LOVELY LADY AND A TRAIN WRECK IN ASHTABULA, OHIO

lovelyladThis cabinet card features a portrait of a very lovely lady posing in the studio of  Blakeslee & Moore in Ashtabula, Ohio.  The town of Ashtabula was the site of a major train wreck in 1876 and one of the firemen who responded to the resulting blaze was Frederick W. Blakeslee. Besides being a firefighter, he was also a photographer and he used his camera to record the aftermath of the disaster. The image he made has become legendary in the history of disasters and the history of Ashtabula. He sold thousands of prints of the scene. Fred W. Blakeslee  was in business in Ashtabula from 1870 to 1897. Blakeslee was born in Ohio in 1843. He was a lifelong resident of Ashtabula. At the end of the civil war he opened a photography studio in the town. Beginning the 1870’s he was joined by Frank C Moore (1851-1907). For a time, they operated a branch in Geneva, Ohio. Moore began his photography career as an apprentice in Ashtabula and then ran his own studio in Lima, Ohio between 1870 and 1875. Moore’s partnership with Blakeslee ended in 1894. Blakeslee’s son Frederick K Blakeslee (1880-?) also became a photographer in Ashtabula. The story of the “Ashtabula Train Disaster” is immensely tragic. The accident is thought to have been caused mainly by the collapse of a bridge owned by the Lake Shore and Michigan Railroad. The bridge was a joint creation by Charles Collins (engineer) and Amasa Stone (architect and designer). On a winter night in 1876, a train carrying 159 passengers and crew crossed over the bridge and when the first engine just passed the far side of the bridge, the bridge began to collapse and the rest of the train fell into the ravine. Ninety-two people were killed in the accident and most died from fires that were started from the train car’s oil lamps and stoves. The passengers were trapped in the burning crushed cars. The accident happened after a heavy snow storm and the rescuers were ill prepared and not equipped to help the poor victims of the train wreck. Charles Collins testified about the bridge design to an investigative jury and after finishing his tearful testimony, went home and shot himself in the head. Amasa Stone was held partially responsible for the accident, but he refused to accept blame. He theorized that the train jumped its tracks and destroyed the bridge. However, it is probable that he suffered severely from the incident, and about seven years later, he shot himself in the heart.

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Wow heavy story

  2. What a STORY! Excellent find!


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