Burning of the Brooklyn Theatre Part 3

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"Where is my husband?" she shrieked. "Where is my husband? Won't some one find him for me? My G.o.d! my G.o.d! I shall go mad."

People thought

_She Was Already Mad._

The nearly lifeless form of her husband was subsequently dragged from beneath the feet of the throng and borne into the police station.

A fashionably-dressed lady, who occupied a seat near the stage, was so completely overcome by terror that she sank to the floor, not in a faint, but out of sheer fright. She was actually carried from the place by her attendant.

_A Family Almost Blotted Out._

Samuel Solomon told the following sad story at the Morgue, the morning after the fire: "Last night my father, Morris Solomon, my brother Philip, his wife, Lena, and my two sisters, Mary and Deborah, went to the Brooklyn Theatre, and occupied seats in the family circle. When the fire broke out I came up here. The theatre was then in flames. I could see nothing of my relatives. I have remained here all night, with the exception of going home occasionally to see if they had returned. My mother is almost crazy, and has searched our neighborhood for them. Not the slightest trace of either of them has been found since they entered the theatre. I am told the staircase gave way, and I am afraid they have been crushed to death and then burned." The young man was much overcome by the sudden catastrophe which had befallen his family, and shed tears as he recited the story. The missing members of the Solomon family are Morris Solomon, aged 47 years, a cigar dealer at Maiden lane, New York; Philip Solomon, a musician, aged 24; Lena Solomon, his wife, aged 22; Mary Solomon, aged 23, and Deborah Solomon, aged 20 years.

_The Numbers in the Theatre._

We have obtained from the returns of the Treasurer what we believe to be a correct list of all who were in the theatre on the night of the fire as spectators, and have also procured a full list of the employees.

In the dress circle 300 In the parquet 250 In the gallery 405 Actors and actresses 21 Supernumeraries 20 Scene shifters and the like 10 Orchestra 12 Dressers, ushers, check takers, etc., etc. 22 ----- In all about 1,040

Although it is generally presumed that places of amus.e.m.e.nt are more apt to be crowded and more subject to fires than churches, history shows that fires in churches have proved even more fatal to human life than all the theatres that were ever burned.

On the 27th of May, 1875, a shocking catastrophe happened in the French Catholic Church, at South Holyoke, Ma.s.sachusetts, which in many respects was much like that in Brooklyn. The vesper hymn was being sung, when a candle at the altar set fire to the draperies surrounding the image of the Virgin Mary. There were about seven hundred people present, of whom those in the body of the church escaped without difficulty. But the flames streamed upwards to the galleries and spread along them, while the crowd on the staircase became a densely-packed, panic-stricken ma.s.s. Many were killed or severely wounded in the crush, besides those who were overtaken by the flames and burned to death. The whole thing lasted but twenty minutes, and in that time over seventy lives were lost.

One of the most terrible disasters of modern times, also strikingly similar to this recent disaster, occurred in the Church of the Jesuits, at Santiago, in Chili, on the 8th of December, 1863. It was the last day of the celebration of the feast of the Immaculate Conception, and the church had been elaborately decorated for the performance of ma.s.s.

A gigantic image of the Virgin, in whose honor the celebration was held, occupied a prominent position in the church, and all around pasteboard devices and thickly intertwining draperies covered the masonry of the church from floor to ceiling. Festoons led from pillar to pillar, and from the roof and projecting arches hung twenty thousand paraffine lamps. The women of Santiago, who on these occasions go from church to church, had filled the Church of the Jesuits. Three thousand persons, the greater number of whom were women and children, were present in this most venerable of Santiago's churches, and even on the steps outside women knelt in prayer to the Virgin, whose altar they were unable to reach. In the midst of the ceremony a paraffine lamp burst, and the flames at once caught the draperies and festoons surrounding it. Then from arch to arch and pillar to pillar the fire leaped, the lines that held the lamps aloft being burned the burning paraffine was emptied on the women below; and, while these twenty thousand vessels of flaming liquid were deluging the unfortunate women, the decorations above carried the flames to the roof, which burned and crackled like a tinder-box.

A rush was made for the great centre door, and in a few minutes it was hopelessly blocked, while only a few knew of the small door beyond the altar. As women endeavored to escape through the crowd, others who were burning clutched their dresses and cried in piteous tones for help, and clinging in their agony communicated the flame that was consuming them to the persons whom they had seized. Some women in their desperation divested themselves of their clothing, and a few succeeded in effecting their escape, but only a few. Each moment increased the crowd and intensified the block at the main door, and while it became more and more difficult to escape, the flames were spreading on the floor, flying from one prostrate body to another, and destroying the panic-stricken creatures by scores and hundreds, while the church resounded with piteous cries for help and still more heartrending shrieks of agony; the vast roof now gave way, and came down with its blazing beams and rafters, crushing and inundating the seething ma.s.s of tortured individuals beneath it. When the fire had burned itself out and workmen could get at the ruins, two thousand corpses were carried out.

_Relief for the Dest.i.tute._

As soon as it was known that so many had perished in the flames, a generous spirit of rivalry sprang up among the proprietors of places of amus.e.m.e.nt all over the country, as to whom should contribute the largest amount of money for the relief of the survivors and those rendered dest.i.tute by the fire. Individual actors also subscribed liberally, and a relief a.s.sociation was organized to receive and disburse the money thus contributed. Memorial services were held in New York and Brooklyn the Sunday after the fire, and prominent clergymen all over the country selected the terrible catastrophe as a theme for eloquent sermons.

Thrilling Account of the Daring Bravery and Wonderful Escape from a Horrible Death of


It is a fact greatly to the credit of all present in the terrible fire that but one single case of selfish cowardice was displayed, either by the actors or the audience. Great and n.o.ble deeds of daring, loving sacrifices, and humanitarian actions are everywhere described. The daily newspapers have given their readers many instances of true bravery displayed by men and women holding prominent positions in the world, but it remains for the writer to be the chronicler of a series of more daring acts and wonderful escapes, and the historian of two people who pa.s.sed through the ordeal of fire, one of whom deserves a place high in the record of "brave men who did brave deeds."

_The Hero and Heroine._

Cornelius J. Daly, the hero of this sketch, was of humble parentage.

The elder Daly, fully appreciating the disadvantages of his own position, early determined that his only son should receive a superior education.

As a consequence, Cornelius--or, as he was more familiarly called, Conn--was sent to school at an early age, and on his seventeenth birthday was in a condition to fairly combat the world and achieve success. He was comely of feature, athletic of frame, and intelligent of mind. He was the pride of his old father and mother, and the admiration of all the friends of the family.

One day Conn returned to his humble home from school to find terror and grief supplanting the usual greeting of joy and pleasure; his father had been brought home in a helpless condition, a victim of the dreaded paralysis. It was evident, now that the head of the family had been incapacitated from further labor, that Conn must do something toward their support.

Throwing to one side all his cherished ambitions and boyish hopes, Conn left school and apprenticed himself in a large machine shop located in Brooklyn. His wages at first were small, but being strong of limb and stout of heart, backed by intelligence, he speedily progressed, and in less than two years was promoted to the position of journeyman. His wages sufficed to keep his father and mother in comparative comfort, but even this failed to satisfy him. He yearned for something higher and n.o.bler, and after working a few months as a journeyman, he grew dissatisfied with his position. He loved his old father and mother with all the ardor of his warm generous heart, and he feared lest lack of means should compel him to abridge their enjoyment of little luxuries he deemed necessary for their declining years.

[Ill.u.s.tration: Rescuing her paralyzed Father.

Errettung ihres gichtbruchigen Vaters.]

Again, Conn was in love, but when he reflected over this last situation his heart sank even lower than when contemplating his pecuniary distress. It was the old, old story of honest, manly poverty, loving the daughter of proud and pampered wealth. Conn was employed in a large machine shop, owned by a wealthy resident of Brooklyn.

It chanced one day that the proprietor's beautiful daughter, Nettie, visited her father's establishment, and not finding him in the business office sought him among the workmen. Mr. Morgan was in the act of giving Conn some instructions in reference to a piece of work when the rich young beauty approached him, and with girlish impetuousness began questioning about the to her wonderful mysteries of the tools and machinery about her. The indulgent father, after mildly chiding her for thus venturing among the oil-begrimed machinery, turned to Conn, who had stood awe-stricken before the beautiful young girl, and said:

"Daly, this is my daughter, Miss Nettie. She desires to learn something of the uses to which the machinery is applied. Show her around the shop."

At the sound of his employer's voice Conn recovered a portion of his senses, and, blushing and bowing toward the radiant beauty, who flashed the brilliancy of her black eyes full upon him, muttered some incoherent response, and waited for the young lady's commands.

Mr. Morgan walked away toward his office, and Miss Nettie's manner toward the young mechanic was so kind that his first confusion melted away like snow before the summer sun, and in five minutes the beautiful heiress and the hard-handed mechanic were chatting together with the familiarity of old acquaintances.

Miss Morgan seemed determined to learn all the details of the business, and Conn was only too pleased to instruct her in the use and appliance of the tools and machinery.

All pleasant things must some time have an ending, and the tour of the shop was at last completed. It had taken them nearly two hours to go through, however, and Conn would have been the happiest of mortals if he could have had the privilege of being Miss Nettie's conductor and instructor forever.

"Good-by, Mr. Daly," murmured Miss Nettie, extending her aristocratic hand, white as alabaster, toward our hero, when the inspection of the machinery was at last completed. "Good-by. I am ever so much obliged to you."

It was, undoubtedly, very foolish and very improper, but when those dainty fingers touched his palm Conn caught them up and, bending over, kissed the little hand with the courtly grace of a cavalier. Miss Nettie blushed, but did not seek to prevent this delicate homage, and with another "Good-by," tripped away, while poor Conn's head whirled around more rapidly than did the fly-wheel of the great engine.

This was the beginning, and all the remainder of that day and the next and the next Conn saw nothing, could think of nothing but Miss Nettie Morgan. He lost his appet.i.te, grew moody, shunned companionship with his fellow-workmen, and it is positively a.s.serted that on more than one occasion he secreted himself in the vicinity of the Morgan mansion to feast his eyes, if possible, on the person of his lady-love idol.

Once he met her in the street. She was just stepping from her father's carriage, attired in silk and velvet, and poor Conn, in his ordinary work clothes, was going from his dinner to the shop. His heart gave a great jump when he saw her, and then his brain reeled and he felt sick and faint. Miss Nettie turned to give some instructions to the coachman and her eyes fell upon Conn. Instantly she stopped, and going toward him a step, extended her hand and said:

"Mr. Daly, don't you know me? Were you going by without speaking? How have you been?"

Again Conn experienced the electric thrill shot from those white taper fingers, and once again his heart leaped so joyfully that it nearly choked him. He contented himself this time with bowing very low, and pressing her hand very slightly for just one blissful second. Then she pa.s.sed into a store, and Conn, with a dazed feeling of happiness, went on down the street.

But why linger over a description of this love feeling? All of us experience it at some time in our life, and I opine it is a glorious experience, and marks an epoch in life. Conn's employer became cognizant of this state of affairs. Angered at the "impudence" of the "beggar," as he contemptuously termed our hero and his pa.s.sion, he immediately discharged him, and then Conn's worship of Miss Nettie a.s.sumed the most lowly type of idolatry. He would have been content to do her humble service all his life, provided she spoke kindly and extended her hand to him but once a year. He lingered around her father's house at all hours now, day and night, and such persistent and mysterious watching of one house made him an object of suspicion to the police. He saw her very frequently, but at a distance. He felt sure that it would always be at a distance he might worship her, but it was pleasant--nay, bliss supreme--to sometimes hug the delusive "might be," and build brighter and airier castles.

A few days after his discharge Conn made the acquaintance of a representative of the Peruvian government, interested largely in the railroad development of his country. The gentleman was at once impressed with the self-reliant intelligence of our hero, and finding him conversant with the intricate details of machine construction engaged him at a munificent salary to superintend the locomotive and machine works of the Peruvian government, then in process of erection at Valparaiso.

It was demanded by his new employer that he proceed to the field of his future operations immediately, and a steamer leaving that day Conn could only communicate with his beloved parents by letter, informing them of his good fortune.

When Miss Nettie learned that Conn had been discharged she took especial pains to make inquiries about him and his future. She never confided to any one her feelings toward the young man, but it must be admitted that she felt a tender interest in his welfare, and now that he was gone, missed his handsome face sorely.

_A Lapse of Years._

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Burning of the Brooklyn Theatre Part 3 summary

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