A great new video from Prager University:
The most famous fire in American history happened in Chicago on October 8, 1871. But it’s not the fire that was so remarkable; it’s what happened afterwards. Lee Habeeb, host of the nationally syndicated radio show “Our American Stories,” explains.
From the transcript:
The most famous fire in American history happened in Chicago on October 8, 1871. But it’s not the fire that is so remarkable. It’s what happened afterwards. To understand why, we first need to know something about the city’s history.
In 1840, Chicago was a small town of forty-five hundred souls. It ranked 92nd in population in the United States. Yet, only three decades later, by 1870–just a year before the great fire–Chicago was closing in on a population of 300,000, making it the fifth-biggest city in America and the fastest-growing city in the world.
What led to all this rapid growth? In three words: location, location, location.
“Chicago was near the center of the country, and near where the waterways and railways met,” city historian Tim Samuelson notes. “It was a perfect place for anything and anyone to get anywhere…”
Timing had a lot to do with it, too. America was moving from a rural to an industrial power. Chicago was right in the middle of the action. Ironically, its rapid growth was almost its undoing. “[Chicago] had to build, and build quickly, and so they built it out of wood,” explained Sarah Marcus of the Chicago History Museum. “It was quick, it was easy, and it was cheap.”
And, as it turned out, very flammable.
By most accounts, the fire started on the city’s West Side, near the De Koven Street barn of Patrick and Catherine O’Leary. No one is sure of the cause, but it could have been anything, from vandals to a drunken neighbor to that clumsy cow of urban legend.
Read more: Prager University