Medal honoring Chicago hero turns up in Augusta… over 100 years later
As medals go, it’s about standard — just about the right size to pin on a chest full of other commendations — but size is about the only thing standard about the Chicago Fire Department medal at Friedman’s Jewelers.
Bought for its gold value, it quickly became apparent that it had historic value beyond its gold and diamonds. So the medal was sent to Friedman’s cleaning technicians to be detailed. There, they discovered a tantalizing bit of its history — it was given to a Captain Pearson for valor during the Union Stockyards Fire of 1910.
Though far less famous than the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which killed more than 300 people and left over 100,000 people homeless, the Union Stockyards Fire claimed the lives of 21 firefighters.
Not until the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, were more U.S. firefighters killed in a single disaster.
Early in the morning of December 22, 1910, sparking wires started a fire in one of the warehouses at the stockyards. Firefighters driving horse-drawn steam engines rushed to the scene, and soon they were fighting the fire in the brutal, 24-degree temperatures.
The blaze quickly grew out of control, however, and once the men made their way into the windowless, eight-story building, the unthinkable occurred. A brick wall buckled, then collapsed, falling onto the firefighters, most of whom had congregated on a loading dock.
Though little is known about Captain Pearson or the medal that was given to him, one thing is for certain — the medal is a work of art, complete with hinges, diamonds and powerful engraving.
Though finds as exceptional as this one are rare, they nevertheless keep the staff at Friedman’s on their toes. You Might Also Like: