‘A Catastrophe Waiting To Happen’: The Real Story Behind The Great Chicago Fire

One thing we know now: Mrs. O’Leary’s cow was innocent.

The Palmer House Hilton Chicago
A photo of the Palmer House (1871-1875), rebuilt after the Great Chicago Fire. Photo taken c. 1880s. John M. Van Osdel was the architect. Courtesy of J.W. Taylor, photographer. J.W. Taylor Photograph Collection, Ryerson, Burnham Art, Architecture Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago.
The Palmer House Hilton Chicago
A photo of the Palmer House (1871-1875), rebuilt after the Great Chicago Fire. Photo taken c. 1880s. John M. Van Osdel was the architect. Courtesy of J.W. Taylor, photographer. J.W. Taylor Photograph Collection, Ryerson, Burnham Art, Architecture Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago.

‘A Catastrophe Waiting To Happen’: The Real Story Behind The Great Chicago Fire

One thing we know now: Mrs. O’Leary’s cow was innocent.

On the night of Oct. 8, 1871, a fire broke out in Chicago. It started in or around a small barn owned by Patrick and Catherone O’Leary and would ultimately shape the city into what it is today. Historian Carl Smith joins Reset to tell the real story of the blaze that destroyed — and ultimately redefined — Chicago.

GUEST: Carl Smith, author of Chicago’s Great Fire: The Destruction and Resurrection of an Iconic American City; history professor at Northwestern University