On a recent trip to Chicago, I learned some fun facts about the Windy City that totally blew my mind (I’m so punny, I know). Since I have a weird talent for retaining useless information, below are 13 things you probably didn’t know about Chicago.
Chicago’s nickname, “The Windy City” has nothing to do with actual velocity. While most assume the wind gusts from Lake Michigan are responsible for the nickname, the term was actually coined in reference to Chicago’s windbag politicians. The nickname dates back to the 1800’s, and it’s origin lies in the metaphorical use “windy” for “talkative” or “boastful” referring to the hot air bellowing Chicago’s from politicians.
The Chicago river is the only river in the world that flows backwards. It used to flow normally, but in 1900 the Sanitary District of Chicago reversed the flow of the river so as to divert sewage away from Lake Michigan (the city’s water supply) and towards the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico. (ew)
Not only does the Chicago river flow backwards, it also tends to change colors. Every Saint Patrick’s Day the Plumber’s Union dyes the river a bright shade of green. Also, on November 4th of this year, the city dyed the river blue in celebration of the Cubs winning the World Series.
Just a few of the many items created in Chicago include: spray paint (1949), Playboy (1953), the zipper (1851), the Ferris Wheel (1893), the Twinkie (1930), the vacuum cleaner (1868), the first skyscraper, the hot dog, and my personal favorite, deep dish pizza.
Chicago’s airports, O’hare and Midway, allow you to order drinks from airport bars and carry them around the terminal. Most of the bars serve beers in plastic cups so you can carry your drink around the airport or bring it to your gate. Wandering O’Hare with a beer in hand totally blew my mind.
Four states can be seen from the Skydeck of the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower). The Willis Tower is the 8th tallest building in the world and the 2nd tallest building in the Western Hemisphere (it was the first until 2013 when a spire was added to the One World Trade Center building in New York).
Unlike most cities, Chicago’s rapid-transit rail system isn’t called a subway, it’s called “the L.” The ‘L’ is an abbreviation of “el,” for “elevated”
The first animal bought for the Lincoln Park Zoo was a bear cub, purchased for $10 in 1874. Ironically, shortly thereafter Chicago’s baseball team was named the cubs and the football team was named the bears. Coincidence?
In 1927, famous Chicago bootlegger and mobster, Al Capone made almost $60 million selling illegal hooch. During that time he controlled the sale of liquor to over 10,000 speakeasies. Al Capone’s headquarter was the Four Deuces Saloon (222 South Wabash), under which he was rumored to have a torture “dungeon”. He was finally caught and convicted in October 1931 for tax evasion rather than bootlegging or, you know, murder.
Pabst (PBR) won its first blue ribbon at Chicago’s 1893 World Fair. Additional products that debuted at that fair include: Cracker Jacks, Cream of Wheat, and Juicy Fruit Gum.
This year’s Cubs World Series Celebration was the 7th largest gathering in human history. The celebration on November 4th, 2016 attracted 5 million people.
Chicago’s Field Museum is home to the world’s largest, most complete, and best preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. The fossil’s name is Sue (named after Sue Hendrickson who discovered the dinosaur near Faith, South Dakota in 1990).
Chicago is home to 15 miles of bathing beaches, 36 annual parades, 552 parks, more than 7,300 restaurants, over 200 theaters and almost 200 art galleries.