Panoramic Photographs

Selected Panoramic Photographs

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Some of these accounts were drawn from newspaper articles from the time period of the event.

The Great Conflagration of Chicago! October 8th and 9th, 1871

Panoramic view of the damage from the Great Chicago fire
descriptive record icon enlarge image icon   The Great Conflagration of Chicago! October 8th and 9th, 1871
William Shaw
albumen silver print; 12 x 34.5 in.
PAN US GEOG - Illinois, no. 53 (E size) P&P

After weeks of drought, a fire of unknown origin ignited in the West Division of Chicago, devouring the wooden buildings in its path. Strong winds made the fire difficult to control. The blaze continued for 27 hours and destroyed nearly everything in the area we now think of as downtown and the Near North Side, consuming over 17,450 buildings. Citizens from throughout the United States and as far away as Europe contributed money and supplies to rebuild the city.

This photograph was taken from the top of the Water Works tower. Shaw skillfully exposed the five glass plate negatives to minimize distortion when the photographs were assembled. Several of Shaw's photographs of the Chicago fire were used as the basis of engravings that appeared in the popular magazine Frank Leslie's Illustrated News.


Baltimore's "Big Fire," 1904

Panoramic view of the damage from the fire in Baltimore, Maryland, 1904
descriptive record icon enlarge image icon   Cycloramic View of Baltimore's "Big Fire" from Hanover Street; c1904
Frederick W. Mueller
gelatin silver; 7.5 x 45.5 in.
PAN US GEOG - Maryland, no. 12 (E size) P&P

On Sunday morning, February 7, 1904, a fire alarm in the basement of the Hurst Building at Liberty and German Streets brought the first fire trucks to a blaze that would spread throughout downtown Baltimore and take 30 hours to extinguish. Fire trucks arrived quickly, but an explosion spread the fire to adjoining buildings within 10 minutes. Whipped by the wind, the fire spread northeast through the financial district and then southeast through the docks, on February 8. More than 1,500 buildings in 86 city blocks were destroyed but, miraculously, not one life was lost. This photograph was taken near Baltimore Street (between Calvert and South Streets) and encompasses a view of over 360 degrees. Note the distant burned-out dome of a church at the extreme right and left. The burned-out Continental Trust Company building (center) was then the tallest in Baltimore and designed to be fireproof. City Hall (at right) and the Post Office and Custom House (behind ruins, right-center) were spared by a sudden change in wind direction.


Fire in Coney Island, New York, 1911

Panoramic view of the damage from a fire on Coney Island, New York, 1911
descriptive record icon enlarge image icon  [Destruction of Dreamland, Coney Island]; c1911
Charles E. Stacy
gelatin silver print; 10 x 42.5 in.
PAN US GEOG - New York, no. 190 (E size) P&P

Early Saturday morning, May 27, 1911, a fire broke out as workers hurried to repair a concession at Dreamland, Coney Island, in preparation for the Memorial Day weekend. In their haste, workers kicked over a bucket of hot tar being used to repair a leak in "Hell Gate," a boat ride through dimly lit caverns. Hell Gate was soon in flames. The new water pumping station, built specifically for Coney Island, boasted water pressure of at least 125 pounds, yet when called into action, the pressure was closer to 20 pounds. The fire left 2,500 people unemployed.

This photograph shows the remains of Dreamland, surrounded by large crowds that flocked to see the destruction. A few hours after the fire, concessionaires erected tents and continued with their business.