Chicago Quotes

Lots of people have lots to say about Chicago.

People have a lot to say about Chicago, and for good reason.

It’s a complex metropolitan city with Midwestern character and a history filled with interesting characters. Whether you love it or hate it, here are Chicago quotes from writers, artists, politicians, and innovators.

Chicago Quotes

“Chicago’s neighborhoods have always been the city’s greatest strength.” Jane Byrne

"I adore Chicago. It is the pulse of America." Sarah Bernhardt - read this and more quotes about Chicago

“I adore Chicago. It is the pulse of America.” Sarah Bernhardt

“Blessed are the people of Chicago, and blessed the strangers in their midst, in the article of malt liquor; for it is excellent, it is honest, and it is abundant.”

Parton, James “Chicago.” Atlantic Monthly, v. 19, March, 1867

“It is the most perfect presentation of nineteenth-century individualistic industrialism I have ever seen. Chicago is one hoarse cry for discipline.” H. G. Wells

"It’s a 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes; it’s dark and we’re wearing sun glasses. Hit it!" The Blues Brothers - quote about Chicago

“It’s a 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes; it’s dark and we’re wearing sun glasses. Hit it!” The Blues Brothers

“Out in Chicago, the only genuinely civilized city in the New World, they take the fine arts seriously and get into such frets and excitements about them as are raised no where else save by baseball, murder, political treachery, foreign wars, and romantic loves . . . almost one fancies the world bumped by a flying asteroid, and the Chicago River suddenly turned into the Seine.” Henry Mencken in The Smart Set

“Chicago still remains a Mecca of the Midwest—people from both coasts are kind of amazed how good life is in Chicago, and what a good culture we’ve got. You can have a pretty wonderful artistic life and never leave Chicago.” Harold Ramis

A stranger visiting Chicago, seems to enter into a new world.

Chicago: A Hand Book for Strangers & Tourists to the City of Chicago; Containing Historical Retrospect … Descriptions of the Public Buildings, Churches … Chicago: Halpin, Hayes & McClure, 1869.

“One of the hallmarks of Chicago is that we do so many things in an original manner. What other city has made a river flow backwards? What other city makes traffic flow backwards?” Mike Royko

“Perhaps the most typically American place in America.” James Bryce, 1888 - Quotes about Chicago

“Perhaps the most typically American place in America.” James Bryce, 1888

“No realistic, sane person goes around Chicago without protection.” Saul Bellow

“The Chicago Tribune has come out against syphilis. Bet you 8 to 5 syphilis will win.” Anonymous, 1940

“Chicago is an October sort of city even in spring.” Nelson Algren, Newsweek, August 13, 1984

Quotes about Chicago - Loving Chicago is like loving a woman with a broken nose - Nelson Algren

“Loving Chicago is like loving a woman with a broken nose.” Nelson Algren

“I’m a little hoarse tonight. I’ve been living in Chicago for the past two months, and you know how it is, yelling for help on the way home every night. Things are so tough in Chicago that at Easter time, for bunnies the little kids use porcupines.” Fred Allen, Much Ado About Me, 1956

“Sharks are as tough as those football fans who take their shirts off during games in Chicago in January, only more intelligent.” Dave Barry “Sex and the Single Amoeba: What Every Teen Should Know”

“I am going to St. Petersburg, Florida, tomorrow. Let the worthy citizens of Chicago get their liquor the best they can. I’m sick of the job–it’s a thankless one and full of grief. I’ve been spending the best years of my life as a public benefactor.” Al Capone, 1927

“Chicago is a city of contradictions, of private visions haphazardly overlaid and linked together. If the city was unhappy with itself yesterday-and invariably it was-it will reinvent itself today.” Pat Colander “A Metropolis of No Little Plans” NY Times 5 May 85

“I miss everything about Chicago, except January and February.” Gary Cole

“Could anything be more indicative of a slight but general insanity than the aspect of the crowd on the streets of Chicago?” Charles Horton Cooley “Human Nature and the Social Order,” 1902

“Chicago is the product of modern capitalism, and, like other great commercial centers, is unfit for human habitation.” Eugene Debs, 1908

“That’s great advertising when you can turn Chicago into a city you’d want to spend more than three hours in.” Jerry Della Femina

“There’s only one thing for Chicago to do, and that’s to move to a better neighborhood.” Herman Fetzer

“Chicago, Chicago, that toddlin’ town.” Fred Fisher “Chicago,” (1922)

“You walk out of the Amphitheatre after watching the Rolling Stones perform and suddenly the Chicago Stockyards smell clean and good by comparison.” Tom Fitzpatrick

More quotes about Chicago

"A facade of skyscrapers facing a lake and behind the facade, every type of dubiousness." E.M. Forster

“A facade of skyscrapers facing a lake and behind the facade, every type of dubiousness.” E.M. Forster

“I don’t have any great love for Chicago. What the hell, a childhood around Douglas Park isn’t very memorable. I remember the street fights and how you were afraid to cross the bridge ’cause the Irish kid on the other side would beat your head in. I left Chicago a long time ago.” “King of Swing” Benny Goodman, 1976

“A lot of real Chicago lives in the neighborhood taverns. It is the mixed German and Irish and Polish gift to the city, a bit of the old country grafted into a strong new plant in the new.” Bill Granger, 1983

“In most places in the country, voting is looked upon as a right and a duty, but in Chicago it’s a sport. In Chicago not only your vote counts, but all kinds of other votes–kids, dead folks, and so on.” Dick Gregory, Dick Gregory’s Political Primer, 1972

“The last copy of the Chicago Daily News I picked up had three crime stories on its front page. But by comparison to the gaudy days, this is small-time stuff. Chicago is as full of crooks as a saw with teeth, but the era when they ruled the city is gone forever.” John Gunther, Inside U.S.A, 1947

“Chicago sounds rough to the maker of verse. One comfort we have — Cincinnati sounds worse.” Oliver Wendell Holmes, January, 1880

“I think that’s how Chicago got started. A bunch of people in New York said, ‘Gee, I’m enjoying the crime and the poverty, but it just isn’t cold enough. Let’s go west.’” Richard Jeni

“I have struck a city – a real city – and they call it Chicago. . . . I urgently desire never to see it again. It is inhabited by savages.” Rudyard Kipling, 1891

“I’ve reported murders, scandals, marriages, premieres and national political conventions. I’ve been amused, intrigued, outraged, enthralled and exasperated by Chicago. And I’ve come to love this American giant, viewing it as the most misunderstood, most underrated city in the world. There is none other quite like my City of Big Shoulders.” Irv Kupcinet, who began Kup’s Column in 1941

“Chicago – a pompous Milwaukee.” Leonard Louis Levinson

"Chicago seems a big city instead of merely a large place." A. J. Liebling, first to designate Chicago "The Second City," 1949

“Chicago seems a big city instead of merely a large place.” A. J. Liebling, first to designate Chicago “The Second City,” 1949

“Chicago was a town where nobody could forget how the money was made. It was picked up from floors still slippery with blood.” Norman Mailer, Miami and the Siege of Chicago, 1968

“New York is one of the capitals of the world and Los Angeles is a constellation of plastic, San Francisco is a lady, Boston has become Urban Renewal, Philadelphia and Baltimore and Washington wink like dull diamonds in the smog of Eastern Megalopolis, and New Orleans is unremarkable past the French Quarter. Detroit is a one-trade town, Pittsburgh has lost its golden triangle, St. Louis has become the golden arch of the corporation, and nights in Kansas City close early. The oil depletion allowance makes Houston and Dallas naught but checkerboards for this sort of game. But Chicago is a great American city. Perhaps it is the last of the great American cities.” Norman Mailer, Miami and the Siege of Chicago, 1968

“I like to go to Marshall Field’s in Chicago just to see how many things there are in the world that I do not want.” Mother Mary Madeleva, My First Seventy Years, 1959

“There was no need to inform us of the protocol involved. We were from Chicago and knew all about cement.” Groucho Marx, pressing his hands into the cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood

“I give you Chicago. It is not London and Harvard. It is not Paris and buttermilk. It is American in every chitling and sparerib. It is alive from snout to tail.” H. L. Mencken

“Chicago is unique. It is the only completely corrupt city in America.” Charles Merriam, unsuccessful mayoral candidate in 1911

“Anywhere in the world you hear a Chicago bluesman play, it’s a Chicago sound born and bred.” Ralph Metcalfe

“Hell has been described as a pocket edition of Chicago.” Ashley Montagu “The American Way Of Life,” 1967

“Gigantic, willful, young, Chicago sitteth at the northwest gates.” William Vaughn Moody “An Ode in Time of Hesitation,” 1901

“Chicago has a strange metaphysical elegance of death about it.” Claes Oldenburg

“There are almost no beautiful cities in America, though there are many beautiful parts of cities, and some sections that are glorious without being beautiful, like downtown Chicago. Cities are too big and too rich for beauty; they have outgrown themselves too many times.” Noel Perrin, Third Person Rural, 1983

“It is wonderful to be here in the great state of Chicago…” Dan Quayle

“It’s one of the most progressive cities in the world. Shooting is only a sideline.” Will Rogers, June 22, 1930

“Here is the difference between Dante, Milton, and me. They wrote about hell and never saw the place. I wrote about Chicago after looking the town over for years and years.” Carl Sandburg, in Harry Golden, Carl Sandburg, 1961

“Hog butcher for the world,
Tool maker, stacker of wheat,
Player with railroads and the nation’s freight handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of big shoulders.”
Carl Sandburg, “Chicago,” 1916

"In the twilight, it was a vision of power." Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

“In the twilight, it was a vision of power.” Upton Sinclair, “The Jungle”

“First in violence, deepest in dirt, lawless, unlovely, ill-smelling, irreverent, new; an overgrown gawk of a village, the “tough” among cities, a spectacle for the nation.” Lincoln Steffens, “The Shame of the Cities,” 1904

“Chicago will give you a chance. The sporting spirit is the spirit of Chicago.” Lincoln Steffens “The Autobiography of Lincoln Steffens,” 1931

“Chicago is not the most corrupt American city. It’s the most theatrically corrupt.” Studs Terkel, 1978

“Satan (impatiently) to Newcomer: The trouble with you Chicago people is, that you think you are the best people down here; whereas you are merely the most numerous.” Mark Twain “Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar,” 1897

“We struck the home trail now, and in a few hours were in that astonishing Chicago–a city where they are always rubbing a lamp, and fetching up the genii, and contriving and achieving new impossibilities. It is hopeless for the occasional visitor to try to keep up with Chicago–she outgrows her prophecies faster than she can make them. She is always a novelty; for she is never the Chicago you saw when you passed through the last time.” Mark Twain “Life on the Mississippi,” 1883

“Chicago, mistress of the lakes,
Controller of our inland trade,
The freest city of our states,
What wondrous strides thy fame has made!”
Charles Frederick White “To Chicago”

“Your machinery is beautiful. Your society people have apologized to me for the envious ridicule with which your newspapers have referred to me. Your newspapers are comic but never amusing. Your Water Tower is a castellated monstrosity with pepperboxes stuck all over it. I am amazed that any people could so abuse Gothic art and make a structure not like a water tower but like a tower of a medieval castle. It should be torn down. It is a shame to spend so much money on buildings with such an unsatisfactory result. Your city looks positively dreary.”
Oscar Wilde, February 13, 1882

“My first day in Chicago, September 4, 1983. I set foot in this city, and just walking down the street, it was like roots, like the motherland. I knew I belonged here.” Oprah Winfrey

“Germany was the cause of Hitler as much as Chicago is responsible for the Chicago Tribune.” Alexander Woollcott, 1943

“Then stand to your glasses steady
And drink to your comrade’s eyes
Here’s a toast to the dead already
And hurrah for the next who dies.”
Drinking song popularized by Chicago reporters at the Whitechapel Club, Chicago’s informal version of Washington’s Gridiron Club

“Chicago is a sort of journalistic Yellowstone Park, offering haven to a last herd of fantastic bravos.” Ben Hecht

“In Chicago, we may not think the Picasso presiding over the Richard J. Daley Center plaza is art, but we know it’s a big Picasso and it’s the city’s Picasso, and when the Cubs made the play-offs, the sculpture wore a baseball cap just like everything else.” Pat Colander

“Chicago ain’t no sissy town.” Michael Hinky Dink Kenna

“Maybe we can show government how to operate better as a result of better architecture. Eventually, I think Chicago will be the most beautiful great city left in the world.” Frank Lloyd Wright (1939)

“You know what they say about Chicago. If you don’t like the weather, wait fifteen minutes.” Ralph Kiner

“Nor is it out of character that Chicago’s grandest achievement- a largely manmade arc of lakefront parks and beaches – began as a mistake, from waste thrown into Lake Michigan – a 75-year-old dump.” Pat Colander

“This has been the remarkable thing about the fans in Chicago, they keep drawing an average of a million-three a year, and, when the season’s over and they’ve won their usual seventy-one games, you feel that those fans deserve a medal.” Harry Caray

“My uncle was the town drunk-and we lived in Chicago.” George Gobel

“I’d rather be a lamppost in Chicago than a millionaire in any other city.” William A. Hulbert

“If you’ve never met a student from the University of Chicago, I’ll describe him to you. If you give him a glass of water, he says, “This is a glass of water. But is it a glass of water? And if it is a glass of water, why is it a glass of water?” And eventually he dies of thirst.” Shelley Berman

“I cannot watch the city of Chicago be destroyed by petty politics and bad government.” Harold Washington

“In some Chicago neighborhoods, looking for a parking space is not unlike panning for gold.” Gary Washburn

“Chicago Cubs fans are ninety percent scar tissue.” George F. Will

“I’m impressed with the people from Chicago. Hollywood is hype. New York is talk. Chicago is work.” Michael Douglas

“A Chicago alderman once confessed he needed physical exercise but didn’t like jogging, because in that sport you couldn’t hit anyone.” Andrew H. Malcolm

“But when I go to Chicago, I know I’m home.” Hank Sauer

“The joy of working with the Chicago Symphony was immeasureable.” Georg Solti

“Chicago is one city. We shall work as one people for our common good and our common goals.” Harold Washington

“Going to Chicago was like going out of the world…” Muddy Waters

"When you feel like tellin a feller to go to the devil — tell him to go to Chicago — it’ll anser every purpose, and is perhaps, a leetle more expensive." Mark Twain

“When you feel like tellin a feller to go to the devil — tell him to go to Chicago — it’ll anser every purpose, and is perhaps, a leetle more expensive.” Mark Twain

Check out these tips on saving money in Chicago

“Welcome to Chicago. This town stinks like a whorehouse at low tide.” David Mamet

“I warn you, Jedediah, you’re not going to like it in Chicago. The wind comes howling in off the lake and gosh only knows if they ever heard of lobster Newburg.” Orson Welles as Citizen Kane

“We’re Chicago – we can do anything, damn it.” Elva Rupio, Gensler Chicago

“I love Chicago; it is unique in the world. So much intellect, so many artistic voices – it has fantastic potential (as an Olympic candidate).” Jerome Sans, Director Ullens Center, Beijing

“It’s one of the greatest cities on the planet. My heart beats differently when I’m in Chicago. It slows down and I feel more at ease.” Jeremy Piven

“The only actor who I think probably might have possibly taken a swing at me if he could have would be Burt Reynolds. He used to call Roger and me the Bruise Brothers, out of Chicago.” Gene Siskel 

“The people of Chicago are a proud people – and for good reason.” Jane Byrne

“Theater in Chicago will always be my first love.” William Petersen

“You’d never think of taking a cab if you had to walk a mile down Chicago’s Michigan Avenue.” Helmut Jahn

“After that, I started going downtown and doing a lot of theater shows in Chicago. When you go downtown there, it’s like you’re in New York, it’s like going to Broadway. ” Kel Mitchell

“After three years in Chicago, I decided to call it a career.”  Ted Lindsay

“And then when I went to Chicago, that’s when I had these outer space experiences and went to the other planets.”  Sun Ra

“Because Chicago was to radio what Hollywood was to films and Broadway was to the theatre: it was the hub of radio.” Mel Torme

“Being Irish was a big thing for me, particularly growing up in Chicago.” Lara Flynn Boyle

“Bud Johnson, God rest his soul of fame, a tenor saxophonist. Bud was always a big, big, big booster of mine and he always when I first met Bud in Pittsburgh when he came through there, he heard me sing and he wanted me to come to Chicago.” Billy Eckstine

“Why would they pick this and not anything else? How about veal? How about chicken? How about steak? Beef? How about fish?… All of a sudden you can question any type, basically, anything that can be served in a restaurant. The poor snails and the mussels and the shrimp. I could go on and on. The lobsters.” Mayor Richard Daley in the Chicago Tribune talking about the ban on foie gras

“The most beautiful modern city in the world is Chicago. I always visit the Art Institute, walk on Lake Shore Drive and take the architecture boat ride. The Chicago Tribune building is one of my favorites.” Nicola Bulgari

“Chicago divided your heart. Leaving you loving the joint for keeps. Yet knowing it never can love you.” Nelson Algren, Chicago: City on the Make

“Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning…proud to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.” Carl Sandburg

“The great trains howling from track to track all night. The taut and telegraphic murmur of ten thousand city wires, drawn most cruelly against a city sky. The rush of city waters, beneath the city streets. The passionate passing of the night's last El.” Nelson Algren, Never Come Morning

“The great trains howling from track to track all night. The taut and telegraphic murmur of ten thousand city wires, drawn most cruelly against a city sky. The rush of city waters, beneath the city streets. The passionate passing of the night’s last El.” 

Nelson Algren, Never Come Morning