Chicago may be known as Second City…but there are many things that first happened in Chicago. Here’s ten that have spread across the globe.
The Ferris Wheel. The first Ferris wheel was built for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago and was 264 feet high. Millions of children (and adults) have rode Ferris wheels of all sizes over the years–and have Chicago to thank.
Brownies. Chicago socialite Bertha Palmer commissioned a pastry chef to a create perfect dessert for the 1893 World Fair that could fit in a lunch box while retaining the delicious qualities of a cake. The brownie was born. The original recipe is still served at the historic Palmer House Hotel’s restaurant.
The Zipper. Yet another innovation that came out of the 1893 World Fair where Whitcomb Judson unveiled the first zipper. Judson’s invention is the basis for what we use on our clothing today.
The Electric Dishwasher. Shelbyville native Josephine Cochrane, a prominent socialite, wanted a safer way to clean her expensive fine China that often broke when hand-washed by servants. Many of us never had that specific problem, but are still glad to use her clever invention so many years later.
The Telephone. Most people associate Alexander Graham Bell with inventing the telephone in Boston. But it is not so simple. Elisha Gray of Highland Park submitted a patent application the same day as Bell. There is much debate about whose application arrived first and if Bell stole some of his ideas from Gray. The full truth may never be known, but we say they are tied for first.
Film Critic. Nowadays everybody is a film critic. Well, we have Chicago to thank. The Chicago Tribune hired Jack Lawson as the first paid full-time film critic in 1914–and moviegoers have been voicing their opinions ever since.
The Skyscraper. Many people are familiar with Chicago’s famous skyscraper, The Willis Tower–formerly known as Sears Tower. But they may not be aware that Chicago had the world’s first skyscraper: the Home Insurance Building. Completed in 1885, it was originally 10 stories high and 138 feet tall. Two floors were added in 1891, bringing the building up to 180 feet. The Willis Tower, by comparison, has 110 floors and is 1,729 feet high.
Cartoon Characters. Walt Disney was born in Chicago. His birthplace is a tourist attraction. He may be the single person most associated with cartoons. But he didn’t make the first cartoon character. That honor goes to Wallace Carlson and Winsor McCay who created Gertie The Dinosaur in 1914. You can see Gertie here (over 7 mins into the film): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGXC8gXOPoU
Softball. Many people assume softball naturally derived from baseball. But it all started when fans in the Farragut Boat Club were listening for the results of the Harvard/Yale football game on Thanksgiving 1887. When Yale was announced as the winner, an excited Yale alumnus gleefully threw a boxing glove at a Harvard supporter who hit the glove with a broomstick. George Hancock, a reporter in attendance, jokingly said, “Play Ball!” which they did–with the broomstick and boxing glove. The sport spread.
Deep Dish Pizza. Facts surrounding the specific origin of deep dish pizza are murky. But the consensus is that it was born in Chicago sometime during the mid-20th century. The consensus is also that it is delicious. Deep dish pizza does not usually feature a thick crust, as is a common misconception. Rather, the crust is thin or medium in thickness, but the deep dish method provides more room for cheese, sauce, toppings, and deliciousness.
These are 10 important firsts that have their origin in Chicago. But with how industrious our people are, we are confident these are not the last firsts Chicago has to offer. Are we missing any of your favorite firsts?