Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’

Great Chicago Fire

At 9:00 pm on Sunday, October 8, 1871, a fire began in or around a small barn in Chicago.  A combination of high winds, a recent drought, and the extensive use of lumber in the city’s construction aided the spread of the fire, and it quickly grew out of control.  The fire burned through the night and all the next day, encompassing some 2,000 acres, killing 300 people, and leaving approximately 100,000 homeless.  On Monday evening, winds diminished and a light rain began to fall.  By the next morning the fire had burned itself out.  Despite the enormity of the fire and its toll on the city and its residents, the ensuing reconstruction and careful urban planning eventually helped Chicago develop into one of the largest and most economically important American cities of the twentieth century.

A view of LaSalle St. from Randolph showing ruins after the great fire of Oct. 1871, Chicago, Illinois. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Through Opening History, documentary images from this event are brought together with histories, personal accounts, and other textual resources.   The image above is from a series of related views in the Library of Congress’s collection of Stereographic Cards, and the image below was drawn from Chicago: A Collection of Digitized Books at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

An image from David Swing's 1892 account, "A Story of the Chicago Fire." Courtesy of Illinois Harvest.


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Today is the 117th anniversary of the World’s Columbian Exposition, a World Fair held in Chicago in 1893 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival to North America.  The fair was held on the shores of Lake Michigan for six months and attracted visitors from all over the world.

World's Columbian Exposition Ferris Wheel

World's Columbian Exposition Ferris Wheel. Image courtesy of the University of Illinois's Teaching with Digital Content collection

The fair showcased the latest in arts, technology, and science from around the world. The success of the fair had an impact on Chicago because it was held twenty-two years after the Great Chicago Fire had burned much of the city in 1871. Opening History is an abundant source of information about the World’s Columbian Exposition, offering photos and memorabilia. The two photos featured here are from the University of Illinois Teaching with Digital Content collection.

World's Columbian Exposition Festival Hall

World's Columbian Exposition Festival Hall. Image courtesy of the University of Illinois's Teaching with Digital Content collection.

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Below are posted some of the vibrant color photographs from the Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection, which have recently gained a lot of interest in the IMLSDCC Ringling Brothers Circus Flickr photo set.

Charles Weever Cushman, amateur photographer and Indiana University alumnus, bequeathed a large collection of Kodachrome color slides to his alma mater. The photographs in this collection bridge a thirty-two year span from 1938 to 1969, during which time Mr. Cushman extensively documented the United States as well as other countries. This collection was digitized by Indiana University’s Digital Library Program with the cooperation of the Indiana University Archives.

The Ringling Brothers Circus set of images on Flickr depicts several trips Mr. Cushman made to Ringling Brothers’ Circus in 1940’s and 1950’s.

Mr. Cushman and his works are a niche subject area within the greater Flickr community. Not only is there a Flickr group dedicated Cushman’s work (http://www.flickr.com/groups/cushman/) but there are numerous photostreams that contain interpretations of his works:

Ringling Circus Elephant Tail up! Chicago (Chicago, 1949)

German team with Ringling Circus: Two young German girls in head-on-hand balancing act (1950)

Chicago Clown Lou Jacobs (1951)

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