Bancroft School on Fire

From the front page of the June 20, 1894 issue of the Chicago Daily News,

Bancroft School Circa 1908

Bancroft School Circa 1908


Fire in Rear of the Bancroft School Causes Great Alarm Among the Children.


One Boy Leaps from an Upper Window and is Badly Bruised.

Over a thousand children ranging in ages from 6 to 16 years were thrown into a panic at the Bancroft school on Maplewood avenue, near North avenue, this morning and Eddie Dorst of 907 Washtenaw avenue was badly bruised.

The children had just resumed their seats after the morning recess and were studying for recitation at 11 o’clock, when the cry of fire rung through the building.

The pupils heard it and, remembering the fatal panic which occurred at the Humboldt school some weeks ago, were panic-stricken.

On the west side of the building, just across the alley, the barn of John Anderson was on fire. The flames were bursting through the roof and, fanned by a stiff breeze from the west, were beating against the east windows of the school-house. Panes of glass were broken and window sashes scorched by the intense heat.

The smoke filled the rooms and choked the inmates, who screamed in terror and hysterically yelled out to their teachers to save them.

Rooms 16, 15, 11, 4, and 1 are on the west side of the building and all were filled with pupils. Misses Mary Speiler and Frances Noxon are the teachers in room 16, which contains the youngest pupils.

When the flames were beating against the windows they told the children to be calm and they would be in no danger.

The pupils in the rooms on the east side of the building heard the terrified shrieks of the children across the hall and those in the lower rooms were badly panic-stricken.

Principal Meek’s office is on the first floor and when he heard the screams he instantly divined their meaning. Some time ago, just after the Humboldt panic, he issued orders to the teachers in case of a panic to keep the doors of their rooms locked.

This order was a wise one, as was evinced to-day. Not daring to ring the gong, the principal went around to all the rooms on the first floor and told the children to march out of the building in a quiet manner and not to crowd. First, however, he allowed Miss Estelle Condon, the teacher of room D on the east side of the building, to lead her pupils out.

Miss Condon’s pupils were the youngest in the school and they were half crazed through fear. Their teacher is a little lady self-possessed and with presence of mind. She talked to the little ones  and told them not to be afraid; that the building was not on fire and she would see that they got out safely. Her reassuring words had a soothing effect on them and she was able to manage them nicely and not one of them was hurt.”

The photo above did not appear in the original newspaper article. Many wonderful photos of Chicago schools (including the one used in this post) can be found on this web site:

4 thoughts on “Bancroft School on Fire

  1. This happened so long ago that my grandmother was only a year old and still in Germany. So I can’t ask anybody in my family LOL. When I hear door locking I immediately think of Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and that is such a bad thing. So I can’t figure out why locking doors is a good thing.


    • I’m amazed by the number of fires reported in these old newspapers. Think of all the wood buildings and the way people heated them and used kerosene etc. for lighting lamps. Frightening!


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