Great Chicago Gift, 1st City-Style

Chicagoans love being the Second City. It’s a nickname we hold dear and flaunt often with characteristic swagger and pride. The nickname refers to the rebuilding of Chicago after the Great Fire of 1871, so at one point there must have been a “first” city, right? Historian David Rumsey has the map to prove it, and you can, too.


The cartographic collector has over 150,000 rare maps from around the world. Over 21,000 have been digitized, including one of Chicago from 1857. You can visit the site and zoom in so far you can see the yellow spots from aging. See when the shore lapped just east of Michigan Avenue and the Gold Coast was a cemetery. You may be as surprised as I was to see that cab fare hasn’t change a whole lot in 152 years: it was one dollar to go between one and two miles and an additional passenger was another fifty cents! Or that their public transportation may be better than ours today, with runs every 10 minutes from Clark and Randolph to downtown hotels!



You don’t just have to look at it online. Prints are available from 10″ to 40″, and all sizes but the largest can be framed. If there are other parts of the world that interest you there are maps from Russia, 1776; Congo, 1708; and Hawaii, 1899; just to name a few.


Visit to see all the available maps.






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