Great Chicago Fire

1871 conflagration in Chicago, Illinois

The Great Chicago Fire was a large fire that started on Sunday October 8, 1871 in Chicago, Illinois, United States. The fire started out as nine separated fires.[1] It burned until Tuesday October 10, 1871 when rain started to fall.

Drawing of the Great Chicago Fire from Harper's Weekly

The fire destroyed 3.3 square miles (8.5 square kilometers)[2] and $192,000,000 in property. About 100,000 people were left homeless. Three hundred people died. Because of a large fire the night before, firefighters were too tired to quickly put out these fires.[3]

No one is sure what caused the fire. A legend says that it started when a cow knocked over a lantern in Catherine O'Leary's barn on De Koven Street.[4]

The oldest structure left standing in the area where the fire burned is the Couch family tomb. This stone tomb was built in 1858.[5]

Not all of the city was destroyed. Important places like the Stock Yards, where animals were slaughtered, were not damaged. Neither was the railroad system.[6]

The second red star of the Chicago flag represents the fire.[7]



  1. "Progress of the Chicago Fire of 1871". Encyclopedia of Chicago. Retrieved August 28, 2014.
  2. Miller, Donald (1996). City of the Century; The Epic of Chicago and the making of America. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 159. ISBN 0684831384.
  3. Chicago fire of 1871. (2014). In Encyclopædia Britannica.
  4. Did the Cow Do It?
  5. Couch Family Tomb
  6. The Ruined City. (2011). The Great Chicago Fire and the Web of Memory. Archived 2014-05-28 at the Wayback Machine Chicago History Museum. Web. Retrieved on May 27, 2014.
  7. "Municipal Flag of Chicago". Chicago Public Library. 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-04.

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