Chicago Fire of 1934
The Packing-Town Fire took place in Chicago Illinois during the month of May 1934. During the 1930s many things were happening to the community of Chicago, but also the country as a whole. The Great Depression was in full effect at this time preceding World War II, damaging our countries economic system. It also damaged the lives of many, putting personal and corporate businesses out of business. The main reason for the Great Depression was the crash of the stock market around September 4, 1929. Cities all around the world were hit hard, especially those dependent on heavy industry. Construction was virtually halted in many countries. Farming and rural areas suffered as crop prices fell by approximately 60%. Facing plummeting demand with few alternate sources of jobs, areas dependent on primary sector industries such as cash cropping, mining and logging suffered the most.1
In Chicago during the 1930s, the community was also going through changes and new developments. Maybe new developments of gang-affiliated violence’s were occurring. Mafia’s ran the streets, and many speakeasies were set in place to provide citizens with alcohol following prohibition. Because Chicago was a large city at the time, run primarily through industrial industries, the Great Depression hit the city hard. Many people were unemployed and turned to violence as a way to deal with that poverty. There was huge numbers of people migrating to Chicago during this time as well. Immigration to Chicago resulted in overcrowding, and although there were decent homes in the African American sections, the core of the Black Belt was a slum. A 1934 census estimated that black households contained 6.8 people on average, whereas white households contained 4.7. Many blacks lived in apartments that lacked plumbing, with only one bathroom for each floor. With the buildings so overcrowded, building inspections and garbage collection were below the minimum mandatory requirements for healthy sanitation. This unhealthiness increased the threat of disease2 (“Great Depression”). With the threat of disease, over population rates, high unemployment and violence at an all time high, the last thing the city of Chicago needed was a raging eight block long disastrous fire costing the city $10,000,000 in losses and damages.
The Packing-Town fire destroyed many stockyards. Among those stockyards, a pavilion, packing plants, two banks, a hotel and a newspaper building were all destroyed. This fire was describes as the worst since the great conflagration that destroyed the city of Chicago in 1871. The fire raged on for five hours, continuing down a total of eight blocks, leaving 1,200 people homeless. It is stated that the fire broke out in the stockyards at 4:15p.m. “Outside the yards, hundreds of cattle perished in blazing pens. The fire was discovered in a sheep pen at the southeast corner of Forty-third and Morgan Streets. Responding to the first alarm, Battalion Chief John J. Costello sounded a 4-11 general call which brought 150 pieces of apparatus into action.”3 The fire had blazed on so quickly due to the long drought; the wooden structures and hay in the animal pens spread the fire vastly and very quickly. The live stock exchange building which houses offices of 100 commission firms or live stock brokers, was left in mass ruins by the packing town fire4. “Twenty-five persons, including elven fireman, were seriously injured and taken to hospitals and three people had been reported as missing. Fire Marshal Michael Corrigan announced that the blaze was under control once the winds had shifted from the southwest to the south, enabling the fireman to check the spread eastward3.”
Different groups and individuals would have perceived this disaster in the same light. It affected everyone and the community as a whole. It affected not only farmers and their life