The Great Chicago Fire

A Bird's-Eye View of Pre-Fire Chicago describes the remarkable growth of Chicago in the decades preceding the fire, while The Great Conflagration examines the calamity itself. The Ruined City is concerned with the extent and nature of the devastation. Rescue and Relief focuses on the emergency measures taken to restore order immediately after the calamity, and on the enormous charitable assistance effort that began while the fire was burning and which continued for the next few years. Queen of the West Once More traces the rapid reconstruction of the city, concentrating on the "Great Rebuilding" of 1871-73.


    • We, of the earlier time, saw the things about us through a tenuous and almost colorless atmosphere--for we lived in a present without a past.

      Frederick Francis Cook, Bygone Days in Chicago

    • It was like a snowstorm only the flakes were red instead of white.

      Fire Narrative of Bessie Bradwell Helmer

    • It was the completeness of the wreck; the total desolation which met the eye on every hand; the utter blankness of what had a few hours before been so full of life, of associations, of aspirations, of all things which kept the mind of a Chicagoan so contantly driven.

      Elias Colbert and Everett Chamberlin, Chicago and the Great Conflagration, 1871

    • This city never was, and probably never will be again, so thoroughly guarded and watched with so many anxious eyes, as it was on that fearful Monday and the few succeeding days.

      Fire Narrative of Charles C. P. Holden

    • The capitalists, the mercantile and business interests of this country and of Europe cannot afford to withhold the means to rebuild Chicago.... What she has been in the past she must become in the future, and a hundred fold more.

      William Bross, Speech to the New York Chamber of Commerce