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CHICAGO is in many ways the nation's last great cities. Founded in the early 1800s, Chicago grew up with the country, serving as the main connection between the established east coast cities and the wide open Wild West frontier. This position on the sharp edge between civilization and wilderness made the city into a crucible of innovation. Many aspects of modern life, from skyscrapers to suburbia, had their start, and perhaps their finest expression, here on the shores of Lake Michigan. Despite burning to the ground in the legendary fire of 1871, Chicago boomed thereafter, doubling in population every decade, with the help of Irish and eastern European immigrant, reaching two million around 1900. To this day Chicago has the largest Polish population in the world outside Warsaw.