Origin of Great Chicago Fire
Backstory and Context
From October 8th to 10th, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire burned out of control, quickly spreading far and wide across the city. The scarcity of fire personnel combined with the strong winds sweeping through the dry, wooden environment effectively doomed the city. Eventually, rains came to help put out the fire, but the devastation was massive.
The Chicago Board of Police and Fire Commissioners conducted an official investigation into the cause of the fire, focusing on the O’Leary family and their barn, but the commissioners never determined a definite cause. The traditional account of the origin of the fire is that it was started by a cow kicking over a lantern in the barn owned by Patrick and Catherine O'Leary, but the false story was later attributed to an anti-Irish journalist trying to lay the blame for the fire entirely on the immigrant family. Many other theories have circulated about the start of the fire, but the exact cause of the fire remains unknown to this day.