Member Biography

Frank R Brunner 

Sessions Office Position District Party
1885-1886       11 Democrat
1887-1888       11 Democrat



01/24/1835 - 01/13/1908

Doctor Frank R. Brunner (D11) Berks County 1884-1888

Early Life: 

Doctor Frank R. Brunner born January 24, 1835, Greshville, Berks County, Pennsylvania; son of Samuel and Mariah (Reigner), attended district schools; Boyertown Select School, Union Seminary of New Berlin, Union County, shoemaking; teacher; Jefferson Medical School of Philadelphia (1861) graduated, practitioner of medicine and surgery; Berks County School Board, secretary, 18 years; newspaper correspondent, contributor, medical journals; married Hinrietta Boyer, 1861; elected, Democrat, Pennsylvania State Senate, 1884-1888; died, January 13, 1908, one of Rhoads Opera House 170 Fire Victims, interment, Fairview Cemetery, Boyertown, Berks County, Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Politics:

Elected, Democrat, Pennsylvania State Senate, 11th district, Berks County1884-1888; member, Accounts, Agriculture, Centennial Affairs, Education and Municipal Affairs Committees.


Boyertown Opera House Fire.
The Rhoads Opera House, located in Boyertown, Pennsylvania, caught fire on January 13, 1908 during a church-sponsored stage play. The fire started when a kerosene lamp was knocked over, lighting gasoline from a stereoscopic machine. The stage and auditorium were located on the 2nd floor and all auxiliary exits were either unmarked or locked. One fire escape was available but unable to be accessed through a locked window above a three-foot sill. 170 people perished when the exit was crowded against to escape the fire. Entire families were wiped out.
The backstage exit was not locked; the windows to the fire escapes were not locked. The only locked door was one of the swinging doors at the main entrance, which was bolted to control people entering. An usher, at the rear of the room, testified at the Coroner's Inquest that upon seeing flames on the stage, he immediately went to that door and unbolted it. As the people were trying to escape, there were no locked doors preventing exit. There was simply not enough time or enough exits to accommodate the large crowd.

The incident spurred the Pennsylvania legislature into passing new legislative standards for doors, landings, lighting, curtains, fire extinguishers, aisles, marked exits, and doors. All doors were required to open outward and remain unlocked. Pennsylvania Governor Edwin Stuart signed Pennsylvania's first fire law on May 3, 1909.
The opera house, has now been renovated into apartments and stores. (i)


Smull’s Legislative Hand Book, (1888) Cochran T.B., Biographical Sketches of Senators, pages 642, 670 and 676-678.