quality posts: 17 Private Messages WootBot


Did you know that September is National Preparedness Month? The catchy government slogan is "Be disaster aware! Take action to prepare!" But how disaster-aware are we really? Lots of the things we know about life's worst calamities are actually wrong--and in some cases, dangerously so. Luckily, Ken Jennings, Jeopardy! survivor and professional know-it-all, is here to set us straight. Because what could be more disastrous than ignorance? Well, maybe a big volcano. Ignorance, and also a big volcano.

The Debunker: Did Mrs. O'Leary's Cow Really Start the Great Chicago Fire?

On the night of October 8, 1871, a terrible fire laid waste to Chicago, at the time the fifth largest city in the nation. Nine square miles of the city were wiped off the map, leaving a third of the city's infrastructure down and over 100,000 Chicagoans homeless. The causes of the fire are easy to see in hindsight: a crowded city built almost entirely of wood, drought conditions, high winds to carry cinders aloft. But what set off the first spark?


The origin of the conflagration was traced to a barn at 137 DeKoven Street. In popular folklore, the blaze began when a cow owned by a Mrs. O'Leary kicked over a kerosene lamp, setting the building afire. The legend is so widespread that it's been depicted in a Normal Rockwell painting, a Brian Wilson song, countless Chicago-area parades, and the old Tyrone Power movie In Old Chicago. But all this Americana is, in fact, based on a journalistic hoax.

In 1893, the Chicago Tribune’s Michael Ahern admitted that he had invented the cow-and-lamp story out of thin air, to add color to his account of the fire. There were indeed five milk cows in the O'Leary barn that night, but the official investigation of the fire concluded that the fire most likely started with an accidental spark from a chimney, or some unknown human intervention. The bovine suspects weren't even mentioned. (Let's face it: none of them had much of a mooooo-tive.) But the anti-Irish sentiments of the time led Chicagoans to make much of the O'Learys' involvement: had they been drunk? Had they burned down their own barn and then hidden the evidence? Accusations followed Catherine O'Leary for the rest of her life, and her family said that she died heartbroken.

Quick Quiz: In 1998, the Chicago Fire won the championship in what sports league?

Ken Jennings is the author of six books, most recently his Junior Genius Guides, Because I Said So!, and Maphead. He's also the proud owner of an underwhelming Bag o' Crap. Follow him at ken-jennings.com or on Twitter as @KenJennings.


quality posts: 48 Private Messages bestsportnascar

MLS, which is not the best sport.



quality posts: 15 Private Messages phileoca
bestsportnascar wrote:MLS, which is not the best sport.

MLS, which IS the best sport.

My wife woots too


quality posts: 2 Private Messages davidbowser
bestsportnascar wrote:MLS, which is not the best sport.

Trolling soccer! For shame, driving-car-in-oval-man.


quality posts: 2 Private Messages davidbowser
davidbowser wrote:Trolling soccer! For shame, driving-car-in-oval-man.

Although I will give props to road courses at Watkins Glen and Sonoma.


quality posts: 1109 Private Messages whatsamattaU

Any idea if Ahern or the newspaper apologized to Ms. O'Leary?


quality posts: 2 Private Messages lilmissychloe

MLS - aka futbol (non-americano)


quality posts: 38 Private Messages cappo

Normal Rockwell????


quality posts: 38 Private Messages Nitetigrezz

"Late one night, when we were all in bed,
Ol'e Mother Leary left a lantern in the shed;
And when the cow kicked it over, she winked her eye and said,
"There'll be a hot time in the ol'e town, tonight.
Fire Fire Fire!
Pour on Water Pour on Water
Save my children Save my children
Jump lady Jump!"

I still remember singing that for the Lumberjack Day Parade when I was a Girl Scout, and this was in the mountains of NorCal, far from Chicago XD We even had special motions for the last bit, including jumping forward as a whole group for the last line. Got us the gold for Best Youth Group, beating out two Boy Scout troops, 4H, and another Girl Scout troop XD

Wow I feel old all of the sudden x.x

Nitetigrezz Woot Sticker Trade Post ~ First ever Big ol' Cornucopia ~ 7/11/2014 ~ 154.9/2000