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Knickerbocker Theater Collapse: Topics in Chronicling America

In 1922, a massive blizzard led to the roof collapsing at the Knickerbocker Theater. This guide provides access to materials related to the “Knickerbocker Theater Collapse” in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.

Introduction

"40 or more killed and scored injured when Knickerbocker Theater caves in." January 29, 1922. Evening Star (Washington, DC), Image 1. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

After an intense blizzard that lasted more than 24 hours, the faulty roof construction of the Knickerbocker Theater didn’t stand a chance. “A stillness, an unearthly pause, followed the din. Then a scream, an agonized cry, a moan. Beneath tons of steel and masonry scores of men women and children were buried.” (Evening Star, January 29, 1922). The theater was eventually rebuilt almost a year later but this disaster remains one of the worst in DC history. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.

Timeline

January 27 - 28, 1922 A massive snowstorm drops over 26 inches of snow on the DC area.
January 28, 1922 At around 9pm, the roof caves in on the Knickerbocker Theater.
January 28 - 29, 1922 Police, firemen, and military personnel aid in the evacuation and rescue. In total, 98 people were killed by the collapsed roof.
January 30 - 31, 1922 Multiple investigations were conducted to explain the cause of the collapse. Eventually it was determined that faulty construction was ultimately responsible.