“A Great Power Had Swept Over It”

Jacob A. C. Remes

in Disaster Citizenship

Published by University of Illinois Press

Published in print December 2015 | ISBN: 9780252039836
Published online April 2017 | e-ISBN: 9780252097942 | DOI:
“A Great Power Had Swept Over It”

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This chapter examines the debates that arose in Salem, Boston, and Washington over the state's response to the Salem fire. It first recounts the fire and its impact on residents before turning to the relief work directed at saving possessions. It then considers the disorder of desperate survivors and the role of soldiers in efforts to restore order. It also highlights the politics of disaster relief in Salem by discussing the battle between Irish mayor John Hurley and his Yankee opponents. Salem in 1914 was a city with an insecure elite, besieged politically by the likes of Hurley and demographically by the growing industrial workforce. The chapter shows how the Salem fire created a moment when the middle class and elite could unite to aid their social inferiors, even while commanding power in their streets. It also looks at the survivors' development of informal bonds of everyday solidarity.

Keywords: survivors; Salem fire; disorder; order; soldiers; disaster relief; John Hurley; middle class; elite; solidarity

Chapter.  10499 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Movements and Social Change

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