A quiz on famous Chicago disasters | WBEZ
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Eight Forty-Eight

A quiz on famous Chicago disasters

WBEZ history blogger John Schmidt quizzes listeners on the biggest and best Chicago diasters. 


1. What feature film climaxes with the Great Chicago Fire?
(A) Fire on the Prairie
(B) Mrs. O’Leary’s Killer Cow
(C) The Night Chicago Died
(D) In Old Chicago

2. In 1977 a Loop ‘L’ accident left 11 people dead. What caused the accident?
(A) Two trains collided.
(B) A helicopter crashed into the ‘L’ structure.
(C) A passenger tried to hijack a train.
(D) A train fell off the tracks during a snowstorm.

3. What famous entertainer was a hero in the Iroquois Theatre Fire?
(A) George M. Cohan
(B) Eddie Foy
(C) Al Jolson
(D) Lily Langtry

4. What was notable about the sinking of the Rouse Simmons?
(A) The ship sank after crashing into the old Michigan Avenue Bridge.
(B) The ship was carrying over $100 million in gold.
(C) The Rouse Simmons was Chicago’s Christmas Tree Ship.
(D) The former captain of the Eastland went down with the Rouse Simmons.

5. What is the traditional site of the Fort Dearborn Massacre?
(A) North and Clark
(B) Wacker and Michigan
(C) 18th and Prairie
(D) 35th and Shields


d a b c c

1. (D) In Old Chicago. This was a 1937 melodrama starring Tyrone Power, Don Ameche, Alice Faye, and Alice Brady— who won a supporting actress Oscar as Mrs. O’Leary. The special effects are primitive by today’s standards, but the movie was a big hit 75 years ago.

2. (A) Two trains collided. During the February darkness of an afternoon rush hour, a train rounded the curve from Wabash into Lake, and hit the back of another train stopped at the State-Lake station. Three cars of the rear train fell off the track onto the street. Besides the 11 dead, 180 people were injured.

3. (B) Eddie Foy. The fire started during a musical comedy performance. Foy went on stage, and remained there long after he could have escaped, trying to calm down the audience. When he could no longer do that, he did manage to get out safely. The incident is dramatized in Bob Hope’s film The Seven Little Foys.

4. (C) The Rouse Simmons was Chicago’s Christmas Tree Ship. In 1912, the Rouse Simmons went down in a storm on Lake Michigan. It was bringing Christmas trees to Chicago from the forests of northern Michigan. The wreckage was found in 1971.

5. (C) 18th and Prairie. In 1812, a group of U.S. soldiers and settlers were evacuating Fort Dearborn, and were ambushed by Potawatomi warriors. In 1870, one of the survivors said that the incident had started near a particular grove of cottonwood trees, which then stood at 18th and Prairie. Later historians have concluded that the battle might have taken place closer to current Roosevelt Road.

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