Tag Archives: fight

Weapon Safety is Nothing New

As a reminder that accidents with stage weapons are nothing new, I have two brief stories of mishaps from over a century ago. The first comes from The San Francisco Call, September 27, 1896:

A few weeks ago a tragic accident happened in London. The actors had to fight a duel on the mimic stage. They did not rehearse with swords, but on the night of the first performance the property-man gave them their weapons, which they used so realistically that the delighted audience wanted to give a recall. Rounds of applause came again and again, but the man who had fallen did not get up and bow before the footlights as dead actors are in the habit of doing. He was dead in real earnest, killed by a thrust of his comrade’s sword. When the horrible truth dawned upon his comrades the curtain was lowered and the audience dismissed from the play, which had ended in an unrehearsed tragedy. The next day the papers were full of lamentations over the sad event and blame was given to the management for the carelessness which had permitted sharp swords to be used without first testing them thoroughly at rehearsal.

No training, no rehearsal, weapons that should have been dulled… these are the exact same reasons accidents happen today.  This isn’t new technology or unknown knowledge; we know, and have known for well over a hundred years how to prevent accidents from stage combat weapons, yet they still happen.

The second comes from The New York Times, September 12, 1907:

Maz Davis, 30 years old, of 434 West Thirty-eight Street, a property man for David Belasco, was injured on the right hand last night by the accidental discharge of a stage gun, the “wad” of which pierced his hand, while the powder burned both his hands and face. Just before a rehearsal of the “Girl of the Golden West,” he was examining a revolver when he accidentally pulled the trigger. He was taken to the Roosevelt Hospital.

Ouch. Remember, stage guns are still dangerous, even if they are only “blank-firing”, “powder” or “toy cap” guns.

A Prop-er Sword Fight

The following strange tale comes from Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1893.

A Madman in a Theater

Terrible Tragedy Averted in a Salt Lake Playhouse

Special to the Record-Union. Salt Lake, Dec. 22.

By the presence of mind and prompt action on the part of several members of a theater company, a terrible tragedy was averted at the Salt Lake Theater this evening. About 9 o’clock Oscar B. Young, a crazy son of the Mormon prophet Brigham Young, burst open the door of the theater box office. Before the astonished Treasurer and Manager could collect themselves, Young strode into the theater, around to the stage door and dashed across the stage. The curtain was down and the actors were dressing for the second act. In the first dressing-room he broke and stood frothing in passion before Harry Connor. After trying to lock the door he demanded the key of Connor. “I’ll teach yon to go to New York and talk about Danites,” he said.

With a torrent of oaths the madman pressed upon Connor. Instantly recognizing that he was in the presence of a madman, Connor gave a quick leap out of tho door. The ladies in the adjoining rooms screamed.

At this moment propertyman Antone Mazzanovich, a match in strength and size for Young, leaped upon the mad man from behind and pinioned him. Just then a boy was passing with two swords used in the play. With a strength born of madness, Young released himself, grabbed a sword, and commenced plunging at those around him. Again the massive propertyman caught him from behind, and at the same time catching the hilt of the sword. Those ladies who had not fainted rushed to the room. “Don’t lynch me, don’t lynch me,” cried Young. He was forced into the street, a policeman called, and still raving, he was carried to the station.

Young has long been regarded as daft, and of late has shown dangerous tendencies. Those who know the man regard the lucky overcome in the stage encounter as little short of a miracle.

Young’s present spell is said to be the result of financial troubles. He had no acquaintance with anyone of the theater company.

This story originally appeared in the Record-Union, December 23, 1893. Sacramento, CA. pg 1