View the PDF. View the Flip Book.
The great Chicago Fire of October 1871 killed 200-300 persons and left homeless over a third of the residents of the city whose population at the time was around 300,000. Five square miles of the city were destroyed, along with 25,000 buildings (including the original Palmer House Hotel and Chicago Tribune Building) and 1.6 million bushels of grain stored in the city's grain elevators. As the fire raged, Chicagoans sought refuge on the lake front and in Lincoln Park and city cemeteries. Frank Luzerne's account of the disaster is quite sensational, detailing horrible deaths, miraculous escapes, and heroic rescues, along with a very detailed tour of the Chicago morgue in the days following the fire. With its mostly wooden structures, Chicago at the time was a conflagration waiting to happen. Rebuilding of the city began almost immediately and triggered Chicago's development into one of the largest and most economically important American cities. Some years after the fire, the good name of Irish Catholic immigrant Catherine O'Leary, whose cow supposedly kicked over the lantern that started the blaze, was cleared when Chicago Tribune reporter Michael Ahern boasted about having fabricated the colorful tale, which exploited the anti-immigrant feelings prevalent at the time.