Great Chicago Fire

Chicago FireGreat Chicago Fire of 18711871 Great Chicago FireGreat FireChicago fire of 1871Great Fire of 1871The Great Chicago FireGreat Fire of Chicagofire of 1871Chicago
The Great Chicago Fire was a conflagration that burned in the American city of Chicago on October 8–10, 1871.wikipedia
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Chicago, IllinoisChicago, ILCity of Chicago
The Great Chicago Fire was a conflagration that burned in the American city of Chicago on October 8–10, 1871.
After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which destroyed several square miles and left more than 100,000 homeless, the city made a concerted effort to rebuild.

Catherine O'Leary

Mrs. O'LearyMrs. O'Leary's cowMolly O'Leary
The most popular tale blames Mrs. O'Leary's cow, who allegedly knocked over a lantern; others state that a group of men were gambling inside the barn and knocked over a lantern.
Catherine "Cate" O'Leary (nee Donegan; March 1827 – 3 July 1895) was an Irish immigrant living in Chicago, Illinois who became famous when it was alleged that an accident involving her cow had started the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

Chicago Public Library

Chicago Public Library systemChicagoChicago Library
A donation from the United Kingdom spurred the establishment of the Chicago Public Library, a free public library system, a contrast to the private, fee for membership libraries common before the fire.
In the aftermath of the 1871 Great Chicago Fire, Londoner A.H. Burgess, with the aid of Thomas Hughes, drew up what would be called the "English Book Donation," which proposed that England should provide a free library to the burnt-out city.

Demographics of Chicago

Of the approximately 324,000 inhabitants of Chicago in 1871, 90,000 Chicago residents (1 in 3 residents) were left homeless.
Within fifty years of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the population had tripled to over 3 million.


The Great Chicago Fire was a conflagration that burned in the American city of Chicago on October 8–10, 1871.

DeKoven Street (Chicago)

DeKoven StreetDeKovenJohn DeKoven
The fire is claimed to have started at about 9:00 p.m. on October 8, in or around a small barn belonging to the O'Leary family that bordered the alley behind 137 DeKoven Street.
The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 started in the barn behind the cottage of Patrick and Catherine O'Leary at 137 (after 1909, 558) DeKoven Street.

World's Columbian Exposition

Chicago World's FairColumbian ExpositionWorld Columbian Exposition
By the World's Columbian Exposition 22 years later, Chicago hosted more than 21 million visitors.
In addition to recognizing the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the New World by Europeans, the fair also served to show the world that Chicago had risen from the ashes of the Great Chicago Fire, which had destroyed much of the city in 1871.

The Palmer House Hilton

Palmer HousePalmer House HotelPalmer House Hilton
The Palmer House hotel burned to the ground in the fire 13 days after its grand opening.
It opened on September 26, 1871, but burned down just 13 days later on October 9, 1871 in the Great Chicago Fire.

Northwestern University

NorthwesternNorth Western UniversityIntegrated science program
Following his death in 1942, Cohn bequeathed $35,000 which was assigned by his executors to the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.
Another building, University Hall, was built in 1869 of the same Joliet limestone as the Chicago Water Tower, also built in 1869, one of the few buildings in the heart of Chicago to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

James Patrick O'Leary

Jim O'LearyJames "Big Jim" O'LearyBig" Jim O'Leary
According to Cohn, on the night of the fire, he was gambling in the O'Learys' barn with one of their sons and some other neighborhood boys.
His parents were Patrick and Catherine O'Leary, in whose barn the Great Chicago Fire is alleged to have begun.

Chicago Tribune

The Chicago TribuneChicago Daily TribuneChicago Sunday Tribune
This story was circulating in Chicago even before the flames had died out, and it was noted in the Chicago Tribune's first post-fire issue.
Medill served as mayor of Chicago for one term after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

Chicago Relief and Aid Society

Relief Aid Society of Chicago
Mayor Mason placed the Chicago Relief and Aid Society in charge of the city's relief efforts.
Though it was one of many relief and charitable organizations in Chicago during the mid-19th century, the Chicago Relief and Aid Society came to prominence when Mayor Roswell B. Mason appointed the Society as the primary relief organization for the city in the aftermath of the Great Chicago Fire.

Chicago Fire Department

CFDChicago FireChicago
In 1871, the Chicago Fire Department had 185 firefighters with just 17 horse-drawn steam engines to protect the entire city.

St. James Cathedral (Chicago)

St. James CathedralSt. James Cathedral, ChicagoSt. James Church
Additionally, though the inhabitable portions of the building were destroyed, the bell tower of St. James Cathedral survived the fire and was incorporated into the rebuilt church.
Originally built as a parish church, that building was mostly destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire.

Roswell B. Mason

Roswell Mason
About this time, Mayor Roswell B. Mason sent messages to nearby towns asking for help.
During his administration, the Great Chicago Fire occurred.

Peshtigo fire

Some 250 mi to the north, the Peshtigo Fire consumed the town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin, along with a dozen other villages.
Occurring on the same day as the more famous Great Chicago Fire, the Peshtigo fire has been largely forgotten, even though it killed far more people.

First Baptist Congregational Church

First Congregational Church
Operating from the First Congregational Church, city officials and aldermen began taking steps to preserve order in Chicago.
After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the Mayor's Office, City Council, and General Relief Committee of Chicago were temporarily headquartered in the church.

Great Michigan Fire

The Great Michigan FireGreat Fire of 1871Great Michigan Fire of 1871
Some 100 mi to the north of Holland, the lumbering community of Manistee also went up in flames in what became known as the Great Michigan Fire.
They were possibly caused (or at least reinforced) by the same winds that fanned the Great Chicago Fire; some believe lightning or even meteor showers may have started the fires.

Potter Palmer

Its developer, Potter Palmer, secured a loan and rebuilt the hotel to higher standards across the street from the original, proclaiming it to be "The World's First Fireproof Building".
When his buildings were destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire, Palmer borrowed $1.7 million to rebuild, the largest amount lent to a private individual up to that time.

Holland, Michigan

HollandHolland, MICity of Holland
Across the lake to the east, the town of Holland, Michigan, and other nearby areas burned to the ground.
The city suffered a major fire on October 8–9, 1871, the same time as the Great Chicago Fire in Illinois and the very deadly Peshtigo Fire in Wisconsin.

Urbana, Illinois

UrbanaUrbana, ILUrbana-Champaign
On October 9, 1871, a fire swept through the city of Urbana, Illinois, 140 mi south of Chicago, destroying portions of its downtown area.
(It is unrelated to the Great Chicago Fire, though both fires occurred during severe drought and were spread by high winds.)

Manistee, Michigan

ManisteeManistee, MICity of Manistee
Some 100 mi to the north of Holland, the lumbering community of Manistee also went up in flames in what became known as the Great Michigan Fire.
On October 8, 1871, the town was practically destroyed by fire; on the same day that the Peshtigo Fire, the Great Chicago Fire, and fires in Port Huron and Holland occurred, the Great Michigan Fire burned Manistee.

Port Huron, Michigan

Port HuronPort Huron, MIBlack River
Farther east, along the shore of Lake Huron, the Port Huron Fire swept through Port Huron, Michigan and much of Michigan's "Thumb".
A series of other fires leveled Holland and Manistee, Michigan, as well as Peshtigo, Wisconsin and Chicago on the same day.

UIC Flames

They are called the Flames as a reference to the Great Chicago Fire, and their team colors are navy blue and fire engine red.

Egon Weiner

A bronze sculpture of stylized flames, entitled Pillar of Fire by sculptor Egon Weiner, was erected on the point of origin in 1961.
He was known for a 33 ft abstract bronze sculpture, Pillar of Fire, which can be found on the grounds of the Chicago Fire Academy on the spot where, legend has it, Mrs. O'Leary's cow knocked over the lantern that started the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.