On March 4, 1837, exactly 175 years ago, Chicago was incorporated. Not that Flashback needed a reason, but we took this occasion to compile a very long list of events, year by year and decade by decade, that helped shape this great city.
Some events are admittedly bigger than others, but we think all of them say something interesting about the metropolis. That said, we're also sure we missed some notable happenings. That's where you can help. Submit suggestions to Stephan Benzkofer at email@example.com or add them in the comments box. Ideas that check out will be added to the list — with our thanks! Please keep in mind this is a Chicago-specific list, not a Chicagoland celebration. We'll blow those candles out another time.
1837: Chicago becomes a city and elects William Ogden its first mayor.
1837: The first local theater company is established.
1838: Hundreds of the mostly Irish workers digging the I&M Canal die of disease.
1839: A night watch is hired to look out for fires and criminals.
1839: First published theater reviews (of "The Warlock of the Glen" and "The Midnight Hour")
1840: Chicago population is 4,470.
1841: Retail workers band together to force stores to close early: 8 p.m.
1841: First business opens near Six Corners intersection in Portage Park at Irving Park Boulevard and Milwaukee and Cicero Avenues.
1841: City's first permanent Jewish settlers arrive.
1842: Washington Square Park, later known as Bughouse Square and home to orators of all stripes, is established.
1843: Roman Catholic Diocese of Chicago is established.
1844: First Catholic school opened (for boys).
1845: Chicago passes first blue law, closing "tippling houses" on Sundays.
1846: Chicago claims it has one of the "best and safest harbors on the lake."
1847: Chicago Tribune begins publishing.
1848: Chicago welcomes business with opening of the I&M Canal and the Chicago Board of Trade.
1848: Telegraph comes to Chicago.
1849: Spring storm sweeps away all Chicago River bridges.
1850: City planks 6.7 miles of streets, including 12,000 feet of State Street.
1851: Public Water Board organized to handle recurring cholera epidemics.
1852: First public transportation (a large horse-drawn carriage).
1853: YMCA expands to Chicago.
1854: Lakeview is promoted as a pleasant summer retreat away from city's disease and heat.
1855: Lager Beer Riots in April protest higher saloon taxes and anti-beer laws.
1855: Allan Pinkerton opens his detective agency
1856: City raises streets out of the swamp.
1856: Fort Dearborn is demolished.
1857: Allan Pinkerton's men thwart a grave-robbing scheme by a city official.
1858: Police force gets uniforms and fire department switches from volunteer to paid.
1859: First horse-drawn street railway, or horsecars, begins operation.
1860: Republicans meeting in the Wigwam nominate Abraham Lincoln for president.
1861: The Chicago Zouaves, Irish Brigade and Lincoln Rifles are among companies to march off to fight in Civil War.
1862: Camp Douglas converted to prison for rebel soldiers.
1863: First National Bank of Chicago founded.
1863: Rush Street bridge collapses, killing a girl and scores of cattle.
1864: Free mail delivery begins.
1865: Union Stock Yards open.
1866: Cook County Hospital opens.
1866: City completes two-mile tunnel into lake to draw "pure water."
1867: St. Stanislaus Kostka parish is first of many to serve the Polish community.
1868: Lincoln Park Zoo welcomes its first animals, a pair of swans.
1869: Chicago Water Tower erected.
1870: St. Ignatius University opens (later renamed Loyola).
1871: Great Chicago Fire kills at least 300 people and destroys a huge swath of the city.
1872: First African-American police officer hired.
1873: Tribune reports new city directory shows Chicago has 212 churches, 80 newspapers and 31 railroad companies.
1874: Little Chicago Fire destroys 60 acres on Near South Side.
1875: Tribune reports money available to complete long-awaited "drive along the Lake shore on the North Side."
1875: Edgar Rice Burroughs, author of Tarzan and John Carter novels, is born in Chicago.
1877: Pacific Garden Mission begins offering refuge to the downtrodden.
1878: Fire pole invented in a Chicago firehouse.
1879: Union League Club of Chicago organized.
1880: Rabbi Emil Hirsch takes over Chicago Sinai Congregation and builds it into city's largest.
1880: Archdiocese of Chicago is established.
1881: Town of Pullman opens to house railroad car factory workers.
1882: Cable car system clangs into operation; it would grow into one of the world's largest.
1882: Children's Memorial Hospital opens.
1883: Washington Park Jockey Club established.
1884: Washington Park Race Track opens.
1884: Construction begins on the Home Insurance Building, the first skyscraper at 10 floors.
1885: Potter Palmer builds castle-like home on Near North Side, which would lead to development of Gold Coast neighborhood.
1885: First female police officer hired, watches female prisoners.
1886: Haymarket Square Riot.
1887: Softball is invented on the South Side.
1887: Newberry Library is established.
1888: Adler and Sullivan's Auditorium Building is built.
1889: The city triples in size with annexation of the municipalities of Lake View, Hyde Park, Jefferson and Lake.
1889: Jane Addams opens Hull House.
1890: Aaron Montgomery Ward successfully sues the city to keep Grant Park open.
1891: Chicago Symphony Orchestra plays its first concert.
1891: In midst of bicycle craze, a schoolteacher becomes first local woman to ride 100 miles in less than 16 hours.
1892: University of Chicago opens for class.
1893: World's Columbian Exposition.
1893: Mayor Carter Harrison I is assassinated.
1893: Art Institute of Chicago moves into current building.
1894: Pullman workers go on strike.
1894: British writer William T. Stead publishes "If Christ Came to Chicago," an expose about corruption.
1895: The nation's first automobile race is held in Chicago and Evanston.
1896: William Jennings Bryan gives his Cross of Gold speech at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
1896: Long Man and Short Man Gang terrorize city.
1896: City uses landfill to extend Grant Park into lake.
1896: Chicago Federation of Labor founded.
1897: Elevated train line built in Loop.
1897: Chicago Teachers Federation founded.
1898: First Chicago-to-Mackinac sailboat race.
1899: L. Frank Baum writes "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" at his Humboldt Park home.
1899: Construction of Louis Sullivan-designed Carson Pirie Scott store (was originally Schlesinger and Mayer building).
1900: Chicago River's flow is reversed.
1900: Chicago White Sox play their first game.
1901: Walt Disney is born in Chicago.
1902: Marshall Field's opens State Street store.
1902: Richard J. Daley is born.
1903: Iroquois Theater fire kills more than 600 people, the deadliest theater fire in U.S. history
1904: Riverview amusement park opens.
1905: Advertisement in the Tribune extols the virtues of new home design called a bungalow.
1906: Bosnians establish Chicago's first Muslim benevolence society.
1906: White Sox beat Cubs in World Series.
1907: Utility magnate Samuel Insull creates Commonwealth Edison Co.
1907: "Injun Summer" cartoon first appeared in Tribune
1907: Cubs win first World Series title.
1908: State and Madison becomes zero point in cleaned-up numbering grid.
1909: Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett publish "Plan of Chicago."
1910: Stockyard fire kills 22 firefighters, including the chief.
1911: Infant Welfare Society of Chicago established.
1911: International Air Meet energizes the city with the thrill of flight.
1912: The Rouse Simmons, delivering the annual supply of Christmas trees, sinks.
1913: Art Institute hosts famous Armory Show of modern art.
1914: Weeghman Park opens (later renamed Wrigley Field).
1914: First aldermanic election in which Chicago women can vote.
1915: First Chicago mayoral election in which women can vote.
1915: John Hertz starts Yellow Cab Co.
1915: The excursion boat Eastland overturns in Chicago River, killing 844.
1916: Municipal Pier opens (later renamed Navy Pier).
1917: At least seven barbers' homes or barbershops bombed in union dispute.
1918: Morals inspector M.L.C. Funkhouser, who battled prostitution and was official film censor, is ousted.
1919: Race riots kill 38 and injure hundreds.
1920: Decatur Staleys (precursor of Chicago Bears) play first game.
1920: Michigan Avenue bridge, the first double-decker bascule bridge, opens.
1921: Eight White Sox players acquitted in Black Sox scandal but banned for life from baseball.
1921: Chicago Theater opens.
1922: Louis Armstrong joins King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band in Chicago.
1923: Chicago divided into 50 wards.
1924: Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold Jr. commit "thrill killing."
1925: Tribune Tower completed.
1926: Maurine Dallas Watkins writes the play "Chicago."
1927: Municipal Airport opens (later renamed Midway).
1928: "Amos 'n' Andy" debuts on Chicago's WMAQ radio.
1929: St. Valentine's Day massacre.
1930: Tribune reporter Jake Lingle shot dead, later exposed as mobster ally.
1931: Jane Addams wins Nobel Peace Prize.
1931: Gangster Al Capone convicted of income tax evasion.
1932: Democratic Convention in Chicago nominates Franklin Delano Roosevelt for president.
1933: Mayor Anton Cermak fatally shot in Miami.
1933: Museum of Science and Industry opens.
1933-34: Century of Progress exposition.
1934: Elijah Muhammad moves Nation of Islam headquarters to South Side.
1934: Bank robber John Dillinger shot dead outside Biograph Theater.
1934: Debut of College All-star game, brainchild of Tribune sports editor Arch Ward.
1934: Park agencies consolidated to form Chicago Park District.
1934: International Amphitheater built.
1935: Leo Burnett starts Chicago ad agency that will create Jolly Green Giant and Pillsbury Doughboy.
1936: City bans cigarette vending machines.
1936: Richard Wright founds South Side Writers Group
1937: Republic Steel strike marchers clash with police on Southeast Side; 10 protesters killed.
1937: Up to 125,000 at Soldier Field for Austin-Leo high school football game.
1937: Ivy planted in Wrigley Field's outfield.
1937: Robert Johnson records "Sweet Home Chicago."
1937: Chicago Housing Authority created.
1937: Pioneering blood bank opens at Cook County Hospital.
1938: Disgraced Chicago utility baron Samuel Insull dies in Paris.
1939: Saul Alinsky creates community-organizing model in Back of the Yards.
1940: Richard Wright's "Native Son" published.
1940: Armour Institute of Technology and Lewis Institute merge as Illinois Institute of Technology.
1941: Illinois Legislature creates Chicago's Medical Center District.
1942: Butch O'Hare flies mission that won him Medal of Honor. (Airport renamed O'Hare in 1949.)
1942: The Atomic Age begins at the University of Chicago with first controlled nuclear chain reaction.
1943: Deep-dish pizza mecca Pizzeria Uno opens.
1943: All-American Girls Baseball League founded by Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley.
1944: Germany's U-505 submarine captured — later to become major exhibit at Museum of Science and Industry.
1945: Cubs' last trip to World Series, where they lost to Detroit.
1945: Chicago Transit Authority is established.
1945: Ebony magazine launched.
1946: University of Illinois starts holding classes at Navy Pier.
1947: First parking meters installed in Chicago.
1948: Launch of Chicago Sun-Times and WGN-TV.
1949: Municipal Airport renamed Midway; Orchard Field renamed O'Hare.
1950: Chicago population peaks at 3,620,962.
1950: Chess Records founded.
1951: Edens Expressway (first in Chicago) opens.
1952: Chicago American Giants, Negro Leagues team, disbands.
1953: First issue of Playboy magazine is produced in Hugh Hefner's Hyde Park apartment.
1954: Lyric Opera founded.
1955: Richard J. Daley elected mayor for the first time.
1955: Congress Expressway opens (later renamed Eisenhower Expressway).
1956: WTTW is first U.S. station to televise college courses for credit.
1956: Abraham Lincoln statue erected in Lincoln Square.
1956: First baby chick is hatched at Museum of Science and Industry.
1957: Old Town School of Folk Music founded.
1958: Our Lady of the Angels school fire kills 95.
1959: The Second City improv group opens its Wells Street theater.
1960: Northwest Expressway opens (renamed Kennedy Expressway in 1963).
1960: Summerdale police scandal — cops linked to burglary ring.
1961: Dan Ryan Expressway opens.
1961: DuSable Museum of African American History founded.
1962: Robert Taylor Homes public housing development opens.
1963: Northwest Expressway renamed for slain President John Kennedy.
1964: Completion of Southwest Expressway (soon renamed Stevenson Expressway).
1965: University of Illinois' Chicago Circle Campus opens.
1966: Martin Luther King Jr. and family move temporarily into West Side apartment.
1966: Richard Speck murders eight student nurses on Far South Side.
1967: Fire destroys McCormick Place convention center.
1967: Chicago's biggest snowstorm in recorded history — 23 inches.
1967: Picasso sculpture installed in Daley Plaza.
1968: Riots rock the city after Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination in April and during the Democratic National Convention in August.
1969: John Hancock Center opens as city's tallest building.
1970: First Chicago gay pride parade.
1971: Jesse Jackson forms Operation PUSH.
1971: Union stock yards close.
1972: United Flight 553 crashes near Midway, killing 43 of 61 aboard, and two on ground.
1973: Construction finished on Sears Tower (now Willis Tower), world's tallest building until 1997.
1974: Columbia College fully accredited.
1974: Federal judge rules police department eligibility tests discriminate against blacks, Latinos and women.
1974: David Mamet's play "Sexual Perversity in Chicago" premieres.
1975: Deep Tunnel project begun.
1976: Richard J. Daley dies.
1976: Saul Bellow wins Nobel Prize for literature and Steppenwolf Theater opens.
1977: Elevated train derails in Loop, killing 11 and injuring about 200.
1977: Art Institute installs Marc Chagall's famous windows.
1977: Chicago Marathon debuts.
1978: Demise of Chicago Daily News.
1979: American Airlines Flight 191 crashes, killing 273.
1979: Pope John Paul II holds mass in Grant Park.
1979: Jane Byrne elected city's first female mayor.
1980: Taste of Chicago debuts on North Michigan Avenue.
1980: Census drops city population below 3 million; Hispanic share rises to 26 percent.
1980: City firefighters strike for first and only time.
1980: City allows women to serve as rank-and-file firefighters.
1981: Mayor Jane Byrne moves into Cabrini-Green public housing, temporarily.
1982: Chicago bans handguns (law overturned in 2010).
1983: Harold Washington elected city's first black mayor.
1984: Oprah Winfrey hosts "A.M. Chicago."
1984: CTA trains extended to O'Hare.
1985: Studs Terkel's "The Good War" wins Pulitzer Prize.
1985: Barack Obama moves to Chicago to become community organizer.
1986: Bears win Super Bowl.
1987: Harold Washington dies.
1987: Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum opens its doors (renamed National Museum of Mexican Art in 2006).
1988: Lights installed in Wrigley Field.
1989: Richard M. Daley elected mayor.
1990: Sox play last game at old Comiskey Park.
1991: Bulls win first of six championships.
1991: New Comiskey Park (now U.S. Cellular One Field) opens.
1992: Old freight tunnel punctured, causing river water to flood downtown.
1993: Paxton Hotel fire kills 20.
1994: United Center opens.
1995: Heat wave kills hundreds.
1996: Cardinal Joseph Bernardin dies.
1996: Museum of Contemporary Art's new building opens.
1997: Orchestra Hall renovated, renamed Symphony Center.
1997: Studs Terkel retires from WFMT radio after 45 years.
1997: Field Museum buys fossils for T-Rex named Sue for $8 million.
1998: First season for Chicago Fire soccer team.
1999: City implements 3-1-1 system.
1999: Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum opens.
2000: T. rex named Sue on exhibit at Field Museum.
2000: Goodman Theatre opens new Loop building.
2001: Boeing moves headquarters to Chicago.
2002: Former Chicago gang member Jose Padilla arrested at O'Hare in terrorism case.
2003: Mayor Richard M. Daley shuts down Meigs Field.
2004: Millennium Park opens.
2005: White Sox win first World Series in 88 years.
2006: Immigration reform rally draws up to 100,000 to Loop.
2007: Bears reach Super Bowl but lose to Colts.
2008: First Chicagoan elected president: Barack Obama holds Grant Park victory rally.
2009: Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is impeached and tossed out of office.
2011: Rahm Emanuel elected mayor.
Editor's note: What did we leave out? We're sure there are significant events we have omitted. Send ideas for our Chicago timeline to Stephan Benzkofer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please keep in mind this is a Chicago-specific list, not a Chicagoland celebration. We'll blow those candles out another time.
Sources: Tribune archives, Encyclopedia of Chicago online; "History of Chicago," by Alfred Theodore Andreas; "The Chicago River: A Natural and Unnatural History," by Libby Hill; Chicago Public Library online and dozens of websites of Chicago institutions.