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Chicago - The Route 66 Journey Begins

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Greetings From Chicago

Greetings From Chicago Postcard



Route 66 begins in Chicago, IllionoisChicago, Illinois where Route 66 begins, has a long and rich history along its way to becoming the third largest city in the United States. Many of the vintage era icons have been obliterated with urbanization; however, it still has a few, especially along the outskirts of the city, and downtown Chicago provides a rich view of historical buildings at the very place where Route 66 begins.


The first settler in the Chicago area was in 1781 by the name of Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, an African American from Santo Domingo. He chose a location at the mouth of the Chicago River for its strategic value for a trading post. Later in 1802 the same site was occupied by Fort Dearborn, which was regularly attacked by Native Americans, until Chief Black Hawk was defeated in 1832. One year later, Chicago was officially incorporated as a town and by 1837 it boasted more than 4,000 residents.

In 1848, the first railroad reached Chicago and the town really began to boom. By 1860 it had a dozen railroad lines into the city and a population of more than 100,000. Incredibly, just ten years later, this number had tripled and Chicago was on its way to becoming one of the biggest cities in the nation.

In 1871 disaster struck the city with the Great Chicago Fire laying a large part of the town in ashes. Raging for two days on October 8th and 9th, the fire destroyed 3.5 square miles, 17,450 buildings, and killed as many as 300 people. However, Chicago endured and just six weeks after the fire, construction of more than 300 buildings had begun.


Continuing to grow at a rapid pace, Chicago developed "The El,” its first elevated railway in 1891. Circling the city’s downtown area, it was soon called the "Loop.” Though obviously not the same engines of the 19th century, the "El” and the "Loop” continue to service Chicago commuters today.


It was also this same year that saw Chicago's first skyscraper, the 16-story Monadnock Building at 53 W. Jackson Boulevard.




In 1893 Chicago hosted the World Columbian Exposition which commemorated the discovery of America by Columbus some 400 years ago. Staging this magnificent event cost more than 27 million dollars. Hosted from May, 1893 through October, 1893 the fair covered 633 acres and attracted 27 million visitors, almost half of the US total population at that time.

Several firsts were introduced at the fair including Cracker Jacks, Aunt Jemima Syrup, diet soda, and Pabst Beer. It was here that the carnival concept was born, the hamburger was introduced, and the United States introduced its first commemorative stamp and coin sets.


During the exposition, New York Sun editor Charles Dana, tired of hearing Chicagoans boast of the world's Columbian Exposition, dubbed Chicago the "Windy City," a name which has obviously stuck to this day.


Chicago World Columbian Exposition Grounds in 1893

Chicago World Columbian Exposition Grounds in 1893


In 1896, Chicago saw the conviction of one of the nation’s first serial killers, Herman Mudgett. This little known killer, who went by the name of Henry H. Holmes was suspected of murdering hundreds of people using poison and gas, mainly young ladies seduced during the grand Chicago exposition, for the sheer pleasure of cutting up their bodies. Mudgett graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School, but soon embarked upon a life of swindling, torture and murder.   Building a torture chamber at 63rd and Wallace, his sole purpose was murder. The building, equipped with gas chambers, incinerators and other horrific devices also had chutes that led to the basement where he could dispose of the bodies in iron tanks of acid and lime and a crematory. He was finally hanged on May 7, 1896.

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 chicago, illionois in 1863

Chicago in 1863


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