The Wrigley Building, located at 400–410 North Michigan Avenue, is an iconic Chicago skyscraper. It is positioned across from the Tribune Tower on what is commonly referred to as the Magnificent Mile.
Courtesy of Stuart J. Fischer, MD, FAAOS

AAOS Now

Published 3/22/2022
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Stuart J. Fischer, MD, FAAOS

My Kind of Town … Chicago Is

Editor’s note: This article is the first in a two-part series about the AAOS 2022 Annual Meeting host city. Part 2 will appear in the Wednesday edition.

Welcome to Chicago! With a population of 2.7 million, Chicago is the third-largest city in the United States.

This year is the 24th time AAOS is holding its Annual Meeting in the Windy City. The most recent meetings held in Chicago were in 2006 and 2013. The city was selected in 2006 because the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center was unable to hold the meeting due to damage from Hurricane Katrina. In 2013, there were more than 31,000 attendees and John R. Tongue, MD, was president.

AAOS has a long history with Chicago. The Academy’s first Annual Meeting was held in January 1933 at Northwestern University with fewer than 50 orthopaedic surgeons in attendance. AAOS and the Annual Meeting have grown since then.

Interestingly, the term “Windy City” was actually coined elsewhere. When Chicago was competing with New York to host the World’s Columbian Exposition in the 1890s, a New York Times reporter, Charles Dana, wrote, “Don’t pay any attention to the nonsensical claims of that Windy City.” Surprisingly, Chicago, with an average wind speed of 10.4 mph, doesn’t even make the National Climate Data Center’s list of America’s top 10 windiest cities.

McCormick Place, site of the Annual Meeting, was completed in 1960 and named after Col. Robert McCormick, the editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune. With four buildings on Lake Michigan and more than 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space, it is the largest convention center in the United States.

Conventions have played a big role in Chicago’s history. The city has hosted 26 presidential nominating conventions, more than any other city in the country. Fourteen were Republican, 11 Democrat, and one Bull Moose which nominated Theodore Roosevelt as a third-party candidate in 1912.

Perhaps the most important convention was the 1860 Republican convention, which nominated Abraham Lincoln. The convention met in a wooden structure known as the Wigwam, which could hold 10,000 people. As was the custom of the day, Lincoln did not attend the convention even though he was in Illinois. The Wigwam was demolished several years later, but a monument commemorates its site at the corner of Lake Street and North Wacker Drive.

Chicago was also the site of the first “smoke-filled room,” Suite 915 at the Blackstone Hotel. The Republican convention of 1920 remained deadlocked after multiple ballots. On the night of July 11, party bosses met at the Blackstone to break the impasse. When they emerged at 4 a.m., smoke blew out of the room and United Press reporter Raymond Clapper wrote, “In a smoke-filled room, Warren G. Harding had been nominated as the next Republican nominee for president.”

The Blackstone was the site of even more political intrigue. In 1944, Harry Truman met with party bosses to discuss his possible nomination as President Roosevelt’s vice president in the general election. Truman, however, was reluctant. In a now famous phone call, Roosevelt screamed at the group, “You tell him if he wants to break up the Democratic Party in the middle of the war and maybe lose that war that’s up to him.” Truman, of course, accepted the nomination. The rest is history.

The Palmer House, a few blocks from the Blackstone, is well known to orthopaedic surgeons who have had to go there to take their boards. Many of us have memories of sitting in the ornate second-floor lobby, nervously anticipating the exam.

The Palmer House is the oldest continuously operating hotel in the country. It was built as a grand hotel in 1871 but was then destroyed 13 days later in the Great Chicago Fire. The hotel was rebuilt and finally opened in 1873. Arguably, the most famous thing to come from the Palmer House was a rich, chocolate fudge dessert topped with almonds and apricot glaze created by the owner’s wife, Bertha Palmer, so that it would fit inside a box lunch. The dessert, which was a big hit at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, was later named the “brownie.”

The Empire Room of the Palmer House is where a young “boy singer” with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Francis Albert Sinatra, got his first big break on a national stage. Years later, Sinatra would record the two most popular songs about Chicago (“My Kind of Town” from 1964’s Robin and the 7 Hoods and “Chicago, Chicago” from 1957’s The Joker Is Wild).

Besides brownies, several other refreshments made their first appearance at the Exposition, including Cracker Jacks, Juicy Fruit gum, and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. Twinkies were created in Chicago in 1930 and Chicago-style deep-dish pizza was first served at Pizzeria Uno in 1943.

In the 1920s, pharmacist Charles Walgreen added the original chocolate malted milkshake to his counter menu at his Chicago drug stores. During that time, he also expanded his business from 20 stores in the Chicago area to almost 500 across the country. In a small coincidence of history, Walgreen got his start in Dixon, Ill., Ronald Reagan’s hometown.

Chicago has a rich sports history with a list of athletes that includes Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Ernie Banks, Walter Payton, Bobby Hull, and even “Shoeless” Joe Jackson of Black Sox fame. Soldier Field sits just across from the Field Museum in Grant Park. Soldier Field was built in 1924 to honor American soldiers who died at war. In 1927, the largest crowd ever to watch a college football game—123,000 people—gathered to witness Notre Dame beat the University of Southern California.

The Chicago Bears, along with the Arizona Cardinals (then called the Chicago Cardinals), are the oldest franchise in the NFL. The Bears moved from Wrigley Field to Soldier Field in 1971. A stadium renovation in 2003 preserved the classic exterior façade and columns but redesigned the interior of the stadium. As a result, Soldier Field now has the smallest capacity of any NFL stadium.

Like the Bears, baseball’s Chicago Cubs are one of the oldest sports franchises (existing since 1870) and play in the second-oldest ballpark in the country. Wrigley Field, built in 1914, was named after Cubs owner and chewing gum magnate William Wrigley. The park is famous for its ivy-covered outfield walls, hand-turned scoreboard, red marquee above the entrance, and the roofs of neighboring apartment buildings where spectators can bring binoculars and watch the game.

Wrigley Field was the last baseball stadium to install lights, so no night games were played there until 1988. For many years the Cubs were considered a symbol of sports futility because they went from 1908 to 2016 without winning a World Series. But, as longtime Cubs broadcaster Jack Brickhouse explained, “Any team can have a bad century.”

A lot is happening in Chicago. Enjoy the meeting but take some time to enjoy the city, too. The famous Chicago architect Frank Lloyd Wright once said, “Eventually, I think Chicago will be the most beautiful great city left in the world.”

Stuart J. Fischer, MD, FAAOS, is an orthopaedic surgeon in private practice in Summit, N.J. Dr. Fischer serves on the AAOS Membership Council, Board of Councilors, and Committee on Evidence-based Quality and Value.