11 Astonishing Facts About Chicago

Posted Aug 05, by Jose Duarte

University of Chicago cancelled its football program in 1939 because it thought big-time sports were corrupting schools.


It sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Today, as far as “extracurricular” courses go in the US, football seems to be what’s considered the most important of all. One could argue football comes on top, followed by the rest of the sports, which are followed by the arts.

Well the University of Chicago got rid of football in 1939 because it hampered the university’s efforts to become the kind of institution it aspired to be. The heads of the university felt it should be devoted to education, research, and scholarship. They felt intercollegiate football had little to do with any of these.

The University of Chicago wasn’t the only one to want to do this, either. Many other universities and colleges around the country had similar feelings, but didn’t have the same freedoms to drop programs. Many of them had governmental controls on certain aspects of their education.


This year, many Chicago public schools are re-introducing something they haven't had for 30 years: RECESS!

The time kids spend at school has been heavily scrutinized in the United States for a long time. The thinking used to be that any amount of time NOT spent learning in a classroom was time wasted. This was the thinking behind Chicago's long recess draught. It's been 30 years since some schools had recess.
However, some people have been doing research on recess. They're now saying that having a recess is much, much better than not having recess. It's going to be a challenge in Chicago. Some schools don't even have playgrounds! They also don't know how much recess to give kids. 
The benefits, however, are pretty clear. Kids who have 15 or more minutes of recess a day perform better, pay more attention and are better behaved. Recess is not a waste of time. Also, to dispel fears, researchers have shown that recess time accounts for about 2% of reported school violence!

The city of Chicago was raised several feet to fix a drainage problem.

The city of Chicago was built on very low ground, almost as low as Lake Michigan. This meant that throughout the 1800s the city had virtually no drainage. This caused a lot of sitting water, which made living conditions poor. 

Diseases like dysentery and typhoid fever abounded, and the sitting water was blamed for the outbreak of cholera as well, which killed 6% of Chicago’s population at the time. The plan they came up with was to raise the city a few feet in order to provide some drainage area. 

The first building to be raised was a masonry building on the corner of Randolph and Dearborn Street. It was raised with 200 jackscrews up 6 feet and 2 inches. The building was raised without being damaged at all. Boston engineer James Brown and Chicago engineer James Hollingsworth were in charge of raising that first house and would go on to raise many more. At one point they managed to raise a 200-foot building! 

The city was also starting to bloom at the time. Many people didn't like the old, wood framed houses, considering them to be inappropriate for the increasingly wealthier city. Many houses weren't just raised, but also moved outside the city, something that was common in Chicago for the following years. 


A Hanson song became the most requested track on a Chicago radio station because the DJs didn’t reveal the band.

Depending on your age, you might not be too familiar with Hanson. Though the group is very active today, the members were very well known back in the late 90’s as the definitive androgynous pop trio. The group is composed of Isaac, Taylor, and Zac Hanson, on various instruments each. 

Their most well known song was “MMMBop” off their 1997 album. Though their success waned as they moved into the 21st century, they continued to release music. In 2007, they released The Walk, their seventh overall studio album. That same year, Chicago alternative rock station WKQX decided to play a prank by playing a song called “The Great Divide” by a “mystery artist.”

It was so well received by listeners that it was one of the most requested songs and was put in heavy rotation for several weeks. Three weeks in, a DJ revealed it was a Hanson song from their recent album. It’s unlikely it would have gotten the same amount of attention if that had been revealed from the beginning, because by that point most people who still remembered Hanson didn’t think of them too lightly.

Comparatively, they were considered a bit like how the Jonas Brothers will be in 8 or 9 years. You can listen to The Great Divide here 


In 1918, over 100 waiters were arrested for poisoning bad tippers in Chicago

This was all started by Michael "Mickey" Finn when in December 1903, was accused of giving drugs to the customers and robbing them in an alley after leaving the restaurant.

He was the manager and bartender of a restaurant called Lone Star Saloon and Palm Garden Restaurant which was closed on December 16, 1903.

This is the origin of the phrase "slippin someone a Mickey." His legacy didn't die there, though.

On June 22, 1918, over one hundred waiters were taken into custody over the practice of poisoning clients who didn't tip enough.

They each bought a packet of powder for 20 cents through the waiters union headquarters and referred to it as "Mickey Finn Powder." The powder would cause dizziness, headaches and could be lethal in some cases.


There was a bigger, deadlier fire on the same day as the Great Chicago Fire. It's mostly forgotten.

Known as the Peshtigo Fire, it occurred on October 8, 1871, the same day as the Great Chicago Fire. The Peshtigo Fire was much deadlier than the Chicago Fire and it actually holds the record for the deadliest fire in US history.

It occurred in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, which is relatively close to Chicago, IL. Estimates put the death toll at somewhere between 1200 and 2500 deaths. The total area affected by the fire was around 1875 square miles, or twice the size of Rhode Island. 

October 8th was actually a pretty active day for fires. Across Lake Michigan, the cities of Holland and Mainstee, Michigan were also affected by fires, as well as the city of Port Huron, on the southern end of Lake Huron. Some have speculated that something like a meteorite could've caused this, but scientists believe that is probably not true.



The University of Chicago’s new library is run by ROBOTS.

The Joe and Rika Mansueto Library contains 3.5 million volumes stored in a compact underground space on 50-foot-high shelves. Surveys have shown that, in this information age, we still have a long way to go before we replace the traditional library. Only 80% of a typical research library’s holdings are available online (mostly for copyright reasons). Thanks to a generous gift of $25 million, U Chicago hopes to bridge this gap by combining the automation of the Internet to the extensive world of physical books. Students can search for materials online, like they normally do, and the robots will scan the library’s barcodes for one of the millions of volumes available and retrieve them within minutes for the students.


The Chicago Cubs recently played their first game in Fenway Park since the 1918 World Series.

Last weekend, the Cubs and the Red Sox played an interleague series at Fenway. Friday was the first time these two historic old baseball teams met up in major league baseball’s oldest stadium in over 90 years. It seems fitting that they would scheduled this historic series for apocalypse weekend. True to form, the Cubbies lost 15 to 5 on Friday as well as losing the series at Fenway.

Another fun fact: The Cubs’ last visit to Fenway in 1918 was also the last World Series win for the Red Sox before the “Curse of the Bambino”, an 86-year dry spell that went on until 2004 where the Red Sox failed to win the World Series. The Cubs have an even longer World Series losing streak (102 years!) that is still going today.

On February 1, 2011, kids in Chicago, IL had their first snow day since 1999.

This week\'s blizzard has been so intense that teachers, students and school staff have been unable to get to the schools. 26 school buildings in Chicago went without electricity yesterday. A lot of people weren\'t even able to find their cars!

Chicago is normally very reluctant to close its public schools for snow. The school district serves 409,000 kids. 86% of them are from low-income families. A lot of parents need the schools to stay open so that someone can care for their kids while they are at work. They had to keep the school buildings open for students who relied on the school to provide them lunch.
hair grows faster in the morning than at any other time of day.

In the first American automobile race, the winning car’s average speed was 7mph!

The first automobile race was in Chicago in 1895 and sponsored by the newspaper. Six cars took part in the race and Charles Duryea won. The first automobiles were only introduced two years prior to the race.

The race took place in order to promote the automobiles and boost newspaper sales. The winner received $5,000! That is roughly equal to $139,000 today. Eighty-three cars originally entered the race, but only six actually showed up for it. The cars either couldn’t make the trip to the race or weren’t ready in time for it. After over 7 hours of racing going 7mph, Duryea won.


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