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October 8 is the 281st day of the year (282nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 84 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 1871, flames spark in the Chicago barn of Patrick and Catherine O’Leary, igniting a 2-day blaze that kills between 200 and 300 people, destroys 17,450 buildings,leaves 100,000 homeless and causes an estimated $200 million (in 1871 dollars; $3 billion in 2007 dollars) in damages.
The Great Chicago Fire was a conflagration that burned from Sunday, October 8, to early Tuesday, October 10, 1871, killing hundreds and destroying about 4 square miles (10 km2) in Chicago, Illinois. Though the fire was one of the largest U.S. disasters of the 19th century, the rebuilding that began almost immediately spurred Chicago’s development into one of the most populous and economically important American cities.
On the municipal flag of Chicago, the second star commemorates the fire. To this day the exact cause and origin of the fire remain a mystery.
The fire started at about 9 p.m. on Sunday, October 8, in or around a small shed that bordered the alley behind 137 DeKoven Street. The traditional account of the origin of the fire is that it was started by a cow kicking over a lantern in the barn owned by Patrick and Catherine O’Leary. Michael Ahern, the Chicago Republican reporter who created the cow story, admitted in 1893 that he had made it up because he thought it would make colorful copy.
The fire’s spread was aided by the city’s overuse of wood for building, a drought prior to the fire, and strong winds from the southwest that carried flying embers toward the heart of the city. The city also made fatal errors by not reacting soon enough and citizens were apparently unconcerned when it began. The firefighters were also exhausted from fighting a fire that happened the day before.
After the fire
Once the fire had ended, the smoldering remains were still too hot for a survey of the damage to be completed for days. Eventually it was determined that the fire destroyed an area about four miles (6 km) long and averaging 3/4 mile (1 km) wide, encompassing more than 2,000 acres (8 km²). Destroyed were more than 73 miles (120 km) of roads, 120 miles (190 km) of sidewalk, 2,000 lampposts, 17,500 buildings, and $222 million in property-about a third of the city’s valuation. Of the 300,000 inhabitants, 90,000 were left homeless. Between two and three million books were destroyed from private library collections. The fire was said by The Chicago Daily Tribune to have been so fierce that it surpassed the damage done by Napoleon’s siege of Moscow in 1812. Remarkably, some buildings did survive the fire, such as the then-new Chicago Water Tower, which remains today as an unofficial memorial to the fire’s destructive power. It was one of just five public buildings and one ordinary bungalow spared by the flames within the disaster zone. The O’Leary home and Holy Family Church, the Roman Catholic congregation of the O’Leary family, were both saved by shifts in the wind direction that kept them outside the burnt district.
314 – Roman Emperor Licinius is defeated by his colleague Constantine I at the Battle of Cibalae, and loses his European territories.
451 – At Chalcedon, a city of Bithynia in Asia Minor, the first session of the Council of Chalcedon begins (ends on November 1).
1075 – Dmitar Zvonimir is crowned King of Croatia.
1200 – Isabella of Angouleme is crowned Queen consort of England.
1480 – Great standing on the Ugra river, a standoff between the forces of Akhmat Khan, Khan of the Great Horde, and the Grand Duke Ivan III of Russia, which results in the retreat of the Tataro-Mongols and the eventual disintegration of the Horde.
1573 – End of the Spanish siege of Alkmaar, the first Dutch victory in Eighty Years War.
1582 – Because of the implementation of the Gregorian calendar this day does not exist in this year in Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain.
1600 – San Marino adopts its written constitution.
1806 – Napoleonic Wars: Forces of the British Empire lay siege to the port of Boulogne in France by using Congreve rockets, invented by Sir William Congreve.
1813 – The Treaty of Ried was signed between Bayern and Austria.
1821 – The government of general Jose de San Martín establishes the Peruvian Navy.
1829 – Rail transport: Stephenson’s The Rocket wins The Rainhill Trials.
1856 – The Second Opium War between several western powers and China begins with the Arrow Incident on the Pearl River.
1860 – Telegraph line between Los Angeles and San Francisco opens.
1862 – American Civil War: Battle of Perryville – Union forces under General Don Carlos Buell halt the Confederate invasion of Kentucky by defeating troops led by General Braxton Bragg at Perryville, Kentucky.
1871 – Four major fires break out on the shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago, Peshtigo, Wisconsin, Holland, Michigan, and Manistee, Michigan including the Great Chicago Fire, and the much deadlier Peshtigo Fire.
1879 – War of the Pacific: the Chilean Navy defeats the Peruvian Navy in the Battle of Angamos, Peruvian Admiral Miguel Grau is killed in the encounter.
1895 – Eulmi incident- Queen Min of Joseon, the last empress of Korea, is assassinated and her corpse burnt by the Japanese in Gyeongbok Palace.
1912 – First Balkan War begins: Montenegro declares war against Turkey.
1918 – World War I: In the Argonne Forest in France, United States Corporal Alvin C. York leads an attack that kills 25 German soldiers and captures 132.
1928 – Joseph Szigeti gives the first performance of Alfredo Casella’s Violin Concerto.
1932 – The Indian Air Force is established.
1939 – World War II: Germany annexes Western Poland.
1941 – World War II: In their invasion of the Soviet Union, Germany reaches the Sea of Azov with the capture of Mariupol.
1944 – World War II: The Battle of Crucifix Hill occurs on Crucifix Hill just outside Aachen. Capt. Bobbie Brown receives a Medal of Honor for his heroics in this battle.
1956 – New York Yankees’s Don Larsen pitched the only perfect game in a World Series; one of only 20 perfect games in MLB history.
1962 – Spiegel scandal: Der Spiegel publishes the article “Bedingt abwehrbereit” (“Conditionally prepared for defense”) about a NATO manoeuver called “Fallex 62”, which uncovered the sorry state of the Bundeswehr (Germany’s army) facing the communist threat from the east at the time. The magazine is soon accused of treason.
1962 – Algeria joins the United Nations.
1967 – Guerrilla leader Che Guevara and his men are captured in Bolivia.
1968 – Vietnam War: Operation Sealords – United States and South Vietnamese forces launch a new operation in the Mekong Delta.
1969 – The opening rally of the Days of Rage occurs, organized by the Weather Underground in Chicago, Illinois.
1970 – Vietnam War: In Paris, a Communist delegation rejects US President Richard Nixon’s October 7 peace proposal as “a maneuver to deceive world opinion”.
1973 – Yom Kippur War: Gabi Amir’s armored brigade attacks Egyptian occupied positions on the Israeli side of the Suez Canal, in hope of driving them away. The attack fails, and over 150 Israeli tanks are destroyed.
1974 – Franklin National Bank collapses due to fraud and mismanagement; at the time it is the largest bank failure in the history of the United States.
1978 – Australia’s Ken Warby sets the current world water speed record of 317.60mph at Blowering Dam, Australia.
1982 – Poland bans Solidarity and all trade unions.
1990 – Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: In Jerusalem, Israeli police kill 17 Palestinians and wound over 100 near the Dome of the Rock mosque on the Temple Mount.
1998 – Oslo’s Gardermoen airport opens after the close down of Fornebu airport.
2001 – A twin engine Cessna and Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) jetliner collide in heavy fog during takeoff from Milan, Italy killing 118.
2001 – U.S. President George W. Bush announces the establishment of the Office of Homeland Security.