Robert Cromie, author of The Great Chicago Fire, was very informed on the subject of this book because of his excellent educational background and later careers. Cromie was a graduate of Oberlin College in Ohio. During his college years he mainly studied history. He would later join the Chicago Tribune where he would become a reliable and hardworking reporter and journalist. In 1969, he began writing a column that made him the first staff writer to exhibit a liberal perspective for the Chicago Tribune that was known for its conservative viewpoint (Struzzi).
The reason this fact is so important is because it helps readers understand that he was very reliable and many writers trusted Cromie when it came to writing and reporting. He was a very outgoing and optimistic man who loved to research and find interest in a broad range in topics. But even though his interests was among many fields, he was credible when it came to his research and of course found a stronger interest with topics associating with Chicago. Some of Cromie’s books were The Great Chicago Fire, Dillinger: A Short and Violent Life, and “Chicago: A Celebration.
He also wrote for many national magazines during his career along with the Chicago Tribune. Although Cromie was not at the event of the the Great Chicago Fire, he received many notes and information from a man named Isaac Rosenfeld. Cromie was not going to write the book until the untimely death of Rosenfeld. Rosenfeld’s wife would later pass down all the information and notes on the subject to Cromie to complete the book. Cromie was able to do so with help from the notes and Chicago Historical Society. The Great Chicago Fire was later published in 1958.
The book, The Great Chicago Fire covers the start and causes of the beginning and spread of the fire, the damages, and the aftermath and construction of the ongoing, destructive fire. The Great Chicago Fire takes place in 1871. The fire took place from October 8, 1871 until October 10, 1871. The story begins with a helpful quote to set the mood for what was to come throughout the rest of book. Although Mrs. Leary denied any accusations towards her, it is believed to this day that her cow hit a lantern inside a wooden shed near her house.
The cause has been been discussed by many reporters and was written by an anonymous reporter when he/she stated, “One dark night, – when people were in bed, Old Mrs. Leary lit a lantern in her shed; The cow kicked it over, winked its eye, and said, There’ll be a hot time in the old town tonight,” quoted in the Chicago Evening Post. Mrs. Leary’s barn was located on the southside of Chicago and would later rapidly spread into the city. Since many building were constructed of wood, it was easy for the fire to spread and to do so at a fast pace.
In the book it was majorly discussed how much everything was made of wood. Buildings and houses had wooden, shingle roofs and many sidewalks and roads consisted of wood. Sadly, Chicago is also known as the “Windy City” which leads to the fact that the city tended to (and still to this day) have strong winds. This helped to carry the fire later into the heart of the city which would lead to extreme damage. Chicago was also going through a drought and had not had much water for a number of days.
All of these factors would aid the spread of the fire, Although many firefighters tried to stop the spread of the blaze, all efforts seemed to fail. As the fire gained its speed and growth, it became too difficult to withstand or stop. Many hoped that the river running through Chicago would act as a firebreak and help cease it. But buildings along the river with filled and made of wood such as lumberyards, warehouses, and bridges. The wind would later cause flaming debris to travel across the river and continue to gain on the city.
Cromie also talked about fire whirls in the book that also helped cause more damage. A fire whirl acts almost like a tornado because as the hot, flaming air rises, it comes into contact with the cooler air and begins to spin and act as a tornado. The fire whirls were a helping factor to the spread of the fire into the northern part of the city. The waterworks were affected as well. The interior part of the building was destroyed and this led to the drying of the water mains. It left the city helpless until it began to rain on the evening of October 9th.
The aftermath was difficult to investigate for many days because of the insane heat. It was later determined that about four miles of the city had been destroyed. Around 300 people were declared dead and more than 100,000 people became homeless. Although the fire had caused major damage and despair among the city, it immediately began its reconstruction. Many donations were contributed to the city and it began to repair itself. The audience Cromie is writing towards can be anyone from young to older adults.
Anyone who would like to learn about large fires or city struggles would be interested in this book. The author seemed to create interesting images for the reader making it understandable and entertaining to read. But the author could have written a little more in detail about some events to connect to his audience more. The book was written in chronological order. It made the story easy to follow and it would be difficult to talk about the historical event in any other way. The book was informative and did not seem to miss any important facts pertaining to the event.
The author definitely helped the reader visualize what was happening during the horrible event. He also included many illustrations which made it almost impossible not to grasp what was going on. He also explained every event in chronological order which made everything easier to understand as well. The author did not seemed biased at all throughout the story. Given the fact that he only pieced together the information given to him from Isaac Rosenfeld and the Chicago Historical Society, it would have been difficult to go against the research.
There is also not much to argue about when it comes to the event of a giant fire, given the fact that the damages were real and everything really did happen only one way. The author covered the subject matter intensely and gives facts throughout the whole book to prove so. Cromie also included many quotes and pictures from newspapers and articles to back up his facts. I chose this book because I did not know Chicago had ever had a fire that destroyed most of the city. I did not know the event even took place and I wanted to learn more about it. I would definitely recommend the book.
It was informative and surprisingly informative. Tended up really loving the book and it was hard to put down at times. The illustrations and quotes made it interesting and although it was nonfiction, I have to admit it was a great read and helped me enjoy completing the assignment. The author’s purpose of The Great Chicago Fire was to inform the audience about the beginning, the spread, and damages and aftermath of the event. The author reached his goal by informing the audience with facts, illustrations, and quotes to support his statements on the topic and created a very reliable source on the Great Chicago Fire.