October 8, 2008
The Great Chicago Fire
Today marks the 137th anniversary of The Great Chicago Fire. It began at around 9 or 10:00 PM on October 8, 1871. When the fire finally subsided, 300 people were dead, 100,000 were homeless, over 18,000 buildings were destroyed, and 2100 acres of land were in cinders. From then on, Chicago's history would be divided into pre and post Fire eras.
I've written several blog posts on the fire, and there are links to sites examining the event in the left column. The Britannica Blog even has a new post titled, "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow: Not guilty?" and references Richard Bales's book The Great Chicago Fire and the Myth of Mrs. O'Leary's Cow. (See Bales's companion website, Did the Cow Do It?)There are many informative books on the Great Fire, particularly Smoldering City by Karen Sawislak. I refer you to those. For a look at the devastation, see 1871 Chicago Fire: A city in ruins from the Chicago Tribune Archives.
Finally, I recommend this contemporary account: History of the Great Chicago Fire, October 8, 9, and 10, 1871.