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Woman killed by train 
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Post Re: Woman killed by train
tanner505 wrote:
This is fact, my family history. "William Fitch Tanner" was my great grandfather.
[...]
I have uncovered a lot of information about the accident and the aftermath for my grandfather Lyman D Tanner and his 2 siblings.
The accident made national headlines and there were charity fund raisers for the 3 kids.

Thanks for letting us know, and welcome to this forum. I anticipate that some of the Heinlein researchers here will want to learn more about the information you've found.

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Bill Higgins
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Sat Oct 12, 2013 4:42 pm
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Post Re: Woman killed by train
Outstanding. Simply outstanding. Thank you very much for taking the time to find this discussion, join the board and post this information. If you are not familiar with any of Robert Heinlein's uses of this story - which, I would say, is indeed the genesis for his tales - you can follow the discussion above and/or ask about specifics of where to find them.

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In the end, I found Heinlein is finite. Thus, finite analysis is needed.


Sun Oct 13, 2013 9:40 am
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Post Re: Woman killed by train
I have a newfound interest in the Tanner tragedy of 1 September 1919 at the Hubbard Woods station in Winnetka, Illinois.

In 2013, Bill Mullins found a clipping in the *Kansas City Star* for 3 Sept 1919 about an accident at the Hubbard Woods station in Winnetka, Illinois, and posted it earlier in this thread.

Lyman Tanner, user "Tanner505" here, told us more.

Ann Hagedorn summarizes the incident on pages 335 and 336 of her 2007 book Savage Peace: Hope and Fear in America, 1919

Googling around, I see there's more. The story got a lot of play, especially in the Chicago Daily Tribune. In multiple cities, people raised money to help the Tanner orphans and the family of the railroad flagman, John Miller, who survived but whose leg was amputated. A benefit performance was held in a Chicago theater. More information here.

[URL count limit hit. Continued on next rock]

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Wed Aug 16, 2017 12:12 pm
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Post Re: Woman killed by train
[Regarding the accident that killed William Fitch Tanner and his wife Mary in 1919:]

On this clipping from the Trib's coverage, which pictures the children, we can also see that a Kansas City newspaper was raising funds.

The Kansas City Star raised at least $1339. So perhaps the Star carried not just a story about the Winnetka incident, but a month-long campaign urging readers to donate. I wonder whether more coverage could be found in the Star for the weeks following 1 September 1919.

At least twice, Heinlein told the story of the woman trapped in the path of a train, and the men who refused to save themselves-- and later committed his speeches to print. Once was his 1961 Worldcon Guest of Honor speech, reprinted in Requiem, and once was his 1973 address at Annapolis, "The Pragmatics of Patriotism." (Are there others?) In both accounts, he claimed the incident took place in Kansas City's Swope Park, "about fifty years ago" (circa 1911) and "about sixty years ago" (1913).

Seattle: "My parents got me quickly away from there to keep me from seeing the mangled bodies. So all I really know about it is what I can recall from hearing my father read aloud the account in the Kansas City Star."

Annapolis: Heinlein doesn't exactly claim he was present at the time.

We can build a circumstantial case that the accident really happened, not where Heinlein said it did, not someplace he was near, and not when he was five but when he was twelve-- but that it attracted plenty of attention among newspaper readers in Kansas City. So it's plausible that Heinlein forgot the details, but remembered the essential parts of the story.

We'd have to convince ourselves that Heinlein mis-remembered his age, and that he was confused in thinking that it occurred in his own city, even that he was nearby when it happened.

Is that easier to believe than the alternative, that an incident extremely similar to the Tanner tragedy occurred seven years earlier in Kansas City, but that a record of it has not yet been found?

Postscript: I also found a story from 20 years later about a trust fund that helped the family of John Miller.

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Wed Aug 16, 2017 12:22 pm
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Post Re: Woman killed by train
I figured out where to access archives of the Kansas City Star.

Searching is free and displays snippets. While I don't, at this moment, feel like paying a paywall fee, I can report this:

Searching on "Tanner" in the fall of 1919 reveals that the paper had an item related to William Fitch Tanner's death on 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 15, 17, 19, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, and 28 September, and 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, and 8 October. I limited my search to 15 October. Most of these are reports on the ongoing campaign to raise funds for Tanner's children and the family of John Miller.

So a reader of the Star would have been reminded of the Tanner tragedy nearly every day for weeks. This supports my notion that the incident would have made a deep impression upon residents of Kansas City at the time. And Heinlein recalls hearing his father read aloud about an accident from the newspaper.

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Thu Aug 17, 2017 11:44 am
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Post Re: Woman killed by train
At this point, I feel sure that Heinlein was misremembering the Tanner incident as having taken place in Swope Park. And the lapse is not unique; he also, I believe, conjured up some of the details of having seen a performance by Thurston the magician (as described here). And I'm not surprised that this happened; I'm sure that some of my own memories of elementary school years are wrong on specifics.


Fri Aug 25, 2017 6:26 am
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