Skip to main content

CR3 #6: Chicago Death Trap: The Iroquois Theatre Fire of 1903 by Nat Brandt

It seems that life in America during the late 19th and early 20th centuries was fraught with danger. At any moment truly horrible things could happen to you--you could drown in a flood, perish in a fire-tornado, be overcome by a torrent of molasses, freeze to death on the prairie*, or die of any number of diseases, including the flu*. God forbid you try and travel anywhere, by any method*--then again, you could also be blown to smithereens while in your own home. Life at that time was perilous at best, even for those who lived lives of relative quiet. It's amazing the country managed to grow and thrive when it seems at every turn there was a disaster like the Triangle Shirtwaist fire*, the horrible destruction of the General Slocum* fire and the sinking of the Eastland* (both of which killed hundreds of women and children), or winter storms that froze school children* to death on their buses. The Iroquois Theatre fire--though the worst lost of life on American soil due to accident until that time--almost becomes par for the course when added in to the context of so many disasters.

In 1903, the Iroquois Theatre in Chicago was a beautiful new building, completed at the end of November just in time for the holiday season. It was the height of modern design, ready to bring in the shoppers and tourists to the matinee. The shows that came through were touring companies, brought by syndicate on tours through the entire Midwest. Unfortunately, what no one realized was that the building was a death trap--a building designed to keep the large crowd in no matter what, fire codes barely complied with or ignored entirely, short cuts taken at every turn in order to open on time, and municipal corruption that caused the city to turn a blind eye to this time-bomb in its midst. The result--the death of more than six hundred people, mostly women and children--shook the city and the country to the foundations.

Nat Brandt leads the reader through all the circumstances that led to this tragedy, the disaster itself, and the reaction of the American people afterward. It's an excellent book, easy to understand, both well-researched and well-written. Although it's nothing particularly new to its genre, it's well worth reading.

*Refers to a book read but not blogged on.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

CR3 # 17: Mount Misery by Samuel Shem

Mount Misery is the sequel to Samuel Shem's first book, House of God (review here). It follows Dr. Roy Basch as he leaves the House of God and moves to psychiatric hospital Mount Misery to begin his psychiatric residency. Unfortunately, it turns out that psychiatrists are just as crazy, confused, and often detrimental as medical doctors. As Dr. Basch cycles through the various sectors of the hospital (talk therapy, admissions, Freudian Analysis, drug therapy) he is horrified to discover that it seems everything he is being taught is not only wrong, but potentially dangerous. He begins to fall into terrible patterns of behavior, mirroring the problems his patients are having. Each area is worse than the last, with one doctor who thinks the best way to treat is to be aggressively hostile, one who cares only about insurance premiums and efficiency, one who treats with silence and "regression," and one who thinks the only viable treatment is to pump every patient full of exp…

CBR9 #2 - Southern Gods

I've had Southern Gods on my TBR list for so long I no longer remember why I put it there. Was it a recommendation from Amazon? From Goodreads? Did someone I know recommend it? Did it cross my path as a "If you liked __________ then you'll like this too!"

Maybe I heard it through the grapevine?

I only know that recently, I happened to come across it on my wishlist and decided to go ahead and splurge on it.

I'm glad I did.

In 1951 Memphis, war veteran and leg-breaker-for-hire Bull Ingraham gets a new assignment: a record company has lost one of their employees somewhere. Early Freeman set off to deliver new records to radio stations, and has seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth. His boss at Helios Records is anxious to find him...and also anxious to find a mysterious blues musician whose music can do terrible things to the living -- and to the dead.

Meanwhile, in Arkansas, Sarah Rheinhart leaves her abusive husband and returns to her family home, where …

CR3 #30: The First Wives Club by Olivia Goldsmith

I saw the movie of The First Wives Club before I read the book. It's a cute chick flick, in which scorned women take comedic revenge on their former spouses. They become better friends and everyone winds up happy in the end. I was somewhat surprised (though not much--the differences between film and literature are often wide) at how different the book was--I am used to changes in plot or small character changes (combining two characters into one, or perhaps changing to a more pleasant ending) but the major change here between novel and movie was the tone.

The story is basically the same; After a close friend's suicide, three middle-aged female friends get together and beginning reviewing their lives. They realize that much like their late friend, they have been screwed over by the men in their lives--the men used them to get to their high social and financial positions, then screwed them over both personally and financially. The three women decide to use their wits and their co…