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This week in history: Chicago turns the big 1-0-0

Chicagoans went all out to celebrate the city’s 100th birthday. Here’s a look at how they partied like it was 1837.

Chicago skyline from 1972
Chicago was incorporated on March 4, 1837. The aerial view was taken on May 2, 1972. Photo by Edward DeLuga/Chicago Sun-Times. 

As published in the Chicago Daily News, sister publication of the Chicago Sun-Times:

Who would’ve thought that settlement in the swamps of Lake Michigan would blossom into the thriving, vibrant city of Chicago?

One hundred years after the Windy City received its charter to incorporate from the state of Illinois, Chicago threw a massive, six-month-long celebration to commemorate the triumphs and tragedies of its history.

The party kicked off on March 4, 1937. A front-page Chicago Daily News story described the festivities.

“With a tremendous burst of sound and a holiday atmosphere seldom equaled, Chicago today issued a resounding notice to the world that just 100 years ago this city obtained a charter from the Illinois legislature and launched its lusty career,” the paper proclaimed.

In the morning, a parade led by the Black Horse Troop — a horse-back division of the Illinois National Guard that escorted dignitaries and other special visitors to the city — marched from the Drake Hotel to City Hall, “where foreign consuls and their staffs presented official congratulations to Mayor [Edward Joseph] Kelly,” the paper recounted.

Then, just before noon, Kelly delivered a radio address from the Chicago Historical Society auditorium. He sat in a chair once owned by General Henry Dearborn and struck a gavel used by the city’s first mayor, William B. Ogden, the paper said.

“Chicago is a wonder city of the ages,” the mayor proclaimed. “As we honor the past, we think of the future. What a contemplation!”

“If things happen in Chicago during the next 100 years in proportion to what has happened during the past century,” Kelly continued, “there can be no question about our city becoming the largest city on the entire globe.”

The address lasted three minutes. It is unclear if Kelly mentioned Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable, who would not be recognized as Chicago’s first citizen by the city for several decades, or the Native American groups that inhabited the area before European settlers.

As Kelly finished his speech, the celebration officially began.

“At 12 noon the peak of the announcement was reached, with everything in Chicago which could make noise open at full blast,” the paper reported. “Locomotives, automobiles, factories and boats turned on full power of whistles, horns and sirens.”

Later that night, partygoers headed to the Chicago Stadium for the opening jubilee pageant.

Also this week in history: Dr. Seuss’ birthday.