Chicago’s 30-year-old “World-Class Complex”

By: Kristin Moo (BMRC Processing Intern)

You may have heard Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel refer to our lakefront municipality as a “world-class city.” It’s been a refrain in the conversation about the upcoming NATO summit to be hosted here, a buzz-phrase that’s been repeated so frequently of late that it feels more than a little defensive. But it’s not all Mayor Emanuel. His predecessor Mayor Richard M. Daley is often attributed with the accomplishment of making it so, and those three special words rolled off Daley’s tongue with just as much ease.

So I was surprised while processing the records of the Metropolitan Planning Council to come across this delightfully, garishly designed summer events brochure from the brief tenure of the late Mayor Harold Washington:

A 1985 brochure promoting Chicago’s “world-class” summer series of cultural events.

A little bit of digging finds the phrase “world-class city” also attributed to Washington’s predecessor Jane Byrne as early as 1981. And we mustn’t forget the late Mayor Eugene Sawyer.

I have to get back to processing, so here’s a research challenge for our readers—bonus points if you can find David Orr referring to Chicago as a “world-class city” during his 8-day mayoral tenure. Double bonus points for pre-Byrne mayoral references!