Great Chicago Fires: Historic Blazes That Shaped a City (Illinois) 1st Edition

5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1893121072
ISBN-10: 1893121070
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

David Cowan was born in Chicago in 1963. He co-authored (with John Kuenster) the critically acclaimed book about the Our Lady of the Angels school fire, To Sleep With the Angels: The Story of a Fire (Ivan R. Dee, Inc.). A U.S. Air Force veteran and former award-winning newspaper reporter, he holds degrees in journalism and political science from Southern Illinois University. Now a firefighter and independent journalist, Mr. Cowan has written for major newspapers and magazines and appeared in numerous television documentaries about historic fires. He lives in Chicago with his wife, writer and historian Ursula Bielski, and their daughter, Eva.
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Product Details

  • Series: Illinois
  • Paperback: 169 pages
  • Publisher: Lake Claremont Press; 1 edition (July 26, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1893121070
  • ISBN-13: 978-1893121072
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 9.9 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #948,863 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jan Peczkis on November 30, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book discusses such conflagrations as the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the Iroquois Theater Fire, Columbian Exposition Fire, Chicago Stockyards Fire, etc. The book is full of pictures, some of which have apparently not been published elsewhere.

The account of the Our Lady of the Angels School Fire is particularly engrossing. We learn about a troubled boy who probably set the fire. The fire burned for some time, unnoticed. Then the stairwell caught fire, sending smoke into the second-floor hallway, and trapping the children and teachers. Soon the hallway flashed over. So did the cockloft above the classrooms. Yet the firefighters heroically managed to pull at least 150 children, out of the windows, and out of the jaws of certain death. There are several photos of the recovery of the bodies after the fire.

Discussion of the McCormick Place Fire of 1967 includes a telling picture of the failed roof truss (p. 106). This served to remind us that steel in general, and long, unsupported steel trusses in particular, do poorly in large fires. (This later was a major factor in the collapse of the WTC towers on 911).

This book is not limited to spectacular, single fires. There is also discussion of several non-famous individual fires, as well as the many fires that were ignited during the 1960's race riots, especially following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.
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Format: Paperback
As one of the nation's largest cities, one would expect many fires, but Chicago has suffered more than it's share. Just about every type of building in the windy city has burned at one time or other. These include theaters, hotels, schools and warehouses, not to mention the city itself, which lost some 18000 buildings in the well known 1871 conflagration. All of these and more are included here. And the book is relatively short, so it can be read at a single reading, or one can select chapters of interest.

I was also pleased to discover so much new detail here. I had thought it likely that much here would be no more than a retelling of familiar fire stories, but that was not so. I have studied these fires, and still learned a lot. For instance; Lloyds of London cancelled all policies in Chicago one year before the great fire because of its condition. The Iriquois Theater was built with historic building fires in mind, but the owners cut corners to open early. The mayor of an Illinois town who died in the La Salle hotel blaze of 1946 was going to stay elsewhere, but was sent to the La Salle by mistake. These are but three fascinating facts from this work on 'Great Chicago Fires'.
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By S M Senden on August 24, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A good overview of many fires in Chicago history that will prompt you to do more reading on the subjests.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By bookfanatic1979 on March 8, 2013
Format: Paperback
This is an amazing book that does a wonderful job of chronicling Chicago's fiery past. I read story after story of brave, valiant firemen who risked their lives and (some) paid the ultimate price. And that's when I realized something. I am not a woman who shrieks about feminism on a daily basis, but I didn't see a single female firefighter mentioned in this entire book. Maybe I missed her. Or this could be in part because women, I'm assuming, simply weren't firefighters in the early days. I'm not sure when that changed, but this book covers fires well into the 20th century. Perhaps the sources Cowan used didn't include any such notes, but one would think that somewhere in there a woman would have done something worthy of notice.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By By Mark Braun VINE VOICE on December 8, 2007
Format: Paperback
David Cowan's book on Chicago fires now has an infamous side that makes the book all-the-more of an sad and interesting read. There are a few generations of Chicagoans who remember these events: terrible events that wail through the years.

The history of Chicago blazes is very well done; dig into it.
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