Happy Birthday Chicago


Image: Peter V. Bella

Happy Birthday Chicago.

Today our city turns 178 years old.

The city of Chicago was formally incorporated on March 4, 1837. Because of its location, it became the fastest growing city in the nation, the hub of  national transportation, and an entrepreneur's paradise.

Chicago has been described as the most American of American cities. More than any other city in the nation, Chicago is the heart and soul of American virtues and values.

For well over a century, people from all over the world came to Chicago to make or invest their fortunes. Some went from rags to riches. Others went from riches to rags.

Chicago was a volatile trading and market place. It was also a land speculators paradise.

No one cared who you were, what you were, or where you were from. All people cared about was work. Hard work. If you worked hard you earned respect. Slackers need not enter our town. Chicago's unofficial motto was, "Are you working".

Through the mid 19th and early 20th Centuries, Chicago suffered its share of natural and human disasters. There were severe national, regional, and even local economic depressions and market collapses, epidemic outbreaks, especially cholera, The Great Fire and other fires, to name a few.

Chicago always rebounded stronger and more resilient.

The city was laid out to get people from here to there- home to work- as fast as possible. Work, commerce, and industry were what counted. Moving people efficiently to earn and spend money was of critical importance.

Chicago played a major roll in the Civil War and World Wars I and II. War materiel was manufactured on a large scale here. Wars made millionaires out of many Chicagoans and provided good paying jobs contributing to the rise of a large middle class.

Some of the finest writers came out of Chicago. Algren, Hecht, Bellow, Sandburg, Dreiser, and Sinclair, Cather, and Ferber. Hemingway spent time in Chicago, living on the 1000 block of State Street. There were Gwendolyn Brooks, James T. Farrell, Sherwood Anderson, Richard Wright, and Harriet Monroe.

Chicago was the home of famous architects. Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, William LeBaron Jenny, Daniel Burnham, John Wellborn Root, and Louis Sullivan.

Chicago was the hospitality and culinary capitol of the nation well before New York, due to the city being the transportation hub, the stockyards, and being the central clearing house for commodities. French chefs and German waiters flocked to Chicago to work in our restaurants.

Through the 20th Century to the present, Chicago suffered economic ups and downs. Unlike other cities, Chicago rebounded. In the 1970s, while major cities, including New York, were going through economic crises, Chicago was adapting and innovating.

That adaption and innovation continues. Chicago did not suffer as badly as other major cities during the recent economic melt down. Chicago showed its resilience and continued moving forward.

Chicago survived. It always will. From the time it was a mudflat settlement on the banks of the Chicago River, through the military governance of Fort Dearborn, attacks by natives, disease outbreaks, fires, especially the Great Fire, market and economic collapses, and other human and natural catastrophes made Chicago stronger.

Chicago was built by outsiders. Men of vision who came west to make their fortune. Eastern money bet on a quirk of geography. Immigrants who brought strong backs. In the early years it was not unusual for rich and poor to live next to each other. What were considered proper homes at the time, sat next to hovels.

Chicago is the City in a Garden, the City of Big Shoulders, a City of We Will, and of course the Windy City. It is the beating heart of America.

Chicago is the city of big hearts. Chicago is known for all the events we have to raise money for various charities. We do not just write checks, we participate. From the Polar Plunge, to runs, galas, and competitions of all types. People from all over come to Chicago to help raise millions of dollars for worthy and needy causes. Chicago gives back.

While Chicago is known for many things, there are unique interesting tidbits that go unnoticed. The video highlights some of them.

Even with all our current problems, Chicago has a lot to be proud of and celebrate. So, thump your chests in shameless boosterism.

Wish Chicago a happy birthday.

Portions of this piece appeared in ChicagoNow this time last year.

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