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.

One thought on “Weapon Safety is Nothing New”

  1. “Fantastic performance! Too bad we could only do it once!”

    Frivolity aside, once again Eric, thank you for the reminders- both that safety never takes a holiday, and that ‘everything old is new again.’

    When working with actors that are new to handling theatrical blank revolvers, I make the very strong point that the ‘blast’ is actually emitting out the left and right sides at the front of the cylinder (as opposed to going down the barrel like a live gun, or some of the newer models that are intended for film use). I admonish the player to be very cognizant of their hand placement- often I get a look of, “Ohhhhhhhh” as realization hits home. Powder burns and accidental deafness can be easily avoided with some common sense, reinforced by an expert voice.

    Congratulations on your move and continued success. Looking forward to your publication date!

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