This Week in History: October 7 – 11 

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Here is a glance at this week in history and some of the pivotal events that have helped shape the ever-changing American culture and character. 

On Oct. 8, 1871, 148 years ago, the Great Chicago Fire began in the southwest corner of the city near the cottage of Patrick and Catherine O’Leary. According to legend, it was Mrs. O’Leary’s cow that caused the fire after it kicked a lantern over in the barn. The fire lasted over 48 hours and destroyed nearly one-third of the city, killing approximately 250 people and leaving 100,000 Chicagoans homeless. The blaze ravaged a large residential area as well as the business district, which had received rapid expansion in the past decade. Because of the above average rates of construction, homes, businesses and even sidewalks were built close together and out of wood to keep costs low. This, combined with the dry air and large gusts of the Windy City, allowed for flames to engulf four square miles of Chicago. The Great Chicago Fire would be an example for American cities who were also experiencing population boom. New fire codes were established nationwide, requiring wider roads, spaces between buildings and greater use of materials like steel instead of wood. Today, the United States ironically celebrates Fire Prevention Week over the week that includes Oct. 8 to recognize the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, arguably the most significant fire in American history. 


On Oct. 9, 1888 the Washington Monument was officially opened to the public in Washington, D.C.  Photo by    Jacob Creswick    on    Unsplash   . Thumbnail photo by    Tiraya Adam    on    Unsplash   .

On Oct. 9, 1888 the Washington Monument was officially opened to the public in Washington, D.C. Photo by Jacob Creswick on Unsplash. Thumbnail photo by Tiraya Adam on Unsplash.

On Oct. 9, 1888, 131 years ago, The Washington Monument was officially opened to the public in Washington, D.C. Construction of the structure began in 1848, following the design of American architect, Robert Mills, who envisioned a stately obelisk in the tradition of Ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt, who built similar structures to honor their leaders. In 1855, the Washington National Monument Society ran out of donations to complete Mills’ design, so construction halted and the tower was left half done. In this same year, Congress took control of the project and vowed to complete the monument without private organizations and donations. Because of the Civil War, construction did not continue until 1876. At this time, Congress also changed the building material from Maryland white marble to the less expensive New England granite. While it looked the same at the time, age and wear now show two different colors that are visible on the monument today. When it was finished, the Washington Monument was the tallest man-made structure in the world until the completion of the Eiffel Tower. 

On Oct. 11, 1975, 44 years ago, “Saturday Night Live” made its television debut on NBC. The late night sketch comedy show was first hosted by comedian George Carlin and featured a variety of comical sketches in addition to music performances. Since then, “SNL” (as it is more commonly referred to) has featured numerous celebrity hosts and launched the careers of many Hollywood staples including Chevy Chase, Adam Sandler, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock and Tina Fey. The topical variety show is most known for poking fun at American politics and society. Today, “Saturday Night Live” remains the longest running and highest rated comedy sketch show, with the phrase, ”Live from New York, it’s Saturday night!” permanently ingrained in American pop culture. 


Gino Giansanti is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at gino.giansanti_jr@uconn.edu.

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