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How Chicago's Neighborhoods Got Their Names

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It's often said that "Chicago is a city of neighborhoods." This may seem redundant—isn't every city a city of neighborhoods?—but Chicago really is a big, wonderful amalgamation of unique enclaves. Where do the names for all these neighborhoods come from? We sought to find out.

Keep in mind that there are at least 200 neighborhoods in Chicago. While this list is extensive, it isn't absolute. For example, some areas were left off because they were obvious extensions of other neighborhoods (hello, West Rogers Park), while others lacked reliable info (or any information at all). If you don't see your neighborhood below, please write your alderman, who will then negotiate with us and we'll hash out an under-the-table deal.

The Chicago History Museum's Encyclopedia of Chicago and the Chicago Park District's parks database were extremely helpful resources for this—be sure to check them out.

Andersonville

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After the Chicago Fire, many of the city's Swedes moved to this area on the North Side to rebuild their lives. It's believed that the neighborhood is named after Reverend Paul Andersen Norland, who was integral in attracting folks to join the community during its early years (neighborhood's pros: not engulfed in flames).

Archer Heights

Named after Archer Avenue, which itself is named after William Beatty Archer, the first commissioner of the Illinois and Michigan Canal.

Ashburn

Not the most glamorous of origins, but in the 1800s, Chicago families would dump their furnace ashes in this area, and the name "Ashburn" stuck.

Austin

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Named for Henry W. Austin, the real estate mogul who acquired and subdivided the land in 1866. The area was originally in the township of Cicero. Austin held the most power in that municipality, and its politicians brought major roads and elevated trains to the neighborhood. The other Cicero citizens objected and voted to expel Austin and have it annexed into Chicago.

Un-fun fact about Henry W. Austin: He was an ardent temperance advocate and worked to ban all saloons and liquor sales within his community.

Avalon Park

This neighborhood was originally named "Pennytown" for Penny, a local general store owner who sold popcorn balls. The area's Avalon Park Community Church lobbied to have the name changed, and Pennytown—and Penny's popcorn balls—are no more.

Back of the Yards

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Named for its location in relation to the famed Union Stock Yards, this neighborhood was home to most of the Yards' workers. It's where the hog butchers for the world rested their heads at night.

Beverly

There is some argument about whether this neighborhood is named after Beverly, Massachusetts, or Beverly Hills, California. It's often referred to as "Beverly Hills" because it sits on a glacial ridge that, at 672 feet, is the tallest natural point in Chicago.

Boystown

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This informal, colloquial name for the LGBT community area that stretches along North Halsted Street started being used in the 1970s, around the time of the first Gay Pride Parade.

Bridgeport

This area was a fur trading outpost named "Hardscrabble" for years until it officially became the town of Bridgeport in 1836. Some insist that it's named after a bridge that spanned a canal on or near Ashland Avenue. There are no records of this bridge ever existing, however, leaving some to doubt this explanation. 

Bronzeville

This area on the South Side was apparently named "Bronzeville" by Chicago Bee theater editor James J. Gentry because he said it reflected the skin tone of its residents.

Bucktown

Early Polish immigrants raised goats in the area and called it "kozie prery," or "goat plain." That name evolved into "Bucktown," as "buck" is the term for a male goat. No goats remain today, of course (unless they're served in gourmet tacos).

Burnside

Illinois Central Railroad built a station in the area and named it after Civil War General Ambrose Burnside (who also worked as the railroad's treasurer). Colonel W.W. Jacobs subdivided the neighborhood in 1887 and named it after the station.

Canaryville

Depending on who you ask, this neighborhood is named either for the sparrows which populated it or for roving gangs of violent teens, dubbed "wild canaries" in the late 1800s. Either way, it was wise to keep your head on a swivel.

Dearborn Park

This park and housing development was planned in the 1970s and takes its name from General Henry Dearborn, Thomas Jefferson's Secretary of War. 

Douglas Park

Named after Stephen A. Douglas, who is most famous for his participation in the Lincoln-Douglas debates.

Dunning

Cook County originally purchased this property in 1851 to build a "poor farm," insane asylum, and tuberculosis hospital. After the Civil War, a man named Andrew Dunning bought a tract of land to the south of this area to plant a nursery. In 1888, the hospital and asylum were bought by the city after they found gross mismanagement. The entire area, including Dunning's plot, soon took his name as redevelopment began.

East Garfield Park

The park that this neighborhood is named after was originally called "Central Park" when it was built in 1869. After President James A. Garfield's assassination in 1881, the city changed that, and the area to the east developed into East Garfield Park.

Edgebrook

The "brook" that this area edges is actually the North Branch of the Chicago River. Edgebrook was plotted in 1894 to be a golf course-adjacent suburb. The course remains, although the suburb has long since been absorbed by Chicago.

Edgewater

This North Side neighborhood hugging Lake Michigan was dubbed "Edgewater" in 1885 by John Lewis Cochran, a tobacco salesman from Philadelphia who purchased and subdivided much of the land. (Remember that name — old John Lewis Cochran comes up a lot when talking about the origins of Chicago's North Side.)

Edison Park

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Etiquette states that you should wait for someone to die before you name your town after them, but in 1890, the citizens of Edison Park eschewed manners and named their village after the very-much-alive inventor. Given that nobody loved Thomas Edison more than Thomas Edison, he gladly gave the township his blessing.

Englewood

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This neighborhood was originally named "The Junction" because of its railroad crossing. But after Henry B. Lewis, a wool and grain merchant, moved to the area in 1867, he and his wife convinced residents to start calling the neighborhood "Englewood," inspired by the New Jersey town.

Fernwood

Fernwood Village was founded by Dutch farmers and they named it after the surrounding woodland. (You see, it was full of ferns.) The village was annexed into Chicago in 1891.

Fuller Park

Named after Melville Fuller, a Chicagoan and Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1888 to 1910.

Gage Park

South Park Commissioner George W. Gage died in office in 1875 while developing this park. The city soon honored his memory by naming it after him, and the surrounding neighborhood eventually followed suit.

Garfield Ridge

A section of 55th Street, which runs through the neighborhood, was renamed Garfield Boulevard to honor President Garfield after his assassination.

Gladstone Park

Named after British Prime Minister William Gladstone. Gladstone served in the office a record four separate times which, in Chicago, is considered short-term.

Gold Coast

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This North Side area along Lake Michigan was originally called "The Astor Street District," taking the name of John Jacob Astor. Astor didn't actually live in Chicago, but the residents so desperately wanted to project an air of wealth that they used his name anyway. It worked, and when a section of Lake Shore Drive opened in 1875, rich families began building homes in the neighborhood. The community officially became known as the "Gold Coast" at the turn of the century. 

Goose Island

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Goose Island is an actual island located in the North Branch of the Chicago River. It was created when William Ogden, Chicago's first mayor, built an auxiliary canal to facilitate shipping routes. The name "Goose Island" comes from a separate, smaller island in the river, but the name was soon attached to the man-made land mass when Irish squatters moved from the old island to the new one. The term comes from the abundant geese they hunted.

Grand Boulevard

This area is named after the former moniker of its main thoroughfare. The road was briefly changed from Grand Boulevard to South Park Way before being renamed Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive in 1968.

Greater Grand Crossing

This area has its roots in a railroad company dispute, or "frog war." Both Illinois Central and Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroads laid claim to the real estate. Roswell B. Mason, a future Chicago mayor and executive for Illinois Central Railroad, secretly put tracks over some of Lake Shore & Michigan Southern's rails using an illegal connector. In 1853, two trains crashed, killing eight and injuring 40. During the aftermath, real estate developer Paul Cornell came in and used the site of the deadly intersection to build a new suburb.

Greektown

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Greek immigrants came to Chicago in the 1840s as ship captains and started selling food and opening restaurants in this Near West Side neighborhood. The Eisenhower Expressway displaced the community in the 1960s, but it regrouped a couple blocks north and retained the name "Greektown."

Hamilton Park

This park was designed by the Olmsted brothers and planned by Henry Burnham. It opened in 1904 and was named after Alexander Hamilton.

Hegewisch

Adolph Hegewisch, president of the U.S. Rolling Stock Company, aimed to develop a workers' utopia and established the community in 1883. He also moved his factory to the area to facilitate growth.

Your daily Adolph Hegewisch fun fact: During WWII, Hegewisch's first name started to appear as "Achilles" in texts and histories, either as an honest mistake or as a deliberate attempt to distance the man's legacy from Hitler.

Hermosa

In 1889, the city of Chicago annexed this area, which was part of Garfield, and changed the name to Hermosa, Spanish for "beautiful." No one knows why, but everyone agrees it's very nice.

Hollywood Park

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John Lewis Cochran, our friend from Edgewater, named Hollywood Avenue after that Hollywood (he lived in California for part of his life).

Humboldt Park

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In 1869, area residents requested that the newly built park in their neighborhood be named for Prussian scientist, explorer, geographer, writer, and celebrity Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt, who was born 100 years prior. (Fancypants Heights was another option.)

Hyde Park

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In 1853, Paul Cornell (the cousin of Cornell University founder Ezra Cornell) bought 300 acres of land by Lake Michigan and named it "Hyde Park" after the location in London.

Irving Park

Charles T. Race, who bought the land, named it after Washington Irving, the author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The Island

The Island is actually a metaphorical island. When the neighborhood was built, there were three rail lines that made up its north border. To the south and west are suburbs (Cicero and Oak Park, respectively), and to its east is an uninhabited factory area.

Jackowo

Jackowo gets its name from the Polish spelling of Saint Hyacinth's Basilica (Bazylika Św. Jacka) at the center of the neighborhood.

Jackson Park Highlands

Named for the hill that overlooks Jackson Park (which itself was named after President Andrew Jackson). Originally named "South Park," Jackson Park was home to the World's Columbian Exposition.

Jefferson Park

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Originally called "Jefferson Township," this independent area was named after Thomas Jefferson and was separate from Chicago until 1889 when it was incorporated by the city.

K-Town

This part of North Lawndale gets its name because of all the streets in the area that start with the letter "K"—Karlov, Kedvale, Keeler, Kenneth, Kilbourn, Kildare, Kolin, Kolmar, Komensky, Kostner, and Kilpatrick, to name a few.

Kelvyn Park

The park was named after the surrounding subdivision, which was named for British physicist William Thomson Kelvin. Kelvin is most famous for calculating absolute zero (-273.15 Celsius), which comes in handy in Chicago quite often.

Kenwood

Dr. John A. Kennicott, one of the first homeowners in the neighborhood, named the area after his family's territory in Scotland.

Kilbourn Park

Named after Kilbourn Street, which honors a city in Wisconsin that is now more commonly known as water park dystopia Wisconsin Dells.

Kosciuszko Park

"The Land of Koz" was dedicated to Thadeuz Kosciuszko in 1916. Kosciuszko came from Poland to assist the Americans during the Revolutionary War and became a brigadier general.

Lake View

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Named for the Hotel Lake View, which was built in 1854 on what is now the convergence of Sheridan Road and Lake Shore Drive.

Lakewood Balmoral

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John Lewis Cochran—of Edgewater and Hollywood Park fame—purchased the land in 1885 and named the streets after train stops from outside his home town of Philadelphia (hence "Balmoral").

Lincoln Park

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Lincoln Park was originally a cemetery for cholera and smallpox victims. Shallow graves located so close to the city's water supply rightly raised some alarms, so Chicago began converting it into a massive park called "Lake Park" in the 1860s. After Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, the park was renamed in his honor.

Lincoln Square

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This area was originally known as "Celeryville" or "Pickletown" in the 1800s. At the time, proud farmers claimed that it was the celery capital of the United States (woohoo!). Eventually, the cluster of neighborhoods around Celeryville and Pickletown took the name of the main commuter road that ran through it, Lincoln Avenue.

Little Italy

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This area (also known as University Village for the UIC campus) was once home to nearly all of Chicago's Italian immigrant population.

Logan Square

A square located at the center of the neighborhood is dedicated to John A. Logan, a Civil War general and politician who is credited with popularizing Memorial Day.

The Loop

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Chicago's main business district is named for the circular route taken by the L lines that service it.

McKinley Park

This park was under development in 1901 when President McKinley was assassinated. The park and the neighborhood that surrounds it took his name.

Mount Greenwood

In 1879, George Waite developed Mount Greenwood cemetery and planted dense plots of beautiful trees. The surrounding area became known as Mount Greenwood too, and the neighborhood was annexed into Chicago in 1927.

New City

This neighborhood gets its name from University of Chicago sociologists who drew up boundaries for new community areas in the 1920s. Why "New City?" Because they're sociologists, not poets.

Noble Square

Named for civic leaders Mark and John Noble. The square that was built in the area was part of a controversial Department of Urban Renewal development that displaced many residents.

North Lawndale

Shortly after Cicero was incorporated into Chicago in 1869, Alden C. Millard and Edwin J. Decker quit their stationery business to develop real estate in this new area. They chose the name "Lawndale" and pumped money into the neighborhood by building a hotel, shops, and housing. The two were bankrupt by 1876.

North Park

The "park" this area refers to is Peterson Park (named after Swedish community leader Pehr Samuel Peterson), which was purchased by the city and turned into the Chicago Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium in 1911. While it doesn't sound like it'd be beautiful, the city purposely preserved the area's natural features to use as a buffer between the patients and the rest of the city. What is currently the Nature Center served as a Sanitarium building until the 1970s. The area remains lush because community activists successfully fought a plan to turn it into bland strip malls and condo buildings in the 1980s.

Norwood Park

This area—incorporated into Chicago in 1874—was named after Norwood, or Village Life in New England, a book by Henry Ward Beecher. You can read the novel here (feel free to leave your book report in the comments).

O'Hare

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O'Hare International Airport (and its surrounding neighborhood) was named after Edward "Butch" O'Hare, a Chicagoan and WWII Navy aviator. O'Hare received a Medal of Honor in 1942 for single-handedly attacking a squadron of advancing Japanese bombers while defending the Lexington. He was killed in battle a year later during a night interception mission. The city renamed Old Orchard Depot Airport for him (that's why the airport code is still "ORD").

His father, Edward J. O'Hare, was one of Al Capone's lawyers and advisors. The elder O'Hare eventually turned important information over to the government that helped send Capone to jail for tax evasion. In 1939, Edward J. was assassinated by two shotgun-wielding henchmen on the West Side, near Douglas Park.

That info should give you plenty of small talk fodder for your next delay at O'Hare.

Old Town

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During World War II, the triangle made up by North Avenue, Clark Street, and Ogden Avenue was designated as a "neighborhood defense unit" by Chicago's Civil Defense Agency. After the war, the residents stayed closely bonded and threw community art fairs, calling them “Old Town Holidays.” The name "Old Town" stuck.

Palmer Square

This tiny area located within Logan Square is named for Potter Palmer, a successful early Chicago businessman who opened a dry goods store in 1852 and eventually sold it to Marshall Field.

Pill Hill

This rhyming South Side enclave was named for all the doctors who called the neighborhood home.

Pilsen

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Manufacturing jobs brought thousands of immigrants to this area in the 1870s. Many were Czechs, and they came to call the area "Plzeň" after the second-biggest city in West Bohemia. The name soon morphed into "Pilsen," which persevered.

Polish Downtown

Polish Downtown essentially served as a capital of sorts for Polish immigrants soon after they started moving to the United States. During WWI, the movement to create a free Poland was started and ran from this neighborhood.

Portage Park

Originally a park district (the park in the center of the neighborhood remains), this area is named for the nearby portage routes used by fur traders and Native Americans between the Des Plaines and Chicago Rivers.

Printer's Row

Printing and publishing houses dominated this area for a century, starting in the late 1800s. Most of the remaining buildings have since been converted to residential use.

Pulaski Park

This neighborhood within West Town is named after its park, which was dedicated to Casimir Pulaski, a Polish nobleman and cavalry commander who fought and died for the Americans during the Revolutionary War. Pulaski is a name that comes up a lot in Chicago, so study up on him.

Pullman

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Industrialist George Mortimer Pullman purchased 4000 acres of land south of Chicago to develop a town for the men and women who built his company's luxury railroad sleeping cars. Pullman Town was an initial success, offering workers affordable housing and providing a safe, private community away from the distractions of the city.

Soon, Pullman's paranoia took over, and residents were subjected to random house searches and draconian limits on free speech and worship. According to the Pullman State Historical Site, employees took to saying, "We are born in a Pullman house, fed from the Pullman shops, taught in the Pullman school, catechized in the Pullman Church, and when we die we shall go to the Pullman Hell."

After Pullman cut wages but kept rents at the same levels, workers went on strike and the Illinois Supreme Court ordered that Pullman Town be annexed into Chicago in 1898. George Mortimer Pullman died of a heart attack shortly thereafter.

Ravenswood

This neighborhood began as one of the city's first suburbs in 1868 when the Ravenswood Land Company, a group of businessmen and developers, started buying up land for residential use.

River North

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This area along the north branch of the Chicago River was known for years as "Smokey Hollow" because of the factories that linked to the waterway and nearby railroad tracks. After the area's main port moved in the 1920s, this riverside district became a seedy hub. Still, the location was desirable enough for eager developers, and in the 1970s, real estate mogul Albert Friedman thought to rename the area "River North." It worked, and yuppies eventually followed.

Riverdale

In 1835, George Dolton settled in this area alongside the Calumet River near a Potawatomi Indian reservation. He built a toll ferry, which became known as the "Riverdale Ferry." A bridge soon followed, and the area was called both "Dolton" and "Riverdale" for years as it became an industrial epicenter.

Rogers Park

Early settler Philip Rogers bought this lakeside land in 1836 for $1.25 an acre. His son-in-law Patrick L. Touhy developed the area and started its rise to the bustling residential community that would eventually be incorporated into Chicago.

Roscoe Village

While not 100 percent verified, it's assumed that this neighborhood name comes from John Lewis Cochran, again. Like Balmoral, Roscoe Street was probably named after a train stop outside of Philadelphia because Cochran's creativity was boundless—within the limits of Philadelphia train stations.

Roseland

Settled by Dutch farmers, this fertile and lush area full of flowers was dubbed "Roseland" in 1873 by James H. Bowen, the president of the Calumet and Chicago Canal and Dock Company.

Sauganash

Potawatomi chief Sauganash was born in Canada in 1780 to a Wyandot mother and an Irish father. Sauganash means "The Englishman." He moved to Chicago in 1820 and became a prominent citizen during the city's early days and was elected a justice of the peace. The government granted him a 1200-acre reservation along the Chicago River, and part of this area bears his name to this day.

Sheridan Park

Sheridan Park was named in honor of Civil War hero Philip Henry Sheridan in 1912. Sheridan was a successful Union Army cavalry commander and was the subject of Thomas Buchanan Read's poem "Sheridan's Ride."

Smith Park

Named for 32nd ward Alderman Joseph Higgins Smith in 1929 (who was the alderman of the area from 1914 to 1933).

South Deering

This area was originally named "Irondale" for its many steel mills. The village was bought up in 1902 by the International Harvester Company and further developed by the Deering Harvester Company, who inspired the new name.

Streeterville

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"Cap" George Wellington Streeter was a boat captain along the Mississippi River and a classic, big-time jerk. Legend has it that he and his wife "Ma" Streeter were cruising in their boat around Lake Michigan in 1886 when they hit a sandbar. (Others maintain Streeter deliberately crashed his boat into the shoreline.) Perfectly comfortable in their precarious position, the couple decided to stay put.

Silt accumulated around the ship and soon a land bridge connected them to Chicago. At that time, the city was filling in the lake in that area to build Lake Shore Drive. Cap Streeter was having none of Chicago's crap and he defended the swampy dump around his boat with a shotgun. Aided by the liquid courage he was known to pull from liberally, "Cap" had multiple standoffs with authorities before finally being arrested and tried.

Despite having the land stripped from him by the court, Cap had the last laugh: The neighborhood is named after him to this day.

Stony Island

Tens of thousands of years ago, glacial runoff formed Lake Chicago, which spread over the entirety of the modern-day city. Stony Island was an actual rocky island that eventually poked to the surface when the waters began to recede. In the 1920s, the "island" (which was just a boulder-covered hill) was destroyed to make way for drainage systems and a road, which is all that remains.

Tri-Taylor

The triangular convergence of avenues at the western end of Taylor Street gives the area the name "Tri-Taylor."

Ukrainian Village

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After the Great Fire, this area was mainly inhabited by German immigrants. In the early 20th century, Russian, Ukrainian, and other European residents started to call the neighborhood home, and by the end of WWI it was primarily an enclave for Ukrainians. In 1983, Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne designated Ukrainian Village as an "official neighborhood," the first such location in Chicago to receive this honor.

Uptown

For most of Chicago's early history, this neighborhood was the northern terminus for commercial rail lines. It became a popular shopping destination, and wealthy Chicagoans soon flocked to the area and bought up residential property.

Wacławowo

Like its neighbor Jackowo, Wacławowo is named for the local parish, St. Wenceslaus Church (Kościół Świętego Wacława in Polish).

West Lawn

Real estate developers James Webb and John F. Eberhart founded West Lawn on sprawling marshy lands in 1877. The village was annexed to Chicago in 1889.

Wicker Park

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Brothers Charles G. and Joel H. Wicker owned a subdivision in Chicago and in 1870 they gave a small area of it to the city. It was sectioned off so cattle couldn't graze on the fertile land, and soon a neighborhood sprouted around the park, which took its name from the men who donated it.

Wrigleyville

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This neighborhood is named after Wrigley Field, which was itself named after gum magnate and Chicago Cubs owner William Wrigley in 1926. While the area is known for its crowded bars and young, rowdy revelers, the Cubs themselves are all business and signs point to this being their year.*

*This will not be their year.

We're slowly working our way across the country. See how the neighborhoods in other cities got their names.

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Weird
The Long, Strange Story of Buffalo Bill's Corpse
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You probably know William Frederick Cody, a.k.a. Buffalo Bill, as the long-haired Wild West icon who turned the frontier experience into rip-roarin’ entertainment. But the story of Buffalo Bill’s body and its many burials is almost as outrageous as the man himself.

When Cody died of kidney failure in January 1917, his body ended up on a mountain outside of Denver, Colorado—a counterintuitive choice given his close ties to the town in Wyoming that bore his last name. Cody, Wyoming was founded in the 1890s with help from Buffalo Bill, who employed many of its residents and was responsible for its tourism business. It might seem natural that he’d be buried in the place he’d invested so much in, but he wasn’t. And that’s where the controversy began.

Though Cody spent much of his time in the town named after him, he also loved Colorado. After leaving his family in Kansas when he was just 11 to work with wagon trains throughout the West, he headed to Colorado for the first time as a 13-year-old wannabe gold prospector. During his short time in the area, he chased the glittery fortunes promised by Colorado’s 1859 gold rush. Even after leaving the territory, his traveling vaudeville show, which brought a glamorous taste of Wild West life to people all over the United States, took him back often. Later in life, he frequently visited Denver, where his sister lived. He died there, too—after telling his wife he wanted to be buried on Lookout Mountain.

The mountain, located in Golden, Colorado, has a commanding view of the Great Plains, where Buffalo Bill experienced many of his Wild West adventures. It was also a place to contemplate the giant herds of buffalo that once roamed the West, and from whom Cody took his nickname. (Denver still maintains a small herd of buffalo—direct descendants of original American bison—near the mountain.)

But weather almost thwarted Cody’s burial plans. Since he died in January, the road to Lookout Mountain was impassable and his preferred burial site frozen solid. For a while, his body lay in state in the Colorado Capitol building. Governors and famous friends eulogized Cody in an elaborate funeral service. Then his body was placed in a carriage that moved solemnly through the streets of Denver, where thousands showed up to say goodbye. Afterwards, his body was kept in cold storage at a Denver mortuary while his family waited for the weather to change.

Meanwhile, Colorado and Wyoming started a heated feud over one of America’s most famous men. Wyoming claimed that Cody should be buried there, citing an early draft of his will that said he intended to be buried near Cody. Colorado cried foul, since Cody’s last will left the burial location up to his widow, who chose Lookout Mountain. Rumors even began to circulate that a delegation from Wyoming had stolen Cody’s body from the mortuary and replaced it with that of a local vagrant.

In part to stop the rumor mill, Cody was finally buried in an open casket on Lookout Mountain in June 1917. Twenty-five thousand people went to the mountaintop to bid him farewell before he was interred. To prevent theft, the bronze casket was sealed in another, tamper-proof case, then enclosed in concrete and iron.

Pennies on Buffalo Bill's grave
V.T. Polywoda, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Yet his rocky grave was anything but safe. In the 1920s, Cody’s niece, Mary Jester Allen, began to claim that Denver had conspired to tamper with Cody’s will. In response, Cody’s foster son, Johnny Baker, disinterred the body and had it reburied at the same site under tons of concrete to prevent potential theft [PDF]. (Allen also founded a museum in Wyoming to compete with a Colorado-based museum founded by Baker.)

The saga wasn’t over yet. In 1948, the Cody, Wyoming American Legion offered a $10,000 reward to anyone who could disinter the body and return it to Wyoming. In response, the Colorado National Guard stationed officers to keep watch over the grave.

Since then, the tussle over the remains has calmed down. Despite a few ripples—like a jokey debate in the Wyoming legislature about stealing the body in 2006—Buffalo Bill still remains in the grave. If you believe the official story, that is. In Cody, Wyoming, rumor has it that he never made it into that cement-covered tomb after all—proponents claim he was buried on Cedar Mountain, where he originally asked to be interred.

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science
15 Riveting Facts About Alan Turing
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More than six decades after his death, Alan Turing’s life remains a point of fascination, even for people who have no interest in his groundbreaking work in computer science. He has been the subject of a play and an opera, and referenced in multiple novels and numerous musical albums. The Benedict Cumberbatch film about his life, The Imitation Game, received eight Oscar nominations. But just who was he in real life? Here are 15 facts you should know about Alan Turing.

1. HE’S THE FATHER OF MODERN COMPUTER SCIENCE.

Turing essentially pioneered the idea of computer memory. In 1936, Turing published a seminal paper called “On Computable Numbers” [PDF], which The Washington Post has called “the founding document of the computer age.” In the philosophical article, he hypothesized that one day, we could build machines that could compute any problem that a human could, using 0s and 1s. Turing proposed single-task machines called Turing machines that would be capable of solving just one type of math problem, but a “universal computer” would be able to tackle any kind of problem thrown at it by storing instructional code in the computer’s memory. Turing’s ideas about memory storage and using a single machine to carry out all tasks laid the foundation for what would become the digital computer.

In 1945, while working for the UK’s National Physical Laboratory, he came up with the Automatic Computing Machine, the first digital computer with stored programs. Previous computers didn’t have electric memory storage, and had to be manually rewired to switch between different programs.

2. HE PLAYED A HUGE ROLE IN WINNING WORLD WAR II.

Turing began working at Bletchley Park, Britain’s secret headquarters for its codebreakers during World War II, in 1939. By one estimate, his work there may have cut the war short by up to two years. He’s credited with saving millions of lives.

Turing immediately got to work designing a codebreaking machine called the Bombe (an update of a previous Polish machine) with the help of his colleague Gordon Welchman. The Bombe shortened the steps required in decoding, and 200 of them were built for British use over the course of the war. They allowed codebreakers to decipher up to 4000 messages a day.

His greatest achievement was cracking the Enigma, a mechanical device used by the German army to encode secure messages. It proved nearly impossible to decrypt without the correct cipher, which the German forces changed every day. Turing worked to decipher German naval communications at a point when German U-boats were sinking ships carrying vital supplies across the Atlantic between Allied nations. In 1941, Turing and his team managed to decode the German Enigma messages, helping to steer Allied ships away from the German submarine attacks. In 1942, he traveled to the U.S. to help the Americans with their own codebreaking work.

3. HE BROKE THE RULES TO WRITE TO CHURCHILL.

Early on, Bletchley Park’s operations were hampered by a lack of resources, but pleas for better staffing were ignored by government officials. So, Alan Turing and several other codebreakers at Bletchley Park went over their heads to write directly to Prime Minister Winston Churchill. One of the codebreakers from Bletchley Park delivered the letter by hand in October 1941.

“Our reason for writing to you direct is that for months we have done everything that we possibly can through the normal channels, and that we despair of any early improvement without your intervention,” they wrote to Churchill [PDF]. “No doubt in the long run these particular requirements will be met, but meanwhile still more precious months will have been wasted, and as our needs are continually expanding we see little hope of ever being adequately staffed.”

In response, Churchill immediately fired off a missive to his chief of staff: “Make sure they have all they want on extreme priority and report to me that this had been done.”

4. HE HAD SOME ODD HABITS.

Like many geniuses, Turing was not without his eccentricities. He wore a gas mask while riding his bike to combat his allergies. Instead of fixing his bike’s faulty chain, he learned exactly when to dismount to secure it in place before it slipped off. He was known around Bletchley Park for chaining his tea mug to a radiator to prevent it from being taken by other staffers.

5. HE RODE HIS BIKE 60 MILES TO GET TO THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL.

Though he was considered an average student, Turing was dedicated enough to his schooling that when a general strike prevented him from taking the train to his first day at his new elite boarding school, the 14-year-old rode his bike the 62 miles instead.

6. HE TRIED OUT FOR THE OLYMPICS.

Turing started running as a schoolboy and continued throughout his life, regularly running the 31 miles between Cambridge and Ely while he was a fellow at King’s College. During World War II, he occasionally ran the 40 miles between London and Bletchley Park for meetings.

He almost became an Olympic athlete, too. He came in fifth place at a qualifying marathon for the 1948 Olympics with a 2-hour, 46-minute finish (11 minutes slower than the 1948 Olympic marathon winner). However, a leg injury held back his athletic ambitions that year.

Afterward, he continued running for the Walton Athletic Club, though, and served as its vice president. ”I have such a stressful job that the only way I can get it out of my mind is by running hard,” he once told the club’s secretary. “It's the only way I can get some release."

7. HE WAS PROSECUTED FOR BEING GAY.

In 1952, Turing was arrested after reporting a burglary in his home. In the course of the investigation, the police discovered Turing’s relationship with another man, Arnold Murray. Homosexual relationships were illegal in the UK at the time, and he was charged with “gross indecency.” He pled guilty on the advice of his lawyer, and opted to undergo chemical castration instead of serving time in jail.

8. THE GOVERNMENT ONLY RECENTLY APOLOGIZED FOR HIS CONVICTION …

In 2009, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a public apology to Turing on behalf of the British government. “Alan and the many thousands of other gay men who were convicted as he was convicted under homophobic laws were treated terribly,” Brown said. "This recognition of Alan's status as one of Britain's most famous victims of homophobia is another step towards equality and long overdue." Acknowledging Britain’s debt to Turing for his vital contributions to the war effort, he announced, “on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan's work I am very proud to say: we're sorry, you deserved so much better."

His conviction was not actually pardoned, though, until 2013, when he received a rare royal pardon from the Queen of England.

9. … AND NAMED A LAW AFTER HIM.

Turing was only one of the many men who suffered after being prosecuted for their homosexuality under 19th-century British indecency laws. Homosexuality was decriminalized in the UK in 1967, but the previous convictions were never overturned. Turing’s Law, which went into effect in 2017, posthumously pardoned men who had been convicted for having consensual gay sex before the repeal. According to one of the activists who campaigned for the mass pardons, around 15,000 of the 65,000 gay men convicted under the outdated law are still alive.

10. HE POISONED HIMSELF … MAYBE.

There is still a bit of mystery surrounding Turing’s death at the age of 41. Turing died of cyanide poisoning, in what is widely believed to have been a suicide. Turing’s life had been turned upside down by his arrest. He lost his job and his security clearance. By order of the court, he had to take hormones intended to “cure” his homosexuality, which caused him to grow breasts and made him impotent. But not everyone is convinced that he died by suicide.

In 2012, Jack Copeland, a Turing scholar, argued that the evidence used to declare Turing’s death a suicide in 1954 would not be sufficient to close the case today. The half-eaten apple by his bedside, thought to be the source of his poisoning, was never tested for cyanide. There was still a to-do list on his desk, and his friends told the coroner at the time that he had seemed in good spirits. Turing’s mother, in fact, maintained that he probably accidentally poisoned himself while experimenting with the chemical in his home laboratory. (He was known to taste chemicals while identifying them, and could be careless with safety precautions.)

That line of inquiry is far more tame than some others, including one author’s theory that he was murdered by the FBI to cover up information that would have been damaging to the U.S.

11. HIS FULL GENIUS WASN’T KNOWN IN HIS LIFETIME.

Alan Turing was a well-respected mathematician in his time, but his contemporaries didn’t know the full extent of his contributions to the world. Turing’s work breaking the Enigma machine remained classified long after his death, meaning that his contributions to the war effort and to mathematics were only partially known to the public during his lifetime. It wasn’t until the 1970s that his instrumental role in the Allies' World War II victory became public with the declassification of the Enigma story. The actual techniques Turing used to decrypt the messages weren’t declassified until 2013, when two of his papers from Bletchley Park were released to the British National Archives.

12. THE TURING TEST IS STILL USED TO MEASURE ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE …

Can a machine fool a human into thinking they are chatting with another person? That’s the crux of the Turing test, an idea developed by Turing in 1950 regarding how to measure artificial intelligence. Turing argued in his paper “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” [PDF] that the idea of machines “thinking” is not a useful way to evaluate artificial intelligence. Instead, Turing suggests “the imitation game,” a way to assess how successfully a machine can imitate human behavior. The best measure of artificial intelligence, then, is whether or not a computer can convince a person that it is human.

13. … BUT SOME CONSIDER IT TO BE AN OUTDATED IDEA.

As technology has progressed, some feel the Turing test is no longer a useful way to measure artificial intelligence. It’s cool to think about computers being able to talk just like a person, but new technology is opening up avenues for computers to express intelligence in other, more useful ways. A robot’s intelligence isn’t necessarily defined by whether it can fake being human—self-driving cars or programs that can mimic sounds based on images might not pass the Turing test, but they certainly have intelligence.

14. HE CREATED THE FIRST COMPUTER CHESS PROGRAM.

Inspired by the chess champions he worked with at Bletchley Park, Alan Turing created an algorithm for an early version of computer chess—although at that time, there was no computer to try it out on. Created with paper and pencil, the Turochamp program was designed to think two moves ahead, picking out the best moves possible. In 2012, Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov played against Turing’s algorithm, beating it in 16 moves. “I would compare it to an early caryou might laugh at them but it is still an incredible achievement," Kasparov said in a statement after the match-up.

15. THERE IS ALAN TURING MONOPOLY.

In 2012, Monopoly came out with an Alan Turing edition to celebrate the centennial of his birth. Turing had enjoyed playing Monopoly during his life, and the Turing-themed Monopoly edition was designed based on a hand-drawn board created in 1950 by his friend William Newman. Instead of hotels and houses, it featured huts and blocks inspired by Bletchley Park, and included never-before-published photos of Turing. (It’s hard to find, but there are still a few copies of the game on Amazon.)

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