By the time of
the Chicago Fire
of October 1871, the editors of
Robert Merry’s Museum were less
interested in informing their young readers about current events, than they
had been in earlier decades; it’s one of the few recent events mentioned
in the magazine in its last years. The Fire—which launched the career
of architect Daniel H. Burnham,
a former Museum subscriber—nevertheless
provided the magazine’s editor with the opportunity to
point up the charitable impulses inspired by the calamity. It also offered
a chance for the editor to request the kind of lesson-oriented letter which
the Museum wished to feature in its letters column. (Very different
tone of the column in earlier years.) No reader seems to have answered
the editor’s request for a letter on a similar fire, however. Ironically,
the Museum itself didn’t outlive the Boston Fire of November 1872.
Editorial from “Merry’s Monthly Chat with His Friends” (from Robert Merry’s Museum, November 1871; p. 244)
Since our last number was issued, a
terrible calamity has overtaken a great western city—Chicago. Doubtless
every reader is already aware of it. A fire, driven by a fierce wind, has
swept one half of its valuable buildings out of existence. More than
seventy-five thousand people were made homeless in a single night.
The thought is almost stunning.
But see the bright side of the cloud. How
quickly our country—yes, and many foreign countries—have come to the
rescue. Every man is a brother; every purse is open. There is something
beautiful in all this, the more so because it is real.
Who will tell me how long it has been
since there has been a fire upon our earth equal to this in extent, and give
some account of it? I will print the best letter on the subject.