The media's first "instant" event

On this day in 1871 Chicago suffered from a catastrophic fire that started October 3 and lasted for days. The event is now known as the Great Chicago Fire. The public relied on the media for their fire-related information. With a large number of readers in various cities and the growing number of publishers, the fire was considered the media’s first “instant “ event. The fire was covered from several different angles, including stories of fabrication, as well as the inclusion of elements of modern day reporting—two being the assumptions of the audience and there need to sell the product. The fire left an estimated 300 people dead and 100,000 homeless. Seventeen thousand structures were destroyed with an estimated cost of $200 million. Check out this front page of Harper’s weekly, one of the most popular papers of the 19th century. The caption says, “The great fire in Chicago—group of refugees in the street” drawn by C.S. Reinhart.”