"Working through eyewitness accounts, interviews with survivors and documents, Mr. Hatch takes us through the ordeal." — Wall Street Journal
Tinder Box: The Iroquois Theatre Disaster 1903by Anthony P. Hatch
This the 100th anniversary of one of worst man-made disasters of the 20th century. When the Iroquois Theatre opened in Chicago on November 23, 1903, it was considered one of the grandest structures of its day, a monument to modern design and technology, as well as "absolutely fireproof." This was a theatre that would rival any in New York or Paris. Instead it
This the 100th anniversary of one of worst man-made disasters of the 20th century. When the Iroquois Theatre opened in Chicago on November 23, 1903, it was considered one of the grandest structures of its day, a monument to modern design and technology, as well as "absolutely fireproof." This was a theatre that would rival any in New York or Paris. Instead it became the funeral pyre for hundreds of victims. Tony Hatch, former CBS reporter and Emmy Award winner, tells the grisly story in meticulous, riveting detail, based on more than forty years of research, including many exclusive interviews with eyewitnesses. In Tinder Box, he tells the Iroquois story as it has never been told before. In a rush to open the theatre on time, corners were cut, and the Iroquois lacked the most basic fire-fighting equipment: sprinklers, fire alarm boxes, backstage telephone, exit signs and functioning asbestos curtain. Some exists, for aesthetic reasons, were hidden behind heavy draperies, doors opened inward and exterior fire escapes were unfinished. But Chicago officials, the theatre owners and managers, the contractor, stagehands—all looked the other way. Then, on December 30, 1903, disaster struck. The theatre was packed, overcrowded with a standing-room-only audience, mostly women and children who had come to see the popular comedian Eddie Foy perform in the musical fantasy Mr. Bluebeard. A short circuit in a single backstage spotlight touched off a small fire that, in minutes, erupted into an uncontrollable blaze. More than 600 people died. Because of the magnitude of the catastrophe and the obvious corruption that allowed it to happen, building and fire laws were changed to prevent it everhappening again. Tinder Box is a riveting history of a traumatic and costly calamity.
- Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
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- 5.60(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.90(d)
Meet the Author
Anthony P. Hatch is a New York City native whose career has spanned 20 years in wire service, print and broadcast media and 20 years in public affairs.
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I found this book quite by accident here online, and, as a history buff could not believe I had not read about this tragedy. As a professional musician who often works in the pit and attends the theatre often, I could not put this book down. The author places you at the scene and his years of research place him at the top. The people came to life, and their lives had meaning. The parallels to theatre today cannot be ignored. There is still no training done in theatres. I want to thank the author for writing this book. He also sets rumors straight, and other recent books on the matter do not compare in detail or readability( for I read them afterwards)... Don't miss this one! It should be made into a film if possible...
This is really well-written and well-researched, but what happened in 1903 is so terribly, terribly sad. Seriously, don't read this book if you'll be disturbed by gruesome injuries and deaths caused by horrible accidents. Not only was there a fire, but there was a panic, and the poor design of the theater caused a lot of deaths by crush asphyxia, a particularly horrible way to die. But if you can stomach the nauseating details, it's a fascinating glimpse into life in Chicago in the early 20th century, a scathing look into the devastation caused by Gilded Age laissez-faire capitalism, and an importance lesson for the public spaces of today. This book is about 10 years old now, but the importance of preventing panics in theaters is very high when now we have to worry about random acts of violence, such as the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting.
This is a very disturbing account of what can happen if fire breaks out in a theater or any other entertainment venue. As a theater director of very old building it has made me really think about our own prevention measures. The author decribes the patrons who attended ,or did not attend, the matinee of that fateful day and personalizes the story. I read this in one night.