Cocoanut Grove Nightclub Fire Collection, 1939-2002 | Boston Public Library Archival and Manuscript Finding Aid Database
This collection consists of material gathered by retired firefighter Charles Kenney, Jr. from 1990-2002 (bulk 1991-1992) in preparation for a book on the Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire of 1942. The book (unpublished) was to focus on the effect of the fire on the Boston Fire Department. In particular, the collection documents the fire’s origin, Kenney’s theory that the refrigerant gas methyl chloride was the original accelerant for the fire, the experiences of the survivors, the work performed at the fire by the responding Engine and Ladder companies, and the investigation into the fire by both the Boston Fire Department (Reilly Commission) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Between 1991 and 1992, Kenney interviewed 29 people including survivors, firefighters, and medical personnel about their experiences with the fire. The interviews provide eyewitness accounts of the fire and contain observations by Kenney. Among the subjects discussed are the methyl chloride theory, possible sources of responsibility for the cause of the fire as well as Cocoanut Grove employees and the role they played in helping patrons exit the nightclub. Some of the topics documented in Kenney’s research material are the fire from a professional prospective, the actions of the Boston Fire Department in response to the fire, and casualties.
The collection contains transcripts and cassette tapes of interviews of survivors and firefighters, research notes, newspaper and magazine clippings, obituaries, maps and diagrams of the club, and copies of official documents such as Boston Fire Department running cards and reports, and the Reilly Commission hearing transcript. The report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, lists of victims, injured persons, and firefighters who were at the scene, exhibits, and correspondence are also included.