Great Chicago Fire

A depiction of the Great Chicago Fire which lasted from October 8 to October 10, 1871
A depiction of the Great Chicago Fire which lasted from October 8 to October 10, 1871

Historical Context

For two days in 1871 fire ravaged Chicago, Illinois. The fire killed approximately 300 people, left more than 100,000 residents homeless and destroyed 3.3sqm (9km2) of the city.

The conflagration began around a small barn belonging to the O'Leary family, southwest of the city center. The exact cause has never been determined, although a popular story that a cow owned by Catherine O'Leary at the farm knocked over a lantern and began the fire.

Two-thirds of structures in Chicago in 1871 were made of wood, and the fire spread rapidly. By the time the fire was extinguished on October 10, some 17,500 buildings were destroyed. Help came from around the country and around the world; the United Kingdom made a donation that led to the establishment of the Chicago Public Library, and the city was rebuilt with stringent building codes.

Drawing Info


Artist: Currier and Ives
Location drawn: Chicago, Illinois, USA

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Related Events

  • 1871-10-10 The Great Chicago Fire is finally extinguished after 3 days, leaving approximately 300 dead, 100,000 homeless, and costing $222m in damage

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Historical Drawings