The original site for Chicago was unremarkable: a small settlement at the mouth of the Chicago River near the southern tip of Lake Michigan.
Indeed, a common notion for the origin of the city’s name is an Algonquian word for a wild leek (or onion) plant that grew locally.
The resulting economic opportunities also contributed to the diversity of the city’s population.
Chicago never fulfilled its dream of becoming the largest American city, but between 18 it was second only to New York City.
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Chicago continued as America’s crossroads with the explosive growth of air travel after World War II, which eased the city’s transition into a postindustrial economy.
Chicago sprawls along the lakeshore and extends inland to meet its suburbs in a ragged line. (2000) 2,896,016; Chicago-Joliet-Naperville Metro Division, 7,628,412; Chicago-Joliet-Naperville Metro Area, 9,098,316; (2010) 2,695,598; Chicago-Joliet-Naperville Metro Division, 7,883,147; Chicago-Joliet-Naperville Metro Area, 9,461,105.
That fact has contributed much to the city’s reputed personality.
In the 19th century it had the image of being aggressive and self-promoting, stealing population and businesses from the East.