Chicago Incorporated

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Happy birthday to Chicago! Congratulations on being incorporated by the State of Illinois on March 4, 1837.

We could count your years in a few different ways. After all, Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable became known as the first permanent, non-indigenous Chicagoan. The earliest records show him living here in 1790. Oddly, Du Sable died in 1818, the same year that Illinois became the 21st state.

The first Treaty of Chicago was signed on August 29, 1921. Proclaimed on March 25, 1822, it granted lands from the Michigan Territory to the US government. On August 12, 1833, the Town of Chicago was incorporated with a meager population of 350.

1833 also saw the second Treaty of Chicago that expanded US land west of Lake Michigan and north to Lake Winnebago, the largest lake in Wisconsin.

The little town of Chicago grew. On March 4, 1837, Illinois granted the City of Chicago its charter. The population expanded more than tenfold to 4000. The charter divided the city into six electoral subdivisions called wards. Currently, Chicago has fifty wards. The ward representative, an alderman, serves on the city council. Progressively, our northern neighbors in Wisconsin use the gender neutral “Alderperson.” Geographically, the Chicago River divided the city into three districts: north, south, and west.

Chicago went though several charters throughout the nineteenth century, expanding its size, power, and influence. It even gained new home rule powers when Illinois adopted a new state constitution in 1970. This allows the city to act with some decentralized authority.

Quite a bit has happened to a town named after a patch of stinky plants. The shikaakwa, adapted to the French chicagou, was a local variety of ramp that grew near Lake Michigan.

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Topics: Chicago, History

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