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Encyclopedia > Great Chicago Fire
Artist's rendering of the fire, by John R Chapin, originally printed in Harper's Weekly
Artist's rendering of the fire, by John R Chapin, originally printed in Harper's Weekly

The Great Chicago Fire was a conflagration that burned from Sunday October 8 to early Tuesday October 10, 1871, killing hundreds and destroying about four square miles in Chicago, Illinois. Though the fire was one of the largest U.S. disasters of the 19th century, the rebuilding that began almost immediately spurred Chicago's development into one of the most populous and economically important American and international cities. The Great Chicago Fire, an artists rendering, Chicago in Flames -- The Rush for Lives Over Randolph Street Bridge From [1]. Originally from Harpers Weekly. ... The Great Chicago Fire, an artists rendering, Chicago in Flames -- The Rush for Lives Over Randolph Street Bridge From [1]. Originally from Harpers Weekly. ... John R Chapins rendering of the Great Chicago Fire, printed in Harpers Weekly John R Chapin was a 19th-century American artist and illustrator, who worked for Harpers Magazine. ... Teresa Bagioli Sickles confession, 1859 Harpers Weekly (A Journal of Civilization) was an American political magazine based in New York City. ... October 8 is the 281st day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (282nd in leap years). ... October 10 is the 283rd day of the year (284th in leap years). ... 1871 (MDCCCLXXI) was a common year starting on Sunday (see link for calendar). ... Nickname: Motto: Urbs In Horto (Latin: City in a Garden), I Will Location in the Chicago metro area and Illinois Coordinates: Country United States State Illinois County Cook & DuPage Incorporated March 4, 1837 Government  - Mayor Richard M. Daley (D) Area  - City  234. ... Official language(s) English[1] Capital Springfield Largest city Chicago Largest metro area Chicago Area  Ranked 25th  - Total 57,918 sq mi (149,998 km²)  - Width 210 miles (340 km)  - Length 390 miles (629 km)  - % water 4. ... Motto: (Out Of Many, One) (traditional) In God We Trust (1956 to date) Anthem: The Star-Spangled Banner Capital Washington D.C. Largest city New York City None at federal level (English de facto) Government Federal constitutional republic  - President George Walker Bush (R)  - Vice President Dick Cheney (R) Independence from...

Contents

The fire's origin

The fire started at about 9 P.M on Sunday, October 8, in or around a small shed that bordered the alley behind 137 DeKoven Street. The traditional account of the origin of the fire is that it was started by a cow kicking over a lantern in the barn owned by Patrick and Catherine O'Leary, but Michael Ahern, the Chicago Republican reporter who created the cow story, admitted in 1893 that he had made it up because he thought it would make colorful copy.[1] A forest fire Fire is a rapid oxidation process that creates light, heat, smoke, and releases energy in varying intensities. ... DeKoven Street is a street in Chicago, Illinois named for John DeKoven. ... Catherine OLeary (a. ...


It was aided by the city's overuse of wood for building, the strong northwesterly winds, and a drought before the fire. The city also made fatal errors by not reacting soon enough and citizens by not caring about the fire when it began. The firefighters were also exhausted from fighting a fire that happened the day before.

Aftermath of the fire, corner of Dearborn and Monroe Streets, 1871
Aftermath of the fire, corner of Dearborn and Monroe Streets, 1871

great chicago fire Old photo, 1871, found at [1]. Aftermath This image has been released into the public domain by the copyright holder, its copyright has expired, or it is ineligible for copyright. ... great chicago fire Old photo, 1871, found at [1]. Aftermath This image has been released into the public domain by the copyright holder, its copyright has expired, or it is ineligible for copyright. ...

Spread of the blaze

When the fire broke out, neighbors hurried to protect the O'Learys' house in front of the cowshed from the blaze; the house actually did survive with only minor damage. However, the city's fire department didn't receive the first alarm until 9:40 p.m., when a fire alarm was pulled at a pharmacy. The fire department was alerted when the fire was still small, but the guard on duty did not respond as he thought that the glow in the sky was from the smoldering flames of a fire the day before. When the blaze got bigger, the guard realized that there actually was a new fire and sent firefighters, but in the wrong direction.


Soon the fire had spread to neighboring frame houses and sheds. Superheated winds drove flaming brands northeastward. People still did not worry, even though in fact they were in danger.


When the fire engulfed a tall church west of the Chicago River, the flames crossed the south branch of the Chicago River. Helping the fire spread were firewood in the closely packed wooden buildings, ships lining the river, the city's elevated wood-plank sidewalks and roads, and the commercial lumber and coal yards along the river. The size of the blaze generated extremely strong winds and heat, which ignited rooftops far ahead of the actual flames. Downtown buildings line the Chicago River The Chicago River is 156 miles (251 km) long, and flows through downtown Chicago. ...


The attempts to stop the fire were unsuccessful. The mayor had even called surrounding cities for help, but by that point the fire was simply too large to contain. When the fire destroyed the waterworks, just north of the Chicago River, the city's water supply was cut off, and the firefighters were forced to give up.


As the fire raged through the central business district, it destroyed hotels, department stores, Chicago's City Hall, the opera house and theaters, churches and printing plants. The fire continued spreading northward, driving fleeing residents across bridges on the Chicago River. There was mass panic as the blaze jumped the river's north branch and continued burning through homes and mansions on the city's north side. Residents fled into Lincoln Park and to the shores of Lake Michigan, where thousands sought refuge from the flames. In psychology collective hysteria is the name given to a phenomenon of the manifestation of the same hysterical symptoms by more than one person. ... A concert in Lincoln Park circa 1907. ... Lake Michigan is one of the five Great Lakes of North America, and the only one in the group located entirely within the United States. ...


The fire finally burned itself out, aided by diminishing winds and a light drizzle that began falling late on Monday night. From its origin at the O'Leary property, it had burned a path of nearly complete destruction of some 34 blocks to Fullerton Avenue on the north side.

Map of Chicago from 1871. The shaded area was destroyed by the fire.
Map of Chicago from 1871. The shaded area was destroyed by the fire.

Once the fire had ended, the smoldering remains were still too hot for a survey of the damage to be completed for days. Eventually it was determined that the fire destroyed an area about four miles (6 km) long and averaging 3/4 mile (1 km) wide, encompassing more than 2,000 acres (8 km²). Destroyed were more than 73 miles (120 km) of roads, 120 miles (190 km) of sidewalk, 2,000 lampposts, 17,500 buildings, and $222 million in property - about a third of the city's valuation. Of the 300,000 inhabitants, 90,000 were left homeless. The fire was said by local newspapers to have been so fierce that it surpassed the damage done by Napoleon's siege of Moscow in 1812. Remarkably, some buildings did survive the fire, such as the then-new Chicago Water Tower, which remains today as an unofficial memorial to the fire's destructive power. It was one of just five public buildings and one ordinary bungalow spared by the flames within the disaster zone. The O'Leary home and Holy Family Church, the Roman Catholic congregation of the O'Leary family, were both saved by shifts in the wind direction that kept them outside the burnt district. Image File history File links Chicago_Fire_map. ... Image File history File links Chicago_Fire_map. ... Napoleon retreating from the Kremlin. ... The 1866 pumping station located across Michigan Avenue from the Water Tower. ... The Roman Catholic Church, most often spoken of simply as the Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with over one billion members. ...


After the fire, 125 bodies were recovered. Final estimates of the fatalities ranged from 200-300, considered a small number for such a large fire. In later years, other disasters in the city would claim more lives: at least 600 died in the Iroquois Theater fire in 1903; and, in 1915, 835 died in the sinking of the Eastland excursion boat in the Chicago River. Yet the Great Chicago Fire remains Chicago's most well-known disaster, for the magnitude of the destruction and the city's subsequent recovery and growth. The Iroquois Theater Fire in Chicago, Illinois, claimed 602 lives on December 30, 1903. ... On July 24, 1915, the Eastland, along with the Theodore Roosevelt and the Petoskey, were hired to take employees from Chicagos Western Electric Company to a picnic in Michigan City, Indiana. ... Downtown buildings line the Chicago River The Chicago River is 156 miles (251 km) long, and flows through downtown Chicago. ...


Land speculators, such as Gurdon Saltonstall Hubbard, and business owners quickly set about rebuilding the city. Donations of money, food, clothing and furnishings arrived quickly from across the nation. The first load of lumber for rebuilding was delivered the day the last burning building was extinguished. Only 22 years later, Chicago hosted more than 21 million visitors during the World's Columbian Exposition. Another example of Chicago's rebirth from the Great Fire ashes is the now famed Palmer House hotel. The original building burned to the ground in the fire just 13 days after its grand opening. Without hesitating, Potter Palmer secured a loan and rebuilt the hotel in a lot across the street from the original, proclaiming it to be "The World's First Fireproof Building". Gurdon Saltonstall Hubbard (Windsor, Vermont, August 22, 1802 – September 14, 1886 in Chicago, Illinois) was an insurance underwriter and land speculator. ... One-third scale replica of Daniel Chester Frenchs Republic, which stood in the great basin at the exposition, Chicago, 2004 The Worlds Columbian Exposition (also called The Chicago Worlds Fair), a Worlds Fair, was held in Chicago in 1893, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher... Hallway in the Palmer House Hilton The Palmer House Hilton is a famous and historic hotel in downtown Chicago. ...


In 1956, the remaining structures on the original O'Leary property were torn down for construction of the Chicago Fire Academy, a training facility for Chicago firefighters located at 558 W. DeKoven Street. A bronze sculpture of stylized flames entitled Pillar of Fire by sculptor Egon Weiner was erected on the point of origin in 1961.[2] DeKoven Street is a street in Chicago, Illinois named for John DeKoven. ... A sculpture is a three-dimensional object, which for the purposes of this article is man-made and selected for special recognition as art. ... Pillar of Fire can refer to A religous community in Zarephath, New Jersey. ...


Questioning the fire

Catherine O'Leary was the perfect scapegoat: she was a woman, immigrant, and Catholic-–a combination which did not fare well in the political climate of the time in Chicago. This story was circulating in Chicago even before the flames had died out and was noted in the Chicago Tribune's first post-fire issue. However, Michael Ahern, the reporter that came with the story would retract it in 1893, admitting that it was fabricated.[3] The Scapegoat by William Holman Hunt, 1854. ... // The Chicago Tribune is a major daily newspaper based in Chicago, Illinois and owned by the Tribune Company. ...


More recently, amateur historian Richard Bales has come to believe it was actually started when Daniel "Pegleg" Sullivan, who first reported the fire, ignited some hay in the barn while trying to steal some milk. However, evidence recently reported in the Chicago Tribune by Anthony DeBartolo suggests Louis M. Cohn may have started the fire during a craps game. Cohn may also have admitted to starting the fire in a lost will, according to Alan Wykes in his 1964 book The Complete Illustrated Guide to Gambling. Daniel Pegleg Sullivan was a Chicagoan who is often credited with being the first to sound the alarm when a fire broke out in Catherine OLearys barn on October 8, 1871, the beginning of the Great Chicago Fire. ... Louis M. Cohn (Breslau, Prussia March 10, 1853-1942) was a Chicago importer who claimed to have been in Mrs. ...


An alternative theory, first suggested in 1882, is that the Great Chicago Fire was caused by a meteor shower. At a 2004 conference of the Aerospace Corporation and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, engineer and physicist Robert Wood suggested that the fire began when Biela's Comet broke up over the Midwest and rained down below. That four large fires took place, all on the same day, all on the shores of Lake Michigan (see Related Events), suggests a common root cause. Eyewitnesses reported sighting spontaneous ignitions, lack of smoke, "balls of fire" falling from the sky, and blue flames. According to Wood, these accounts suggest that the fires were caused by the methane that is commonly found in comets.[citation needed] There are have been several people named Robert Wood: Robert E. Wood, Brigadier General and chairman of Sears Robert Coldwell Wood, U.S. administrator Robert Wood, Canadian politician Robert Wood, physicist Robert Wood, Englishman who made engravings of the Baalbek ruins in 1757 This is a disambiguation page — a... 3D/Biela is the official designation for a lost periodic comet discovered in 1826 by Wilhelm von Biela. ... Lake Michigan is one of the five Great Lakes of North America, and the only one in the group located entirely within the United States. ... Artists rendering of the fire, by John R Chapin, originally printed in Harpers Weekly The Great Chicago Fire was a conflagration that burned from Sunday October 8 to early Tuesday October 10, 1871, killing hundreds and destroying about four square miles in Chicago, Illinois. ...


Another possible explanation for the coincident conflagrations is that winds associated with the approach of a low-pressure weather system promoted the spread of fires in an area that was tinder-dry due to a prolonged drought.


Structures that survived the fire

This article on a place of local interest appears to contain only a small amount of verifiable information. ... This article is about the high school in Chicago. ... The 1866 pumping station located across Michigan Avenue from the Water Tower. ...

Related events

In that hot, dry and windy autumn, three other major fires occurred along the shores of Lake Michigan at the same time as the Great Chicago Fire. Some 400 miles (600 km) to the north, a prairie fire driven by strong winds consumed the town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin along with a dozen other villages, killing 1,200 to 2,500 people and charring approximately 1.5 million acres (6,000 km²). Though the Peshtigo Fire remains the deadliest in American history, the remoteness of the region meant it was little noticed at the time. Across the lake to the east, the town of Holland, Michigan and other nearby areas burned to the ground. Some 100 miles to the north of Holland the lumbering community of Manistee, Michigan also suffered a tremendous fire. Lake Michigan is one of the five Great Lakes of North America, and the only one in the group located entirely within the United States. ... Peshtigo is a city located in Marinette County, Wisconsin. ... The Peshtigo Fire in Peshtigo, Wisconsin has the distinction of being the deadliest conflagration in US history. ... Holland is a city in the western region of the U.S. state of Michigan. ... River waterfront in downtown Manistee Manistee is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan. ...


In pop culture

Gary Larson's The Far Side comic strip jokes that the fire may have been started by secret agent cows. Gary Larson is the creator of The Far Side, a (sometimes subdivided) single-panel comic strip which appeared in many newspapers for fourteen years until Larsons retirement January 1, 1995. ... The Far Side was a popular one-panel syndicated comic created by Gary Larson. ... This article is about the comic strip, the sequential art form as published in newspapers and on the Internet. ... Secret Agent is a 1936 British film directed by Alfred Hitchcock based on a novel by W. Somerset Maugham. ... Binomial name Bos taurus Linnaeus, 1758 Rainbow arching over a paddock of cattle Cattle are domesticated ungulates, a member of the subfamily Bovinae of the family Bovidae. ...


In 2006, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, during a week in Chicago, featured a sketch in which Mrs. O'Leary's cow finally received justice for starting the fire: It was strapped to a bomb and given a chance to disarm it by cutting the blue wire. Sadly, cows are colorblind, so Mrs. O'Leary's cow was blown to bits. Late Night with Conan OBrien is an American late night talk show on NBC, that is also syndicated worldwide. ...


In The Simpsons episode "Simpsons Tall Tales", Homer plays Paul Bunyan who lives among local townspeople. While there he crushes their houses and consumes all their food. Eventually, the townspeople drug him and drag him out of their town. However when a meteor is soon to hit the town, the townspeople call Paul back to help them. Paul soon agrees and throws the meteor towards Chicago, which is how the Great Chicago Fire is started. Simpsons redirects here. ... Simpsons Tall Tales is the season finale and twenty-first episode of the twelfth season of The Simpsons. ... Homer (Greek: , ) was an early Greek poet and aoidos (rhapsode) traditionally credited with the composition of the Iliad and the Odyssey. ... Paul Bunyan and Babe the blue Ox in Bemidji, Minnesota Paul Bunyan is a mythical lumberjack in tall tales, originating either with an American newspaperman or with French Canadians. ... Nickname: Motto: Urbs In Horto (Latin: City in a Garden), I Will Location in the Chicago metro area and Illinois Coordinates: Country United States State Illinois County Cook & DuPage Incorporated March 4, 1837 Government  - Mayor Richard M. Daley (D) Area  - City  234. ...


In the Histeria episode "The Wheel of History", Nostradamus tells the story of the fire and it is presented as a discussion on Barry Ding Live (a spoof of Larry King Live) where all the protagonists are interviewed. Daisy, a cow, was arrested following a slow cow chase (alluding to the slow car chase that led to the arrest of O.J. Simpson) and denies starting the fire, claiming the charges are "udderly false". There are phone in segments from Mrs. O' Leary, Peg Leg as well as the reporter who first carried the story (as well as a phone call from Cato), all of whom are shown accidentally starting fires themselves. Histeria! was a cartoon show made by Warner Bros. ... Nostradamus: original portrait by his son Cesar Michel de Nostredame (December 14, 1503 – July 2, 1566), usually Latinized to Nostradamus, was a French apothecary and reputed seer who published collections of prophecies that have since become famous world-wide. ... Larry King Live is a nightly CNN interview program hosted by broadcaster and writer Larry King. ... Orenthal James Simpson (born July 9, 1947), commonly known as O. J. Simpson and also just by his initials O.J. and his nickname The Juice, is a retired American football player who achieved stardom at the collegiate and professional levels. ...


Richard C. Meredith's science fiction novel Run, Come See Jerusalem! contains a vivid description of the Great Chicago Fire as seen by a time-traveler. Richard Carlton Meredith (1937 – 1979), also known as , was a science fiction author. ... Science fiction is a form of speculative fiction principally dealing with the impact of imagined science and technology, or both, upon society and persons as individuals. ...


In the second season episode of Early Edition titled "Hot Time In The Old Town," the main character, Gary Hobson, travels back in time and trys to prevent the fire. When he arrives in the time period dazed and confused, he is taken in by an Irish immigrant who turns out to be the husband of Catherine O'Leary. Early Edition was a television series on CBS that ran from September 28, 1996 to May 27, 2000. ... Time travel is a concept that has long fascinated humanity—whether it is Merlin experiencing time backwards, or religious traditions like Mohammeds trip to Jerusalem and ascent to heaven, returning before a glass knocked over had spilt its contents. ... The Irish diaspora consists of Irish emigrants and their descendants in countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Argentina, New Zealand, Mexico, South Africa and states of the Caribbean and continental Europe. ...


In the 2006 film The Break-Up, Vince Vaughn makes many references to the fire. The Break-Up is a Universal Pictures film that was released on June 2, 2006. ... Vincent Anthony Vaughn (born March 28, 1970) is an American film actor. ...


Sufjan Stevens sings "Oh great fire of great disaster" in "The Tallest Man, The Broadest Shoulders" on his 2005 album Illinois. Sufjan Stevens (IPA pronunciation: ) (born July 1, 1975) is an American singer-songwriter and musician from Petoskey, Michigan. ... See also: 2005 in music (UK) Musical groups established in 2005 Record labels established in 2005 other events of 2005 list of years in music 2000s in music January 1 - In most of Europe, copyright expired on a number of classic pop and rock and roll songs recorded in 1954... Illinois (pronounced or ill-i-NOY) is a 2005 concept album by American songwriter Sufjan Stevens, with songs referencing cities and people in the U.S. state of Illinois. ...


References

  1. ^ The O'Leary Legend. Chicago History Museum. Retrieved on 2007-03-18.
  2. ^ Chicago Landmarks. retrieved Dec 14, 2006
  3. ^ The Great Chicago Fire by Robert Cromie, published by Rutledge Hill Press ISBN 1-55853-264-1 and ISBN 1-55853-265-X (pbk. edition)

2007 (MMVII) is the current year, a common year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar and the AD/CE era. ... March 18 is the 77th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (78th in leap years). ...

Resources

  • "People & Events: The Great Fire of 1871". The Public Broadcasting System (PBS) Website. Retrieved Sep. 3, 2004.
  • "History of the Great Fires in Chicago and the West". - Rev. Edgar J. Goodspeed, D.D., 677 pp.
  • Chicago and the Great Conflagration - Elias Colbert and Everett Chamberlin, 1871, 528 pp.
  • The Great Conflagration - James W. Sheahan and George P. Upton, 1871, 458 pp.
  • The Great Chicago Fire and the Myth of Mrs. O'Leary's Cow - Richard F. Bales, McFarland & Co., 2002
  • "Who Caused the Great Chicago Fire? A Possible Deathbed Confession" - by Anthony DeBartolo, Chicago Tribune, October 8, 1997 and "Odds Improve That a Hot Game of Craps in Mrs. O'Leary's Barn Touched Off Chicago Fire" - by Anthony DeBartolo, Chicago Tribune, March 3, 1998

Edgar Johnson Goodspeed (b. ... Doctor of Divinity (D.D., Divinitatis Doctor in Latin) is an academic degree. ... October 8 is the 281st day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (282nd in leap years). ... March 3 is the 62nd day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (63rd in leap years). ...

See also

Municipal Flag of the City of Chicago The municipal flag of Chicago consists of two blue horizontal stripes on a field of white, each stripe one-sixth the height of the full flag, and placed slightly less than one-sixth of the way from the top or bottom, respectively. ... In Old Chicago is a 1937 dramatic film. ... Dwight Lyman Moody, circa 1890s. ... Horatio Gates Spafford (1828-1888) was the author of the hymn It Is Well With My Soul. There are many authors of many hymns, but it is perhaps the story surrounding Horatio Spaffords life when he wrote the hymn which makes the authors story so exceptional and enduring... It Is Well with My Soul is a very influential hymn penned by hymnist Horatio Spafford and composed by Philip Bliss. ... The Great Fire of London was a major fire that swept through the City of London from September 2nd to September 5th, 1666, and resulted more or less in the destruction of the city. ...

External links


  Results from FactBites:
 
Great Chicago Fire - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1499 words)
The Great Chicago Fire was a conflagration that burned from Oct.
Chicago and the Great Conflagration - Elias Colbert and Everett Chamberlin, 1871, 528 pp.
The Great Chicago Fire and the Myth of Mrs.
Chicago Fire (soccer) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (553 words)
The Chicago Fire is a professional soccer club based in Bridgeview, Illinois that participates in Major League Soccer.
The club was founded October 8th, 1997 on the 126th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
The "Ring of Fire" was established in 2003 by the Chicago Fire and the Chicago Fire Alumni Association as permanent tribute to honor those who have made the Chicago Fire a proud and successful club over the course of its history.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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