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. 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 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 one of the busiest airports in the world, and 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 entire world in the 2017 Global Cities Index. Chicago has the fourth-largest gross metropolitan product in the world—about $670.5 billion according to September 2017 estimates-ranking it after the metropolitan areas of Tokyo, New York City, and Los Angeles, and ranking ahead of number five London and number six Paris. Chicago is also the largest economy in the Midwestern United States. The city has one of the world's largest and most diversified and balanced economies; not dependent on any one industry, with no single industry employing more than 14% of the workforce.
Chicago was the second most visited city in the United States with 55 million domestic and international visitors, behind the estimated 62.8 million tourists to New York City in 2017. The city ranked first place in the 2018 Time Out City Life Index, a global quality of life survey of 15,000 people in 32 cities. 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, 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 the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, 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 indigenous 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 eponymous wild "garlic" grew abundantly in the area. According to his diary of late September 1687: