Why Is Chicago Called The Windy City? A Useful Guide

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Chicago City Buildings
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Why is Chicago called the Windy City? – It’s a question that has intrigued so many people 

Chicago – one of the largest cities in the United States of America, boasting an area of 606.1 km squared and a skyline dotted with buildings reaching for the sky.

It is located on Lake Michigan in Illinois in the Midwest. Despite not being the largest city in the US, Chicago is famed for many things, including bold architecture such as the Sears Tower, the home of the world’s first skyscraper built in 1885, jazz music, and who could forget the classic Chicago-style deep dish pizza?

Why is Chicago called the Windy City?
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A little bit of background and history about Chicago: it’s easily the most popular city in Illinois and the third-largest city in the United States.

Native Americans first occupied the area, but in 1780, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable arrived and occupied the area.

Chicago grew rapidly, from a population of 4,000 in 1837, to about 30,000 twenty years later. As of 2019, its population stands at 2,710,000.

These qualities ensure a fair share of other Chicago nicknames to illustrate its fame, enough to rival even New York City.

From “Chi-Town” – a simple reference to the city’s actual name – to “The City of Big Shoulders,” which is taken from the first line of Carl Sandburg’s poem titled Chicago, and the “Second City.”

Out of all of these example monikers, arguably the most famous, the one that is associated with Chicago most closely is “The Windy City.”

But why is Chicago called the Windy City?

Is The Windy City The Windiest City?

“Windy City? Well, that’s a pretty straightforward nickname, is it not? Chicago must have the highest wind speeds in the US or at least up there in the top ones!”

Well, not quite! Surprisingly enough, according to the Weather Station Experts, the actual windiest city is Amarillo, Texas, followed closely by Rochester, Minnesota.

Even Boston and Washington are on top of the list. These cities have an average wind speed of about 13.6-12.6 mph. On the other hand, Chicago, Illinois, has an average speed of 10.3 mph.

Although this speed is also considerably windy, it does not even claim a spot in the top 10.

Lake Michigan, Chicago
By: Amit Thakral/Pexels

Being a neighbor to one of the five Great Lakes of North America, Lake Michigan, it is natural to feel chill lake breezes wafting off the water now and then.

Chicago’s weather usually has cold winters and wind. But this mere fact is not enough to harness the title of Windy City.

In conclusion, Chicago is undoubtedly a windy city. But is it the only reason behind the famed nickname, especially because many other cities are worth the title too?

Nope. The handle has a more deep history behind it. Let’s find out, shall we?

The Earliest Mention Of ‘Windy City’ And Its Other Meaning

“The Windy City. Some of the freaks of the Last Chicago Tornado.”

This was the headline of the Cincinnati Enquirer, all the way back in 1876. Barry Popik discovered it, the New York City administrative law judge, who has been searching for the answer to the Windy City question for quite some time.

However, this discovery does go unacknowledged by the city’s libraries. Barry spoke to the Chicago Tribune about this finding.

Chicago Tribune
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It is also one of the earliest – if not the earliest – references to Chicago being called the Windy City. It also reminds us that although Chicago might not be the gustiest city, there is no doubt that it has been afflicted by significant tornadoes now and again.

Although on the surface, this headline of the Cincinnati Enquirer seems like a clear reference to the tornado, it is also thought to have another meaning.

It is likely to dig at the Chicago residents, who were notorious for being ‘long winded’ and ‘full of hot air.’ But there are two sides to every coin, and this case is no exception.

This theory is supported by the fact that the remark was published in a Cincinnati newspaper, at a time when Cincinnati and Chicago were in head-to-toe in a battle to prove themselves as the greatest in the Midwest.

Chicago surpassed Cincinnati in fame, but the title of Windy City forever stuck. Unfortunate for the citizens of Chicago, wouldn’t you say?

So, considerable wind speed and the local speakers with a tendency to go on long-winded conversations. That should be enough to cement the title of Windy City for Chicago, right?

The story does not end here, though! There’s just a little more information left to give a satisfactory answer to the doubt, ‘Why is Chicago called the Windy City?’

The World’s Fair Debate, Politicians and Journalists

Many people agree that Chicago’s nickname originated around the late 19th century, but it is often considered from 1893 rather than the 1876 Cincinnati Enquirer reference.

In 1893, there was a whole lot of commotion over whether Chicago or New York would host the year’s World’s Fair.

In 1893 in the New York Sun, Charles Dana wrote, “the nonsensical claims of that windy city.” This was a rather pointed remark towards the valiant efforts of the Chicago politicians to convince the organizers of the world’s fair to host it in the windy city.

They were fully immersed in their attempts to charm the organizers, which caused the rival city’s editor to bite back at them.

Charles Dana used a play on words – ‘bellowed’ instead of ‘billowed’ to indicate the winds blowing towards New York… from the politician’s mouths.

Despite Charles Dana and his best endeavors to do otherwise, the host city of the World Fair did end up being Chicago.

In Conclusion, Why Is Chicago Called The Windy City?

So, why is Chicago called the Windy City? It is an amalgamation of the effects of Lake Michigan, wind speeds, tornadoes, Chicago and its rival cities in the Midwest, citizens with a tendency to talk too much and to be full of ‘hot air,’ charming politics, snarky journalists, a reference or two in newspapers and the World’s Fair.

Although the nickname may have been bestowed in a manner of derision, this intent has been lost or forgotten over time.

Now, it has come to be adopted with pride by Chicago’s residents. Phew! Who would’ve thought there was this much going on behind the origin of the city’s nickname?

We hope this article answered your burning question of ‘Why is Chicago Called The Windy City?’ Be sure to check out the 10 Best Churches In Chicago!

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