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ERIC Number: ED257108
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1985-Aug
Pages: 29
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: N/A
Mrs. O'Leary's Cow and Other Newspaper Tales about the Chicago Fire of 1871.
Fedler, Fred
Noting that, historically, newspaper editors copied the best, and sometimes erroneous, stories from other newspapers published in distant cities, this paper explores newpaper coverage of the 1871 Great Chicago Fire, and the myth that Mrs. O'Leary's cow was to blame. After suggesting that a report invented the story of the O'Leary cow kicking a lantern and starting the fire, the first portion of the paper describes the dry and fire-prone conditions of the city at the time, the O'Leary family, and the fire's destruction. The middle portion describes how the four Chicago newspapers, their offices destroyed, still managed to publish in the days immediately following the fire. This section also examines initial newspaper accounts of the fire, which did in fact begin in O'Leary's barn, and traces the origins of the "irate cow" story. The next section explores accounts published in papers across the country, discussing why the stories were so sensational and inaccurate. These include a story stating that the fire was the result of a communist conspiracy. The last portion of the paper describes various witnesses and their testimony before the Board of Police and Fire Commissioners--most of them exonerating the O'Learys of blame for the fire--and then discusses the most likely causes of the fire, and the likelihood that the "cow story" had been a hoax intended to make the story more lively. (HTH)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Historical Materials
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Illinois (Chicago)