R.H. McDonalds Illustrated History and Map of Chicago and the Great Fire

Uncommon overview and map of the Great Chicago Fire highlighting the extent of the devastation.

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On October 8, 1871, a small fire began on Chicago’s Near West Side. Thanks to an unusually dry summer, strong winds, and woefully inadequate fire codes, the conflagration quickly spread northwards across the city. By the time it sputtered out in the early morning hours of October 10th, over 3 square miles of the city was destroyed and 90,000+ citizens (nearly a third of the population) were homeless.

News of the disaster quickly spread around the globe, prompting a worldwide relief effort that ultimately sent millions of dollars to the beleaguered city. Publications such as this were instrumental in eliciting such a generous outpouring from far and wide. To compare, a fire near Peshtigo, Wisconsin started the same day and killed over 1,500 people (compared to the 250 – 350 in the Chicago Fire), yet garnered a fraction of the response in domestic or overseas assistance.

This map and history of the Great Chicago Fire were published less than a year after the blaze, by R.B. Thompson & Co. in New York. The overview begins with a pair of images of the city in 1820 and 1871 (before the fire), highlighting its tremendous growth in the preceding five decades. The following 20 pages contain views of destroyed buildings, a narrative of the events, tables of statistics detailing the losses, testimonies from survivors, a list of buildings lost, and summaries from other great 19th century fires from around the world.

The folding map in the back was originally drawn in 1871 by Albert Rawson and copyrighted by R.H. McDonald. It shows the city limits, organized by wards, with the physical footprint of the fire vividly highlighted in red. The image takes care to note that the Ogden Mansion on the North Side (future home to the Newberry Library) was one of the only properties not consumed by the blaze.

An interesting relic of the major catalyst behind Chicago’s tremendous growth during the late 19th century.

Map Details

Publication Date: 1872

Author: R.H. McDonald

Sheet Width (in): 21.25

Sheet Height (in): 17.50

Condition: A-

Condition Description: Case map with a case 7.5" x 5." Brown cloth over board, gilt stamped title; scutting to boards and edges and three small holes in the spine. 24 pages attached to the front cover with a woodcut advertisement. Some damp staining on the pages near the bottom and fore edge, but near very good overall. The fold out map measures 21.25" x 17.5" and has moderate wear and creasing along the fold lines, including a few small spots of breakage and separation. Fading visible where the map is affixed to the back board. The image is clean and remains in good to very good condition.

Out of stock