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The Hottest Day Ever In Chicago? July 23, 1934

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Summer Sun

(Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — The hottest day on record in Chicago? Depends on who’s calculating, but by one account, it was July 23, 1934.

It was 109 degrees at the airport. There was no O’Hare back then.

Chicago was bigger then–by about 700,000 people.


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In the Tribune on July 24, 1934, the deaths of nine people–all from heat–were listed: Their names, addresses. Most in their 40s and 50s. One woman in her 80s. And a 28-year-old man was identified as “a Negro.”

Officially, the National Weather Service recorded the temperature at 105 on that day in 1934–still the highest official reading ever. During the killer heat wave of 1995, the official high temperature was 104–although it reached 106 elsewhere in the city that day.

John Russick, director of curatorial affairs at the Chicago History Museum, says the museum talked with people a few years ago about living through hot summers in the Depression.

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“They remember the summer, sleeping on their roofs, sleeping on their front porch,” he said. “Many people said they used to go into the park and sleep, which sort of sounds remarkable to us today.”

The forecast in the paper that July day in 1934 was for better weather — a change to “permit the cooling lake breezes to come to Chicago’s rescue.”

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