The western suburbs range from the inner ring of Oak Park and Cicero to the bustling Naperville and Schaumburg corridors and beyond. They're bungalow belt, suburban cul-de-sac and pastoral mansions. And they're inextricably linked to the city, first by river, then railroad and trolley lines and now the Eisenhower Expressway. All aboard as we head west.
1 The rivalry between Naperville and Wheaton goes way back. In 1867, DuPage County residents voted to move the county seat to Wheaton. Naperville challenged the election and refused to give up many of the county's records. That's when it got interesting. On the morning of Dec. 21, 1868, about 80 armed men, led by the county sheriff, raided the courthouse in Naperville, seized the records and fled to Wheaton. County business ground to a halt — for years. The legal issues weren't resolved until 1872 when the state Supreme Court ruled for Wheaton.
2 Too bad for Cicero that it's more associated with Al Capone than with Katherine Stinson. The 21-year-old pioneer pilot earned her wings at Cicero Field, the Chicago-area's first airfield when it opened on July 4, 1911. The field (bounded by 16th and 22nd streets and what is now Laramie and Cicero avenues) was state-of-the-art, including having its own wind tunnel, and became the aviation capital of the Midwest. Stinson, known as the "Flying Schoolgirl," was just the fourth woman in the U.S. to earn a license. In 1915, above Cicero, she became the first woman to perform a loop.
3 Have you heard about the Great Snake Escape of 1935? Over the course of a few months, 19 snakes went missing from Brookfield Zoo, including three cobras. One Australian bandy-bandy was on the lam for four months before it was captured on the zoo grounds, but not before news of its escape caused a minor panic. "Harmless snakes by the hundreds were killed in and around Chicago," the Tribune reported. Reptile house curator Grace Wiley was fired over the debacle, and she died 15 years later — of a cobra bite.
4 Replogle Globes, the world's largest manufacturer of globes, is headquartered in Broadview — but that's not enough to get the village of about 8,000 on Replogle's maps. The company, which annually ships about 250,000 globes in more than 20 languages, moved to Broadview in 1987 from Chicago's Galewood neighborhood.
5 The 31-story Oakbrook Terrace Tower, at 418 feet, is the tallest building in the suburbs and Illinois (outside Chicago). It would also be the tallest building in 15 states, including Kansas and South Carolina. It is not, however, the tallest office building between Chicago and the Rocky Mountains, as claimed on the Oakbrook Terrace city Web site. Unless you don't count Des Moines. Or Omaha.
6 Washington Irving, author of "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle," was one of America's first literary superstars, and Chicagoans were among his fans. The Kane County village of Sleepy Hollow sports the image of a headless rider on its Web site. Other Chicagoland locations honoring Irving: the southwest Chicago neighborhood of Sleepy Hollow (so named by its mailman back in 1913) and the North Side's Irving Park (which was supposed to be called Irvington until early residents found that name was already taken).
7 For the first three years of writer Ernest Hemingway's childhood in Oak Park, his mother dressed him as a girl and passed him off as a twin of his slightly older sister, Marcelline.
8 Golfers, head west. Six area golf courses make Golf Digest's ranking of the nation's top 100, and four of them — including the top three — are in the western suburbs. The list rates the Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton as the area's best and the 12th best in the country. Medinah Country Club, Butler National Golf Club in Oak Brook and Rich Harvest Links in Sugar Grove round out that list. Golflink.com asserts the dominance of the western suburbs even further: Nine of its top 10 Chicagoland courses are in the western suburbs.
9 The Marx Brothers once lived at a farm outside La Grange, in what is now Countryside. Their mother, Minnie, reportedly wanted her sons to be farmers and thus exempted from service in World War I. Groucho later said the wayward brothers spent too much time at Wrigley Field to make the farm a go.
10 When former first lady Mary Todd Lincoln started hallucinating and carrying up to $57,000 in cash and bonds in her skirt pocket, it was time to send her to west suburban Batavia. In 1875, she was committed for just under four months in Bellevue Place, a home for the mentally ill.
Mark Jacob is a deputy metro editor at the Tribune; Stephan Benzkofer is the Tribune's weekend editor.
Sources: "Cicero Flying Field: Origin, Operation, Obscurity and Legacy, 1891-1916" by Carroll Gray; "Monkey Business: The Lives and Legends of the Marx Brothers," by Simon Louvish; "The Insanity File: The Case of Mary Todd Lincoln" by Mark E. Neely and R. Gerald McMurtry; "Hemingway: A Biography," by Jeffrey Meyers, "The Madness of Mary Lincoln" by Jason Emerson; "Posterity: Letters of Great Americans to Their Children" by Dorie McCullough Lawson; Illinois Historical Journal, "To Hold the Prize," by Stephen J. Buck; Flying magazine; U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission; Replogle; Old Irving Park Association; Village of Sleepy Hollow; golfdigest.com; golflink.com; Encyclopedia of Chicago; and Tribune archives.