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The Cleveland Show
Chicago is a city known for many great things: the blues, skyscrapers, and deep dish pizza -- to name a few of my personal favourites. What many don't know is how connected Chicago and its history are to a historical great fire. In 1871, in one of the largest disasters of the 19th century, over one third of the city of Chicago was burned to the ground. Now known as the Great Chicago Fire, the disaster changed the city forever. What soon followed was a transformation of the modern city whose influence is still relevant to this day. We're taking a journey through stock photos to demonstrate how.
The date is Sunday, October 8, 1871. In Chicago, it's about 9.00 p.m. A routine night at best, the city's inhabitants are unaware that a fire has just started which will, over the course of the next two days, destroy over one third of Chicago and change all of their lives forever.
The city of Chicago burns for two days straight before rainfall ended the blaze's fury. The fire spreads with great speed, which is attributed largely to Chicago's overuse of wooden structures and strong winds. To this day, Chicago still holds its nickname as the windy city.
It's October 10th, and although the fire has ceased, over one third of the city's valuation has been destroyed. In 34 blocks of complete destruction, 300 persons have died, 73 miles of road and 120 miles of sidewalk are ruined, 175,000 buildings burned down, and 2000 lamposts destroyed.
The Chicago Daily Tribune describes the damages of the fire so fierce that level of disaster has exceed Napoleon's siege of Moscow in 1812.
The Chicago Daily Tribune also releases a cause of the great fire. Writer Michael Ahern pens that the disaster was caused by a poor Irish couple whose cow allegedly knocked over a lantern in their barn. Later, Ahern will admit that this story was merely "colourful copy". To this day, the cause of the Great Chicago Fire remains a mystery.
In the aftermath of the fire, great efforts are being made by the whole United States to provide relief to Chicago. In the city, saloons are being ordered to close by 9.00 p.m. and public buildings are left open for those without homes. The city has fixed the price of food -- no vendor can charge greater than eight cents in cost for a 12-ounce loaf of bread.
It's 1885, and Chicago is still in a process of being rebuilt. Recent technology, and the city's desire for more fireproof structures allows Chicago to explore new options never before attempted in architecture. It's in this year when George Fuller builds the world's first he skyscraper in Chicago. Following the success of Fuller's skyscraper, many similar structures are built throughout the city. Architecturally, the modern city is born.
Today, Chicago still boasts America's two tallest buildings: the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower), and the the Trump International Hotel and Tower.
Back in 1893, Chicago has hit the ground running. Chicago defeats New York City in a bid to host the World's fair. At the fair, scientist Nikola Tesla unveils the first large scale demonstration of alternating current energy -- which now supplies virtually all power grids in North America.
Tesla's display makes Thomas Edison very angry. Thus begins the now infamous "war of currents" over powering North America.
By the turn of the century, Chicago has become a bona fide modern city. Within the steady influx of immigration to the city arrives many blues musicians from Mississippi. Using advancements in electric energy, amplifiers are invented and the blues becomes electrified. The Chicago Blues is born.
Today, electric blues remains one of the greatest influences on popular rock music in history.
By the 1920's prohibition era, Chicago has earned a reputation as a lawless city. America's most famous gangster Al Capone, leads gang activity in the city.
Which in my mind, somehow influences the creation of Chicago deep dish pizza in 1943. It's a tenuous connection, but pizza is always worth mentioning.
Today, Chicago remains one of North America's most diverse and exciting cities. For its residents, the tragedy of the Great Chicago Fire remains unforgotten, and Chicago still boasts a reputation of having some of the best firefighters in the country.
Images by Getty
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