Tuesday, October 19
The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 may be more famous than St. Louis' Great Fire of 1849, but that's probably because Chicago's fire was more destructive and a greater human tragedy. In the St. Louis fire, the all-volunteer fire department devised a radical plan to save the city: a firebreak, created by blowing up five buildings along Second Street. Firefighter Thomas Targee bravely threw a keg of gunpowder into a burning building, and, as you might imagine, the resulting explosion instantly killed him and two of his crew, but it did create the necessary gap along the crowded street that saved the city. Eating Smoke: Fire in Urban America 1800-1950, a 7 p.m. free presentation by author Mark Tebeau and storyteller Barnes M. Bradshaw at the Missouri History Museum (Lindell Boulevard and DeBaliviere Avenue; 314-746-4599; free), commemorates the memory of these early firefighters and provides insight into other deadly conflagrations in America's early days.