The Nation: Commemorative Fireworks

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A century has passed since Mrs. O'Leary's cow made her legendary kick at a lantern and touched off the Great Chicago Fire-time enough, one would think, to get the story straight. Now, in observation of the conflagration's Oct. 8 anniversary, the Chicago Association of Commerce and Industry has published a new version of what happened.

In the association's account, the cow was not the culprit. The guilty party was a one-legged neighbor of Mrs. O'Leary, Dennis ("Peg Leg") Sullivan, who went to the O'Leary barn for a nightcap, lit his pipe and ignited the hay. As he tried to flee, his peg leg stuck in a floor crack. He discarded it and hobbled to safety by clinging to the cow.

While the city ruminates on its revised history, the fire will be commemorated in a concert on the lawn of the Chicago Historical Society by the Chicago Chamber Orchestra Association, which will offer its own brand of fireworks: Haydn's "Fire" Symphony, Handel's Royal Fireworks Music, Ives' Fireman's Parade on Main Street and Dittersdorf's The Fall of Phaethon (about a god who burned to death).