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Tinder Box: The Iroquois Theatre Disaster 1903 Hardcover – August 30, 2005
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Top Customer Reviews
With eerie parallels to the Titanic disaster, the Iroquois' programs boasted that the theater was "Absolutely Fireproof"-- but everyone involved seemed to think somebody else had done whatever was necessary to make that claim a reality.
The most deadly theater fire in U.S. history, the event is heartbreaking to read about, but Hatch has ferreted out the many human stories of the victims, survivors, reporters, firefighters, theater managers, and politicians who were involved, and found heroes as well as villains in this tragedy.
In spite of the lessons learned and laws changed as a result of this terrible loss, Hatch's research shows that many modern theaters repeat some of the careless mistakes of the Iroquois. Everyone who frequents public buildings would be well-advised to read this fascinating story and take its lessons to heart.
Considering the fact that the fire happened over 100 years ago, with no living witnesses to interview and many facts have been lost in time, Hatch does an admirable job describing the events leading up to the fire, the fire itself, and the aftermath. He does an excellent job describing how the Iroquois came to be built and the haste with which it was built (it only took five months) and the shoddy workmanship involved, as well as how many officials were willing to turn their heads and ignore the many fire code violations at the Iroquois. His description of the crowded theatre the day of the fire is mind boggling; one victim in fact called the theater a fire trap as she went to her seat. There were over 500 more people than capacity in attendance; the exit doors opened in instead of out; and the person who was supposed to operate the fire curtain was a substitute who didn't know which lines actually worked the curtain. There was little done to help the audience and incredibly enough the actors continued to perform while the fire was burning. Hatch also gives descriptions of the fire victims and survivors, which make the tragedy even more real. Some of the ways people escaped the fire were incredible and there were many heroes that night. There were also many villains that night and Hatch describes they way people robbed some of the dead.Read more ›
As the author explains Iroquois fire was a disaster that could have been avoided. The construction of the building was not completed when the theater was opened to the public. The architect failed to incorporate significant fire safety features into the cost cutting design. In many instances, the building contractors had not finished their work: two examples, the rooftop venitalation system and the exterior fire escape, itself, were not even fully functional! The closed vents trapped toxic gases and smoke which asphyxiated audience members in their seats.
The pennypinching theater owners failed to purchase adequate fire extinguishers to be placed throughout the building and assigned only one employee to act as fireman for the entire building. The supposedly fire resistant curtain was shoddy both in terms of the inexpensive materials substituted for asbestos and its poor workmanship. When put to the test, none of the stage hands knew how to operate the curtain and it jammed during its descent. Thus the fire could not be contained on the stage and it spread into the auditorium. Panicked patrons struggled to find their way out, but the emergency exits were not clearly identified and many of the doors were locked.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is really well-written and well-researched, but what happened in 1903 is so terribly, terribly sad. Read morePublished 2 days ago by Erin O'Riordan
I got lost in all the trial information. Some one should have been held responsible. Everyone seemed to forget about the victims. Read morePublished 12 days ago by Carol
Well written and researched, with some great photos. This is one of those nonfiction accounts that has you uneasily eyeing the exits in buildings, wondering if you would make it... Read morePublished 3 months ago by R. J Ridley
Very well written account of the tragedy. Worth reading and reflecting on one's safety in a theatre today and remembering to look for the best & not necessarily the way one came... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Romy60
I was born in Chicago and have lived here for all but 2 years of my life. I had heard about the Iroquois Theater disaster but felt it was time to find out why it happened in the... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Kathy Slupik
Great book that helped create new fire safety measures for the 20th century.Published 6 months ago by Dorothy Goyer
Excellent presentation of facts and forgotten history presented in novel form.Published 7 months ago by Rodney J. Williams