The Great Forest Fires in America: View Near Fox River


A harrowing escape from the devastating wildfires of 1871

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Though the Great Chicago Fire is by far the most famous, there were several devastating fires that ravaged the Upper Midwest during the first two weeks of October 1871. While the Windy City suffered the most property damage in terms of value, a forest fire further north ravaged thousands of acres in Wisconsin and destroyed the town of Peshtigo, killing an estimated 600 inhabitants (plus hundreds of others across the region).

It is that ruinous blaze depicted in this view, published as part of the November 4, 1871 edition of The Illustrated London News. Groups of refugees on foot, horseback, and in wagons take to the roads near the Fox River, possibly fleeing towards Green Bay. In the background, plumes of smoke fill the sky. The accompanying article on the verso describes in detail the physical horrors of the survivors.

“On the flat near the river a crowd of poor sufferers were gathered, many so disfigured as to be unrecognizable [sic]. Hundreds lay in their agony with perhaps a piece of tent and a few boards, or a blanket on sticks, as a shelter, and often entirely unprotected; helpless, groaning, miserable human beings, some disfigured for life, and some destined to a few miserable days or weeks of existence, and then to die.”

Map Details

Publication Date: 1871

Author: Illustrated London News

Sheet Width (in): 15.25

Sheet Height (in): 10.75

Condition: A-

Condition Description: Single sheet from the Nov. 4, 1871 issue of the Illustrated London News. One small spot in the right margin and a ragged lower (binding) edge. Modern hand color. Very good condition overall.


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