Great Chicago Fire (Chicago Tribune Edition)

Destroyed buildings after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871

Destroyed buildings after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871

The Great Chicago Fire burned October 8 to 10, 1871, in Chicago, Illinois. Chicago, with its frequent high winds and countless wooden structures, was prone to fires even before the “Great Fire” tore through the city. However, none were so destructive as this one. It ultimately killed 300 people and destroyed more than 17,000 buildings. 

Cause of the Fire

The fire is believed to have started in a cow barn owned by Patrick and Catherine O’Leary around 9 p.m. on October 8, 1871. Although folklore states that the fire began when Catherine’s cow kicked over an oil lamp, no one really knows how the fire began.

Great Chicago Fire Starts

The weather had been unusually hot and dry in Chicago, and in a city predominantly built with wood, that meant the fire spread quickly. Despite the efforts of the fire department, the fire raged throughout the night, even jumping the river. Firefighters tried to fight the massive flames with their fire hoses until the city’s waterworks burned, cutting off the supply of water.

The huge fire burned for about another 24 hours essentially unchecked—consuming a large portion of the city, residential and business districts alike—until it began to burn itself out on the night of the 9th. A light rainstorm that same night helped douse the remaining flames. 

Aftermath

By the 10th, when the fire was finally out, an area about 4 miles long and almost a mile wide had been burned to the ground, leaving 100,000 people homeless. Help came from cities, businesses, and individuals across the country, who donated money and food to the beleaguered city. 

Despite the devastation caused by Chicago’s fire, reconstruction (this time using less wood) began almost immediately. Within a little more than 20 years, Chicago rose from its ashes to become a booming city able to host the 1893 World’s Fair.

Learn more about the Great Chicago Fire (Chicago Tribune Edition) through historical newspapers from our archives. Explore newspaper articles, headlines, images, and other primary sources below.


Articles and Clippings about the Great Chicago Fire (Chicago Tribune Edition)

Chicago Tribune front page newspaper coverage and headlines about the Great Chicago Fire of 1871Chicago Tribune front page newspaper coverage and headlines about the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 11 Oct 1871, Wed Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.comAccounts of some of the victims killed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871Accounts of some of the victims killed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 11 Oct 1871, Wed Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.comNotices to people made homeless by the 1871 fire about where to find help and servicesNotices to people made homeless by the 1871 fire about where to find help and services 11 Oct 1871, Wed Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.comChicago residents encouraged to take advantage of railroads' offer of free passage out of the cityChicago residents encouraged to take advantage of railroads' offer of free passage out of the city 11 Oct 1871, Wed Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.comNewspaper lists some of the aid, money, and supplies sent to Chicago from outside citiesNewspaper lists some of the aid, money, and supplies sent to Chicago from outside cities 11 Oct 1871, Wed Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.comEditorial declaring that Editorial declaring that "Chicago shall rise again" after Great Chicago Fire of 1871 11 Oct 1871, Wed Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.comPolice and soldiers under General Sheridan patrol Chicago streets after 1871 fire to preserve orderPolice and soldiers under General Sheridan patrol Chicago streets after 1871 fire to preserve order 12 Oct 1871, Thu Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.comList of losses & insurance in the Great Chicago FireList of losses & insurance in the Great Chicago Fire 12 Oct 1871, Thu Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.comDescription of the Tribune building and damage caused by the Great Chicago FireDescription of the Tribune building and damage caused by the Great Chicago Fire 12 Oct 1871, Thu Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.comDescription of England’s response to the Great Chicago FireDescription of England’s response to the Great Chicago Fire 12 Oct 1871, Thu Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.comDescription of New York’s response to the Great Chicago FireDescription of New York’s response to the Great Chicago Fire 12 Oct 1871, Thu Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.comEditorial calling for the residents to “Rebuild the City” after the Great Chicago FireEditorial calling for the residents to “Rebuild the City” after the Great Chicago Fire 12 Oct 1871, Thu Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.comAn expression of sympathy from an Iowa business, published in the wake of the Great Chicago FireAn expression of sympathy from an Iowa business, published in the wake of the Great Chicago Fire 21 Oct 1871, Sat Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.comChicago Tribune reports on painting of the Great Chicago Fire created by Philadelphia artist in 1871Chicago Tribune reports on painting of the Great Chicago Fire created by Philadelphia artist in 1871 16 Dec 1871, Sat Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.com1874 sermon referencing the Great Chicago Fire, as printed in the Chicago Tribune1874 sermon referencing the Great Chicago Fire, as printed in the Chicago Tribune 20 Jul 1874, Mon Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.comPoem/song about Chicago in the aftermath of the Great Chicago FirePoem/song about Chicago in the aftermath of the Great Chicago Fire 11 Feb 1878, Mon Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.comNewspaper ad announcing a 1892 cyclorama of the Great Chicago FireNewspaper ad announcing a 1892 cyclorama of the Great Chicago Fire 18 Oct 1892, Tue Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.com"Story of the Great Chicago Fire as Told by the Men Who Fought It" 09 Oct 1893, Mon Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.comNotice about Fire Prevention Day on the 43rd anniversary of the Great Chicago FireNotice about Fire Prevention Day on the 43rd anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire 09 Oct 1914, Fri Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.comMan who lived through Chicago Fire as a teen gives an eyewitness account of his experiencesMan who lived through Chicago Fire as a teen gives an eyewitness account of his experiences 08 Oct 1938, Sat Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.comNew owner acquires bell supposedly belonging to cow rumored to have started the Great Chicago FireNew owner acquires bell supposedly belonging to cow rumored to have started the Great Chicago Fire 09 Oct 1936, Fri Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.comEditorial on the 100 Year Anniversary of the Great Chicago FireEditorial on the 100 Year Anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire 08 Oct 1971, Fri Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.comPicture of destruction caused to a building by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871Picture of destruction caused to a building by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 08 Oct 1996, Tue Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.com
"Great Chicago Fire (Chicago Tribune Edition)," Newspapers.com Topics (https://www.newspapers.com/topics/industrial-gilded-ages/great-chicago-fire-chicago-tribune-edition/ : accessed October 24, 2021)