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Fires, Cows, and Faulty History

On today’s date in 1871, a fire began in the barn of Patrick and Catherine O’Leary of Chicago. Two days later, 7,450 buildings had been destroyed and 100,000 people were homeless. A big chunk of the business district was in ruins.

Never mind that the weather conditions were dry. We forget that all those buildings, as well as the streets and sidewalks were made of wood. Forget that there had been numerous fires in Chicago before this one, so fires were nothing new.

Who got the blame for the fire?

Mrs. O’Leary’s cow. 

Mrs. O'Leary'S Cow Starting Fire

this was published in Harper’s magazine in 1871

I guess I should note that over one hundred years later, the Chicago City Council exonerated Mrs. O’Leary and her cow.

But it is a sad reflection on our history that a massive fire was not blamed on poor planning, but on a woman and a cow, neither of whom had any power or influence in 1870’s Chicago.

Today as we remember that great fire, how about leaving them out of it.

This is NOT an actual photo of Mrs. O'Leary's cow.

This is NOT an actual photo of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow.

About Jen and the Furries

Hello and welcome. I’m a 50 something woman who’s probably awake when she should be sleeping. Oh, and there are animals, because who doesn’t have pets?


33 thoughts on “Fires, Cows, and Faulty History

  1. Good on you for setting the record straight 🙂
    Take care x.

    Posted by shacklefordlb | October 8, 2013, 5:41 AM
  2. Reblogged this on rr25599.

    Posted by rr25599 | October 8, 2013, 5:48 AM
  3. It’s sad that is took so long for them to realize the blame wasn’t with an animal but with them.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Nacho, Noah, Buddy & Basil

    Posted by hutchagoodlife | October 8, 2013, 5:50 AM
  4. So unfair…and too little too late for the falsely accused 😦 I must say that is beautiful cow and was wondering how old it was 🙂

    Posted by fozziemum | October 8, 2013, 6:11 AM
  5. (Um, Rumpy…..not meaning to be the snobby proofreader, but you may wanna check the date in your opening sentence….)
    And I agree: so glad the cow was pronounced not guilty…after all those years.
    Love, Sundae

    Posted by Dianna | October 8, 2013, 6:14 AM
  6. At least they didn’t blame it on jews, Chinese people, Indians, black people, muslims or any minority ( f.e. the red-haired) they’d like to harass.

    Posted by stanze | October 8, 2013, 6:26 AM
  7. good to know

    Posted by LizabethJoy | October 8, 2013, 7:20 AM
  8. I wish things had changed. I suppose that while people will accept being given a scapegoat, it will continue.

    Posted by Clowie | October 8, 2013, 7:44 AM
  9. that means since 1871 it has not changed much :o) …the weakest goes to the wall.

    Posted by easyweimaraner | October 8, 2013, 8:14 AM
  10. Poor Mrs. O’Leary and her cow!

    Posted by Russell Smith | October 8, 2013, 8:51 AM
  11. One of the latest theories on the Chicago Fire is that it was caused by a meteorite that broke up over that part of the continent. Wisconsin had devastating forest fires that same night, and if you draw a line from where all of the Wisconsin fires were it points directly to Chicago. Interesting to say the least!

    Posted by Rodney Zeigler | October 8, 2013, 9:00 AM
  12. Very interesting history, Rumpy…..poor mrs O’leary and her cow though….I wished the exoneration had been much much earlier….at least mrs O’leary and her cow had been still alive….

    Posted by eripanwkevin | October 8, 2013, 9:13 AM
  13. Poor Mrs. O’Leary and her cow. 😦

    Posted by ILoveDogs | October 8, 2013, 1:01 PM
  14. As a hooman born and raised in Chicago I totally agree with You:)!!

    Posted by catgurl40 | October 8, 2013, 2:21 PM
  15. Musta been the methane gas, ha ha

    Posted by wigglebuttryker | October 8, 2013, 2:41 PM
  16. But.. but.. that’s so silly! Hoomins can be so silly! :s

    Posted by LifeOfBun | October 8, 2013, 4:32 PM
  17. The poor cow and Mrs. O’Leary. They had no one else to blame, so why not.

    Posted by BJ Pup | October 8, 2013, 5:43 PM
  18. good job Rumpy! 🙂

    Posted by andoni18 | October 9, 2013, 4:52 AM
  19. Rumpy, you’re a wonderful advocate for intelligent fact finding say it honestly folks and we applaud. Well done!

    Posted by The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap | October 9, 2013, 9:31 AM
  20. History certainly was unfair to Mrs. O’Leary and her cow. Thanks for speaking up for animals (and Mrs. O’Leary).

    Posted by earthriderjudyberman | October 10, 2013, 6:17 AM


  1. Pingback: Fires, Cows, and Faulty History | Catgurl40's Blog - October 8, 2013

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