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Chicago Death Trap: The Iroquois Theatre Fire of 1903
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Chicago Death Trap: The Iroquois Theatre Fire of 1903

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3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  98 ratings  ·  13 reviews
On the afternoon of December 30, 1903, during a sold-out matinee performance, a fire broke out in Chicago’s Iroquois Theatre. In the short span of twenty minutes, more than six hundred people were asphyxiated, burned, or trampled to death in a panicked mob’s failed attempt to escape. In Chicago Death Trap: The Iroquois Theatre Fire of 1903, Nat Brandt provides a detailed c ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published August 3rd 2006 by Southern Illinois University Press (first published 2003)
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Selena
Feb 27, 2008 Selena rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: American theatre or Chicago history buffs.
This will make you think twice about going to a theatre and NOT looking for your nearest exit. Great true story for anyone who loves the history of American theatre and/or Chicago politics. So many building codes have been changed due to what happened at the Iroquois. You can't walk past that spot (what is now the Oriental theatre) without getting chills after reading this book. Actually, many ghost tours stop in the alley behind the theatre because strange things happen there.
Jerry Smith
This is a specialist subject, concentrating on a theatre fire in Chicago in 1903. It is quite a harrowing tale and one that has largely been forgotten which is not surprising as it was over 100 years ago. I had heard of the fire before and was interested to learn the full story which this book does a good job of explaining.

It is well written and doesn't seek to sensationalize the story which may be because it happened so long ago and distance adds perspective, but there is some incredulity that
...more
Suzy
This book covers the historical detail well. It starts by setting the scene at the turn of the century Chicago in terms of the city and the people in general. It describes the building of the theatre, the disaster itself and the after effects including trying to find someone to blame. The start of each chapter details a piece of fire code (regulation) in operation at the time. However, there is a real lack of personal and emotional depth to the writing.

The subject matter makes obvious comparison
...more
Lori Shafer
I find myself on a disaster phase in reading. I had heard of the Iroquois fire through a tv show on the travel channel. I knew a little bit, but I was curious to read more. I am amazed how many small things united to make a "perfect storm" fire. A simple day at the new theater ends with 602 people dead. Mainly women and children. Ironically, the building still stood when the flames were put out. Such a tragedy, but thankfully a few lessons were learned. So many things we don't think about today ...more
Katherine
This book does a good job of laying out the facts from the 1903 fire of the Iroquois Theatre in Chicago. (It seems too that it is an almost forgotten piece of American tragedy - most people who attend the Oriental Theatre in Chicago have no idea it is standing where the Iroquois used to and where 602 people lost their lives.)
The details that the author was able to capture and retell was done in a way I found to conjure up amazing imagery regarding the layout of the theatre, the scenario backstag
...more
Jan C
Tale of the fire that changed fire laws. Quite horrific. It was a Christmastime show when everything went up in flames. Many children were in the audience. Eddie Foy, Sr. helped keep the crowd calm for a while. But eventually it was out of control. The students from (I think) Northwestern which had classes across the alley from the theater helped some people to escape the flames by putting a plank or a ladder across the alley to the theater.

I think this book came out to coincide with the centen
...more
Kate McD
a truly devastating story. 650 people (mostly women and children) were burned, asphyxiated or crushed to death in the fire and ensuing panic at a holiday matinee performance at the Iroqouis Theatre in Chicago. it's the tragedy that lead to reform in building codes and public safety. yup, there's a reason why exit doors must always open outwards and emergency exits must be clearly marked. a good dose of Chicago history, too.
Jim
More than 600 dead. The deadliest theater fire in U.S. history, in a city well acquainted with disastrous fires. I have read several books and articles about this event over the years, and this is a pretty competitive account. I just can't imagine the horror, but I like finding out how some survive, others perish. A morbid reading habit of mine that stretches back to as early as ten.
Alexa
Fairly good account of the Iroquois Theatre Fire, considering there are no surviving extended accounts from survivors, and that some facts were lost in the attempt to cover-up details during the investigation. It boggles my mind that so few people have ever heard of this, considering it is the most deadly single building fire in U.S. History.
Dale
May 13, 2008 Dale rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Dale by: George Dawson
This was a very interesting read (Thanks, George!). A very sad tragedy that took place in a time of extreme coruption in the city of Chicago.
Sandy
Recently saw Wicked in this refurbished theater. Couldn't believe this history!
Heather
A moving story of a horrifying tragedy that is now forgotten.
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