1903 Iroquois Theatre fire

Iroquois Theater

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Welcome.  This site is devoted to the 1903 Iroquois Theater fire in Chicago.  Part encyclopedia and part blog, it delves into the circumstances and people that were impacted. For information about its origination and development read the About tab.

Website with 633+ pages devoted to 1903 Iroquois Theater fire in Chicago

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Within the first few days of it’s opening in November 1903, The Iroquois Theatre [figure 1] in Downtown Chicago was known by its magnificence for its use of marble and mahogany inside the building’s interior. The six-story tall building advertised itself as “absolute fireproof” on playbills because of its use of an asbestos curtain which would separate the audience from a stage fire. 

Iroquois Theatre Fire

chicagology.com

The day was Monday, November 27, 1903, when the brand new Iroquois Theater, an “absolutely fireproof” theatre, opened in Chicago at 24-28 Randolph (between State and Dearborn streets). On Wednesday, December 30th, the hit musical, “Mr. Bluebeard” starring Eddie Foy was enjoying its sixth week of a successful run as the Iroquois Theatre’s first production. Pictured on the bottom is the cover of the Programme.

The Iroquois Theater Disaster Killed Hundreds and Changed Fire Safety Forever

The deadly conflagration ushered in a series of reforms that are still visible today

On a chilly Chicago winter day—December 30, 1903 —the ornate, five-week-old Iroquois Theater was filled with teachers, mothers and children enjoying their holiday break. They had gathered to see Mr. Bluebeard, an over-the-top musical comedy starring Chicago native Eddie Foy. It featured scenes from around the world, actors masquerading as animals and a suspended ballerina. It was a spectacular production fit for a rapidly growing and increasingly prominent city. The eager crowd of more than 1700 patrons could not have suspected that almost one-third of them would perish that afternoon in “a calamity which…bereft hundreds of homes of their loved ones and made Chicago the most unhappy city on the face of the earth,” as The Great Chicago Theater Disaster would later recount. The tragedy would be a wake-up call to the city—and the nation—and lead to reforms in the way public spaces took responsibility for the safety of their patrons.

Iroquois Theatre Fire

chicagology.com

The day was Monday, November 27, 1903, when the brand new Iroquois Theater, an “absolutely fireproof” theatre, opened in Chicago at 24-28 Randolph (between State and Dearborn streets). On Wednesday, December 30th, the hit musical, “Mr. Bluebeard” starring Eddie Foy was enjoying its sixth week of a successful run as the Iroquois Theatre’s first production. Pictured on the bottom is the cover of the Programme.

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