“Crash at Crush” - The Texas Collection Spring Lecture to Recount Story of Historic Train Crash, Deadly Publicity Stunt

Crash at Crush Texas Collection Lecture
Feb. 18, 2020

Media Contact: Lori Fogleman, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-710-6275
Libraries Contact: Eric Ames, Baylor Libraries, 254-710-1576
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WACO, Texas (Feb. 18, 2020) – On Sept. 15, 1896, a staged head-on collision between two locomotives – known as the “Crash at Crush” – had both disastrous and unexpected consequences, as injuries, deaths and professional trajectories were impacted by the publicity stunt.

To explore the crash and its aftereffects, The Texas Collection at Baylor University will host Mike Cox, author of the recently released book “Train Crash at Crush, Texas: America’s Deadliest Publicity Stunt,” for a lecture and book signing from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, at the Mayborn Museum Theater, 1300 S. University Parks Drive.

The lecture, which is free and open to the public, will examine the publicity stunt put on by William George Crush that occurred three miles south of West, Texas, in Crush, a made-up city for the day of the collision. While the public was assured that the trains’ boilers would not burst upon impact, unfortunately that is exactly what happened. After the collision, shrapnel and other flying debris were sent into the crowd of 40,000 spectators, killing two and injuring many more.

The “golden age” of railway expansion in Texas started in the 1870s. Nearing the turn of the century, railroads were still somewhat novel in Texas and any railroad event was sure to be an attention-getter, said Bradley Linda, an academic consultant with Baylor Libraries’ academic technology and learning spaces and a railroader in his spare time.

“W.G. Crush capitalized on the curiosity of the public for such events, and while the event propelled the Crush and the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railway to fame, the unfortunate human toll was a reminder that we should have a healthy respect for the iron horse,” Linda said.

The Texas Collection holds clear copies of the original, 124-year-old photographs of the collision taken by Jarvis Deane, who ran a Waco photography studio with his brother on Austin Avenue in the late 19th century. Deane did not walk away unscathed from the collision, however, losing an eye from being struck by a flying piece of scrap iron.

John Oscar Birgen Johnson’s copies of the Deane photographs were obtained by The Texas Collection in in the 1980s and were of much higher quality than the Fred Gildersleeve copies originally held in Baylor’s collection.

“Johnson’s copies are helping us understand more about the accident itself,” said Geoff Hunt, audio and visual curator of The Texas Collection, about the importance of having clear copies of the original photos. “They are a huge contribution and a valuable addition to The Texas Collection.”

While it has been more than a century since “Crash at Crush” took place, Amie Oliver, assistant librarian and associate director of The Texas Collection, said that many library researchers still inquire about this intriguing part of McLennan County history.

“We hope the lecture dispels some of the myths and misinformation surrounding the event and that attendees will learn the whole story from Mike Cox, who wrote the first book about the Crash at Crush,” she said.

Refreshments as well as an opportunity to purchase the book will follow the lecture. For more information about the event, please visit www.baylor.edu/lib/events.

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Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 18,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

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