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Great Chicago Fire

The Great Chicago Fire was a conflagration that burned in the American city of Chicago during October 8–10, 1871. The fire killed 300 people, destroyed 3.3 square miles of the city, left more than 100,000 residents homeless. The fire began in a neighborhood southwest of the city center. A long period of hot, windy conditions, the wooden construction prevalent in the city led to a conflagration; the fire leapt the south branch of the Chicago River and destroyed much of central Chicago and leapt the main branch of the river, consuming the near north side. Help flowed to the city from far after the fire; the city government improved building codes to stop the rapid spread of future fires and rebuilt to those higher standards. A donation from the United Kingdom spurred the establishment of the Chicago Public Library, a free public library system, a contrast to the private, fee-for-membership libraries common before the fire; the fire is claimed to have started at about 9:00 p.m. on October 8, in or around a small barn belonging to the O'Leary family that bordered the alley behind 137 DeKoven Street.

The shed next to the barn was the first building to be consumed by the fire. City officials never determined the exact cause of the blaze, but the rapid spread of the fire due to a long drought in the prior summer, strong winds from the southwest, the rapid destruction of the water pumping system explain the extensive damage of the wooden city structures. There has been much speculation over the years on a single start to the fire; the most popular tale blames Mrs. O'Leary's cow, who knocked over a lantern. Still other speculation suggests; the fire's spread was aided by the city's use of wood as the predominant building material in a style called balloon frame. More than two-thirds of the structures in Chicago at the time of the fire were made of wood, with most of the houses and buildings being topped with flammable tar or shingle roofs. All of the city's sidewalks and many roads were made of wood. Compounding this problem, Chicago received only 1 inch of rain from July 4 to October 9, causing severe drought conditions before the fire, while strong southwest winds helped to carry flying embers toward the heart of the city.

In 1871, the Chicago Fire Department had 185 firefighters with just 17 horse-drawn steam engines to protect the entire city. The initial response by the fire department was quick, but due to an error by the watchman, Matthias Schaffer, the firefighters were sent to the wrong place, allowing the fire to grow unchecked. An alarm sent from the area near the fire failed to register at the courthouse where the fire watchmen were, while the firefighters were tired from having fought numerous small fires and one large fire in the week before; these factors combined to turn a small barn fire into a conflagration. When firefighters arrived at DeKoven Street, the fire had grown and spread to neighboring buildings and was progressing toward the central business district. Firefighters had hoped that the South Branch of the Chicago River and an area that had thoroughly burned would act as a natural firebreak. All along the river, were lumber yards and coal yards, barges and numerous bridges across the river.

As the fire grew, the southwest wind intensified and became superheated, causing structures to catch fire from the heat and from burning debris blown by the wind. Around midnight, flaming debris blew across the river and landed on roofs and the South Side Gas Works. With the fire across the river and moving toward the heart of the city, panic set in. About this time, Mayor Roswell B. Mason sent messages to nearby towns asking for help; when the courthouse caught fire, he ordered the building to be evacuated and the prisoners jailed in the basement to be released. At 2:30 a.m. on the 9th, the cupola of the courthouse collapsed, sending the great bell crashing down. Some witnesses reported hearing the sound from a mile away; as more buildings succumbed to the flames, a major contributing factor to the fire's spread was a meteorological phenomenon known as a fire whirl. As overheated air rises, it comes into contact with cooler air and begins to spin creating a tornado-like effect; these fire whirls are what drove flaming debris so high and so far.

Such debris was blown across the main branch of the Chicago River to a railroad car carrying kerosene. The fire was now raging across the city's north side. A factor in the fire's rapid spread was the amount of flammable waste that had accumulated in the river from years of improper disposal methods used by local industries. Despite the fire spreading and growing the city's firefighters continued to battle the blaze. A short time after the fire jumped the river, a burning piece of timber lodged on the roof of the city's waterworks. Within minutes, the interior of the building was engulfed in flames and the building was destroyed. With it, the city's water mains went dry and the city was helpless; the fire burned unchecked from block to block. Late into the evening of October 9, it started to rain, but the fire had started to burn itself out; the fire had spread to the sparsely populated areas of the north side, having consumed the densely populated areas thoroughly. Once the fire had ended, the smoldering remains were still too hot for a survey of the damage to be completed for many days.

The city determined that the fire destroyed an area about 4 miles long and averaging 3⁄4 mile wide

Harold Gray

Harold Lincoln Gray was an American cartoonist, best known as the creator of the newspaper comic strip Little Orphan Annie. Harold Gray was born in Kankakee, Illinois on January 20, 1894, to Estella Mary and Ira Lincoln Gray, a farmer. Both parents died before he finished high school in 1912 in West Lafayette, where the family had moved. In 1913, he got his first newspaper job at a Lafayette daily, he could trace his American ancestry back to 17th-century settlers. He grew up on farms in Illinois and Indiana, worked in construction to pay his college tuition at Purdue University, he graduated with a degree in engineering by 1917. Gray approached cartoonist John T. McCutcheon for advice on breaking into the cartooning field, he couldn't get cartooning work, but McCutcheon's influence got him work as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune before he enlisted in the military for World War I, where he was a bayonet instructor for six months. Discharged from the military, he returned to the Chicago Tribune and stayed until 1919 when he left to freelance in commercial art.

In 1923, while residing in Lombard, Illinois, he became a Freemason. From 1921 to 1924, he did the lettering for Sidney Smith's The Gumps. After he came up with a strip idea in 1924 for Little Orphan Otto, the title was altered by Chicago Tribune editor Joseph Medill Patterson to Little Orphan Annie, launched August 5, 1924. Gray's first wife, Doris C. Platt, died in late 1925, he married Winifred Frost in 1929, the couple moved to Greens Farms, spending winters in La Jolla, California. By the 1930s, Little Orphan Annie had evolved from a crudely drawn melodrama to a crisply rendered atmospheric story with novelistic plot threads; the dialogue consisted of meditations on Gray's own conservative political philosophy. Gray made no secret of his dislike for the New Deal ways of President Franklin Roosevelt and would decry unions and other things he saw as impediments to the hard-working American way of life. Critic Jeet Heer, who did his thesis on Gray and wrote introductions to IDW's Little Orphan Annie collections, commented: Gray wasn't a conservative in the 1920s: he was more of a general populist, hostile to loan sharks and speculators while celebrating hard working ordinary people whether they're successful or not.

In the 1920s, Gray defended labor unions, having Annie launch a successful one-girl strike against a boss who mistreats her. Gray's political opinions would take on a more partisan salience in the 1930s when the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt polarized American politics into those who saw the New Deal as the salvation for the working class and those who saw it as the end of American liberty. Gray fell into the anti-FDR camp and Annie became much more explicitly right-wing... There might be aspects of Gray's life. There are rumors that he was a skirt-chaser, that's something that doesn't show up much in Annie, although you can catch hints of it here and there... Newspaper cartooning is like keeping a daily diary: if you're writing only about the weather and shopping, bits of your personality will seep into the work. In Gray's case, the strip reflected his flinty world view, his love of hard work, his populist spirit, his fear of those he thought were undermining society by their laziness and meanness.

You get a strong sense of the man in his work, one reason it's one of the major comic strips... Sidney Smith was a giant of his day whose place in history has been forgotten. Throughout the 1920s and The Gumps was one of the top strips in America, loved by millions. What set The Gumps apart from earlier strips was that, although it had a comic element, Smith often embraced wholehearted melodrama, it was the first real soap opera strip, with the fate of characters unfolding in month-long narratives... It's an interesting question why Gray's work continues to be remembered and indeed loved while Smith has been forgotten. I suspect. Like Charles Dickens, Gray had a natural gift for creating characters that are lifelike. Annie and Warbucks are the best example of this: both of them are so strong and forceful and memorable. Once you read their adventures, it's hard to forget them as people. Gray sometimes ghosted Little Joe, the strip by his assistant Ed Leffingwell, continued by Ed's brother Robert.

Maw Green, a spin-off of Annie was published as a topper to Little Orphan Annie. It mixed vaudeville timing with the same conservative attitudes as Annie. Films and merchandising made Gray a multi-millionaire, he died of cancer at the Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla on May 9, 1968, at the age of 74. Harold Gray's work is in the Special Collections Department at the Boston University Library; the Gray collection includes artwork, printed material, correspondence and photographs. The collection contains a scrapbook, a short story by Gray titled "Annie", letters and telegrams from 1937 to 1967, including correspondence with Collier's, Purdue University, Al Capp and Mort Walker. Gray's appointment books with comic strip dialogue and plots are dated 1929, 1931, 1933–1935, 1937, 1944, 1946, 1949, 1950–59 and 1961. Photographs show Gray drawing and Gray as a U. S. Army officer "Dear Orphan Annie" by Jeet Heer, Boston Globe Lambiek: Harold Gray Susan Houston: Little Orphan Annie: The War Years Harold Gray at Find a Grave Lombard Lodge No. 1098 AF&AM

Francis Blanchard

Francis Blanchard AC was the second longest-serving Director-General of the International Labour Organization. Francis Blanchard was born on July 1916 in Paris, France. After studying in Sorbonne, Blanchard undertook military service in the air force from 1937 to 1940. During the Second World War Blanchard worked as an assistant to a member of the Vichy government, but was involved in resistance activities whilst there. In 1947, at the age of 31, Blanchard joined the International Refugee Organization, staying there until the organization ceased to exist in 1952, after which he aided in the formation of its successor agencies, the International Organization for Migration and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. In 1951, Blanchard joined the International Labour Organization as deputy chief of the Manpower Division, involved with cooperation activities in vocational training and manpower. In 1956, then-Director-General David A. Morse appointed Blanchard to the position of Assistant Director-General.

In 1968, Blanchard was appointed Deputy Director-General with responsibility for technical cooperation and field activities. In 1973, he was appointed Director-General of the International Labour Organization. During his tenure as Director-General, the ILO saw the withdrawal of the United States from the Organization between 1977 and 1980, an action which led to the loss of a quarter of the Organization's budget. In 1989, Blanchard retired from the ILO, ending 38 years of service to the Organization and making him the second longest-serving Director-General in the Organization's history; as Director-General, he was preceded by C. Wilfred succeeded by Michel Hansenne. After his retirement, Blanchard made occasional appearances at International Labour Organization events before dying at the age of 93 on December 9, 2009. On 26 January 1990 he was appointed an Honorary Companion of the Order of Australia, Australia's highest civilian honour, "in recognition of his service to humanity"