September 19, 2011

The Richmond Theater Fire: Early America’s First Great Disaster


   Richmond Theater Fire America's First Great Disaster









The day after Christmas in 1811, the state of Virginia lost its governor and almost one hundred citizens in a devastating nighttime fire that consumed a playhouse and transformed Richmond forever.  The tragic Richmond Theater fire would become its generation’s defining disaster. In “The Richmond Theater Fire,” the first book about the event and its aftermath, Meredith Henne Baker explores a forgotten catastrophe and its wide societal impact. The story comes alive through the accounts of actresses, ministers, slaves, and statesmen. Investigating private letters, diaries, and sermons, among other rare or unpublished documents, Baker reveals a rich and vital untold story from America’s past.




“The Richmond Theater Fire is totally engrossing, a real page turner.”
-Kathryn Fuller-Seeley, author of Celebrate Richmond Theater

“Best study yet of antebellum Richmond…highly recommended.” 
-CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries

“Gracefully written…a solid contribution to early American history.”
-Nancy Isenberg, New York Times Bestselling author of Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr

“Baker has written a smart and responsible popular history…Exhaustively researched and thoughtfully contextualized, this book is a welcome contribution.”  
Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

“Baker…tells the story in vivid detail…an important chronicle of a tragedy that marked — and changed — Richmond.”
The Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Engaging and informative… vivid and dramatic prose allows the reader to smell the smoke in the air and hear the ensuing cries of “Fire!” 
The Journal of Southern Religion 



National Awards


Jules and Frances Landry Award

The Landry is bestowed annually to the most outstanding book on a southern topic published by LSU Press. Honoring innovative works believed to have great impact, the Landry is considered the most prestigious literary award in the field of Southern Studies. Through the years, the winners have represented a wide range of fields and methods of inquiry, but all have made notable contributions to the study of the South. Previous winners include four Pulitzer prize winners and such notable names as John Hope Franklin, Robert Penn Warren, Drew Gilpin Faust, and Lewis P. Simpson.

Phi Alpha Theta National History Honorary Society Best First Book Award

This prestigious and highly competitive honor is given to a debut nonfiction academic publication in the field of history. (LSU’s press release about the award may be read here.)