The Year Was 1903

Iroquois Theater fire article from The year was 1903 and in Washington, D.C. a group of twenty-four charter members adopted a constitution to form the National Genealogical Society. Throughout its rich history, its membership has swelled to well into the thousands, with members around the world.

It was a year of innovations. The Wright brothers made history that year with their famous flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina Henry Ford, along with eleven other industrialists formed the Ford Motor Company and production began on the Model A. As the business progressed, Ford’s assembly lines helped to make automobiles more affordable.

The Canadian and U.S. governments, with the aid of an international tribunal, settled a boundary dispute, which had been fueled with the discovery of gold in the Klondike region of the Yukon in 1896.

In Kansas, heavy rains in the last few weeks of May brought on historic flooding in the Missouri, Kansas, and lower Republican River Basins. In the aftermath, homes were washed away, along with many bridges, one of which held the water line that supplied Kansas City, Missouri with water. Details of the flood can be found online in a USGS document comparing it to the 1993 floods, and in an online article from the Kansas City Star. The Kansas City Public Library also has a collection of photographs from the disaster online.

The year ended with another Midwestern disaster, as the newly built Iroquois Theater in Chicago caught fire during a crowded holiday matinee. Although the fire was extinguished by the fire department within a half hour, the panic that ensued and the explosive flames and smoke fed by scenery and curtains killed over 600 of the 1,900 patrons in the theater.

The cinema was still in its infancy in 1903 and audiences found thrills in “The Great Train Robbery” when it was released that year. The literary world found another classic in Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, which was serialized in The Saturday Evening Post in June and July of 1903. 

Click on the newspaper clipping from the Ancestry.com Historical Newspaper Collection to read more about the Iroquois Theater fire in an article  from  the “Daily Nevada State Journal” (Reno, Nevada), 31 December 1903.

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One thought on “The Year Was 1903

  1. One of my grandmother’s cousins died in that fire, one was so severely burned he was not expected to live – but did, and the third son died a few years later from his injuries.

    The front page of the Chicago Tribune ran the photos of those three Hennessy boys. When I found it online, I just sat there stunned for several minutes. That fire was so tragic and many of the deaths were unecessary because of locked doors, etc. There is a lot online about the fire, the terrible family stories, and the people who valiantly tried to help.

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