The Incredible, Explosive Growth of Chicago, As Seen Through Its Maps
In 1829, the State of Illinois appointed a commission to lay out what is current-day Chicago. The final map (for what was then a town of less than 100 people), was submitted by James Thompson on August 4, 1830.
The town grew quickly, as East Coast settlers moved for the area's rich farmlands and potential as a transportation hub. Chicago was officially incorporated in 1833 as a town, and granted a city charter four years later. By the end of its first decade, it had exploded to 4,470 inhabitants. Despite the devastating Great Chicago Fire of 1871 (which killed 300 residents, displaced 100,000 more and destroyed 18,000 buildings) the city kept growing, eclipsing the one million mark by 1890.
Below, a look back at the city's first century, from Thompson's original plat map to the post-Great Fire version of itself, through its maps:
"Rascher's birds eye view of the Chicago packing houses & union stock yards," 1890. Courtesy Library of Congress (see larger).
"Chicago, central business section," 1916. Courtesy Library of Congress (see larger).