Week of May 17, 2020

My Kind of Town


Chicago is not called “The Windy City” because its air moves especially fast. The wind came from the alleged boasting of its “windy” citizens, particularly in their efforts to get the city chosen to host the 1893 World’s Fair. These promotions, along with much last-minute financial backing, helped get Chicago chosen over rival candidates New York, St. Louis, and Washington, DC, and the fair was a great success.


The Chicago Bears were named in honor of the Chicago Cubs, who let the fledgling pro football team play at Wrigley Field starting in the 1920s. The Bears’ colors are based on the blue and orange of the University of Illinois, alma mater of team founder, first owner, player, and longtime coach “Papa Bear” George Stanley Halas, whose initials “GSH” adorn the left arm of Bears’ uniforms to this day.


The innovative design of the Sears / Willis Tower, consisting of frames welded into nine vertical tubes staggered to stop at different heights, was inspired by the pattern of cigarettes pushed unevenly out of a pack.


Heard stories of political deals made in “smoke-filled rooms”? The room which birthed the term was a suite in Chicago’s Blackstone Hotel. There, in 1920, Senator Warren G. Harding was chosen as the Republican presidential nominee out of many closely-matched candidates at a deadlocked convention. He was the “compromise” candidate chosen after ten ballots, though he initially got only 7% of the votes.


The 3-letter airport code of O’Hare Airport is “ORD” because it was originally known as Orchard Field.


Of all of the world’s rivers, only the Chicago River runs backwards. Prior to 1900, it drained into Lake Michigan, but the flow was reversed by a massive engineering project so as it would carry all that urban sewage and slaughterhouse waste away from the city rather than into its natural source of drinking water.


The city’s name first appeared in print over 330 years ago as “Chigagou,” a native word typically translated as “wild onion,” “onion field,” “wild garlic,” or “wild leek,” as to describe a leek species found in Chicago River watershed.