Prominent Theatre Fires in the 1800s in Europe

Theatre fires in the 1800s: Example of a Theatre Fire
Example of a Theatre Fire in 1881, Public Domain

Theatre fires were a big problem in the 1800s. Some fires happened after hours when theatres were closed, but fires also occurred when people were in the building, on stage, or seated in the auditorium. Fires with people present were the most worrisome as lives were endangered and people were often injured or killed.

Among some of the most prominent theatre fires in the 1800s were seven that occurred in Europe. Below are the statistics on each of these fires, including where, when, and how the fire started, as well as how many people were killed or injured and the contributing factors that resulted in the injuries or deaths. Continue reading

The 18th Century’s First Fatal Balloon Accident

First Ascension in a Free Balloon by Pilâtre de Rozier and the Marquis d'Arlandes, Courtesy of
First Ascension in a Free Balloon by Pilâtre de Rozier and the Marquis d’Arlandes, Courtesy of

The first idea of a balloon being filled with hydrogen was made by Joseph Black, a nineteenth century Scottish physician and chemist. His idea later helped to bring about the first recorded manned flight in a balloon belonging to the Montgolfier brothers on 21 November 1783. This flight left from the garden of the Château de la Muette in the Bois de Boulogne with pilots, Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d’Arlandes, and covered about 5½ miles in 25 minutes.

Rozier decided to leave the ground again on 23 June 1784. This time he was accompanied by Joseph Proust, an actor and a French chemist. The June flight involved a modified version of the Montgolfier brothers’s first balloon, and it was christened La Marie-Antoinette after the French Queen. The balloon took off in front of the King of France and King Gustav III of Sweden. It flew north at an altitude of approximately 1.8 miles and traveled over 32 miles in 45 minutes. The cold and turbulence forced the balloonists to descend just past Luzarches, which is near the Chantilly forest. However, the flight was still amazing because it set records for speed, altitude, and distance traveled. Continue reading

Versailles Railway Accident of 1842

Louis Philippe I, by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Louis Philippe I, by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Sunday, 8 May 1842, was the day scheduled to honor Louis Philippe I in the Gardens of Versailles. Among other things, waterworks and fireworks were scheduled. About 5:30pm, after the waterworks finished, many attendees went to the Versailles Left Bank Railroad to depart for home. The train was unusually long that day. It consisted of at least 17 carriages and 3 engines, two up front and one in the rear.

When the train left the station it was hauling no less than 640 passengers who were locked into their cars. The train was clipping along at about 25 miles an hour and everything was fine until the train began to descend near Meudon. Apparently, at that point, “the engine … began to wabbble, as the train proceeded, the weight behind and the pushing forward of the six-wheel locomotive [caused the train’s speed to increase, which rendered the train unsteady] … and in avoiding a curve it pressed violently on each side of the rail [and caused] … the axle [to snap off].” Continue reading