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Today in Media History: Newspapers describe New York’s tragic 1915 subway fire

A fire spread smoke into New York’s subway system 100 years ago today. One person died.

It took place early enough for afternoon newspapers to publish the news on their front pages. Morning papers across the country reported the story the next day.

Details about the fire were featured in this 2012 Daily Mail story:

“On January 6, 1915, an electrical short in a manhole sparked a fire that pumped smoke into the subway line under Broadway at West 55th Street, resulting in chaos for a quarter-million commuters, claiming the life of one passenger….

….’Crowded in seats and on platforms and hanging to straps, they had no warning of the disaster until the lights in the trains suddenly went out and the cars gradually stopped,’ the (New York) Times wrote.

‘Even then, amid the dim light from the two emergency lamps in each car, there was little suspicion of the gravity of the trouble.’

But when the fumes reached the carriages, guards refused to let passengers out, insisting it was against company rules to open doors between stations. Even when they themselves became sick, they remained stubborn.

‘The panic spread until there was a frantic fight in the darkness,’ the Times reported. ‘Windows were broken, seats torn up and smashed against the panes, and crowds rushed against the end and side doors.

….Although the fire never reached the trains, passengers were overcome with smoke. A 39-year-old woman, Ella Grady, lost her life, and more than 210 people were ‘overcome by smoke or trampled upon’.”

New York Tribune, January 7, 1915

New York Tribune, January 7, 1915

(New York) Evening World, January 7, 1915

(New York) Evening World, January 7, 1915

This video includes footage of the New York subway system at the beginning of the 20th century.

Portsmouth Herald, January 6, 1915

Portsmouth Herald, January 6, 1915

Harrisburg Daily Independent, January 6, 1915

Harrisburg Daily Independent, January 6, 1915

"Firemen Overcome - Subway Fire," Bain News Service Image, Library of Congress, January 6, 1915

“Firemen Overcome – Subway Fire,” Bain News Service Image, Library of Congress, January 6, 1915

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from Poynter. http://ift.tt/1AlgvKV

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