Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Chicago Conflagration Predicted,

April 23 1908, The Spectator, [Vol. 80-81] The Chicago Conflagration Predicted, page 13,

IN The Spectator of June, 1868, the fire insurance companies were warned of the impending conflagration at Chicago, which occurred but three years later. Below will be found extracts from the article to which allusion is above made:

"What are the chances that Chicago will escape a general conflagration, like that which well-nigh obliterated Portland from the map a couple of years ago? * * *

"The Spectator thinks itself justified in * * * admitting and asserting the danger imminent to Chicago in the strongest possible terms. From month to month we have described the means requisite to the city's safety---the extension of the fire limits; the increase of water supply; the multiplication of the forces of the fire department, both men and engines; the construction of public buildings, not fire proof, under the municipal ordinance, with some regard to the interests of property and life. All these we have urged and insisted upon. And yet they are not supplied. Not a step is taken to supply them. What, then, remains for us to say to those who recognize our journal as a frank and concientious organ of the insurance interest and of the true interest of our city as well, but that Chicago risks are to be taken with excessive caution, else Chicago losses will, in all probability, bankrupt the most solid and sagacious companies. That is the advice which, nothing extenuating, nor setting down in malice, we give to insurance companies in their interest and in ours---in theirs plainly enough; and in ours, because we desire in behalf of our own business men, to see them pay no premium which shall not secure them against loss in the very probable event of the destruction of their stocks.

"Is there, we repeat, anything extravagant in this? Is it far fetched, is it gratuitous, to suppose conditions and circumstances, in malign combination, which shall bring upon Chicago a fate as sudden and immitigable as that which overwhelmed the doomed 'cities of the plain' in a tempest and flood of fire?"

The article then detailed significant facts in connection with the Lake street fires, which had just occurred, and made suggestions looking to the prevention of a great conflagration. The concluding paragraph of the article was as follows:

"If we well get through the primitive age of the city's life, when it shall slough off its wooden covering, and, passing through its transition age of bricks and mortar, become a 'city of marble,' without an all-annihilating conflagration, we may congratulate ourselves on a providential favor quite disproportionate to our deserts."

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