New York, NY Notion Store Fire, Dec 1889


NEW YORK, Dec. 5---Sunday night last flames burst from the notion store of Bernard Wollf in the heart of the East Side tenement district. They were extinguished, but now comes Joseph Sugarman who, to-day, made a statement under oath that puts Wollf in a bad fix. Sugarman swears Bernard and Abraham Wollf and he were partners in the clothing trade on Third street in 1886. They had the entire house About the time of the Jewish holidays he noticed that Bernard Wollf was beginning what seemed to him a series of experiments with different qualities and sizes of candles. It appeared as if he was endeavoring to learn just how long it would take a candle of a certain thickness and quality to burn a certain distance. Between times he was visited by a red-bearded Russian, who always carried small bottles of different colored fluids. Sugarman did not understand the language they spoke, so consequently did not know what they were discussing. But he saw them comparing the liquids and testing them in various ways. Finally his curiosity was aroused, and he asked Wollf who the Russian was. Wollf replied that he was a friend of his, a druggist, doing business on Third avenue. Further than that he would tell him nothing. These experiments continued until the holidays set in. When the Jewish new year set in the whole establishment was closed. It was to remain so for three days, or when the holidays lasted. On the night of the second day Sugarman said he visited the place to see if everything was in order. Curtains were drawn on the windows. What met his gaze upon opening the door startled him. Preparations for a good old blaze were complete. From each corner of a table hung a cot[illegible] bag filled loosely with odds and ends of cloth. Running to these and all around the basement was tape. Along each shelf it was fastened with pins in such a manner as to


The ends of the tape ran to candles, cut off to a certain length, which stood about the place. The tape ran up stairs. Sugarman followed it, he said. On the floor above the basement he found that similar preparations to those below had been made. The tape ran from that point to the floor above, where the state of affairs was the same. Upwards of a thousand yards of tape had been used. All of it had been previously treated. Sugarman said he learned subsequently, with a chemical compound that was simply perfection in its way. It burned rapidly, made but a trifling smoke, and left no odor. Two minutes after it was started, a hot fire would have been raging in every room in the house. Sugarman said it was some time before he could fully realize what had been done. When he did he started and gathered up all the tape. Then he saw Wollf and demanded what it all meant. He raised such a rumpus that Wollf's brother threatened to throw him out of a window. At just this point the most interesting portion of it all comes in. Sugarman says the Wollfs then begged him not to say anything about the matter. He refused to countenance the matter and hurried off to inform the insurance agent, a man of the name of Proeger.

"Judge of my surprise," he said, "when he, Proeger, also pleaded with me to say nothing of the matter, as it would get out." He did nothing more just then, except to take the tape and sacks home and stow them away. The Wollf's kept pleading so hard with him not to make the matter public that finally he consented to let it drop if they would promise never to try anything of the kind again. They did so. After that Sugarman says they also told him how nicely the chemicals would work.

"My brother used them for a friend of his on Broadway a little while ago and it made a beautiful loss" is what Sugarman said Bernard Wollf had told him at the time. In conclusion Sugarman said that as soon as he heard of the fire at No. 74 Essex street he became convinced that Wollf was up to his old tricks again and determined to expose him. No arrests have yet been made.


BOSTON, Mass. Dec. 5.----The total amount of insurance involved in the Thanksgiving Day fire, as officially reported to date, is $2,304,900.

The Daily Inter Ocean, Chicago, IL 6 Dec 1889