On October 10, 1871, the citizens of Chicago faced an unrecognizable landscape. Just 48 hours earlier, there had been a vibrant city on the rise, with ornate civic buildings, grand hotels, and cultural institutions. But after the Great Chicago Fire, there was nothing but a smoking pile of rubble nearly four miles long and a mile wide.
How did a routine fire become a massive disaster? Could the city possibly recover? And how did tensions between the city’s elite and the immigrant poor lead to the wrong person being wrongfully accused of starting the blaze?