IMPORTANT DATES IN CHICAGO HISTORY TO 1940
From The Chicago Factbook
1673: French-Canadian explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet pass through the area that will become Chicago.
1682: French explorer René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, passes through Chicago en route to the mouth of the Mississippi River.
1683: French Jesuits establish Fort de Chicago, the area’s first true European settlement.
1696: Jesuit missionary Francois Pinet founds the Mission of the Guardian Angel. It is abandoned four years later.
1705: Conflicts develop between French traders and the Fox tribe of native Americans. Fort de
Chicago is abandoned.
1795: Six square miles of land at the mouth of the Chicago River are reserved by the Treaty of
Greenville for use by the United States.
1779: Haitian immigrant Jean-Baptiste Point du Sable establishes Chicago’s first permanent
settlement near the mouth of the Chicago River.
1796: The Potawatomi Indian wife of du Sable delivers Eulalia Pointe du Sable, Chicago’s first
1803: U.S. Army constructs Ft. Dearborn near the mouth of the Chicago River.
1812: Ft. Dearborn is destroyed following a conflict with native Americans.
1816: Ft. Dearborn is rebuilt.
1818: Illinois is admitted to the union.
1830: First plat is drawn of the town of Chicago.
1833: Chicago incorporates as a town of 350 people. Town limits are bounded by Kinzie,
DesPlaines, State and Madison streets.
1837: Chicago incorporates as a city of 4,170 people. William B. Ogden is elected its first mayor./
C. D. Peacock jewelers is founded. It is the oldest Chicago business still in existence today.
1844: The city’s first public school is built near Madison and State streets.
1848: “The Pioneer,” Chicago’s first locomotive, arrives on Galena and Chicago Union Railroad
tracks along Kinzie Street. / The city’s first City Hall is erected on State Street.
1850: Gas lamps are erected on Lake Street and several adjacent blocks.
1851: The Chicago area’s first university, Northwestern, is founded.
1855: Mayor Dr. Levi Boone organizes the city’s first police department. /A public demonstration against the city’s prohibition of beer sales on Sunday results in more than 60 arrests.
1856: Ft. Dearborn is demolished.
1860: Chicago hosts its first political convention. The Republican Party nominates Abraham Lincoln
for the U.S. presidency.
1863: Mercy Hospital becomes the first hospital in Illinois.
1865: Union Stock Yards open on Christmas day.
1867: Chicago’s first water tunnel is completed.
1869: The Chicago Water Tower is completed. / The city’s first vehicular tunnel is built below the
Chicago River at Washington Street. Construction starts on a tunnel at LaSalle Street.
1871: The Great Chicago fire leaves 300 Chicagoans dead and 90,000 homeless. Property losses are estimated at $200 million.
1872: Aaron Montgomery Ward establishes the first mail-order business at Clark and Kinzie
streets with the slogan “satisfaction guaranteed.”
1873: Chicago Public Library is formed with the donation of 8,000 books from city residents.
Queen Victoria and the people of Britain ship cartons of books to Chicago.
1885: The 9-story Home Insurance Building, the world’s first “skyscraper,” is erected on LaSalle Street.
1886: Eight Chicago policemen are killed during a workers’ riot at Haymarket Square.
1889: Hull House is opened by Miss Jane Addams, helping hundreds of immigrants and others
gain a place of self-respect in society.
1892: The first elevated trains begin operation.
1893: World’s Columbian Exposition opens in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the
discovery of America by Columbus.
1895: The first automobile race in the United States is held along the Chicago lakefront with
winning driver J. Frank Duryea averaging 7.5 miles per hour. / The Schwinn Bicycle Company is
1900: Flow of the Chicago River is reversed to control pollution entering Lake Michigan. / The city’s 500-mile streetcar system, along with the elevated railway system, provides 260 million
annual rides, or about 160 rides for each Chicago resident.
1903: More than 600 people die in a fire at the Iroquois Theater.
1905: The first Rotary Club in America is founded in Chicago.
1907: University of Chicago physicist Abraham Michelson becomes the first American to win the Nobel Prize in physics.
1908: The City Clerk conducts the first registration of vehicles in the city, recording 36,778 one horse vehicles, 16,900 multi-horse vehicles, and approximately 375 automobiles.
1910: Pioneer airman Walter Brookins flies over the lakefront before 20,000 adoring spectators. /
The original Comiskey Park, home of the Chicago White Sox, opens at 35th Street and Shields
1911: The present City Hall is dedicated.
1914: Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, opens at Clark and Addison streets.
1915: Lake passenger steamer Eastland capsizes in the Chicago River, drowning 822 passengers.
1919: Real estate broker Archibald Teller opens the first Fannie May candy store. / Thirteen
people die when the dirigible Winged Foot Express burns and crashes through the skylight of the Illinois Trust and Savings Bank.
1922: Louis Armstrong, a member of “King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band”, becomes a mainstay in
Chicago and helps to usher in the Jazz Age. / Flow of the Calumet River is reversed to help reduce pollution entering Lake Michigan.
1927: Chicago’s first airport, the Chicago Municipal Airport, later known as Midway airport, is
completed. / Kate Sturges Buckingham donates $750,000 to the city for construction of
Buckingham Fountain as a memorial to her brother Clarence.
1929: John Graves Shedd presented the Shedd Aquarium as “a gift to the people of Chicago.”
1930: Adler Planetarium opens through a gift from local merchant Max Adler. / The Merchandise Mart is built for $32 million by Marshall Field.
1931: Al Capone is found guilty of evading $231,000 in income taxes and sentenced by a
Chicago federal court to 11 years in prison and fined $50,000.
1933: The Century of Progress world’s fair opens on Northerly Island. / Chicago Mayor Anton
Cermak is mortally wounded while riding in a car with President-elect Franklin Roosevelt. / The first
All Star Game in baseball, played at Comiskey Park, attracts 47,595 fans. The first home run in All Star Game history is hit by Babe Ruth off pitcher Wild Bill Hallahan.
1934: John Dillinger is shot by the FBI near the alley next to the Biograph Theater, 2433 N.
1936: The first Oscar Mayer “Wienermobile” rolls out of General Body Company’s factory.
1937: A labor strike at Republic Steel results in the shooting deaths of 10 workers. / Chicago becomes the home of the first U.S. blood bank.