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Ten Things Chicago Gave the World

By DNAinfo Staff on August 17, 2013 9:38am  | Updated on August 18, 2013 12:18pm

 Thomas Dyja, author of " The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream " offered up ten things Chicago gave the world.
Ten Things Chicago Gave the World
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CHICAGO — Our city is more than just hot dogs, hockey champs and political hubris.

In a recent interview with "Freakonomics" co-writer and podcast host Stephen J. Dubner, writer Thomas Dyja, author of "The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream," offered up 10 things Chicago gave the world.

To hear and read the full conversation, go here.

Here are the highlights:

1. Architecture, namely modernist Mies van der Rohe, who designed such Chicago glass and steel structures as the IBM Tower, IIT's Crown Hall, and the 860-880 N. Lake Shore Drive building. His work influenced others and created "the face of the American skyline," Dyja said.

2. Blues music. "The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, all of that British Invasion rock comes directly from the impact of Muddy Waters and the other Chicago bluesmen," Dyja said.

3. Food. Ray Kroc's first franchised McDonald's in Des Plaines put uniform quality and efficiencies into fast food. Up to that point, Dyja said, a person going into a hamburger stand "might get something that was full of, you know, ground up offal, various meats instead of ground beef."

4. The University of Chicago, which has produced great writers such as Kurt Vonnegut, the Encyclopedia Britannica, nuclear fission, the Chicago School of Economics and improv comedy through the Compass Players.

5. Television. Early Chicago shows influenced The Today Show and The Tonight Show. Oprah made it big while filming here.

6. The Modern Civil Rights Movement. The murder of Chicago native Emmett Till in 1955, and photos of his open casket that appeared in magazines such as Chicago-based Jet, lit "the fuse" of the movement, Dyja said.

7. Chicago's Institute of Design, founded as the New Bauhaus in 1937 at the Illinois Institute of Technology, teaches human-centered design and produced "a generation of hugely influential arts educators, photographers and designers," Dyja said.

8. Urban preservation. Richard Nickel's photographs of Louis Sullivan buildings being destroyed — and Nickel's tragic death when Sullivan's stock exchange building collapsed on him — brings attention to the value in preserving great structures.

9. Nelson Algren. The author's work — which includes "The Man with the Golden Arm" (1949) about a Northwest Side drummer and morphine addict — is heralded as groundbreaking examinations of poverty in urban America. Algren also encouraged his lover Simone de Beauvoir to write "The Second Sex," (1949) which Dyja describes as "one of the bibles of the feminist movement."

10. Hugh Hefner. The founder of Playboy tapped into what Dyja calls Chicago's "people-oriented aesthetic." In New York, a person's value "is based on what you can do that other people cannot." The magazine had photos of naked women, yes, but was also about "inclusion," he said.

"He invites you in, he wants you to read the magazine. And you should be able to get a hi-fi, you should be able to get a cool bachelor pad," Dyja said of Hefner.