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Family Day | City on Fire: Chicago 1871

Saturday, October 16

One hundred and fifty years ago, Chicago was a city with a bustling business district and a rapidly growing population. The city was bursting at the seams to accommodate new residents, and houses were being built quickly out of wood and crammed tightly together. Even the few paved streets and sidewalks were made of wood. Although structures were advertised as “fireproof,” on October 8, 1871, the combination of strong wind, a regional drought, and a fire near DeKoven Street proved them wrong on an epic scale.

Spend the day with us at the Chicago History Museum to explore the history of the Great Chicago Fire in our newest exhibition, City on Fire: Chicago 1871. Discover the story of the Fire through accounts by people who lived through it such as Justin Butterfield, Claire Innis, Joseph and Anna Hudlin, and Catherine O’Leary. Designed for families with children ages 13 and under, the day’s activities include:

  • A hands-on workshop with Chicago Mobile Makers where you can design your ideal community
  • Live musical performances celebrating Chicago
  • The chance to get up close and personal with a fire engine from the Chicago Fire Department

And much more!

Free with general admission; RSVP not required



To be announced!

Letter drawing by Justin Butterfield (with his goat) of his Great Fire experiences, 1871. ICHi-063792
View of the 1871 Chicago Fire at night under full moon. Lithograph by F. Sala & Co., c. 1871. CHM, ICHi-063773
Front view of a Chicago Fire Department fire marshall helmet used during the Chicago Fire of 1871. CHM, ICHi-064110
"Memories of the Chicago Fire of 1871" by Julia Lemos, 1912. CHM, ICHi-062293
Harriet Jessie Peabody's doll, "Bessie," saved in the Great Fire, 1871. CHM, ICHi-064649
Broadside regarding aid after the Great Chicago Fire, 1871. CHM, ICHi-020590

The Details



16 th

10:30 a.m.–4:00 p.m.

Event Location

Chicago History Museum

1601 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL 60614

purchase tickets for Oct. 16
Chicago History Museum Sharing Chicago's Stories