With City on Fire: Chicago 1871, the Chicago History Museum unpacks the epic blaze that changed the course of Windy City history 150 years ago.
An 1871 Currier and Ives lithograph on view at the exhibition dramatically depicts the destructive path of the Great Chicago Fire.
No event has had a more lasting impact on the city of Chicago than the great fire of October 1871, which burned the wooden city to the ground over the course of three days, leaving more than 100,000 people homeless, with the blame squarely placed on the Irish immigrant O’Leary family. Now, the Chicago History Museum is taking an in-depth look at the events and conditions before, after and during the inferno with City on Fire: Chicago 1871, a family-friendly exhibition featuring stunning visuals and more than 100 artifacts from the museum’s collection complemented by interactive and multimedia elements as well as personal stories from fire survivors. Making this semipermanent exhibition feel all the more timely are the themes of resilience and equity that it explores. Notes museum assistant curator Julius L. Jones, who serves as head curator for the exhibition, “The recovery efforts for the fire exposed deep social and economic inequities… and society placed blame upon Catherine O’Leary, largely because she was an Irish immigrant. One hundred fifty years later, City on Fire: Chicago 1871 draws striking parallels to today’s social landscape, teaching us that we still have to work toward inclusivity in our city.” Ongoing, 1601 N. Clark St., chicagohistory.org