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.
Chronicling America is a searchable digital collection of historic newspaper pages from 1777-1963 sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress.
Included in the website is the Directory of U.S. Newspapers in American Libraries, a searchable index to newspapers published in the United States since 1690, which helps researchers identify what titles exist for a specific place and time, and how to access them.
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.
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.