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VIRTUAL TALK: “Chicago’s Great Fire” with Carl S. Smith
March 23, 2021 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm$10.00
CHICAGO’S GREAT FIRE
The Destruction and Resurrection of an Iconic American City
Almost 150 years ago, most of Chicago burned to the ground. The fire started in Catherine and Patrick O’Leary’s barn on October 8, 1871 and grew out of control quickly by jumping branches of the Chicago River twice on its relentless northeastward path through the city’s three divisions. Why? Chicago, incorporated as a city in 1837, grew at a breathtaking pace. The population was around 4,000 in 1840; it had exploded to more than 330,000 by the time the fire ignited. Built hastily over the years, the city was made largely of wood. Although the death toll was miraculously low, close to one of every three Chicago residents was left homeless; more were instantly unemployed. Eminent Chicago historian Carl Smith builds the story of the Chicago’s great fire around well-known and little-known characters, including General Philip Sheridan and Robert Todd Lincoln, and chronicles the city’s rapid growth and place in America’s post-Civil War expansion. The fire―revealing human nature in all its guises―became one of equally remarkable renewal, as the city quickly rose back up from the ashes thanks to local determination and the world’s generosity and faith in Chicago’s future.
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