A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 11, 2004
Windy City (Chicago nickname)
The accepted wisdom had been that "Windy City" comes from New York. That's wrong.

Both Chicago and New York City were competing for what would become the 1893 Columbian Exposition (World's Fair). New York Sun editor Charles A. Dana allegedly wrote (about 1890) that the "Windy City" couldn't hold the fair even if it won the bid. Chicago did win the bid and held the fair successfully.

Charles Dana's alleged words have never been found. The Chicago Tribune first mentions this theory in a 1933 article (below). Most importantly, "windy city" has been found many years earlier than 1890. Dana could not have either coined or popularized the term at that time.

Many online computer newspaper databases showed that early citations were coming from Cincinnati, Ohio. I made several trips to the Library of Congress and found "Windy City" in the Cincinnati Enquirer of May 9, 1876. Our earliest "windy city" citation is now 1860, from Milwaukee. The term "windy city" (meaning a city whose residents are "full of wind") was used as early as 1856, when a Menasha, Wisconsin used the term talking about Green Bay.

Chicago was called a "windy city" because of the wind off of Lake Michigan. In the 1860s and 1870s, Chicago tried to sell itself as a summer resort because of this wind.

Chicago is also known as a "windy city" from rival cities in the Midwest, "windy" meaning "full of wind" or bombast. Cincinnati newspapers used the term consistently in the 1870s, and are probably responsible for the popularization of the term. Cincinnati and Chicago both also used the "Porkopolis" nickname, and the baseball battle of the Cincinnati "Reds" and the Chicago "Whites" from 1870 made the inter-city rivalry intense.


17 November 1854, Daily National Intelligencer (Washington, DC), pg. 2:
GREAT GALE AT BUFFALO.
FROM THE BUFFALO DEMOCRACY OF TUESDAY.
Yesterday was one of the days such as have given Buffalo its bad eminence as a windy town.

20 November 1854, Boston (MA) Courier, pg. 4:
Snow Storm and Gale at the West. There was a very severe storm at Buffalo -- the "city of winds" -- on Monday and Tuesday.

21 June 1856, Menasha (WI) Advocate, pg. 3, col. 1:
The Green Bay Advocate comes this week, containing three long columns of gas and wind expended in that windy city on Monday last in honor of STEVE HOTALING'S arrival there with his steam barge from Menasha, through the Neenah channel.

7 April 1858, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, pg. 2:
An hundred militia officers, from corporal to commander, condemned to air their vanity and feathers only for the delectation of the boys and servant girls in this windy city.

4 July 1860, Milwaukee (WI) Daily Sentinel, pg. 1:
We are proud of Milwaukee because she is not overrun with a lazy police force as is Chicago -- because her morals are better, he [sic] criminals fewer, her credit better; and her taxes lighter in proportion to her valuation than Chicago, the windy city of the West.

14 March 1866, Detroit (MI) Free Press, pg. 2, col. 1:
An Inspired Female in Chicago.
From the Cincinnati Commercial (Rep.)
(...)
Anna still lives. She has moved and had her being recently at Chicago. She lectured about $200 worth to the flatulent people of that windy town.

Chronicling America
29 November 1866, New York (NY) Sun, pg. 2, col. 6:
A Pencil Sketch of Chicago, Ill.
A correspondent of the Cincinnati TIMES, under the head of "Easy Lessons in Geography," gives the following pencil sketch of Chicago:
(...)
Chicago is a very windy town. There is probably more blow about that place than any other in the world. In comparison to its "blows" the dreaded Simoon is only Simoonshine. The elements are combined to form a monster ear trumpet, the little end of which is inserted into the public ear, and thro' it all Chicago blows the praises of that wonderful city, until it makes the public head ache -- actually "splitting the ears of the groundlings."

11 June 1867, Chicago (IL) Republican, pg. 4, col. 2:
The Cincinnati Commercial intends to be very severe when it calls Chicago a "city of wind." It is twenty-five years since there has been any occasion for applying such a term to Cincinnati. Whether wind is better than a dead calm we have some figures to show. Accepting as reliable the published list of sales as furnished by the internal revenue offices of the three cities, it has been officially attested that in 1866 there were in Chicago fifty-nine firms whose sales exceeded a million dollars; in Cincinnati, fifteen; and in St. Louis, fifteen. The heaviest sales reported by a single house amounted in Chicago to $9,220,967; in St. Louis to $3,127, 223; and in CIncinnati to $2,700,000. In Chicago, fourteen houses report sales exceeding two million dollars; in Cincinnati, four; and in St. Louis, one. How would Cincinnati like a trade wind of that sort? These figures are facts, and, as such, shame the modesty of our Chicago journalists, the most venturesome of whom would have never dared, in advance of this official presentment, to make an assertion that should even half way reach this comparison. A few weeks since, in New York, a prominent business man of this city made a sensation among a hotel coterie by declaring that the trade of Chicago more than equaled that of Cincinnati and St. Louis combined. Take the above comparative exhibits of our trade as a basis, and the statement is not half as wild as the Cincinnati Commercial man will look when he sits down to explain these things away.

14 June 1867, The Evening Post (New York, NY), pg. 1, col. 2:
The controversies between the Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis newspapers as to the importance of their respective cities, is amusing to outsiders. The Cincinnati Commercial lately called Chicago a "city of wind," whereupon the Chicago Republican retorts: "It is twenty-five years since there has been any occasion for applying such a term to Cincinnati. Whether wind is better than a dead calm we have some figures to show." It then shows, by the list of sales, the great prominence of Chicago, and asks: "How would Cincinnati like a trade-wind of that sort?"

18 June 1867, Philadelphia (PA) Public Ledger, pg. 2:
A FIERCE controversy is now being waged between the Cincinnati and Chicago newspapers about the importance of their respective cities. The Cincinnati Commercial lately called Chicago a "city of wind," whereupon the Chicago Republican retorts; "It is twenty-five years since there has been any occasion for applying such a term to Cincinnati. Whether wind is better than a dead calm we have some figures to show." It then shows, by the list of sales, the great prominence of Chicago, and asks "How would Cincinnati like a trade-wind of that sort?" It is now time for St. Louis to come in.

5 December 1867, Harrisburg (PA) Telegraph, pg. 1, col. 3:
WESTON.
Arrival and Reception at Chicago.
The Windy City in a State of Excitement


28 June 1868, Chicago (IL) Tribune, pg. 2:
CHICAGO NOT YET A METROPOLIS.
The unsurpassed natural advantages of Chicago as a place of summer resort are not improved as they should be.
(...)
Chicago might utilize Lake Michigan in still another way. It might have a system of free baths, like that which enables every poor man and woman in Boston to take a plunge in salt water every day through the summer.

30 January 1869, San Francisco (CA) Daily Evening Bulletin, pg. 5:
The Chicago Tribune announces "nearly 44,000 now standing in the city." This reckoning can be relied on only until "the west gale sweeps that city of winds and cheap houses," according to the Springfield Republican.

Chronicling America
6 February 1869, New Orleans (LA) Crescent, pg. 2, col. 4:
Chicago wants to know what State it belongs to. The other day, whie nearly all the members from Cook county were at home, a bill was introduced in the House of Representatives and passed, "ceding the city of Chicago to Indiana and Wisconsin." The windy city does not seem to be over popular in the Illinois Legislature. -- [St. Louis Democrat.

12 April 1869, Cincinnati (OH) Daily Gazette, pg. 3:
Chicago must look to her laurels. Cincinnati is coming up. She produced yesterday a chapter of crime and death which is rarely equalled even by the city of winds.

28 April 1869, Milwaukee (WI) Daily Sentinel, pg.?:
Chicago is evidently appreciated by the people of Gotham, as witness the following from the New York World: ... The windy city is to become the paradise of parks, and the modern-created Eden is to be the grand watering place of the world.

9 August 1869, Cincinnati (OH) Daily Gazette, pg. 3:
A great many citizens have left for Chicago, during the past few days, to take a look at the windy city.

5 November 1869, Cincinnati (OH) Daily Gazette, pg. 1:
Miss Cecilia Aschor, the bright little girl who discussed the woman suffrage question with another little girl, in Pike's Hall, a short time ago, has gone to the City of Winds to enlighten the Chicagoans on the vexed subject.

4 June 1870, Cleveland (OH) Daily Herald, pg. ?:
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.

17 October 1870, Cincinnati (OH) Daily Gazette, pg. 1:
Upon inquiry we learned that they had just returned from a brief visit to Chicago. Evidently the climate of the City of Winds did not agree with them.

15 November 1870, Cincinnati (OH) Daily Enquirer, pg. 4:
It is doubtless that very peculiarity of the atmosphere of Chicago, which makes the journalism of the "wind city" so uncertain, piquant and readable.

4 February 1873, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, pg.4:
CHICAGO has fresh municipal trouble.
(...)
But if these two factions of policemen should fall to and arrest one the other, the rascals, who are numerous in the great city of winds and fires, will have matters all their own way.

8 July 1873, Boston (MA) Daily Globe, pg. 2:
CHICAGO AS A SUMMER RESORT.
[FROM A TRAVELLING CORRESPONDENT.]
LINCOLN, Neb., July 1.
A few years ago, Chicago advertised itself as a summer resort, on the strength of the lake breezes which so nicely tempered the mid-summer heats. All the editorial pens in the land immediately attempted to scratch out the presumption; ridicule without stint was heaped upon it, arguments were soberly wrought out to disprove it, but with characteristic persistency Chicago still asserted the fact and glorified in her lake.

19 June 1874, Cincinnati (OH) Daily Gazette, "Chicago's Rule for Estimating Population Applied to Cincinnati," pg. 2:
Last Sunday's papers contained a flourishing telegram from the windy City of the Lake above named, stating that their new directory had just been issued, and multiplying the names therein by 3 1/2 gave that city a population of 520,000, and the dispatch claimed that number as bona fide residents.
(...)
The same amount of wind applied in other places as in Chicago will leave her a small village by comparison, and she had better increase named in her directories before laying down a rule.

6 February 1875, Cincinnati (OH) Enquirer, pg. 9, col. 2:
CHICAGO BLOWING.
The Wind-Swept, Fire-Scorched and Frozen
City -- Nice Place to Live.

25 February 1875, Cincinnati (OH) Enquirer, pg. 2, col. 1:
INDIANAPOLIS LETTER.
(...) They read the Chicago papers; are proud of Chicago's prosperity; believe in Chicago wind; trust in Chicago; and swear by Chicago; but when it comes to cutting up the glorious State of Indiana to accommodate Chicago they will rebel.

8 March 1875, Cincinnati (OH) Enquirer, pg. 4, col. 5:
The Mayor's Movements.
Mayor Johnston and his "next friend," Quinn, the Roofer, returned from Chicago yesterday morning. The train was due here early, but was detained by the trifling circumstances of a "jump off" two hours this side of the City of the Lakes, and a much more emphatic adventure on a bridge near Richmond.
(...)
In Chicago both gentlemen met, ...
What they didn't see, we venture to wager, in that five hours wasn't worth seeing in the Municipality of Wind.

8 June 1875, St. Louis (MO) Globe-Democrat, pg. 2:
From the Cincinnati Commercial. (...) As might be expected, he next visited Chicago, and invested his capital in a tangle-foot whisky establishment, and some loose matrimonial bonds which he found lying around loose in that windy city.

29 October 1875, Cincinnati (OH) Daily Gazette, pg. 4:
A glance at those Chicago papers which are subject to rushes of big black type to the head of their columns, is sufficient to satisfy one that a man by the name of Hesing lives in the windy city.

8 November 1875, Cincinnati (OH) Daily Gazette, pg. 4:
There was not a single American on the Chicago Devil-fish ticket, and the native-born citizens of the windy city are wanting to know what they have done that they should be disqualified from holding office.

15 April 1876, Cincinnati (OH) Enquirer, pg. 4, col. 1:
NONE of the obnoxious office-holders in Chicago have been murdered as yet. Two or three Committees are thought to be preparing ropes and selecting lamp-posts, but the "probabilities" for the region may be summed up as follows: "Calm, with occasional newspaper gusts."

17 April 1876, Cincinnati (OH) Enquirer, pg. 1, col. 2:
GARDEN CITY GROWLERS.

28 April 1876, Cincinnati (OH) Enquirer, pg. 1, col. 4:
The Bristow Bazoo at the Garden City.

1 May 1876, Cincinnati (OH) Daily Gazette, "Chicago's Whites the Victors by a Score of 11 to 5," pg. 2:
It was a lucky turn of fortune's wheel for the visiting club, and no one appreciated more keenly than they how narrow had been their escape from defeat, which in the windy city would have been considered a disgrace.

8 May 1876, Cincinnati (OH) Enquirer, pg. 4, col. 1:
THERE was a little tornado in Chicago on Saturday, but it spent itself mostly on churches. All the other buildings in Chicago were so heavily weighed down with mortgages that no whirlwind could affect them.

9 May 1876, Cincinnati Enquirer, pg. 2, col. 4:
THAT WINDY CITY.
Some of the Freaks of the Last Chicago
Tornado.
[From Yesterday's Times.]
The traditional fickleness of the wind was shown in strange objects on which it exerted its force.

13 May 1876, Cincinnati (OH) Enquirer, pg. 2, col. 1:
CHICAGO LETTER.
The Sad Story of a Base-Ball Tour -- How
the "Cincinnatis" Took their Punish-
ment.
Special Correspondence of the Enquirer.
CHICAGO, May 11, 1876.
When the Red Stockings left Cincinnati for Chicago Tuesday morning they never dreamed they were going three hundred miles to get "skunked."
(...)
(Col. 2 -- ed.)
The trouble was not with the boys, but with the chairs. The latter had been cut out for slimmer people than base-ball men, and fit too tightly. There was no time to lose, however, in prying off chairs, and the boys all started trainward, chairs and all. Only the plucky nerve of the eating-house keeper rescued the useful seats from a journey to the Windy City.

2 July 1876, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, pg. 3:
The Cincinnati Enquirer, in common with many other papers, has been waiting with great anxiety for the fulfillment of its prophecy: that the Chicago papers would call the Whites hard names when they lost. Witness these scraps the day after the Whites lost to the Athletics:

There comes a wail to us from the Windy City.

14 June 1876, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, pg. 4:
CHICAGO AS A SUMMER RESORT.
The return of the summer months, with their product of green trees, warbling birds, asparagus, strawberries, balmy breezes, grasshoppers, picnics, and new potatoes, once more suggests the propriety of urging upon the people of this country the peculiar and unique claims of Chicago as a place of summer resort. While Boston is baking, New York boiling, Philadelphia broiling, Washington simmering, and Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Louisville, St. Louis, and other suburbs of Chicago frying, the people of this city are enjoying cool breezes, refreshing rains, green fields, a grateful sun, and balmy air -- winds from the north and east tempered by the coolness of the Lake, and from the south and west, bearing to us frequent hints of the grass, flowers, wheat and corn of the prairies.

12 February 1877, Cincinnati (OH) Enquirer, Pg. 5, col. 2:
CHICAGO LETTER.
Gossip and Impressions of the Windy
City.
Special Correspondence of the Enquirer.
CHICAGO, February 10, 1877.
What this city was before the fire I know not. What it was after the fire I should like to forget. But what it is to-day is remarkable. Verily it might be called the Phoenix City, so striking is its resurrection from its own ashes. Europeans look upon it as the coming city of America, and it is no wonder when we take even a casual glimpse at its resources and progressive prosperity.

5 March 1879, Puck, pg. 12, col. 3:
THERE was a young man from Chicago,
It was strange how he did make his jaw go,
One nice day he did to his pa go,
Saying, "Really, father, does ma know
If for crime and deceit
Any city can beat
This windy old town of Chicago?
-- Cincinnati Enquirer.

18 November 1879, New Haven (CT) Evening Register, pg. 2:
The Cincinnati Enquirer speaks of Chicago as "the windy city."

4 July 1880, Cincinnati (OH) Enquirer, pg. 1, col. 2:
LOUIE'S LOVE.
Strange Attempt to Elope With a
School-Girl.

A Social Sensation Which Agitates the Town
of Degraff, Ohio.
SPECIAL DISPATCH TO THE ENQUIRER.
BELLEFONTAINE, OHIO, July 3. -- This little Village of Degraff is situated in the beautiful Valley of the Miami, ten miles west of Bellefontaine, and, while it only has a population a little less than one thousand, according to the veracious Census Enumerator, it certainly can develop enough pure cussedness within its limits to entitle it to be classed as the little "Windy City," a name not inappropriate, as every now and then a cyclone or tornado strikes and almost annihilates it.

23 August 1880, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, pg. 7:
They had just arrived from the windy city of the lake. (From Cincinnati Commercial -- ed.)

5 September 1880, Macon (GA) Weekly Telegraph, pg. 4:
This city [Atlanta, Georgia -- ed.] has been likened to Chicago; and described as a "city of wind and mortgage." We protest against such adjectives, as they are unjustly applied.

30 December 1880, Chicago (IL) Daily Inter Ocean, pg. 4:
Our neighbors in the Queen City are accustomed to call Chicago the "City of Wind," and openly charge its citizens with doing "a large amount of blowing."

20 October 1883, National Police Gazette, pg. 11:
It was here that the late lamented Hulbert, president of the Chicagos, saw him and signed him for the Windy City club, where he has been playing ever since. -- Cincinnati Enquirer.

19 August 1885, Sporting Life, pg. 1, col. 2:
FROM CHICAGO.
(...) But say, I must quit this thing, or there will be a mad base ball reporter in the "city of winds" before sundown.

Google Books
Lyrics of Life
by John Grosvenor Wilson
New York: Caxton Book Concern, Limited
1886
Pg. 15:
CHICAGO.
ON the shore of the Monarch of Lakes
Rise column, and dome, and spire,
And the light of the morning breaks
On the City of Wind and Fire!

11 September 1886, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, pg. 4:
The name of "Windy City," which is sometimes used by village papers in New York and Michigan to designate Chicago, is intended as a tribute to the refreshing lake breezes of the great summer resort of the West, but is an awkward and rather ill-chosen expression and is doubtless misunderstood. Hence this explanation.

21 August 1892, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, pg. 16:
Cincinnati Times-Star:
(...)
The present generation in Cincinnati remembers when the Queen City and the Windy City were rivals, but Cincinnati dropped out as thoroughly as Greece ceased to rival Rome.

20 November 1892, Freeborn County Standard (Albert Lea, MN), pg. 6:
THE WINDY CITY.

Some Queer Developments in the
Growth of Chicago.

A Strange Effect of the High Buildings --
Things That Are Overdone -- Odd
Phases of Human Nature -- An
Escaped Sea Lion.

[Special Chicago Correspondence.]
Chicago has been called the "windy" city, the term being used metaphorically to make out that Chicagoans were braggarts. The city is losing this reputation, for the reason that as people got acquainted with it they found most of her claims to be backed up by facts. As usual, people go to extremes in this thing also, and one can tell a stranger almost anything about Chicago to-day and feel that he believes it implicitly.

But in another sense Chicago is actually earning the title of the "windy" city. It is one of the effects of the tall buildings which engineers and architects apparently did not foresee that the wind is sucked down into the streets. Walk past the Masonic Temple or the Auditorium any day even though it may be perfectly calm elsewhere, and you will meet with a lively breeze at the base of the building that will compel you to put your hand to your hat.

3 January 1908, Idaho Daily Statesman (Boise, ID), pg. 2:
It was Cincinnati gave Chicago the name of the Windy City and St. Louis has nearly laughed herself to death ever since.

16 June 1922, Reno (NV) Evening Gazette, pg. 7:
Forty-eight years ago today, July 23, 1870, Chicago and the New York Mutuals played a game which is historic team by a score of 9 to 0, the game being played on the grounds of the Chicago club, the original White Stockings. Wolter was the twirler for the Mutuals, while Pinkham was on the mound for the Windy City outfit.
(The term "Chicagoed" came from this game. The following describes the Chicago vs. Cincinnati rivalry -- ed.)

The old Chicago White Stockings club was organized in 1870. The principal purpose in launching the team was to defeat the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first professional baseball club. Cincinnati players were first paid for their services in 1869, and that year they toured America, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, winning 56 games, with one tie, and no defeat. Chicago became jealous, and the sports of the Windy City subscribed a big sum to get together a team that could stop the Reds. Chicago had previously had crack amateur teams in the Excelsiors and the Atlantics, and the former team had achieved glory by defeating the famous Rockford club.

The White Stockings of 1870 were paid regular salaries, although the stars received sums which would be laughed at by a class D substitute played in these days. The Chicago men were called White Stockings in contradistinction to the Red Stockings of Cincinnati ,and they wore white hosiery, cap and shirt and long blue trousers. The White Stockings twice defeated the Red Stockings in 1870, by scores of 10 to 6 and 16 to 13, and the shut out by New York was one of the few defeats they suffered that year.

11 June 1933, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, pg. 8:
CHICAGO DUBBED
"WINDY" IN FIGHT
FOR FAIR OF '93

But Virility of City Won
World's Applause.

By JAMES O'DONNELL BENNET.

That the illustrious Columbian Exposition of 40 years ago was held in Chicago resulted from our victory in a savage competition fought out by four cities -- New York, Washington, Chicago, and St. Louis.

It is on of history's cheerful ironies that the idea of the Exposition, which did more to dignify and glorify Chicago than any other event in its annals, was first taken up by merchants and bankers of New York City.

The acerbity of that competition fixed on us our nickname, "the Windy City."

"Don't pay any attention," wrote Charles A. Dana day in and day out in his New York Sun, "to the nonsensical claims of that windy city. Its people could not build a World's Fair even if they won it."

Hence the phrase was not, as most persons believe, a characteristic of our metrology but of our citizens. It was derisive.

20 April 1935, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, 'In the WAKE of the NEWS," pg. 23:
DEAR WAKE: Chicago's nickname of "Windy City" is supposed by most people to refer to the blasts which at times form in the north and sweep down over Lake Michigan. That is not the origin as I remember it.

The term was first applied more than 40 years ago by Editor Charles Dana of the New York Sun. At that time New York, Washington, St. Louis, and Chicago were bidders and competitors for holding the World's Columbian exposition, later commonly called the World's Fair.

Rivalry was keen and prolonged. Chicago's claims were presented in such strong and glamorous terms as to cause Mr. Dana's "Windy City" appellation. At any rate, Chicago secured the honor. Dorothy E. Ballantine.

27 May 1939, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, pg. 10:
"Windy City" Traced Back to the '70s.
I have been a reader of THE TRIBUNE since the seventies, and am familiar with the origin of the term, "Windy City." About the middle of the seventies, Chicago began to be called the Windy City, without arousing the ire of the citizenry. This was long before the erection of the Masonic Temple.

The appellation came from the boastful volubility of Chicagoans. Chicago was the biggest, largest, widest, deepest, richest city in the world, etc.

When Chicago, by hook and by crook, got the world's Columbian Exposition away from New York, trouble arose. Dana of the New York Sun, who used vitriol instead of ink, excoriated Chicago and all her works. He referred to the Windy City as "a dingy aggregation of disgraceful hovels situate in a dank and foul morass, disgracing a noble sheet of water; the air polluted not only by natural decay but also by the dense effuvia arising from Chicago's crude and filthy habits."

Tradition says that the most frothy of the Chicago boosters were finally shipped to what B. L. T. called "Los Anglaize."
C. M. Conradson.
Posted by Barry Popik
Nicknames of Other PlacesWindy City, Second City, Chi-Town (Chicago nicknames) • Monday, October 11, 2004 • Permalink