Front Page Image Links

The Great Chicago Fire & the Web of Memory consists of two main parts. The first part, titled The Great Chicago Fire, includes five chronologically organized sections that together present a history of the fire.  The sections of the second part, The Web of Memory, examine six ways in which the fire has been remembered:  eyewitness accounts, contemporary journalism and illustrations, imaginative forms such as literature and art, the legend of Mrs. O'Leary and her cow, fire souvenirs of many different kinds, and formal commemorations and exhibitions. Each of the sections has three integrated components: thematic galleries of images, a library of texts, and an interpretive essay.

The Great Chicago Fire & the Web of Memory also contains a Touring the Fire section that revisits the history of fifty-four different sites in Chicago today, called Landmarks, that have a connection to the fire.  Individual Landmarks are organized into tours that are arranged geographically.  In addition, there is an 1871 Timeline that recalls events in Chicago life during the year of the fire.

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Throughout the site there are several interactive features.  Virtually every image can be enlarged greatly for more detailed viewing.  There are also three-dimensional images (a red/blue anaglyph viewer is required) in the Media Event section, and two fire songs performed by soprano Patrice Michaels in the Fanning the Flames section.  Both of these, as well as the Timeline, are among the Special Features.

Almost all of the images here can be purchased from the Chicago History Museum.  For more information, go to or send an e-mail to  Please be prepared to identify items by their ichi number, which is indicated in the images that are available for sale. The artifacts and texts included here represent only a small fraction of the Chicago History Museum’s holdings relating to the fire.