These cookies were charred in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and saved as mementos of the destruction.
The Great Chicago Fire began the evening of October 8, 1871 on the city's southwest side and rapidly spread north. It killed nearly 300 people, destroyed three and a half square miles of city, and one-third of the residents' homes.
These charred cookies are a testament to both the range and intensity of the Great Chicago Fire's destruction. As the fire burned through Chicago's central business district October 8th and 9th of 1871, many food shops, including 152 bakeries, were destroyed. Though a few bakers remained in business and baked thousands of loaves of bread daily for hungry residents, these charred ginger cookies represent the many stores that burned in the devastating fire. After the fire burned out, residents saved curious Objects like these charred cookies as reminders of the fire's destructive force.