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The Great Chicago Fire of 1871

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  1. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 From this……..To This…

  2. ESSENTIAL QUESTION How did the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 lead to the remodeling and reorganization of society in Chicago and other American cities?

  3. Vocabulary • Stifling(adjective) – suffocating or oppressively close • Ambled (verb) - togoataslow,easypace;stroll;saunter • Gusting (verb) – sudden, strong blast of wind; blowing powerfully • Scuttled (verb) – a short, sudden run 5. Fiddle (adjective) – in the text, “fiddle music” means creative music

  4. Vocabulary 6. Fiercely (adverb) - menacinglywild, savage,or hostile 7. embers (noun) - asmalllivepieceofcoal,wood,etc.,asinadyingfire. 8. Singed (verb) - toburnthe ends of something; scorch 9. Engulfed (verb) – to plunge or immerse completely; envelop, bury 10. Smolder (verb) - densesmoke resulting from slow combustion; “a smoldering fire”.

  5. Vocabulary 11. Abruptly (adverb) – quickly or suddenly 12. Boasted (verb) - to speak with pride 13. Ornately (adverb) – elaborate or embellished; flashy 14. Flammable (noun) – easily set on fire 15.Interspersed(verb) - toscatterhereandthereorplace in random areas.

  6. Vocabulary 16. Stately (adjective) elegant or majestic 17. Combustible (adjective) capable of catching fire 18. Unrelenting (adjective) not yielding, not easily given in

  7. Background Chicago before the fire: • Much of this population growth occurred because trains were able to bring large numbers of immigrants to Chicago from the East. • At the end of the Civil War, Chicago’s population hadreached 300,000. • This rapid growth led to quick and sloppy construction of businesses and homes. • Many buildings were constructed of wood and were built too close together.

  8. Background Leading up to the Great Chicago Fire: • Chicago had already had a few large fires in 1839, 1849, and 1857. • October of 1871 had been warmer and dryer than past Chicago October’s. • The year of the fire, the entire city of Chicago only had 185 fire fighters.

  9. Background Chicago right before the fire: • Chicago fire fighters had been complaining to the city that their equipment was inadequate and that they didn’t have enough men. • Many of these fire fighters were tired from fighting a large fire October 7th (the day before the Great Fire) that had demolished four blocks of the city. • The city of Chicago had experienced 20 small fires in the week before the Great Fire.

  10. The Great Chicago Fire The fire begins: • The fire began on October 8th, 1871, between about 8:30 and 10:00pm. • The fire started in a barn owned by the O’Leary family that was located between De Koven Street and Jefferson Street. • A combination of miscommunication and inadequate technology caused problems from the beginning of the fire.

  11. The Great Chicago Fire • The fire began to spread quickly as it reached the Chicago River which was filled with oil and debris from nearby factories. • Hard blowing winds from the southwest forced the fire towards the north and northeast parts of the city. • In the first few hours of October 9th, the fire devastated a lower-class Irish neighborhood known as Conley’s Patch. • At day break, as the fire continued to spread north, more and more buildings were consumed. “In less than ten minutes the fire embraced the area between Jefferson and Clinton for two blocks north, and rapidly pushed eastward to Canal Street..” -Chicago Tribune, October 10, 1871 Dewitt Cregier, later the mayor of Chicago, described the inferno as “a sea of fire.” METAPHOR: A comparison without using the words “like” or “as”

  12. The Great Chicago Fire • The fire continued north consuming, or at least damaging, almost every building in its path. • Many people by this point were completely exhausted from running, often with personal items, from place to place. • Finally, on the night of October 9th, rain began to fall on Chicago. • Before October 9th had ended, the fire was under control. “There was no sleep for us until we heard the welcome sound of rain against our windows. How our hearts did rise in thankfulness to heaven for rain!” -Horace White (editor-in-chief, Chicago Tribune)

  13. Facts about the Fire The Aftermath: • Many important buildings, such as the City Courthouse, burned down. • The fire burned 3½ square miles of the city. • Around 17,500 buildings were damaged or burned to the ground. • More than 70 miles of streets were burned

  14. Facts about the Fire • The fire caused an estimated $200 million of damage. • About 100,000 people were left homeless. • Although the exact number of deaths is unknown, the death toll is estimated to be between 120-300 people.

  15. Chicago On Fire: A Chronological Time Line of the Deadly 16 Hours

  16. Let’s look at an Interactive Map and determine how the Fire Traveled so Quickly

  17. Weather Channel’s Understanding of How the Fire Started • The Weather Channel: Great Chicago Fire of 1871

  18. Why was the Great Chicago Fire So Bad? The Great Chicago Fire was a disaster for many reasons. In the response to the fire, many things were working against the city of Chicago: • A watchman who first saw the fire, mistakenly told the telegraph dispatcher the wrong streets at which the fire began. • When the error was recognized, the dispatcher didn’t change the message he had received from the watchman.

  19. Why was the Great Chicago Fire So Bad? • Also adding to the problem was a faulty fire-alarm box. The city of Chicago had installed the boxes so that people could immediately inform fire fighters of a fire. • Unfortunately, the fire-alarm that a man close to the fire tried to use wouldn’t activate. • When the fire fighters did reach the fire, they were so tired from fighting the night before they were unable to get a good jump on the fire.

  20. The Great Chicago Fire- Myths vs. Facts The most widely known explanation of how the Great Chicago Fire began is the story of the O'Leary cow. The story says that the fire began when a cow owned by Mr. and Mrs. O’Leary kicked over a lantern in the O’Leary barn. Many believed this explanation because the fire did start in the barn behind the O’Leary house. However, this story is not true and in 1997 the city of Chicago denounced it as myth. However, to this day, many still think a cow is to blame. “One dark night, when people were in bed, Mrs. O’ Leary lit a lantern in her shed, The cow kicked it over, winked its eye, and said, There’ll be a hot time in the old town tonight” -Unknown

  21. The Great Chicago Fire- Myths vs. Facts There are many other hypotheses (guesses) as to how the fire began. The city of Chicago talked with different Chicagoans to figure out who started the fire. Many of the hypotheses are based on conflicting statements given during the investigation into the fire. • Some believe a man who lived close to the O’Leary’s, Daniel Sullivan, began the fire by accident and didn’t want to be blamed for it. • Others believe the fire was the fault of another man who lived in the neighborhood, Dennis Regan. • Still others think that a meteor shower is to blame

  22. The Great Chicago Fire- Myths vs. Facts The Truth: • Although the city talked with a large number of Chicago residents and took extensive notes on everyone’s explanations, it was never established who started the fire. • Those involved in the investigation concluded, “whether it originated from a spark blown from a chimney on that windy night, or was set on fire by human agency, we are unable to determine.”

  23. Physical Changes After the Fire • Soon, Chicago’s streets were changed. Because Chicago had originally been built upon wet land, many of the early roads were made of wood. • At the time, wood seemed like the smartest material to use to keep the city above the wet terrain. However, after the Great Fire, roads were no longer created of wood due to their flammable nature. • Other cities took note of the Chicago change and by the 1900s many major cities in America had steered away from wooden streets.

  24. Eyewitness Accounts “We could see across the river at the cross streets that where yesterday was a populous city was now a mass of smoking ruins. All the way round we encountered thousands of people; but the excitement had given way to a terrible grief and desolation.” - Alexander Frear (New York alderman) “…the immense piles of lumber on the south of us were all afire…. Dense clouds of smoke and cinder rolled over and enveloped us, and it seemed almost impossible to breathe….” - Lambert Tree (Cook County Circuit Court Judge) “There was a strip of fire between two and three miles long, and a mile wide, hurried along by a wind, sweeping through the business part of this city…. It was a grand sight, and yet an awful one.” - William Gallagher (Student studying in Chicago)

  25. The End Results What did Chicago, and the rest of the country, learn from the fire?: • The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 taught America many useful lessons. On the surface, the fire helped lead to structural adjustments and new methods of fire safety. • The fire also helped lead to a number of local political changes as well. However, on a deeper level, the fire taught the public to challenge what is accepted.

  26. Great Website That Includes Numerous Pictures and Interviews with those that were Present on that Night • The Great Chicago Fire and the Web of Memory

  27. Study Guide Questions • You MUST include specific textual evidence to support your response. Include the page and paragraph number.

  28. Suspect 1: Mrs. Catherine O’Leary • Mrs. Catherine O’Leary: On Sunday evening, October 8, 1871, the Chicago Fire did indeed start in the barn that I share with Mr. and Mrs. Patrick. The fire spared my home but much of the rest of Chicago had been burned to the ground. Before the fire died out in the early morning of Tuesday, October 10, it had cut a path through Chicago approximately three and one-third square miles in size. Property valued at 192 million dollars was destroyed, 100,000 people were left homeless, and 300 people lost their lives. I realize that people say that my cow kicked over a lantern in the barn and this is what started the fire.

  29. Who do you think is responsible for starting the fire? Let’s examine the evidence with our partners. • Read Mrs. O’Leary’s testimony when she was interviewed by Board of Police and Fire Commissioners. Do you think she is to blame? • Mrs.O'Leary's Testimony Link

  30. Is Mrs. O’Leary to blame for Starting the Fire? ANSWER: TEXTUAL EVIDENCE:

  31. Suspect 2-Dennis Regan (Sullivan’s Accomplice): • My name is Dennis Regan I live at 112 De Koven Street, about a block away from the O'Learys. I know that I am believed to be Daniel “Peg Leg” Sullivan’s accomplice to starting the fire. While in bed I heard one of the neighbors say that the O'Leary barn was on fire. I jumped out of bed, ran to their home, and attempted to save their wagon and put out the fire. I did not start it.

  32. Was Dennis Regan an Accomplice?{His side of the story.} • Dennis Regan lived at 112 DeKoven Street, about a block away from the O'Learys. He testified that while in bed he heard one of the neighbors (McLaughlin) say that the O'Leary barn was on fire. He jumped out of bed, ran to their home, and attempted to save their wagon and put out the fire. • In order to give credit to Regan's testimony, this neighbor would have had to discover the fire even before the O'Learys did. This seems highly unlikely. • Also, Regan stated at the interview that while passing the McLauglin home he heard music. Yes, there was music during the McLauglin party--but Mrs. McLaughlin testified that the fire started after the music stopped.

  33. Was Dennis Regan an Accomplice? • As noted earlier, at the time the fire broke out, there was no reason for anyone to believe that it would be of any great consequence. Therefore, the person responsible for the fire would most likely, upon identifying the danger of the fire, attempt to extinguish the fire and save the O'Leary animals and property--this Sullivan and Regan did. • Failing that, this person would next alert the O'Learys--this Sullivan and Regan did. Because of their incriminating behavior, and because of their equally incriminating testimony, it seems reasonable to ASSUME that Daniel "Peg Leg" Sullivan and Dennis Regan--and not Mrs. O'Leary and her cow--may have been responsible for the Great Chicago Fire.

  34. Is Dennis Regan to blame for Starting the Fire? ANSWER: TEXTUAL EVIDENCE:

  35. Suspect 3: Daniel “Peg Leg” Sullivan • My name is Daniel "Peg Leg" Sullivan. I was a neighbor to the O'Learys. Yes, I have one wooden leg. I had gone to visit the O'Learys around 8 p.m. and Mrs. O'Leary was in bed. After my visit, I started for home. On the way, I paused at the curb in front of William White's home to enjoy my pipe. It was at that moment that I spotted the fire at the O'Learys and ran 193 feet for help, crying "Fire!"

  36. Was Daniel "Peg Leg" Sullivan the Real Culprit? • It is unlikely that Sullivan, in his attempt to extinguish the fire and rescue the animals, would have had the time to run across the street to the barn without being injured by the flames. The distance from where Sullivan sat to the barn was approximately 193 feet. That is more than one-half the length of a football field. Sullivan even testified at the inquiry that he could not run very fast. How could Sullivan HOBBLE 193 feet into a burning barn that was full of hay and wood shavings, struggle with animals, and eventually leave, without being injured? • While Sullivan testified that he yelled "fire" as he ran, it seems doubtful that this was the case. No one who testified ever said anything about hearing his cries as he allegedly ran to the barn. October 8 was an unseasonably warm day--by 4:00 p.m. the temperature had climbed to 79 degrees. Surely, then, the windows of the homes along DeKoven Street would have been open that evening. Consequently, one would think that if Sullivan had cried out, someone would have heard him.

  37. Was Daniel "Peg Leg" Sullivan the Real Culprit? • HIS ALIBI= Claiming that he was sitting in front of White's house at the time the fire started was that perfect explanation. As Sullivan lived nearby, the fact that he was in the immediate area would arouse no suspicion. He could not state that he was closer, in front of his own home or the McLaughlin home, as anyone present at the McLaughlin party could contradict him, stating that he was never seen in the area that evening. • Mrs. McLaughlin's front porch overlooked De Koven Street; it would not be unreasonable, during the course of the festivities, for someone to step outside onto the porch for some fresh air, perhaps even walk onto the sidewalk or street. Indeed, it appears from Mrs. McLaughlin's testimony that at least three men left her home that evening. Sullivan could not risk one of these men challenging his alibi.

  38. Is Daniel Sullivan to blame for Starting the Fire? ANSWER: TEXTUAL EVIDENCE: