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Nikki Stoddard Schofield, Bowen-Merrill fire collection

 Collection — Folder: S2304
Identifier: S2304

Scope and Contents

This collection contains several items compiled by Nikki Stoddard Schofield regarding the March 17, 1890 Bowen-Merrill Company stationery and bookstore fire in Indianapolis, Indiana, including two essays from the Crown Hill Cemetery archives. The first essay, "'Horror of Horror': The Bowen-Merrill Fire," is six-page narrative about the fire and has Howard Stahl's signature on the last page (undated.) The second essay, "The Bowen-Merrill Fire," lists the ten firemen killed in the fire that are buried at Crown Hill and the location of their graves, gives a narrative of the events during the fire, notes the names of the other men killed in the fire and buried elsewhere, and notes the fourteen men who were injured but survived the fire and their death dates and grave location if buried at Crown Hill (undated.)

This collection also includes photocopies of two letters written by Harry S. New from Bethesda, Maryland and sent to Charles A. Suffrins in Indianapolis. The May 4, 1929 letter was written in response to a letter from Suffrins that informed New about the death of George Diller, one of the firemen who battled the 1890 blaze. The October 6, 1930 letter was in response to Suffrins letter regarding New's "old friends" William Tallentine and Straud [Strawder] Glazier, two of the firemen who fought the Bowen-Merrill fire, being decorated by the Indianapolis mayor for their service. The two letters were copied by Schofield from the originals found in the Rare Books and Manuscripts collection the Charles A. Suffrins correspondence (S1273).


  • 1929-1930, undated

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Legal title, copyright, and literary rights resides with the creators of the documents or their legal heirs and assigns. All requests to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted to Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Historical Note

The Bowen-Merrill Company stationery and bookstore was located at 16-18 West Washington Street in Indianapolis, Indiana. On March 17, 1890, around 3:00 p.m., employees noticed smoke coming from the iron gratings in the sidewalk in front of the store and notified the fire department. Though initially thought to be a smoldering fire confined to the basement and under control, due to flammable materials in the building, firefighters stayed on the scene. At 5:00 p.m. flames were detected coming from the windows of the upper floors. The flames were quickly doused and again believed to be under control, but the building’s cast-iron facade had been hiding a growing fire from the view of the firemen stationed on the street and on the roofs of neighboring buildings. Without warning, the woodframed roof and floors collapsed, dropping more than 20 firefighters into the flames. Rescue and cleanup activities over the next 20 hours uncovered the bodies of 12 firemen. More than a dozen others were seriously hurt and one man later died of his injuries. The Bowen-Merrill fire is the deadliest for firefighters in Indianapolis history.


Information found within collection.

Dalton, William D. "Fires." The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis, edited by David J. Bodenhamer and Robert G. Barrows, 567-571. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.

Indiana Histrical Bureau. "Indianapolis Fire Department / Bowen-Merrill Fire." State Historical Markers: Find a Marker. Accessed April 6, 2022.


0.01 Cubic Feet (1 folder)

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged by subject.

Custodial History

This collection was received by Rare Books and Manuscripts as a donation from Nikki Stoddard Schofield on 2017/05/05.


No further additions are expected.

Existence and Location of Originals

Original letters of copies in this collection may be found in the following collection:

S1273: Charles A. Suffrins correspondence

Processing Information

Collection processing completed 2022/04/06 by Laura Eliason. EAD finding aid created 2022/04/06 by Laura Eliason.
Nikki Stoddard Schofield, Bowen-Merrill fire collection
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Repository

140 North Senate Avenue
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204 U.S.A.