Sheboygan, WI Fox Theatre Canopy Collapse, Aug 1930


Metal Canopy On Fox Theatre Gives Way Under Strain

A score of people were injured, three of them seriously at [illegible] p. m., when the caqnopy in front of the Fox theatre collapsed, pitching them headlong into the streets and on the heads of a throng of people who were crowding under the canopy to witness the American Legion parade.

Between forty and fifty people, according to fire and police officials, were on the canopy when it collapsed.

Fortunately, one side of the canopy gave way first, serving as a warning to those beneath it. Due to the large corwd, however, it was impossible for everyone to get out of the way and many were pushed over and trampledupon by the excited people as the canopy slowly settled to the sidewalk.

Calls were immediately sent to the fire and police departments and the convention delegates, vfisitors and others who had been previously been in the gayest of convention spirit, were immediately turned into an emergency aid organization. Cordons were formed by stretching convention canes down a long line of parade watchers.

The injured were rushed to the offices of physicians above the Bock Drug store which adjourns [sic] the theatre, and others were taken to the Sheboygan Clinic. Ten were taken in the ambulance to the hospital.

Nine lay nurses, who happened to be near waiting for the parade, volunteered their services. Reporting for emergency duty to the offices of the doctors, they pushed up their sleeves and helped at dressing wounds.

Governor Walter J. Kohler, who was on his way to the receiving stand to witness the parade, arrived in the street within two minutes after the canopy had collapsed. He ordered his car stopped and asked whether he could assist in conveying some to the hospital or whether he could give relief in any other way.

A remarkable part of the tragic scene was the perfect order that the ex-soldiers and others aided in restoring, furnishing definite lines and holding back the curious who attempted to surge in.

Many who had become separated from each other when a canopy collapsed were searching for lost relatives, anxious to their safety.

Those injured were:

Newel J. Brown, 734 N. Third street, fractured hip.
Mrs. Charles Wolfgram, 1706 S. Fourteenth street, badly injured back.
Mrs. A. C. Koehler, Plymouth, back and neck.
Mrs. Erwin Grosskopf, 256 S. Main street, Plymouth, back injured.
Mrs. Fred Thurman, Plymouth, back injured.
Fred Thurman, Plymouth.
Judith Lamb, aged 3, 2429 N. Ninth street, Sheboygan, bruised.
Mrs. Charles Minot, 924 Ontario avenue, bruised.
Mrs. William Gessner, Sheboygan.
Mrs. L. W. Schuette, Fond du Lac.
Mrs. Edmund Johnson, Appleton, scalp bruised.
Mrs. Clara Ploetz, Sheboygan, badly injured back.
Emmanuel Eichberg, R. 2, Sheboygan, cuts and bruises.
Mrs. F. C. Weiskopf, Sheboygan, back injury.
Alfred Kosug, Milwaukee.
Mrs. Adolph Wandschneider, Sheboygan.
Mrs. Charles Esch, Sheboygan.
Miss Laura Wandschneider, Sheboygan.
Mrs. L. W. Riggs, Fond du Lac, cut and bruised.
Mrs. Oscar Dettman, Shawano, broken foot.
Mrs. Henriette Raab, Sheboygan, injured arm and head.

The Sheboygan Press, Sheboygan, WI 19 Aug 1930
Seven Still In Hosptial After Canopy Crash

Seven persons, representing the toll of most seriously injured in the Fox theatre canopy crash during the American Legion parade here yesterday afternoon, were confined to St. Nicholas hospital today.

A full score of others were recuperating at their homes.

Those still at the hospital, none of whom are believed to be critically injured, are:

Mrs. Clara Ploetz, 1242 Lincoln avenue, city, several fractured ribs and possible internal injuries.

Mrs. A. C. Koehler, 219 Collins avenue, Plymouth, possible internal injuries and severe lacerations and contusions.

Newell J. Brown, 734 N. Third street, city, severe bruises about hips and in lower abdominal region.

Fred Thurman, 30 S. Milwaukee street, Plymouth, injuries to legs and body bruises.

Frank Meyer, 621 Ontario avenue, city, bruises about head and body.

Mrs. Henrietta Raab, 1735 N. 13th street, city, bruises.

Mrs. Louise Schuette, 256 S. Marr street, Fond du Lac, bruises.

Police and fire department officials today had supervised the clearing of the wreckage from N. Eighth street. The demolished canopy was taken to a vacant lot on the west end of Center avenue, where it will be scrapped.

Chief of Police Walter H. Wagner declared no attempt had been made to place the responsibility.

Legion officials including Arnold Steimle, general convention chairman, and Fred Eppling, Prescott-Bayens post commander, today expressed regret that the accident had occurred.

Building Inspector Rudolph Jahn this morning explained the fmanner in which the canopy collapesd. The Fox theatre had been inspected only a short time ago, and the canopy was entirely secure and safe for the purpose which it was erected to serve. It was entirely incapable of bearing the weightto which it was subjected by parade spectators, however, Mr. Jahn said.

"It is fortunate that the weakest part of the supports, the turn buckle, did not give way, as that would have caused the entire structure to fall at once," the building inspector said. "What happened was this: The couplings of three bracing rods which connected with a large beam straightened out under the strain and, starting from the south side, let loose one by one. The fourth coupling had been installed more recently and held, keeping the north side of the canopy up.

"An idea of the tremendous strain placed on the supports can be gained from the fact that every person weighing 125 pounds and standing eleven feet from the building represented an actual strain of 1,300 pounds, or thereabouts, according to fundemental laws of physics."

Spectators who were standing on the canopy were uninjured. Some slid to the ground as the roof caved in, while others attempted to cling to cables, many of them clutching children.

Entrance to the canopy was gained through the manager's office in the Fox theatre.

"There was little warning given before the crash and people below were unable to escape," said Walter Friese, 412 Bell avenue, and others who were on top of the structure overhanging the sidewalk. "We heard a cracking noise, then another and then the canopy gave way.

"Shortly before the crash I remarked to my wife tha if many more got on we were going to get off."

Others atop the structure also declared that they received little warning before the south end of the canopy collapsed under its human burden.

Like Thunder

Giving a vivid description of the only warning she had of the impending accident, Mrs. L. W. Schuette of 256 S. Marr street, Fond du Lac, likened the instantaneous noise to the roll of thunder. Then that is all she remembered. She sustained a serious back injury.

Mrs. Schuette and her husband and daughter, Mrs. Erwin Grosskopf of Milwaukee, Mrs. Jessie McNaughton of Fond du Lac, and Mrs. L. W. Biggs of Fond du Lac came to Sheboygan to witness the Legion parade.

Mr. Schuette had just stepped across the street to greet friends when the canopy fell. He knew the others of his party were standing beneath the canopy on the sidewalk, and he rushed back, but could be of no assistance.

Mrs. Grosskopf sustained a severe back injury. She was able, after a physician attended her, to be propped up in the automobile and return to Fond du Lac. Mrs. Biggs received an injury to her shoulder, and Mrs. McNaughton was slightly injured. Mrs. Schuette was taken to the hospital and the others went home.

"Just before the crash occurred, I asked someone standing near me whether it was safe to stand under the canopy," said Mrs. Schuette. "I knew a large number of people were on it, and I did not think they should have been. After I made the remark, I heard someone in the street shout, 'get off there,' and I thought that the warning was directed to those on the canopy. I thought they would leave. Then felt safer."

Heard Loud Noise

Mrs. Henrietta Raab, 1735 Thirteenth street, who suffered a deep gash in her forehead was one of those taken to the hospital. She stated that she heard a "loud noise" but had no time to get out of the way. She was knocked to the sidewalk, and was unconscious when she was carried to a physician's office.

With Mrs. Raab were Mrs. Clara Ploetz, Mrs. Louis Ploetz, 1238 Lincoln avenue, who was injured and Margaret Ploetz, daughter of Mrs. Louis Ploetz, who suffered head injuries.

Heard No Warning

Mrs. Charles Wolfgran, 1706 S. Forteenth street, suffered a long gash on the top of her head reaching from one side to the other. Eighteeen stitches were required to close the wound. She heard no warning of the collapse, she said. Her son Carl, aged 10, was sitting on the curb in front of her, but escaped uninjured.

Mr. and Mrs. F. C. Weiskopf, N. Ninth street, and Mrs. Charles Esch, 1915 N. Seventh street were under the canopy together. Mrs. Esch was struck by a part of the fallen structure and was unconscious for a time. She was first believed to have suffered a concussion on the brain, but an X-ray examination revealed no serious hurt, and Mr. Weiskopf was knocked down, but not injured.

Others Are Injured

Mr. and Mrs. Adolph Wandschneider, 1512 Colorado court, and their daughter, Miss Laura Wandschneider, were also injured. Mrs. Wandschneider's [illegible] was hurt badly, and at first it was believed to be fractured. She is still confined to her bed. Mr. Wandschneider was knocked down, and when he was getting up he saw his wife and daughter lying on the sidewalk near him. He said the canopy fell like a flash and that there was no warning [illegible].

Mrs. Henry Fahres, 2634 N. Tenth street, sustained serious injuries to her back when she was thrown into the street after being struck. She was treated at the clinic. Her husband was marching with the Company C unit in the Legion parade and did not know what happened or that Mrs. Fahres was injured until he had returned to the armory after the parade.

Frank Meyer, 621 Ontario [illegible], was standing under the [illegible] side of the canopy close to the building, said he heard a [illegible] but that he was so [illegible] y the milling crowd that there was no chance to move. He suffered possible internal injuries and is still in hospital.

Struck by Canopy

Newell Brown, 734 N. Third street, who sustained severe injuries, declared that there was little or no warning [illegible] under the structure, was struck by the falling canopy and knocked to the sidewalk. He is in the hospital. Fred Thurman, 30 S. Milwaukee street, Plymouth, decided that he was temporarily [illegible] and was unable to [illegible] what occurred just before the accident. Mr. Thurman's injuries consisted of contusions and lacerations. Mrs. Thurman who was with him, was not seriously injured.

Others who were injured included Mrs. William Gessner, N. Sixth street; Judith Lamb, aged 3, 2429 N. Ninth street; Mrs. Charles Minot, 924 Ontario avenue; Mrs. Edmund Johnson, Appleton; Emmanuel Eichberg, Route 2, Sheboygan; [illegible], Milwaukee; Mrs. Oscar Dettmann, Shawano, bruised ankle.

Witnessed Crash

H. B. Hanson, 216 Lake avenue, South Milwaukee, a member of Post No. 76, Racine American Legion; Harry [illegible], Dr. W. D. Gearen, [illegible], Floyd Magnan, and others in a room in the Foeste hotel, opposite the Fox theatre, saw the people on the balcony and discussed the danger of so many being on it, according to a statement given The Press by Mr. Hanson.He estimated there were about thirty on the canopy. Two women walked to the southwest cornerand when they were being seated, the canopy gave way, Hanson said. Several of those on it were thrown headlong into the crowd below.

The north side of the canopy did not give way, due to its being tapered towardthe corner and having an extension on the north side of the building. As a result of that, the canopy did not drop completely to the sidewalk all the way around. The entire structure would in all probability have been torn from the building and several might have been killed, in the opinion of Hanson and the others who witnessed the mishap.

Manager Gives Statement

Julius Lamm, manager of the theater, was not in nor near the building when the crash occurred. When interviewed by a Press reporter later in the afternoon, he said: "There was no show on early in the afternoon. I was on Michigan avenue making motion pictures of the Legion parade. The doorman was absent, too, annd the persons, with the exceptions of my family and a few friends, mush have taken advantage of our absence and without permission walked up the stairs and out on the canopy. I am grieved over the unfortunate accident."

The canopy which fell is over 30 feet in length and about 12 feet wide, extending almost across the N. Eighth street side of the building and partly around on the Ontario avenue side. The whole front portion and a small portion of the curved end protruding over the sidewalk on the Ontario avenue side dropped. Four half-inch steel rods fastened to steel rings embedded in the brick wall and to the outside edge of the canopy held it in place. Three of these rods gave way when the weight on the canopy caused the loops, which were not welded, to straighten out.

Capt. William Schultz of the Sheboygan fire department was the first to rush over and give assistance. He was standing near the Clinic when he heard a crash of breaking glass. He looked over in time to see the canopy falling, first slowly and then with a sudden jerk. He rushed through the crowd of people and under the canopy where he saw seven persons lying on the sidewalk, all of whom had been knocked down. One woman was lying face downward with a section of the canopy upon her back. Captain Schultz and volunteers managed to lift the canopy high enouth to release the woman, who was unconscious and bleeding profusely. A little girl was lying near by and four or five other adults were pinned down under the canopy.

Captain Schultz summoned the fire company from the Central station and had ropes extended around the front end of the theater to prevent anyone from entering a danger zone.

The Sheboygan Press, Sheboygan, WI 20 Aug 1930