Cleveland, OH Clinic Explosion and Fire, May 1929

Cleveland OH Clinic Fire, May 1929, photo from familyoldphotos.com Cleveland OH Clinic Fire, May 1929, photo from familyoldphotos.com

MOLLY ROTHSCHILD, Cleveland.
C. E. SCHERBARTH, Lakewood.
MRS. C. E. SCHERBARTH, Lakewood.
MRS. THEODORE SCHILL, Pittsburgh, Pa.
MISS FRANCIS SERTELLE, Cleveland.
CHARLES SEWALD, Williamsport, Pa.
MRS. ELIZABETH SEXAUER, Akron, Ohio.
MISS MARY SCHAEFFER, East Cleveland.
MRS. ALMA SHERMAN, Cleveland.
J. BARKER SMITH, secretary and general manager of the Cleveland Athletic club.
W. L. SPELLMAN, Forest, Ohio.
MRS. CHARLES STAGE, Cleveland.
MRS. ANNA STAHL, Youngstown, Ohio.
MRS. MAZIE STEELE, Erie, Pa.
HARRY STEINBERG, Denver, Colo.
GEORGE STRAPP, Cleveland, fireman.
MISS JULIA SZUBRA, Cleveland.
FABRICO TANGLEDO, Minnesota.
ADAM TIGHT, Sandusky, Ohio.
ARTHUR TIGHT, Sandusky, Ohio.
DR. VANDUSEN, address unknown.
CHARLES WARD, Cleveland.
MRS. NIXON WALFORD, Emienton, Pa.
JOHN WARD, Cleveland.
MRS. MAY WARDEN, East Cleveland, nurse.
MRS. MAY WASHBY, East Liverpool, Ohio.
RUTH WILDEY, Boulder, Colo., employe.
BLANCHE YOUNGE, employe of clinic.
MISS MABEL YOUNG, East Cleveland.
LUELLA SCHOEN, Cleveland.
MISS PORTER, address unknown.
OSCAR BIELFHEIT, address unknown.
MAX ENGELMAN, Cleveland.
AGNES LOGAN, Cleveland.
MARY MULLEN, Cleveland.
MISS MARGARET MULLEN, Cleveland.
SAMUEL NUCCIO, Cleveland.
MISS MINNIE PONTIUS, Cleveland.
MISS LAURA ROBERTS, Cleveland.
MISS FAY F. ROSS, Ashland, Ohio.
NIXON WALFORD, Emlenton, Pa.
M. R. SHAW, address unknown.
MILO ALTRO SCHRIEBER, address unknown.
MRS. H. L. MORTON, Cleveland.

The News-Palladium Benton Harbor Michigan 1929-05-16

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The Cleveland Clinic fire was a major structure fire at Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio on May 15, 1929. It started in the basement of the hospital and it was caused by nitrocellulose x-ray film that ignited when an exposed light bulb was too close to the film. The fire generated poisonous gas and two separate explosions. The fire claimed 123 lives, including that of one of the clinic's founders, Dr. John Phillips. Policeman Ernest Staab was killed by the gas while rescuing 21 victims.

The Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit Ohio corporation, founded in 1921 by four physicians. Late in the morning of May 15, 1929, an exposed light bulb too close to some nitrocellulose x-ray film ignited the film. The burning nitrocellulose film quickly produced a significant amount of poisonous gas, causing victims to suffocate, the faces of the victims turning yellowish brown within minutes. Further complicating fire-fighting, nitrocellulose continues to burn even while immersed in water, and fighting the film-fueled fire simply caused more poisonous smoke to accumulate, raising the death toll.

A first explosion came at a few seconds past 11:30AM; a clock on the third floor balcony stopped at that time. After the hollow center of the building was filled with poisonous gas, a second explosion shattered the skylight and sent the vapors into every corner of the clinic. Many of the building occupants succumbed to the poisons.

Aftermath
Despite the heavy loss of life, firemen estimated the property damage at only $50,000 ($683,850 in 2013 dollars).

According to investigators, the clinic was not at fault for the fire. Nonetheless, the disaster was responsible for influencing significant changes to fire-fighting techniques. The city of Cleveland issued gas masks to its fire departments and proposed a city ambulance service. Nationally, the disaster prompted medical facilities to establish standards for the storage of nitrocellulose film and other hazardous materials.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleveland_Clinic_fire_of_1929

Comments

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

Grandfather

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)
Patty

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.