Friday, May 23, 2014

Cincy Firefighters WW2 Service - In Honor of Memorial Day

A Memorial Day Tribute

Honoring all members of the Cincinnati Fire Department past and present who served in the Armed Forces of the United States of America - Thank you for your service!

Honor Roll of CFD members who served in WW2
Compliments B.Houston Collection

The poster presented above was distributed throughout the fire department shortly after the war, to pay tribute to members who served in World War 2.  Today a copy of this poster still hangs in the quarters of Engine 46 in Hyde Park (though it is badly faded).  All listed members have a star in front of their names.  Members with a black star were killed during their service.  Some members appear with an eagle stamp after their name.  Inside the stamp there is a date which is different for each individual.  Currently it is not known what this marking designates but members with the mark did survive their wartime service.  If you believe you know what the meaning of this marking is please comment on the post and share you knowledge!

Update:  Special thanks to B.Strite for solving the mystery of the eagle stamp and date - the symbol is called the "ruptured duck."  Service members were given a patch with the symbol to put on their uniforms after being honorably discharged from the service (see the example below)

Black Star Names (Members killed in service during WW2):
KIA (Killed in Action) FOD (Finding of Death) DNB (Death Non-Battle)

Melvin J. Trimpe 
(FOD - 14 March 1944) 2nd Lieutenant

Norbert J. Vehr 
(DNB - 02 Feb 1945) 2nd Lieutenant

Louis F. Sander 
(KIA - 11 March 1944) Staff Sergent

Russell P. Zorens 
(DNB - 10 May 1945) Sergent

Roy C. Bitzer 
(KIA - Reported Missing 11 November 1944) 2nd Lieutenant

Marshall C. Hard 
(DNB - 06 Jul 1945) Tech5

Note:  Two of the members listed on the Honor Roll of WW2 service are now also counted among the members who died in service to the Cincinnati Fire Department

Lt. Robert W. Beyer
(LODD - Heart Attack - 08 Jun 1959)
Died after operations in the new High Intensity Building

Marshal Robert Riegler
(LODD - Smoke Inhalation - 13 Jun 1961)
Overcome by smoke at 1020 Woodrow Street, Central Brass and Aluminum Foundry Fire

Cincinnati Post - 11 Dec 1944

Cincinnati Post - 31 Jan 1945

NOTE:  If you are related to or know someone who is related to any of the above mentioned members who served either the fire department or to their country, CFD History would like to acquire a copy of their picture to pay further tribute to them.  Please contact me if you are interested in helping in this matter.
Thank You.

Thomas W. Gloystein
Served in the US Army and retried from service in the rank of Warrant Officer - Joined the CFD in 1938 and retired as a Lieutenant in 1977.  His father William Gloystein was one of the original charter members of Local 48 and his picture can be found at the Union Hall on the wall.  
Thanks to J.Shroyer for helping to make the Honor Roll list come to life!

If you are conducting research regarding the past military service of a member of your family and you have hit a wall because their records were lost in the fire at the National Archives in the 70s, I highly recommend the services of Golden Arrow Military Research.  I have used this research service twice with excellent results and I highly recommend their work:
(Tell them CFD History sent you!!!)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The 6th Street Disaster - 129 Years Ago This Week

Cincinnati Enquirer Headline May 22, 1885

The 6th Street Disaster - 21 May 1885

John J. Sullivan was busy working on accounts in his second floor office.  A sudden rash of business had come in just over a month ago and he and his employees were struggling to push paper through the printing presses to meet deadlines.  Sullivan was the senior member of his firm, the Sullivan Printing Company, which had been established early in 1883 in the five story building at No.19 West 6th Street.  With the increase in business he had been forced to expand his operation rapidly.  Where only a few months earlier the entire concern was run from the second floor, the bindery portion of the business was now managed on the fifth floor.  Two weeks ago, to help process the work, Mr. Sullivan added seven new girls to the staff of young women working in the upper level of the building. 
Lizzie Meyers had just returned from lunch and was employed in the fifth floor bindery with twelve other girls in the front workshop.  Will Bishop and three additional girls were engaged in a small back room on the upper level.  Lizzie had been hired by Sullivan two years earlier at the age of fifteen.  She was in a good mood and her mind was focused on the Press Feeders Picnic a little over a week from today.  Prior to leaving her house this morning she had mentioned her excitement to her mother and spoke of how she looked forward to wearing the new dress she just purchased for the occasion.
                Henry Woodson was just starting his day.  He had been between jobs for some time and was living in a back room behind John Regan’s Saloon, across the street from the Sullivan Company.  Woodson was black, with an athletic build for which Regan saw potential.  Soon he was backing Woodson in boxing matches where Henry earned the nickname, “The Black Diamond.”  Henry had been slow to get out today but a commotion on the street grabbed his attention and he was headed to the front window to see what was happening on the street.
                The boys at the three’s firehouse on 6th Street, just a couple of blocks from Sullivan’s printing establishment, had been on the job all morning.  The horses had been fed and tended to and the station was put in order for the day.  Their steam fire engine, The Citizens’ Gift, was gleaming, having also been cleaned that morning.  The firemen from Hook and Ladder Company One shared quarters with the engine company and they too had touched up the ladder wagon that morning.  Fire Chief Lew Wisbey and Assistant Fire Marshal J. S. Donovan were among those with offices upstairs in the large building which also served as the fire department headquarters. 
The Gifts' Firehouse - Engine Co.3 & Ladder Co.1 
Photo Compliments of the Stelter Collection

        John Sullivan was seated at his desk when he was startled by the cry of one of his employees, eighteen year old Johnny Meyers.  He hurried out to see what the uproar was all about and he found Johnny running away from the printing presses with his cloths on fire.  Thomas Hardin, a supervisor in the second floor printing room, had sent Johnny to the first floor to fill a can of benzene to be used for cleaning the press rollers.   When Johnny returned he stumbled in the dark passage behind a press near the open elevator shaft.  As he fell forward the tin can struck the nearby printing press and the glass jar that contained the benzene inside the tin housing broke.  He tried to stop the benzene from spilling with his hands but it was no use.  In a matter of seconds the vapors from the highly flammable liquid reached the burning gas jet on the ceiling over the printing press igniting a small fire.  Johnny ran over to Mr. Hardin who quickly managed to put his clothes out.  Mr. Sullivan saw the small blaze and quickly passed through it to obtain a fire blanket with the intention of smothering it.  He returned to find the fire had grown to a size he could no longer manage.  The flames had been pulled into the flue-like elevator shaft and were rapidly moving up through the building.  Recognizing the imminent danger posed to the employees on the upper levels Mr. Sullivan yelled out “someone save the girls!”  About the same time his twenty-one year old cousin, also named John Sullivan, cried out “Fire,” as he rushed for the stairway.  Heavy smoke began to fill the building as the woodwork in and around the elevator started to burn out of control.  Everyone in the lower level of the building was yelling “fire” and streaming out of the building. 

                As people were reaching the exits, pedestrians on the street were beginning to notice the heavy black smoke rolling up from behind the building.  A crowd started to gather and someone sprinted to fire box 36 at the corner of 6th and Main Streets and pulled it, sending an alarm to the fire department.  Young John Sullivan was joined by another of his cousins, Will Sullivan, who was about his age.  The two men dashed up the stairs yelling “fire” and hoping to reach the girls in time.  Starting at the third floor the lone stairway to the upper two floors wrapped around the elevator shaft and it was already filling with choking smoke.  John and Will reached the fifth floor where the girls were working at their stations, unaware of the peril they now faced.  The startled girls looked up to see the boys enter the area just as they noticed smoke and fire spilling forth from the elevator shaft.  Panic took hold of the girls.  Will Bishop and those girls working in the back room rushed forward.  By now the stairway was filled with smoke and could no longer serve as an exit.  Everyone started to run toward the front windows.  Will had been thinking of using the roof hatchway as an exit all along.  He and John would sometimes use the short ladder that hung in the back of the building to get up to the roof, joining the girls for lunch or to watch a passing procession.  The ladder was nowhere to be found and Will started to panic.  His face, arms, and ears were starting to burn.  He swiftly stacked books on the table under the hatch and jumping, grabbed the ledge and pulled himself to safety on the roof above.

                On the sidewalk below a massive crowd was growing.  They were screaming and calling to the girls who started to appear at the windows.  It was this noise that caught the attention of Henry Woodson and sent him to the window to see what was going on.  When he reached the glass he was met with a shocking scene of horror.  He watched as Lizzie Meyer jumped from the fifth floor window.  The crowd had seen her reach the window.  They watched as she moved out onto the sill.  Smoke was billowing out around her.  People on the street called to her to wait but she had resolved not to burn.  Only moments earlier she had been thinking of wearing her new dress and now she was dying on the sidewalk.  Bystanders carried her to a neighboring business but she could not be saved.  Almost immediately after Lizzie made her fateful plunge another terrified face appeared in the window above the crowd.  It was Mrs. Anne Bell.  She too was determined to find refuge from the heat and despite the pleas from the people below, she also jumped.  A patrol wagon conveyed her to the hospital but she was dead only a short time later.  

Image from The Daily Graphic, New York City - May 25, 1885
B.Houston Collection

                By now people were taking action in an effort to prevent further tragedy.  Harry Kinsley and Joseph Schroeder, both employees of the business immediately to the west of the Sullivan concern at No.21 West 6th Street, climbed out the window of their building onto Sullivan’s roof.  They had sixty feet of inch thick rope they used to hoist supplies to the upper floors.  They planned to drop it to the girls at the windows and lower them to safety.  Inside the situation was desperate.  Young John Sullivan, who had heroically rushed up the stairs in an effort to save the girls, was doing what he could to keep fifteen year old Emma Pinchback and twenty-four year old Josie Hocks from jumping.  The girls had tried to pile furniture up to reach the roof hatch but they could not make it to the opening.  The room was getting hot and there was little time to spare.  The girls were in a panic and ran forward, knocking out the front windows when they reached them.  Josie couldn’t take the heat and smoke any longer.  She moved onto the window sill.  There she could see blood on the sidewalk below.  The crowd shouted at her to wait for the firemen.  Looking down 6th Street she could see the fire engine and ladder wagon rushing to the scene.  She was determined to wait but thought they might not reach her in time.  It was then that the rope from above dropped within her reach.  Without hesitation she grabbed hold.  The two men on the roof strained to lower her safely.              

Emma Pinchback, one of the few survivors from the 5th floor
Cincinnati Enquirer - May 23, 1885

               Henry Woodson bounded down the stairs after watching Lizzie Jump.  He opened the door on the street just as Anne Bell crashed in a heap to the ground.  By now he was sprinting into the mass of people.  Looking up he could see Josie grab hold of a rope.  She was being lowered and struggling to hold on.  As she passed outside the windows on the third floor a blast of smoke and heat struck her in the face and her grip failed.  Henry, still pushing forward, reached her just in time to catch her in his arms, breaking her fall and saving her life.  Her ankle was fractured and his arms and shoulders badly strained but he had saved her from the unforgiving ground that had already claimed the lives of two of her coworkers.  Kinsley and Schroeder, on the roof, quickly pulled the rope back up.  It was then that Emma spotted the lifeline and made her move.  She latched on and the men on the roof lowered her as she slid down the rope.  Her hands were burned and her arms scorched from the fire but she would also survive.  John Sullivan had to get out.  He could wait no longer.  Smoke kept him from seeing into the room but there were no other girls at the windows.  The rope was drawn back up and he jumped on.  The crowd cheered loudly as he escaped the smoky furnace.  It appeared as though the young man, who thought first of the girls before considering his own safety, would be saved.  Suddenly, as he reached the top of the third floor windows the rope snapped.  It had been weakened by exposure to the fire and heat from the first two rescues.  Young John Sullivan plunged to the ground below.  The mass of people drew back in horror as the sickening thud filled their ears.  His older brother Dennis Sullivan, one of the proprietors of the business, picked the broken and unconscious man up and carried him to Regan’s Saloon where he laid him on a billiard table.  Soon after he was loaded onto a patrol wagon and rushed to the city hospital.  John had sustained severe burns, and fractured his jaw, pelvis, and legs among other injuries.  He died an hour after arriving at the hospital.   

Young John Sullivan - One of the Hero's of the 6th Street Disaster
Cincinnati Enquirer - May 22, 1885

                Kinsley and Schroeder had felt the rope become slack and knew it had snapped.  They were back away from the ledge, straining to lower the rope and unable to look over the edge while doing so.  When the rope broke they ran forward but their view was clouded by the heavy smoke rolling up from the windows below.  They started to deploy a second rope but the crowd yelled for them to get back.  The smoke was thick and they were in a dangerous position.  People below indicated no one was waiting at the windows so they withdrew to the safety of the building from which they had come.  Some men in the crowd brought a tarpaulin forward.  Somehow Nannie Shepherd had managed to find her way to the third floor.  She was also on the window sill and the men below pulled the tarpaulin tight and called for her to jump.  She hit the mark but the tarp was pulled from the hands of the men holding it and she struck the sidewalk.  She suffered a deep gash to the back of her head and had some painful burns on her lower legs but her fall had been broken enough to save her life.  In the panic and confusion Will Bishop had made his way onto another of the fifth floor window sills.  He had suffered severe burns to the head, body, face, and hands but he was determined to be rescued.  Time slowed for those people trapped in the building and for the crowd that was witnessing the tragedy unfold.  It had only been a few minutes since Box 36 sent an alarm to the fire department.  The firemen now arrived.  As the horses pulled the apparatus up to the building the firemen jumped to action.  Chief Wisbey immediately ordered the big five story ladder be raised.  Assistant Fire Marshal Donovan called in a general alarm, bringing most of the department to the scene.  A web of telegraph wires ran over the street outside the building, making the raising of ladders more difficult.  Finally with the ladder in place, they were able to save Bishop.  More and more ladders were raised to the various floors and water played into the windows.  The heaviest of the fire was on the fifth floor.  Soon the bulk of the blaze was knocked down. 

Assistant Fire Marshal John C. Donovan who sounded the general alarm at the Sullivan Blaze
Photo Compliments of the B.Houston Collection

               Firefighter M. J. Higgins and pipeman Peter Kuhn were among the first men to climb through the windows into the fifth floor looking for victims.  The room was still filled with heavy smoke and hot spots had yet to be extinguished.  Moving into the workshop they could see six bodies huddled together under an open roof hatch with furniture and papers piled up under it.  A space of about seven feet separated the pile from the opening.  Chief Wisbey quickly made his way up a ladder to the fifth floor and stepped into the smoke-filled bindery.  He stepped on something soft as he climbed over the window sill.  It was another of the unfortunate girls who did not make it out in time.  Several bodies could be seen on the floor near the windows in addition to those under the hatch.   The firemen started to choke, coughing on the thick smoke before being forced back out to the windows where they leaned out for fresh air.  Two firemen had breathed in so much they vomited.  Another effort was made to search the room but no living person was found.  The smoke was so thick it was clear no one who had been in the room was alive.  The firemen were forced back outside seeking refuge on the ladders by which they had gained entry.  They would have to wait for some of the smoke to clear before going back in. 

                Most of the floors sustained more damage from the water than the fire.  The building had been saved as firefighters made quick work of the blaze.  Some firemen had made entry in the lower levels of the building and with the smoke starting to clear they were progressing up the stairs.  In the second floor they found extensive charring around the elevator.  As they moved further up the fire damage was found to be greater.  The stairs around the elevator shaft from the third floor up were described as charred and weakened.  Care was used moving up.  No victims were found on the fourth floor and some of the men thought things may not be so bad.  When they entered the fifth floor their view was obscured by the haze of smoke but steaming piles of what appeared to be rags were seen scattered about the floor.  These were the bodies of the girls who had not managed to escape. 

                Police had their hands full keeping the crowd under control below.  People were trying to get a view of the firefighters and police as they carried the bodies down the stairs to waiting patrol wagons to be carried to Habig’s Morgue.  Five bodies filled the back of the first wagon which was covered with a tarp before pulling away.  Another patrol wagon and an express wagon, which had been pressed into service, pulled forward.  Rumors of the number of bodies brought down spread from the front of the crowd back.  Some in the group could take no more and walked away, others were fixated on the grizzly scene, unable to look away.  Ultimately eleven bodies were carried from the building. 

Cincinnati Enquirer - May 23, 1885

                The patrol wagons left one crowd only to pull into another.  This assembly had gathered outside Habig’s Morgue.  Here the bodies were carried from the wagons up to the second floor where they were laid out in twelve zinc lined ice boxes on the ground.  Grieving relatives would soon start to make their way up the stairs to view the bodies one by one, until they identified their daughter, brother or wife.  One of the first relatives to arrive was Covington Policeman Robert Handle.  His twin twenty one year old sisters, Lizzie and Dorothea, worked for Sullivan.  He made the identification before leaving with tears in his eyes.  Both girls were lost.  Another horrible scene was the arrival of the fifty year old widow Mrs. Lavan.  An officer saw her coming and warned her of the terrible scene but she insisted on going inside.  She was looking for her three daughters, Delia 23, Mary 17, and Kate 14.  All three were found inside.  Mrs. Lavan had lost all her daughters.  One of her sons helped her out of the room.  Sisters Katie and Mary Putan were also killed.  The girls each earning $4 per week were the principal income for their family in Newport where their father had been out of work for a time.  Eighteen year old Tillie Winn had only worked for Sullivan for a day and a half and was found dead under the hatchway.  Her widowed mother had died only a few weeks prior.  She would be laid to rest by her siblings.  Fannie Jones was twenty years old.  Her brother was able to identify her thanks to a ring she wore on her finger.  Lizzie Meyers, the seventeen year old who was the first of the girls to jump from the windows, was the only daughter of her widowed mother.  A close friend of the family arrived to identify sixteen year old Annie McIntyre.  Her sister had told their widowed mother of the fire but they were not sure Annie was among those killed.  The McIntyre’s became aware of their loss when Annie’s body arrived at her home that evening shortly after being identified.  Her brother noted to a reporter that just last week she had commented about how difficult it would be to escape from Sullivan’s building in the event of a fire.  The last of the dead carried into Habig’s was nineteen year old Katie Lowry who was identified by her brother.   He nearly fainted upon viewing her.  Katie’s sister had recently quit working for Sullivan and now worked for another printing concern.  At thirty-five years of age, Mrs. Anne Bell was the oldest of the victims and the only married woman in the group.  She had been the second woman to jump from the building.  After being transported to the hospital she was later identified by her disabled husband who had been injured in the war some years earlier.  She also left behind an eleven year old daughter.  The twenty-one year old hero John Sullivan had died shortly after arriving at the hospital.  His brother Dennis had employed John for the past two years.  Dennis brought John’s body back to the family home and their widowed mother and siblings. 

Cincinnati Enquirer - May 22, 1885

Inside Habig's Morgue
Cincinnati Enquirer - May 22, 1885
                The proprietors of the Sullivan Company procured a carriage and spent the evening traveling from one victim’s house to another.  They offered sympathy and what money they could give the surviving members of each family.  A reporter for the Enquirer noted that they were broken with grief and blamed themselves for not having provided better means of escape from the building.  Indeed the building and its lack of safe means of egress quickly became an area of public comment and criticism.  The Bookbinders Union immediately passed a resolution condemning the negligence of the owner and lessees of the building.  The Association of Stationary Engineers took similar action.  Newspapers suggested that a simple expenditure of $50 for a fire escape could have prevented any loss of life.  The enquirer described the action of those responsible as “rapacious selfishness.”  Throughout the next day crowds continued to congregate at the site.  The cost of the fire also continued to grow.  A fifteenth person, Nannie Shepherd, passed away the morning after the fire at her home.  She had jumped into a tarp from the third floor and sustained a cut to the back of her head.  By this time the story had been reported coast to coast.  The Chicago Tribune ran the headline, “Seventeen Human Lives Sacrificed in a Cage-Like Building in Cincinnati.”  The New York Times proclaimed, “Fourteen Girls Perish, Burned to Death in a Cincinnati Fire Trap.”  Perhaps the most revealing summation of the tragedy came from The Boston Post which reported, “Cincinnati adds another to this year’s persistent long list of horrors by fire.  It is the same old story of a tall building with no fire escapes and a single pair of narrow smoke-stack stairs.”
                The General public sentiment echoed that of the newspaper headlines.  It was widely felt that negligence was the cause of the devastating loss of human life.  People pointed out similar buildings and situations and it was widely believed that this same tragedy could easily repeat itself.  Indeed, it was not the first time a fire of this nature claimed a large number of lives in Cincinnati.  Only two years earlier on September 03, 1883 a fire at the rag house of Henry Dreman and Company claimed nine lives in similar circumstances.  That building was situated just down the street from the site of the present tragedy.  It was not just the public demanding action.  The Board of Aldermen met and passed a resolution calling on the city inspector of smoke and fire escapes to carry out his duties of enforcement to the full extent of his ability.  Mayor Amor Smith had been among the crowd as bodies were removed from the building following the fire.  He advised any employee who felt their establishment was dangerous should write a letter to the inspector.  He also indicated his plans to meet with John Fehrenbatch, the new inspector of fire escapes and smoke, to make clear his expectations. 
                Finger pointing and confusion regarding who was responsible for the safety of the building dominated the public statements made by the building’s owner W. B. Smith and the lessees John J. Sullivan and his partners.  Both indicated that in repeated discussions with inspectors they were told that an escape was not required.  The former inspector of fire escapes, who had been responsible at the time for the inspection of the Sullivan Company, was Nat Caldwell.  Caldwell indicated that he inspected the building on April 22, 1884.  Sullivan had just signed a lease for the entire building in March but was only operating on the second floor.  The inspector told Sullivan that an escape was not required because no person was working above the second floor.  Caldwell says he made clear that an escape would be necessary if that situation were to change.  In September 1884 Caldwell dispatched his assistant Richard Blake to conduct another inspection.  Blake was sent initially to the neighboring Kinsley building because it had been ordered to put an escape in place.  Kinsley stated that there had been a mutual plan to put up an escape to serve several of the buildings together including the Sullivan concern.  Blake then called on Sullivan who indicated he was still not using any of the upper floors and that he had never discussed any plans for a mutually constructed fire escape.  Blake did not enter the building to check its occupancy, but because he was told the upper floors were not being used he again advised Sullivan that an escape was not required. 
                Coroner Carrick started his inquest on Saturday May 23.  His investigation would attempt to ascertain both what the cause of the fire was and who was ultimately responsible for the long list of dead and injured.   Dozens of employees, the proprietors of the business, the building’s owner, witness, and firemen were called to offer testimony.  Most revealing was the statement of proprietor John Sullivan who indicated that it was only in the past 5 to 6 weeks that they had started using the upper floors due to a sudden rash of business.  He further stated that they had not had time to bring the upper floors to proper order.  Former Inspector Caldwell’s testimony was also enlightening.  He told of the resistance he had experienced in enforcing the fire escape law.  Indeed it seemed many property owners viewed the fire escapes as a means by which thieves could enter their buildings.  Employees told mixed stories regarding what instruction the received from the Sullivan Company regarding how to act in the event of a fire.  Some said they were told to use the roof hatch and others claimed they had never been addressed with respect to the subject. 
                Ultimately it was an Ohio State Supreme Court ruling that would provide the basis for the coroner to assign blame.  Suits had been filed against the owners of the property which housed the Dreman Company, where nine lives had been lost under similar circumstances in 1883.  Cincinnati Superior Court ruled that the word “owner” as used in the statute requiring fire escapes, referred not to the material owner of the premises but rather to the tenant engaged in the use of the space.  The coroner concluded inquest number 114 at noon on May 26.  Considering the legal precedent that had been established by the suits related to the Dreman fire along with all the testimony offered by the summoned parties, Coroner Carrick determined that the proprietors of the Sullivan Printing Company were solely responsible.  He stated that when they found it necessary to us the upper level of the building it became their duty to provide for the safe escape of the employees working there.  The coroner softened his judgment by calling attention to the fact that the proprietors immediately thought first of their employees rather than themselves, and made efforts to warn and save them.   In conclusion Coroner Carrick stated he hoped this event would serve to put the community on notice and spur more rigid enforcement of the fire escape codes. 
                Sadly incidents of this sort would continue to be repeated around the country for years to come.  Eventually a national outcry would resonate after the deaths of nearly 150 people working in similar circumstances at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City on March 25, 1911.  The Sullivan Printing Company Fire was covered by newspapers around the country.  Cincinnati papers covered the event for nearly a week, reporting at length on the fire, the victims, the investigation, and eventually the litigation that followed the coroners ruling.  It remains the deadliest single fire event to have occurred in the City of Cincinnati.  Anyone who witnessed the horrors of the Sixth Street Fire had the images of burned and mangled bodies seared into their minds.  Despite widespread coverage by the press and the extended attention the event received by the general public, it is essentially forgotten today.  It is a sad truth that it took many similar incidents to bring about meaningful change.  The fire and building codes that govern the construction and use of structures today are the result of these difficult and tragic lessons learned.  

1887 Sanborn Insurance Map - W.6th Street between Walnut & Main
Sullivan's is indicated on the map at No.19 West 6th Street.  

1887 Sanborn Insurance Map
Walnut is far left running top to bottom
Main runs through the image top to bottom and at the time was the divide between streets designated East/West Sullivan's is in the upper left corner (see detail map above).

This image is taken from the intersection of W.6th & Walnut Streets looking down W.6th Street in 1968
 The 2 story structure labeled 78-1-25 occupies the site of the Sullivan Printing Company.  
It is unknown what date the original 5 story structure was torn down.

A modern view of the intersection pictured above.  
The 10 story Times Star Building on Walnut Street is the only old building remaining in this view
Image: Google Maps

The approximate location of the Sullivan Printing Company Fire as is appears today.  
The site is now occupied by the 580 Building and the Trattoria Roma Ristorante.
Image: Google Maps

List of the victims of the 6th Street Disaster 

Delia Lavan - 23
Mary Lavan - 17
Katie Lavan - 14
Lizzie Handle - 21
Dollie Handle - 21
Katie Puntan - 22
Mary Puntan - 19
Matilda Winn - 20
Fannie Jones - 20
Lizzie Meyers - 16
Annie McIntyre - 16
Katie Lowry - 19
Mrs Annie Bell - 35
John Sullivan - 21
Nannie Shepherd - 20

Twin Sisters killed in the fire
Cincinnati Enquirer - May 23, 1885

Fannie Jones - Killed in the fire
Cincinnati Enquirer - May 23, 1885

Nannie Shepherd - The last of those who died as a result of the fire 
Cincinnati Enquirer - May 23, 1885

Miss Delia Lavan, the oldest of the three Lavan Sisters killed in the fire
Cincinnati Enquirer - May 22, 1885

Annie McIntyre - Killed in the fire
Cincinnati Enquirer - May 23, 1885

Cincinnati Death Index Card - John Sullivan listed as died from "accidental injuries at 6th St fire"

Cincinnati Death Index Card - Lizzie Meyer - Death also listed as accident at 6th St fire

John J. Sullivan
Cincinnati Enquirer - April 09, 1897

               John J. Sullivan, proprietor of the Sullivan Printing Company - After the fire Sullivan moved his business to a building at the intersection of Court & Broadway.  Sullivan also was active politically.  A friend of George Cox, Sullivan was appointed to serve on the Board of Supervisors - In September 1901 Sullivan was riding on the tailboard of a streetcar with his friend and former Mayor John Mosby.  As the car passed over a narrow bridge his coat snagged on a large bolt pulling him from the running board.  He was tossed over the railing and fell 25 feet to the rocky creek bottom where he broke his neck.  A doctor traveling in his company reached him quickly but he was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.

Cincinnati Death Index Card - John J Sullivan - Killed in fall from street car

Post Update - Another image of the 6th Street fire found:
Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper - The Cincinnati Catastrophe - 30 May 1885

Post Update 27 Oct 2014:  1885 Company Diary Entries

Engine Co.15 Company Diary
Sullivan Printing Co Fire - Entry on 21 May
Courtesy Cincinnati Fire Museum

Ladder Co.6 Company Diary
Sullivan Printing Co Fire - Entry 21 May
Notes: "A number of persons killed at Box36"
Courtesy Cincinnati Fire Museum


History of the Cincinnati Fire Department - 1895 - Publication of the Firemen's Protective Association
Cincinnati Enquirer - May 22, 1885 - A Hell Awful Tragedy of Fire
Chicago Tribune - May 22, 1885 - A Veritable Death Trap
New York Times - May 22, 1885 - Fourteen Girls Perish Burned to Death in Cincinnati
Louisville Courier Journal - May 22, 1885 - Sacrificed Awful Destruction of Life by a Fire at Cincinnati
Cincinnati Enquirer - May 23, 1885 - The Death Trap A Review of Thursdays Horror
Cincinnati Enquirer - May 24, 1885 - End of a Memorable Day of Funerals
Cincinnati Enquirer - May 25, 1885 - Fire Echoes Funeral of Katie Lowry
Cincinnati Enquirer - May 26, 1885 - Concluded Inquest Sullivan Fire
Cincinnati Enquirer - May 27, 1885 - The Coroners Verdict
Cincinnati Enquirer - September 27, 1885 - 6th Street Fire Damage Suits as a Result
Cincinnati Enquirer - September 26, 1901 - Toppled to Death John J Sullivan
Cincinnati Enquirer - September 28, 1901 - Splendid Display of Heroism By Colored Man
University of Cincinnati - Rare Books Archive & Library - Death Index Cards

Special Thanks

A special thanks to those people who have helped to gather sources for this inaugural blog post as well as those who offered advice in building the page:
B.Houston (CFD)
J.Stelter (CFD)

Friday, May 16, 2014

The New Cincinnati Fire Department History Blog


Welcome to the new

Cincinnati Fire Department History blog!!!

Engine Co.6 - Pendleton Firehouse - 24 July 1909 - Photo: K.Wright Collection - More information on this location found at:
I have been researching the history of the Cincinnati Fire Department with the intention of writing a book on that subject.  Currently the only written history of the fire department covers its earliest beginnings through the summer of 1895.  Unfortunately if you have any interest in learning about more modern aspects of the departments history there is a limited number of places to turn.  Several photo books have been published and of course there is newspaper microfilm.  These are all great resources that convey some of the departments history but they are not an intensive research based study of the history of the department and the major events and changes that have shaped its growth and development.  As I have progressed with my research I regularly encounter many fascinating stories that would be of interest to anyone with a love for this subject.  Some of these stories would be covered in an well researched written history while others would simply not be able to be included in any detail.  This blog is my solution to finding a way to share some of these interesting stories.  I hope to make regular posts to this blog and I draw on the research material that is publicly available via the University of Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Historic Society, The Cincinnati Fire Museum, and the Public Library, among others.  I also rely on the generous contributions of people who have great private collections of memorabilia and research material.  I thank all of these people and places for the access that makes this project possible.  We are fortunate in this town to have so many individuals and institutions that appreciate the past in a manner that aids in its preservation.