Thursday, January 10, 2008

1908 Chicago Fire

Trolling everyone's favorite global garage sale, I happened across this very cool post card. Having recently rode out another ice storm in Oklahoma, this striking image certainly caught my eye. I've seen this sort of thing before, having grown up in a different longitude than Oklahoma. Darkened buildings, ice everywhere: obviously there had been a fire in the dead of winter. That, and I keenly observed the firefighter standing in the road. Digging a little deeper, history now knows this as the Wabash Ave. Fire, January 27, 1908 in Chicago. Newspaper accounts of the period place losses at $1.7M in losses. Nearly all the newspaper accounts mention how the theaters were nearly empty as the fire caused the trains to run late. Of the insurance records, and newspaper articles, none mention the Morris Book Shop, whose little white sign can just be made out in the lower right quadrant of the postcard.

Digging a little more, I found the photograph on which the postcard is based. Walter Carl Schneider took this photo, I assume, on the morning of the 28th. By 1908 the 24-year old amateur photographer had seen his work published in The New York Herald. I couldn't find any information about Mr. Schneider selling this photo to be made into a postcard, but it apparently was.

The fire on Wabash Ave. didn't seem to keep the Morris Book Shop down though. Catalog 77 from the Morris Book Shop is offered via the ABAA website featuring 46 pages of "Books and Literary Material". No address given online, but it is dated 1917.

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