Before and After the Fire: Chicago in the 1860s, 1870s, and 1880s

Before and After the Fire: Chicago in the 1860s, 1870s, and 1880s

Click on the links below to access scans of some of the sheet maps of Chicago from the 1860s, 1870s, and 1880s that are held at the University of Chicago Library's Map Collection.

During these three decades, Chicago grew from a small city of 109,000 into a large one with a population of more than 1,000,000. It is often said that no city of the Western world had ever grown so quickly. Chicago's growth was in part associated with its status as the most important node in the American railroad system, which reached the Pacific in 1869. Industries prospered, particularly those involving the transformation of the raw materials of the West into products destined for the East. The Union Stockyards (1865), the South Works steel mills (1875), and the Pullman railway-car plant (early 1880s) were iconic examples. Growth was only barely interrupted by the catastrophic fire of 1871 in which perhaps a quarter of Chicago's dwellings and most of its business district were burned. The Fire did force the city to establish a new building code and perhaps encouraged a new self-consciousness about planning. The years after the Fire saw the implementation of the city's "boulevard" system and the inauguration of parks along the Lakefront of which Lincoln Park (institutionalized in 1864) is perhaps the best known example.

The maps were scanned at 400 dpi and saved as tiff files. These were converted to run on the Web under a program called Zoomify. You need Flash to take advantage of this software. To zoom in and out, use the scale bar to the left of the Zoomify screen or click on the map to zoom in. To move around, hold the left mouse button down and drag either the location rectangle or the map itself. To see a larger image, click on the "Click here for full screen" button on the top left of each page. You may need to be somewhat patient in using this software. In particular, wait until the image comes into focus before attempting a new command.

Several of the maps are in poor shape. We have resisted the temptation to do serious digital restoration work.

Several people contributed to the construction of this Web site. Joost Dupon of the Map Collection did nearly all the scanning and most of the Photoshop manipulation as well. Katharina Loew of the Map Collection did some last-minute repair work. The Digital Media Laboratory let Map Collection staff use its Contex scanner; Dale Mertes of the Digital Media Laboratory was particularly helpful. John Jung and other staff members of the Digital Library Development Center helped with the programming. And Bobby Butler of the Map Collection scanned the maps added to this page in 2014.

Additional maps of Chicago in the 1860s, 1870s, and 1880s can be found elsewhere on the Internet. The Library of Congress' Panoramic Maps Website contains several bird's eye views of Chicago during these years. The Encyclopedia of Chicago Website includes several maps from this period. The companion Website, Social Scientists Map Chicago, contains several maps focusing on these years as well.

Comments are welcome. Please use the "Questions and comments about this page" form below.


ImageTitle InformationSubject HeadingsDescription

Chicago / drawn from Davie's atlas with the latest recorded subdivisions by W.L. Flower and J. Van Vechten. Chicago (Ill.)--Maps. Scale [1:6,000]. Chicago : Chas. Shober, 1863. 1 map : col. ; 191 x 114 cm.
Guide map of Chicago / engr. and chemityped by Shober. Chicago (Ill.)--Maps. Scale [ca. 1:24,000]. Chicago : Chas. Shober, 1868. 1 map ; 48 x 30 cm.

Newly added! Chicago and environs : compiled and drawn from the latest records and annual surveys / by J. Van Vechten and L.M. Snyder. Chicago (Ill.)--Maps. Scale [ca. 1:12,000]. Chicago : J. Van Vechten, 1868. 1 map on 7 sheets : col. ; 180 x 168 cm., sheets 78 x 57 cm. or less.
Chicago. Chicago (Ill.)--Maps.
Great Fire, Chicago, Ill., 1871--Maps.
Scale [ca. 1:32,000]. [S.l. : s.n., ca. 1871]. 1 map : col. ; 40 x 31 cm.
Map of Chicago showing the burnt district. Chicago (Ill.)--Maps.
Great Fire, Chicago, Ill., 1871--Maps.
Scale [ca. 1:24,000]. [S.l. : s.n., ca. 1871]. 1 map : col. ; 29 x 50 cm. Oriented with north to right.
Richard's illustrated and statistical map of the great conflagration in Chicago. Great Fire, Chicago, Ill., 1871--Maps.
Chicago (Ill.)--History--To 1875--Maps.
Scale not given. St. Louis : R.P. Studley Co., c1871. 1 map : col. ; 29 x 69 cm., on sheet 64 x 97 cm. Oriented with north to right.
Map of Cook and DuPage Counties ; Map of Chicago, showing the wards, streets and parks. Chicago (Ill.)--Maps.
Chicago Metropolitan Area (Ill.)--Maps.
Scale [ca. 1:250,000]. Scale [ca. 1:75,000]. Chicago : Rufus Blanchard, 1872. 2 maps on 1 sheet : col. ; sheet 43 x 55 cm.
Gray's atlas map of Chicago. Chicago (Ill.)--Maps. Scale [ca. 1:32,000]. [Philadelphia : Stedman, Brown & Lyon?], 1873. 1 map : col. ; 40 x 32 cm.
Chicago. Chicago (Ill.)--Maps. Scale [1:31,680]. [New York : G.W. & C.B. Colton & Co., 1876]. 1 map : col. ; 40 x 31 cm., on sheet 66 x 45 cm.
Chicago. Chicago (Ill.)--Maps. Scale [ca. 1:36,000]. [Philadelphia : S. Augustus Mitchell, 1876?]. 1 map : col. ; 45 x 35 cm., on sheet 59 x 39 cm.
Plan of Lincoln Park, Chicago : area, 250 acres / designed by O. Benson, landscape gardener and superintendent. Lincoln Park (Chicago (Ill.)--Maps. Scale [1:4,800]. Chicago : Shober & Carqueville Lith. Co., [188-?]. 1 map ; 203 x 117 cm. Oriented with north to left.
Map of the United States, Mexico, & Canada : on which is indicated by red lines the railways over which cars are operated by the Pullman Company. Railroads--United States--Maps.
Pullman Company--Maps.
Pullman (Chicago, Ill.)--Aerial views.
Scale [ca. 1:5,400,000]. Chicago, Ill. : Rand, McNally & Co., [1884?]. 1 map : col. ; 76 x 47 cm. Includes inset aerial view of Pullman, Chicago, Ill.
Map of the Union Stockyards of Chicago, 1887 / compiled & drawn from actual surveys by F.C. Rossiter, C.E., city & county surveyor. Union Stock Yard & Transit Company of Chicago--Maps.
Scale [ca. 1:2,400]. Chicago : F.C. Rossiter, c1887. 1 map ; 108 x 78 cm.
Index map of Chicago : running south to Seventy First Street. Chicago (Ill.)--Maps. Scale [ca. 1:21,000]. Chicago : Rufus Blanchard, 1888. 1 map : col. ; 89 x 60 cm.
Newly added! Map of Chicago and environs. Chicago (Ill.)--Maps. Scale [ca. 1:51,000]. Chicago : Rufus Blanchard, [1889?]. 1 map : col. ; 88 x 60 cm.
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