TTAL Special Edition: Happy Birthday, Chicago!

It has been 180 years since Chicago incorporated as a city, and what a city it is! Being 180 years old is considered young for those of you in other parts of the world where your buildings or monuments date back hundreds and hundreds of years, but Chicago has not wasted any time making its mark on world history.

On March 4, 1837, residents had grand visions for this area of land that lines Lake Michigan for it to become one of the greatest cities of the world. The Burnham Plan of 1909 is one such example whose ideas influenced urban planners around the world and is still being referenced by Chicago’s planners today.

Artifact placed within the outer walls of the Chicago Tribune Tower

It was a city of visionaries, thinkers and creators. If you work, live or vacation in a building with spectacular views, you can thank Chicago, birthplace of the skyscraper. The yellow pencil, the Ferris Wheel, even the invention holding your pants together (when you don’t forget to close it!), the “clasp locker”, better known as the Zipper, are among many inventions debuted at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. And if you have never had a Twinkie, you should! It you don’t have access to any near you, don’t worry. They will be around with the cockroach and bed bug after the world has ended – they have a shelf life somewhere near infinity – and are delicious!

Within ten years of becoming a city, Chicago was poised and ready to host meetings for American businessmen and politicians with attendance numbers surpassing the city’s own population! Dare I say this may have been the beginning of Chicago tourism?

In keeping with Tour Through A Lens’ themes of exploration and photography, Chicago historians have recently been seeking and sharing what they think may be the first photo and first video captured of the city.

The First Photo?

The photo that is potentially the oldest photo taken of Chicago,by Alexander Hessler in 1855, was called a daguerreotype. He is the one also accredited for capturing a beardless Abraham Lincoln in 1860. Justin Breen over at DNAinfo has done his research with the Chicago History Museum and shows us Alexander’s photo and tells the story.

And The First Video?

The team at Yestervid created a compilation video showcasing the oldest video clips of Chicago found dating back to the late 1800s and they are fascinating! Take a look! One reason this compilation is top-notch is they have paired it with a map highlighting locations each video clip takes place. Fascinating, I know! I told you! Go over and give a shout out to Yestervid.

Celebrate The City!

Every year, the Chicago History Museum holds a birthday celebration. Happy Birthday, Chicago! You look amazing!


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The information in this article was found in the Encyclopedia of Chicago, the Chicago History Museum, DNAinfo Chicago, Yestervid.

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