Mock Sacrifice at the Chicago World Fair

Published by


On the afternoon of Monday, July 10, 1893, four Chicago firemen, eight firemen hired by the Columbian Exposition, and three civilians lost their lives in a fiery inferno that was the cold storage building. It was the greatest loss of life in the Chicago Fire Department until the Chicago Stockyards fire of December 22, 1910. The crowd size was 30,000 to 50,000.

This fire was held in part to hide construction methods. One of the biggest threads on the World Fairs is whether or not the buildings were original. Officials say they were staff, a type of plaster which they were not, but thats for another report. This was a specially designed wind tunnel in effect. Once the fire started it only took a few minutes to burn the whole tower.

The number of deaths varies in the 3 reports I have read but each one had a numbers code; 13 dead with 3 visiting fireman, 16 dead with 11 city fighters.

It seemed to this awe-struck audience that the brave men of the Chicago Fire Department and Columbian Fire Department had the upper hand but their cheers very suddenly turned to gasps of horror. The whole while that the men were planning their attack on the fire, it seemed, in retrospect, that the fire was already planning its revenge in the form of an almost perfect death trap. In fact, it later became apparent that the firefighters’ fates were sealed before the opening of the fair when the cold storage building’s smokestack was just an ugly piece of bare metal that extended 191 feet in the air. It was said that Daniel Burnham, Chief of Construction, did not like the stark contrast of the bare metal with that beauty of the “White City” and ordered that it be made to blend in with the surrounding buildings. The facade of wood and white painted staff that was erected around the stack did indeed blend well with the surrounding great buildings but it also created a hollow gap between the façade and the pipe that extended below the main roof of the building. What the firefighters and the crowd didn’t see were the burning embers falling through this gap and slowly igniting the material 70 feet below the firefighters.

There are many still images taken, everyone there knew it was a show. Nobody really died. Even if 50,000 people did sit back and watch and nobody saw anything, the newspapers are still going to print about the jumpers. They did it on 9-11. No images of real people, just this. They shouldve had video images, it was the World Fair. If anybody did jump there was a pad or inflated bag.

Pictures like this were probably already drawn up on a shelf and the story already printed for the evening edition, firefighters taking a swan dive out of the top floor window.

13 deaths

Shut the Front Door, Coney Island

I was doing some work on the Eiffel Tower and the series of early World Fairs and noticed the similarities between the W.F.’s in general and C.I.. Coney is more of a permenent installation but is a Fair all to itself. The timing between the group is the turn of the 1900’s so they were always influencing each other. Aside from the early Paris exhibitions the light displays match the Buffalo Pan-American Expo to a ‘T’ with the light tower even though Buffalo came afterwards.

C.I. is compartmentalized into several sections, the two biggest ones were a set of so-called competitor amusement parks known as Wonderland and Luna Park. Luna is further broken down and spread out into other cities that hosted a W.F., such as Seattle and San Francisco. Chicago had the ‘White City’ which was an entirely different fractal pattern (get it?) but still served the same ultimate goals.

I will expand on this further but right now I’m just leading in to an article bout one of the ‘amusements’. Both Luna and Wonderland had a variation of the same show, one was called Flame Fighters and the other was called the Fighting Flames, no shit. It’s pretend competition, mockery. The venue sounds like they used the same stage as the pyro-show although the story was slightly changed.

A set of buildings would catch fire during a scrap and the firemen brigade would rush in and save the day. The thing I find most interesting is this near-same scenario played out in Chicago but the witnesses thought it was an organic event. A large matchstick tower was mysteriously ignited and the result was 13 casualties of the International Firemen Congress which happened to be going on next door. My bet is there was no such entity as the I.F.C. and they were really a group of actors and stuntmen.

See link in the Search Bar or Archives for details. I will expand wen I get home later. The story continues when the Wonderland Park itself burns down right after comments about negative investments made by the owner who then made a killing off of insurance and stocks and shit. Let me tell ya kids, they aren’t doing it for the money.

“Since Dreamland was incorporated not one dollar has been paid to the investors and not one dollar of the $150,000 has been paid to the Title Guarantee and Trust Company.  The Williamsburg Savings Bank has $300,000 first mortgage on Dreamland, and in seven years we have never paid one dollar of interest.  No man has received on cent in return, and it has been a losing venture from the start… in the whole seven years we have run it, we have not made a dollar out of it.  We helped to increase the value of everything down there at Dreamland, but never got a value of a dollar.”

 Tax Board meeting on April 11, 1911

Early in the morning of May 27, 1911, the official opening day of the 1911 season, some workers who were patching up a few water leaks in the Hell Gate ride at Dreamland.  Reportedly, they accidentally overturned a bucket of hot tar in the dark when the lights failed.  The entire building quickly caught fire.  There is every reason to believe that the fire should have been put out.  Dreamland was designed with state-of-the-art firefighting system as a means offsetting insurance companies’ unwillingness to write significant policies on West Brighton properties, given the history of destructive fires in the area.  Dreamland regularly tested its system, which included its own electric generators and large water pumps for pressurizing hoses.  But the system relied on receiving water from Coney Island’s recently-upgraded high-pressure central pumping station.

Link to C.I. Fire Flame Fighter

🔗Link to mock sacrifice

Chicago Worlds Fair, Cold Storage Fire