Chicago, IL Business District Fire, Nov 1895

FACTORY GIRLS IN PERIL.

HUNDREDS HAVE NARROW ESCAPES DURING A CHICAGO FIRE.

FIREMEN ALSO IN GRAVE DANGER.

A Large Number of Firms Suffer Loss, but the Aggregate Is Only Half a Million Dollars -- Exciting Incidents of the Fire.

Chicago, Nov. 21 -- A fire which caused a property loss of $500,000 and imperiled the lives of half a thousand persons, mostly young women, originated at 3 o'clock this afternoon on the third floor of CHARLES EMMERICH & CO.'s feather and down goods factory, 175-181 South Canal Street.
The individual losers by the fire were:
ABNER SHIRT WAIST FACTORY.
BANNER SHIRT WAIST FACTORY.
BLAKE, GEORGE F., steam pump works.
CHAMBERS BRICK MACHINERY MANUFACTURING COMPANY.
DERBY CYCLE COMPANY.
EMMERICH, CHARLES, & CO., feather and down goods.
GIBSON GAS FIXTURE FACTORY.
HEUSNER BAKERY COMPANY.
KNOWLES STEAM PUMP WORKS.
LLOYD, GEORGE E., & CO., Cleveland bicycles.
LLOYD, GEORGE E., & CO., electrotype and stereotype machinery manufacturers.
LYON, SAMUEL, mill supplies.
RUSSELL PIANO COMPANY.
SCHNADIG BROTHERS & CO., ladies' shoes.
SHOBER & CARQUEVILLE, lithographers, who occupied most of the Excelsior Building at the corner of Jackson Street.
STROUSS, EISENDRATH & DRON, manufacturers of mattresses and quilts.
The following suffered losses through falling of walls and by water:
MILLER HENDRICKS & CO., 53 West Jackson Street; packers of beef and pork.
HAYWARD & WINDSOR COMPANY, confectioners, 161 Canal Street.
The losses to the firms are estimated at $350,000.
The seven-story brick building, extending from 175 Canal Street south to the corner of Jackson Street, the nine-story brick building adjoining on the north, and the greater part of the four-story brick building in the same direction were destroyed. These buildings occupied nearly the whole of the block on the west side of Canal Street, between Adams and Jackson Streets. The seven and nine-story buildings were owned by WARREN SPRINGER, and the owner of the four-story structure, which is one-third saved, is WILLIAM J. WILSON. The buildings were amply insured.
The fire started from an explosion of chemicals used in cleaning feathers, and the rapidity with which the flames spread in the EMMERICH factory, where 200 girls and women were employed, created a panic in that building.
Officers stood guard at the elevators and stairways to prevent more than a safe number of women using those means of exit.
The excitement was as great among the 200 female employes of the BANNER Waist Company, whose factory adjoined the EMMERICH factory.
The police and firemen had a hard task to get all the young women in safety to the street, many having to be carried out unconscious, or else driven out, because they wanted to save their small personal property. So far as the police learned all employed in the buildings escaped without serious injury, although many were bruised and scratched.
In the early stage of the fire an engine company and the chemical engine men were sent to the sicth floor of the nine-story building in the rear of the EMMERICH factory to fight the further spread of the flames to the north. The smoke from the burning feathers made a dense, suffocating cloud for the firemen to work in, and they saw then, but too late, that the fire had broken out in front of them and cut off their escape in that direction by the ladders. Shouts of warning wre sent to them by the Chief and his Marshals. The imperiled men forsook their apparatus and struck out in the blinding smoke for the stairway. The hose was the only thing to guide them to safety, and they half fell, half climbed down it and the stairs to the street. Several of the men were badly cut and bruised, and their appearance on the streets was hailed with delight by the thousands of spectators.
The falling of the walls on all four sides was a dangerous incident. Without any warning three stories of the smaller building on the Canal Street side came crashing to the street. Firemen and officers who wre standing or working in front rushed from under the mass of tumbling brick until the building on the opposite side of the street stopped them, and then they barely escaped being struck.
The same scene was witnessed on the Jackson Street side when the three top stories came toppling across the street without warning. When part of the west wall of the Excelsior Building fell it made a hole in the two-story brick building of the MILLER & HENDRICKS Packing Company.
When the fire was apparently under control a large aprt of the front wall of the nine-story structure crashed on the four-story WILSON Building, starting flames and making havoc with the contents. The spreading of the flames in this direction gave the firemen additional work, but they were helped by the thick firewall in the centre of the building.
The fire was under control in two hours, in spite of a high wind and a big start. Nothing but parts of the Springer buildings remain, all the floors having been burned through, carrying with them the costly machinery, lithograph presses, and the stock.

The New York Times New York 1895-11-22