Quiz: Chicago's earliest history | WBEZ
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Eight Forty-Eight

A quiz on Chicago's earliest history

WBEZ's John Schmidt last quizzed listeners on the White Sox and the Cubs for the start of baseball season for Eight Forty-Eight. Today, he tries to stump us with facts from Chicago's very early history.

We'll publish the quizzes after the show. For those of you tuning in live, call 312.923.9239.


1. The word “Chicago” comes from a native word meaning __________.

(A) smelly plant

(B) beautiful scenery

(C) windy city

(D) boardwalk empire

2. Fort Dearborn was located near what modern intersection?

(A) Dearborn-Madison 

(B) Dearborn-North

(C) Cermak-Cottage Grove

(D) Michigan-Wacker

3. Why was David Kennison a famous person in early Chicago?

(A) He owned Chicago’s largest brewery.

(B) He was the world’s heavyweight champion boxer.

(C) He wrote the first book about Chicago’s history.

(D) He claimed to be a Revolutionary War hero.

4. When was Chicago incorporated as a city?

(A) 1801  

(B) 1818  

(C) 1837  

(D) 1848

5. What is the connection between Jean Baptiste Du Sable and John Kinzie?

(A) Du Sable was Kinzie’s grandfather.

(B) Du Sable was Kinzie’s army commander in the American Revolution.

(C) Kinzie bought Du Sable’s cabin.

(D) Kinzie killed Du Sable.


Answers: a d d c c c

(A) smelly plant.  We’re not entirely sure of where the word “Chicago” comes from.  According to the most widely-accepted theory, the word derives from the wild leek plants that grew at the mouth of the river.  Sometimes the meaning is given as “wild onions” or “big smell.”  An alternative theory is that an early-day chief named “Chicageu” drowned in the lake near the same spot, and the native peoples passed down the legend.

(D) Michigan-Wacker.  Fort Dearborn was built by the U.S. Army across the river from the old Du Sable cabin in 1803. It was named after Secretary of War Henry Dearborn.  During the War of 1812 the fort was burned by the Potawatomis, who were allies of the British. The fort was rebuilt after the war.  As Chicago grew and the surrounding area became more peaceful, the army decided that the fort was no longer needed, and it was gradually dismantled. 

(D) He claimed to be a Revolutionary War hero. Kennison arrived in Chicago in the 1840s. He said that he was born in 1737, was the last survivor of the Boston Tea Party, and—like Zelig or Forest Gump—seemed to turn up near every important event of the Revolution. Nobody questioned him. Kennison died in 1852, and was buried in what is now Lincoln Park.  The grave marker is still there.

(C) 1837.  The date was March 4th, and last month the city celebrated its 175th birthday.  Funny thing—Chicago was first incorporated as a town in 1833, and for many years that was considered Chicago’s official birthday. Chicago’s second World’s Fair opened in 1933, and was called the Century of Progress Exhibition. Of course, the Depression was on in the 1930s, and the city leaders wanted to get the party started ASAP.

(C) Kinzie bought Du Sable’s cabin. Du Sable was a trader of African-French origin. He built a cabin on the north bank of the river sometime in the 1770s, near where the Tribune Tower now stands.  DuSable sold the property to Kinzie in 1800, and later died in Missouri. Kinzie lived in the cabin until his death in 1828. 

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