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The City of Chicago, showing the burnt district, 1874
The city of Chicago, after the great fire, August 1, 1874

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The Great Chicago Fire
October 9, 1871

Can you imagine how a cow could set such a huge fire? No one is sure how the Chicago blaze began, but one eyewitness saw the first flames leaping out of Mr. And Mrs. O'Leary's barn. Rumor, and now legend, has it that their cow kicked over an oil lamp, setting straw on fire. Mrs. O'Leary's cow may well be the most infamous cow in American history!

Firefighters brought the fire under control the next day, on October 9, 1871, but only with the help of a rainstorm. It had been unusually warm and dry that year, and the city's wood buildings burned like matches until finally the rain came down.

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