History of Chicago
March 16, 2012
Why was Chicago chosen to become the center of the 19th century growth? Experts have determined that 19th-century Chicago was the fastest-growing city in U.S. history. Census data show the population went from about 5,000 in the early 1800s to more than 2 million by 1900. (Census) The population more than doubled every decade during the 19th century. This massive rate of growth was much faster than that seen in other large U.S. cities such as Boston, Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco—was due to Chicago’s central geographic position. It was in many ways land-locked because although it sits on Lake Michigan, there was no water route to the city from the Atlantic Ocean until the Erie Canal opened in 1825, which provided access to the Great Lakes region for shipping and migration of people. Three years later came the first U.S. passenger train, the Baltimore & Ohio railroad, with a route from a mid-Atlantic city to central areas. (The 19th Century) (The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America) The Great Chicago fire had played a major part in the growth of the 19th century. While the Great Chicago Fire was one of the major disasters of the 19th century and a profound blow to the city, the city was rebuilt fairly quickly. And with the rebuilding came better construction and much stricter fire codes. Indeed, the bitter lessons of the Great Chicago Fire affected how other cities were managed. Population growth remained stagnant until the federal government allocated funding that allowed work to begin on the Illinois and Michigan Canal, a vital link between Lake Michigan and the Illinois River. Because the project was to be financed largely by sales of adjacent land, which would benefit from the commerce it brought, the canal helped to fill Chicago with speculators. The boom led to a second incorporation, this time as a city, on March 4, 1837; the population was 4,170. That same year a devastating...
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