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Exhibition Program

Virtual Author Talk | Extinguishing the Myths of the Great Chicago Fire

Wednesday, November 3

In his new book, Chicago’s Great Fire: The Destruction and Resurrection of an Iconic American City, Chicago historian Carl Smith chronicles how Chicago quickly rose from the ashes thanks to local determination and the world’s generosity and faith in the city’s future. The story is built around memorable characters, such as General Philip Sheridan and Robert Todd Lincoln.

Join us as Liesl Olson of the Newberry Library moderates this virtual author talk with Carl Smith, who will be joined by US historian Adam Green and Chicago History Museum curator Julius L. Jones.

Free to all; RSVP required to receive the Zoom link. You may also watch the livestreamed event on the Newberry’s YouTube account or Facebook page without prior registration.

Need help with registration? Call Catherine White, Newberry Library program coordinator, at (312) 255-3592.

This event is cosponsored by The Newberry Library.




Liesl Olson, the Newberry’s Director of Chicago Studies, is curator of the current exhibition Chicago Avant-Garde: Five Women Ahead of Their Time. Olson has written widely on twentieth-century literature and art, including the books Modernism and the Ordinary and Chicago Renaissance: Literature and Art in the Midwest Metropolis, which won the 2018 Pegasus Award from the Poetry Foundation and the 2019 Mid-America Award from the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature. With three of her Newberry colleagues, Olson was awarded the National Council on Public History 2020 Outstanding Public History Project Award for Chicago 1919: Confronting the Race Riots.


Carl Smith is the Franklyn Bliss Snyder Professor of English and American Studies and Professor of History, Emeritus, at Northwestern University. His books include Chicago and the American Literary Imagination, 1880-1920; Urban Disorder and the Shape of Belief: The Great Chicago Fire, the Haymarket Bomb, and the Model Town of Pullman; The Plan of Chicago: Daniel Burnham and the Remaking of the American City; and City Water, City Life: Water and the Infrastructure of Ideas in Urbanizing Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago. In collaboration with Academic and Research Technologies at Northwestern and the Chicago History Museum, he has curated two major online exhibitions, The Great Chicago Fire and the Web of Memory and The Dramas of Haymarket.


Adam Green is Associate Professor of History and the College and Master of the Social Science Collegiate Division at the University of Chicago. He teaches and researches US history, African American history, and the history of Black Chicago. Green is author of Selling the Race: Culture, Community and Black Chicago, 1940–1955 and coeditor of Time Longer Than Rope: A Century of African American Activism.

Green has lectured on campuses and at community venues, appeared in multiple film documentaries, and on WTTW (PBS) Chicago, WBEZ Chicago (radio), Al-Jazeera, BBC (radio) and C-SPAN. He has also been involved in community-based initiatives in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles related to police accountability and educational justice.


Julius L. Jones is a Curator at the Chicago History Museum and curator of its newest exhibition, City on Fire: Chicago 1871. He is committed to using technology to tell new and inclusive stories about the past in compelling and innovative ways. Jones develops exhibition content, conducts research, seeks new acquisitions, and speaks on a variety of Chicago history topics.

He is also a PhD candidate in the Department of History at the University of Chicago, where his scholarly interests include twentieth-century US cultural and social history, particularly the meanings of aspiration among racial and ethnic minorities, with a focus on Chicago.

The Details



3 rd

5:00–6:00 p.m.

Event Location


Chicago History Museum Sharing Chicago's Stories