When the Iroquois Theater opened in Chicago on November 23, 1903, it was considered one of the grandest structures of its day, a monument to modern design and technology, as well as "absolutely fireproof." This was a theater that would rival any in New York or Paris. Instead it became the funeral pyre for hundreds of victims.

In Tinder Box, Tony Hatch, former CBS reporter and Emmy Award winner, tells the Iroquois story as it has never been told before. In a rush to open the theater on time, corners were cut, and the Iroquois lacked the most basic fire-fighting equipment: sprinklers, fire alarm boxes, backstage telephone, exit signs, and functioning asbestos curtain. Some exits, for aesthetic reasons, were hidden behind heavy draperies, doors opened inward, and exterior fire escapes were unfinished. But Chicago officials, the theater owners and managers, the contractor, stagehands-all looked the other way.

Then, on December 30, 1903, disaster struck. The theater was packed, overcrowded with a standing-room-only audience, mostly women and children who had come to see the popular comedian Eddie Foy perform in the musical fantasy Mr. Bluebeard. A short circuit in a single backstage spotlight touched off a small fire that, in minutes, erupted into an uncontrollable blaze. More than 600 people died.
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Tantor Audio
Matthew Josdal
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