I actually talked with Jim Ellison who is a historian of Columbus style pizza. He also confirmed the style started in taverns on the south side of Chicago and spread from there, including to Columbus where it took on its own regional differences (particularly swapping sausage for a ton of pepperoni, and using a different style of pan).
We had to cut some bits from the article for length.
They’re different. Columbus pizzas aren’t as dry in the crusts. Chicago tavern cut crusty edges crumble in one’s mouth. I prefer Columbus’ style, and I think it would do well in Chicago.
I didn't grow up in Chicago but in my experience visiting relatives in the southwest suburbs the thin-crust pizza I ate there (usually Aurelio's) was pretty distinct from other kinds I've eaten in the Great Lakes states. The description other commenters have given of a "cracker" crust is apt. A pizza parlor where I worked in Michigan, for example, had thin pies cut "party-style" but with a much chewier crust.
When I first moved Chicago, I found it weird to run into natives that considered tavern style pizza as also Chicago’s style. In Iowa we just generally consider that the Midwest style pizza but that’s definitely the style preferred by locals for many decades.
Chicago is the Big Apple of the Midwest so I guess they think everything originated from there. But I’m pretty sure tavern style either came from back east, or where I’m from along the Mississippi River.
There are stylistic differences on these tavern thin crust styles across the upper midwest region. When I hear "chicago thin crust" I don't expect it to be 1:1 equivalent w/ columbus style pizza, st louis style pizza, etc. I assume Kenji knows this as well, as for instance I know he's talked about st louis style in the past.
Granted the non-paywall link hasn't loaded for me yet, so for all I know he claims the entire broad-country style was invented in Chicago. In which case, yes I agree with you.
My father was addicted to Totino’s frozen pizza. Originally from Minneapolis in 1950, it was a thin crispy cracker-crust pizza sold widely thru the Midwest. I don’t where it started but it has since spread widely.