Articles about the Arson of the First Synagogue

A detailed post by me about the arson can be read here.  Below are the newspaper articles I found that were published at the time of the fire.

2/4/1911, The Daily Messenger, p.1

2/4/1911, The Daily Messenger, p.1

Fire Causes Talk
Fire Insurance Companies Have Cancelled Several Policies Here
It is Thought Fire-Bugs Are At Work–Famalies (sic) Are Uneasy

The fires which have occurred in Homestead within the past few weeks, for which there has been no satisfactory explanation, have caused a great deal of talk and during the general quietude, especially in the Second ward1 they have been the chief subject of discussion. There have been no less than six consecutive fires, for which no adequate explanation has been given as to their origin and in some Chief Bryce states openly that there is no other explanation except than that they were incendiary.

Owing to the fact that in at least one of these fires in the Second ward people living in the second floor of the building had narrow escapes, some alarm has been caused and other occupants of such places of moving out.

It is also a fact that several fire insurance policies have been cancelled recently as the fire insurance companies consider the risk too great to carry. A condition such as this has never been witness in Homestead before.

This newspaper article, ironically under the larger heading, “Things Brightening Up in Homestead” (a comment on the other leadings stories about the steel mill returning to work), announces the fire that heavily damaged the first synagogue building.  For context, read the article below it from the week prior about the rash of arsons that had been affecting Homestead all that winter.

2/11/1911, The Daily Messenger, p.1

2/11/1911, The Daily Messenger, p.1

Fire Badly Gutted the Interior of the Synagauge (sic)


Members of the Congregation Believe the Building Was Set On Fire




Big Difference In the Estimate of the Loss Between Them and Chief Bryce


A fire which is believed to have been of incendiary origin, damaged the Hebrew synagogue on Ammon street to a considerable extent at 3 o’clock this morning. The loss is variously estimated, there being a wide difference between the amount placed by members of the congregation and Fire Chief C.K. Bryce. According to a promient (sic) member of the congregation the loss is estimated at $7,000 with $3,000 insurance, while Chief Bryce States the loss is not over $1,000. Chief Bryce states that after investigating the building this morning he could not the last ideas as to how the building caught fire, but there is another conflict of opinion between the members of the congregation and the chief. Members stated this morning that the fire was started on the outside of the building and was undoubtedly the work of some enemy of the Jews, while the chief is equally firm in his opinion that the fire caught on the inside of the building. The belief of the members, who expressed an opinion on this phase of the subject, appears to be corroborated by the fact that the fire caused a bright light, which illuminated Eighth avenue above McClure street.

The church has recently been renovated and decorated at a cost of $1,000 and the total value of the building and furnishings is estimated by the congregation at $12,000. The fire ate into the lower floor and burned six of the floor hoists and creeping to the ceiling caught between the ceiling and the roof, but Chief Bryce states that none of the rafters of the ceiling were burned.

Considerable of the carpet was destroyed and the entire interior badly damaged by smoke and water so that the interior will have to be practically done over again, which shows that the estimate of the members is much nearer the right figure than that of the fire chief. Owing to the fire catching between the ceiling and the roof it was somewhat difficult to handle.

The Pittsburgh Post, 2/12/1911

The Pittsburgh Post, 2/12/1911 (link)

Believe Incendiaries Responsible for Fire in Homestead Synagogue.

Fire early yesterday morning did $7,000 damage to the synagogue of Rodeph Shalom congregation, at 540 Ammon street, Homestead. The building was almost destroyed. The fire, which was discovered in the rear of the synagogue, may cause a town scandal, as members of the congregation were emphatic in their opinions yesterday that the building was ignited.

The Pittsburgh Gazette Times, 2/12/1911

The Pittsburgh Gazette Times, 2/12/1911 (link)

Homestead Synagogue Burns.

Fire discovered in an outbuilding at the Rodeph Shalom Synagogue in Ammon street, Homestead, early yesterday morning almost totally destroyed the structure. The church was built 12 years ago and was repaired recently at a large cost. The police are conducting an inquiry to determine the origin of the fire.

2/13/1911, The Daily Messenger, p.1

2/13/1911, The Daily Messenger, p.1

Jewish Mass Meeting Will Be Held Tonight


They Will Meet in the Club Rooms on Dickson Stree (sic) and Will Offer a Reward for the Arrest and Conviction of the Incendiary who Set Fire to the Synagogue—Further Investigation Substantiates Their Claim


A mass meeting of the Hebrews of Homestead, whether or not they belong to the congregation of the Jewish church, will be held tonight in the Hebrew club rooms on Dickson street for the purpose of offering a reward for the arrest and conviction of the incendiary who set fire to the synagogue on Saturday morning. The Hebrews have already determined to offer such a reward but at the meeting tonight the amount will be determined and it is stated that it will not be less than $500 and may reach $1,000. This fire has stirred up the Jewish people of Homestead by reason of the many remarks and insinuations that have been made in regard to the matter and they are determined to run down the miscreant if possible.

Yesterday a committee composed of Joseph Lasdusky, Samuel Morris and I. Grossman, accompanied by Chief C.K. Bryce of the fire department, visited the church to make a further investigation. It was ascertained that the fire was started between the ceiling of the basement and the first floor and it was discovered that inflammable material could have easily been inserted into the place where the fire started. Chief Bryce stated after a full investigation that the fire was likely started from the outside in this manner.

On Saturday evening Chief of Police Thomas Pugh found a large quantity of excelsior and waste paper saturated with oil and a candle, which had evidently been lighted and placed against the material where it would be sure to do its work. The material was taken to the office of Justice J. Clyde Miller.

It was stated this morning that the authorities have accumulated considerable evidence and that an arrest may be made before many days. In regard to the damage incurred it seems after a further investigation that the amount will reach from $3,000 to $3,500 and the amount of insurance is $2,500.

2/14/1911, The Daily Messenger, p.1

2/14/1911, The Daily Messenger, p.1

Five Hundred Dollars Reward


The Hebrews In Mass Meeting Quickly Donate the Fund




Jewish People Eager to Apprehend the Fire Bugs Who Have Been Operating Here


At the mass meeting of the Hebrew citizens held last night in the Hebrew club rooms on Dickson street a reward of $500 was offered for the arrest of the firebugs who set fire to the Rodef Sholem synagogue which was destroyed by fire last Saturday morning. The club room was crowded and prominent business men were present and spoke in favor of offering a reward for protection of the residents as all agreed that that if the fire bugs were allowed to run at large no citizen in the town or church was safe. Instead of having the congregation pay the amount, a subscription list was passed around and in a few minutes $500 was raised and the amount placed with the Homestead Savings Bank & Trust company.

The committee in charge of the reward is composed of Joseph Lasdusky, I. Grossman and Harry Glick. The following committee was appointed to secure a temporary meeting place: Henry Glick, H. Moskowitz and W.D. Weit (sic?). Owing to the number of incendiary fires during the past few weeks it is thought council will get busy and offer a reward for the arrest and conviction of the fire bugs who have given this town a black eye all over the county.

It is hoped the party or parties responsible for these fires will be apprehended and punished for the acts which have resulted in a number of women and children narrowly escaping being burned to death.

19110214 The Daily Msgr unjust editorial p. 4

2/14/1911, The Daily Messenger, p.4

An Unjust Judgement

The fire which damaged and came so near destroying the Hebrew synagogue on Ammon street last Saturday morning was a very unfortunate affair, not only on account of the injury done to the church but for the reason that it has caused some considerable talk, as it happened so soon after the several mysterious fires which preceded it. It has been the disposition of the gentiles to assume either in earnest or in a jesting manner that all fires in Jewish vicinity are incendiary, but the insinuation that the synagogue might have been set on fire by any person of that race is foolish in the extreme. They had just repaired the church at about $1,000 expense and the building was not nearly insured to an amount to cover the total loss and the circumstance seem all to indicate that the fire was the work rather of some enemy of the Jewish race.

Indeed, even should a Hebrew prove an incendiary in any case he is not alone in that respect. There have been several mysterious fires in gentile sections of Homestead within the past year, in which there is no other theory possible than that the buildings were purposely set on fire. It has been impossible to trace the perpetrators of the offense but strong suspicion has fallen on several of the gentiles in the past. And in the case of the synagogue fire there is also a strong suspicion as to the perpetrator of the crime and the man is a Gentile at that.

Nor should all the race of Abraham be judged by the act of one or two men, any more than the act of one or two men of any other race should be the criterion of judgement of the rest. There are very many good honest men of the Hebrew race in Homestead and it is not right to put all the members of any race in one class.

The Pittsburgh Post, 2/14/1911

The Pittsburgh Post, 2/14/1911 (link)

Reward for Firebug.

At a meeting last evening of the Rodolf Shalom congregation, of Homestead, whose edifice was destroyed by fire last Saturday, a reward of $500 was offered by the congregation for the apprehension of the person or persons responsible for the fire. The members met a the Hebrew club.

2/14/1911: Short Messages

2/14/1911: Short Messages

Short Messages

You hear it talked of on the street,
You also hear it in the store;
‘Tis told by every one you meet,
You’ve often hear (sic) such things before

And thus the news is spread abroad,
A reputation bandied round;
A man is called a thief or fraud,
The author of it’s never fond.

While truth will loiter on the way,
A lie will speed as if on wings;
It never tarries night or day,
And often it much sorrow brings.


Everybody is agogue (sic) over the fire at the synagogue.

2/15/1911, The Daily Messenger, p.4

2/15/1911, The Daily Messenger, p.4

The $500 Reward.

The $500 reward offered by the Hebrew people of Homestead for the arrest and conviction of the firebug who set fire to the synagogue last Saturday morning should stimulate officers to make a strenuous attempt to land the miscreant. Seldom have the Jewish people been so earnest in vindicating themselves from an unjust aspersion as on this occasion, and it is to be hoped they will be able to unearth the mystery of this and other fires and bring to light this criminal of the worst type.

That there is a firebug here goes without question. it will be recalled that the property of William Martin was set on fire several times two or three years ago and the mystery of those fires has never been explained.2 Burning buildings is a crime difficult to detect and punish, but it is hoped that this reward will bring some results. It would be a public benefaction.

Short Messages, 2/15/1911

Short Messages, 2/15/1911

Short Messages

If we could catch that firebug now,
We would not do a thing to him,
And if we catch him, I allow,
His chances would be very slim.

I think one thing, if I could get
Him in my clutches I’d not fail,
At least I’d try enough, you bet,
To land him in the country jail.

For he who sets the town on fire,
Is certainly too warm for me,
And it’s enough to raise the ire
When burning property you see.

For those firebugs we have no use,
Their presence here we can’t afford;
So turn the sly detective loose
And let him earn that big reward.


Now get to work, you Sherlock Holmes and get that reward.


Catch the firebug and get that $500 reward offered by the Homestead Hebrews.

2/18/1922, The Daily Messenger, p. 1

2/18/1911, The Daily Messenger, p. 1

Rascals Among Every Race

The Jewish Criterion, an official organ of the Hebrew people, comments favorably on the editorial in The Daily Messenger of a few days ago and very appropriately remarks that the Hebrew people as a class should not be judged by a few rascals. This is true and should be recalled by Gentiles, as wel (sic) as Jews, for there are rascals in every race and Gentiles seem to have their share.

(Note:  This issue of The Criterion does not surive. Boooo!)

  1. the ward where most of the Jewish community resided  

  2. Odd that they aren’t instead pointing to the six recent arsons!  

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