The Terrible Conflagration at Ninth and Washington Streets, Philadelphia


This hand-colored lithograph from 1865 is a print showing the scene at the “disastrous conflagration commenced in the storage yard [of Blackburn & Company] at Ninth & Washington Street,” in Philadelphia. The blaze took place during the early morning hours of February 8, 1865. In the foreground of this image, displaced and panicked residents of all ages run down and gather on the snowy streets. The residents are attired in night clothes, with many holding a few possessions. Amongst the commotion, police officers assist residents with possessions (trunks, bedding, and cookware) and direct firefighters toward the blaze and the burnt ruins and surrounding coal yard. The firefighters transport a ladder, hoses, and a hose carriage toward the burning buildings as other volunteers rush to assist a man on fire and comfort a fleeing girl. Others depicted at the scene include two men placing an unconscious man (attired in a nightshirt) on the ground; a man and a woman clutching children to their chests; and a fleeing woman falling and dropping her baby as a dog runs past. In the background, survivors and firefighters carrying victims run down the 1100 block of Ninth Street. That street is lined with burning and destroyed buildings. Across from the coal yard, in the doorway of the “Lager Beer Saloon,” located on the northeast corner of Washington Avenue and Ninth Street, a man (presumably the proprietor, James McManus) holds a bundle and prepares to exit the building. Furniture covers the sidewalk in front of his establishment; the upper floors are visibly on fire. Beneath the image are several lines of text explicating the economic and human cost of the fire, including “loss of property” at “$400, 000,” the “property destroyed” at about “one hundred structures,” and the “List of Dead and Missing. Mrs. Barbara Ware, aged 43 years. Miss Annie Ware, 23 years. Emma Ware, 20 years. Helen Ware, 13 years. Isabella Ware, 4 years. Rebecca Ware. Albert Ware, 17 years. Clayton Ware, 10 years. The Scott Family is missing. [Fireman] Samuel McMenamin Fleetwood.” A barrel of coal oil stored at Blackburn & Company was ignited through arson and started the blaze shortly after 2 o’clock on the morning of February 8, 1865. The fire destroyed the coal yard, which then caused a stream of burning oil to flow down Washington Avenue and Ninth Street, spreading the fire to the neighboring blocks of Federal and Ellsworth Streets. The publisher of this image is identified as John L. Magee. Magee, an artist, engraver, and lithographer, was born in New York circa 1820; he specialized in cartoons and event prints. Active in Philadelphia by 1855, he produced portraits, church views, political cartoons, and event prints, including Civil War imagery.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

J.L. Magee, Philadelphia


Title in Original Language

The terrible conflagration at Ninth and Washington Streets, Philadelphia

Type of Item

Physical Description

1 print : lithograph, hand-colored ; 24 x 38 centimeters


  • Digital catalog number: POS 746

Last updated: June 30, 2016