Cincinnati, OH theatre panic, Feb 1876




CINCINNATI, Feb. 5. - A terrible panic occurred this afternoon, in this city, during the performance of the allegory of the "Great Republic," at Robinson's Opera-house. The allegory had been upon the stage for the past two nights, under the auspices of the Cincinnati Relief Union, and the proceeds were to have been applied to the relief of the suffering poor of this city. The performers, numbering nearly six hundred children, were taken from the public schools of the city; and, as the object was a worthy one, and the children who took part were those of old residents of the city, large audiences were present at each presentation of the allegory. The weather this afternoon being propitious, and there being no sessions of public schools, the matinee audience was for the most part composed of women and children. About 2:30 o'clock, while the house was densely packed and the thousands of children among the audience were at the height of their enjoyment, a boy in the gallery, either through mischief or ignorance, raised the cry of fire as the red light from the colored fires used in the piece flashed out from the wings. Every inch of the theatre was occupied, and a dense crowd was pressing and surging about the stairways and in front of the doors. Some one in the audience took up the cry of fire, and it was re-echoed from near the door by another person who caught a glimpse of the red glare from the stage. There was an immediate rush for the front doors. A child was pushed down the steps and screamed, and immediately after a man thrust his arm through the window. The scream and the crash were enough to set the panic in full force, and in the narrow vestibule leading to the street, the scene was a terrible one. The people in the rear pressed upon those in front, shouting and cursing. Men, terror stricken, struck down the helpless women and children in front, or climbed over their heads to the top of the staircase, and precipitated theselves upon the screaming and bleeding mass of women and children in the hallway. The scene in and about the opera-house after the accident was heartrending. The news of the catastrophe spread like wild-fire over the city, and from every direction came people hurrying to the scene, until the squares were impassable. It is almost impossible to obtaine reliable details of the occurrence. The streets for squares were filled with anxious friends and relatives until a late hour to-night. From the latest information received it is now known that nine persons were killed in the stampede. Four oof the names have been ascertained, viz.: Mrs. Henry Kessler, Mrs. Nancy Clark, Hattie Leslie, and Harry White. Between fifteen and twenty were injured.

At this hour there are many conflicting stories as to the origin of the panic. The building was filled from parquette to gallery with a dense crowd, who not only filled all the seats and aisles, but crowded the stairway, and hundreds were outside seeking admission. Behind the scenes were 500 school children, who were to take part in the performance. As the time approached for the commencement of the exercise a calcium light in the gallery flashed its glare upon the stage, and immediately a cry of fire was raised. The audience became panic stricken, and a rush was made for the stairways. Some are said to have leaped from the balcony upon the crowd below. The lower circle of the house is but four steps above the level of the street; but the steps are narrow and soon became blocked by the surging crowd; multitudes were pressing for the doorway, and, in the panic, women and children were overthrown and trampled under foot by the crowd. An alarm was rapidly spread throughout the city, and those who had wives and children there hurried to their rescue. A few heroic men placed themselves near the doorway and endeavored to assure the people there was no danger, and an effort was made from the stage to check the mad career of the affrighted audience; but quiet was not restored until a number were trampled upon and many were seriously injured. Those able to walk at once made their way homeward, those more seriously injured were taken to the Ninth Street Station-house and to the Commercial Hospital, and the dead were gathered in one of the offices of the opera-house.

Up to 9 o'clock to-night the following had been reported killed:

Mrs. Alfred White and her son Harry, aged twelve years.

Mrs. Nancy Clark, reported to have died from heart disease caused by excitement.

August and Frederick Loesch, brothers, aged ten and eight years, respectively.

Hattie Leslie, aged twelve years.

James Crowley, aged seven years.

Annie MacRienzi, of Alton, Ill., who was visiting friends here.

Miss Terovica Massall, aged twenty-two years.

Mrs. Henry Kessler suffered severe concussion of the brain, and, it is reported, died this evening.

One unknown woman is dead.

Among the injured are Frederick Strasburg, Miss Humphrey, Master Harry Bliss, and a child name Coddington.

Carrie Uhl, base of skull crushed and collar bone broken.

Mrs. Anna Flood, hurt in breast seriously.

Mrs. Lyon, injured internally.

Mrs. White, who was killed, had five children with her, one of whom was killed and another, the youngest, was found clasped in her arms uninjured.

Mrs. Rienzi, of Alton, was in the gallery, and was either pushed over the railing or jumped to the floor below, striking on her head.

A Coroner's inquest will be held Tuesday, and will endeavor to ascertain definitely how the alarm originated.

The New York Times, New York, NY 6 Feb, 1876