On my journey from newbie to native, I'm picking up lots of little nuggets of knowledge about Chicago and her history. The story of this town is full of twists and turns and rife with drama, intrigue, and humor. I'm enjoying learning the stories behind nicknames and folklore that have made it into our everyday language.
For instance, one of Chicago's nicknames is The Second City.
Did you know... in 1871 more than three square miles of Chicago was burned to the ground? (Of course you did.) But what you might not have put together is that it was Chicago's phoenix-like rebirth that earned her the nickname The Second City.
I learned about the origin of the nickname as we wandered through Old Town this weekend. Up until then I had always assumed Chicago was considered The Second City in relation to New York City. It seems that I'm not the only one. Out in internet land, there is dissension as to how the moniker got attached. Some argue it was in the early 1890s, prior to the Chicago world's fair. During Chicago's competition with New York for the Great Columbian Exposition, opponents mockingly referred to Chicago as "the second city." Other sources credit Abbott J. Liebling, a New York writer, who much later (1952) wrote a book entitled Chicago: The Second City. But, it doesn't take a historian to notice that the 1871 origin story happened prior to any snarky New Yorker's name calling. So as a newbie Chicagoan I choose to believe the rebirth story.