The Windy City

Another short post today because I'm busy. I got places to go, old people to rob, that sort of thing.

Okay, so for an early birthday present, boyfriend bought me The Devil in the White City–but you probably know this already, since you heard me go clappy-squee from all the way over here. It's one of the best non-fiction novels I've ever read, with alternating chapters about the organization of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and the simultaneous serial killings done by Chicago "doctor", H.H. Holmes in his murder castle. I'm not making that up. That's actually what it was called. I'm going to be working from this book on and off for a while, and this is where today's information comes from.

Why is Chicago called 'The Windy City'? It's not because of the strong breezes which blow through it, as many have been led to believe.

Rather, Chicago was considered an uncouth backwater by the east coast cities, and when the 1890 census approached, Chicago's "leading men had boasted that Chicago would prevail" (26) and that the census would show they had finally outranked Philadelphia as the nation's second most populous city after New York. The term "The Windy City" was coined by New York editor Charles Anderson Dana because its leaders were full of hot air.

An example of this came when, not long after, the U.S. decided to hold a World's Exposition to rival the previous one held in Paris in 1889. Voting commenced as to which city should have the immense honor and responsibility of hosting the event. It came down to New York, St. Louis or Chicago. St. Louis dropped out of the race first, and when people in Chicago heard that some of the votes that had previously been dedicated to St. Louis had now gone to New York, it caused one Chicago army lieutenant "to proclaim, 'Gentlemen. I am prepared to state that any person from St. Louis would rob a church.' Another man shouted, 'Or poison his wife's dog.' This last drew wide agreement" (31).

Chicago did surpass the population of Philadelphia, by the way, and did get to host the World's Exposition.

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