This painting was painted by Norman Rockwell between the years of 1930 and 1940, and was given to the museum by the Office of the Mayor of Chicago in 1949.
This painting illustrates a popular legend about the start of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The seated woman, Mrs. Catherine O'Leary, milks her cow Daisy on the night of October 8th. The women is wearing a green shirt, light green and beige stripped skirt, white apron, and red kerchief with yellow dots on her head. Cow is viewed from back, but has head twisted to left to look at the viewer. Straw on floor, background dark. Bottom right corner is signed. The lamp that supposedly started the fire, not yet kicked by the cow, sits on the floor.
The Great Chicago Fire started the night of October 8, 1871 in the O'Leary's barn on 137 DeKoven Street. It was claimed that Mrs. O'Leary, careless or drunk, had allowed a cow to upset a lantern. Although an investigatory commission absolved her of any guilt, the story remained enormously popular. Finally, in 1998, the City of Chicago adopted a formal resolution absolving Mrs. O'Leary and her cow of any guilt. Norman Rockwell was a popular twentieth century American artist known for his illustrations of American life.