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Chicago, Illinois was incorporated in 1833. Today, it is home to 12 Fortune 500 companies and is considered to be a "Prime Accountancy, Advertising and Legal Service Center" by the Globalization and World Cities Study Group & Network.[citation needed] Chicago is a major transportation and distribution center. Manufacturing, printing and publishing, and food processing also play major roles in the city's economy.



Before it was incorporated as a town in 1833, the primary industry was fur trading.

Chicago meat inspection swift co 1906.jpg

During the 1850s and 1860s, Chicago's pork and beef industry expanded. Entrepreneurs such as Gustavus Swift and Philip Armour helped the area to become the largest producer of meat products in the world. By 1862 Chicago had displaced Cincinnati, Ohio, as "Porkopolis".

Two major influences for the growth of Chicago's meat industries during the 1860s were: the Civil War increased the demand for food products and Chicago's vast transportation system ensured that goods could be delivered to soldiers quickly all over the northern United States. The second factor was the utilization of ice in meat packing plants. Beforehand, meat production and distribution facilities, known as disassembly plants, had to shut down in the hot summer months. Increased operating months created new man-hours in which people could work. The efficiency of Chicago's meat packing industry and its disassembly plants inspired others like Henry Ford when he developed Model-Ts assembly lines.[1]

In the 1860s, Chicago's pork and beef industry represented the first global industry.[citation needed] As the major meat companies grew in Chicago many, like Armour, created global companies and communicated with divisions spread across the globe via telegraph.

Late in the 19th Century, Chicago was part of the bicycle craze, as home to Western Wheel Company, which introduced stamping to the production process and significantly reduced costs,[2] while early in the 20th Century, the city was part of the automobile revolution, hosting the brass era car builder Bugmobile, which was founded there in 1907.[3]

It was also home to Grigsby-Grunow, which manufactured radios under the Majestic brand until the company failed in 1934.[4] (Majestic Radio and Television Corporation perserved the Majestic name, while General Household Utilities kept Grunow alive.)[5] Chicago also hosted E. H. Scott's Scott Transformer Company, which introduced a high-grade radio in 1928, and grew into Scott Radio Laboratories;[6] this was located at 4450 Ravenswood Avenue in 1946,[7] and produced "very expensive, beautifully-designed, chrome-plated chassis".[8] It added "a line of high-quality television sets in 1949".[9] Other entrant in this business were Zenith, which started life there in 1918, entering auto radios in the 1930s,[10] and Galvin Manufacturing Corporation, which started manufacturing power supplies in 1928 and went on to automobile radios under the Motorola marque in 1930,[11] as well as Walkie-talkie and Handie-Talkie and for the Army.[12]

Modern-day futures and commodity trading markets were pioneered in Chicago.[citation needed] A number of events led to this, along with Chicago's transportation systems and geographic proximity to the rest of the country. Massive amounts of goods passed through Chicago from places in the Mississippi Valley such as St. Louis, Missouri. Grain was stored in Chicago, and people began buying contracts on it. Later, people as far away as New York City began buying contracts by telegraph on the goods that would be stored in Chicago in the future. From this were established the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT), the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), and the modern systems in use today for futures and commodity trading.


The city houses one of the Federal Reserve Banks, established in 1914. There is also the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago. The largest banks in the Chicago region (by % of deposits) are: JPMorgan Chase, LaSalle Bank (a Bank of America subsidiary), Harris Bank (a BMO subsidiary), and Northern Trust. The largest banks headquartered in Chicago are: Northern Trust, Harris Bank, Corus Bank, and First Midwest Bank. Many financial institutions are in the Loop.

Chicago has three major financial exchanges, including the Chicago Stock Exchange, the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and the CME Group (Merc). While the city of Chicago houses most of the major brokerage firms, many insurance companies are in the city or suburbs, such as Allstate Corporation.

Real estate

The central downtown area has experienced a resurgence in recent years with construction of major new condominium and Class A office buildings. These include the 92-story Trump Tower Chicago, Lakeshore East development, the 300 North Lasalle office building, and the 150-story 2000 foot Chicago Spire by famed architect Santiago Calatrava. The Spire will be the second tallest building in the world. Many city neighborhoods are gentrifying at a rapid pace as well, including Logan Square, Pilsen, Uptown, Near Southside, and Rogers Park. The massive expansion of O'Hare International Airport and reconstruction of the Dan Ryan Expressway are also underway and will shape development patterns for years to come.


Chicago Economy[citation needed]
2000 Census Data Chicago Illinois US
Manufacturers shipments, 1997 ($1000) 26,745,880 200,019,991 3,842,061,405
Wholesale trade sales, 1997 ($1000) 31,971,060 275,968,383 N/A
Retail sales, 1997 ($1000) 13,882,143 108,002,177 2,460,886,012
Retail sales per capita, 1997 $4,944 $8,992 $9,190
Accommodation and foodservices sales, 1997 ($1000) 4,481,917 14,826,805 N/A
Total number of firms, 1997 176,605 882,053 N/A
Minority-owned firms, percent of total, 1997 26.7% 12.5% 14.6%
Women-owned firms, percent of total, 1997 27.0% 27.2% 26.0%

The following companies have their headquarters in the Chicago region:


Outside companies with a major presence

See also


  1. ^ American Experience | Chicago: City of the Century
  2. ^ Norcliffe, Glen. The Ride to Modernity: The Bicycle in Canada, 1869-1900 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001), p.107.
  3. ^ Clymer, Floyd. Treasury of Early American Automobiles, 1877-1925 (New York: Bonanza Books, 1950), p.178.
  4. ^ Mahon, Morgan E. A Flick of the Switch 1930–1950 (Antiques Electronics Supply, 1990), p.107.
  5. ^ Mahon, p.107.
  6. ^ Mahon, p.167.
  7. ^ Mahon, p.167.
  8. ^ Mahon, p.169.
  9. ^ Scott himself quit in 1945. Mahon, p.167.
  10. ^ Mahon, p.189.
  11. ^ Mahon, p.110.
  12. ^ Mahon, p.110.


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