For most people who frequent this site, Chicago conjures thoughts of Chicago O'Hare International Airport (whether travel and adventure, or storms, delays, and dread), or perhaps Chicago Midway International Airport. A few may think of Merrill C. Meigs Airport on the lakefront and curse its destruction. Some of us also think of it as home, or think with astonishment of this season's Chicago Cubs.
144 years ago, after a protracted dry spell, Chicago experienced a storm quite unlike the winter blizzards or summer thunderstorms that frustrate travellers at Chicago's airports. Late on the evening of Sunday 8 October 1871, a fire broke out in the barn belonging to Patrick and Catherine O'Leary. Legend has it that one of their cows kicked over a lantern, setting hay ablaze. Whatever the cause, throughout 9 October 1871 the fire burned through nearly four square miles (about 10 kmē), killing 300 people and leaving another 100,000 homeless as well as destroying the entire central business district of the young city, which had only been incorporated as a city 34 years earlier. Rain finally arrived late the following evening, helping to extinguish the blaze.
Today's Featured Map remembers the fire and the O'Leary's cow, with present-day O'Hare and Midway airports for context.
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Karl L. Swartz.
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