Chicago fire of 1871

During the night of October 8, 1871, there broke out in Chicago what became, perhaps, the most destructive conflagration, in actual loss of wealth, that ever visited any city. High winds spread the flames, which found abundant fuel in the many wooden structures of the city, and they raged for three days, destroying property valued at two hundred millions of dollars. The ground burned over was four and a half miles long by one mile wide, one hundred thousand people were left homeless, and two hundred lost their lives by this terrible disaster.

A later account gives the following summary: Three and a third square miles burned over; 17,450 buildings destroyed; 98,500 persons rendered homeless, and over 250 killed. The total direct loss of property was estimated at $190,000,000, swelled by indirect losses of $290,000,000. Fifty-six insurance companies were rendered insolvent by the fire. In less than a month over $3,500,000 had been subscribed, independent of aid voted by the State Legislature.

Return to The Great Republic by the Master Historians (Vol 3)