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William Bross

Photo credit: Chicago History Museum
While the ruins of his home still smoldered, William Bross called on the world to come to Chicago to rebuild. Photo credit: Chicago History Museum
Photo credit: Chicago History Museum
After the Great Fire came the Great Rebuilding. Photo credit: Chicago History Museum

In the wake of the Great Fire of 1871, a ravaged Chicago remained. The urban slate had been violently wiped nearly clean.

Its future was in question, but its spirit was unbroken. In a speech to the New York Chamber of Commerce just days after the fire, William Bross, part-owner of the Tribune — and a Chicagoan who had been burned out of his own home — called on the world to help Chicago rebuild: “What she has been in the past she must become in the future, and a hundredfold more!”

He emphasized the rich opportunity in Chicago: “Young men, hurry there! Old men, send your sons! Women, send your husbands! You will never again have such a chance to make money!"

Before long, opportunity-seekers from all over (including architect Louis Sullivan) were joining in the “Great Rebuilding,” and a new, bigger, and better Chicago was born.