A Sea Of Fire

Fire in Philadelphia142 years ago: Disaster struck on the morning of February 8, 1865, at 9th Street and Washington Avenue. Fire at a coal-oil yard in what is now the heart of Philadelphia’s Italian Market spread, fuelled by 1,500 barrels in storage. Ice dams turned adjacent snow-packed yards and streets into a sea of fire that killed nine people and destroyed nearly 150 structures, including 50 homes.  Capt. J. H. Ware suffered near fatal burns and lost his entire family. Casualties included his wife Barbara, 43, and their seven children: Annie, 23, Emma, 20, Albert, 17, Helen, 13, Clayton, 10, Isabella, 4, and infant Rebecca. One firefighter, Samuel McMenamin Fleetwood, also died in the conflagration.

Lithographer J.L. Magee soon published the lithograph, reproduced here, a copy of which is in collection of the Library Company of Philadelphia.

Other events of note on this day:

1870 – Mass meeting of Philadelphia’s African American community to plan a celebration of the adoption of the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing the right to vote.

1874 – Autopsy conducted on Chang and Eng Bunker, Siamese twins, at the College Of Physicians. More from the Mutter Museum. 

1935 – Ferryboat Cape May rammed and sunk by freighter London Corporation: 14 hurt.

1950 – Philadelphia Housing Authority selects sites in Germantown, South Philadelphia, Northeast and North Philadelphia beginning $200 million in low-income housing projects.

1969 – The Saturday Evening Post, founded in 1728, ceases publication.

1972 – The Martin Luther King High School at Stenton Avenue and Haines Street, opens with 1,800 ninth graders.

1973 – The Penn Central Railroad system shuts down at 12:01AM as part of a national strike over an attempt to eliminate 6,000 brakemen and conductors’ jobs. Service was resumed the following day after President Richard M. Nixon intervened.

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