Encyclopedia o f Chicago
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Chicago's City Charter

Municipal governments are creatures of the states, and in Illinois before 1872 each municipality had to be chartered by special legislation specifying its structure and powers. When Chicago was granted the first city charter in Illinois in 1837, four years after it had been incorporated as a town, the Chicago Democrat met public interest in the matter by publishing copies of the charter. Chicago nevertheless continued to depend on special state legislation for even minor matters of local governance until the home rule provisions of the 1970 state constitution finally permitted the city to make these decisions on its own. Act of Incorporation for the City of Chicago, 1837.

See also: Newspapers; "Downstate"; Government, City of Chicago; Home Rule; Municipal Charters; Ward System

Chartering Little Fort

In 1841 the residents of Lake County, which had split from McHenry County in 1839, voted to move the county seat from Burlington (now Libertyville) to Little Fort, where county commissioners had recently bought some land. The state granted a charter for Little Fort to become a town in 1849. The charter included a provision that allowed a majority of voters to change the name to Waukegan, an option that they immediately exercised. "Waukegan" is a Potawatomi word for "Little Fort," a name recognizing the 18th-century French trading post that had existed on the site. In 1859 Waukegan reincorporated as a city. Incorporation Act of Little Fort, 1837.

See also: Lake County; Libertyville, IL; McHenry County; Municipal Charters; Waukegan, IL

General Incorporation

With the Cities and Villages Act of 1872, Illinois provided a general incorporation law that allowed municipalities to come into being without special legislation. A steady stream of incorporations followed as growing settlements from Braidwood to Park Ridge to Woodstock sought a greater degree of local self-government; these were among eight new incorporations in the metropolitan area in 1873. There were few new incorporations during the Great Depression, but the pace picked up after World War II. Fourteen new municipalities incorporated in 1959 and fourteen more in 1960 as people in newly settled areas well outside Chicago began to demand urban services. While many of these places continued themselves to grow by annexation, the rate of new incorporations slowed considerably after the 1960s. Just seven new municipalities came into being during the 1990s. Statutes of Illinois, Acts of 1871 and 1872.

See also: Charters, Municipal; Government, Suburban; Great Depression; Metropolitan Growth