Cleveland, OH Clinic Explosion and Fire, May 1929

Cleveland OH Clinic Fire, May 1929, photo from Cleveland OH Clinic Fire, May 1929, photo from

Some were taken to the Cleveland clinic hospital, adjoining the clinic building. The others were taken to Mt. Sinai, Huron Road and Charity hospitals.
Emergency equipment was set up outside the building as the fumes lifted and permitted rescuers to work in safety. Police lines were thrown about the district to reroute traffic and hold in check a crowd of several thousand onlookers.
Inside the building firemen found many lying in the spot where the blasts found them. Rooms set aside for clinical examinations were occupied by patients and physicians. Some sat in chairs of the waiting room, overcome as the first cloud of gas swept up from the basement. Others in the front of the building were stretched along the stairs.
The rescuers found evidences of the suddenness with which disaster came to those inside the building on every hand. Hats and shoes were scattered about abandoned in the flight of those able to fight off the fumes long enough to make a frantic attempt at escape.
Surgical equipment lay ready for use in the examining rooms. In the X-ray developing room a roll of film was stretched to dry. A wheel chair with the blanket thrown aside blocked a balcony overlooking the waiting room. A stenographer's half finished letter was found in an office.
Everything was abandoned as the victims realized too late that the brown fumes curling through door casings and along the halls carried death.
Most of them were to make no attempt to save themselves. No bed patients were kept in the clinic and many of those there had appeared for medical examinations, were able to attempt escape. But so sudden was the catastrophe that none had time to reach the open air and safety.
Emergency provisions were made at the hospitals and as these became overflowed a residence near the clinic was made into a temporary first aid station. Cots were set in halls at Mt. Sinai hospital and as fast as the victims succumbed they were removed for the oncoming line of ambulances. The unknown dead were taken immediately to county morgue, which was taxed as never before. Anxious relatives who arrived at the clinic to learn that members of their families had been removed gathered at the morgue and the hospitals to learn their fate.
Identification was slow. As rapidly as the names of the victims were learned they were posted at the morgue and police established another bureau of information at central station.
The work of identification went or tonight. Police declared it might require several days to complete the roster of those who were killed.
Discoloration hampered identification of some, although none of the bodies were disfigured otherwise.
The blasts shot through the building with an intensity of heat which even the masonry could not resist. As the fumes leaped from the compression of the narrow quarters in the basement they scared the woodwork and charred stair rails.
Hardened plaster was blistered and peeled from the walls. A steel floor was blown in and the fumes filling a hollow compartment between a balcony roof and the roof of the building, ripped out the brick and mortar as if it had been pasteboard.
Steel network of the plastering was peeled from the walls and hung along the balconies. The casings of the skylight buckled and warped under the force of the explosion and the broken glass was rained on the floor of the waiting room three floors below.
The suction after the explosion shattered glass doors reinforced with steel. Compression in the hollow center of the building packed air into the halls and staircases and when this force was released by the blast the air rushed back into the center of the building smashing the doors with the force of battering rams.
Heavy fumes hung about the building and for two hours after the blast rescuers were unable to remain inside for long intervals.
The explosion came at a few seconds past 11:30 A. M. A clock on the third floor balcony stopped at that time.



John Herbert "Jack" Swafford, MD

My ancestor, Dr. John "Jack" Herbert Swafford, died on June 10, 1929 from injuries sustained in the explosion/fire at The Cleveland Clinic in May 1929. Please add his name to your list of fatalities caused by this horrific explosion/fire.

Directory of Deceased American Physicians, 1804-1929 [database on-line].

Thank you.

T'Lene Bryant Tillotson


My grandfather was killed in this fire. He was getting a physical to be a lineman with the utility company. During the Depression. Things would have been a lot different for my father when his father got the job. My father was only 2 years old. He was on public assistance for most of his childhood.

No I don't think that you can

No I don't think that you can sue them. ;)

The last two relatives were identified by there young son Peter

The last two remaining bodies were identified by son Peter Dumperth.

His father was Harry Conrad Dumperth and his mother was Matilda "Tellie" Leystra Dumperth.

Jeannette Horowitz

Was born in Russia as Jeanette Feigenson and immigrated to the United States.Jeannette worked as a bookkeeper for her sister and and brother in law at the Miller-Becker Company. This company made carbonated soft drinks and may be better known by the name Cotton Club. Jeanette went in to be tested for ulcers and became part of this horrible disaster!

Fire 192

My great grandfather died in this fire after immigrating his family from Italy in the teens. He had ten children. This tragic event did not end that day, but caused much suffering for his progeny for many years to come. Very sad. Thank you for the article and for listing the names of the victims.

Great Uncle killed

wonder if we can sue Cleveland Clinic that killed my great uncle by poison gas? I know it happened in 1929 but can we do that today in 2014?

Cleveland Clinic Explosion

Small world, I had two Uncles that were killed in this exposion. Adam and Arthur Tight

Family that perished

My Father's Sister & her husband were also killed in this explosion.
I am grateful for this article. Now we all know exactly what happened.
Thank you,
There were Rosa & Romero Casino (They have it spelled as Casinio)

Cleveland Clinic

I'm planning on using this article on the Cleveland Clinic explosion in my next Thriller Thursday blog on October 14th. - giving you credit (and mentioning this site). If this is not all right with you please let me know.

Two of my mother's uncle's sisters-in-law were killed in the disaster.