The Brooklyn Theater Fire- December 5, 1876

The Brooklyn Theater was filled almost to capacity for a performance of a play called "The Two Orphans" when a fire broke out before the fifth act. Three of the actors- Kate Claxton, a well known actress of the time, H.S. Murdoch, and J.B. Studley attempted to keep the audience from panicking. However, as the flames spread out of control, panic ensued and around 300 perished - mostly from the lower priced seating of the third floor gallery from which the only exit was a narrow staircase. Two actors, Murdoch and Claude Burroughs, lost their lives as well after mistakenly thinking they had sufficient time to return to their dressing room and change into street clothes.

 


Kate Claxton

 

 

The Two Orphans or The Brooklyn Fire-
P.J. Downey and Charles A. Fuller

The evenings bright stars they were shining
The moon beams shone clear on our land
In quiet and peace lay our city
The hour of midnight at hand;
But hark! to that dread cry of “Fire!”
How dismal those warning bells sound
Our gay Brooklyn Theatre’s burning
Alas burning fast to the ground

The doors they were open’d at seven
The curtain was pulled up at eight;
Those who had seats they were happy
And angry were those who were late
The play went along very smoothly
Till sparks from the scenes they did fly;
Then, strong men and women and children
“Oh! God, save our lives,” they did cry

We ne’er can forget the “Two Orphans!”
Bad luck seems to be in its wake
It seems it were brought to our city
The lives of our dear friends to take.

Next morning, ‘mid blackening ruins
Oh! God, what a sight met our eyes
The dead all unshapely were lying
And some that none could recognize.
Poor mothers, distracted, were weeping
For sons who were out all that night;
And praying their souls rest in heaven
Where all is so pure and so bright

What means such a large gathering of people
Upon such a cold dreary day?
And why this funeral procession
With waving plumes, sable and grey?
To Greenwood’s dead city they’re wending
Where sadly the willow trees weep
To lay with hearts gentle and loving
The “fire-fiends” victims to sleep.

We ne’er can forget the “Two Orphans!”
Bad luck seems to be in its wake
It seems it were brought to our city
The lives of our dear friends to take.

Recording Info:
Jon Waterman- Vocal and Guitar
Dan Kupka- Accordion
Chris Paglia- Bass
Jeff Pearlstein- Drums


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