The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 Essay Example


The Great Chicago Fire burned as viciously as a roaring lion on the day of October 8th, 1871. Hence, the city of Chicago obtained over 200 million dollars in damages, an estimated 300 citizens in graves, and thousands of burned buildings. You could compare this to a roaring lion. The lion roars, then comes the run to its prey, and finally, the prey is eaten. The Chicago Fire of 1871 started as a small, harmless fire, but it resulted in a city of ruins with a substantial effect on Chicago’s future. Relatively, the unsolved mystery of the cause, the affected buildings that were burned to ashes, and the aftermath of the boomed economy of the Great Chicago fire all advance into Chicago’s history. 

People had various opinions on what caused the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. One article claims. “ Lee demanded the key to the alarm box that was mounted on the outside of the store. Bruno Goll refused to hand it over, insisting that a fire truck had already passed.” (The Great Fire ) This situation heavily impacted the Great Chicago Fire because as Lee headed back to his family’s house his house was about to catch on fire. Goll declared that fire trucks had already arrived, but they didn’t. This resulted in the firetrucks not being able to arrive at where they needed to.  A passage by the University of Michigan states, “There is one man who admitted to starting the fire.” According to the article, a man named “Louis Cohn'' and a few other young men were shooting dice in the hayloft, and then one of the boys accidentally overturned a lantern, which resulted in the barn setting a fire that would then turn into the Great Chicago Fire. (Umich.edu)  Northwestern University was the University that released this statement briefly before his death after Cohn turned his 35,000 dollar estate to them, In actuality, this story was supported by several facts, such as the fact that there are records of several Cohn's living within a walking distance of the barn. All in all, various theories are in place explaining what happened on October 8th, 1871 but there’s no confirmation of what accurately happened. 

The innumerable amount of buildings that were burned to the ground in this dreadful fire was astonishing. A document from National Geographic disclosed, “Buildings often had a single layer of fireproof material on the outside, hiding the wooden structure beneath.” Various buildings had a configuration similar to this, but it was not a very good one, considering how this fire proved this statement by burning entire buildings to the ground. One example of this “The Waterworks,” which was the main source of water for the city’s fire department. During the first few hours of the roaring fire, a burning ember attacked the roof of this building, and it was quickly destroyed. (National Geographic) Quoted by The Chicago Tribune, “Among its prey: Potter Palmer's hotel, Marshall Field's Marble Palace, the city's brothels and the Tribune building, a spanking new, four-story, "fireproof" structure.” One, in particular, the “Palmer Hotel,” was a newly constructed hotel that fell victim to the Great Chicago Fire only 13 days after its opening. (Palmer Hotel) The owner of this hotel was determined to reopen the building as soon as possible, so he rebuilt the Palmer Hotel and was able to open its doors in 1875 by labeling the building “The World’s Only Fire-Proof Hotel.” (Hotel News) In conclusion, a countless number of buildings were burned and destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. 

The aftermath of the Great Chicago fire heavily impacted Chicago’s economy and stability. “Reconstruction efforts began quickly and spurred great economic development and population growth, as architects laid the foundation for a modern city featuring the world’s first skyscrapers,” conveys the paragraph. (History.com) An example of this is the fact that 6,000 temporary structures were built within a week. (Chicago Tribune) Not only that, the demand for laborers increased astoundingly, so salaries rose by a whopping amount, and farmers from as far away as 150 miles rode into the city for jobs. Another article quotes, “By 1890, the city was a major economic and transportation hub with an estimated population of more than 1 million people.” (History.com) This quote demonstrates how the economy of Chicago boomed after the fire by declaring the power this city had gained in less than 20 years. After the fire, morale was low, but it picked up soon after, and many people described it as “a phoenix, rising from the ashes” (“The Great Fire”) One example of this was the story of “Wilbur Storey.” He was the owner of the Chicago Times, and he had lost all hope for his newspaper. Wilbur thought that Chicago was gone, and he thought it was going to be the end of his newspaper. Fortunately, he saw various other newspapermen who were looking for ways to write, and he was inspired by all of them. Wilbur was able to get the Chicago Times up and running within ten days. Ultimately, after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, several efforts were made for the rise and stability of the city’s economy.

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