Diorama depicting the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Wood; metal and other construction materials. Miniatures of buildings, railways, animals, people. Projected light and color are intended to enhance the translucent backing at far rear.
This diorama depicting the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 was commissioned by the Chicago Historical Society circa 1931 and was altered May 1971.
The diorama's view looking westward from Lake Michigan shows the fire's spread to the business district. Foreground depicts intact building, background depicts embers.
This diorama depicts the Great Fire of Chicago, a disaster that forever changed the city. Around 9:00 PM on Sunday October 8, 1871, a fire started southwest of downtown Chicago on property owned by the O'Leary family of DeKoven Street. Firefighters fought the blaze using water from buckets, hand-pumped hoses, and a few steam-powered pumpers, but strong winds whipped the fire out of control and it engulfed the city. Terrified men, women, and children rushed toward Lake Michigan as the fire chased them through the doomed city. Finally on Tuesday morning, October 10, some much-needed rain helped to stop the blaze. The fire destroyed over 18,000 buildings, killed more than 300 people, and left a third of the city's population homeless. Chicago's tragedy was front-page news around the world. As the city rebuilt, the world followed its progress. For many, Chicago's amazing recovery symbolized American values such as hard work, determination, and ingenuity. Amazingly, most signs of the destruction were gone within a year.