History of St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago

Image from Choose Chicago

As we welcome the upcoming spring, we see green popping up at our favorite places across our communities. Illinois is home to over 1 million people claiming Irish ancestry and Cook County is the county with the largest Irish population in the United States with 438,350 people of Irish descent (NIU Newsroom)!

In 1962, Chicago began dying the river green when pollution-control workers used dyes to trace illegal sewage discharges (Smithsonian Magazine). That year, the city dumped 100 pounds into the river, which left the river green for a week. Since then, it’s now a more environmentally friendly powdered, vegetable-based dye and the amount is adjusted to last a few hours.

Historically, Northern Illinois University Newsroom highlights the long heritage of Irish Illinoisans. In the 18th century, Irish administrators and soldiers helped the French and British empires in conquest of the territory and rank-and-file Irishmen under George Rogers Clark then seized Illinois Country for the U.S.

Nine governors and seven Chicago mayors also trace their ancestry back to Ireland. In Illinois’ agricultural sector, Irish farmers also tilled the state’s fields. The construction of the I&M Canal in the 1830s helped beckon the first wave of Catholic immigrants from Ireland, many becoming farmers.