becoming obsolete. Boxcars, not boats,
grabbed the title of principal mode of
transportation throughout the region.
The combination of the railroad and
the emergence of local manufacturing,
and, later, the Civil War, caused
Chicago to grow wildly.
The most revolutionary product of
the era sprang from the mind of
Chicago inventor Cyrus McCormick,
whose reaper filled in for the
farmhands who now labored on the
nation's battlefields. Local merchants
not only thrived on the contraband
trade in cotton, but also secured lucra-
tive contracts from the federal govern-
ment to provide the army with tents,
uniforms, saddles, harnesses, lumber,
bread, and meat. By 1870, Chicago's
population had grown to 300,000, a
thousand times greater than its origi-
nal population, in the brief interval of
37 years since the city's incorporation.
THE GREAT FIRE
A year later, the city lay in ashes. The
Great Chicago Fire of 1871 began
somewhere on the southwest side of
the city on October 8. Legend places
its exact origin in the O'Leary shed on
DeKoven Street, although most histo-
rians have since exonerated the long-
blamed bovine that locals speculate
started the blaze by kicking over a
lantern. The fire jumped the river and
continued northward through the
night and the following day, when it
was checked by the use of gunpowder
on the South Side and rainfall to the
north and west, just before spreading
to the prairie. In its wake the fire
destroyed 18,000 buildings and left
90,000 homeless, taking a toll of 300
One thing that the fire could not
destroy was Chicago's strategic loca-
tion, and on that solid geographic
footing, the city began to rebuild as
soon as the rubble was cleared. By
chance, Chicago's railroad infrastruc-
ture—factories, grain warehouses, and
1953 Chicago native Hugh Hefner
starts publishing Playboy (the original
Playboy Mansion was located in
Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood).
1955 Richard J. Daley begins term as
mayor; he is widely regarded as the
“last of the big-city bosses.”
1959 Chicago White Sox make their
last World Series appearance, losing to
1960 John F. Kennedy and Richard
Nixon hold the first televised presiden-
tial debate in WBBM-TV's studios.
1966 Civil rights leader Martin
Luther King, Jr., moves to Chicago to
lead a fair-housing campaign.
1968 After King's assassination, much
of the West Side burns during heavy
rioting. Anti-Vietnam War protests in
conjunction with the Democratic
National Convention end in police
riot and a “shoot to kill” order by
Mayor Richard J. Daley.
1969 Fred Hampton and Mark Clark
are killed in a police raid on the West
Side headquarters of the radical Black
1974 The 1,454-foot Sears Tower is
completed, becoming the tallest
building in the world.
1976 Mayor Daley dies in office.
1979 Jane Byrne becomes the first
woman elected mayor of Chicago.
1983 Harold Washington becomes the
first African-American mayor of
1986 The Chicago Bears win their
only Super Bowl.
1987 Mayor Washington dies in
1989 Richard M. Daley, the son of
the long-serving mayor, is elected
1992 A freight tunnel ruptures; the
Loop is flooded underground by water
from the Chicago River.
1994 Chicago hosts portions of soc-
cer's World Cup, including the open-
1996 The city patches up its turbulent
political history by hosting the Demo-
cratic National Convention, its first
national political gathering in 3
decades. William Jefferson Clinton is
nominated for a second term.