New museum exhibit marks 150th anniversary of Great Chicago Fire

NOW: New museum exhibit marks 150th anniversary of Great Chicago Fire

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CHICAGO (CBS 58) -- This weekend marks the 150th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire.

Legend has it, Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicked over a lantern, which started the fire. But historians say that is all a myth. 

Between October 8 and 9 of 1871, experts say the fire had perfect conditions to spread.

“Chicago is the fastest growing city in the world, and because of that, it’s being built hastily build out of wood, so wood is everywhere," Julius L. Jones, assistant curator for Chicago History Museum, said.

Thirty straight hours of flames ended up destroying a third of the city. An estimated 300 people died and 100,000 became homeless.

“That long, dry summer, a strong wind from the southwest, a major fire the night before that weakened the already too-small and inadequately-equipped fire department," Carl Smith, Professor Emeritus at Northwestern University, said.

Immediately afterward, there was a worldwide outpouring of support to rebuild the city. This weekend, the Chicago History Museum ahs opened a special exhibit of the Great Chicago Fire.


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