The Iroquois Theatre Disaster, 1903Paperback - 2010
None of the many socialites and journalists who flocked to the shows were aware that city building inspectors and others had been bribed to certify that the theater was in good shape. In fact, the building was without a sprinkler system or even basic fire fighting equipment; there was no backstage telephone, fire alarm box, exit signs, a real asbestos curtain or ushers trained for emergencies.
A month later, at a Christmas week matinee, the theater was illegally overcrowded with a standing room only crowd of mostly women and children. During the second act, a short circuit exploded a back stage spotlight touching off a small fire which spread in minutes throughout the theater. Panic set in as people clawed at each other to get out, but they could not find the exits, which were draped. The doorways, locked against gate-crashers, were designed to open in instead of out, creating almost impossible egress.
The tragedy, which claimed more than 600 lives, became a massive scandal and it remains the worst theater fire in the history of the country.
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Nearly 114 years ago, Chicago experienced the worst theater fire in U.S. history. The burning of the Iroquois Theater claimed the lives of over 600 patrons, a tragic number that even exceeds the estimated 250 lives lost in the Chicago Fire of 1871. Beautiful, lavishly designed and deemed “absolutely fireproof”, the ill-fated Iroquois Theater opened to the public on November 27, 1903 at 24-28… (more)