Why Is Chicago Called the Windy City?

The Windy City isn't name for the weather.
The Windy City isn't name for the weather.

Officially known as the City of Chicago, Chicago is a city in the US state of Illinois. Aside from the official name, the city has gone by a number of other names such as the Windy City, the City of Broad Shoulders, the Second City, Chi-Town, and My Kind of Town.

History of the Windy City

The nickname “Windy City” first appeared back in 1856 in reference to the city of Green Bay in Wisconsin. As a nickname to Chicago, the name “Windy City” started being used back in 1876. For example, on May 9, 1876, and on May 13, 1876, The Cincinnati Enquirer had headlines that clearly had the words “The Windy City.” The nickname did not appear because of the windy nature of the City of Chicago arising from the breeze from Lake Michigan. In fact, the reason is completely different in that it had to do with politicians.

Possible Origins

Bidding War

One of the most popular theories is that the name originated from a man who was known as Charles Dana. However, there is no evidence to support this claim, which makes it a myth. This can be traced back to the time when the United States had to celebrate Columbus’s 400th anniversary of his arrival in the Americas. For his anniversary, a fair was planned. The cities that competed for the honor of hosting the fair were New York City, Washington DC, and St. Louis. By all accounts, New York had beaten the other cities and was guaranteed to hold the fair. However, it so happened that Chicago got involved and so the final competition was between the two cities. At that time, Chicago was perceived as a frontier and not a proper city. For this reason, many people from New York were annoyed after Chicago won the bidding in 1890 to host the World Fair, which was also called the World Columbia Exposition.

A City of Windbags

A more accurate report is that the name was perpetuated by journalists of that time from other cities in reference to Chicago. One thing to note is that these reporters did not use the name as a term of endearment. Instead, they used it to mean that the city was full of “windbags,” that is, greedy people who only cared about money. More specifically, these windbags were politicians and prominent people. For example, a reporter of the Chicago Daily Tribune stated that the city had a vain police force that aired its vanity in the windy city. Another reporter from Milwaukee also wrote something similar and mentioned the rotten morals that Chicago had compared to Milwaukee. After these two journalists started using the name, more journalists also fueled the use of the name. Notably, most of those journalists were from New York City due to their bitter defeat.

Rivalry with Cincinnati

Going by this, it is clear that Chicago did not give itself the name but it is one that the city has learned to embrace over the years. As stated earlier, Cincinnati was also a place that used the name as much as possible due to the rivalry the two cities had. Their rivalry had to do with the meatpacking trade.


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