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The Destruction of the 1871 Chicago Fire Captured in Photographs

These photographs document the widespread destruction and many of them were later sold as stereoscope cards to be sold to the general public. In photos this catastrophe can be seen from a more objective view than in paintings or etchings, which was how many people of the era saw the event since photo reproduction was in its infancy.

The Great Fire left 90,000 people homeless, 300 dead, and caused more than $200M in damages after jumping the river twice in an unstoppable blaze that lasted for two days.

East corner of Washington and LaSalle streets. Via/ NYPL Digital

Building of the Republic Insurance Co., LaSalle Street. Via/ NYPL

New England and Unity Churches, looking north on Dearborn Street. Via/ NYPL

Chicago Tribune building. Via/ CARLI

Interior view of New England Church. Via/ NYPL

Rush Medical College after the fire. Via/ Library of Congress

Court House, seen through ruins of east side of Clark Street. Via/ NYPL

Honore block. Via/ CARLI

The American Express office at the corner of Dearborn & Lake Streets. Via/ NYPL

Merchants Insurance building. Via/ NYPL

Click “Next Page” to see more historic photos of the Great Fire of Chicago!

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