I have recently acquired a new addition to my collection, the Chicago Pitcher, which has resulted in a revelation. Although I doubt that when Frank Burley designed the pitcher for the Columbian Exposition he could have anticipated my reaction. The vignettes on the pitcher relate many aspects of Chicago's storied history. I find myself particularly drawn to the scene where Catherine O'Leary's cow (supposedly) kicks over the lantern that started the Great Chicago Fire. It has inflamed my own deeply held conviction that women often are the easy scapegoat for events beyond their reach. I have placed the object within my Cabinet in a very specific and intentional environment and invite my dear friends and guests to explore at their leisure, so that they might have the same visceral reaction to the piece as I did upon its purchase.
I ask that you reflect upon the story of Eve in the Garden of Eden and the supposed folly of women that is so often reflected in "cataclysmic" ceramics, such as this pitcher. Upon discovering the hiding place of my object, you will notice a delightfully conceived contraption (if I might say so myself) which, upon activation, lights the pitcher as well as the objects I have placed around it to allude to the argument, which I myself will explain to you at length at my upcoming gathering for friends and family at my home next Saturday.
The bitten apple and the flames that surround the pitcher remind us of Eve, whose sins would likely lead her to the fires of Hell, as well as to the Great Chicago Fire and the supposed role of Mrs. O'Leary in its beginnings. I find it interesting that so many still wholeheartedly believe in the myth of Mrs. O'Leary, whose cow was said to knock over a lantern in her shed and start the blaze, when it came out not long ago that the scandal of a journalist, Michael Ahern, fabricated the entire tale so that he might increase his newspaper's ratings with a sensationalist story. How is it that it is woman's folly that is the cause of a great many disasters, including in the case of Eve, where her sins bring about the downfall of man? What of Cleopatra, Persephone, Hester Prynne, Tituba and countless others whose stories have become mythologized as examples of women's destructive and immoral nature. This type of scapegoating of women as the harbingers of tragedy and cataclysmic events is found throughout history and literature, and I find great offense in the vilification of womankind in this way.