fur trader Louis Joliet embarked on an exploration trip for France, researching rivers to find the Northwest Passage across the continent. When Joliet saw the land that would become Chicago, he noted that it would be possible to construct a canal to connect the Great Lakes with the Mississippi River.
1674 - Marquette returned to the area that would become Chicago.
1778 - Virginia claimed all of the land bordering the Mississippi River, calling it the County of Illinois.
1784 - Virginia used Illinois as a grant to repay debts from the Revolutionary War.
1784 to 1788 - Fur trader Jean Baptiste Point du Sable became the first person to settle in the land that would become Chicago.
1803 - Fort Dearborn was established near the mouth of the Chicago River by the end of 1803. Five families built homes in the new town.
February 9, 1809 - Chicago officially became a part of the Territory of Illinois.
December 3, 1818 - Illinois became the 21st state in the United States.
January 15, 1833 - The Illinois General Assembly created Cook County, naming Chicago as the county seat.
August 1833 - With a population of less than 200 people, the Town of Chicago was incorporated.
1854 - Cholera ran rampant through Chicago throughout the summer of this year, killing 60 residents each day of the summer.
1855 - Work on a public sewer system began.
1856 - The University of Chicago was founded.
May 18, 1860 - The Republican Party nominated Abraham Lincoln as its presidential candidate. The nomination occurred in Chicago.
1868 - The playing field for the Chicago White Stockings baseball team was built. This team later became the Chicago Cubs.
July 18, 1871 - Engineers successfully reversed the flow direction of the Chicago River, which enabled it to transport polluted water toward the Mississippi River instead of dumping it into Lake Michigan. The redirection lasted for one year, and then the river stalled and returned to a state of sludge.
October 8, 1871 - At 9:00 p.m. that evening, the Great Fire began. It burned from Sunday night until the early morning hours of Tuesday, October 10. From the time of the Great Fire onward, Chicago history is separated into time "before the fire" and "after the fire."
July 26, 1877 - Chicago was the location of street rioting between railroad worker rioters and police and militia.
1880 - Marshall Field bought out his partners to become the sole owner of Marshall Field and Company, the most upscale store in Chicago.
1882 - The Art Institute of Chicago was founded by Charles L. Hutchinson and several other people.
1885 - The Chicago School skyscraper was built using an iron skeleton construction.
May 3, 1886 - A strike at the McCormick reaper factory led to the police killing of two workers.
May 4, 1886 - A demonstration was held to protest the deaths. A bomb was thrown at police, which caused the deaths of seven officers and the injuries of about 50 people.
June 21, 1886 - A trial for eight men was held in connection with the Haymarket affair. Although none of the men were accused of throwing the bomb, all were found guilty.
1887 - The Marshall Field warehouse was designed and completed one year after the death of its architect.
November 11, 1887 - Four of the eight Haymarket defendants were executed. Of the other four, two requested clemency and were sentenced to life in prison, one was sentenced to 15 years, and one committed suicide in custody.
1890 - Aaron Montgomery Ward began working to protect the lakeshore and keep it public ground without buildings or other obstructions. The Illinois Supreme Court supported his position in 1909.
1891 - Theodore Thomas arrived in Chicago to take charge of the Chicago Orchestra.
1892 - The "L" train network opened, running above the street level. This was the first electric rapid transit system.
October 1, 1892 - The University of Chicago opened with William Rainey Harper acting as president.
May 1 through October 30, 1893 - The World's Columbian Exposition was held in Chicago with 27 million people attending the fair.
October 28, 1893 - A man murdered Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison in his home at the end of the Exposition.
May 12, 1894 - Pullman factory workers went on strike. Eventually, the strike was broken by federal troops.
July 5, 1894 - The Exposition site burned down.
January 2, 1900 - The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal flowed from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River, finalizing Joliet's vision for connecting the two bodies of water.
December 5, 1901 - Walter Elias Disney was born in Chicago, going on to create his cartoon empire.
1901 - Charles R. Walgreen opened his first pharmacy in Chicago.
1904 - The Orchestra Hall was built.
1906 - The first freight delivery tunnel system began running under Chicago.
1908 - William Howard Taft was nominated for president by the Republican Party.
October 14, 1908 - The Chicago Cubs won the World Series against the Detroit Tigers.
July 27, 1919 - A race riot occurred in Chicago with 15 White people and 23 Black people losing their lives.
June 20, 1920 - More race riots occurred leaving many wounded and two dead.
1925 - Soldier Field was dedicated, built initially as a track and field stadium and later, a football stadium was added.
February 14, 1929 - The St. Valentine's Day Massacre occurred when the Moran gang and Al Capone gang clashed. Gunfire was heard, and seven members of Al Capone's gang were killed.
1932 - Sears opened its first store in downtown Chicago.
1934 - The Art Deco tower was built on La Salle Street in Chicago.
April 5, 1955 - Richard J. Daley was elected mayor of Chicago. He served as mayor for six terms until he died in 1976.
1960 - 1966 - Marina City was built as a pair of apartment towers.
April 21, 1967 - A cluster of 17 tornadoes struck northern Illinois, including some areas of Chicago. The storms occurred during a Friday rush hour.
May 3, 1973 - The Sears Tower became the world's tallest building at 443 meters. The name of the building was later changed to the Willis Tower.
December 20, 1976 - Mayor Richard J. Daley died at 74.
November 11, 1981 - Stuntman Dan Goodman climbed the outside of the John Hancock Center in Chicago, taking almost six hours for the climb.
April 29, 1983 - Harold Washington was sworn in as Chicago's first black mayor.
1986 - The Chicago Bears won the Super Bowl.
February 25, 1988 - The City of Chicago approved a project to install stadium lights so the Chicago Cubs could play night games.
July 28, 1990 - A blackout occurred throughout the city.
June 12, 1991 - The Chicago Bulls won their first NBA championship.
1995 - The Navy Pier was redeveloped and revitalized to become a popular tourist spot.
1995 - A heat wave caused about 700 deaths that year.
1996 - The Museum of Contemporary Art opened on Chicago Avenue.
June 14, 1998 - The Chicago Bulls won their sixth NBA championship.
May 10, 2001 - Boeing decided to locate its new corporate headquarters in Chicago.
July 2004 - The Sears Tower was sold to the Chetrit Group.
October 26, 2005 - The Chicago White Sox won their first World Series title since 1917.
July 16, 2009 - The Sears Tower was officially reintroduced as the Chicago Willis Tower in a ceremony.
September 10, 2012 - Chicago teachers went on strike after the union and officials did not reach a contract agreement.
March 21, 2013 - The City of Chicago announced that it would close 54 schools and 61 school buildings in the beginning of the next academic school year.
October 16, 2019 - Chicago Public Schools canceled classes in anticipation of a teacher strike, which happened the next day.
November 1, 2019 - Teachers returned to work after an 11-day strike.