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发表于 10-24-2020 13:08:47 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式
Richard Babcock, A Cow, a Lantern, a City in Flame; Chicago's long summer of 1871 was plagued by fires, but few were prepared for one October night's inferno. Wall Street Journal, Oct 17 (in the Review section).
https://www.wsj.com/articles/chi ... e-ashes-11602888392
http://content.the-omj.com/News/StoryText/1672950
(book review on Carl Smith, Chicago's Great Fire; The destruction and resurrection of an Iconic American city. Grove Atlantic, 2020)

Quote:

(a) "Along with the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 stands as one of America's foundational urban legends, a story of death and rebirth, a monument to the resiliency of the nation's character. Most schoolchildren even know who to blame for the Chicago disaster: Mrs. O'Leary and her frisky cow.  

"Carl Smith, an English professor at Northwestern University, dives into this familiar material, and though 'Chicago's Great Fire' doesn't exactly break new ground, it serves as a wonderfully thoughtful and concise retelling of the tragedy and its aftermath. * * *

"Even before the fire, Chicago had captured the world's attention, in part for its startling growth. The swampy patch on the edge of Lake Michigan had developed into a town of around 30,000 people by 1850. In the next 20 years, it grew more than tenfold. As Mr. Smith points out, Chicago's boom reflected fundamental social changes -- industrialization, urbanization, the advance of railroads and a surging influx of the foreign-born, who numbered almost half the city's population at the time of the fire. * * *
     
"But the conditions that had made such a transformation possible invited calamity. The city's rapid expansion meant that most buildings were constructed all or in part of wood. The region had suffered a long, hot dry summer and early fall in 1871, and on the night of Oct. 7, crowds had gathered to watch firefighters struggle with an epic blaze at a wood-planing mill: just one, as Mr Smith writes, of 'more than two dozen conflagrations in Chicago during that past week alone.'

"When the O'Learys' barn went up around 9 o'clock on the night of Sunday, Oct 8 [everyword in this clause is certain and correct], a neighbor's sprint to a signal box proved fruitless when the telegraph system malfunctioned. By the time firefighters arrived, 30 minutes later, the situation was dir * * * Whirling winds generated by the heat carried burning chunks for blocks, spreading the flames. The firefighters were understaffed and worn out from taming the recent wave of fires. Crowds gathered to watch in fascination, but as the flames spread, thousands found themselves fleeing with whatever possessions they could gather. * * * The terrifying conflagration consumed three square miles, including much of the downtown, and left 90,000 homeless, rich and poor alike. Remarkably, only an estimated 300 people died, while on the same evening 250 miles north, a huge forest fire engulfed the lumber town of Peshtigo, Wis., costing at least 1,500 lives.

"Even as the flames roared out of control that night, telegraph reports clicked around the country and to Europe through the new transatlantic cable. 'As a result,' notes Mr. Smith, 'the Great Chicago Fire was the first instantaneously reported international news event, details of which reached an audience in the tens of millions while it was happening."
     
"Photographs taken immediately after the fire show the utter devastation facing residents: a flattened, rubble-strewn landscape, with only the jagged husks of buildings jutting into the smoky air. * * *
     
(b) "As for Mrs O'Leary, even at the time accounts debunked the story that she was milking her cow when it kicked over a lantern. In fact, she was in bed with her husband when flames erupted in her barn. * * *


Note:
(a) There is no need to read the rest/
(b)
(i) Chicago
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago
(section 1 Etymology and nicknames; section 2 History: "On August 12, 1833, the Town [note the word 'town'] of Chicago was organized [or incorporated] with a population of about 200.[citation omitted] Within seven years it grew to more than 6,000 people. * * * [in Great Chicago Fire:] Much of the city, including railroads and stockyards, survived intact")
(ii) Chicago was incorporated as a city in 1837. en.wikipedia.org for "Timeline of Chicago history."
(iii) "City officials never determined the exact cause of the blaze." en.wikipedia.org for "Great Chicago Fire."
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