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Interesting Apr.02.2021

The Great Chicago Fire Theories | A Catastrophe that Brought the New Life to the City

chicago fire of 1871

The world knows thousands of catastrophes, which destroyed or even demolished cities, however, the most mysterious one is the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. In the article, we have collected the most fascinating Chicago Fire information, a lot of mysteries about that fire, and questions that will never be answered. If you want to solve the riddle- read the article below!

The Great Chicago Fire was a big fire that broke out in the American city in 1871. The historic Chicago fire lasted from 8 to 10th of October, 1871. Almost all the city was destroyed, city buildings turned into ruins. The fire destroyed most of the city of Chicago. This catastrophe, which has taken away the lives of hundreds of residents, became one of the biggest in the 19th century and is remembered up till now. The Great Chicago Fire left thousands of people without housing and work, but, lately, it has turned out to be a catalyst for the transformation of Chicago into one of the main cities of the United States of America.

The main events of the big Chicago fire

big chicago fire

It was a usual Sunday with the good weather in Chicago. The public went out of their homes and rested up the streets. Meanwhile, there was no rest for the guards of the city, including firefighters. They were on duty and have carried their service. Nobody that day could foreshadow the tragedy, but it was just at the city`s door. The day started to change with the night and when the dark came, the firefighters received the first alarming signal – a house on the northwest of the city started to burn. They could not manage to respond to it, as new alarms started to appear one by one. After a few hours, Chicago was fully occupied with the fire flames. The chaos began to occupy the city, panic was the only feeling of the citizens. They run into the streets, trying to hide from fire, but, unfortunately, most of them have found their death in the flame. Buildings were collapsing one by one, taking away the lives of innocent people. Many of those citizens who were lucky to escape from the hell of the burning city, did not manage to avoid the death, as lately hundreds of dead bodies were discovered in the suburbs of Chicago.

The fire lasted two days and ended only after the weather changed – the little rain went and stopped blowing the wind. 48 quarters of Chicago were almost completely destroyed, that is, the third part of the city. Several buildings have survived. One of them was the Chicago Water Tower – it stands up there today, acting as an unofficial tragedy memorial.

In those years, big fires in the cities were not surprising at all. History knows a lot of cases when big cities were burned down. Strong winds and wooden buildings helped a lot to let these happen. So why did the fire in Chicago make up so much noise and attention?

There are dozens of the Great Chicago fire theories, but according to the most famous version, the Great Chicago fire cause was a cow! Just from the very beginning of the fire, various rumors began to spread. The most popular legend claims that the fire began in a barn of the O’Leary family when Mrs. O’Leary was trying to get some milk from her cow. At the moment of the cow milking, the pure animal has overturned the lantern and has arranged a fire in the barn. Just within minutes, the fire spread all around the city. The weather was dry that day and the city buildings were mostly made of wood, so it was almost impossible to stop the fire. However, this legend is ambiguous, because there are several mismatches. It is important to understand when was the Chicago fire, when exactly did it start? The fire began at 9 o’clock in the backyards of house 137 on DeKoven Street. Why should Mrs. O’Leary have milked the cow that late? It is obvious that the family denied this by saying that when the Chicago fire started, they were already in bed, but it was easier to blame a poor Irish emigrant family. Why would people blame Irish- Catholic families and accuse them of such a crime? The answer is that in the second half of the XIX century, in the USA the anti-Irish sentiments were strong. The problem was aggravated as the political power of the Irish population of the city began to rise. Moreover, the United States from the very beginning thought of Catholics as unreliable people, adopting the position of England. Being Irish and Catholic, the O’Leary family suited well to be a scapegoat. Immediately after the fire, the story was published in the newspaper “Chicago Tribune”. An article was written by journalist Michael Ehern, but he later admitted that he invented such an entertaining story.

But some people did not trust the story, for instance, the Head of the Chicago Fire Command. He wrote that the signals were coming from different parts of the city, not only the O’Leary’s house. There were alarms in the St. Paul’s Church, located several miles away from the O`Leary`s barn, and from other different parts of the city. He admitted that he had a feeling that it was a planned attack on the city, but not an accident. If to trust that version, then who started the Chicago fire? Richard Bales- an American historian has found another culprit – Daniel Sullivan. According to his conclusions, the fire arranged the one who was the first to report it. Richard Bales assumed that Daniel wanted to steal the milk from the barn and set fire to the hay. The police stated that the Bales version has a lot of contradictions and did not believe in it.

Nowadays, considering all the Chicago fire facts, nobody can tell for sure what was the reason for that Chicago Fire disaster, someone even blames the aliens or the meteorites. However, this store has a happy end, as entrepreneurs and agrarians immediately after the fire began to rebuild Chicago. News about the fire shook Americans, and they started to send money, products, clothing, and furniture from all over the United States. In 1956, the remains of the house of O’Leary were demolished and the Chicago Fire Academy was built in its place.

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