Theatre on Fire. Awful Calamity!
Original Author: Unknown
Created: Probably 1812
Medium: Broadside

Theatre on Fire. Awful Calamity!

A contemporary broadside describes the Richmond Theatre fire that took place on the night of December 26, 1811, and killed at least seventy-six people, including the newly elected governor, George William Smith. The printed sheet quotes from an account written in Richmond the day after the event: "[M]any were trampled to death under foot, others threw themselves out of the windows, and were dashed to pieces on the ground … Many were burnt to death in the boxes, and others on the stairways." An accompanying poem laments the men, women, and children who died:

Dear parents fond, and lovely babes, Did meet their solemn doom— And lovers too did perish there, And virgins in their bloom.

The poem concludes by urging the reader to turn away from frivolous things ("May theatres all be done away, / Thro' all Columbia's shore," and "To sacred things attend."