Though Chicago's building codes required
sprinklers in theaters, in court it was revealed
that almost none of the city's theaters were so
equipped. It is easy a century later to find
fault with city officials but the truth is that
sprinklers and electric installation were in their
infancy in 1903.
An effort to standardize
sizes, materials and methods that could be followed
by plumbers, electricians, building contractors and
municipalities did not begin until 1897 and it would
be another decade before there was wide acceptance
of those standards.
In 1903 the lack of
standardization made installation prohibitively
Automatic sprinklers made faster inroads in
factories than in public buildings because it was
pushed by insurance companies motivated to reduce
claims on properties in which hazardous materials
and processes were the norm.
consumer protection laws and a legal presumption
favoring contributory negligence
(translation: "you panicked, therefore helping to
kill yourself, so don't blame us") reduced
the motivation of underwriters to exert pressure on
owners of other types of properties, such as
theaters, to install automatic sprinklers.