New York, NY Equitable Building Fire, Jan 1912
WILLIAM GIBLIN, president of the Mercantile Safe Deposit Company, was one of those injured. He narrowly escaped death. When the news of the fire reached him in his home he was sitting up with his wife, who is critically ill. Hurrying to the Equitable building he entered one of the vaults, containing $6,000,000 of securities, for the purpose of carrying them out. He was accompanied into the vault by one of his men. The keys to the vault were left outside when it had been unlocked. While the men were in the vault the door was shoved to by falling wreckage, the spring lock was snapped and the two men found themselves prisoners with the fire above them and the wreckage piling up around their prison. When finally they were discovered it was impossible to get the door open. GIBLIN and the other man pleaded with the firemen to hurry and save them from suffocation. It was not until several of the bars of the vault had been sawed through with a hacksaw and then pulled outward by many firemen manning ropes that had been attached to the several bars that GIBLIN was released. Meantime Father McGEAN a chaplain of the Fire Department, had knelt near the men and prayed for their deliverance. GIBLIN was hurried to a hospital. The man who was with him in the vault was suffocated and was dead when carried out.
A grisly token of the toll of death taken by the fire was in plain view all day in the frozen doorway of the Mercantile Safe Deposit Company. A man's hands, covered with ice, clutching the bars of the door that had stood so long as an advertisement of the strength of the company's vaults. The belonged to WILLIAM CAMPION, a watchman, who met his death while he, and President GIBLIN of the company, were trying to escape, having locked themselves in by mistake.
It is practically impossible to exaggerate the enormous property losses involved in this fire. Aside from the valuable building, and the contents of the many richly furnished offices, not to speak of innumerable law libraries belonging to tenants, there were lost the great law libraries of the Equitable Society and the Lawyers' Club, both of which were numbered among the finest collections of legal records in the country. All of the 1,600,000 record cards of the Equitable Life Assurance Society, which were kept in thin steel cabinets in the secretary's office, have been destroyed. But fortunately a duplicate set of these cards was kept in the Hazen building. It will take five years to copy off another duplicate list, however.
The business of Wall Street was tied up for hours. The fire threatened early in the morning to sweep across narrow streets and seize upon the Chase National Bank, the Clearing House, the American Exchange Bank and the American Surety Co., building.
E. E. Rittenhouse, of the Equitable Company, said that the securities in their own vaults amounted to between $250,000,000 and $300,000,000. The cash in the vaults consists of $4,000,000, belonging to the Equitable Trust Co., and $6,000,000 belonging to the Mercantile Trust Co.
Among these buried securities are what is said to be the bulk of the Belmont and the E. H. Harriman estates. Here is the list:
Gould Estate, $100,000,000.
Equitable Trust Co., $50,000,000.
Harriman estate, $125,000,000, in the Mercantile Trust Co.'s vaults.
Thomas F. Ryan, $100,000,000.
August Belmont, $150,000,000, in the Belmont vaults.
Kuhn, Loeb & Co., $100,000,000.
Kountze Bros., $10,000,000.
Wm. A. Read & Co., $25,000,000.
Mercantile Trust Co., $70,000,000.
The Cranbury Press New Jersey 1912-01-12