Event: Chicago’s Deadliest Fire: Iroquois Theatre Fire of December 30, 1903


Chicago's Deadliest Fire: Iroquois Theatre Fire of December 30, 1903

Chicago’s Deadliest Fire: The Iroquois Theater Disaster of December 30, 1903
Presented by Jeff Stern

More than residents of other American cities, Chicagoans learn early in life about the conflagration that destroyed most of the core and surrounding parts of the fast-growing city in October of 1871, leading to the establishment of Fire Prevention Week 51 years later, and commemorated in many parts of the country ever since. All but forgotten is the night of horror at the dawn of the 20th Century in the just-opened, lavish Iroquois Theater that brought ghastly deaths – in barely half an hour – to more that twice the number of those who perished in the fire of 1871. The 2003 book entitled Tinder Box, by Anthony P. Hatch, is the basis for this presentation.

Jeff Stern is a member of the Board of the Fire Museum of Greater Chicago. He has never been a Chicago firefighter, but has been involved with the Fire Department for over 75 years. Whether it was the early motorized equipment that was still in service when he was growing up or some other aspect of the fire service that attracted his interest, he’s not sure, but he managed to visit all 141 of the fire houses that were then in service before he turned 13, and was able to run with some of the busiest squads and chiefs.

Admission is free. For further information or a Zoom link, please contact the Highland Park Historical Society: 847.432.7090 or This is a hybrid program with live presentation at the Highland Park Public Library or via Zoom:

Highland Park Public Library
494 Laurel Avenue
Highland Park, IL

About the Highland Park Historical Society: The mission of the Highland Park Historical Society is to preserve our community’s past, to inspire an appreciation of its history and culture, and to share them with the community and scholars. The Society is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization and is administered by a volunteer Board of Directors. The Archives and Research Collections are housed in the Highland Park Public Library. For more information about the Highland Park Historical Society, visit

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