Chicago's Great Fire: The Destruction and Resurrection of an Iconic American City

Chicago's Great Fire: The Destruction and Resurrection of an Iconic American City

From an acclaimed historian, the full and authoritative story of one of the most iconic disasters in American history, told through the vivid memories of those who experienced it

Between October 8–10, 1871, much of the city of Chicago was destroyed by one of the most legendary urban fires in history. Incorporated as a city in 1837, Chicago had grown at a breathtaking pace in barely three decades, from just over 4,000 in 1840 to greater than 330,000 at the time of the fire. Built hastily, the city was largely made of wood. Once it began in the barn of Catherine and Patrick O’Leary, the Fire quickly grew out of control, twice jumping branches of the Chicago River on its relentless northeastward path through the city’s three divisions. Close to one of every three Chicago residents was left homeless and more were instantly unemployed, though the death toll was miraculously low.

Remarkably, no carefully researched popular history of the Great Chicago Fire has been written until now, despite it being one of the most cataclysmic disasters in US history. Building the story around memorable characters, both known to history and unknown, including the likes of General Philip Sheridan and Robert Todd Lincoln, eminent Chicago historian Carl Smith chronicles the city’s rapid growth and place in America’s post-Civil War expansion. The dramatic story of the fire―revealing human nature in all its guises―became one of equally remarkable renewal, as Chicago quickly rose back up from the ashes thanks to local determination and the world’s generosity and faith in Chicago’s future.

As we approach the fire’s 150th anniversary, Carl Smith’s compelling narrative at last gives this epic event its full and proper place in our national chronicle.

Title:Chicago's Great Fire: The Destruction and Resurrection of an Iconic American City
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9780802148100
Format Type:

    Chicago's Great Fire: The Destruction and Resurrection of an Iconic American City Reviews

  • Carlos

    A perfect well written book about the Chicago fire. It dealswith the fire itself, the aftermath and the progression the city went through after the fire. The narrative never becomes boring and the det...

  • Claudia

    The tale of Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicking over a lantern and causing the conflagration that destroyed the city of Chicago back in 1871 has become a part of urban legend and tall tales. But Carl Smith has...

  • Barbara

    Rather than a comedy of errors, it was a tragedy of errors that caused the Great Chicago Fire, in October of 1871. The weather, the lax building codes, the use of wood for streets, the reluctance of t...

  • thewoollygeek (tea, cake, crochet & books)

    A well presented book, I knew a bit about Chicago’s great fire from documentaries and self learning, but this book really did teach me a lot I didn’t know, it was well written, it really did keep ...

  • Shawn

    Review of Chicago's Great FireCarl Smith's upcoming Chicago's Great Fire: The Destruction and Resurrection of an Iconic American City is an exhaustively researched and skilfully woven tale of one of t...

  • Lisa Konet

    Having parents born in Chicago with many family members and friends still there, I had to request to read this. I knew a little bit about the devastating fire but it was nice to learn more in depth wh...

  • Jenn of The Bookish Society

    Another great Chicago book about the Great Fire! But, it isn't just another book- this one stands head and shoulders above the other half dozen or so that I've read. Well, worth my time!...

  • Diane

    Carl Smith has written a very extensive history of the fire that destroyed a large part of Chicago back in 1871. He wrote about the origin of the fire and how many escaped the conflagration, which mad...

  • Christopher Gerrib

    As a long-time Chicago-area resident and history buff, when I heard about Carl Smith's book on the Great Fire of Chicago, I was very curious. I'm glad I satisfied my curiosity and bought a copy.The bo...

  • Ross Nelson

    I love historical non-fiction books and this was an enjoyable read! It is very thorough and well researched and will leave you not simply thinking of Mrs. O'Leary's cow and the unproven belief that th...