Saturday, July 16, 2022

How and When did Chicago get the moniker "The Windy City?"

Fort Dearborn and the Chicago River.

Chicago's nickname, "The Windy City,” is usually attributed to an editorial by Charles A. Dana in the New York Sun, written in 1889 or 1890 when Chicago and New York were competing to host the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. Dana reportedly took Chicago's blustering politicians to task for excessive boasting about the merits of their city. The power of the name lies in the metaphorical use of “windy” for “talkative” or “boastful.” Chicago politicians early became famous for long-windedness, and the Midwestern metropolis's central location as a host city for political conventions helped cement the association of Chicago with loquacious politicians, thus underlying the nickname with double meaning. But this story, however often repeated, is a myth!

Etymologist (the study of the origin of words) Barry Popik was the first to show that "Windy City" as a sobriquet (nickname) for Chicago predated the alleged editorial by many years. Popik traced the origin of the term to 1876 in Cincinnati, where a story in the Cincinnati Enquirer for May of that year reported on the Cincinnati Red Stockings' trip to Chicago to play baseball in the "Windy City." 

Since Popik's first report, Fred Shapiro has provided an even earlier citation. The Daily Cleveland Herald of June 4, 1870, reported, "CLEVELAND vs. CHICAGO. The Great Game between the Forest City and Chicago Clubs — the Windy City Wins by a Score of 15 to 9 — a Hotly Contested Game.” 

A decade earlier, in its July 4, 1860, issue, the Milwaukee Daily Sentinel contained the following: "We are proud of Milwaukee because she is not overrun with a lazy police force as is Chicago — because her morals are better, her criminals fewer, her credit better, and her taxes lighter in proportion to her valuation than Chicago, the windy city of the West."

As it turns out, the term 
"Windy City" referring to Chicago came about through baseball's sports writers.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.


  1. Thank you for dispelling many myths about the Windy City name. Very informative! I know of a city that really is windy, the southern section of Fairfield, CA, along I-80. There are interstate signs posted warning of the winds

  2. Another great piece about Chicago’s history. Very interesting. Thank you!

  3. So if the reference to Chicago as the "Windy City", perhaps it WAS the wind off the lake that conjured up that reference vs long winded politicians.

  4. I took a Chicago class in high school and was taught it was because of the politicians hot air. Thank you so much for correcting my education.


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