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CHICAGO FIRE 1871

CHICAGO FIRE 1871

The Great Chicago Fire of Oct. 6-7, 1871 started behind the home of Mrs. Catherine O'Leary and her husband at 137 De Koven Street. The conflagration had few peers in world history. The fire cost some 300 lives, destroyed 17,450 buildings, and caused $200 million in damage—$200 million in 1871 dollars, that is to say, about a third of the city’s estimated value. A cow did not start the fire by kicking over a lantern in the barn but this was the legend of the time. Mrs. O'Leary milked her cows at 5 PM, the regular time, she took her lantern inside with her. The fire started four hours later at 9 PM possibly started by neighborhood boys who were smoking in the barn. But the story of the cow likely prevented harm coming to the boys and it diverted blame according to a Chicago Tribune reporter who admited before he died in 1924 that he made up the story about the cow so that the lives of the boys would not be in danger. Within a few days of the fire, the Illinois State Association of Washington, DC raised from members $3,000 for the relief of fire victims and sent the money to Mayor Medlill.

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