Brev. Brig. Gen'l
- Feb 14, 2012
- Central Pennsylvania
From a British circular, it's a little eerie that so too were the Gale sisters- British ballerinas performing in Philadelphia, September of 1861 when all four perished. Surrounded by worn flames. Hazardous, deadly clothing- with crinolines leading the charge to the morgue, were clamorously denounced internationally.
While war spawned tragic headlines from far off battles, victims of another war literally leaped from the famous Continental Hotel in Philadelphia- in flames. We have other threads on the Crinoline Wars, it's not exactly a one thread topic. This horrendous tragedy was compounded by tights worn under dancers crinoline- topped with gauze.
1865 image, a Russian ballet dancer, wearing the crinoline-extra-wide tutu of the day, tights and gauze.
Frank Leslie's editorials were only one ( strong ) voice lifted against fashion- and frequently those making vast sums from promoting fashion trends. Did not post here but linking other threads.
Ruth, Zela, Hannah and Addie Gale would never embark on a journey home- three others died in the same, awful fashion- you should forgive the morbid pun.
September 14th, 1861. What an awful night. While calm handling saved all 1,500 ticket holders to Shakespeare's " Tempest ", a ballet performance that night, seven young women died. Headlines screamed of ' Blazing Ballerinas " and were accurate. Most shockingly, four were sisters, a very famous family of athletes- performers from England. The Gale sisters were so, so young and none would ever be older than 23.
Two girls leaped from windows- one was amazingly caught, another fell, horribly wounded beyond her burns.
Frank Leslie's did not have to be dramatic, recreating the scene- carpenter and forever hero Thomas is portrayed in the midst, not losing his head- as did not quite a few others.
Given the mass victims we see in history, in theatre fires, this one was remarkable for people who stayed calm, lent aid, took charge and averted more death. This was noted at the time- but the victims mourned by an entire city. The Gale sisters, Anna McBride, Mrs. Herman and Miss Phillips were unknown and foreign- and taken to a city's heart as they were buried so far from home.
Somewhere exists images of the Gales- they were quite famous and this a famous theatre ( cannon once were dispatched to make an end of a rampaging elephant, when an unsuccessful circus had been booked ). ' Performing ' families were a ' thing ', like another, found on NYPL.
And crinoline died a natural fashion death, like beaver hats and fur muffs.