The Chicago Fire of 1874 was a conflagration in Chicago, Illinois, that took place on July 14, 1874. Reports of the extent of the damage vary somewhat, but sources generally agree that the fire burned forty-seven acres just south of the Loop, destroyed 812 structures and killed 20 people. The affected neighborhood had been home to Chicago’s community of Jewish immigrants from Russia and Poland, as well as to a significant population of middle-class African-American families; both ethnic groups were displaced in the aftermath of the fire to other neighborhoods on the city’s West and South Sides.
The fire insurance industry’s National Board of Underwriters responded to the fire by demanding widespread changes in Chicago’s fire prevention and firefighting efforts, and ultimately encouraged fire insurers to cancel all coverage of buildings in the city in October. Many insurers did halt their activities in Chicago, and only returned to issuing policies in the city after the municipal government adopted many of the suggested reforms.