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Untitled (Chicago after the Fire)

A sepia-toned panorama of the city of Chicago bisected by the highway with only a few tall buildings scattered on either side.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A sepia-toned panorama of the city of Chicago bisected by the highway with only a few tall buildings scattered on either side.




Attributed to George N. Barnard
American, 1819–1902

About this artwork

Chicago’s Great Fire of 1871 killed 300 people, left 100,000 homeless, and leveled four square miles of the city. Yet as the flames died, resolve replaced despair. This photograph was made perhaps one month after the fire, and it shows the makeshift homes, businesses, telegraph poles, and streetcar tracks that were in place even before the rubble was pushed into the lake. Within three years, Chicago would regain its position as the premier city of the Midwest.

This panorama was probably made by George N. Barnard, who documented the tremendous devastation of the South by the campaign of General William Tecumseh Sherman during the Civil War. Barnard had a studio in downtown Chicago, but, forced into the lake to flee the fire, he lost everything except the equipment he held aloft in the water. Like Chicago itself, he quickly recovered and joined colleagues who documented the rebuilding of the city.


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Photography and Media


George N. Barnard


Untitled (Chicago after the Fire)


United States (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

Made 1871


Albumen prints


22.8 × 155 cm (9 × 61 1/16 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Robert Jesmer

Reference Number


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Extended information about this artwork

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