Memoirs of Boston's Great Fire of 1872

While researching the story of "Damrells Fire" Docema's research team searched various archives throughout the city of Boston for letters, diaries, memoirs, books, and newspaper articles about the fire and the people living in Boston during the fire. Here are transcriptions of some of the documents we uncovered:

An account of Boston's Great Fire by Oliver Wendell Holmes: Famous American author Oliver Wendell Holmes was living in Boston's Beacon Hill neighborhood in 1872 and was witness Boston's Great Fire of that year. In this letter to author John Lothrop Motley he relates the size of the fire and the site of smoking masonry and buildings collapsing without a sound "as if fallen onto a giant featherbed" [read more]


Notes of Boston Police Chief Edward S. Savage: A brief page of notes by Boston's Police Chief Edward S. Savage during the week of Boston's Great Fire[read more]


A condolence letter by Fire Chief Damrell: This letter of condolence was handwritten by Boston's Fire Chief John S. Damrell to the widow of a firefighter who fell on the night of Boston's Great Fire of 1872. He was one of several firefighters lost that night. [read more]


An account of the fire by General William L. Burt: Boston's Postmaster General William L. Burt had a controversial involvement in the events of Boston Great Fire of 1872. He strongly advocated using gunpowder to demolish buildings in advance of the fire. Boston's Fire Chief John Damrell objected knowing the airborne flaming debris of exploding buildings would spread the reach of the fire even further. In this memoir written after the fire Burt defends the use of gunpowder declaring that it was effective and justified. [read more]


From the diary of Sarah G. Putnam: These entries from the diary of Boston painter Sarah Putnam recounting what she saw on the night Bostons Gret Fire and exporing the burnt district the day after. [read more]


A letter by Edward Parks to Rev. Greene: Edward Parks writes this correspondance to Rev Greene just days after the fire to regretfully inform him that Parks' fundraising efforts in Boston now seem bleak due to the extent of damage to Boston's merchants and commerical property owners thus delaying the founding of Smith College in Northampton. [read more


One Year After Boston's Great Fire of 1872: This article was published in the Boston Morning Journal one year after the Great Fire of 1872. It describes in detail the rapid reconstruction of Boston's mercantile district with descriptions of buildings and their new occupants. Some of these buildings are still part of downtown Boston today. [read more]


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