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Revisionist History Of The Chicago Fire

October 8, 2008

A Britannica Blog post by Gregory McNamee posits a revisionist history of the beginnings of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Teaser: The fire starter award contest is between Mrs. Catherine O’Leary and one Daniel “Peg Leg” Sullivan. – TL

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  1. According to Donald L. Miller's City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996), the legend of Mrs. O'Leary's cow was a hoax perpetrated by newspaper reporters, as the Britannica post also alludes. Ultimately, though, it had more to do, as you know, with a long dry summer, candlelight, oil, and a city (even the sidewalks) constructed largely from wood.


  2. But did Professor Miller cite Daniel “Peg Leg” Sullivan?! And of course Peg Leg Sullivan's was a bar name in Chicago until about a year or so ago. I never knew the significance until writing the post. – TL


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