Opera House Fire, 1908, Blog Exclusive (Graphic Image Warning)

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Four 1908 real photo postcards documenting the Rhoads Opera House fire and aftermath. From Wikipedia:

The Rhoads Opera House Fire occurred on Monday evening, January 13, 1908 in Boyertown, Pennsylvania. The opera house caught fire during a stage play sponsored by nearby St. John’s Lutheran Church. The fire started when a kerosene lamp being used for stage lighting was knocked over starting a fire on the stage. In short order the spreading fire ignited a mixture of lighting gas & oxygen from a malfunctioning stereopticon machine being used to present a magic lantern show at intermission. Audience members waited for the fire to be extinguished by theatre personnel, wasting the precious minutes they needed to escape safely.

The stage and auditorium were located on the 2nd floor and the few emergency exits available were either unmarked or blocked. Two fire escapes were available but were only accessible through latched windows whose sills were located 3 & 1/2 feet above the floor. Of the approximately 400 men, women, and children either in attendance or associated with the performance of the play 171 perished in various ways as they tried to escape the conflagration. In the panic to escape many were crushed in the narrow main entrance stairway as well as against the jambed main exit swinging doors of the 2nd floor auditorium. In a few instances entire families were wiped out. One firefighter John Graver, was also killed while responding to the incident.

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