After the Great Fire of 1871, nothing in Chicago could be certain. With over 17,000 buildings destroyed, a period of martial law, and over $200 million in damages, the future of the Windy City was steeped in uncertainty and fear. Despite public perception to the contrary, the two decades succeeding the Chicago Fire had no clear direction or consensus. Multiple factions fought for the future of the city as Chicago struggled to build itself a new identity. Join Chicago Studies and guest lecturer Carl Smith as he details the struggles of rebuilding a city consumed by flames. In addition, Smith will discuss the process of excavating a piece of history that has been mostly ignored or erased, as in the case of years after 1871. Professor Smith's presentation will be the first in our Chicago Futures distinguished lectures series, part of a family of programs focused on imagining the future of Chicago through these turbulent times.
Carl Smith is Franklin Bliss Snyder Professor of English and American Studies and Professor Emeritus of History at Northwestern University. In addition to writing five books about the history of Chicago, he also curates two major online exhibitions as a collaboration with Academic and Research Technologies at Northwestern and the Chicago History Museum. This lecture -- the first in our Chicago Futures lineup -- is also unique, as it is the only lecture rooted in historical research. Subsequent distinguished lectures will be more speculative in nature in relation to Chicago's possible futures after the many challenges brought to the fore by the events 2020. Professor Smith's lecture (and the series) will be introduced by College Dean John W. Boyer.
After watching, we hope you will:
- Read Carl Smith's book Chicago's Great Fire: The Destruction and Resurrection of an Iconic American City and dive deeper into this period of Chicago's history
- Walk the Chicago Fire through our Great Chicago Fire Tour
- Explore Chicago Collections, a collection of non-profit organizations devoted to maintaining vital collections of books, letters, photos, or maps related to the Chicago region
- Visit the Chicago History Museum (either virtually or following COVID-19 safety protocols), a museum dedicated to sharing Chicago’s stories, and serving as a hub of scholarship and learning, inspiration, and civic engagement
- Utilize the Chicago History Museum's Research Center, which holds the printed material, archives and manuscripts, prints and photographs, architectural drawings, and assorted ephemera of the Chicago History Museum
- Join Chicago Studies for our upcoming Chicago Futures programming