Why Is Chicago Called “The Windy City”?

As the largest city in the American Midwest and one of the main cultural hubs of North America for over a century, Chicago has earned its fair share of nicknames. Chi-Town, Second City, The 312, and the Heart of America have all been associated with the City of Big Shoulders. But one has stuck like no other — The Windy City. So how did Chicago get this descriptive nickname? It’s not quite what you would guess!

The Winds of Lake Michigan

Aerial view of Lake Michigan and the city
Credit: yongyuan/ iStock 

The most obvious answer is that the nickname is a reference to the strong winds that blow off the dominant body of water in the region, Lake Michigan. While there is evidence that this is a point of origination for the term, since Chicago originally promoted itself as a summer destination with relaxing breezes, it is most likely not the only reason.

After all, there are many large cities that are noted for their high winds. San Francisco, for example, experiences much more intense winds because of its location adjacent to the Pacific Ocean. Even Boston and New York City, one of Chicago’s chief rivals during its primary period of growth, have recorded stronger winds from the Atlantic Ocean on many occasions.

Hot Air from Loud Politicians

Another frequently cited reason for name is related to Chicago’s fierce political climate and boisterous residents. The wind that powered The Windy City, according to the story, came from the mouths of rousing politicians and noisy citizens.

This story gained the most traction when Chicago was in competition with New York to host the 1893 World’s Fair, which was scheduled to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s journey across the Atlantic. One writer in particular, Charles Dana, is credited with popularizing the term when he used it in The New York Sun in 1890, imploring readers to ignore the “nonsensical claims of that Windy City.”

There is only one problem with this version of events, however. In almost a century of searching, no one has been able to find any article from 1890 by Charles Dana in which he wrote this phrase or any other referencing Chicago as The Windy City. This popular explanation is now considered to be nothing more than a legend.

The Cincinnati Rivalry
Aerial view of Cincinnati cityscape showing waterways and skyscrapers
Credit: Smart Pro Imaging/ Shutterstock

To find out where the term really came from, we have to go to another one of Chicago’s rivals, one that may not be as well-known as the Chicago–New York feud. Chicago and Cincinnati had a fierce regional competition that originated as both cities grew during the 1860s and 1870s.

This rivalry had a good amount of evidence that remains today. Cincinnati began calling itself Porkopolis after it became the meatpacking capital of the Midwest. That is, until Chicago stole the nickname after it overtook Cincinnati as the largest meat producer in the region.

First Appearance of “The Windy City” in Print

So where is the first written record of “The Windy City”? There are two appearances of the nickname in 1876, both in the Cincinnati Inquirer. The more famous of these is in reference to a tornado that hit Chicago and reads “That Windy City. Some Freaks of the Last Chicago Tornado.”

So while we may never know whether the term comes from Lake Michigan, its politicians, New York, Cincinnati or a freak tornado, Chicagoans seem to like it. And as long as they’re happy with it, The Windy City will keep its famous moniker

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Craig's Blogs

Thoughts and Writings about my various passions. "Obsessive" or WHAT!

Craig's Blogs

Thoughts and Writings about my various passions. "Obsessive" or WHAT!

PaulthePoke

Prophecy Watch & Bible Study

Best Wishes From The First City to See the Light Each New Day

Don’t worry about the world ending today... it’s already tomorrow in “the little scenic and tranquil haven” that is New Zealand (or "Godzone" as it is sometimes affectionately known)

Inmate Blogger

A Collection of Blogs Written By Men & Women In Prison

Higher Density Blog

Love Is Always The Answer

Little Angels of Comfort

Bringing you love, comfort, and hope!

free type.com

http:// www.freetype.com

Ria's Haven

LIVE. LOVE. TRAVEL.

BOOKS BY CRAIG LOCK

"The Writing Journey": The various books that Craig "felt inspired to write"

Get to Jesus— Psalm 90:8

Enduring Love ~ Psalm 136

Blah blah blah

Just a person who wants to know what her thoughts are all about!!

The Written Revolt

Weekly short stories, suspense serials, and other literary snippets. Don't forget to support by following!

Moda-Creative thinking

Moda-Creative thinking

Living with Head/Brain Injury (TBI)

Helping bring (and promoting) better awareness of what is often termed 'The Silent Epidemic' (the Hidden Handicap')

UnMaskedSerenity

No Masks, No Filters. Just me... PeAcE, LoVe, & HaRmOnY.

MRS. T’S CORNER

https://www.tangietwoods

John Ager's Home on the Web!

reflecting my eclectic (and sometimes erratic) life

The Tear Wiper

uplifting messages of hope and encouragement involving every situation

Sharing some Information and Thoughts on Head and Brain Injury

Uplifting stories from survivors of TBI: "Don't let what we can't do, stop us from doing what we CAN do...best!" “WE SHARE WHAT WE KNOW, SO THAT WE ALL MAY GROW,”

Craig's Blogs

Thoughts and Writings about my various passions. "Obsessive" or WHAT!

PaulthePoke

Prophecy Watch & Bible Study

Best Wishes From The First City to See the Light Each New Day

Don’t worry about the world ending today... it’s already tomorrow in “the little scenic and tranquil haven” that is New Zealand (or "Godzone" as it is sometimes affectionately known)

Inmate Blogger

A Collection of Blogs Written By Men & Women In Prison

Higher Density Blog

Love Is Always The Answer

Little Angels of Comfort

Bringing you love, comfort, and hope!

free type.com

http:// www.freetype.com

Ria's Haven

LIVE. LOVE. TRAVEL.

BOOKS BY CRAIG LOCK

"The Writing Journey": The various books that Craig "felt inspired to write"

Get to Jesus— Psalm 90:8

Enduring Love ~ Psalm 136

Blah blah blah

Just a person who wants to know what her thoughts are all about!!

The Written Revolt

Weekly short stories, suspense serials, and other literary snippets. Don't forget to support by following!

Moda-Creative thinking

Moda-Creative thinking

Living with Head/Brain Injury (TBI)

Helping bring (and promoting) better awareness of what is often termed 'The Silent Epidemic' (the Hidden Handicap')

UnMaskedSerenity

No Masks, No Filters. Just me... PeAcE, LoVe, & HaRmOnY.

MRS. T’S CORNER

https://www.tangietwoods

John Ager's Home on the Web!

reflecting my eclectic (and sometimes erratic) life

The Tear Wiper

uplifting messages of hope and encouragement involving every situation

Sharing some Information and Thoughts on Head and Brain Injury

Uplifting stories from survivors of TBI: "Don't let what we can't do, stop us from doing what we CAN do...best!" “WE SHARE WHAT WE KNOW, SO THAT WE ALL MAY GROW,”

Craig's Blogs

Thoughts and Writings about my various passions. "Obsessive" or WHAT!

PaulthePoke

Prophecy Watch & Bible Study

Best Wishes From The First City to See the Light Each New Day

Don’t worry about the world ending today... it’s already tomorrow in “the little scenic and tranquil haven” that is New Zealand (or "Godzone" as it is sometimes affectionately known)

Inmate Blogger

A Collection of Blogs Written By Men & Women In Prison

Higher Density Blog

Love Is Always The Answer

Little Angels of Comfort

Bringing you love, comfort, and hope!

free type.com

http:// www.freetype.com

Ria's Haven

LIVE. LOVE. TRAVEL.

BOOKS BY CRAIG LOCK

"The Writing Journey": The various books that Craig "felt inspired to write"

Get to Jesus— Psalm 90:8

Enduring Love ~ Psalm 136

Blah blah blah

Just a person who wants to know what her thoughts are all about!!

The Written Revolt

Weekly short stories, suspense serials, and other literary snippets. Don't forget to support by following!

Moda-Creative thinking

Moda-Creative thinking

Living with Head/Brain Injury (TBI)

Helping bring (and promoting) better awareness of what is often termed 'The Silent Epidemic' (the Hidden Handicap')

UnMaskedSerenity

No Masks, No Filters. Just me... PeAcE, LoVe, & HaRmOnY.

MRS. T’S CORNER

https://www.tangietwoods

John Ager's Home on the Web!

reflecting my eclectic (and sometimes erratic) life

The Tear Wiper

uplifting messages of hope and encouragement involving every situation

Sharing some Information and Thoughts on Head and Brain Injury

Uplifting stories from survivors of TBI: "Don't let what we can't do, stop us from doing what we CAN do...best!" “WE SHARE WHAT WE KNOW, SO THAT WE ALL MAY GROW,”

%d bloggers like this: