Published two months after the Richmond theater fire of 1811, Benjamin Tanner's work became a well-known image of the conflagration. It depicts patrons leaping from windows as well as those aiding victims who have escaped the building. The roof and upper windows are in flames. The caption emphasizes the loss of many of Richmond's valuable citizens and emphasizes the magnitude of the disaster by stating "upwards of ONE HUNDRED" died. In actuality seventy-two lives were lost.
The picture represents how many Americans perceived the horror of the fire and how it would be remembered. It was first published in Philadelphia, demonstrating how news of the fire spread as newspapers in cities across the nation published articles, dramatic eye-witness accounts, emotional reflections and religious sermons on the event. This visual representation later appeared in other publications and contributed to making the Richmond Theater Fire a nationally-recognized disaster.