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Washington, DC Fords Theater Collapse, Jun 1893

DISASTER IN WASHINGTON

TOTAL COLLAPSE OF FORD'S OLD THEATRE BUILDING.

While Crowded With Nearly 500 Government Clerks Three Floors Were Suddenly Precipitated to the Cellar – Over a Score Killed and More Than Fifty Injured.

Ford's old theatre, in Washington, the building in which Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, and used by the Government for many years as part of the office of the Surgeon-General of the Army, collapsed a few mornings ago just after 9:30 o'clock with a terrible result in loss of life and injury. It is a coincidence which will not escape attention, that this second tragedy occurred on the very day when the remains of Edwin Booth, the great tragedian, whose life was so darkened by his brother's crime that he never visited Washington afterward, were being borne to their last resting place in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Massachusetts.
In the building at the time were 534 Government employes from the War Department -- 496 clerks, eighteen messengers and twenty laborers.
Up to nightfall, when the excavators in the ruins had just taken out what was supposed to be the last body, the number of the dead was twenty-five. Of the twenty-five identification had then been made in regard to the following:
GEORGE Q. ALLEN, Pennsylvania, fifty years; GEORGE M. ARNOLD, Virginia, colored, clerk; SAMUEL P. BANES, Pennsylvania; L. W. BOODY, New York; JOHN BUSSLUS, thirty-four years, Washington; JEREMIAH DALEY, Pennsylvania, died on the operating table of the Emergency Hospital; ARTHUR L. DIETRICH, Kentucky; JAMES R. FAGAN, Kansas, thirty-four years, married, Washington; JOSEPH B. GAGE, Michigan; M. M. JARVIS, Michigan; J. BOYD JONES, Wisconsin; DAVID C. JORDAN, Maine; F. B. LOFTUS, New York; F. W. MAEDER, married, New York; B. F. MILLER, New York; HOWARD S. MILLER, Ohio; MICHAEL T. MULTEDY, Louisiana; J. H. McFALL, Wisconsin; DR. BURROWS NELSON, West Virginia; Capt. WILLIAM SCHREIBER, Maryland; E. H. SHULL, Kansas; H. S. WOOD, F. M. WILLLIAMS, Wisconsin; E. CHAPIN, of Indiana; unknown man, evidently a clerk.
The number reported as injured was fifty-two, some of them fatally and many seriously hurt.
The evidence, as found in official records, appeared conclusive that as long ago as 1885 this building, which the Government purchased after the assassination and used as an army museum, was officially proclaimed by Congress as unsafe. The excavations which were the immediate cause of the collapse were being made at the instance of the War Department for the purpose of putting in an electric light plant. This explanation of the cause of the accident is the only one advanced. Men who were in the building say the crash came without warning. Those on the top floor were suddenly thrown to the floor below, and the weight of falling timber and furniture broke down the second and first floors. Fortunately only the forward half of the floors gave way. The outer ends of the floors and the rear part of the structure remained intact. The walls did not fall. When the first rumbling warning of the approaching collapse came, the clerks on the third floor, to the number of eighty of 100, rushed to the windows and jumped for the roof of a small building adjoining on the northwest side. Many of them escaped in this way.
The news that the building had fallen spread with lightning like rapidity, and soon Tenth street and adjacent thoroughfares were crowded with people. A general fire alarm was turned in a few minutes after the crash, and then all the ambulances in the city were summoned. As quickly as possible the police and firemen formed a reserve brigade and ready hands assisted them to take out the killed and wounded. In less than an hour about twenty-five persons had been taken out, and every few minutes thereafter some still form would be borne on a stretcher from the building. Police and army ambulances, cabs carriages, and vehicles of every description were pressed into service for carrying the dead and injured to the hospitals.

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article | by Dr. Radut