This time of year is always a point of reflection for me, perhaps for you as well.  Sometimes it is refreshing to look back at how far we’ve come in a really short period of time, and the rate at which we are now accelarating today!

In doing research earlier this year, I came across this site which does an amazing job of highlighting key events in our great cities history.  I found some of the stories so fascinating, I wanted to share them with you and we’ll explore some of them together in greater detail.  I’ve incorporated some links to Wikipedia in the entries for additional information, which I do suggest exploring!  Enjoy this trip down history lane!



  • A black man from Haiti named Jean-Baptiste Pointe du Sable, a fur trader, founded a settlement called Eschikagou on the north bank of the Chicago River. (He was not officially recognized as the city’s founder until 1968.) 

From we learn:  Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable, a black man of Haitian and French descent, settled on the banks of the Chicago River in about 1773, when the land that would become Illinois was still a part of the British Empire. Married to an Indian woman, DuSable operated a thriving trading post and farm near where present-day Michigan Avenue crosses the Chicago River.

DuSable’s post served Native Americans, British, and American explorers, as well as Frenchmen who stayed on in the territory even after their armies’ defeat in the French and Indian War. Sometime around 1800 DuSable left his settlement for Missouri. Historians do not know why he departed the Illinois country. Nonetheless, DuSable’s pioneering effort made him the first non-Native American to settle the area that would become the metropolis of Chicago, Illinois (Copyright 2002 Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project).



  • The first birth on record in Chicago was of Eulalia Pointe du Sable, daughter of Jean-Baptiste Pointe du Sable and his Potawatomi Indian wife.


  • Chicago had its beginnings in Fort Dearborn ; built by US Federal Troops. It was named for President Jefferson’s Secretary of War, Henry Dearborn.


                                                                    (Henry Dearborn)


  • On August 12, the town of Chicago was incorporated with a population of 350.


  • William B. Ogden was elected the city’s first mayor.  During his term as Chicago’s first mayor, 1837-1838, the land rush that had brought him to the Midwest went bust, but Ogden managed to help the city weather the storm.  Ogden designed the first swing bridge over the Chicago River and donated the land for Rush Medical Center. 
  • C. D. Peacock jewelers was founded. It is the oldest Chicago business still in existence today.



  • 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.


  • The first issue of the “Chicago Tribune” came off the presses on June 10.



  • The first telegraphic communication between New York City and Chicago was established on June 10.


  • Northwestern University, the first university in the Chicago area, was founded.


  • A cholera epidemic took the lives of 5.5% of the population of Chicago.


  • The first formal Chicago police department was organized under Mayor Dr. Levi Boone.

Wikipedia triviaSaint Jude is the patron saint of the Chicago Police Department.  Chicago police wear hats with checkered bands, popularly known as the ‘Sillitoe Tartan‘ and named after its originator, Percy J. Sillitoe, Chief Constable of Glasgow, Scotland in the 1930’s. While the checkered band is a common police symbol in the United Kingdom and other countries in Europe, Chicago and Pittsburgh are the only cities in the United States that have adopted it as part of their police officer uniforms.  In most movies set in Chicago after The Blues Brothers, the police cars read “Metro Police” instead of “Chicago Police”. This was CPD’s response to their negative portrayal in that film. The TV series Hill Street Blues uses “Metro Police” on its squad cars and wagons.

  • Andreas von Zirngibl was born in Russia on March 30, 1797 and was a soldier in the army that fought Napoleon at Waterloo in 1816. He made his way to Chicago, where he had a farm and where he died on Aug. 21, 1855. In his will, he decreed that he be buried on his own land and that his grave be kept sacred, no matter what happened to the land. His grave still stands, surrounded by the rust and rubble of the American Fastener Salvage yard, which sprawls north and east of East 93rd Street and South Ewing Avenue.

1860 – 1900

  • Deaths from typhoid fever averaged 65 per 100,000 population a year.


  • Chicago’s first royal visitor: King Edward VII, then Prince of Wales.


                                         (Edward VII at his coronation on 9 August 1902)


  • 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.


  • The first hospital in Illinois: Chicago’s Mercy Hospital.


  • Lincoln Park was designated as a recreational area. The 120-acre cemetery at the site had most of its graves removed and would be 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 – these were relocated to other cemeteries in 1870.
  • The Union Stock Yards were established in a one-square-mile area at Halsted Street and Exchange Avenue. (The yards closed on July 31, 1971, and were demolished. The gate was preserved, and was named a Chicago landmark on February 24, 1972.)


  • On April 15, the body of Abraham Lincoln lay in state in the courthouse rotunda in Chicago’s City Hall before being taken on to Springfield.


  • Construction began on the Water Tower designed by architect W. W. Boyington.


  • The Great Chicago Fire raged from October 8 to 9th. It destroyed 3.5 square miles of the city, killing perhaps 250. The fire lasted 27 hours and destroyed 17,450 buildings.
  • Sparks from the fire started forest fires that destroyed more than a million acres of Michigan and Wisconsin timberland.


(The lead editorial in the first issue the Chicago Tribune published after the Great Chicago Fire).

  • 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.
  • 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.

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.

More to come-stay tuned…

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