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25 Things You Actually, Probably Didn’t Know About Chicago
Earlier this week, Buzzfeed published a list of “50 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Chicago.”
Only, if you live in Chicago, you probably already know President Barack Obama and deep-dish pizza are from the city, real things included on Buzzfeed’s list.
So we asked our Neil Steinberg, who wrote the book on things you didn’t know about Chicago, “You Were Never in Chicago.” We invited feedback from Choose Chicago, the Chicago History Museum and other tour groups and bloggers.
And we came up with this list of 25 things you actually, probably didn’t know about Chicago:
1. The Seal of the City of Chicago includes a naked baby, among other things. It symbolizes “the pearl,” illustrating Chicago as “The Gem of the Lakes,” according to our Neil Steinberg.
2. A lot of famous people who got their start in Chicago might surprise you: Rev. Billy Graham, for instance, not only attended Wheaton College and had his big breakthrough preaching on stage at the Auditorium Theater, but his first congregation met in a basement in Western Springs. Or Mike Wallace, of “60 Minutes” fame, who used to be Myron Wallace, announcing wrestling matches and variety shows in Chicago (Neil Steinberg).
3. People who lived in Chicago who you might not know lived here: Golda Meir, Israel’s former prime minister, and “chess master/nutbag” Bobby Fischer, who was born at Michael Reese Hospital. People who visited here who you might not imagine visiting: George Armstrong Custer and Winston Churchill (Neil Steinberg).
4. Lincoln Park was formerly the city cemetery, and there still are bodies buried there (Choose Chicago).
Up to six skeletons, including a mother with babe in arms, were unearthed from an old cemetery site in Lincoln Park. The remains were discovered by a crew laying a new line of drinking fountains near the south field house. They were taken to the Chicago Academy of Sciences. | Sun-Times file photo
5. It is illegal to give a dog whiskey in Chicago (Dumb Laws).
6. The first car race ever seen in the United States was held in Chicago in 1895. The length of the track ran from Chicago to nearby suburban Evanston (Choose Chicago).
7. Inside the Wrigley Building’s cornerstone is a time capsule containing samples of every gum the company sold in 1921 (Neil Steinberg).
8. More facts about the Wrigley Building: The skybridge was NOT, as popularly believed, built so William Wrigley could more easily wander from one building to another, but to get around branch banking laws. The building, which to this day has two addresses, 400 and 410 N. Michigan, had a bank and a restaurant because at the time it was considered remote, and tenants needed facilities nearby (Neil Steinberg).
9. House music was invented in Chicago. The name came from The Warehouse Club, where the music was introduced by Frankie Knuckles and played by many other Chicago DJs (Choose Chicago).
10. The term “jazz” was coined in Chicago in 1914. Chicago jazz musicians include band leader Benny Goodman and drummer Gene Krupa (Choose Chicago).
11. Speaking of jazz, the Green Mill Jazz Club is the longest continuously-running jazz club in the country (Choose Chicago).
12. Chicago got its start in a saloon, according to Liz Garibay of Tales, Taverns & Towns. The city’s first election, in which Chicago was made an “official town,” was held in 1833 at the Sauganash Tavern in the Sauganash Hotel, Garibay said. It later was incorporated as a city in 1837. There is a plaque at Lake and Wacker where the original Sauganash Tavern was to commemorate the place and event, she said.
13. Chicago is home to the largest building in America, excluding the Pentagon: The Merchandise Mart, with 90 acres of floor space (Choose Chicago).
14. Chicago is known as the Candy Capital of the World (Choose Chicago).
15. The Sears Tower has its own zip code. Also: Some people call it the Willis Tower. They are not from Chicago (Choose Chicago).
16. The John Hancock Building and Willis Tower were both designed by the same architect, Bruce Graham of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, though structural engineer Fazlur Khan is probably even more famous, for his cross-X tubular design. If you think the ramp up the Hancock parking garage is extra tight, it’s because the Casino Club next door was supposed to be demolished. But its well-connected members refused to budge, and so the parking garage had to be shoehorned into a smaller space (Neil Steinberg).
17. Chicago’s City Hall and its County Building look like two mirror halves of one enormous, block long square structure. They’re not. They different buildings constructed at different times. The County Building cornerstone was laid in 1906, and it was finished and occupied before City Hall’s cornerstone was laid in 1909. Though identical, the County Building cost 50 percent more to build (Neil Steinberg).
18. The official consensus is the Windy City’s nickname didn’t come from the weather: It came during the battle between Chicago and New York to be the host city for the 1893 World’s Fair. New York Sun Editor Charles A. Dana wrote an editorial at the time calling Chicago the “Windy City,” a jab at the city’s full-of-hot-air politicians and their over-the-top claims about the city. But the first recorded use of the nickname reportedly came on May 9, 1876, in a headline in the Cincinnati Enquirer: “THAT WINDY CITY. Some of the Freaks of the Last Chicago Tornado.”
19. The Boystown neighborhood became the first official gay community in the country in 1997 (Choose Chicago).
20. Orange powder is used to dye the Chicago River green for St. Patrick’s Day (Choose Chicago).
21. It is forbidden to fish while sitting on a giraffe’s neck in Chicago (Dumb Laws).
22. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was an illustrated poem, written by a Chicago ad man to hand out to children who visited Santa for Christmas at Montgomery Ward stores (Choose Chicago).
23. Ever wonder why there’s a flat iron among the Monopoly pieces? That’s because 100 years ago, the Flat Iron Laundry on Halsted Street asked the company that would become Strombecker Toys to make them a little token to give to the children of customers—charms were big back then; girls not only wore them on bracelets, but baked them into cakes and traded them. Soon other charms appeared — a hat, a Scotty dog — which were scooped up by another Chicago company, Cracker Jack, to help sell its peanut and popcorn confection. Parker Brothers, whose game Monopoly originally forced players to provide their own tokens, noticed that the charms were popular, and in the mid-1930s decided to package an array of tokens with every box, including the original flat iron (Neil Steinberg).
24. Until recently, Wrigley Field had hosted more NFL games than any other stadium or arena in the country Wrigley Field. This record was surpassed in September 2003 by Giants Stadium in New Jersey, occupied by both the New York Giants and New York Jets. (Choose Chicago).
25. The Chicago Bears were going to be named “The Chicago Cubs” because they played at Wrigley Field and the practice at the time was to name football teams after the baseball team whose park they played at (that’s why there was both a New York Giants football and baseball team). George Hallas said no way, that football players were tougher than baseball players: hence “Bears” instead of “Cubs” (Neil Steinberg).
What are we missing? Leave your fun, obscure Chicago facts in the comments.