Great Chicago Fire.
On October 9, 1871, Chicago's "Great Conflagration" was brought under control. The fire started the night before and was not completely extinguished until much needed rain fell the following day. Several factors contributed to the severity of the Great Chicago Fire. The bustling Midwestern city was built primarily of wood, and several woodworking industries operated within the city limits. Also, rainfall during the preceding months had totaled just one fourth of normal precipitation while early October was unseasonably warm.
No one knows for certain how the fire started, though an eyewitness did see the beginnings of the blaze in Mr. and Mrs. O'Leary's barn. One widely circulated rumor held the O'Leary's cow responsible for knocking over an oil burning lamp and setting the straw afire. Whatever the cause, chaos resulted as hundreds fled their home to escape the rapidly spreading flames.
By the time the fire was extinguished, 300 Chicagoans were dead, and 90,000 of 500,000 residents were left homeless. Four square miles, including the business district, were completely leveled. But, Chicago rapidly rebuilt in conformance with new fire regulations. Hosting the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893, Chicago again reigned as the "Queen of the West."