Chicago was incorporated as a city in 1837 near a portage between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River watershed and grew rapidly in the mid-nineteenth century. After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which destroyed several square miles and left more than 100,000 homeless, the city made a concerted effort to rebuild on the damage. The construction boom accelerated population growth throughout the following decades, and by 1900 Chicago was one of the five largest cities in the world. During this period, Chicago made noted contributions to urban planning and zoning standards, new construction styles (including the Chicago School of architecture), the development of the City Beautiful Movement, and the eventual creation of the steel-framed skyscraper.
Positioned along Lake Michigan, the city is an international hub for finance, commerce, industry, technology, telecommunications, and transportation. O'Hare International Airport is the second-busiest airport in the world when measured by aircraft traffic; the region also has the largest number of U.S. highways and railroad freight. In 2012, Chicago was listed as an alpha global city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network, and it ranked seventh in the world in the 2016 Global Cities Index. Chicago has the third-largest gross metropolitan product in the United States—about $640 billion according to 2015 estimates. The city has one of the world's largest and most diversified economies, with no single industry employing more than 14% of the workforce.
In 2017, Chicago hosted a record 55 million domestic and international visitors, making it one of the most visited cities in the United States. Landmarks in the city include Millennium Park, Navy Pier, the Magnificent Mile, the Art Institute of Chicago, Museum Campus, the Willis (Sears) Tower, the Museum of Science and Industry, Wrigley Field and Lincoln Park Zoo. Chicago's culture includes the visual arts, novels, film, theater (especially improvisational comedy), food, and music, particularly jazz, blues, soul, hip-hop, gospel, and house music. There are many colleges and universities in the Chicago area, of which Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Illinois at Chicago are classified as "highest research" doctoral universities.
The name "Chicago" is derived from a French rendering of the Miami-Illinois word Shikaakwa for a wild relative of the onion, known to botanists as Allium tricoccum. The first known reference to the site of the current city of Chicago as "Checagou" was by Robert de LaSalle around 1679 in a memoir. Henri Joutel, in his journal of 1688, noted that the wild garlic, called "Chicagoua", grew abundantly in the area. According to his diary of late September 1687: