A city as notorious as Chicago is bound to have a number of nicknames, but none
has stuck as well as the Windy City. As one would expect from this passionate
metropolis, there are three competing theories concerning the origins of this
nickname. Is it the weather? Intercity rivalry? A bid to win the World’s Fair?
No one knows for sure, but most people assume it has to do with the fact that
Chicago is situated on the shores of Lake Michigan and thus it gets battered by
frequent winds blowing off this Great Lake. The truth is, Chicago is no windier than
any other major American city. It is simply the density of skyscrapers that makes the
downtown seem gusty at times.
Another popular theory is that the editor of the New York Sun, Charles Dana, was
angry that Chicago beat New York to host the World’s Fair in 1890. He couldn’t
believe a ragged frontier town could top New York, claiming in print that Chicago was
nothing more than a windy city. However, he meant this in the sense it was full of
hot air and incapable of hosting such an important event.
A more entertaining notion is that Cincinnati was jealous of its upstart neighbour.
During the 1860s, Chicago leapfrogged Cincinnati as the meatpacking centre of the
region, blatantly stealing Cincinnati’s long-held nickname, Porkopolis. At the same
time a hot rivalry was emerging between the two city’s baseball teams.
The Cincinnati Red Stockings were the best team in the nation in 1869, so Chicago
again poked Cincinnati in the eye and started a team called the White Stockings.
Cincinnati newspapers began calling Chicago the Windy City because it was so full of
bluster, and even today few can argue the accuracy of this observation.