Volume I: Narrative History


Chapter 6 (1913): A First-Hand Report

Alexander H. Davis remained as a cameraman at the New Rochelle studio while his fellow photographers, Carl Louis Gregory, Arthur A. Cadwell, and William Zollinger, were with the two traveling companies. A few days after the fire he sent a group of photographs to Gregory at the Los Angeles studio, with a message written across the backs of two of them: Note

Dear Greg,

I am sending you with my compliments these photos of the ruins which your party will be very much interested in. This picture covers the whole field and shows the total destruction to Thanhouser. So far as I have learned nothing was saved but most of your California reels. One of the printing room boys in [word not clear] night says The Star of Bethlehem negative is gone. Too bad, tho, it had almost become a back number.

I believe you had a movie camera of your own and I wondered if you lost that. The studio was flat on the ground half an hour after it started, one great mess of black smoke and flame, a torrent of fire for a short time and it was all over. It was said that the smoke was seen from N.Y. City. Had it happened in the night with a wind, that whole section of the city would have gone, as there was no water pressure, mains too small.

It is said they will rebuild at once and perhaps on your return you will find ready a grand new studio. The mechanical work is now going on in the Comet Studio, Note the gang working nights. I am glad you were not here to see the fire. It was disheartening, especially from the point of view of the actors who lost so much. I have heard that one man got away in a suit of green tights. He could not have lost much more and been decent. Cruze's loss and Peggy's [Marguerite Snow's] ran way up, but their loss was no harder than for some of the others whose pay envelopes are not so fat. You will have Peggy and Cruze with you in a few days and they will tell the story as I cannot, in fact have not been able to get much authentic news. Mrs. Eline and Marie are in Cleveland probably also in trans[it].

I saw Benham going away from the ruins with a rusty gun barrel, all he saved. It is fortunate that the company was able to tell all the employees to hold themselves subject to orders and that pay would go right along. I know the report must have been a hard knock for all of you, though it might have been expected at any time. The severity of the calamity had to be felt though to be appreciated. I trust this will find your party all well.

Kindest regards to yourself, the good sister [Fannie Gregory] and my friends and acquaintances who are with you.

Yours truly, A.H. Davis.


Copyright © 1995 Q. David Bowers. All Rights Reserved.