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Full text of "The great Chicago theater disaster [microform] : the complete story told by the survivors : presenting a vivid picture, both by pen and camera, of one of the greatest fire horrors of modern times"

LIBRARY OF THE 

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS 

AT URBANA-CHAMPAIGN 



977.31 
N31g 




The person charging this material is re- 
sponsible for its return to the library from 
which it was withdrawn on or before the 
Latest Date stamped below. 

Theft, mutilation, and underlining of books 
are reasons for disciplinary action and may 
result in dismissal from the University. 

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS LIBRARY AT URBANA-CHAMPAIGN 



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1932 



JAN 1 2 

HOY 3 994 




1995 



L161 O-1096 



' e\\ , W 

The Great 



Chicago Theater Disaster 

By MARSHALL BVERETT 

The Well Known Lditor and Descriptive Writer 

' 



THE COMPLETE STORY TOLD 
BY THE SURVIVORS 

Presenting a Vivid Picture, both by Pen and Camera, of One of the Greatest 

Fire Horrors of Modern Times. 



Embracing a Flash-Light Sketch of the Holocaust, Detailed Narratives by Participants in the 
Horror, Heroic Work of Rescuers, Reports of the Building Experts as to the Responsibility 
for the Wholesale Slaughter of Women and Children, Memorable Fires of the Fast, etc , etc. 



PROFUSELY ILLUSTRATED WITH VIEWS OF THE SCENE OF 
DEATH BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER THE FIRE 



Copyright 1904, by D. B. McCurdy. 



PUBLISHERS UNION OF AMERICA 



y 

1 .- 




HON. CAKTKK II. IIAKK1SON. 
Mayor of Chicago. 




I.KADIXf! ACTRESS IX THK "BLUEBEARD lit 
MISS BONNIE MAGINN. 



rO.Ml'AXY, 




IX FRONT OF THE THEATER AT THE TIME OF THE FIRE, 
December 30th, 1903, 4 P. M. 






- 




DOOK TO TTIK FIRE ESCAPE THAT COUT.D \OT HE OPEXE!>- 

MAVY DIED HERE. 






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X 



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x. 




BACK PART OF THE THEATER WHILE THE FIRE RAGED. 



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- 

. - 




AUTHOR'S PREFACE. 



At the urgent solicitation of the survivors of the great Iro 
quois Theater disaster, I have undertaken the task of writing 
the complete and connected history of that historic event. The 
work will include stories of remarkable escapes and thrilling 
experiences of survivors. It shall be my aim to get the actual 
facts and all the facts pertaining to the terrible affair. I am 
glad to acknowledge the assistance and co-operation I have 
received, in preparing this memorial volume, from the highest 
officials, and from leading experts and scientists. Thus I have 
been able to obtain data and special information bearing on 
the disaster which can be found only in this book. The task 
of preparing a volume of this character is necessarily a trying 
one, and one of mournful interest, recalling, as it does, the 
peculiarly sad features attendant upon that appalling calamity 
of December 3oth, which make it so different from all other 
great disasters of modern times. 

Chicago, with aching heart and head bowed in grief o'er 

' the graves of its martyred dead, calls forth the pity of tl^e 
whole world in this, her hour of greatest sorrow sorrow 
brought on by a holocaust that has no parallel in the world's 
history a calamity which in less time than it takes to tell 
bereft hundreds of homes of their loved ones and made Chicago 
the most unhappy city on the face of the earth. 

The gay playhouse, decked in Christmas garb, the happy 
audience of women and children breathing the spirit of "Peace 
on earth, good will to men," the stage sparkling with the glare 

* and glitter of a scene from fairyland, the players inspired with 



f 



AUTHOR'S PREFACE. 

die applause that came from the delighted little children, and 
then the dreadful cry of fire, the desperate fight for life in 
the blinding death-trap, the heroic rescues by police and fire- 
men, the snuffing out of 600 precious lives, the loving sympathy 
of the world such in a word is the story of that never-to-be- 
forgotten Wednesday afternoon, December 30, 1903. 

While this book is intended to be a fitting memorial in com- 
memoration of that tragic and historic event, I am firm in the 
conviction that its wide circulation will be instrumental in 
accomplishing much good. It calls special attention to the 
defective and dangerous construction of theaters, public halls, 
opera houses and other public buildings all over the land ; bold 
evasions and reckless disregard of life-saving ordinances by 
managers and owners whereby thousands of precious lives are 
constantly imperiled. It will thus arouse public sentiment and 
emphasize the supreme importance of safeguarding the people 
who congregate in such buildings and prevent the possible loss 
of thousands of lives in future. What has happened in Chicago 
is liable to occur in other cities and towns unless precautionary 
measures are adopted. This book will sound a warning note 
that will be heard and heeded throughout the length and 
breadth of our land. 

In this belief and with the hope that my efforts in writing 
this volume may be of good to all mankind, I respectfully dedi- 
cate the book to the American people. 

MARSHALL EVERETT. 



PUBLISHERS' PREFACE. 

While the embers are still all but glowing of one of the most 
heartrending fires of modern times, its history has been caught 
from the lips of the survivors and embalmed in book form. 
The deep and far-reaching effects of the Iroquois casualty will 
not be eradicated, if much softened, for another generation. 
That this is true must be realized, when it is remembered how 
large a majority of the victims were in the early da*vn or flush 
of life, and their friends and closer kindred can the less readily 
be reconciled to the sad reality than if the loss had fallen 
among the mature, whose end, in the order of nature, would 
not be far away. 

This true story of the Iroquois theater disaster is one of 
the saddest and most terrible narratives of "what has been" 
that the modern book-world has ever had to present, and those 
who have been in the midst of it are sick at heart, thinking of 
"what might have been." The full story is here told by the 
hundreds torn with grief, whose distracted minds and hearts 
cannot keep them from it. The story was so benumbing in 
its horrors to those who actually were caught by the terror 
of the flames and panic that it fell from their lips as if in a 
dream, and it is certain that many who saw the fated women 
and children going to their death and themselves escaped, will 
never be able to tell the tale in any other way; and if the 
victims who were sacrificed in the Iroquois holocaust still 
find interest in such awful tragedies of earth they will surely 
know, as dots all the world to-day, that "some one has blun- 
dered." 



PUBLISHERS' PREFACE. 



If any good whatever shall come from this second great 
fire-blast which has visited the Western Metropolis the one 
so stupendous in the destruction of property, the other so 
fiendish in its withering of human life it will be the arousal 
of the world to a realization of the worthlessness of 'dead 
money as compared with quivering life. 

Even as these words are written, not only are the public 
officials of American cities, but the rulers of the Old World, 
bestirring themselves to avoid such a calamity as has but re- 
cently shocked and saddened the world. Theaters, public build- 
ings and palaces from San Francisco to New York, and from 
London to Tokyo, are being examined and improved in the 
name of human life. Not only has the Old World profoundly 
sympathized with the New, through the twice-stricken city, 
but it has been inspired to undertake a great practical work 
for humanity's sake. 

As this is the only permanent publication to present the 
holocaust to the world, in all its startling completeness, the pub- 
lishers trust, even in the midst of the deep gloom that per- 
vades the country, that they will prove no ineffective agents 
In forwarding this work for the protection of the present and 
future generations. 

It would seem that all that is necessary to bring about a 
world-wide awakening over this deeply vital question is to 
present to the public the true picture of the Iroquois theater 
disaster, as has been done in this volume. 

THE PUBLISHERS, 



TABLE OF CONTENTS, 



CHAPTER I. 

. Page 
THE STORY OF THE FIRE 33 

WAVE OF FLAME GREETS AUDIENCE FEW REALIZE APPALLING 
RESULT DROP WHERE THEY STAND MANY HEROES ARE 
DEVELOPED DEAD PILED IN HEAPS EXITS WERE CHOKED 
WITH BODIES SURVEY SCENE WITH HORROR FIND BUSH- 
ELS OF PURSES. 

CHAPTER II. N^ 

FIRST AID TO THE INJURED AND CARE FOR THE 
DEAD. 51 

GREAT PILES OF CHARRED BODIES FOUND EVERYWHERE IN THE 
THEATER MOAN INSPIRES WORKERS IN MAD EFFORT TO 
SAVE NONE LEFT ALIVE IN GALLERY DEAD AND DYING 
CARRIED INTO NEARBY RESTAURANT BY SCORES TERRIBLE 
REALITY COMES TO AWESTRICKEN CROWD ONE LIFE 
BROUGHT BACK FROM DEATH ONE HUNDRED FEET IN AIR, 
POLICE CARRY INJURED ACROSS ALLEY CROWDS OF ANX- 
IOUS FRIENDS BALCONY AND GALLERY CLEARED FINANCE 
COMMITTEE OF CITY COUNCIL ACTS PROMPTLY. 

CHAPTER III. 

TAKING AWAY AND IDENTIFYING THE DEAD.... 67 
HEARTRENDING SCENES WITNESSED AT THE UNDERTAKING ES- 
TABLISHMENTS FRIENDS AND RELATIVES EAGERLY SEARCH 
FOR LOVED ONES MISSING AFTER THEATER HOLOCAUST. 

CHAPTER IV. 

SCENES OF HORROR AS VIEWED FROM THE 
STAGE 77 

STORY OF How A SMALL BLAZE TERMINATED IN TERRIBLE Loss = 
ORCHESTRA PLAYS IN FACE OF DEATH CLOWN PROVES A 
HERO ALL HOPE LOST FOR GALLERY. 



TABLE OF CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER V. 

EXCITING EXPERIENCES IN THE FIRE 86 

EXPERIENCE OF CHICAGO UNIVERSITY MEN BISHOP BRAVES 
DANGER IN HEROIC WORK OF RESCUE WOMEN AND FOUR 
CHILDREN SUFFER LEARNS CHILDREN HAVE ESCAPED 
FINDS His DAUGHTER MR. FIELD'S NARRATIVE NARROW 
ESCAPES OF YOUNG AND OLD PULLS WOMEN FROM MASS 
ON FLOOR. 

CHAPTER VI. 
HEROES OF THE FIRE 94 

PILES OF DEAD IN THE GALLERY EDDIE FOY'S HEROISM AN 
ELEVATOR BOY HERO Two BALCONY HEROES THE MUSIC- 
AL DIRECTOR'S STORY CHILD SAVES His BROTHER. 

CHAPTER VII. 

THE ORIGIN OF THE FIRE THE ASBESTOS CUR- 
TAIN AND THE LIGHTS 105 

ACCOUNT OF THE FIRE'S ORIGIN WERE ELECTRIC LIGHTS 
TURNED OUT? STATEMENT OF MESSRS. DAVIS AND POWERS, 
MANAGERS OF THE THEATER FIRST RELIABLE STATEMENT 
AS TO WHY THE CURTAIN DID NOT COME DOWN ANOTHER 
STORY AS TO WHY THE CURTAIN DID NOT LOW'ER THE 
THEATER FIREMAN'S NARRATIVE THE STAGE CARPEXTER 
THE CHIEF ELECTRICAL INSPECTOR'S TALE ONE OF THE 
COMEDIANS SPEAKS ABOUT THE LIGHTS. 

CHAPTER VIII. 

SUGGESTIONS OF ARCHITECTS AND OTHER EX- 
PERTS AS TO AVOIDING LIKE CALAMITIES . . . . 1 16 

ROBERT S. LINDSTROM'S SUGGESTIONS THE ARCHITECT SPEAKS 
EXAMINATION BY ARCHITECTURAL EDITOR PROPOSED 
PRECAUTIONS FOR NEW YORK THEATERS. 

CHAPTER IX. 

THIRTY EXITS, YET HUNDREDS PERISH IN 
AWFUL BLAST 123 

HORRIBLE SIGHT MET THE FIREMEN UPON ENTERING AUDITOR- 
IUM THE GALLERY HORROR GIRL'S MIRACULOUS ESCAPE 
AN ACCOUNT FROM THE BOXES INSPECTION AFTER THE 
FIRE A YOUNG HEROINE A NARROW ESCAPE FINDS 
WIFE IN HOSPITAL A MIRACULOUS AND UNCONSCIOUS ES- 
CAPE LITTLE GIRL'S MARVELOUS ESCAPE FOUR GENERA- 
TIONS REPRESENTED DAUGHTERS AND GRANDDAUGHTER* 
GONE. 



TABLE OF CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER X. 

HOW THE NEW YEAR WAS USHERED IN 13? 

MOURNING IN EVERY STREET NOISE SEEMS A SACRILEGE 
MAYOR ASKS FOR SILENCE MERRIMENT is SUBDUED CITY 
OF MOURNING BUSINESS WORLD IN MOURNING. 

CHAPTER XL 

A SABBATH OF WOE 143 

SEVEN TURNER VICTIMS SAD SCENES AT WOLFF HOME PA- 
THETIC SCENE AT CHURCH BURY CHILDREN AND GRAND-, 
CHILDREN FlVE DEAD IN ONE HOUSE ENTIRE FAMILY IS 
BURIED MRS. Fox AND THREE CHILDREN MRS. ARTHUR 
E. HULL AND CHILDREN HERBERT AND AGNES LANGE 
SWEETHEARTS BURIED AT THE SAME TIME FIVE BURIED 
IN ONE GRAVE BOYS AS PALLBEARERS WINNETKA SAD- 
DENED MOTHER AND DAUGHTERS BURIED TOGETHER HOLD 
TRIPLE FUNERAL WOMEN FAINT IN CHURCH LIFE-LONG 
FRIENDS MEET IN DEATH EDWARD AND MARGARET DEE 
Miss E. D. MANN AND NIECE ELLA AND EDITH FRECK- 
ELTON Miss FRANCES LEHMAN. 

CHAPTER XII. 

WHAT OF THE PLAYERS ? 152 

THE CHORUS GIRL THE MUSICAL DIRECTOR THE JOY OF THE 
OPENING SPENDTJIRIFT HABITS GAMBLING, PURE AND 
SIMPLE THE SHOW ON THE ROAD THE ONE-NIGHT 
STAND THE "MR. BLUEBEARD" COMPANY. 

CHAPTER XIII. 
OTHER HOLOCAUSTS 181 

CHAPTER XIV. 

STORIES AND NARRATIVES OF THE HOLOCAUST. 193 
MRS. SCHWEITZLER'S STORY OF THE BURNING OF THE CURTAIN 
ESCAPE OF MOTHER AND Two SMALL CHILDREN EXPRES- 
SION OF THE DEAD ONLY SURVIVOR OF LARGE THEATER 
PARTY ALL His FAMILY GONE A FAMILY PARTY BURNED 
CARRIES DAUGHTER'S BODY HOME IN His ARMS SAD 
ERROR IN IDENTIFICATION THE HANGER OF THE ASBESTOS 
CURTAIN KEEPSAKES OF THE DEAD THE SCENE AT 
THOMPSON'S RESTAURANT LIKE A FIELD OF BATTLE 
WOMEN EAGER TO HELP STEADY STREAM OF BODIES 
CLOTHING TORN TO SHREDS PRAYERS FOR THE DYING 
CHILD SAVED FROM DEATH BY BALLET GIRL PRIEST GIVES 
ABSOLUTION TO DYING FIRE VICTIMS LITTLE BOY THANKS 



TABLE OF CONTENTS. 

GOD FOR CHANGING His LUCK USE PLACER MINER METH- 
ODS DAUGHTER OF A. H. REVELL ESCAPES PHILADELPHIA 
PARTNER IN THEATER HORRIFIED ALL KENOSHA IN 
MOURNING FIVE OF ONE FAMILY DEAD COOPER BROTH- 
ERS DEEPLY MOURNED. 

CHAPTER XV. 
SOCIETY WOMEN AND GIRLS' CLUBS. 214 

Miss CHARLOTTE PLAMONDON'S ACCOUNT OF THE FIRE SCREAMS 
OF TERROR HEARD CHORUS GIRLS ESCAPE, PARTLY CLAD 
FOY TRIES TO PREVENT PANIC ESCAPE OF ANOTHER SO- 
CIETY WOMAN MINNEAPOLIS WOMAN'S STORY OF THE FIRE 
GIRLS' CLUBS SORELY STRICKEN. 

CHAPTER XVI. 

EDDIE FOY*S SWORN TESTIMONY DESCRIBES OTAGE Box CUR- 
TAIN WOULD NOT COME DOWN LIGHT NEAR THE FIRE 
SAW NO EXTINGUISHERS TALKS OF APPARATUS ONLY 
ONE EXIT OPEN WIRE ACROSS AUDITORIUM. 

s CHAPTER XVII. 

^EFFECT OF THE FIRE NEAR AND FAR 230 

NEW YORK THEATERS AND SCHOOLS CRUSADE IN PITTSBURG 
WASHINGTON THEATER OWNERS ARRESTED MASSACHU- 
SETTS THEATERS INVESTIGATED ACTION IN MILWAUKEE 
PRECAUTIONS AT ST. Louis ORDERS AFFECTING OMAHA 
THEATERS EFFECT ABROAD HORROR FELT IN LONDON 
LONDON THEATER PRECAUTIONS PRESENT RULES FOR LON- 
DON THEATERS CURTAIN OFTEN TESTED CLOSE WATCH 
FOR FIRE TREE TELLS OF RUSE FORTUNE FOR SAFETY 
W. C. ZIMMERMAN ON EUROPEAN THEATERS THE EFFECT 
ON GAY PARIS UPHEAVAL OF BERLIN THEATRICAL WORLD 
MR. SHAVER ON BERLIN THEATERS VIENNA RECALLS A 
HORROR OF ITS OWN THE NETHERLANDS AND SCANDINAVIA. 

CHAPTER XVIII. 

SUGGESTIONS FOR SAFE THEATERS 243 

FRANCIS WILSON SAYS "No STEPS" STAIRCASES WITH RAIL- 
INGS PRECAUTIONS ENFORCED TN LONDON WHAT THE 
CHICAGO CITY ENGINEER SAYS OPINION OF A FIREPROOF 
EXPERT ILLUMINATED EXIT SIGNS. 
CHAPTER XIX. 

THE SWORN TESTIMONY OF THE SURVIVORS. . . .251 
THE FIRST WITNESS MARLOWE'S EXPERIENCE MUSICAL DI- 
RECTOR'S SWORN STATEMENT MRS. PETRY'S ESCAPE UP 
AGAINST LOCKED DOORS BLOWN INTO THE ALLEY JUST 



TABLE OF CONTENTS. 

Our IN TIME SPORTING MEN TESTIFY AN ELGIN PHYSI- 
CIAN'S TALE MR. MEN HARD'S DIFFICULT EXIT THE THE- 
ATER ENGINEER A SCHOOL GIRL'S ACCOUNT. 

CHAPTER XX. 

LACK OF FIRE SAFEGUARDS 271 

A UNIVERSITY STUDENT'S STORY A CLERGYMAN'S STORY THE 
FLY MAN'S STORY SCHOOL TEACHER'S THRILLING EXPERI- 
ENCE GLEN VIEW MAN'S EXPERIENCE THE LIGHT OPER- 
ATOR THE JAMMED THEATER GAS EXPLOSION HOURS BE- 
FORE THE FIRE PANIC AMONG THEATER EMPLOYEES AN k 
EX-USHER'S WORDS. 

CHAPTER XXI. 

[RON GATES, DEATH'S ALLY 300 

EVIDENCE OF GEORGE M. DUSENBERRY, SUPERINTENDENT OF THE 
THEATER PURPOSE OF THE Two IRON GATES NEVER ANY 
FIRE DRILLS GATES WERE BATTERED DIDN'T BOTHER 
ABOUT LOCKED DOORS. 

CHAPTER XXII. 

DANCED IN PRESENCE OF DEATH 306 

CHAPTER XXIII. 

JOIN TO AVENGE SLAUGHTER OF INNOCENTS... 31 * . 
ATTORNEY T. D f KNIGHT SPEAKS CORONER'S WORK THROUGH 
REMARKS BY ELIZABETH HALEY. 

CHAPTER XXIV. 

AWFUL PROPHECY FULFILLED 317 

MOURNING AND INDIGNATION NOTHING ELSE so HORRIBLE 
UNFORTUNATE VICTIMS FIRE! FIRE! BEFORE THE DISAS- 
TER THE HOLOCAUST THE STAMPEDE BEGINS ONE OF 
STUPENDOUS HORRORS CURSED AND BLASPHEMED DEAD 
BODIES FOUND SUDDENLY AND FOREVER PARTED THE 
FRENZY OF FRIENDS Too HORRIBLE TO DWELL UPON 
How THE THEATERS SHOULD BE BUILT. 

CHAPTER XXV. 
LIST OF THE DEAD ,...325 

CHAPTER XXVI. 

THE STORY OF THE BURNING OF BALTI- 
MORE ...; ,. 357 



MEMORIAL PRAYER. 

The Rt. Rev. Samuel Fallows wrote this prayer for Chicago 
on its appointed day of mourning. It is a prayer for all 
mourners of all creeds : 

"O God, our Heavenly Father, we pray for an unshaken 
faith in Thy goodness as our hearts are bowed in anguish 
before Thee. 

Come with Thy touch of healing to those who are suffer- 
ing fiery pain. 



Open wide the gates of Paradise to the dying. 

\i 
Comfort with the infinite riches of Thy grace the bereaved 

and mourning ones. 

Forgive and counteract all our sins of omission and com 
mission. 

All this we ask for Thy dear name and mercy's sake 
\rnea '* 



MEMORIAL HYMN. 

Bishop Muldoon selected as the one familiar hymn most 
deeply expressive of the city's mourning, "Lead, Kindly 
Light," which he declared should be the united song of all 
Chicagoans on Memorial Day. 

Lead, kindly Light, amid th' encircling gloom, 

1 Lead Thou me on ; 
The night is dark, and I am far from home, 

Lead Thou me on. 

Keep Thou my feet ; I do not ask to see 
The distant scene ; one step enough for me, 

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou 

Shouldst lead me on ; 
I loved to choose and see my path ; but now < 

Lead Thou me on. 

I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears, 
Pride ruled my will : remember not past years. 

So long Thy power hath blessed me, sure it still 

Will lead me on t 
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till 

The night is gone, 

And with the morn those angel faces smile, 
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile. 



POEM BY A CHILD VICTIM. 

The following poem, written by Walter Bissinger, a ley 
victim of the Iroquois Theater fire, fifteen years old, was com- 
posed two years ago, in honor of the tenth anniversary of the 
youthful poet's uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Max Pottlitzer, 
of Lafayette, Ind., whose son Jack, aged ten, perished with his 
cousin in the terrible disaster : 



HAVE A THOUGHT. 



Have a thought for the days that are long gone by 

To the country of What-has-been, 
And a thought for the ones that unseen lie 
'Neath the mystic veil 
Of the future pale, 
As the years roll out and in. 

II 

Have a thought for the host and hostess here, 

Aunt Emily and Uncle Max, 
And a thought for our friends to our hearts so dear. 
That around us tonight 
In the joyous light 
Of pleasure their souls relax. 



in 

Have a thought for the happy two tonight 

Who have passed their tenth wedded year, 
And the best of wishes, kind and bright, 
Which we impart 
With a loving heart 
That is faithful and sincere. 



VERDICT OF CORONER'S JURY. 

From the testimony presented to us we, the jury, find the 
following were the causes of said fire : 

Grand drapery coming in contact with electric flood or arc 
light, situated on iron platform on the right hand of stage, 
facing the auditorium. 

City laws were not complied with relating to building 
ordinances regulating fire-alarm boxes, fire apparatus, damper 
or flues on and over the stage and fly galleries. 

We also find a distinct violation of ordinance governing 
fireproofing of scenery and all woodwork on or about the stage. 

Asbestos curtain totally destroyed ; wholly inadequate, con- 
sidering the highly inflammable nature of all stage fittings, and 
owing to the fact that the same was hung on wooden bottoms. 

Building ordinances violated inclosing aisles on each side 
of lower boxes and not having any fire apparatus, dampers or 
signs designating exits on balcony. 

LACK OF FIRE APPARATUS. 

Building ordinances violated regulating fire apparatus and 
signs designating exits on dress circle. 

Building ordinances violated regulating fire apparatus and 
signs designating exits on balcony. 

Generally the building is constructed of the best material 
and well planned, with the exception of the top balcony, which 
was built too steep and therefore difficult for people to get out 
of especially in case of an emergency. 

We also note a serious defect in the wide stairs in extreme 
top east entrance leading to ladies' lavatory and gallery prome- 
nade, same being misleading, as many people mistook this for 
a regular exit, and, going as far as they could, were con- 
fronted with a locked door which led to a private stairway, 

A 



B IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

preventing many from escape and causing the loss of fifty to 
sixty lives. 

HOLDING OF DAVIS AND HARRISON. 

We hold Will J. Davis, as president and general manager, 
principally responsible for the foregoing violations in the fail- 
ure to see that the Iroquois theater was properly equipped as 
required by city ordinances, and that his employes were not 
sufficiently instructed and drilled for any and all emergencies; 
and we, the jury, recommend that the said Will J. Davis be 
held to the grand jury until discharged by due course of law. 

We hold Carter H. Harrison, mayor of the city of Chi- 
cago, responsible, as he has shown a lamentable lack of force 
in his efforts to shirk responsibility, evidenced by testimony of 
Building Commissioner George Williams and Fire Marshal 
William H. Musham as heads of departments under the said 
Carter H. Harrison ; following this weak course has given Chi- 
cago inefficient service, which makes such calamities as the 
Iroquois theater horror a menace until the public service is 
purged of incompetents; and we, the jury, recommend that 
the said Carter H. Harrison be held to the grand jury until 
discharged by due course of few. 

RESPONSIBILITY OF WILLIAMS. 

We hold the said George Williams, as building commis- 
sioner, responsible for gross neglect of his duty in allowing the 
Iroquois Theater to open its doors to the public when the said 
theater was incomplete, and did not comply with the require- 
ments of the building ordinances of the city of Chicago; and 
we, the jury, recommend that the said George Williams be held 
to the grand jury until discharged by due process of law. 

We hold Edward Loughlin, as building inspector, re- 
sponsible for gross neglect of duty and glaring incompetency in 
reporting the Iroqu^'s theater "O. K." on a most superficial 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. C 

inspection; and we, the jury, recommend that the said Edward 
Loughlin be held to the grand jury until discharged by due 
course of law. 

We hold William H. Musham, fire marshal, responsible 
for gross neglect of duty in not enforcing the city ordinances 
as they relate to his department, and failure to have his subor- 
dinate, William Sailers, fireman at the Iroquois Theater, report 
the lack of fire apparatus and appliances as required by law; 
and we, the jury, recommend that the said William H. Musham 
be held to the grand jury until discharged by due course of law. 

NEGLECT OF DUTY BY SALLERS. 

We hold the said William Sailers, as fireman of Iroquois 
Theater, for gross neglect of duty in not reporting the lack of 
proper fire apparatus and appliances; and we, the jury, recom- 
mend that the said William Sailers be held to the grand jury 
until discharged by due course of law. 

We hold William McMullen, electric-light operator, for 
gross neglect and carelessness in performance of duty ; and we, 
the jury, recommend that the said William McMullen be held 
to the grand jury until discharged by due process of law. 

We hold James E. Cummings, as stage carpenter and gen- 
eral superintendent of stage, responsible for gross carelessness 
and neglect of duty in not equipping the stage with proper fire 
apparatus and appliances; and we, the jury, recommend that 
the said James E. Cummings be held to the grand jury until 
discharged by due course of law. 

From testimony presented to this jury, same shows a lax- 
ity and carelessness in city officials and their routine in trans- 
acting business, which calls for revision by the mayor and 
city council ; and we, the jury demand immediate action on the 
following; 



D IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

BUILDING DEPARTMENT. 

Should have classified printed lists, to be filled out by an 
inspector, then signed by head of department, before any public 
building can secure amusement license, and record kept thereof 
in duplicate carbon book. 

All fire escapes should have separate passageways to the 
ground, without passing any openings in the walls. 

All scenery and paraphernalia of any kind kept on the 
stage should be absolutely fireproof. 

Asbestos curtains should be reinforced by steel curtains 
and held by steel cables. 

There should be two electric mains entering all places of 
amusement, one from the front, with switchboard in box office, 
controlling entire auditorium and exits, and one on stage, to be 
used for theatrical purposes. 

All city officials and employes should familiarize them- 
selves with city ordinances as they relate to their respective de- 
partments, and pass a rigid and signed examination on same 
before they are given positions. This same rule should be 
made to apply to those holding office. 

FIRE DEPARTMENT. 

All theaters and public places should be supplied with at 
least two city firemen, who shall be under the direction of the 
fire department and paid by the proprietors of said places. 

We recommend that the office and detail work of the fire 
department, as imposed on the fire marshal, be made a separate 
and distinct work from fire fighting, as it is hardly to be ex- 
pected of any fire marshal to give good and efficient service in 
both of these branches. 

Also a police officer in full uniform detailed in and about 
said place at each and every performance. 

In testimony wherof, the said coroner and jury of this in- 
quest have hereunto set their hands the day and year aforesaid. 
L. H. MEYER, Foreman, PETER BYRNES, 

J. A. CUM MINGS, WALTER D. CLINGMAN, 

JOHN E. FINN, GEORGE W. ATKIN. 

JOHN . TRAEGEK, Coroner. 



CHAPTER L 
THE STORY OF THE FIRE. 

No disaster, by flood, volcano, wreck or convulsion of nature 
has in recent times aroused such horror as swept over the civ- 
ilized world when on December 30, 1903, a death-dealing blast 
of flame hurtled through the packed auditorium of the Iroquois 
theater, Chicago, causing the loss of nearly 600 lives of men, 
women and children, and injuries to unknown scores. 

Strong words pale and appear meaningless when used in 
describing the full enormity of this disaster, which has no 
recent parallel save in the outbreaks of nature's irresistible 
forces. There have been greater losses of life by volcanoes, 
earthquakes and floods, but no fire horror of modern times has 
equaled this one, which in a brief half-hour turned a 
beautiful million-dollar theater into an oven piled high with 
corpses, some burned and mutilated and others almost un- 
marked in death. 

Coming, as it did, in the midst of a holiday season, when 
the second greatest city in the United States was reveling in 
the gaiety of Christmas week, this sudden transformation of a 
playhouse filled with a pleasure-seeking throng into an inferno 
filled with shrieking living and mutilated dead, came as a 
thunderbolt from a clear sky. 

It was a typical holiday matinee crowd, composed mostly of 
women and children, with here and there a few men. The 
production was the gorgeous scenic extravaganza "Mr. Blue- 
beard," with which the handsome new theater had been opened 



34 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

" 

not a month before. "Don't fail to have the children see 'Mr. 
Bluebeard,' " was the advertisement spread broadcast through- 
out the city, and the children were there in force when the 
scorching sheet of flame leaped from the stage into the balcony 
and gallery where a thousand were packed. 

The building had been heralded abroad as a "fireproof struc- 
ture," with more than enough exits. Ushers and five men in 
city uniform were in the aisles. All was apparently safety, 
mirth and good cheer. 

Then came the transformation scene ! 

The auditorium and the stage were darkened for the popular 
song "The Pale Moonlight." Eight clashing chorus girls and 
eight stalwart men in showy costume strolled through the 
measures of the piece, bathed in a flood of dazzling light. Up 
in the scenes a stage electrician^vas directing the "spot-light" 
which threw the pale moonlight effect on the stage. 

Suddenly there was a startled cry. Far overhead where 
the "spot" was shooting forth its brilliant ray of concentrated 
light a tiny serpentine tongue of flame crept over the inside of 
the proscenium drape. It was an insignificant thing, yet the 
horrible possibilities it entailed flashed over all in an instant. 
A spark from the light had communicated to the rough edge 
of the heavy cloth drape. Like a flash it stole across the pros- 
cenium and high up into the gridiron above. 

Accustomed as they were to insignificant fire scares and 
trying ordeals that are seldom the lot of those who lead a less 
i strenuous life, the people of the stage hurried silently to the 
task of stamping out the blaze. In the orchestra pit it could 
readily be seen that something was radically wrong, but the 
trained musicians played on. 

Members of the octette cast their eyes above and saw the 
tiny tongue of flame growing into a whirling maelstrom of 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 35 

fire. But it was a sight they had seen before. Surely some- 
thing would happen to exfinguish it. America's newest and 
most modern fireproof playhouse was not going to disappear 
before an insignificant fire in the rigging loft. So they con- 
tinued to sway in sinuous steps to the rhythm of the throbbing 
orchestra. Their presence stilled the nervousness of the vast 
audience, which knew that something was wrong, but had no 
means of realizing what that something was. 

So the gorgeously attired men and dashing, voluptuous 
young women danced on. The throng feasted its eyes on the 
moving scene of life and color, little knowing that for them 
it was the last dance the dance of death ! 

That dance was not the only one in progress. Far above 
the element of death danced from curtain to curtain. The fire 
fiend, red and glowing with exultation, snapping and crackling 
in anticipation of the feast before it, grew beyond all bounds. 
V Glowing embers and blazing sparks crumbs from its table 
began to slower upon the merry dancers, and they fell back 
with blanched faces and trembling limbs. Eddie Foy rushed 
to the front of the stage to reassure the spectators, who now 
realized the peril at hand and rose in their seats struggling 
against the impulse to fly. Others joined the comedian in his 
plea for calmness. 

Suddenly their voices were drowned in a volley of sounds 
like the booming- of great guns. The manila lines by which 
the carloads of scenery in the loft above was suspended gave 
way before ^he fire like so much paper and the great wooden 
batons fell like thunder bolts upon the now deserted stage. 

Still the audience stood, terror bound. 

"Lower the fire curtain!" came a hoarse cry. 

Something shot down over the proscenium, then stopped be- 
fore the great opening was closed, leaving a yawning space of 



36 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER 

many feet beneath. With the dropping of the curtain a door 
in the rear had been opened by the performers, fleeing for their 
lives and battling to escape from the devouring element fast 
hemming them in on every side. The draft thus caused trans- 
formed the stage in one second from a dark, gloomy, smoke 
concealed scene of chaos into a seething volcano. With a 
great puff the mass of flame swept out over the auditorium, a 
withering blast of death. Before it the vast throng broke and 
fled. 

Doors, windows, hallways, fire escapes all were jammed in 
a moment with struggling humanity, fighting for life. Some 
of the doors were jammed almost instantly so that no human 
power could make egress possible. Behind those in front 
pushed the frenzied mass of humanity, Chicago's elect, the 
wives and children of its most prosperous business men and 
the flower of local society, fighting like demons incarnate. 
Purses, wraps, costly furs were cast aside in that mad rush, 
Mothers were torn from their children, husbands from their 
wives. No hold, however strong, could last against that aw- 
ful, indescribable crush. Strong men who sought to the last 
to sustain their feminine companions were swept away lifce 
straws, thrown to the floor and trampled into unconsciousness 
in the twinkling of an eye. Women to whom the safety of 
their children was more than their own lives had their little 
ones torn from them and buried under the mighty sweep of 
humanity, moving onward by intuition rather than through 
exercise of thought to the various exits. They in turn were 
swept on before their wails died on their lips some to safety, 
others to an unspeakably horrible death. 

While some exits were jammed by fallen refugees so as to 
become useless, others refused to open. In the darkness that 
fell upon the doomed theater a struggle ensued such as was 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 37 

never pictured in the mind of Dante in his visions of Inferno. 
With prayers, curses and meaningless shrieks of terror all 
faced their fate like rats in a trap. The darkness was illumined 
by a fearful light that burst from the sea of flame pouring 
out from the proscenium, making Dore's representations of 
Inferno shrink into the commonplace. Like a horizontal vol- 
cano the furnace on the stage belched forth its blast of fire, 
smoke, gas and withering, blighting heat. Like a wave it 
rolled over every portion of the vast house, dancing. 

Dancing! Yes, the pillars of flame danced! To the multi- 
tude swept into eternity before the hurricane of flame and the 
few who were dragged out hideously disfigured and burned 
almost beyond all semblance of human beings it seemed indeed 
a dance of death. 

Withering, crushing, consuming all in its path, forced on as 
though by the power of some mighty blow pipe, impelled by 
the fearful drafts that directed the fiery furnace outward into 
the auditorium instead of upward into the great flues con- 
structed to meet just such an emergency, the sea of fire burned 
itself out. There was little or nothing in the construction of 
the building itself for it to feed upon, and it fell back of its 
own weight to the stage, where it roared and raged lik some 
angry demon. 

And those great flues that supposedly gave the palatial 
Iroquois increased safety ! Barred and grated, battened down 
with heavy timbers they resisted the terrific force of the blast 
itself. There they remained intact the next day. Anxiety 
*to throw open the palace of pleasure to the public before the 
builders had time to complete in detail their Herculean task 
had resulted in converting it into a veritable slaughter pen. 

"Mr. Bluebeard's" chamber of horrors, lightly depicted in 
satire to settings of gold and color, wit and music, had evolved 






38 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

~" 

within a few minutes into an actuality. Chamber of horror* 
indeed grim, silent, smoldering and sending upon high the 
fearful odor of burning flesh. 

Policemen and firemen, hardened to terrible sights, crept 
into the smoldering sepulchre only to turn back sickened by 
the sight that met their eyes. Tears and groans fell from 
them and they were unnerved as they gazed upon the scene^ of 
carnage. Some gave way and were themselves the subjects 
of deep concern. It was a scene to wring tears from the very 
stones. No words can adequately describe it. 

Perhaps the best description of that quarter hour of carnage 
and the sense of horror when the seared, scorched sepulchre 
was entered for the removal of the dead and dying is found in 
the words of the veteran descriptive writer, Mr. Ben H. At well, 
who was present from the beginning to the end of the holo- 
caust, and after visiting the deadly spot in the gray dawn 
of the following day wrote his impressions as follows: 

"Where at 3:15 yesterday beauty and fashion and the 
happy amusement seeker thronged the palatial playhouse to 
fall a few moments later before a deadly blast of smoke and 
flame sweeping over all with irresistible force, the dawn of tlie 
last day of the passing year found confusion, chaos and an all- 
pervading sense of the awful. It seemed to radiate the chill- 
ing, depressing volume from the streaked, grime-covered walls 
and the flame-licked ceilings overhead. Against this fearful 
background the few grim firemen or police, moving silently 
about the ruins, searching for overlooked dead or abandoned 
property, loomed up like fitful ghosts. 

WAVE OF FLAME GREETS AUDIENCE. 

"The progress of their noiseless and ghastly quest proved 
one circumstance survivors are too unsettled to realize. With 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 39 

the opening of the stage dqor to permit the escape of the 
members of the 'Mr. Bluebeard' company and the breaking 
of the skylight above the flue-like scene loft that tops the 
stage, the latter was converted into a furnace through which 
a tremendous draft poured like a blow pipe, driving billows 
of flame into the faces of the terrified audience. With exits 
above the parquet floor simply choked up with the crushed 
bodies of struggling victims, who made the first rush for 
safety, the packed hundreds in balcony and gallery faced fire 
that moved them up in waves. 

"With a swirl that sounded death, the thin bright sheet 
of fire rolled on from stage to rear wall. It fed on the rich box 
curtains, seized upon the sparse veneer of subdued red and 
green decorations spread upon wall, ceiling and balcony fac- 
ings. It licked the fireproof materials below clean and rolled 
on with a roar. Over seat tops and plush rail cushions it 
sped. Then it snuffed out, having practically nothing to feed 
upon save the tangled mass of wood scene frames, batons and 
paint-soaked canvas on the stage. 

FEW REALIZED APPALLING RESULT. 

"There firemen were directing streams of water that poured 
over the premises in great cascades in volume, aggregating 
many tons. A few streams were directed about the body of 
the house, where vagrant tongues of flame s^ill found material 
on which to feed. Silence reigned the silence of death, but 
none realized the appalling story behind the awful calm. 

"The stampede that followed the first alarm, a struggle in 
which most contestants were women and children, fighting 
with the' desperation of death, terminated with the sudden sweep 
of the sea of flames across the body of the house. The awful 
battle ended before the irresistible hand of death, which fell 



40 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 



upon contestants and those behind alike. Somehow those on 
the main floor managed to force their way out. Above, where 
the presence of narrower exits, stairways that precipitated the 
masses of humanity upon each other and the natural air cur- 
rent for the billows of flame to follow, spelled death to the occu- 
pants of the two balconies, the wave of flame, smoke and gas 
smote the multitude, 

DROP WHERE THEY STAND. 

"Dropping where they stood, most of the victims were con- 
sumed beyond recognition. Some who were protected from 
contact with the flames by masses of humanity piled upon 
them escaped death and were dragged out later by rescuers, 
suffering all manner of injury. The majority, however, who 
beheld the indescribably terrifying spectacle of the wave of 
death moving upon them through the air died then and there 
without a moment for preparation. Few survived to tell the 
tale. The blood-curdling cry of mingled prayers and curses, 
of pleas for help and meaningless shrieks of despair died away 
before the roar of the fire and the silence fell that greeted the 
firemen upon their entry. 

"Survivors describe the sftuation as a parallel of the condi* 
tion at Martinique when a wave of gas and fire rolled down 
the mountain side and destroyed everything in its path. Here, 
however, one circumstance was reversed, for the wave of death 
leaped from below and smote its victims, springing from the 
very air beneath them, 

MANY HEROES ARE DEVELOPED. 

"In a few minutes it was all over all but the weeping. In 
those few minutes obscure people had evolved into heroes; 
staid business men drove outt patrons to convert their stores 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 41 

into temporary hospitals and morgues; others converted their 
trucks and delivery wagons into improvised ambulances ; stocks 
of drugs, oils and blankets were showered upon the police to 
aid in relief work and a corps of physicians and surgeons suffi- 
cient to the needs of an army had organized. 

"Rescues little short of miraculous were accomplished and 
life and limb were risked by public servants and citizens with 
no thought of personal consequences. Public sympathy was 

^^f 

thoroughly aroused long before the extent of the horror was 
known and before the sickening report spread throughout the 
city that the greatest holocaust ever known in the history of 
theatricals had fallen upon Chicago. 

"While the streets began to crowd for blocks around with 
weeping and heartbroken persons in mortal terror because of 
knowledge that loved ones had attended the performance, 
patrol wagons, ambulances and open wagons hurried the in- 
jured to hospitals. Before long they were called upon to per- 
form the more grewsome task of removing the dead. In 
wagon loads the latter were carted away. Undertaking estab- 
lishments both north, south and west of the river threw open 
their doors. 

DEAD PILED IN HEAPS. 

^ " Piled in windows in the angle of the stairway where the 
second balcony refugees were brought face to face and in a 
death struggle with the occupants of the first balcony, the dead 
covered a space fifteen or twenty feet square and nearly seven 
feet in depthr All were absolutely safe from the fire itself 
when they met death, having emerged from the theater proper 
into the separate building containing the foyer. In this great 
court there was absolutely nothing to burn and the doors were 
only a few feet away. There the ghastly pile lay, a mute mon- 



! 



42 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

ument to the powers of terror. Above and about towered 
shimmering columns and facades in polished marble, whose 
cold and unharmed surfaces seemed to bespeak contempt for 
human folly. In that portion of the Iroquois structure the 
only physical evidences of damages were a few windows 
broken during the excitement. 

EXITS WERE CHOKED WITH BODIES. 

"To that pile of dead is attributed the great loss of life 
within. The bodies choked up the entrance, barring the egress 
of those behind. Neither age nor youth, sex, quality or condi- 
tion were sacred in the awful battle in the doorway. The gray 
and aged, rich, poor, young and those obviously invalids in 
life lay in a tangled mass all on an awful footing of equality 
in silent annihilation. 

"Within and above equal terrors were encountered in what 
at first seemed countless victims. Lights, patience and hard 
work brought about some semblance of system and at last 
word was given that the last body had been removed from 
the charnel house. A large police detail surrounded the place 
all night and with the break of day search of the premises 
was renewed, none being admitted save by presentation of a 
written order from Chief of Police O'Neill. Fire engines 
pumped away removing the lake of water that flooded the 
basement to the depth of ten feet. As the flood was lowered it 
began to be apparent that the basement was free of dead. 

SURVEY SCENE WITH HORROR. . 

t 

"Searchers gazing down from the heights of the upper bal- 
cony surveyed the scene of death below with horror stamped 
upon their faces. Fire had left its terrifying blight in a color- 
less, garish monotony that suggests the burned-out crater of 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 43 

an extinct volcano. In the wreckage, the scattered garments 
and purses, fragments of charred bodies and other debris 
strewn within thousands of bits of brilliantly colored glass, lay 
as they fell shattered in the fight against the flames. A few 
skulls were seen. 

FIND BUSHELS OF PURSES. 

...: 

"Five bushel baskets were filled with women's purses gath- 
ered by the police. A huge pile of garments was removed to 
a near-by saloon, where an officer guards them pending re- 
moval to some more appropriate place. The shoes and over- 
shoes picked up among the seats fill two barrels to overflowing. 

"The fire manifested itself in the flies above the stage dur- 
ing the second act. The double octette was singing 'In the Pale 
Moonlight' when the tragedy swept mirth and music aside, 
to give way to a more somber and frightful performance. 
Confusion on the stage, panic in the auditorium, phenomenal 
spread of the incipient blaze, failure of the asbestos fire curtain 
to fall in place when lowered followed in rapid progress, with 
the holocaust as the climax." 

But to return to the narrative of what happened immediately 
after the, first alarm, as gathered by the collaborators of this 
work. There was a wild, futile dash futile because few of 
the terrified participants succeeded in reaching the outer air. 
Persons in the rear of the theater building knew full well that 
a holocaust was in progress. There fire escapes and stage 
doors thronged with refugees, half clad and hysterical chorus 
girls flocking into the alley, and crackling flames leaping 
higher and higher from the flimsy stage and bursting from 
windows, told only too plainly what was in progress within. 
At the front, half a block distant, in Randolph street, ominous 
silence maintained. A mere handful of people burst out, those 



44 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER, 

who had occupied rear seats and pushed by the ushers who 
sought to restrain them and quiet their fears. Loiterers about 
the ornate- lobby scarcely sniffed a suggestion of impending 
disaster before the fire apparatus began to arrive with clanging 
bells. 

who held back the straining, anxious specta- 
tors who sought escape at the first mild suggestion of clanger 
for what widespread woe are they responsible 1 

Mere boys of tender years and meager experience, what 
knew they of the awful possibilities behind the spell of ex- 
citement upon the> stage ? Only two weeks before there had 
been an incipient blaze there that had b^en extinguished with- 
out the knowledge of the audience. 

Like all the rest of the world that now stands in shuddering 
wonderment, these boys scoffed at the thought of real danger 
in the massive pile of steel, stone and terra cotta; with its 
brave and shimmering veneer of glistening marble, stained 
glass of many hues, rich tapestries and drapings, and cold, 
aristocratic tints of red and old gold. And so with uplifted 
hands they turned back those whose sense of caution prompted 
them to leave at the outset. Surely disaster could not overtake 
the regal Iroquois in its first flush of pomp, pride and supe- 
riority. It was their sacred duty to , see that no unseemly 
break marred the decorum established for the guidance of 
audiences at the Iroquois, and that duty was fully discharged. 
. Thus it was that the wild hegira did not begin from the 
front until the arrival of the fire department. Then pande- 
monium itself broke loose. All restraining influences from 
the stage had ceased. At the appearance of the all-consuming 
wave of flame sweeping across the auditorium the boy ushers 
abandoned their posts and fled for their lives, leaving the 
packed audience to do the same unhampered. V/ 






IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. * 

Unhampered not quite"! Darkness descending upon the 
scene, doors locked against the frightened multitude, fire es- 
capes cut off by tongues of flame and exits and stairways 
choked with the bodies of those who died fighting to reach 
safety hampered many at least the six hundred carried out 
later mangled and roasted, tlieir features and limbs twisted and 
distorted until little semblance to humanity remained^- After 
the first wild dash, in which a large portion of those on the 
main floor escaped, the blackness of night settled upon the long 
marble foyer leading from Randolph street to the auditorium 
It settled in a cloud of black, fire laden smoke death in nebu- 
lous forms defying fire fighter and rescuer alike to enter the 
great corridor. None entered, and, more pitiful still, none 
came forth. 

While this situation maintained in front a vastly different 
scene unfolded in the rear. The theater formed a great L, 
extending north from Randolph street to an alley and, in the 
rear, west to Dearborn street. This last projection, the toe 
of the L, was occupied by the stage, theoretically the finest in 
America, if not in the world. Thus the auditorium and stage 
occupied the extreme northern part of the structure, parallel- 
ing an alley extending on a line with Randolph street from 
State street to Dearborn street. This alley wall was pierced 
by many windows and emergency exits and was studded with 
fire escapes built in the form of iron galleries, and stairways 
hugging close to the wall leading to the alley. 

To these exits and the long, grim galleries of fire escapes the 
herded, fire-hunted audience surged. Those who reached doors 
that responded to their efforts found themselves pushed along 
the galleries by the resistless crush behind. As was the case 
In front, half way to safety another stream of humanity was 
xcountered pouring out at right angles from another portion 



46 1ROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

of the house. Coming together with the impact of opposing 
armies the two hosts of refugees gave unwilling and terrible 
answer to the time worn problem as to the outcome of an ir- 
resistible force encountering an immovable body. Both in 
front and rear great mounds of dead spelled annihilation as 
the answer. In front over 200 corpses piled in a twenty-foot 
angle of a stairway where two balcony exits merged told the 
terrible tale, and rendered both passages useless for egress, 
the dead being piled up in wall-like formation ten feet high. 

In the rear an alley strewn with mangled men, women and 
children writhing in agony on the icy, pavement, or relieved 
of their sufferings by death, lent eloquent corroboration to the 
solution of the problem. 

It was in the rear that the true horror of the fire was most 
fully disclosed. There no towering mosaic studded walls or 
kindly mantle of smoke shut out the horrid sight. From its 
opening scene to its silent, ghastly denouement the successive 
details of this greatest of modern tragedies was forced upon 
the view to be stamped upon the memory of the unwilling be- 
holder with an impressiveness that only death will blot out. 

After the first great impact had hurled the overflow of the 
fire-escape gallery into the alley yawning far below, the crush 
of humanity swept onward, downward to where safety beck- 
oned. \Yhen the advance guard had all but reached the pre- " 
cious goal, with only a few feet of iron gallery and one more 
stairway to traverse, the crowning horror of the day unfolded 
itself. Right in the path of the advancing horde a steel win- 
dow shutter flew back, impelled by the terrific energy of an 
immeasurable volume of pent up superheated air. 

The clang of the steel shutter swinging back on its hinges 
against the brick wall sounded the death knell of another host 
of/victims, for in its wake came a huge tongue of lurid flame 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 4.7 

leaping on high in the ecstasy of release from its stifling fur- 
nace. Fiercely in the faces of the refugees beat this agency 
of death. Before its withering blast the victims fell like 
prairie grass before an autumn blaze. Those further back 
waited for no more, but precipitated themselves headlong into 
the alley rather than face the fiery furnace that loomed up 
barring the way to hope. 

It would be well to draw the curtain upon this awful scene 
of suffering and death in the gloomy alley were it not for 
one circumstance that stands forth a glorious example of the 
heights that may be attained by the modest hero who moves 
about unsuspected in his daily life until calamity affords op- 
portunity to show the stuff he is made of. High up in the 
building occupied by the law, dental and pharmacy schools of 
the Northwestern University, directly across the alley from the 
burning theater, a number of such men were at work. They 
were horny handed sons of toil painters, paper hangers and 
cleaners repairing minor damage caused by an insignificant 
fire in the university building a few weeks before. One glance 
at the seething vortex of death below transformed them into 
heroes whose deeds would put many a man to shame whose 
memory is kept alive by stately column or flattering memorial 
tablet. 

Trailing heavy planks used by them in the erection of 
working scaffolds, they rushed to a window in the lecture 
room of the law school directly opposite the exit and fire escape 
platform leading from the topmost balcony of the theater. By 
almost superhuman effort and ingenuity they raised aloft the 
planks, scarce long enough to span the abyss, and dropped 
them. The prayers of thousands below and a multitude stifling 
in the aperture opposite were raised that the planks might 
fall true. All eyes followed their course as they poised in mid- 



48 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

air, then descended. Slow seemed their fall, a veritable period 
of torture, and awed silence reigned as they dropped. 

Then there arose a glad cry. With a crash the great planks 
landed true, the free ends squarely upon the edge of the plat- 
form of the useless fire escape, the others resting firmly upon 
the narrow window ledge where the painters stood defying 
flame, smoke and torrents of burning embers and blazing 
sparks hurled upon them as from the crater of a volcano. 

Death alley had been bridged! Across the narrow span 
came a volume of bedraggled humanity as though shot from 

. 

a gun. A mad, screaming stream, pushed on by those behind, 
simply whirled across the frail support, direct from the very 
jaws of death, the blistering gates of hell. 

Only for a moment, a brief second it seemed, the wild pro- 
cession moved. Yet in that limited period scores, perhaps 
hundreds, poured from the seething inferno practically all 
that escaped from the lofty balcony that was a moment later 
transformed into the death chamber of helpless hundreds. 
Then the wave of flame, previously described, swept over the 
interior of the theater, greedily searching every nook and cor- 
ner as though hungry for the last victim within reach. 

The last refugees to cross the narrow span, the dizzy line 
sharply drawn between life and death in its most terrifying as- 
pect, staggered over with their clothing in flames, gasping, 
fainting with pain and terror. The workmen, students and 
policemen who had rushed to their assistance dashed across 
into the heat and smoke and dragged forth many more who 
had reached the platform only to fall before the deadly blast. 
Then the rescuers were beaten back and the fire fiend was left 
to claim its own. 

And claim them it did, searching them out with ruminating 
tongues of flame Over every inch of paint and decoration,, 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 49 

, \ 

every tapestry, curtain and seat top it licked its way with 
insinuating eagerness. It pursued its victims beyond the con- 
fines of the theater walls, grasping in its deadly embrace those 
who lay across windows or prostrate on galleries and plat- 
forms. Thousands gazed on in helpless horror, watching the 
flames bestow a fatal caress upon many who had crept far, far 
from the blaze and almost into a zone of safety. With a glid- 

v 

ing, caressing movement that made beholders' blood run cold 
it crept upon such victims, hovered a moment and glided on 
with sinuous motion and what approached a suggestion of 
intelligence in searching out those who fled before it. A shriek, 
a spasmodic movement and the victims lay still, their earthly 
troubles over forever. 

A few minutes later, possibly not more than half an hour 
after the discovery of the fire, when the firemen had beaten 
back the flames to the raging stage another procession moved 
across that same plank again. It moved in silence, for it was 
a procession of death. The great tragedy began and ended 
in fifteen minutes. Its echoes may roll down as many cen- 
turies, compelling the proper safeguarding of all places of 
amusement, in America at least. Tf so, the Iroquois victims 
did not give up their lives in vain. 

When the removal of the victims across the improvised 
bridge over death alley ended the tireless official in charge of 
that work, James Markham, secretary to Chief of Police 
O'Neill, had checked off 102 corpses. No attempt was made to 
keep count of the dead as they were removed from other por- 
tions of the theater and by other exits. The counting was 
done when the patrol wagons, ambulances, trucks and delivery 
wagons used in removing the dead deposited their ghastly 
loads at the morgues, 

The instance cited was not an isolated example of heroism, 



50 , IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

but rather merely a striking instance among scores. Police, 
firemen and citizens vied with each other in the work of hu- 
manity. Merchants drove out customers and threw open their 
business houses as temporary hospitals and morgues. Others 
donated great wagon loads of blankets and supplies of all 
kinds and the municipal government was embarrassed by the 
unsolicited relief funds that poured in. All manner of vehicles 
were given freely for the removal of dead and injured. So 
informal was the removal of the latter that many may have 
reached their homes unreported. For that reason a complete 
list of the injured may never be secured. 

An illustration of the possibilities in that direction is found 
in the case of one man who wrapped the dead body of his wife 
in his overcoat and carried it to Evanston, many miles away, 
where the circumstances became known days later when a 
burial permit was sought. Another is the case of an injured 
man who revived on a dead wagon en route to a morgue and 
was removed by friends. 

All these and other details are elaborated upon elsewhere, 
together with the touching story of the scores of young women 
employed in the production, "Mr. Bluebeard," who would 
have been stranded penniless in a strange city a thousand miles 
from home but for the prompt and noble relief afforded by 
Mrs. Ogden Armour. 



CHAPTER II. 

V 

FIRST AID TO THE INJURED AND CARE FOR THE 

DEAD. 

On the heels of the firemen came the police, intent on the 
work of rescue. Chief O'Neill and Assistant Chief Schuettler 
ordered captains from a dozen stations to bring their men, and 
then they rushed to the theater and led the police up the stairs 
to the landing outside the east entrance to the first balcony. 

The firemen, rushing blindly up the stairs in the dense pall 
of smoke, had found their path suddenly blocked by a wall of 
dead eight or ten feet high. They discovered many persons 
alive and carried them to safety. Other firemen crawled over 
the mass of dead and dragged their hose into the theater to 
fight back the flames that seemed to be crawling nearer to turn 
the fatal landing into. a funeral pyre. 

O'Neill and Schuettler immediately began carrying the dead 
from the balcony, while other policemen went to the gallery to 
begin the work there. 

In the great mass of dead at the entrance to the first balcony 
the bodies were so terribly interwoven that it was impossible 
at first to take any one out. 

"Look out for the living!" shouted the chief to his men. 
"Try to find those who are alive." 

From somewhere came a faint moaning cry. 

"Some one alive there, boys," came the cry. "Lively, now !' 

fil 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 



The firemen and police long struggled in vain to move the 
bodies. 

The raging tide of humanity pouring out of the east en- 
trance of the balcony during the panic had met the fighting, 
struggling crowd coming down the stairs from the third bal- 
cony at right angles. The two streams formed a whirlpool 
which ceased its onward progress and remained there on the 
landing where people stamped each other under foot in that 
mad circle of death. 

In a short time the blockade in the fatal angle must have 
been complete. Then into this awful heap still plunged the 
contrary tides of humanity from each direction. Many tried 
to crawl over the top of the heap, but were drawn down to the 
grinding mill of death underneath. The smoke was heavy at 
the fatal angle, for the majority of those taken out at that 
point bore no marks of bruises. 

Many, and especially the children, were trampled to death, 
but others were held as ir\ a vise until the smoke had choked the 
life from their bodies. 

It was toward this that the firemen directed O'Neill and 
Schuettler as they rushed into the theater. The smoke was 
still heavy and the great gilded marble foyer of the "handsom- 
est theater in America" was somber and dark and still as a 
tomb, except for the whistling of the engines outside and now 
and then the shouting of the firemen. Water was dripping 
everywhere and stood inches deep on the floor and stairs. 

Two flickering lanterns shed the only light by which the 
policemen worked, and this very fact, perhaps, made their task 
more horrible and gruesome, if such a thing were possible. 



. 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 53 

GREAT PILE OF CHARRED BODIES FOUND 
EVERYWHERE IN THEATER. 

All through the gallery the bodies were found. Some were 
those of persons who had decided- to stay in their seats and 
not to join in the mad rush for the doors and run the risk of 
being trampled to death. Many of them no doubt had trusted 
to the cries, "There is no danger; keep your seats!" 

They had stuck to their seats until, choked by the heavy 
smoke, they had been unable to move. 

?. Some bodies were in a sitting position, while others had 

/fallen forward, with the head resting on the seat in front, as 

/ though in prayer. Almost all were terribly burned. 

i In the aisles lay women and children who had staid in their 

seats until they finally were convinced that the danger was 



real. Then they had attempted to get to the door. 

The smoke was so heavy the firemen worked with difficulty, 
but finally it cleared and workmen who were hastily sent by 
the Edison company equipped forty arc lights, which shone 
bravely through the smoke. With this help the firemen 
searched to better effect, and found bodies that in the blackness 
they had missed. 

"Give that girl to some one else and get back there," shouted 
Chief Musham to a fireman. The fireman never answered but 
kept on with his burden. 

"Hand that girl to some one else," shouted the battalion 
chief. 

The fireman looked up. Even in the flickering light of the 
lantern the chief carried one could see the tears coming from 
the red eyes and falling down the man's blackened cheeks. 

"Chief," said the fireman, "I've got a girl like this at 
home. I want to carry this one out." 



54 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

* 

"Go ahead," said the chief. The little group working at 
the head of the stairs broke apart while the fireman, holding 
the body tightly, made his way slowly down the stairs. 

One by one the dead were taken from the pile in the angle. 
The majority of them were women. On some faces was an 
expression of terrible agony, but on others was a look of calm- 
ness and serenity, and firemen sometimes found it hard to 
believe they were dead. Three firemen carried the body of a 
young woman down the stairs in a rubber blanket. She ap- 
peared alive. Her hands were clasped and held flowers. Her 
eyes were closed and she seemed almost to smile. She looked 
as though she was asleep, but it was the sleep of death. 

In the dark and smoke, with the dripping water and the 
dead piled in heaps everywhere, the Iroquois theater had been 
turned into a tomb by the time the rescue oarties had begun 
their work. 



MOAN INSPIRES WORKERS IN MAD EFFORT TO 

SAVE. 

The moan that the frantic workers heard as they struggled 
to untangle the mass of bodies gave the police hope that many 
in the heap might be alive. 

"We can't do it, chief," shouted one of the policemen. "We 
can't untangle them." 

"We must take these bodies out of the way to get down to 
those who are alive," replied the chief. "This man here is 
dead; lay hold, now, boys, and pull him out." 

Two big firemen caught the body by the shoulders and 
struggled and pulled until they had it free. Then another 
body was taken out, and then again the workers seemed un- 
able to unloose the dead. Again came that terrible moan 
through the mass. 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 55 

"For God's sake, get down to that one who's alive," im- 
plored O'Neill, almost ill despair. 

The policemen pulled off their heavy overcoats and worked 
frantically at the heap. Often a body could not be moved ex- 
cept when the firemen and police dragged with a "yo, heave," 
like sailors hauling on a rope. As fast as the bodies were 
freed one policeman, or sometimes two or three, would stag- 
ger down the stairs with their burdens. 

Over the heap of bodies crawled a fireman carrying some- 
thing in his arms. 

"Out of the way, men, let me out! The kid's alive." 

The workers fell back and the fireman crawled over the heap 
and was helped out. He ran down the stairs three steps at a 
time to get the child to a place where help might be given 
before it was too late. Then other firemen from inside the 
theater passed out more bodies, which were handed from one 
policeman to another until some on the outside of the heap 
could take the dead and carry them downstairs. 

Suddenly a policeman pulling at the heap gave a shout. 

"I've got her, chief !" he said. "She's alive, all right !" 

"Easy there, men, easy," cried Schuettler; "but hurry and 
get that woman to a doctor !" 

A girl, apparently 18 years old, was moaning faintly. The 
policeman released her from the tangled heap, and a big fire- 
man, lifting her tenderly in his arms, hurried with her to the 
outside of the building. 

"There must be more alive," said the chief. "Work hard, 
boys." 

There was hardly any need to ask the men to work harder, 
for they were pulling and hauling as though their own lives 
depended on their efforts. Everybody worked. 

The reporters, the only ones in ,the theater besides the police 



S 6 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

and firemen, laid aside their pencils and note books and strug 1 
gled down the wet, slippery stairs, carrying the dead. News- 
paper artists threw their sketch books on the floor to jump 
forward and pick up the feet or head of a body that a fireman 
or policeman found too heavy to carry alone. Constantly now 
a stream of workers was passing slowly down the stairs. 
Usually two men supported each body, but often some giant 
policeman or fireman strode along with a body swung over his 
shoulders. Coming down the stairs was a fireman with a girl 
of 1 6 clasped in his arms. 

"Isn't that girl alive?" asked the chief. 

"No," shouted two or three men, who had jumped to see. 
"She's dead, poor thing, rest her soul," said the fireman rever- 
ently, and then he picked his way down the stairs. Half-way 
down the marble steps two arms suddenly clasped the fireman's 
neck. 

He started so he missed his footing and would have fallen 
had not a policeman steadied him. 

"She's alive, she's alive 1" shouted the fireman. "Git out 
of the way, there, out of the way, men," and he went dashing 
headlong out into the open air and through the crowd to a 
drug store. 

One child after another was taken from the heap and passed 
out to be carried downstairs. Some were little boys in new 
suits, sadly torn, and with their poor little faces wreathed in 
agony. On their foreheads was the seal of death. 

A big fireman came crawling from the heavy smoke of the 
inner balcony. He carried a girl of 10 years in his arms. Her 
Icng, flaxen hair half covered the pure white face. 

A gray haired man with a gash on his head apparently had 
fallen down the stairs. A woman's face bore the mark of a 
boot heel. A woman with a little boy clasped tight in her 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 57 

arms was wedged into a corner. Her clothes were almost torn 
from her,' and her face was bruised. TJrhild was unmarked, 
as she had thrown her own body over tfis to protect him. 

Out of the mass of bodies when the police began their work 
protruded one slender little white hand, clinching a pair of 
pearl opera glasses, which the little owner had tried to save, 
in spite of the fact that her own life was being crushed out of 
her. Watches, pocketbooks and chatelaine bags were scattered 
all through the pile. One man was detailed to make a bag out 
of a rubber coat and take care of the property that was handed 
to him. 

While the police were working so desperately at the fatal 
angle, another detail of police and firemen were working on the 
third floor. At the main entrance of the gallery lay another 
heap of bodies, and there was still another at the angle of the 
head of the stairs leading to the floor below. Here the sight 
was even worse than the terrible scene presented at the landing 
of the first balcony. 

The bodies on the landing were not burned. A jam had 
come there, and many had been stamped under foot and either 
killed outright or left to suffocate. Many of the bodies were 
almost stripped of clothing and bore the marks of remorseless 
heels. ^ <T$ 

After these had been carried out, the firemen ^returned 
Hgain and again from the pitchy blackness of the smoke-filled 
galleries, dragging bodies, burned sometimes beyond recogni- 
tion. 

NONE LEFT ALIVE IN GALLERY. 

While now and then some one had been found alive in the 
other fatal angle, no one was rescued by searchers in the top 
gallerv. The bodies had to be laid along the hall until th* 



5 8 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

merchants in State street began sending over blankets. Men 
from the streets came rushing up the stairs, bending under the 
weight of the blankets they carried on their shoulders. Soon 
they went back to the street again, this time carrying their 
blankets weighed down with a charred body. 

DEAD AND DYING CARRIED INTO NEARBY RES- 
TAURANT BY SCQRES. 

The scenes in John R. Thompson's restaurant in Randolph 
street, adjoining the theater, were ghastly beyond words. 

Few half hours in battle bring more of horror than the half 
hour that turned the cafe into a charnel house, with its tumbled 
heaps of corpses, its shrieks of agony from the dying, and the 
confusion of doctors and nurses working madly over bodies all 
about as they strove to bring back the spark of life. 

Bodies were everywhere piled along the walls, laid across 
tables, and flung down here and there some charred beyond 
recognition, some only scorched, and others black from suffo- 
cation; some crushed in the rush of the panic, others but the 
poor, broken remains of those who leaped into death. And 
most of them almost all of them were the forms of women 
and_children.) It is estimated that more than 150 bodies were 
accounted for in Thompson's alone. 

The continuous tramp of the detachments of police bearing 
in more bodies, the efforts of the doctors to restore life, and 
the madness of those who surged in through the police lines to 
ransack piles of bodies for relatives and friends, made up a 
scene of pandemonium of which it is hard to form a concep- 
tion. There was organization of the fifty physicians and 
nurses who fought back death in the dying; there was organi- 
zation of the police and firemen; but still the restaurant was 
a chaos that left the head bewildered and the heart sick. 



, IRQQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 59 

The work was too much for even the big force of doctors 
that had flocked there to volunteer their services. Everybody 
in which there was the slightest semblance of life was given 
over to the physicians, who with oxygen tanks and resuscita- 
tive movements sought to revive the heart beats. As soon as 
death was certain the body was drawn from the table and laid 
beneath, to give place to another. But systematic as was this 
effort, heaps of bodies remained which the doctors had not 
touched. 

In a dozen instances, even when the end of the work was in 
sight, a hand or foot was seen to move in this or that heap. 
Instantly three or four doctors were bending over rolling away 
the dead bodies to drag forth one still warm with life. In a 
thrice the body was on a table and the oxygen turned on while 
the doctors worked with might and main to force respiration. 
Almost always it was in vain life went out Two or three 
were resuscitated, though it is uncertain with what chances of 
ultimate recovery. One of these was a Mrs. Harbaugh, whq 
had been brought in for dead and her body tossed among the 
lifeless forms that ranged the walls. 

When the first rush of people from the theater gave notice 
of the fire to persons in the street there were less than a score 
of patrons in the restaurant. These rushed into the street, too, 
while a panic spread among 1 the waitresses and kitchen force. 
By this time fire company 13 was on the ground in the alley 
side of the theater and the police were at the front attempting 
to lead the audience from its peril with some semblance of 
order. In another minute women and children with blistered 
faces were dashing screaming into the street, taking refuge 
in the first doorways at hand. 

Another minute, and every policeman knew in his heart the 
horror that was at hand. A patrolman dashed into Thomp- 



60 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER, 

son's and ordered the tables cleared and arranged to care for 
the injured. Captain Gibbons dispatched another policeman 
to issue a general call for physicians and a detachment to take 
charge of the restaurant and the first aid to be administered 
there. Within five minutes the first of the injured were being 
laid on the marble topped dining tables where the police ambu- 
lance corps were getting at work. 

These steps scarcely had been taken when word came from 
the burning theater that the fire was under control, but that 
the loss of life would be appalling. Chief O'Neill hurried to 
the scene, sending back word as he ran that Secretary James 
Markham should summon doctors and ambulances from every 
place available. The west side district of the medical schools 
and hospitals was called upon to send all the volunteers pos- 
sible, together with hospital equipment. One hundred stud- 
ents from Rush Medical College were soon on their way by 
street car and patrol wagon to the scene, 

TERRIBLE REALITY COMES TO AWESTRICKEN 

CROWD. 

It was only fifteen minutes after the first tongue of flame 
shot out from behind the scenes that a lull came in the awful 
drama of death within the theater. The firemen had quenched 
the fire and all the living had escaped. All that remained were 
dead. But now the scenes within the improvised hospital and 
morgue rose to the height of their horror. 

But for a narrow lane the length of the cafe the floor was 
covered with bodies or ihe tumbled bundles of clothing that 
told where a body was concealed. And over the scene of the 
dead rose the groans of the tortured beings who writhed upon 
the tables in the throes of their passing. And over the cries 
of the suffering rose the shouts of command of the Red Cross 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER 61 

corps now the directions of Dr. Lydston as to attempts at 
resuscitation, now the megaphone shouts of Senator Clark 
ordering the disposition of bodies and the organization of the 
constantly arriving volunteer nurses. 

In the narrow lane of the dead surged the policemen, bring- 
ing ever more and more forms to cord up beneath the tables. 
Then came the press of people, who, frantic with anxiety, had 
beaten back the police guard to look for loved ones in the char- 
nel house. There was Louis Wolff, Jr., searching for two 
nephews and his sister. There was Postmaster Coyne, who 
had hurried from a meeting of the crime committee to lend his 
aid. There were Aldermen Minwegen and Alderman Bade- 
noch, and besides them scores of men and women anxiously 
looking and looking, and nerving themselves to fear the worst 

"Have you found Miss Helen McCaughan ?" shrieked a hys- 
terical woman. "She's from the Yale apartments, and " 

"I'm looking for a Miss Errett she's a nurse," cried an- 
other. 

"My little boy Charles Hennings have you found him, 
doctor?" came from another. 

From every side came the heartrending appeals, while the 
din was so great that no single plaint rose above the volume of 
sounds. And all the time the doorway was a place of frightful' 
sights. 

"O, please go back for my little girl,** gasped a woman 
whose face and hands were a blister and whose clothing was 
burned to the skin. She staggered across the threshold and 
fell prone. Her last breath had gone out of her when two 
policemen snatched up the body and bore it to an operating 
table. 

"O, where's my Annie?" screamed another woman, horribly 
burned -,~hrr? *wo policemen supported between them into the 



62 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

restaurant. But at the word she collapsed, and, though three 
physicians worked over her for ten minutes, she never 
breathed again. 

ONE LIFE BROUGHT BACK FROM DEATH. 

Of a sudden Dr. E. E. Vaughan saw a finger move in a 
mass of the dead against the far wall of the restaurant. 

"Men, there's a live one in there," he cried, and, while others 
came running, the physician flung aside the bodies till he had 
uncovered a woman of middle age, terribly burned about the 
face, and with her outer garments a mass of charred shreds. 

In a second the woman was undergoing resuscitative treat- 
ment on a table, while the oxygen streamed into her lungs. 
Two doctors worked her arms like pumps, while a nurse man- 
ipulated the region of the heart. At length there was a flutter 
of a respiration, while a doctor bending over with his stetho- 
scope announced a heart beat just perceptible. Another minute 
passed and the eyelids moved, while a groan escaped the lips. 

"She lives !" simply said Dr. Vaughan, as .he ordered the 
oxygen tube removed and brandy forced between the lips. In 
five minutes the woman was saved from immediate death, at 
least, though suffering terribly from burns. She was just able 
to murmur that her name was Mrs. Harbaugh, but that was 
all that could be learned of her identity before she was taken 
away to a hospital. 

ONE HUNDRED FEET IN AIR, POLICE CARRY IN- 
JURED ACROSS ALLEY. 

Over a narrow, ice covered bridge made of scaffold planks, 
more than 100 feet above the ground the police carried more 
than 100 bodies from the rear stage and balcony exits of the 
Iroquois theater to the Northwestern University building, 






IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 63 

formerly the Tremont house. The planks rested on the fire 
escape of the theater and on the ledge of a window in the Tre- 
mont building. 

Two men who first ventured on this dangerous passage- 
way in their efforts to reach safety, blinded by the fire and 
smoke, lost their footing and fell to the alley below. They 
were dead when picked up. 

The bridge led directly into the dental school of the uni- 
versity, and at one time there were more than a score of 
charred bodies lying under blankets in the room. The dead 
were carried from the pile of bodies at the theater exits faster 
than the police could take them away in the ambulances and 
patrol wagons. 

As soon as the police began to take the injured into the 
university building the classrooms were drawn upon for phy- 
sicians, and in a few minutes professors and dental students 
gathered in the offices and stores to lend their assistance. 
Wounds were dressed, and in cases of less serious injury the 
unfortunates were sent to their homes. In other cases they 
were sent to hospitals. 

When the smoke had cleared away the rescuers first real- 
ized the extent of the horror. From the bridge could be seen 
the rows of balcony and gallery seats, many occupied by a 
human form. Incited by the sight, the police redoubled their 
efforts, and heedless of the dangers of the narrow, slippery 
bridge, pressed close to each other as they worked. 

While a dozen policemen were removing the dead from 
the theater, twice as many were engaged in carrying them to 
the patrol wagons and ambulances at the doors of/ the univer- 
sity building. All the afternoon the elevators carried down 
police in twos and fours carrying their burdens of dead in 
blankets. So fast were they carried down that many of the 



-*' 

: 



64 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 



patrol wagons held five and more bodies when they were 

driven away. 

- 

CROWDS OF ANXIOUS FRIENDS. 

Behind the lines of police that guarded the passage of the 
dead, hundreds of anxious men and women crowded with 
eager questions. The rotunda of the building between 3 
and 7 p. m. was thronged by those seeking knowledge of 
friend or relative who had been In the play. Some made 
their way to the third floor and looked hopelessly at the 
charred bodies lying there. In one corner lay the bodies of 
husband and wife, clasped in each other's arms. From under 
one sheltering blanket protruded the dainty high heeled shoes 
of some woman,' and from the next blanket the rubber boots 
of a newsboy. 

A Roman Catholic priest made his way into the room. He 
was looking for a little girl, the daughter of a parishioner. 

"Have you the name of Lillian Doerr in your list?" he 
asked James Markham, Chief O'Neill's secretary, who was 
in charge of the police. Markham shook his head. 

"She and another little girl named Weiskopp were with 
three other girls," continued the priest. "Three of the girls 
in the party have got home, but Lillian and the Weiskopp 
girl are missing. I suppose we must wait until all the bodies 
are identified before we can find her." 

The priest's mission and its futile results were duplicated 
scores of times by anxious inquirers. 

BALCONY AND GALLERY CLEARED. 

The rescue work went on until the balcony and gallery had 
been cleared of the dead, and then the police were called away. 
The exits were barred and the hotel building cleared of visi- 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 65 

tors. While the work of rescue was going on inside the build- 
ing, the streets about the entrances were thronged with thou- 
sands of curious spectators. As soon as an ambulance backed 
up to the entrance the crowd pressed forward to get a view 
of the bundles placed in the wagon. Even after this work 
had ended the crowds remained in the cold and darkness. 

' Many of the small shops and offices in the University build- 
ing threw open their doors to the injured and those who had 
been separated from their friends. When those who ha3 
escaped by the alley exits reached Dearborn street they found 
the doors of the Hail wood Cash Register offices, 41 Dearborn 
street, open to them. L. A. Weismann, Harry Snow, Harry 
Dewitt, and C. J. Burnett of the office force at once prepared 
to care for the injured. More than fifty persons were cared 
for. 

While these men were caring for strangers they themselves 
were haunted by the dread that Manager H. Ludwig of the 
company with his wife and two daughters were among the 
dead. The Ludwig family lives in Norwood Park, and the 
father had left the office with them early in the afternoon. 
At 6 o'clock he had not returned for his overcoat. 

FINANCE COMMITTEE OF CITY COUNCIL ACTS 

PROMPTLY. 

"Spare no expense," was the order given by the finance 
committee of the council which was in session when the ex- 
tent of the disaster became known at the city hall. First to 
grasp the import of the news was Aid. Raynier, whose wife 
and four children had left him at noon to attend the matinee. 
With a gasp he hurried from the room to go to the scene. 

"You are instructed," said Chairman Mavor to Acting 
Mayor McGann, "to direct the fire marshal, the chief of po= 



66 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 



lice, and the commissioner of public works to proceed in this 
emergency without any restrictions as to expense. Do every- 
thing needful, spend all the money needed, and look to the 
council for your warrant. We will be your authority." 

A telegram at once was sent to Mayor Harrison informing 
him of the fire and the executive returned from Oklahoma on 
the first train. 

Acting Commissioner of Public Works Brennan sent word 
to Chief O'Neill and Fire Marshal Musham that the public 
works department was at their service. 

"We want men and lanterns," Chief Musham answered. 

Supt. Solon was sent to a store near the theater with an 
order for as many lanterns as might be needed. Supt. Doherty 
assembled 150 men in Randolph street and seventy wagons 
employed on First ward streets. They were placed at the dis-_ 
posal of the two chiefs. 

Chief O'Neill was in the council chamber when the news 
arrived, hearing charges against a police officer. Lieut. 
Beanbien came from his office and whispered to him. The 
chief hurried to the fire. The trial board continued its work. 

On the ground floor of the city hall the fire trial board was 
in executive session trying six firemen on a charge of carry- 
ing tales to insurance men against the chief. 

At 3 :33 o'clock the alarm rang. Chief, assistant chiefs, 
and accused firemen listened. Then the news of the magni- 
tude of the fire reached headquarters. The board hurriedly 
adjourned and Chief Musham led accusers and accused to 
fight the fire. 



CHAPTER III. 

X 

TAKING AWAY AND' IDENTIFYING THE DEAD. 



In drays and delivery wagons they carried the dead away 
from the Iroquois theater ruins. The sidewalk in front of the 
playhouse and Thompson's restaurant was completely filled 
with dead bodies, when it was realized that the patrol wagons 
and ambulances could not remove the bodies. 

Then Chief O'Neill and Coroner Traeger sent out men to 
stop drays and press them into service. Transfer companies 
were called up on telephone and asked to send wagons. Retail 
stores in State street sent delivery wagons. ,- 

Into these drays and wagons were piled the bodies. They lay 
outstretched on the sidewalk, covered 1 with blankets. Much 
care in the handling was impossible. As soon as a space on 
the walk was made by the removal of a body two were brought 
down to fill it. 

One of the wagons of the Dixon Transfer Company was so 
heavily loaded with the dead that the two big horses drawing 
it were unable to start the truck. Policemen and spectators 
put their shoulders to the wheels. 

When the drays were filled and started there was a struggle 
to get them through the crowds, densely packed, even within 
the fire lines which the police had established across Randolph 
street at State and Dearborn streets. 

Policemen with clubs preceded many of the wagons. The 



68 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

crowds through which they forced their way were composed 
mostly of men who had sent wives and children to the theater 
and had reason to believe that one of the drays might carry 
members of their own families. 

Eight and ten wagons at a time, half of them trucks and 
delivery wagons, were backed up to the curb waiting for their 
loads of dead. 

Two policemen would seize a blanket at the corners and 
swing it, with its contents, up to two other men in the wagon. 
This would be continued until a wagonload of bodies had been 
handled. Then the police forced a way through the crowd 
and another wagon took the place. 

Occasionally a body would be identified, and then efforts 
' were made to remove it direct to the residence. Coroner Trae- 
ger discovered the wife of Patrick P. O'Donnell, president of 
the O'Donnell & Duer Brewing Company. 

"Telephone to some undertaking establishment and have 
them take Mrs. O'Donnell's body home," he ordered one of 
his assistants. It was taken 'to the residence, at 4629 Wood- 
lawn avenue. 

Friends of another woman who were positive they identified 
the body among the dead in Thompson's were allowed by the 
coroner to remove it to Ford's undertaking establishment, in 
Thirty-fifth street. 

HEARTRENDING SCENES WITNESSED AT THE 
UNDERTAKING ESTABLISHMENTS. 

The bodies of the fire victims were distributed among the 
undertaking rooms and morgues most convenient. By 8:30 
o'clock 135 bodies lay on the floors in the establishment of C. 
H. Jordan, 14-16 East Madison street, and in the temporary 
annex across the alley. The first were brought in ambulances 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 69 

and in police patrol wagons. Later all sorts of conveyances 
were pressed into service, and during more than two hours 
there was a procession of two-horse trucks, delivery wagons, 
and cabs, all bringing dead. It soon became evident that the 
capacity of the place would be exhausted and the men, who 
sat drinking .and talking at the tables in the big ante-room in 
a saloon across the alley were driven out, and this also was 
arranged for use as a temporary morgue. 

Two policemen were in charge of each load of the dead, and 
as soon as the first few bodies were received, they began search- 
ing for possible marks of identification. All jewelry and valu- 
ables, as well as letters, cards, and other papers were put in 
sealed envelopes, marked with a number corresponding with 
that on the tag attached to the body. When this work was 
completed all the envelopes were sent to police headquarters, 
and all inquirers after missing friends and relatives were re- 
ferred to the city hall to inspect the envelopes. 

The scenes in the two long rooms of the morgue in the 
saloon annex across the alley were so overpowering that they 
appeared to lose their effect. Many of the bodies last brought 
from the theater were sadly burned and disfigured and almost 
all of the faces were discolored and the clothing rumpled and 
wet 

The condition of many of the bodies evidenced a vain battle 
for life. Almost all of them were women or children, and 
the majority had been well dressed. Among them were sev- 
eral old women. The men were few. In many cases the 
hands were torn, as if violent efforts had been made to wrench 
away some obstruction. 

As quickly as the work of searching the bodies was com- 
pleted, the attendants stretched strips of muslin over the 
forms, partly hiding the pitiful horror of the sight 



70 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

. Persons were slow in coming to the undertakers in search 
of friends. Many had their first suspicion of the catastrophe 
when members of theater parties failed to return at the usual 
hour. 

Among the first to arrive at Jordan's were George E. Mc- 
Caughan, attorney for the Chicago & Rock Island railroad, 
6565 Yale avenue, who came in search of his daughter, Helen, 
who had attended a theater party with other young women. 
A friend had been in Dearborn street when the fire started and 
soon after had discovered in Thompson's restaurant the body 
of Miss McCaughan. He attached a card bearing her name to 
the body, and, leaving it in the custody of a physician, went 
to the telephone to notify the father. When he returned to the 
restaurant the body already had been removed and the friend 
and the father searched last night without finding it. 

As it grew later the crowd around the doors increased, but 
almost every one was turned away. It would have been im- 
possible for persons to have passed through the long rooms 
for the purpose of inspecting the bodies, they were so close 
together. Women came weeping to the doors of the under- 
taking shop and beat upon the glass, only to be referred to the 
city hall or told "to come back in the morning." 

Later it was learned that physicians would be admitted for 
the purpose of inspecting and identifying the dead, and many 
persons came accompanied by their family doctors for that 
purpose. Two women, who pressed by the officer at the door, 
sank half fainting into chairs in the outer office. They were 
looking for Miss Hazel J. Brown, of 94 Thirty-first street, 
and Miss Eloise G. Swayze, of Fifty-sixth street and Normal 
avenue. A single glance at the long lines of bodies stretched 
on the floor was enough to satisfy them. They were told to 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 71 

return in the morning or to send their family physician to 
make the identification. 

"The poor girls had come from the convent to spend the 
holiday vacation," sobbed one of the women. 

During the evening the telephone bell constantly was ring- 
ing, and persons whose relatives had failed to return on time 
were asked for information. 

. 

"Have you found a small heart-shaped locket set with a blue 
stone ?" would come a call over the wire, and the answer would 
be, "We can tell nothing about that until morning." 

At Rolston's undertaking rooms were 182 bodies, lying four 
rows deep in the rear of 18 Adams street and three rows deep 
in the rear of 22 Adams street. 

On the floors, tagged with the numerals of the coroner's 
scheme for identification, were bodies of men, women, and 
children awaiting identification. One was that of a little girl 
with yellow hair in a tangle of curls around her face. She 
appeared as if she slept. A silk dress of blue was spread 
over her and the sash of white ribbon scarcely was soiled. 

Over the long lines of the dead the police hovered in the 
search for identifying marks and for valuables. Most of the 
bodies were partly covered with blankets. 

Outside a big crowd surged and struggled with the police. 
Not till 10 o'clock were the doors opened. Then Coroner. 
Traeger arrived, and in groups of twelve or fifteen the crowd 
was permitted to pass through the doors. 

There was a pathetic scene at Rolston's morgue when the 
body of John Van Ingen, 18 years old, of Kenosha, Wis., was 
identified. Friends of the Van Ingen family had spent the 
entire evening searching at the request of Mr. and Mrs. Van 
Ingen, who were injured. At midnight four of the Van Ingen 
children, who were believed to have perished in the fire, had not 



72 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

been accounted for. They were: Grace, 2 years old; Dottie, 
5 years old; Mary, 13 years old; and Edward, 20 years old. 

In the undertaking rooms of J. C. Gavin, 226 North Clark 
street, and Carroll Bros., 203 Wells street, forty-five bodies 
swathed in blankets were awaiting identification at midnight. 
Of the fifty-four brought to these places only nine had been 
identified by the hundreds of relatives and friends who filed 
through the rooms, and in several cases the recognition was 
doubtful. 

An atmosphere of awe appeared to pervade the places, and 
no hysterical scenes followed the pointing out of the bodies. 
The morbid crowds usually attendant on a smaller calamity 
were absent, and few except those seeking missing relatives 
sought admission. Only one of the men, James D. Maloney. 
wept as he stood over the body of his dead wife. 

"I can't go any further," he said. "Her sister, Tennie Pet- 
erson, who lived in Fargo, N. D., was with her, and her body 
probably is there," motioning to the row of blanket-covered 
forms, "but I can't look. I must go back to the little ones 
at home, now motherless." 

In Inspector Campbell's office at the Chicago avenue station 
Sergeant Finn monotonously repeated the descriptions, as th'e 
scores of frantic seekers filled and refilled the little office. Sev- 
eral times he was interrupted by hysterical shrieks of women 
or the broken voices of men. 

"Read it again, please," would be the call, and, as the des- 
cription again was read off, the number of the body was taken 
and the relatives hurried to the undertaking rooms. The 
bodies of Walter B. Zeisler, 12 years old, Lee Haviland and 
Walter A. Austrian were partly identified from the police 
descriptions. 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 73 

The list of hospital patients also was posted in the station 
and aided friends in the search for injured. 

Sheldon's undertaking- rooms at 230 West Madison street 
were the scene of pathetic incidents. Forty-seven bodies, some 
of them with the clothing entirely burned away, and with few 
exceptions with features charred beyond recognition, had been 
taken there. Late in the night only four had been identified. 
The first body recognized was that of Mrs. Brindsley, of 909 
Jackson boulevard, who had attended the matinee with Miss 
Edna Torney, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. P. Torney, 1292 
Adams street. Mr. Torney could find no trace of the young 

woman. ' 

t 

Of the forty-seven bodies thirty-six were of matured women 
and five of men. There were bodies of six children, three boys 
and three girls. 

Dr. J. H. Bates, of 3256 South Park avenue, was searching 
for the bodies of Myrtle Shabad and Ruth Elken, numbered 
among the missing. 

There were similar scenes at all of the undertaking rooms to 
which bodies were taken. 

"When the fire broke out I was taking tickets at the door,** 
said E. Lovett, one of the ijshers. "The crowd began to move 
toward the exits on the ground floor, and I rushed to the big 
entrance doors and threw three of them open. From there 
I hurried to the cigar store and called up the police and fire 
departments. 

"When I returned I tried to get more of the doors open, but 
was shoved aside and told that I was crazy. The crowd acted 
in a most frenzied manner and no one could have held them 
in check. Conditions on the balconies must have been appall- 
ing. They were well filled, but the exits, had they been 
opened, would have proved ample for all." 



74 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

Michael Ohle, who was ushering on the first balcony, no- 
ticed the fire shortly after it started. He hurried to the en- 
trances and cleared the way for the people to get out. Then, 
he says, h.e started downstairs to find out how serious the fire 
was. Before he could return the panic was on. and he fled 
to the street for safety. 

"Mrs. Phillipson, Phillipson is Mrs. Phillipson here?" 
That cry sounded in drug stores, cigar stores, and hotels 
until three little girls, Adeline, Frances, and Teresa, had found 
their mother, from whom they were separated in the panic. 
At last at the Continental hotel the call was weakly answered 
by a woman who lay upon a couch, more frightened than hurt. 
In another moment three little girls were sobbing in their 
mother's lap. 

FRIENDS AND RELATIVES EAGERLY SEARCH 
' FOR LOVED ONES MISSING AFTER 
THEATER HOLOCAUST. 

Friends sought for information of friends; husbands asked 
for word of wives; fathers and mothers sought news of sons 
and daughters; men and women begged to be told if there 
was any knowledge of their sweethearts; parents asked for 
children; and children fearfully told the names of missing 
playmates. 

The early hours of the evening were marked by many sad 
scenes. Men would rush to the desk where the names of 
the missing were being compiled and asked if anything had 
been heard of some member of their families, then turn away 
and hurry out, barely waiting to be told that there would be 
no definite news until nearly midnight. 

"Just think!" said one gray headed man, leaning on the 
arm of a younger man who was leading him down the stairs. 



-' 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 75 

"I bought the matinee tickets for the children as a treat, and 
insisted that they take their little cousin with them." 

"Have you heard anything of my daughter?" asked a 
woman. 

"Whatwas her name?" 

"Lily. She had seats in the first balcony with some girl 
friends. You would know her by her brown hair. She wore 
a white silk shirt waist and a diamond ring I gave her for 
Christmas. I went to the theater, but I couldn't get near it, 
and they said they were still carrying out bodies." 

"And her name? Who was she?" 

"She was my daughter my only one !" 

The woman walked away, weeping, without giving the 
name, and the only response she would make to questions 
from those who followed her was : 

"My daughter!" 

Two men, with two little boys, came in. "Our wives," 
they said, "came to the matinee with some neighbors. They 
have not yet come home." 

Before they could give their names a third man ran up and 
cried : 

"I just got word the folks have been taken home in am- 
bulances. They are alive." 

The men gave a shout and were gone in an instant. 

Men with children in their arms came to ask for others of 
the family who had become separated from them in the panic 
at the theater. Women, tears dampening their cheeks, 
hushed the chatter of their little ones while they gave the 
names of husbands and brothers, or told of other children 
who had been lost. 

One man yielded to his fears at the last minute and went 



7 6 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER 



away without asking for information or giving any name 
He said: 

"I went to the theater with my wife. We have only been 
married a year. When the rush came I was torn away from 
her, and the last thing I remember is of hearing her call my 
name. Then I was lifted off my feet and can recall nothing 
more except that I found myself in the street. I have been 
to all the hospitals and morgues, and now I am going back 
to the theater again." 

So it went until the .last dreaded news began coming in. 
Identifications were being made and hearts were being broken. 
After that time the inquiries were not for information; they 
were pleas to be told that a mistake had been made or that 
one was possible. 



CHAPTER IV. 

SCENE OF HORROR AS VIEWED FROM THE 

STAGE. 

All but one of the 348 members of the "Bluebeard" company 
escaped, although many had close calls for their lives. Some 
of the chorus girls displayed great coolness in the face of grave 
peril. Eddie Foy, who had a thrilling experience, said : 

"I was up in my dressing room preparing to come on for 
my turn in the middle of the second act when I heard an un- 
usual commotion on the stage that I knew could not be caused 
by anything that was a part of the show. I hurried out of 
my dressing room, and as I looked I saw that the big drop 
curtain was on "fire. 

"The fire had caught from the calcium "and the paint and 
muslin on the drop caused the flames to travel with great rap- 
idity. Everything was excitement. Everybody was running 
from the stage. My 6 year old son, Bryan, stood in the first 
entrance to the stage and my first thought naturally was to 
get him out They would not let me go out over the foot- 
lights, so I picked up the boy and gave him to a man and told 
him to rush the boy out into the alley. 

"I then rushed out to the footlights and called out to the 
audience, 'Keep very quiet. It is all right. Don't get ex- 
cited and don't stampede. It is all right/ 

"I then shouted an order into the flies, 'Drop the curtain,' 
and called out to the leader of the orchestra to 'play an over 



78 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

ture/ Some of the musicians had left, but those that re* 
mainecl began to play. The leader sat there, white as a ghost, 
but beating his baton in the air. 

"As the music started I shouted out to the audience, 'Go 
out slowly. Leave the theater slowly.' The audience had 
not yet become panic stricken, and as I shouted to them they 
applauded me. The next minute the whole stage seemed to 
be afire, and what wood there was began to crackle with a 
sound like a series of explosions. 

"When I first came out to the footlights about 300 persons 
had left the theater or were leaving it. They were those who 
were nearest the door. Then the policemen came rushing in 
and tried to stem the tide towards the door. 
"All this happened in fifteen seconds. Up in the flies were 
the young women who compose the aerial ballet. They were 
up there waiting to do their tujrn, and as I stood at the front 
of the stage they came rushing out. I think they all got out 
safely. 

"The fire seemed to spread with a series of explosions. 
The paint on the curtains and scenery came in touch with the 
flames and in a second the scenery was sputtering and blazing 
up on all sides. The smoke was fearful and it was a pase of run 
quickly or be smothered." 

X 

Stage Director William Carleton, who was one of the last 
to leave the stage when the flames and smoke drove the mem j 
bers of the company out, said : 

"I was on the stage when the flames shot out from the 
switchboard on the left side. It seemed that some part of 
the scenery must have touched the sparks and set the fire. 
Soon the octette which was singing "In the Pale Moonlight," 
discovered the fire over their heads and in a few moments we 
had the curtain run down. It would not go down the full 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 79 

length, however, leaving an opening of about five feet from 
the floor. Then the crowd out in front began to stampede 
and the lights went out. Eddie Foy, who was in his dress- 
ing room, heard the commotion, and, rushing to the front of 
the stage, shouted to the spectators to be calm. The warning 
was useless and the panic was under way before any one real- 
ized what was going on. 

"Only sixteen members of the company were on the stage 
at the time. They remained until the flames were all about 
them and several had their hair singed and faces burned. Al- 
most every one of these went out through the stage entrance 
on Dearborn street. In' the meantime all of those who were 
in the dressing room had been warned and rushed out through 
the front entrance on Randolph street. There was no panic 
among the members of the. company, every tine seeming to 
know that care would result in the saving of life. Most of 
the members were preparing for the next number in their 
dressing rooms when the fire broke out, and they hurriedly 
secured what wraps they could and all dashed up to the stage, 
making their exit in safety. 

"The elevator which has been used for the members of 
the company, in going from the upper dressing rooms to the 
stage, was one of the first things to go wrong, and attempts 
to use it were futile. 

"It seems that the panic could not be averted, as the great 
crowd which filled the theater was unable to control itself. Two 
of the women fainted." 

"When the fire broke out," said Lou Shean, a member of 
the chorus, "I was in the dressing room underneath the stage. 
When I reached the top of the stairs the scenery nearby was 
all in flames and the heat was so fierce that I could not reach 
the stage door leading: toward Dearborn street 1 returned 



So IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

to the basement and ran down the long corridor leading to- 
ward the engine room, near which doors led to the smoking 
room and buffet. Both doors were locked. I began to break 
down the doors, assisted by other members of the company, 
while about seventy or eighty other members crowded against 
us. I succeeded in bursting open the door to the smoking 
room, when all made a wild rush. I was knocked down and 
trampled on and received painful bruises all over my body." 

"I was just straightening up things in our dressing room 
upstairs," said Harry Meehan, a member of the chorus, who 
also acted as dresser for Eddie Foy and Harry Gil foil, "when 
the fire started. Both Mr. Foy and Mr. Gilfoil were on the 
stage at the time. I opened Mr. Foy's trunk and took out 
his watch and chain and rushed out, leaving my own clothes 
behind. I was so scantily dressed that I had to borrow 
clothes to get back to the hotel. Mr. Gilfoil saved nothing 
but his overcoat." 

Herbert Cawthorn, the Irish comedian who took the pan 
of Pat Shaw in the play "Bluebeard," assisted many of the 
chorus girls from the stage exits in the panic. 

"While the stage fireman was working in an endeavor to 
use the chemicals the flames suddenly swooped down and out. 
Eddie Foy shouted something about the asbestos curtain and 
the fireman attempted to use it, and the stage hands ran to hj 
assistance, but the curtain refused to work. 

"In my opinion the stage fireman might have averted the 
whole terrible affair if he had not become so excited. The 
chorus girls and everybody, to my mind, were less excited than 
ne. There were at least 500 people behind the scenes when 
the fire started, I assisted many of the chorus girls from 
the theater." 

Said C, W. Northrop, who took the part of one of 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 81 

beard's old wives: "Many of us certainly had narrow escapes. 
Those who were in the dressing rooms underneath the stage 
at the tim^ had more difficulty in getting out. I was in the 
dressing room under the stage when the fire broke out, and 
when I found that I could not reach the stage I tried to get 
out through the door connecting the extreme north end of 
the C shaped corridor with the smoking room. I joined 
other members of the company in their rush for safety, but 
when we reached the door we found it closed. Some of the 
members crawled out through a coal hole, while others broke 
down the locked door, through which the cihers made their 
way out." 

Lolla Quinlan, one of Bluebeard's eight dancers, saved the 
life of one of her companions, Violet Sidney, at the peril of 
her own. The two girls, with five others, were in a dressing 
room on the fifth floor when the alarm was raised. In their 
haste Miss Sidney caught her foot and sank to the floor with 
a cry of pain. She had sprained her ankle. The others, with 
the exception of Miss Quinlan, fled down the stairs. 

.-Grasping her companion around the waist Miss Quinlan 
dragged her down the stairs to the stage and crossed the 
boards during a rain of fiery brands. These two were the last 
to leave the stage. Miss Quinlan's right arm and hand were 
painfully burned and her face was scorched. Miss Sidney's 
face was slightly burned. Both were taken to the Continental 
hotel. 

Herbert Dillon, musical director, at the height of the panic 
broke through the stage door from the orchestra side, hastily 
cleared away obstructions with an ax, and assisted in the escape 
of about eighty chorus girls who occupied ten dressing rooms 
under the stage. 

".We were getting ready for the honey and fan scene," said 



82 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

Miss Nina Wood, "talking and laughing, and not thinking 
of danger. We were so far back of the orchestra that we did 
not hear sounds of the panic for several moments. Then the 
tramping of feet came to our ears. We made our way through 
the smoking room and one of the narrow exits of the theater." 

Miss Adele Rafter, a member of the company, was in her 
dressing room when the fire broke out. 

"I did not wait an instant," said Miss Rafter. "I caught 
up a muff and boa and rushed down the stairs in my stage cos- 
tume and was the first of the company to get out the back en- 
trance. Some man kindly loaned me his overcoat and I hur- 
ried to my apartments at the Sherman house. Several of the 
girls followed, and we had a good crying spell together." 

Miss Rafter's mother called at the hotel and spent the even- 
ing with her. Telegrams were sent to her father, who is 
rector of a church at Dunkirk, N. Y. 

Edwin H. Price, manager of the "Mr. Bluebeard" com- 
pany, was not in the building when the fire started. He said : 

"I stepped out of the theater for a minute, and when I got 
back I saw the people rushing out and knew the stage was on 
fire. I helped some of the girls out of the rear entrance. With 
but one or two exceptions all left in stage costume. 

"One young woman in the chorus, Miss McDonald, dis- 
played unusual coolness. She remained in her dressing room 
and donned her entire street costume, and also carried out as 
much of her stage clothing as she could carry." 

Quite a number of the chorus girls live in Chicago, and Mr. 
Price furnished cabs and sent them ail to their homes. 

Through some mistake it was reported that Miss Anabel 
Whitford, the fairy queen of the company, was dying at one 
of the hospitals. She was not even injured, having safely 
made her way out through the stage door 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 83 

Miss Nellie Reed, the principal of the flying ballet, which 
was in place for its appearance near the top part of the stage, 
was so badly burned by the flames before she was able to escape 
that she afterward died at the county hospital. The other 
members of the flying ballet were not injured. 

Robert Evans, one of the principals of the Bluebeard com- 
pany, was in his dressing room on the fourth floor. He dived 
through a mass of flame and landed three stairways below. 
He helped a number of chorus girls to escape through the low- 
er basement. His hands and face are burned severely. He 
lost all his wardrobe and personal effects. 

STORY OF HOW A SMALL BLAZE TERMINATED 
IN TERRIBLE LOSS. 

The fire started while the double octet was singing "In 
the Pale Moonlight." Eddie Foy, off the stage, was making 
up for his "elephant" specialty. 

On the audience's left the stage right a line of fire 
flashed straight up. It was followed by a noise as of an ex- 
plosion. According to nearly all accounts, however, there 
was no real explosion, the sound being that of the fuse of the 
"spot" light, the light which is turned on a pivot to follow 
and illuminate the progress of the star across the stage. 

This light caused the fire. On this all reports of the stage 
folk agree. As to manner, accounts differ widely. R. M. 
Cummings, the boy in charge of the light, said that it was 
short circuited. 

Stage hands, as they fled from the scene, however, were 
heard to question one another, "Who kicked over the light?" 
The light belonged to the "Bluebeard" company. 

The beginning of the disaster was leisurely. The stage 
hands had been fighting the line of wavering flame along the 



84 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

i 

muslin fly border for some seconds before the audience knew 
anything was the matter. 

The fly border, made of muslin and saturated with paint, 
was tinder to the flames. 

The stage hands grasped the long sticks used in their work. 
They forgot the hand grenades that are supposed to be on 
every stage. 

"Hit it with the sticks !" was the cry. "Beat it out I" "Beat 
it out!" 

The men struck savagely. A few yards of the border fell 
upon the stage and was stamped to charred fragments. 

That sight was the first warning the audience had. For a 
second there was a hush. The singers halted in their lines; 
the musicians ceased to play. 

Then a murmur of fear ran through the audience. There 
were cries from a few, followed by the breaking, rumbling 
sound of the first step toward the flight of panic. 

At that moment a strange, grotesque figure appeared upon 
the stage. It wore tights, a loose upper garment, and the 
face was one-half made up. The man was Eddie Foy, chief 
comedian of the company, the clown, but the only man who 
kept his head. 

Before he reached the center of the stage he had called out 
to a stage hand : "Take my boy, Bryan, there I Get him out ! } 
There by the stage way!" 

The stage hand grabbed the little chap. Foy saw him dart 
with him to safety as he turned his head. 

Freed of parental anxiety, he faced the audience, 

"Keep quiet!" he shouted. "Quiet." 

"Go out in order!" he shouted. "Don't get excited!" 

Between exclamations he bent over toward the orchestra 
leader. 



1ROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 85 

ORCHESTRA PLAYS IN FACE OF DEATH. 

"Start an overture!" he commanded. "Start anything. 
For God's sake play, play, play, and keep on playing-." 

The brave words were as bravely answered. Gillea raised* 
his wand, and the musicians began to play. Better than any 
one in the theater they knew their peril. They could look 
slantingly up and see that the 300 sets of the "Bluebeard" 
scenery all were ablaze. Their faces were white, their hands 
trembled, but they played, and played. 

Foy still stood there, alternately urging the frightened peo- 
ple to avoid a panic and spurring the , orchestra on. One by 
one the musicians dropped fiddle, horn, and other instruments 
and stole away. 

"CLOWN" PROVES A HERO. 

Finally the leader and Foy were left alone. Foy gave one 
glance upward and saw the scenery all aflame. Dropping 
brands fell around him, and then he fled just in time to 
save his own life. The "clown" had proved himself a hero. 

The curtain started to come down. It stopped, it swayed 
as from a Heavy wind, and then it "buckled" near the center. 

ALL HOPE LOST FOR GALLERY. 

From that moment no power short of omnipotent could 
have saved the occupants of the upper gallery. 

The coolness of Foy, of the orchestra leader and of other 
players, who begged the audience to hold itself in check, how- 
ever, probably saved many lives on the parquet floor. Tumul- 
tuous panic prevailed, but the maddest of it save in the 
doomed gallery was at the* outskirts of the ground floor 
crowd. 



CHAPTER V. 



EXCITING EXPERIENCES IN THE FIRE. 



"If you ever saw a field of timothy grass blown flat by the 
wind and rain of a summer storm, that was the position of the 
dead at the exits of the second balcony," said Chief of Police 
O'Neill. 

"In the rush for the stairs they had jammed in the doorway 
and piled ten deep ; lying almost like shingles. When we got 
up the stairs in the dark to the front rows of the victims, some 
of them were alive and struggling, but so pinned down by the 
great weight of the dead and dying piled upon them that three 
strong men could not pull the unfortunate ones free. 

"It- was necessary first to take the dead from the top of the 
pile, then the rest of the bodies were lifted easily and regularly 
from their positions, save as their arms had intertwined and 
clutched. 

"Nothing in my experience has ever approached the awful- 
ness of the situation and it may be said that from the point of 
physical exertion, the police denartment has never been taxed as 
it has been taxed tonight. Men have been worn out simply 
with the carrying out of dead bodies, to say nothing of the 
awftilness of their burdens." 

The strong hand of the chief was called into play when the 
dead had been removed and when the theater management 
appeared at the exit of the second balcony, seeking to pass the 

86 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 87 

uniformed police who guarded the heaps of sealskins, purses, 
and tangled valuables behind them. A spokesman for the man- 
agement, backed up by a negro special policeman of the house, 
stood before the half dozen city police on guard, asking to be 
admitted that these valuables might be removed to the check- 
rooms of the theater. 

"But these things are the property of the coroner," replied 
the chief, coming up behind the delegation. 

"But the theater management wishes to make sure of the 
safety of these valuables," insisted the spokesman. 

"The department of police is responsible," replied Chief 
O'Neill. 

. 

EXPERIENCE OF CHICAGO UNIVERSITY MEN. 

Clyde A. Blair, captain of the University of Chicago track 
team,, and Victor S. Rice, 615 Yale avenue, a member of the 
team, accompanied Miss Majorie Mason, 5733 Monroe ave- 
nue, and Miss Anne Hough, 361 East Fifty-eighth street, to 
the matinee. They were sitting in the middle of the seventh 
row from the rear of the first floor. When the first flames broke 
through from the stage Miss Mason became alarmed. Seizing 
the girl, and leaving his overcoat and hat, Blair dragged her 
through the crush toward the doot, closely followed by Rice 
and Miss Hough. 

"The crush at the door," said Blair, "was terrific. Half of 
the double doors opening into the ^vestibule were fastened. 
People dashed against the glass, breaking it and forcing their 
way through. One woman fell down in the crowd directly 
in front of me. She looked up and said, 'For God's sake, 
don't trample on me.' I stepped around her, unable to help 
her up, and the crowd forced me past. I could not learn 
whether she was trampled over or not." 



88 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER, 

BISHOP BRAVES DANGER IN HEROIC WORK OF 

RESCUE. 

"I was passing the theater when the panic began," said 
Bishop Samuel Fallows of the St. Paul's Reformed Episcopal 
church. "I heard the cry for volunteers and joined the men 
who went into the place to carry out the dead and injured. I 
had no idea of the extent'Of the disaster until I became actively 
engaged in the work. 

"The sight when I reached the balconies was pitiful be- 
yond description. It grew in horror as I looked over the 
seats. The bodies were in piles. Women had their hands 
over their faces as if to shield off a blow. Children lay 
crushed beneath their parents, as if they had been hurled to 
the marble floors. 

"I saw the great battlefields of the civil war, but they were 
as nothing to this. When we began to take out the bodies we 
found that many of the audience had been unable to get even 
near the exits. Women were bent over the seats, their fingers 
clinched on the iron sides so strongly that they were torn and 
bleeding. Their faces and clothes were burned, and they 
mustjiave suffered intensely. 

"I ministered to all I could and some of them seemed to 
welcome the presence of a clergyman as it were a gift from 
God. There appeared to be little system in the work of 
rescue, but that was due, I believe, to the intense excitement" 

WOMEN AND FOUR CHILDREN SUFFER. 

Mrs. Anna B. Milliken, who is staying at Thompson's 
hotel, had four children in her charge, Felix, Jessie, Tony, 
and Jennie Guerrier, of 135 North Sangamon street, their 
ages ranging from u to 17 years. She and her charges 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER, 89 

were in the balcony, standing against the wall, when the fire- 
started. 

"Something told me to be calm-/' said Mrs. Milliken, "I 
had passed through one dreadful experience in the Chicago 
fire, and, though there was a great deal of confusion, I kept 
the children together, telling them not to be frightened. Men 
and women hurried past me, shouting like wild beasts, and 
if I had joined them the children and I would have been 
trampled under foot. It was minutes before I could leave wtih 
the two younger children. The two elder are lost. What 
shall I tell their folks," and the poor woman began to weep. 
Her face, as she stood in the lobby of the Northwestern build- 
ing, was blistered and swollen. The back of her dress was 
burned through. 

"What are the names of the missing children ?" inquired a 
physician. "They are in here," and he led the distracted 
woman into one of the "first aid hospitals." There Mrs. Mil- 
liken saw her two charges so swathed in bandages that they 
could not be recognized. 

LEARNS CHILDREN HAVE ESCAPED. 

"I'm looking for two little girls Berien is the name," 
shouted H. E. Osborne. "They live in Aurora." 

"They've been here," answered Mr. Weisman. "They are 
all right and have been sent to their home in Aurora." 

With a glad shout Osborne ran back to the office of the 
National Cash Register company, 50 State street, to inform 
Miss Mary Stevenson, whom the children had been visiting. 

The Berien children were among the first to reach the of- 
fices of the Hallwood company after the fire broke out. By 
some chance they had made their way out uninjured. The 
story of their plight touched a stranger, who took them to a 



90 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

railway station and bought them tickets to their home in Au- 
rora. One was about 14 and the other about 9 years old. 

FINDS HIS DAUGHTER. 

One young woman, terrified but uninjured, had found hef 
way to this office and was sitting in a frightened stupor, when 
an elderly man hurried in from the street. 

"Have you seen " he started to ask, and then, catching 
sight of the forlorn little figure, he stopped. With a glad 
cry, father and daughter rushed into each other's arms, and 
the father bore his child away. Their names were not learned. 

James Sullivan of Woodstock was probably the last man 
who got out of the parquet Wnjurjfed. With him was George 
Field, also of Woodstock, and the two fought their way out 
together. 

MR. FIELD'S NARRATIVE. 

"We were seated in the twelfth row," said Mr. Field, 
"when we saw fire at the top of the proscenium arch. At the 
same time some sparks fell on the stage. 

"Eddie Foy came out and told the audience not to be afraid, 
co avoid a panic, and there would be no trouble. While he 
was speaking, however, a burning brand fell alongside of him, 
and then came what looked like a huge globe of fire. The 
moment it struck the stage fire spread everywhere. 

"The panic started at once and everybody rushed for the 
doors. Sullivan and I were in the rear of the fleeing mass 
and made our way out as best we could without getting mixed 
up in the panic. As long as the women and children were 
struggling through the straight aisles there was not so much 
trouble except that some of the fugitives fell to the floor and 
had to be helped on their feet again. At times the women 



1ROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. , 91 

and children would be lying four deep on the floor of the 
aisles, and in several instances we had to set them on their feet 
before we could go further. There was not much smoke and 
had the aisles been straight to the entrances every one could 
have got out practically unhurt. 

"But when it came to the turns where they focus into the 
lobby the poor women and children were piled up into indis- 
criminate heaps. The screams and cries they uttered were 
something terrible. It was an impossibility to allay the panic 
and the frightened people simply trampled on those in front 
of them. 

"Some of the people in the orchestra chairs immediately in 
front of the stage must have been burned by the fire. The fire 
darted directly among them and the chairs began burning at 
once. Those on this floor far enough in the rear to escape 
these flames would have been all right except for the crush 
of the panic. 

"Sullivan, who was with me, was the last man out of the 
orchestra chairs who wa not injured. Whoever was behind 
us must have been suffocated or burned to death. How many 
there were I have no means of knowing." 

NARROW ESCAPES OF YOUNG AND OLD. 

One of the narrow escapes in the first rush for the open 
air was that of Winnie Gallagher, 1 1 years old, 4925 Michi- 
gan avenue. The child, who was with her mother in the 
third row, was left behind in the rush for safety. She climbed 
to the top of the seat and, stepping from one chair to another, 
finally reached the door. There she was nearly crushed in 
the crowd. At the Central police station the child was re- 
stored to her mother. 

Miss Lila Hazel Coulter, of 4760 Champlain avenue, was 



92 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

sitting with Mr. Kenneth Collins and Miss Helen Dickinson, 
3637 Michigan avenue, in the eighth row in the parquet 
She escaped in safety. 

"I was sitting in the fifth seat from the aisle," said Miss 
Coulter, "but the fire, which was bursting out from both sides 
of the stage, had such a fascination for me." 

D. W. Dimmick, of Apple River, 111., an old man of 70, 
with a long, white beard, was standing in the upper gallery 
when the fire broke out. 

"I was with a party of fouf," said Mr. Dimmick. "I saw 
small pieces of what looked like burning paper dropping down 
from above at the left of the curtain. At the same time small 
puffs of smoke seemed to shoot out into the house. A boy in 
the gallery near me called 'fire/ but there were plenty of 
people to stop him. 

" 'Keep quiet 1' I told him. 'If you don't look out, you'll' 
start a panic.' 

"Then all of a sudden the whole front of the stage seemed 
to burst out in one mass of flame. Then everybody seemed 
to get up and start to get out of the place at once. From all 
over the house came shrieks and cries of 'fire/ I started at 
once, hugging the wall on the outside of the stairway as we 
went down. 

"When we got down to the platform where the first bal- 
cony opens it seemed to me that people were stacked up like 
cordwood. There were men, women, and children in the lot. 
At the same time there were some people whom I thought 
must be actors, who came running out from somewhere in 
the interior of the house, and whose wigs and clothes were on 
fire. We tried to beat out the flames as we went along. By 
crowding out to the wall we managed to squeeze past the 
mass of people who were writhing on the floor, and practical- * 



1ROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 93 

iy blocking the entrance so far as the people still in the gallery 
were concerned. 

PULLS WOMEN FROM MASS ON FLOOR. 

"As we got by the mass on the floor I turned and caught 
hold of the arms of a woman who was lying near the bottom 
pinned down by the weight resting on her feet. I managed 
to pull her out, and I think she got down in safety. One of 
the men with me also pulled out another woman from the 
heap. I tried to rescue a man who was also caught by the 
feet, but, although 1 braced myself against the stairs, I was 
unable to move him. 

"I came in from Apple River to see the sights in Chicago, 
and 1 have seen all I can stand." 

Six little girls from Evanston, in a party occupying seats 
in the parquet, escaped by the side entrance. In the crush 
they lost most of their clothing. Four of the children stayed 
together, the other two being for the time lost in the street. 
The four were Hannah Gregg, 12 years old, 1038 Sheridan 
road; Florence and May Lang, 14 and 13 years old, Buena 
Park; Beatrice Moore, 12 years old, Buena Park. 



CHAPTER VI. 

HEROES OF THE FIRE. 

One of the heroes of the Iroquois theater fire was Peter 
Quinn, chief special agent of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa 
Fe railroad system, who assisted in saving the lives of 100 or 
more of the performers. But for the prompt service of Quinn 
and two citizens who assisted him it is believed that most of 
the performers would have met the fate of the victims ?n 
the theater proper. 

Mr. Quinn had attended a trial in the Criminal court and 
in the middle of the afternoon started for the downtown dis- 
trict, intending to proceed to his office. Reaching Randolph 
and Dearborn streets the railroad official had his attention at- 
tracted to a man who rushed from the theater bare-headed 
and without his coat. What followed Quinn describes aa 
follows : 

"The actions of the man and the fact that he was without 
coat and hat attracted my attention and I watched him 
through curiosity. He ran so swiftly that he collided with 
several pedestrians, and I saw him rush toward a policeman 
on the street crossing. He said something to the policeman 
and then I saw the bluecoat rush excitedly away. My curi- 
osity was then aroused to such an extent that I followed the 
young man who ran into the alley in the rear of the theater. 
He disappeared there and I was about to go on my way when 
my attention was attracted to the door leading upon the 
stage. 

"As I passed I heard a commotion and saw the door was 

M 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 95 

slightly open, and, peeping into the opening, I asked what 
was the trouble. Then, for the first time, I learned that the 
theater was on fire. A number of strangers arrived at the 
door about the same time. 

"The players, men, women, and children, had rushed to this 
small trap-door for escape, got caught in a solid mass, and 
were so firmly wedged together that they could not move. 
They were banked solidly against the little door, and it could 
not be opened. Nearly all of the players were in their stage 
costumes. 

"The women screamed and begged us to rescue them, and 
the cries of the children could be heard above the hoarse 
shouts of the men. I did not realize it at that moment, but 
it develops that the players were in the same position as the 
unfortunates who met death in the front end of the house. 

"Had we been unable to get that trap-door open when we 
did every member of that struggling crowd of men, women 
and children, would have perished where they stood, too 
tightly wedged together to permit even a slight struggle 
against death. 

"Nobody at that time had the slightest idea of the serious 
state of affairs. We tried to force the door open, but the 
crowd was banked up too tightly against it. I shouted 
through the opening and commanded those in the rear to step 
back far enough to permit the door to be opened. It was like 
talking to empty space, however, and for a few moments we, 
stood there helpless and without any means to assist those 
in distress. 

"Then came a volume of smoke, and far in the rear of the 
crowd we could see the illumination from the flames. I had 
a number of small tools in my pocket, and immediately pro- 
ceeded to remove the metal attachments which held the door 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 



in place. This was accomplished with some difficulty, and 
then we managed to force the crowd back probably an inch, 
but that was sufficient. The door was then permitted to drop 
from its place, and one by one the imprisoned players were 
assisted into the alley. 

"They were then in scanty costumes, but were quickly as- 
sisted to places of shelter. Even when the last player and 
stage hand had reached the alley we could not realize the 
awfulness of what had happened. I walked in upon the stage 
and found it a seething furnace. The players had been res- 
cued just in time. A minute later and the flames and smoke 
would have reached the imperiled ones, and they would have 

been suffocated or burned where they stood." 



THE PILES OF DEAD IN THE GALLERY. 

William ("Smiling") Corbett was one of the first to pene- 
trate the smoke and reach the balcony and gallery of the 
theater where the most fearful loss of life occurred. Charley 
Dexter, the Boston National league player, and Frank House- 
man, the old Chicago second baseman, went to his assistance, 

Corbett was stopped by a fear-frenzied little woman, who 
begged him to save her two children. 

"They're up in the gallery," she cried. 

Corbett made a dash for the balcony entrance on the right. 

"Don't go up there," admonished some of the firemen 
about; "you'll get hemmed in." 

Corbett groped his way onward and upward, stumbling over 
bodies lying prostrate on the staircase, and finally reached the 
gallery entrance. 

"There they were," said Corbett afterward. "Positively 
the most sickening spectacle I ever saw. They were piled 
up in bunches, in all manner of disarray. I grabbed for the 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 97 

topmost body, a girl about 6 years old. Catching her by the 
wrist I felt the flesh curl up under my grasp. I hurried down 
with the little one, then back again, each time with the body 
of a child. 

"I then realized that no good could come of any further 
effort. Everybody was stark dead. I turned away and fled. 
I never again want to go near the place." 

EDDIE FOY'S HEROISM. 

Eddie Foy, leading comedian in "Mr. Bluebeard," said : 

"I was in my dressing room, one tier up off the stage, when 
I smelled smoke. The 'Moonlight ballet' was on, and it was 
three minutes before the time for my entrance on the first 
scene of the second act. 

"I looked up and immediately over me, in the left first en- 
trance, I saw sparks and a small cloud of smoke* The mem- 
bers of the company and of the chorus had already started 
off the stage. My eldest boy, Bryan, was standing under 
the light bridge in the first entrance, and, taking him by the 
hand, I turned him over to one of the stage hands with orders 
to get him out of the theater. In less time than it takes to 
tell it, the little wreath of smoke and the tiny sparks had grown 
in volume. The smoke and some of the sparks had already 
made their way into the main part of the house, curling down, 
and around the lower edge of the proscenium arch. 

"I looked at the house through an opening, and that was 
enough. I tried to appear as calm as possible under the con- 
ditions, realizing what a stampede would mean. Just what 
I said I cannot for the life of me now recall. In effect, though, 
this is about it: 

" 'Ladies and gentlemen, there is no danger. Don't get 
excited. Walk out calmly.' 



98 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

"Between each breath, and these were coming in short, 
sharp gasps, I kept yelling out from the corner of my lips: 
'Lower that iron curtain; drop the fire curtain!' 

"The balcony and gallery were packed with women and 
children, and fully aware of what was in store for these hap- 
less ones, my heart sank. 

"The cracking of the timbers above increased. The smoke 
was growing more dense. I knew the material aloft flimsy, 
dry linens, parched canvas, and paint-coated tapestries and 
drops. 

"Without raising my voice to a pitch calculated to alarm, 
and yet unmistakably urgent in its appeal, I repeated: 'Get 
out get out slowly.' 

"The northeast corner of the fly gallery was now a furnace. 
Just as I made the last appeal to the balcony and the gallery 
a fiercely blazing ember dropped at my feet. Another, a 
smaller one, was caught in the draft and forced out into the 
theater proper. 

" 'Drop the fire curtain/ I shouted again, looking in vain for 
it to come down. I know that not a soul in the theater proper 
would be in danger if this was done. The switchboard was 
there but no one to work it. I cried out for Carleton, our 
stage manager. He was gone. I called for 'Pete/ one of 
the electricians. He, too, was gone. 

"'Does any one know how this iron curtain is worked?' 
I yelled at the mob of fleeing stage hands, members of the 
company, property men, and musicians. Not an answer. 

"At the first sign of danger, after reaching the footlights, 
I said to Dillea, our orchestra leader : 

" 'An overture, Herbert, an overture.' 

"Dillea God bless him, his ranks already thinning out in 
the orchestra pit struck up the 'Sleeping Beauty and the 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 99 

Beast' overture. Of the thirty odd musicians in the pit not 
over half a dozen remained to follow Dillea and his baton. 
But the little fellow, ashen pale, his eyes glued on the raging 
mass of flame above, never whimpered. He kept right on, 
and only left his post when the flames drove him away from 
his leader's stand. When Dillea disappeared down the open- 
ing in the orchestra pit half of the lower floor had been emp- 
tied. This I noticed only in an aside, for my eyes were fast- 
ened on the sea of agonized, distracted little ones in the bal- 
cony and gallery." 

AN ELEVATOR BOY HERO. 

The bottom of the elevator shaft in the doomed theater was 
a scene of pandemonium when the stage hands tried to get 
the girls out. Archie Barnard headed the chain gang and 
behind him were J. R. O'Mally, Arthur Hart and William 
Price. As soon as the women reached the floor they began 
to run wild, and had to be caught and tossed from one man 
to another. The women in the first tier of dressing rooms 
were the first down and they were helped out without much 
trouble. 

On his second trip up with the elevator young Robert 
Smith ascended into an atmosphere that was so thick with 
smoke that he could not see or breathe. He found one of 
the girls on the sixth floor and then took on another load 
from the fifth. By the time he had come down with these, 
the flames and smoke were threatening the men in the chain. 
The clothing of Barnard and William Price was on fire and 
their hair was burning. Nevertheless they threw the girls out 
and waited for the third load. 

This load came near not arriving. The smoke was so thick 
that Smith had to find the girls and drag them into the ele- 



ioo IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

vator and by the time he had done this he was almost ovtr- 
come. The elevator was burning at the place where the con- 
troller was located, and Smith had to place his left hand in 
the flame to start the car. The hand was badly burned, but 
the car was started and came down in time for the girls to 
receive assistance from the men who were waiting. When 
the last girl was out the men left the building. 

Up in the gridiron, where the smoke was thickest, the four 
German boys who worked the aerial apparatus were caught, 
fully sixty feet from the stage floor, and no one had time to 
come to their assistance or to pay any attention to them, be- 
cause there were too many other people to be saved. 

At first, they did not know what to do. As the smoke be- 
came thicker and the heat more intense they moved to get 
out. One of them, who was some distance from his com- 
panions, was caught in the flames of one of the burning pieces 
of draperies, and either because he lost his presence of mind 
or because he could not hold out any longer, he jumped. Some 
of the people on the stage floor heard him fall, but he did not 
move and no one could help him. He could not be found after 
the other people escaped from the stage. His three companions 
climbed over the gridiron scaffolding and made their way down 
the stairway to safety. 

"I heard the little fellow fall," said Arthur Hart, "and that 
is the last I knew of him. It was a long jump, and I presume 
that he was badly injured." 

"I stuck to the car until the ropes parted," said young 
Smith, the elevator boy, "and then I began to get faint. Some- 
one reached in and pulled me out just in time to save my life. 
The larger part of the girls were in the dressing rooms when 
the fire broke out, and they all tried to get out at once. A 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 101 

great many tried to crowd into the elevator and it was hard 
work to keep it going. I made as many trips as I could." 

u> 

TWO BALCONY HEROES. 

A man who gave his name as Chester, with his wife and 
two daughters, was a hero who escaped without letting the 
police know who he was. This man was in the lower balcony 
of the theater and in the panic he succeeded in reaching the 
fire escape with his children and wife. After getting on the 
fire escape, the flames swept up and set the clothing of his wife 
and girls on fire. Burned himself, he fought the flame and 
then realizing that delay meant certain death he dropped the 
children to the ground, a distance of ten feet, and then dropped 
his wife. Then he leaped himself. 

W. G. Smith of the Chicago Teaming Company, 37 Dear- 
born street, saw them jumping and with some of his men he 
picked them up and carried them into his store. This was 
before the fire department arrived. 

When all had been taken in Smith rushed back into the 
alley to find the lower fire escape filled with screaming, strug- 
gling women. All were hatless and their faces were scorched 
by the intense heat. He shouted to them to wait a moment, as 
the firemen were coming, but one woman leaped as he spoke. 
She too was taken into Smith's store and all his patients were 
taken later to nearby hotels, where their injuries were 
attended to. 

After Smith left the alley Morris Eckstrom, assistant 
engineer, and M. J. Tierney, engineer of the university build- 
ing, ran to the rescue of the women on the fire escape. The 
firemen had not yet arrived, and the screams of the women 
with the flames creeping upon them were frightful to hear. 



102 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

"Jump one by one," shouted Eckstrom, "and we'll catch 
you." 

Tierney grabbed a long blanket from the engine room, and 
the women, realizing it was their only chance, leaped into it. 
In some cases they were injured, but none was seriously hurt. 

"I know we caught twenty women that way, before the 
flames got so terrific that none of them could reach the fire 
escape," said Eckstrom. "I saw a dozen women and chil- 
dren and some men, through the open door to the fire escape, 
fall back into the flames." 

THE MUSICAL DIRECTOR'S STORY. 

Musical Director Herbert Dillea of the "Mr. Bluebeard" 
company, who was one of the first of the members of the or- 
chestra to see the fire, had several narrow escapes from death 
while he endeavored to rescue four of the chorus girls who had 
fainted in the passageway which leads from the armor-room 
to the front smoking apartment. 

Dillea was nearly overcome by the thick smoke which filled 
the areaway, but, with the assistance of some of the stage em- 
ployes, he succeeded in carrying the unconscious actresses 
to the street. The young women, upon reaching the fresh 
air, soon revived, and they were taken care of in stores until 
(hey got their street clothing. 

Dillea said that several other members of the orchestra 
vainly endeavored to persuade some of the audience who were 
occupying front seats to enter the passageway, but no atten- 
tion was paid to them. 

In describing his experiences Dillea said: 

"It was during the second verse of the Tale Moonlight* 
song that I suddenly saw a red light to my left in the pros- 
cenium arch. The moment I saw the red glare I knew there 



i 
IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 103 

was a fire, and in whispers I ordered the other members of the 
orchestra to play as fast as they could, as I thought the as- 
bestos would be lowered. We had hardly begun to play when 
the asbestos started to come down, but right in the middle it 
stopped, and it remained so. 

"By this time the chorus girls were shrieking with terror, 
as the fire brands were falling among them on the stage. As 
soon as the audience saw the fire brands they began to arise, 
but Eddie Foy ran out and begged them to remain quiet, as- 
suring them that there was no danger. The audience paid 
no attention to him and the panic followed. Then I thought 
it was time to make our escape, and I turned to the orchestra 
men and told them to follow me to the passageway. While 
I was running through the areaway I shouted to the actresses. 
They ran from their rooms, and four of them fainted. It was 
only with the greatest difficulty they were carried out." 

CHILD SAVES HIS BROTHER. 

Willie Dee, the 12-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. W. E. 
Dee, who lost two children in the fire, by a presence of mind 
and bravery that would have been commendable in a person 
of mature years saved himself and a smaller brother not 7 
years old. 

The four children of Mr. and Mrs. Dee attended the the- 
ater on the fatal afternoon in company with their nurse, Mrs. 
G. H. Errett. Besides Willie, the oldest of the children, there 
were two twin boys, Allerton and Edward, between 6 and 7 
years of age, and the baby 2^ years old. Willie was one of 
the first to notice the fire and called to the nurse to go out. 
The nurse did not grasp the situation, thinking the flames a 
part of the act, and hesitated. Noticing her hesitation, Willie 
seized the nearest one of the children, Allerton and pulled the 



104 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

smaller boy with him down the stairs from the fifrst balcony 
in which the party was seated. The two boys were unable to 
niove fast enough to keep ahead of the crowd, although they 
were the first ones out. They were overtaken and both of 
them shoved through the doors in front, where they became 
separated. Willie thought his little brother lost and went 
home without him. The smaller boy was later picked up and 
taken into Thompson's restaurant, from which place he was 
taken home, practically uninjured. 

The other twin, Edward, was killed where he sat. The 
nurse and baby succeeded in reaching the first landing, where 
they were trampled underfoot. A fireman took the baby from 
the nurse's arms and placed it in charge of Dr. Bridge. The 
doctor succeeded in resuscitating it and took it to his home at 
Forty-ninth street and Cottage Grove avenue, where it died 
early the following morning. 



CHAPTER VII. 

THE ORIGIN OF THE FIRE THE ASBESTOS CUR- 
TAIN AND THE LIGHTS. 

The real story of the origin of the fire was tola by Wil- 
liam McMullen, assistant electrician. He said: "The spot 
light was completely extinguished at the time of the fire. I 
am positive of this, because I was working on it. Three feet 
above my head was the flood light. I noticed the curtain 
swaying directly above it and suddenly a spark shot up and 
it was ablaze in a second." 

McMullen called the attention of his assistant to the flame. 

"Put the fire out," he said. 

"All right," said the other man, reaching down, using his 
hands to put out the small flame. 

"Put it out! Put it out!" shouted McMullen. 

"I am ! I am !" said the other, clapping the flimsy stuff be- 
tween his hands. 

Some of the stage hands at this moment noticed the fire. 

"Look at that fire!" these called out. "Can't you see that 
you're on fire up there ! Put it out !" 

"D it, I am trying to," said the man who was clapping 

away at the burning paint impregnated muslin. 

Then a flame a foot high shot up and caught the draperies 
above those on fire. 

"Look at that other one. It's on fire," some one on the 
stage yelled. 

"Put it out !" shouted another. 

"All right," said the man on the perch. But he did not 

105 






io6 S IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 




clap hard enough or fast enough, and in ten seconds the flames 
were beyond his reach. 

It was after these hand clapping attempts to extinguish the 
fire had proved futile that McMullen shouted a call for the 
asbestos curtain to be put down. 

"I did not see the curtain move." 

ANOTHER ACCOUNT OF THE FIRE'S ORIGIN. 

W. H. Aldridge, who was employed to operate one of the 
so-called calcium lights, told how the fire started. 

"I w.as about twenty feet above the lights which were be- 
ing used, having left my place to watch the performance," he 
said. "While I was looking down on the performers I no- 
ticed a flash of light where the electric wires connect with the 
calcium light. The flash seemed to be about six inches long. 
As I looked a curtain swayed against the flame. In a moment 
the loose edges of the canvas were in a blaze, which rapidly 
ran up the edge of the canvas and across its upper end. 

"A man named McNulty was in charge of the light. Wheth- 
er he accidentally broke the wire and caused the flash I do 
not know. The light was about twenty feet from the floor. 
It consisted of a 'spot' light, used to follow the principal per- 
former, and a 'flood' light, which was used to produce the 
moonlight effect." 

WERE ELECTRIC LIGHTS TURNED OUT? 

James B. Quinn, general manager of the Standard Meter 
company, who was present throughout the panic, said on this 
point: "Had the electrician who had charge of the switches 
for the foyer lights remained at his post long enough to have 
turned on the lights in the foyer there would not have been 
one-half the loss of life in the foyer and balcony stairs. When 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 107 

that awful darkness fell on the house the frenzied people did 
not know where to turn. They had not become fully ac- 
quainted with the turns because the theater was new. I was 
there and assisted in removing- the dead and dying-, and hav- 
ing been connected with lighting- plants all my life I know 
what I am talking about. We did not have an electric light 
turned on for two hours after the fire. It was too late then. 
True, we had lanterns, but they were inadequate and would 
not have been needed had the electrician or his assistant done 
their duty. When the lights were turned on it was done by, 
outside electricians." 

STATEMENT OF MESSRS. DAVIS AND POWERS, 
MANAGERS OF THE THEATER. 

When the fire broke out Manager Will J. Davis of the Iro 
quois was attending a funeral. A telephone message was 
quietly whispered to him and, after hesitating a moment, 
Davis unostentatiously slipped on his overcoat and left the 
place. 

Mr. Davis and Harry J. Powers later stated as follows: 

"So far as we have been able to ascertain the cause or 
causes of the most unfortunate accident of the fire in the 
Iroquois, it appears that one of the scenic draperies was no- 
ticed to have ignited from some cause. It was detected be- 
fore it had reached an appreciable flame, and the city fireman 
who is detailed and constantly on duty when the theater is 
open noticed it simultaneously with the electrician. 

"The fireman, who was only a few feet away, immediately 
pulled a tube of kilfire, of which there were many hung about 
the stage, and threw the contents upon the blaze, which would 
have been more than enough, if the kilfire had been effective, 
to have extinguished the flame at once; but for some cause 



io8 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

inherent in the tube of kilfire it had no effect. The fireman 
and electrician then ordered down the asbestos curtain, and 
the fireman threw the contents of another tube of kilfire upon 
the flame, with no better result. 

"The commotion thus caused excited the alarm of the au- 
dience, which immediately started for the exits, of which 
there are twenty-five of unusual width, all opening out, and 
ready to the hand of any one reaching them. The draft thus 
caused, it is believed, before the curtain could be entirely low- 
ered, produced a bellying of the asbestos curtain, causing a 
pressure on the guides against the solid brick wall of the pros- 
cenium, thus stopping its descent. 

"Every effort was made by those on the stage to pull it 
down, but the draft was so great, it seems, that the pressure 
against the proscenium wall and the friction caused thereby 
was so strong that they could not be overcome. The audience 
became panic-stricken in their efforts to reach the exits and 
tripped and fell over each other and blocked the way. 

"The audience was promptly admonished and importuned 
by persons employed on the stage and in the auditorium to 
be calm and avoid any rush; that the exits and facilities for 
emptying the theater were ample to enable them all to get out 
without confusion. 

"No expense or precaution was omitted to make the theater 
as fireproof as it could be made, there being nothing com- 
bustible in the construction of the house except the trimmings 
and furnishings of the stage and auditorium. In the build- 
ing of the theater we sacrificed more space to aisles and exits 
than any theater in America." 

' \ 



- 

' 






IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 109 

FIRST RELIABLE STATEMENT AS TO WHY THE 
CURTAIN DID NOT COME DOWN. 

The man who gave the first reliable explanation of the fail- 
ure of the "asbestos" curtain to operate properly was John 
C. Massoney, a carpenter, who was working as a scene shifter. 

"The reflector was constructed of galvanized iron or some 
similar material, with a concave surface covered with quick- 
silver about two feet in width," he said. 

"The reflector was twenty feet long and was set on end. 
The inner edge was attached to the stage side of the jamb of 
the proscenium walls with hinges. Along the inner edge, next 
the hinges, was a row of incandescent electric lamps. 

"When the reflector was not in use it was set back in a 
niche in the proscenium wall, and the curtain, when lowered, 
passed over it. When used it was swung around to the de- 
sired position, and projected from the wall. When the re- 
flector was in use it prevented the curtain being lowered. 
!" "I have not ascertained whether the reflector was in use. 
The one on the south side of the stage was not, and from this 
I infer that the one on the north was not being used. If it 
was not in use, then somebody must have been careless." 

Massoney said he was on the south side of the stage when 
the fire started. 

"I did not see the fire start, but I saw it soon after it be- 
gan," he said. "The fire was in the arch drapery curtain, 
which is the fourth curtain back of the 'asbestos' curtain. I 
saw the 'asbestos' curtain coming down soon after, but I no- 
ticed that the south end was very much lower than the north 
end. The south end was within four or five feet of the stage 
floor, while the north end was much higher. 

"T ran round to the north side and up the stairs to the north 



i io IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

bridge. I found the north end of the curtain was resting on 
the reflector. I tried to reach the curtain to push it off the 
reflector, but could just touch it. I could not get hold of it. 
I am 5 feet n inches tall, and I can reach a foot above my 
head at least, so I figure that the north end of the curtain was 
'nineteen or twenty feet from the floor. 

"When I first reached the bridge sparks ,were flying in one 
little place near me, but before I got down I saw a great 
sheet of circular flame going out under the curtain into the 
audience room. I stayed on the bridge as long as I could trying 
to move the curtain. I half fell down the stairs of the bridge 
and got out as fast as I could." 

"Why didn't you call some one to help you?" 

"There was no one on the bridge when I got there and no 
one on duty, that I could see, on the north side of the stage." 

"Was the reflector in use?" 

"I do not know." 

"Whose duty was it to look after the reflector?" 

"I do not know." 

"Did the curtain blow to pieces?" 

"It seemed all right. There was no hole in it that I saw." 

ANOTHER STORY AS TO WHY THE CURTAIN DID 

NOT LOWER. 

Joe Dougherty, the man who attempted to lower the as- 
bestos curtain, says that the reason it stuck and would not 
come down was that it stuck on the arc spot light in the first 
entrance near the top of the proscenium arch. He was the 
last man to leave the fly loft and at the time he attempted 
to lower the asbestos curtain he was twenty feet or more 
above it, so that when it caught on the arc spot light he was 
unable to extricate it. The opening of the big double doors 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. in 

at the rear of the stage, he says, caused such a draft that the 
curtain could not be raised again to free it from the obstruc- 
tion. 

Dougherty denies that the wire used by the flying ballet 
had anything tt> do with the obstruction of the curtain. The 
regular curtain was within a few inches of the asbestos sheet 
and had been operated a few minutes before the fire occurred. 
If one curtain worked the other would if the flying ballet rig- 
ging was not in the way. 

THE THEATER FIREMAN'S NARRATIVE. 

W. C. Sailer was the fireman employed by the theater man- 
agers to look after fire protection. He was formerly con- 
nected with the city fire department. 

"I was on the floor of the stage about twenty feet from 
the light," he said. "The base of the light was on a bridge 
fifteen feet from the floor. The light was about five feet 
high and was within a foot and a half or two feet of the edge 
of the proscenium arch and close to the curtains. I saw the 
flame running up the edge of the curtain and ran to the bridge. 
I threw kilfire on the burning curtain but saw it did not stop 
the blaze and yelled to those below to lower the asbestos cur- 
tain. When the curtain was within fifteen feet of the stage 
floor the draft caused it to bulge out and stick fast. It was 
impossible to lower the curtain further, and after that nothing 
could be done to stop the fire. 

"In my opinion the draft was caused by the doors opening 
off the stage into the alley and Dearborn street. There were 
no explosions except the blowing out of fuses in the electric 
lighting system." 

Sailer was severely burned about the hands and fac* 



112 1ROQUO1S THEATER DISASTER. 

THE STAGE CARPENTER. 
Edward Cummings, stage carpenter, and his son, R. N. 
Cummings, his assistant, of 1116 California avenue, testified 
that the fire started in the curtains at the south end of the stage. 
Both asserted that the draft or suction caused the asbestos 
curtain to stick. They said the fire spread with remarkable 
rapidity among the curtains, which were about two feet apart, 
and when the asbestos curtain stopped they said that no hu- 
man agency could have prevented the disaster that followed. 

THE CHIEF ELECTRICAL INSPECTOR'S TALE. 

Chief Electrical Inspector H. H. Hornsby of the city elec- 
trician's department declared the electric wires in the theater 
were in the best condition of any building in Chicago. 

"The wire leading to the calcium arc light might have been 
broken or detached," he said. "It requires no volts of elec- 
trkity to operate one of those lights. The man operating the 
light may have got his legs or arms entangled in the wires 
and broken one of them at the point of connection or he may 
have pulled the light too far and broken or detached the wire. 
The arc created would have produced intense heat and readuy 
ignited the inflammable curtain. If the light had not been, 
Set so close to the scenery the curtain could not have blown 
into the arc. 

"While the theater was being wired Inspector B. H. Tous- 
ley made twenty-five or thirty inspections. Though the ord- 
inance requires only such wires as are concealed to be placed 
in iron conduits, in the Iroquois all wires were put in iron 
tubes. The switchboard was of marble, with the connect- 
ing wires behind it in iron conduits. The management seemed 
desirous of making the electric system the best possible and 
adopted every suggestion we offered to improve its safety. I 



IROOUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 1 13 

am satisfied there was not a better job in Chicago. I do not 
believe it coulc^ have been made safer. 

"It is impossible to guard against a wire being broken. The 
wire leading from the switchboard could not be inclosed in 
an iron conduit. It had to be flexible to permit the light be- 
ing moved around. The arc light was encased in a closed 
box to prevent sparks falling on the floor or being blown into 
the scenery. All the fusible plugs were in cartridges to pre- 
vent sparks from falling if the plugs burned out. Every 
precaution we could think of was taken to make the system 
absolutely safe." 

ONE OF THE COMEDIANS SPEAKS. 

Herbert Cawthorn, the Irish comedian, who took the part 
of Pat Shaw in "Mr. Bluebeard," assisted many of the 
chorus girls from the stage exits in the panic. After being 
driven from the building he made two attempts to enter his 
dressing room, but was driven back by the firemen, who feared 
lest he be overcome by the dense smoke. 

With several others of the leading actors in the play Mr. 
Cawthorn took refuge in a store on Dearborn street after the 
fire. He was still in his abbreviated stage costume and was 
suffering considerably from the cold. 

He gave a graphic description of the origin of the fire and 
of the panic among the stage hands and actors. He described 
the scene as follows: 

"I was in a position to see the origin of the fire plainly, 
and I feel positive that it was an electric calcium light that 
started the fire. The calcium lights were being used to il- 
luminate the stage in the latter part of the second act, when 
the song, 'In the Pale Moonlight,' was being sung. 

"I was standing behind a wing on the lefthand side, whir' 



114 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

would be the righthancl side to the audience, when my atten- 
tion was attracted above by a peculiar sputtering of what 
seemed to me to be one of the calciums. It appears to me 
that one of the calciums had flared up and the sparks ignited 
the lint on the curtain. Instantly I turned my attention to- 
ward the stage and saw that many of the actors and actresses 
had not yet discovered the blaze. 

"Just then the fireman who is kept behind the scenes rushed 
up with some kind of a patent fire extinguisher. Instead of 
the stream from the apparatus striking the flames it went al- 
most in the opposite direction. While the stage fireman was 
working the flames suddenly swooped down and out. Eddie 
Foy shouted something about the asbestos curtain, and the 
firemen attempted to use it and the stage hands ran to his 
assistance. 

"The asbestos curtain refused to work, and the stage hands 
and players began to hurry from the theater. There was at 
least 500 people behind the scenes when the fire started. I 
assisted many of the chorus girls to get out, and some of them 
were only partly attired. Two of the young women in par- 
ticular were naked from their waists up. They had absolutely 
no time to even snatch a bit of clothing to throw over their 
shoulders." 

ABOUT THE LIGHTS. 

A dozen different stories from a dozen different people 
were told about the extinguishment of the. electric lights. As- 
sistant City Electrician Hyland, who was the acting head of 
the city's department during the absence of City Electrician 
Ellicott, stated: 

"The switchboard controlling the electric lighting appara- 
tus is located under the place where the fire started at the left 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 115 

side of the stage. It was made of metal and marble and 
practically indestructible. The wires were led into the switch- 
board through iron tubes, and those tubes and wires are there 
yet. I visited the theater after the fire and turned on five sets 
of lights. Those five were in working order, but I think they 
controlled the lights into the foyer and halls. The lights in 
the theater were burned out. That I know, because 
when I paid my first visit to the switchboard I 
found the switch affecting the lights in the auditorium turned 
on. The terrific heat in the theater when the fire was sweep- 
ing across it must have burst the glass bulbs and may have 
melted the wires leading into the lights in the auditorium. 
How many minutes it took to explode these incandescent 
lights and melt the wires running to them depends entirely 
upon the length of time it took the theater to turn into a 
furnace. 

"I have been told that a moonlight scene was on the stage 
just before the fire broke out. In such a scene it would be 
customary to turn off most if not all of the lights in the audi- 
torium, so as to darken the place where the audience was and 
concentrate upon the stage what little light was used. Yet, 
the way I found the switchboard, with the circuit leading to 
the auditorium turned on, the knob melted off and the condi- 
tion of the board showing that it could not have been tam- 
pered with since the fire, convinces me that the lights must 
have been on when the fire broke out, or else they were 
turned on after the first flames were discovered. It 
is hard to discover the facts even from people who were in the 
theater at the time it was burned. Almost every one tells a 
different story." 



CHAPTER VIII. 

SUGGESTIONS OF ARCHITECTS AND OTHER EX- 
PERTS AS TO AVOIDING LIKE CALAMITIES. 

Robert S. Lindstrom, a well known Chicago architect, 
makes the following 1 suggestions: "It is earnestly requested 
that the following suggestions be published for the benefit and 
warning of patrons of public places, also as an aid to city of- 
ficials, architects and builders, as a possible means of averting 
another horror such as has been witnessed in the Iroquois 
theater fire. 

"Every theater in Chicago is virtually a death trap set for 
patrons even under ordinary conditions. Barring fires and 
panics, the playhouses are not amply provided with exits, and 
are unsafe on account of overcrowding. Thereby each person 
attending a performance in any of Chicago's theaters does so 
at a risk of his own life. This also applies to all halls that 
are hurriedly arranged for public meetings and especially 
during the election campaign work and convention gatherings. 

"A theater may be absolutely fire-proof, but whe*n the seat- 
nig capacity of the house has been overcrowded by reducing 
sizes of stairs, aisles and exits the building is really worse 
than a non-fire-proof building, for in the latter the smoke 
would have a chance to escape. 

"The following suggestions will partially avert such a hor- 
ror as has been witnessed at the Iroquois, which was adver- 
tised as the safest fire-proof theater in Chicago: 

"All seats throughout the house should be placed far enough 
apart from back to back so that an open passageway running 

lie 



.' 

-V 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 117 

from aisle to aisle shall be large enough to allow a person 
to get out without disturbing all the people seated in the sec- 
tion. In the Iroquois the seats in the gallery are so closely 
spaced from back to back that one cannot sit in a comfortable 
position at any time. All seats should be made of iron frame- 
work, with seats fixed so that danger of catching clothing on 
upturned edges may be averted, which in the present theater 
seats causes very much delay in a rush. The upholstering 
should be done with asbestos wool and all covering done with 
asbestos fire-resisting cloth. 

"An aisle should be left between the orchestra and the front 
row of seats. Main aisles should be made so that they con- 
nect with the aisle in front, also the aisle in rear, without any 
obstructions, and an exit door placed at end of each aisle lead- 
ing directly to the vestibule. The present system is one large 
door at the center so that people from the side aisles collide 
with those from the center aisles and no one can get out. It 
is also very important that the door opening, with doors open, 
is a trifle larger than the aisle; all seats that face on aisles to 
be plain to prevent clothing from catching on same. 

"Carpets should be prohibited in all halls and aisles and re- 
placed by interlocking rubber tile or some similar covering to 
prevent slipping in a rush. 

"All steps should have safety treads, composed of steel and 
lead, in place of slate or marble, which becomes slippery and 
dangerous. Stairs to be straight without winds or turns and 
at every ten feet from the sidewalk there should be a landing 
twice as long as the width of the stairs and doors at the foot 
of the stairs should be a trifle larger than the stair opening. 

"All balconies and galleries above the first floor should 
have a metal hand rail back of each row of seats securely fast- 
ened to the floor construction. 



u8 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

"Doors should swing out; in addition to door handle thres- 
hold to have an automatic opening device so as to throw doors 
open in case of fire or accident. Also at each fire exit there 
should be in view of the audience a box containing saw and 
tools and plainly marked for use in case of fire, providing 
locks on doors fail to work. In addition an attendant should 
be placed at each fire exit and remain there until the house is 
vacated during every performance. 

"Fire escapes should be made of regular stair pattern with 
treads eleven inches and rises seven inches, and treads pro- 
vided with steel and lead composition covering and risers 
closed. 

"Instead of sloping the ceiling toward the stage it should 
be made level with a cone shape toward the center and there 
connect with a down draft ventilator and an emergency damp- 
er controlled by a three-way switch from stage, box office and 
each balcony, made large enough to form a smoke flue in case 
of fire. Wires controlling this ventilator should run in con- 
duit fireproofed and in addition to switch an electric emerg- 
ency switch weighted with a fused link to make a contact when 
link breaks. Same to apply to stage, halls and stairways, 
except that fireproof ducts will connect halls and stairs with 
outer air. In addition to the ventilator every part of the 
house should be equipped with a system of sprinklers operated 
automatically by a gravity system. A large glass chandelier 
such as used at the Iroquois should be prohibited. 

"Emergency lights in case of fire and accidents during the 
performance to light up the house should be placed on ceiling 
of main auditorium, balconies, halls and stairs and built of 
fire-proof boxes with wired plate-glass face. These lights 
should be operated on a separate system and run in fireproof 



IROQUO1S THEATER DISASTER. 119 

conduits, and controlled from the street front, also to have a 
fusible weighted switch on stage. 

"Fire doors should be constructed of steel with wired plate- 
glass panels so that fire can be prevented from outside sources, 
but if in case of accident the lock should fail to work from 
the inside, the glass panel can be broken with tools that should 
be placed in reach and plainly marked. 

"Calcium lights should be prohibited anywhere in the audi- 
torium. The place is generally on the gallery. In the Iro- 
quois the scenic lights were placed at the extreme top of the 
upper gallery, with a supporting framework that rested on the 
aisle floor and obstructed aisle to audience. 

"Counter-weights of curtain should be made in sections with 
fusible link connections so that in case of fire curtain will drop 
of its own weight. 

"Curtain should be constructed of steel framework and 
made rigid and run in steel guides of sufficient size to allow 
for expansion in case of fire. Stage floor should be four in- 
ches thick, solid, laid on concrete bed. 

"A special waiting room with a special exit, entrance to 
same to be from main foyer, should be used especially for pa- 
trons using carriages so as to prevent the present system of 
blocking exits and vestibule with people waiting for carriages 
and preventing exit of crowd. 

"On stage of every theater there should be a fire plug, also 
a hose long enough to reach any part of the house, to run on 
a reel. 

"A loss of life in a panic cannot be entirely prevented, but 
some of the above suggestions if carried out will, at least, 
prevent a wholesale loss of human life. 

"All theaters should be thoroughly investigated and where 
the slightest detail is found to conflict with the law and the 



120 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

safety of an audience the city officials should prevent the use 
of such house until it has been properly constructed." 

THE ARCHITECT SPEAKS. 

Benjamin H. Marshall, architect of the theater, received the 
news of the disaster in Pittsburgh Pa., and at once started for 
Chicago. He was stunned by the intelligence, and, speaking 
of it, said: 

"This seems to be a calamity that has no precedent, and I 
can not understand how so many people were caught in the 
balconies unless they were stunned by the shock of an ex- 
plosion. There were ample fire exits and they were avail- 
able. The house could have been emptied in less than five 
minutes if they were all utilized. The fact that so many peo- 
ple were caught in the balconies would prove that they were 
stunned and panic-stricken by the report rather than by the 
fear of a fire. It is difficult for me at this time to even guess 
as to the cause for the great loss of life. 

"I am completely upset by this disaster, more so because I 
have built many theaters and have studied every playhouse 
disaster in history to avoid errors." 

EXAMINATION BY ARCHITECTURAL EDITOR. 

Robert Craik McLean, editor of the Inland Architect, who 
spent some time investigating the claim that the theater was 
equipped with an asbestos fire curtain, said: "After a care- 
ful investigation, I am convinced that the theater was not 
equipped with a curtain such as is demanded by the city ord- 
inances. 

"I visited the damaged theater, but there was no sign of an 
asbestos curtain. Fire will not destroy asbestos, and if there 
was a curtain there when the holocaust occurred it had been 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER, 121 

removed, and an investigation should be made to learn what 
became of it. If no curtain had been removed, as is claimed, 
I cannot understand how the claim can be set up that the the- 
ater had a fire curtain. No one denies that there was a cur- 
tain there, but had it been made of asbestos, as required by 
the ordinance, it would not have been destroyed by the draft 
of air, as is claimed by the management of the house. An 
asbestos curtain must have a foundation of wire or some oth- 
er material, and had the Iroquois been equipped with such a 
drop the wire screen, at least, would be there to prove it." 

"Mr. Samuel Frankenstein of the Frankenstein Calcium 
Light company, made the statement to me that he had had a 
conversation with the stage manager of the Iroquois regard- 
ing the fire drop. Mr. Frankenstein said that the stage man- 
ager told him that the Iroquois stage was not equipped with 
a true fire curtain. According to Mr. Frankenstein, the stage 
manager went further than this, and declared that there were 
only three theaters in Chicago equipped with real asbestos 
drops." 

I 

PROPOSED PRECAUTIONS FOR NEW YORK 

THEATERS. 

Charles H. Israels of the firm of Israels & Harder, archi- 
tects of the new Hudson theater, and several of the large ho- 
tels, suggested a number of precautions which might be adopt- 
ed in New York theaters. Among other things he advocated 
an ordinance requiring all the theater emergency exits to be 
used after each performance. 

"Nearly every modern theater in this city," Mr. Israels 
said, "is adequately provided with exits, with which the au- 
dience are not familiar, and which are used so seldom that 
the employes are unusued to having the audience pass out 



122 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

through them. Besides the one exit ordinarily in use there 
are four emergency exits, and the law requires them to open 
either on a brick enclosed alley at the side of the theater or 
directly into the street. 

"The people in the gallery, who are in the place of the 
greatest danger, would undoubtedly become thoroughly ac- 
customed to using these outside stairways. 

"The main advantage to be gained by this suggestion over 
all others is that it could be put into immediate operation 
without the spending of a single cent on the part of the own- 
ers of most of New York's playhouses. 

"In a few of the theaters it might be argued that the stair- 
ways at the emergency exits were not sufficiently inclosed to 
allow the crowds to pass down in safety. The law now re- 
quires the stairways to be covered at the top, and covering the 
outside rail with heavy wire mesh raised about two feet above 
its present level would prevent any one from falling over the 
side. 

"Fireproof scenery or scenery which will at least not flame, 
is a practical possibility now. The building code should com- 
pel the use of scenery on frames of light metal covered with 
canvas that has been saturated in a fireproof solution. Fire- 
proof paint is compulsory on the woodwork behind the pros- 
cenium wall, but in painting scenery combustible paint may 
be used. 

"The law should be most strictly enforced as to the clean- 
ing out of rubbish beneath the stage. In a number of the 
theaters of New York this is done only occasionally." 



CHAPTER IX. 

THIRTY EXITS, YET HUNDREDS PERISH IN 

AWFUL BLAST. 

Those in greatest danger througli proximity to the stage 
did not throw their weight against the mass ahead. Not 
many died on the first floor, proof of the contention that some 
restraint existed in this section of the audience. 

Women were trodden under foot near the rear; some were 
injured. The most at this point, however, were rescued by the 
determined rush of the policeman at the entrance and of 
the doorkeeper and his assistants. 

The theater had thirty exits. All were opened before the 
fire reached full headway, but some had to be forced opened. 
Only one door at the Randolph street entrance was open, the 
others being locked, according, it appears, to custom. 

From within and without these doors were shattered in the 
first two minutes after the fire broke out by theater employes, 
according to one report, by the van of the fleeing multitude 
and the first of the rescuers from the street, according to 
another. 

The doors to the exits on the alley side, between Randolph 
and Lake streets, in one or more instances, are declared by 
those who escaped to have been either frozen or rusted. They 
opened to assaults, but priceless seconds were lost. 

Before this time Foy had run back across the stage and 
reached the alley. With him fled the members of the aerial 
ballet, the last of the performers to get out. The aerialists 



124 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

j 

owed their lives to the boy in charge of the fly elevator. They 
were aloft, in readiness for their flight above the heads of 
the audience. The elevator boy ran his cage up even with the 
line of fire, took them in, and brought them safely down. 

As Foy and the group reached the outer doorway the stage 
loft collapsed and tons of fire poured over the stage. 

Tjie lights went out in the theater with this destruction of 
the switchboard and all stage connections. One column of 
flame rose and swished along the ceiling of the theater. Then 
this awful illumination also was swallowed up. None may 
paint from personal understanding that which took place ir> 
that pit of flame lit darkness. None lives to tell it. 

To those still caught in the structure the light of life went 
out when the electric globes grew dark. 

In spite of the terrible form, of their destruction, it came 
swiftly enough to shorten pain. This at least was true of 
those~ who died in the second balcony, striving to reach the 
alley exits abreast of them. 

Six and seven feet deep they were found, not packed in 
layers but jumbled and twisted in the struggle with one an- 
otherj? 

Op'posite the westernmost exit of the balcony on the allev 
was a room in the Northwestern University building (the 
old Tremont house) where painters were working, wiping out 
the traces of another fire. 

They heard the sound of the detonation of the fuse; they 
heard the rush of feet toward the exit across the way. Out 
on the iron stairway came a man, pushed by a power behind, 
himself crazy with fear. He would have run down the iron 
fire escape, but flames burst out of the exit beneath and 
wrapped themselves around the iron ladder. 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 125 

HORRIBLE SIGHT MET THE FIREMEN UPON 
ENTERING AUDITORIUM. 

The postures in which death was met showed how the end 
had come to many. 

A husband and wife were locked so tightly in one another's 
arrris that the bodies had to be taken out together. A wom- 
an had thrown her arms around a child in a vain effort to save 
her. Both were burned beyond recognition. 

The sight of the children's bodies broke down the com- 
posure of the most restrained of the rescuers. As little form 
after form was brought out the tears ran down the faces of 
policemen, firemen and bystanders. Small hands were 
clenched before childish faces fruitless attempts at protec- 
tion from the scorching blast. 

Most of the children could be recognized. Fate allowed that 
thin shadow of mercy. They fell beneath their taller com- 
panions. The flames reached them, but they were face down- 
ward, other forms were above them, and generally their fea- 
tures were spared. 

The persons crowded off the fire escape platform, and those 
who jumped voluntarily by their own death saved persons on 
the lower floor from injury. Scores jumped from the exits 
at the first balcony, the first to death and injury, the ones 
behind to comparative safety on the thick cushion of the bod- 
ies of those who preceded them and who fell from the bal- 
cony above. Other hundreds from the main floor jumped on 
to the same cushion an easy distance of six feet without 
any injury. 

When the firemen came they spread nets, but the nets were 
black, and in the gloom they could not be seen. They saved 
few lives argument for the use of white nets hereafter. 



126 IROQU01S THEATEK DISASTER. 

The chain of mishaps surrounding the catastrophe extended 
to the fire alarm. There was no fire alarm box in front of 
the theater, as at other theaters. A stage hand ran down the 
alley to South Water street and by word of mouth turned in 
a "still" alarm to No. 13. The box alarm did not follow for 
some precious minutes. At least four minutes were lost in 
this way. 

Of the 900 persons seated in t^ie first and second balconies 
few if any escaped without serious injury. 

So fiercely the fire burned during the short time in which 
hundreds of lives were sacrificed that the velvet cushions of 
the balcony seats were burned bare. 

The crowds fought so in their efforts to escape that they 
tore away the iron railings of the balconies, leaping upon the 
people below. 

From 3 o'clock, when the alarm was sent in, to 7:30 
o'clock, when the doors of the theater were closed, the charred, 
torn, and blistered bodies were carried from the building at 
the rate of four a minute. One hundred were taken out) 
across the plank way. 

Many blankets filled with fragments of human bodies were 
taken from the building. 

Hundreds of bodies were taken frorp the building, their 
clothing gone, their faces charred beyond recognition. Under 
pretense of serving as rescuers ghouls gained entrance to the 
theater and robbed the dead and dying in the midst of the 
fire. 

Men fell on their knees and prayed. Men and women cursed. 
A rush was made for the Randolph street exits. In their fear 
the crowds forgot the many side exits, and rushed for the 
doors at which they had entered the theater. Little boys and 
girls were thrown to one side by their stronger companions. 



IROQUO1S THEATER DISASTER. 127 

Ten baskets of money and jewelry thrown in this manner 
were picked up from the main floor when the fire was extin- 
guished. 

Men and women tore their clothing from them. As the 
first rush was made for the foyer entrance to the balconies 
men, women and children were thrown bodily down the steps. 

A few score of those nearest the doorways escaped by fall- 
ing or being thrown down the stairs of the main balcony en- 
trances. 

Scores were wedged in the doorways, pinned by the force 
of those behind them. There in the narrow aisle at the bal- 
cony entrances they were suffocated and fell tons of human 
weight. 

All succeeded in leaving their seats in the first balcony. 
Climbing over the seats and rushing up the slanting aisles to 
the level aisles above, they fought their way. Those at the 
bottom of the mass were burned but little. The top layer 
of bodies was burned till they never can be identified. 

Darkness shrouded the theater with its hundreds of dead 
when the fire was under control that the building could be en- 
tered. The firemen were forced to work in smoky darkness 
when they started carrying the bodies from the balconies. 

THE GALLERY HORROR. 

James M. Strong, a Chicago board of trade clerk, the sole 
survivor of all the occupants of the gallery who tried to es- 
cape through the locked door, smashed with his fist a glass 
transom and climbed through it. Three members of his fam- 
ily, who followed him down the passageway, shared the fate 
of others. Their bodies since have been discovered, burned 
Almost beyond recognition. 



128 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

"If the door hadn't been locked hundreds of persons could 
have saved 'their lives," said Strong. 

The passageway, along which Strong and many now dead 
ran to supposed safety, led toward the front of the theater, 
past the top entrance to the gallery. Strong had been unable 
to secure seats and was standing in the rear of the gallery 
with his mother, Mrs. B. K. Strong, his wife, and his niece, 
Vera, 16 years old, of Americus, Ga. When the fire started 

all ran toward the nearest exit. 

. 

"The exit was crowded," said Strong. "We ran on down 
a passage at the side of it, followed by many others. At the 
end, down a short flight of steps, was a door. It was locked. 
In desperation I threw myself against it. I couldn't budge it. 
Then, standing on the top step of the little stairway, I smashed 
the glass above with my fist and crawled through the transom. 

"When I fell on the outside I heard the screams on the oth- 
er side, and, scrambling to my feet, I tried again to open the 
door, but couldn't. The key was not there. I ran down a 
stairway to the floor below, where I found a carpenter. I 
asked him to give me something to break down the door, and 
he got me a short board. I ran back with this and began 
pounding, but the door was too heavy to be broken. 

"I scarcely know what happened afterward. Smoke was 
pouring over the transom and I felt myself suffocating. Alone, 
or with the assistance of the carpenter, I at last found myself 
at the bottom of the stairway opening into the lobby of the 
theater. From there I pushed my way to the street. Until 
then I didn't know I was burned." 

GIRL'S MIRACULOUS ESCAPE. 

The most miraculous escape was that of Winnie Gallagher, 
an 1 1 -year-old girl, who occupied a seat with her aunt al- 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. . 129 

\ 

most' directly under the stage. When the panic was started 
she jumped to her feet and after being thrown about and 
trampled upon and having her clothing torn from her she man- 
aged to climb over the seats and reach the street in safety. 
What few pieces of wearing apparel she had on at the time 
were in ribbons and a messenger boy, seeing her predicament, 
pulled off his overcoat and wrapped it around her. She went . 
to the Central station, where she gave the police her name and 
asked that v someone take her to her home, 4925 Michigan 
avenue. 

AN ACCOUNT FROM THE BOXES. 

The first two lower boxes on the left of the stage were oc- 
cupied by a party of young women who were being entertained 
by Mrs. Rollin A. Keyes of Evanston, in honor of her young 
daughter, Miss Catherine Keyes, who was home from school in 
Washington for the holidays. 

"We arrived at the theater shortly after the first act," said 
Miss Emily Plamondon of Astoria, Ore., a member of the 
party, in describing the fire. "As far as I could see the house 
was filled with women and children, who occupied seats on 
the first floor and in the galleries. It was about a quarter to 
3 when one of the young women in the party asked Mrs. 
Keyes if she did not smell something burning and an instant 
afterward a great cloud of smoke spread across the stage and 
into the body of the house. Immediately we realized the 
danger we were in, as did all around us. Instead of a rush 
to the doors, the audience gazed for a moment at the stage, 
and as a whole the people appeared very calm, under the cir- 
cumstances, and as if contemplating how they would escape. 

"Again another cloud of smoke issued from the stage and 
several stage hands appeared, shouting at the top of their 



130 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

voices for the people to sit down. But it was only for an 
instant that they obeyed, for by that time the smoke had spread 
through the theater and men, women and children were gasp- 
ing for breath. Then a mad rush was made for the doors 
and for the supposed exits, but in vain. Mrs. Pearson and 
Mrs. Keyes commanded us to keep together by all means and 
just as we were leaving the boxes the theater became darkened, 
which, I suppose, was caused by the burning out of the elec- 
tric light, and thus made our escape the harder. We plodded 
through the aisles until we came within about ten feet of the 
main entrance without encountering any violence from the 
panic-stricken women and children who were fighting for 
their lives. Then the crush became terrible and the members 
of our party, Mrs. Rollin A. Keyes, Mrs. Pearson, Misses 
Charlotte Plamondon, Catherine Keyes, Elmore of Oregon, 
Amelia Ormsby, Grace Hills, Josephine Eddy and Miss Eliza- 
beth Eddy realized that it would be impossible to get to the 
street through that door. 

"It was only a short time, however, when somebody 
knocked down two doors, which had been locked, and the 
majority of the people on the first floor escaped through them 
without serious injury. Miss Charlotte Plamondon, who was 
bruised about the face and hands, and I were the only ones 
in the party who escaped with our wraps. The others had 
their clothes torn almost from them, as they were hurrying 
from the burning theater. 

"Before we had left the boxes the fire had spread to the 
first row of seats and the stage hands were endeavoring tc 
lower the asbestos curtain. When it was about half down it 
became caught and the attempt to drop it was abandoned. A 
great gush of fire then spread to the draperies over the boxes. 
The people were wonderfully calm, it seemed to me, for so 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 131 

crucial a moment and it was not until the smoke filled the 
house that they became frantic and screamed for help. We 
could hardly breathe and I believe had we been in the theater 
a few minutes longer we, too, would have been suffocated, 
as the heat and smoke were becoming unendurable. Had the 
exits been open and unlocked the loss of life would not have 
been nearly so great." 

"We were seated for half an hour before the fire broke out. 
Our attention was first attracted by a wreath of flame, which 
crept slowly along the red velvet curtain. We all noticed it. 
So did the audience and I could see little girls and boys in 
the orchestra chairs point upward at the slowly moving line 
of flame. As the fire spread the people in the balcony and on 
the first floor arose to their feet as if to rush out of the place. 
Then Eddie Foy hurried to the front of the stage and com- 
manded the people to be quiet, saying that if they would re- 
main seated the danger would be averted. All the people who 
were then on the stage maintained remarkable presence of mind 
and the chorus girls endeavored to divert the attention of their 
auditors off the fire by going on with their parts. 

"I looked over the faces of the audience and remarked how 
many children were present. I could see their faces filled with 
interest and their eyes wide open as they watched the burning 
curtain. 

"Then I looked behind me and realized the awful conse- 
quence should the people become alarmed. The doors, ex- 
cept for the one through which we entered the theater, were 
closed and apparently fastened. Up in the balcony I could 
see people crowding forward in order to obtain a better view. 
Again the audience arose as if to flee. 

"Eddie Foy again rushed on the stage and waved his arms 
in a gesture for the people to be seated. But just then the 



132 1ROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

shrill cry of a woman caused the women and children to rise 
to their feet, filled with a sudden and uncontrollable terror. 

" 'Fire !' I heard her exclaim, and in another instant the 
eyes of the audience were turned to the exits in the rear. The 
flames lighted up the stage as the light tinsel stuffs blazed up, 
and the scene changed from mimicry to tragedy. A confused, 
rumbling noise filled the theater from the pit to the dome. I 
knew it was the sound of a thousand people preparing to leave 
their seats and rush madly from the impending danger. The 
noise of their footsteps in the balcony was soon deadened by 
the cries for aid from those who were hemmed in by the strug- 
gling mass. 

"On the stage the chorus girls, who had exhibited rare 
presence of mind, turned to flee. Many were overcome before 
they could stir a step. They fell to the floor and I saw the 
men in the cast and the stage hands lift them to their feet 
and carry them to the rear of the stage. By this time the 
scenery was a mass of flames." 

INSPECTION AFTER THE FIRE. 

Deputy Building Commissioner Stanhope with three in- 
spectors made a thorough examination of the theater build- 
ing yesterday. 

"I first examined the building with respect to the safety of 
its walls and found them in perfect condition," said Mr. Stan- 
hope. "They are not out of plumb an inch and are as good 
as they ever were. The steel structure is not injured except 
that portion which supported the stage. The heat has twisted 
some of the supports but they can be replaced at little cost. 
Except the backs of the seats and the floor of the stage the 
interior of the auditorium was not injured by the fire. The 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 133 

carpets in the gallery, where most of the people were killed, 
were not even scorched." 

A YOUNG HEROINE. 

Verma Goss is one of the young heroines of the fire. She 
attended the theater in a party composed of her mother, Mrs. 
Joseph Goss; her 5-year-old sister, Helen; Mrs. Greenwald 
of 536 Byron street and her young son Leroy. In the rush 
for the door Miss Verma caught her young sister's hand and 
pulled her out of the crowd and carried the child to safety. 
She thought her mother was following, but she and her sis- 
ter were the only ones of the party who escaped. 

A NARROW ESCAPE. 

Mrs. William Mueller, with her two children, Florence 
Marie, 5 years of age, and Barbara Belle, 7, occupied a seat 
in the parquet. 

"I was not in the theater auditorium," said Mrs. Mueller. 
"I was in one of the waiting rooms, but was on my way to 
our seats. As I entered the doors somebody yelled fire. I 
looked up and saw the curtain ablaze. Then came the stam- 
pede. I picked up my children and ran toward the door. I 
was caught in the jam and it seemed that I would fail to reach 
it. Some man saw my plight and jumped to my assistance. 
He picked up Florence and threw her over the heads of the 
rushing people. She fell upon the pavement, but was not 
badly injured." 

FINDS WIFE IN HOSPITAL. 

The first woman to be rescued over the temporary bridge 
between the theater and the Northwestern university build- 
ing was Mrs. Mary Marzein of Elgin, 111. She was severely 



134 TROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

burned and lost consciousness after her rescue. A score or 
more suffered death on every side as she crept over the lad- 
der. They were thrown aside and knocked down, but she 
clung to the ladder and escaped. She was taken to the Michael 
Reese hospital and did not regain consciousness until the fol- 
lowing day. Her husband, who is an employe of the Elgin 
\Vatch Company, searched all the morgues and was making a 
tour of the hospitals when he found his wife. 

When Mrs. Marzein recovered in the afternoon the first 
person she inquired for was her husband, who at that moment 
was being ushered into the room. Their eyes met as she wa 
whispering his name to the nurse, and an affecting scene fol- 
lowed. 

A MIRACULOUS AND UNCONSCIOUS ESCAPE. 

One of the most miraculous escapes from the fire was that 
of Miss Winifred Cardona. She was one of a party of four 
and with her friends occupied seats in the seventh row of the 
parquet. 

"The first intimation I had of the danger was when I saw 
one of the chorus girls look upward and turn pale. My eyes 
immediately followed her glance and I saw the telltale sparks 
shooting about through the flies. The singing continued un- 
til the blaze broke out. Then Mr. Foy appeared and asked 
the audience to keep their seats, assuring them that the theater 
was thoroughly fireproof. We obeyed, but when we saw the 
seething mass behind struggling for the door we rushed from 
our seats. I became separated from the other girls and had 
not gone far before I stumbled over the prostrate body of a 
woman who was trampled almost beyond recognition. For 
an instant I thought it was all over. Then I felt someone lift 
me and I knew no more until I revived in the street. It wa? 



\ 



1ROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 135 

the most awful experience I have ever had and I consider my 
escape nothing short of miraculous." 

LITTLE GIRL'S MARVELOUS ESCAPE. 

"I'm the most grateful man in all Chicago," said J. R. 
Thompson, who owns the restaurant. "My sister was in the 
theater with my two children John, aged 9, and Ruth, aged 
7. Sister got almost to the door with both of them. Then 
Ruthie disappeared. She told me she knew the child must be 
safe, but I was like a maniac. It was an hour before we 
found her. How it happened I didn't know, but she ran back 
into the theater and out under the stage, out through the stage 
entrance." 

"Where is the little girl now?" I asked him. 

"I sent her home to her mother," he said. 

Only ten feet away lay the chestnut-haired girl who "was 
.\ great one to scamper." 

FOUR GENERATIONS REPRESENTED. 

Members of four generations of a family were turned into 
mourners, only one member remaining from a party of nine 
made up of Benjamin Moore and eight of his relatives, of 
whom only one, Mrs. W. S. Hanson, Hart, Mich., escaped. 
Following are the names of the eight victims: Mrs. Joseph 
Bezenek, 41 years old, West Superior, Wis., daughter of Ben- 
jamin Moore; Benjamin Moore, 72 years old, Chicago; Ro- 
land Mackay, 6 years old, Chicago, grandson of Mrs. Joseph 
Bezenek and great grandson of Benjamin Moore; Mrs. 
Benjamin Moore, 47 years old, wife of Benjamin Moore; Jo- 
seph Bezenek, 38 years old, West Superior, Wis., husband of 
Mrs. Bezenek and son-in-law of Benjamin Moore; Mrs. Per- 



136 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

ry Moore, 33 years old, Hart, Mich., daughter-in-law of Ben- 
jamin Moore; Miss Sibyl Moore, Hart, Mich., 13 years old, 
daughter of Mrs. Perry Moore and granddaughter of Benja- 
min Moore; Miss Lucile Bond, 10 years old, daughter of 
George H. Bond and granddaughter of Benjamin Moore, 
Chicago. 

DAUGHTERS AND GRANDCHILDREN GONE. 

Three daughters and two grandchildren, constituting the 
entire family of Mr. and Mrs. Morris Eger, Chicago, per- 
ished in the fire. The daughters were Miss S. Eger, who 
was a teacher in the Mosely school ; Mrs. Marion Rice, wife of 
A. Rice, and Mrs. Rose Bloom, wife of Max Bloom, and the, 
children were: Erna, the lo-year-old daughter of Mrs. 
Rice, and her n -year-old brother, Ernest. 

After a long search among the many morgues of the city 
the bodies were all identified, two of them being found there. 




CHAPTER X. 

HOW THE NEW YEAR WAS USHERED IN. 

The New Year came to Chicago with muffled drums, two 
days after the calamity that threw the great metropolis into 
mourning. 

Scarcely a sound was heard as 1904 entered. 

Jan. i day of funerals was received in silence. Streets 
were almost deserted, even downtown. Men hurried silently 
along the sidewalks. There were not half a dozen tin horns in 
the downtown district where ordinarily the blare of trumpets, 
screech of steam whistles, volleys of shots and the merriment 
of late wayfarers make the entrance of a new year a period of 
deafening pandemonium. 

Merrymakers were quiet when in the streets and subdued 
even in the restaurants. Noise, except in a few scattered dis- 
tricts, was unknown. 

It was a remarkable, spontaneous testimony to the prevalent 
spirit throughout the city. Mayor Harrison had asked, in an 
official proclamation, that there be no noise, but few of those 
who desisted from the usual practices of greeting the New 
Year knew that they had been requested to be silent. 

MOURNING IN EVERY STREET. 

There were mourning families in every neighborhood ; crepe 
in every street; grief stricken relatives throughout the city; 
unidentified dead in the morgues, and sufferers in the hospital. 
The citizens did not need to be requested to be quiet. 

1ST 



138 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

Jan. I, 1904, meant the beginning of funerals and the burial 
of dead who were to have lived to take part in merrymaking. 

A year before in downtown Chicago the din was an ear- 
splitting racket of horns, whistles, yells, songs, and exploding 
cannon. 

A year before the downtown streets were filled with hun- 
dreds of laughing men and women, roystering parties filling 
the air with the uproar of tin horns and revolvers. 

NOISE SEEMS A SACRILEGE. 

That night there were a messenger boy in La Salle street 
blowing a tin horn and a man at Wabash avenue and Harri- 
son street. The other pedestrians looked at them as if they 
considered the noise a sacrilege. It was with the same feeling 
that they heard the blowing of the factory whistles in the few 
cases where the engineers forgot. 

A year before the outlying districts were awakened by the 
firing of cannon and the shouts of people in noisy celebrations. 
That dread night there was nothing to keep residents awake 
except grief. 

MAYOR ASKS FOR SILENCE. 

To insure this condition, as the only fitting one, Mayor Har- 
rison had issued a proclamation in which he said : 

"On each recurring New Year's eve annoyance has been 
caused the sick and infirm by the indulgence of thoughtless per- 
sons in noisy celebrations of the passage of the old year. The 
city authorities have at all times discouraged this practice, but 
now, when Chicago lies in the shadow of the greatest disaster 
in her history for a generation, noisemaking, whether by bells, 
whistles, cannon, horns or any other means, is particularly ob- 
icctionable. 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 139 

"As mayor of Chicago I would, therefore, request all per- 
sons to refrain from this indulgence, and I would particularly 
ask all railway officials and all persons in control of factories, 
boats, and mills to direct their employes not to blow whistles 
between the hours of 12 and I o'clock tonight." 

Persons not reached by this proclamation had seen the lines 
waiting entrance at the morgues. The few peddlers who had 
tin horns for sale found no buyers. This market, which in 
other years has been a profitable one, on Dec. 31, 1903, was 
dead. The venders slunk up to the building walls and, even 
in trying to sell, made little noise with their wares. 

MERRIMENT IS SUBDUED. 

In such restaurants as the Auditorium Annex, the Welljng- 
ton, and Rector's there were gay crowds, but the merriment 
was subdued. "No music" was the general rule throughout 
the city. At Rector's the management took down flowers 
which were to have decorated the restaurant and sent them to 
the hospitals where the injured theater victims were. 

At the Annex and the Wellington the lobbies had been filled 
with gayly decorated tables, and this space as well as the cafes 
was entirely occupied. Congress street was filled with car- 
riages and cabs for the guests at the Annex. 

CITY OF MOURNING. 

Even these gatherings, which were the least affected by the 
gloom over the city, were ghastly as compared with those of 
former years. There were exceptions to the general rule, but 
even in the places which felt the effect the least there was 
abundant testimony to the fact that Chicago was a city of 
woe. 

The aspect of the downtown district was evidence that there 



140 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

was scarcely a neighborhood in the city which had not at least 
one sorrowing family. 

Not only was this indicated by the lack of noise on the 
noisiest night of the year but by the absence of lights. Many 
electric signs and illuminations which usually lighted up the 
streets had been closed, and gay, wicked, noisy Chicago was 
clothed with gloom such as it had never before known. 

Dark and solemn as was the opening day of the new year it 
was no circumstance compared with the day that followed. At 
the suggestion of the mayor Saturday, Jan. 2, was set apart to 
bury the dead. The proclamation issued in that connection 
follows : 

"Chicago, Dec. 31. To the citizens of Chicago: Announce- 
ment is hereby made that the city hall will be closed on Satur- 
day, Jan. 2, 1904, on account of the calamity occurring at the 
Iroquois theater. All business houses throughout the city are 
respectfully requested to shut down on that day. 

Respectfully, 
"CARTER H. HARRISON, Mayor." 

The request was generally followed, and on that mournful 
day the irferment of the victims of the holocaust began, filling 
the streets with processions moving to the grave. From day- 
break until evening funeral corteges moved through the streets. 
Church bells at noon tolled a requiem. The machinery of bus- 
iness was hushed in the downtown district, and long lines of 
carriages, preceded by hearses or plain black wagons, followed 
the theater victims to the grave. 

In no public place, in no home was the grief of the bereft 
not felt. Many of the dead were taken directly from the un- 
dertaking rooms to the cemeteries and buried with simple cere- 
mony. Before dark nearly 200 victims were borne to the 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 141 

grave. A score were taken to railroad stations, to be followed 
by the mourning back to their homes. 

BUSINESS WORLD IN MOURNING, 

The board of trade closed at 1 1 o'clock. The doors of the 
stock exchange were not opened. Few of the downtown mer- 
cantile houses and few of the offices were open after noon. 
There was little business. 

It was a day of mourning, and the army of the sorrowful 
that for days had searched for its dead performed the last 
rites. At noon bells in all the church towers were rung to the 
rhythm of "The Dead March in Saul." Those who heard the 
solemn dirge stood still for the space of five minutes with bared 
heads. The proclamation of the mayor generally was ob- 
served. Everywhere there was gloom and no one could escape 
from the pall that enshrouded Chicago. 

The demand for hearses was so great that the undertakers 
were compelled to make up schedules in which the different 
hours of the day were allotted to the grief-stricken. 

Flags were at half-mast, while white hearses bearing the 
bodies of children and black hearses with the bodies of others 
took their way to the various churches. In some blocks three 
and four hearses were standing, and at the churches one cor- 
tege would wait until another moved away. 

The pall seemed to pervade the air itself. Pedestrians halt- 
ed on the sidewalk, and in the cold stood with bared heads 
while the funeral processions passed. 

Children saw their parents laid away; parents followed the 
coffins of their child. Students just reaching manhood or 
womanhood were laid at rest, while relatives and companions 
mourned. Kindly clergymen wept as they spoke words of 



142 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER, 



comfort to those bereft of father, motker, brother, sister, or 
even of all. 

Two double funerals passed through the downtown districts 
just as the department stores were dismissing their thousands 
of employes. Sisters were being taken to their last resting 
place, and this cortege was followed by two white hearses con- 
taining the bodies of another brother and sister. Both funeral 
processions went to the same depot, and all four victims were 
buried in the same cemetery. 

The numerous funeral trains which left Chicago contained 
in nearly every instance more than one coffin. Hearse after 
hearse and carriage after carriage arrived in the blinding snow 
and stopped at the depots, opening an epoch of funerals that 
continued daily until the last victim was laid to rest. 

Thus opened the year 1904 in Chicago, the stricken and 
desolate. 



CHAPTER XI. 

A SABBATH OF WOE. 

A majority of the victims of the fire were laid to rest, how- 
ever, during the Sabbath succeeding the awful calamity. The 
main thoroughfares of the benumbed city leading north and 
west toward the resting places of the dead were crowded with 
funeral processions, sometimes four and five hearses together 
showing as white as the snow on the ground, bearing as they 
did the bodies of children. 

As one funeral procession after another passed through the 
streets the numbers of the sorrowing at the cemeteries in- 
creased. A few hundred feet from one freshly made grave 
there was another and a short distance away still another that 
told the mourners at one funeral that others were bereaved. 

The work of burying the dead began early in the morning 
and lasted until late in the evening. Sometimes the homes of 
several of the dead were grouped in a few blocks and in one in- 
stance a glance down a single street would reveal the thickly 
crowded carriages for half a dozen funerals that had thrown 
an entire neighborhood into mourning. Where hearses could 
not be furnished they w T ere improvised from other kinds of 
vehicles and mourners who could not get cabs rode in carriages. 
As the night closed down on hundreds of mourning homes, 
in every cemetery in the city the speaking mounds of fresh 
earth told of the end of families broken and altogether de- 
stroyed. 

143 



144 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 



SEVEN TURNER VICTIMS. 

More than a thousand turners joined in the services for 
seven victims who were members of their societies. The 
Chicago Turnbezirk, the central body of the turners, had 
charge of the exercises. Representatives of the Aurora Turn- 
verein, Schweitzer Turnverein, Forward Turnverein, Social 
Turnverein, and other turner organizations joined in the ser- 
vices. 

The exercises were held at the Social Turner hall, Belmont 
avenue and Paulina street. The coffins of the victims were 
placed in front of the stage at the end of the hall. After the 
services the coffins were taken by uniformed turners through 
the hall to black wagons and the march to Graceland cemetery 
began. Three drum corps, with muffled drums, beat a funeral 
march. 

Women turners, in their gymnasium suits, escorted the 
bodies of the women victims, and uniformed turners watched 
the coffins of the men. 

Short services were held at the cemetery. 

SAD SCENES AT WOLFF HOME. 

At the residence of Ludwig Wolff, 1329 Washington boule- 
vard, the bodies of his daughter, Mrs. William M. Garn and 
her three children, Willie, n, John, 7, and Harriet, 10 years 
old, lay. All day long until the time for the funeral services a 
stream of sympathizing friends poured in. A crowd of more 
than a thousand surrounded the house and the policemen sta- 
tioned there were compelled to force a way for the caskets when 
they were borne to the hearses. The service was read by the 
Rev. William C. Dewitt of St. Andrew's church. Twelve boys 
acted as pallbearers for their former playfellows and followed 
the little white hearses to Graceland. The funeral was one of 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 145 

the largest ever seen on the west side of the city, more than 
one hundred carriages being in the funeral train. 

PATHETIC SCENE AT CHURCH. 

Far different in all except the grief was the funeral from the 
little frame church at Congress street and Forty-second avenue. 
Inside lay the bodies of Mrs. Mary W. Hoist and her three 
children, Allan, 13, Gertrude, 10, and Amy, 8 years. They 
were in the ill fated second balcony of the theater and met 
death trying to reach the fire escape. Of the family only the 
father and a 6 months old son survive. Mrs. Hoist was the 
sister of former Chief of Police Badenoch. Interment was at 
Forest Home. 

The building was still gay with its Christmas decorations 
and a large motto, "Peace on earth, good will to men," which 
the Hoist children had assisted in making. 

BURY CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN. 
Another quadruple funeral was that of the daughters and 
the grandchildren of Jacob and Elizabeth Beder of 697 Ogden 
avenue. The two women, Mrs. Edyth Vallely, 835 Sawyer 
avenue, and Mrs. Amy Josephine McKenna of 758 South Ked- 
zie avenue, went to the theater accompanied by their two chil- 
dren, Bernice Vallely, aged n, and Bernard McKenna, aged 
3. The bodies were found after the fire by the husbands of 
the dead women at the morgues. The services were in charge 
of Rev. D. F. Fox of the California Avenue Congregational 
church. Interment was at Forest Home. 

FIVE DEAD IN ONE HOUSE. 

Memorial services were held in the afternoon for Mrs. Eva 
Pond, wife of Fred S. Pond, their children, Raymond, 14, 
Helen, 7, and Miss Grace Tuttle, sister of Mrs. Pond, at the 



146 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

. 

family residence, 1272 Lyman avenue. The services were 
conducted by the Rev. Mr. Bowles of All Saints' Episcopal 
church. 

Miss Tuttle had been for eighteen years a teacher in the 
Chicago public schools. She attended the performance at the 
Iroquois with her sister and her sister's children, and none of 
them emerged alive. Mrs. Pond was the wife of Fred S. 
Pond, for thirty years cashier of the Deering Harvester 
Company, who is the only survivor of a once happy family 
circle. The four bodies were taken to Beloit, Wis., for burial. 

ENTIRE FAMILY IS BURIED. 

None but friends attended the Beyer funeral service during 
the afternoon at Sheldon's undertaking rooms, for the entire 
family, mother, father, and child, were numbered among the 
Iroquois dead. Otto H. Beyer, his wife Minnie, and their 4 
year old daughter Grace, were the victims. The bodies were 
taken to Elkader, Iowa, for burial. This was perhaps the sad- 
dest of all the sad services conducted during the day, as no 
relatives were present to mourn the dead. 

1 

MRS. FOX AND THREE CHILDREN. 
Mrs. Emilie Hoyt Fox, daughter of William M. Hoyt, the 
wholesale grocer; George Sidney Fox, her 1 5-year-old son; 
Hoyt Fox, 14 years old, and Emilie Fox, 9 years old, were 
all buried side by side in Graceland cemetery. The funeral 
services were held in Graceland chapel and were conducted by 
Rev. Henry G. Moore of Christ Episcopal church, Winnetka. 

MRS. A. E. HULL AND CHILDREN. 
Simple and short were the funeral services at Boydston's 
chapel, Forty-second place and Cottage Grove avenue, over the 
remains of four members of the Hull family. Mrs. Hull, the 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 147 

mother, was the wife of Arthur E. Hull, 244 Oakwood boule- 
vard, and attended the theater with her little daughter, Helen, 
and two nephews, adopted sons, Donald and Dwight. The 
services were directed by Rev. J. H. McDonald of the Oakland 
Methodist Episcopal church and consisted simply of a prayer 
and the reading of a poem found in the desk of Mrs. Hull, and 
which had evidently been clipped from some newspaper. At 
the conclusion of the services the caskets were carried to the 
Thirty-ninth street station of the Michigan Central railroad, 
over which they were taken to Troy, N. Y., for burial. 

HERBERT AND AGNES LANGE. 

"We were four of the happiest mortals in all Chicago until 
that awful thing blasted our lives forever," sobbed Mrs. Louis 
Lange of 1632 Barry avenue at the close of the funeral of her 
only two children, Herbert Lange, 17 years old, and his sister 
Agnes, 14. The service was held at the Johannes Evangelical 
Lutheran church at Garfield avenue and Mohawk street. 

SWEETHEARTS BURIED AT THE SAME TIME, 

While the last rites were being held for Albert Alfson in 
Chicago, the body of his sweetheart, Miss Margaret Love, was 
being buried in the cemetery at Woodstock. Two hundred 
persons, 125 from Woodstock, attended Alf son's funeral at 24 
Keith street. 

FIVE BURIED IN ONE GRAVE. 

The largest funeral at Oakwoods was that of Dr. M. B. 
Rimes, 6331 Wentworth avenue, his wife and three children, 
Lloyd, Martin, and Maurice. The five from one family were 
buried together in one large grave. 



148 1ROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

BOYS AS PALLBEARERS. 

At the home of Ludwig Wolff, 1329 Washington boulevard 
the body of his daughter, Mrs. William M. Garn, and her three 
children, Willie, John and Harriet, lay. All day long until 
the time for the funeral services, a stream of sympathizing 
friends poured in, bearing many floral tributes to the dead. 
The impressive service of the Episcopal church was read by 
the Rev. William C. Dewitt of St. Andrew's church, of which 
Mrs. Garn was a member. Twelve boys acted as pallbearers 
to their late playfellows, and followed the little white hearses 
to Graceland cemetery. The funeral was one of the largest 
ever seen on the West Side, more than one hundred carriages 
being in the train. 

WINNETKA SADDENED. 

A funeral was held which saddened the hearts of all Win- 
netka. The little north shore suburb lost eight of its residents 
in the fire, and the funeral of four of the Fox family was held 
yesterday. The services were conducted by the Rev. Henry 
G. Moore of Christ Episcopal church, Winnetka. 

MOTHER AND DAUGHTERS BURIED TOGETHER. 

Three hearses carried away the bodies of Mrs. Louise Ruby 
and her daughters, Mrs. Ida Weimers and Mrs. Mary Feiser. 
The services were held at the late home of Mrs. Ruby, "838 
Wilson avenue. Father F. N. Perry of the Church of Our 
Lady of Lourdes celebrated mass for the two daughters, who 
were members of his parish. The Rev. John G. Kircher of 
Bethlehem Evangelical church read the service for the mother. 

HOLD TRIPLE FUNERAL. 

Triple funeral services were held at the residence of Henry 
M. Shabad, 4041 Indiana avenue, for his two children. Myrtle, 






IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 149 

aged 14 years, and Theodore, aged 12 years, and little Rose 
Elkan, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. N. Elkan. The three chil- 
dren attended the matinee together and all were killed. Rabbi 
Jacobson of the Thirty-fifth street synagogue conducted the 
service and at the conclusion referred to the Iroquois fire as one 
of the "greatest calamities of the age." The interment took 
place at Waldheim. 

WOMEN FAINT IN CHURCH. 

Attended by many grief stricken schoolmates and friends, 
the funeral of Robert and Archie Hippach, sons of Louis A. 
and Ida S. Hippach, was held at the Church of the Atonement, 
Kenmore and Ardmore avenues. They lived at 2928 Ken- 
more avenue. At the church several women fainted and had 
to be taken from the church. 

LIFE-LONG FRIENDS MEET IN DEATH. 

Miss Viola Delee of 7822 Union avenue, and Miss Florence 
Corrigan of 218 Dearborn avenue, victims of the Iroquois 
theater fire, whose remains were buried, were life-long friends. 
They were schoolmates at St. Xavier's College, where both 
graduated two years ago. On the afternoon of the fire Miss 
Delee had arranged to meet her friend downtown and attend 
the matinee. It is thought they secured seats on the main 
floor about eight rows from the front. Their bodies were 
found lying some distance apart. 

The body of Miss Delee showed marks that must have 
caused her excruciating pain. Her face was badly burned and 
disfigured. Miss Corrigan was burned almost beyond recog- 
nition. She was not identified until after the identity of 
Viola's body had been established through a card which she 
carried in the pocket of her dress. 



150 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

The funerals of two friends who had perished together in 
the fire met in Forest Home cemetery when Mrs. Floy Irene 
Olson of 835 Walnut street and Bessie M. Stafford were buried 
in graves not thirty feet apart. The two women had been life- 
long friends and were co-workers in the Warren Avenue Con- 
gregational church. Rev. Frank G. Smith conducted the serv- 
ices over each of the bodies. 

EDWARD AND MARGARET DEE. 
Rev. Father Quinn of St. James' Roman Catholic church, 
conducted the obsequies for Edward Mansfield and Margaret 
Louise Dee, the children of William Dee, at the residence, 3133 
Wabash avenue. The funeral procession was the largest ever 
seen on the south side for children, seventy-five carriages fol- 
lowing the white hearse that bore the two white caskets. 
MISS E. D. MANN AND NIECE. 

Miss Emma D. Mann, supervisor of music in the Chicago 
public schools, and her niece, Olive Squires, 14 years old, were 
buried at Rosehill after impressive ceremonies at the Centenary 
Methodist Episcopal church. Miss Mann had been connected 
with the schools of the city for many years. 

ELLA AND EDYTH FRECKLETON. 

The funeral services over the remains of Ella and Edyth 
Freckleton, daughters of William J. Freckleton, 5632 Peoria 
street, were conducted by Rev. R. Keene Ryan at Boulevard 
hall, Fifty-fifth and Halsted streets. More than 2,000 persons 
were in the hall and 500 others stood in the street for hours 
waiting for the funeral cortege to pass on its way to Oak- 
woods, where interment was made. 

MISS FRANCES LEHMAN. 

Hundreds of pupils of the Nash school, Forty-ninth avenue 
and Ohio street, members of the Ridgelaod fire department and 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. i$r 

a delegation of employes of the Cicero and Proviso Electric 
Street railway attended the funeral services over the remains 
of Miss Frances Lehman, at the residence of her parents, 525 
North Austin avenue, in the morning. Rev. Clayton Youker, 
pastor of the Euclid Avenue Methodist Episcopal church, offi- 
ciating. Many beautiful floral tributes were sent by the teach- 
ers and the pupils of the Nash school. 

And so during this Sabbath of woe, tragedies of life and 
death such as these, but far too numerous to be all recorded, 
were being enacted in all parts of the stricken city. Although 
nature had bestowed upon the countless mourners a day bright 
and clear, their spirits were dark with sorrow and for years 
to come their memories will revert to that time as the saddest 
of their lives ; and those whose dear ones were not among the 
dead, if their natures were blessed with any sympathy what- 
ever, were oppressed, as never before, with the heavy burden 
which others must bear. 



CHAPTER XII. 
WHAT OF THE PLAYERS? 

Never before in the history of amusements has so excellent 
an opportunity been afforded to look behind the scenes of the 
mimic world and study the real life of the actor. To one and 
all, whether religionist unalterably opposed to the theater and 
all its ramifications, or the devotee finding life's chiefest pleas- 
ures contributed by musician and mummer, the stage looms 
up a mystic realm, affording more interest and comment than 
almost any other department of earthly effort. 

When Shakespeare wrote "See the players well bestowed" 
in his immortal masterpiece, "Hamlet," the term player meant 
something very different from what it does today. In this 
day and age it is not only the poetic, lofty-minded and 
learned tragedian who is rightfully accorded the title "actor/' 
but through time-honored custom and common usage the spe- 
cialty performer, slap-stick comedian and the interesting 
chorus girl are recognized as members of the "profession"; 
and be it noted, although a sad commentary on the stage, they 
far outnumber those of the old, legitimate school. 

So it is that in dealing with the player folk, to whom the 
terrifying Iroquois experience was but an incident in a long 
career of vicissitudes unknown to those who make up the great 
commercial, industrial and agricultural world, it is necessary 
to consider the sleek, well-groomed executive staff, the better- 
paid and more widely-known stellar lights of the "Mr. Blue- 
beard" company, the less distinguished principals, both men 

152 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 153 

and women, the struggling chorus boy, the saucy, piquant 
and greatly envied chorus girl and a small army of unheard-of 
yet equally important stage mechanics. 

Upwards of 150 persons a little world of their own 
made up the company that found its merry-making tour 
brought to a sudden termination by a blast that came upon 
them like a visitation from the bottomless pit. What they en- 
dured, what conditions the fatal fire imposed upon them, will 
never be fully known or appreciated. Merry minstrels in 
name, but homeless, purposeless wanderers in fact, the dead 
sweep of the elements tore asunder their little universe and 
left them stranded and more purposeless still, practically penni- 
less and among strangers, overburdened with their own woes. 

With such an organization as "Mr. Bluebeard" there are to 
be found two or three fortunate mortals, whose powers to 
amuse and whose popularity with the amusement-loving public 
place their salaries at a figure anywhere between $150 and 
$300 a week. In this particular company "Eddie Foy," in 
private life Edward Fitzgerald, stood out preeminently as 
such a player. Then came more than a score of principals 
whose salaries will range from $60 to $150 a week, depending 
entirely upon ability and the extent to which fortune has 
favored them in casting the various parts, as the characters 
are known. Next in order are the less important people, who 
play "bits" (very unimportant parts), and who act as under- 
studies for the principals, ready to replace them in an emer- 
gency. They are largely graduates from the chorus or com- 
parative novices in the profession. Their compensation may 
be from $30 to $50 a week, according to beauty, grace and 
general usefulness. 

All have their railroad fares paid and their baggage trans- 



154 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

ported at the expense of the management. They are required 
to furnish their own wardrobe, however, in many instances 
an item of no small expense. 

THE CHORUS GIRL, 

And then the chorus girl ! No living creature excites such 
general curiosity, interest, and perhaps admiration and envy, as 
this footlight queen. She is popularly supposed to devote her 
time exclusively to delightful promenades with susceptible 
"Johnnies" in the millionaire class, automobile rides, after- 
the-show wine suppers and all manner and form of unconven- 
tional and soul-stirring diversions that for her more sedate 
and useful sister, the ordinary American girl, would mean 
to be ostracized socially. Hers is generally regarded as a 
voluptuous life of music, mirth and color, an endless, extrava- 
gant pursuit of pleasure. 

To the wide, wide world her triumphs and escapades are 
heralded by newspaper, press agent, and the callow youth of 
the land, who regard themselves as "real sports" and clamor 
for an opportunity to provide a supper for one of the chorus 
at the expense of going without cigarettes for the rest of 
the month. 

Whoever hears of the little, disorderly bunk of a room the 
chorus girl's salary provides her with at some cheap hotel; 
of her struggles for existence during the months she is out of 
employment almost every season; of the glass of beer and 
nibble of free lunch that is often her only meal during the long 
weeks of endless rehearsal that precede the opening of the 
show, when absolutely without income she lives on her scant 
savings, what she can borrow, and hope and anticipation of 
what is in store when the tour begins! For three or four 
weeks she rehearses morning and afternoon while the produc- 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 155 

tion is being put in shape. No salaries are paid during that 
period, and it is a particularly soft-hearted manager who 
allows the girl carfare. Most of the day there are marches, 
dances and evolutions to be gone through with maddening 
monotony. She must remain on her feet, for chairs are few 
about stages, and courtesy scant so far as chorus people are 
concerned. 

And at night, when she goes home worn with effort, there 
are songs to be learned, and then to be repeated over and over 
again in chorus the next day, to the accompaniment of a bat- 
tered and expressionless piano shoved into the brightest spot 
on the gloomy half-dark stage, or, if there be no such thing, 
placed in the orchestra pit, where the musical director can 
enjoy the advantage of an electric light. 

i 

THE MUSICAL DIRECTOR. 

The musical director! What an autocrat he is! His rules 
are arbitrary and irrevocable. His criticism stings and burns. 
He is tired, overworked and under the strain of responsibility 
for the successful development of the aggregation of young 
men and women who confront him, and who appear to him 
weighted down with all the stupidity naturally intended for 
distribution among a vastly larger number of individuals. 
He swears, raves, coaxes as his moods change. He weeds out 
one here and engages a new member there. And with every 
change the difficulties increase. The tunes that seem so inspir- 
ing when heard from the comfort of a parquet seat grow 
dreary to those who are living with them hourly during this 
period. The "catchy" songs become so much hateful drivel 
and maddening nonsense, when done over and over again to 
the inspiring declaration of the half-crazed director that "the 



156 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

whole bunch ought to go back to the farm, back to the dish- 
pan." 

It is a tired, world-worn, weary creature that creeps away 
after such a rehearsal a woman who would be hard to recog- 
nize as the sprightly, dashing blonde in blue tights, who tosses 
her head saucily in the third act and sets the hearts of the 
youth of the one-night-stands aflame a few weeks later. 

THE JOY OF THE OPENING. 

At last the chaos and confusion end, the great mass of de- 
tail is blended into a production and the stage manager begins 
his term of storming and fussing. The dress rehearsal is 
called, the shimmering silken costumes are donned and all 
hands are agreeably surprised to find that there really is a 
plot to the piece and some rhyme and reason behind the efforts 
of the few preceding weeks' labor. The opening is at hand. 

What joy it brings to all, both those of high and low de- 
gree. Brave costumes, light, color and a mellow orchestra, 
in place of the old tin-pan of a piano, work great changes in 
their spirits. And best of all salaries begin. To the chorus 
girl it means from $18 to $25 a week, and if she be particu- 
larly clever perhaps a little more. That is hers, free from 
all charges for transportation, baggage delivery or the fur- 
nishing or maintenance of wardrobe. She must furnish her 
own "make-up" of paints, powder and cosmetics, to be sure, 
and of this she uses no small amount; but that is a minor ex- 
pense. 

The opening over, the critics of the press either praise or 
flay the production something that means much in determin- 
ing what its future will be. For a few weeks, possibly a 
month or two, it remains the attraction at the theater where 
it had its birth. Conditions become pleasanter, yet a vast 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 157 

amount of rehearsing continues in order to bring about im- 
provement or make changes in the personnel of the company. 
Every time a girl drops out, voluntarily or otherwise, her suc- 
cessor must be put through the ropes in order to be able to 
replace her. That means all those in the same scenes must 
go through the dreary details again. In fact, from the time 
such a show opens until it closes rehearsals never really cease, 
the causes necessitating them being almost without number. 

SPENDTHRIFT HABITS. 

During the "run" in the opening house the chorus girl has 
a chance to live at comparatively small expense. She may 
pay off her small debts, if she is troubled with a conscience. 
What is far more important, she can replenish her threadbare 
street wardrobe, for it is an unwritten managerial law that all 
stage people must dress well both on and off the stage. So 
when the "run" terminates and the road tour begins, nearly 
all the company are pretty short financially, although they 
may be even with the world if they are particularly fortunate. 
All actors are naturally "spenders." Their mode of life com- 
pels it. With few family ties, the majority without a home, 
their every expense is double that of the every-day sort of a 
man. Their meeting place and their lounging place, whether 
it be for business or social reasons, is necessarily the hotel or 
the bar. Under those conditions it would be difficult for the 
most conservative to cultivate frugality or economy. And 
actors have never been known to injure themselves in an effort 
to attain either unless under stress of temporary compulsion. 

GAMBLING, PURE AND SIMPLE. 

Perhaps the show has made a "hit." Perhaps not. One 
can never tell in advance, for it is gambling, pure and simple, so 



158 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

the oldest managers openly assert. If it proves a failure all 
the capital, labor and trouble has been thrown away like a 
flash in the pan. The actors arrive some night to find the 
house dark, the box-office receipts, scenery and properties 
seized on an attachment, and their salaries and prospects gone 
What happens then with weeks, possibly months, of idleness 
ahead of them, can be better imagined than described. Some- 
how, the people struggle through and survive and bob up to 
face the same experience again. It is hard enfeugh on the 

^* 

principals with good salaries and friends purchased through 
profligate expenditure of their money when all was sunshine 
and prosperity, but it is a worse blow to the chorus. Yet 
they pass through seemingly unscathed. They are used to 
it and know how. 

But this is a dreary side of the picture, and all productions 
are by no means doomed to flunk; those that do not go forth 
upon the road with a flourish of trumpets, the glitter and 
glamor of carloads of courts and palaces of canvas, tinsel and 
papier-mache and with everyone looking forward to the 
rapid acquirement of a fortune. Verily, your actor is a born 
optimist. Were it not for ambition, hope, egotism and in- 
herent love of publicity, notoriety and admiration, where 
would the stage get its recruits ? 

THE SHOW ON THE ROAD. 

After the production has taken to the road it may still prove 
a "frost" the theatrical term for failure. Then it is the 
same grim story, with additional discouragements. There are 
cold, clammy hotelkeepers whose one anxiety is to see their 
bills paid, and commercially inclined railroads who will trans- 
port none, not even actors, without payment in something 
more tangible than promises. Then comes the benefit perform- 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 159 

ance, the appeal to local lodges of orders the actors may be 
identified with and the mad scramble to induce the railroad 
to carry the people home "on their trunks." If they 
can get their baggage out of the hotels the per- 
formers usually find it possible to secure transporta- 
tion by leaving their trunks with the railroads as 
a pawn to be released when they raise money enough to settle 
the bill. Surely a pleasant prospect to go "home" penniless 
and without personal effects, clothing or even prospects. 

And all this time where is the manager? He may have fled 
in desperation with the few dollars that came into his hands the 
preceding night, or he may be shut up in his room worse off 
than his employes. It all depends upon circumstances. 

All shows do not meet disaster on the road, however. Yet 
there is always the distressing possibility to confront the 
actor. Many go on their glad, successful way, for a time, like 
"Mr. Bluebeard," piling up profits and bringing joy to the 
hearts of managers and owners and continued employment to 
the players. Yet even then all is not as roseate as might be 
thought from a casual glance taken from the front. There are 
epidemics, railroad accidents, hotel fires and all manner of 
emergencies to be considered, not to speak of the one-night 
stand. 

THE ONE-NIGHT STAND. 

Of all the terrors the actor faces the one-night stand is the 
worst. That is the technical name applied to the city or town 
where the company lights for a single performance as it flits 
across the continent. It is almost impossible to so route an 
attraction that its time will be placed exclusively in large 
cities, so they fall back on the one-night stand. Imagine the 
joy of leaving Chicago Sunday morning, playing at South 



160 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

Chicago Sunday afternoon and evening 1 , taking a train after 
the performance and jogging into Michigan City, Ind., with 
the early dawn, catching a bit of sleep during the day, playing 
at night and skipping out for Logansport. With the same 
programme at Logansport, Fort Wayne, Richmond, and Lima, 
Mansfield or Dayton, Ohio, the company is within striking- 
distance of Cleveland, Cincinnati, Louisville or Indianapolis, 
as its bookings may elect. And that is precisely what they 
all do. This is a sample week. It is not an uncommon thing 
for a big attraction to cover two or three weeks of unbroken 
one-night stands, and those going to and from the Pacific 
coast are often compelled to play four and five, without the 
friendly relief of an engagement covering a week. 

Truly life under these circumstances is a horror. Train- 
worn, broken in rest, with scarcely opportunity to unpack to 
change their linen, such weeks mean to the performer an ex- 
istence not calculated to tempt recruits to the profession. To 
the principal, stopping at the best hotels and making use of 
sleeping cars whenever possible, it is wearing enough and a 
burden. To the chorus girl, it is a hideous nightmare. Out 
of her meager salary she must pay during such weeks from 
$1.25 to $1.75 a day for hotel accommodations that are far 
from tempting. She is driven to resort to sleepers through 
self-preservation at an average of $2 a night for long night 
trips, and her laundry and other incidental expenses mount 
up into startling figures. Her clothing is ruined by almost 
ceaseless crushing aboard trains, and unless she be thoroughly 
broken to such a life she is wrecked physically. 

When she reaches a big city again she can once more 
creep to bed after her work at midnight and find in unbroken 
hours of sleep balm for all she has passed through. She may 
secure a decent room at a second or third class European hotel 




AMBULANCE LOADED WITH FIRE VICTIMS. 




AT?OH AT TOI* OF STAIRWAY 1'ACKKP WITH DEAD. 




CARRYING OUT SOME DEAD, SOME STILL LIVING. 




FIUKMKN CARRYING OUT THE DEAD CHILDREN. 




HEROIC RESCUE OF THE LIVING BY CHICAGO b'IREMEN. 




SCENE IN DEATH ALLEY REAR OF TIIK THEATER. 




CARRYING DEAD BODIES FROM SECOND BALCONY. 




MISS NELLIE REED, 
Leader of the Flying Ballet, killed by the tire. 




FIREMEN HELPING THE CHORUS GIRLS OUT OF THE THEATER. 




PHOTOGRAPH OF THE 8TAGE OF THE THEATER IN RUINS. 




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IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 177 

for $6 a week and buy her meals where she chooses. If some 
callow youth buys them for her in consideration of the pleasure 
of basking in her smiles, she is that much ahead. She can 
live within her means in the city and save money if she wants 
to- But she seldom does, and no one can blame her, for she 
feels that nothing save the pleasures secured by extravagance 
can compensate her for what she has lost comfort, repose, 
dignity, social recognition, and, most of all, home. 

These same conditions are experienced to a varying degree 
by all players save those within the sacred circle drawn by the 
ringer of phenomenal success. That small handful with pri- 
vate cars, lackies and all the comforts of a portable home, is so 
insignificant in number that it requires no consideration here. 

THE "MR. BLUEBEARD" COMPANY. 

In the best and most prosperous organizations, such as "Mr. 
Bluebeard" was, life is not all sunshine and roses. To be true, 
its members escaped the manifold terrors of playing in the 
barns to be found in many large one-night stands and dressing 
in their stalls, dignified by the term dressing-rooms. The 
women were not compelled to dress and undress behind inclos- 
ures made of flimsy scenery with a sheet thrown over for addi- 
tional protection. Nor did they have to live in the barn-like 
hotels many such towns boast. But they had their own trou- 
bles, such as they were. The chorus girls did not escape hav- 
ing to be thrown into involuntary contact with all classes and 
conditions of mankind, nor did they avoid the sharp social dis- 
tinction drawn by the p/incipals in all organizations. 

Only a few weeks before the Iroquois horror they passed 
through a serious fire scare in the theater where they were 
playing in Cleveland, an experience that for the moment prom- 
ised to rival the one that finally overtook them. Flames in 



178 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

the scenery endangered their lives, but the fire was extin- 
guished. Therefore the incident "amounted to nothing" and 
little or nothing was heard about it. 

When the dread hour arrived at the Iroquois, the majority 
lost their all. It was not to be expected they would leave 
their jewelry and money about hotels of which they knew 
little. Quite naturally, they took both to their dressing-rooms. 
Many were on the stage when the cry of fire came, and were 
fortunate to escape with their lives, without thought of cloth- 
ing, money or jewelry, all of which were swept away. With 
employment, valuables, everything gone save their hotel bag- 
gage, they were in a sorry plight, indeed. But with the opti- 
mism that only the actor knows they rejoiced in their escape 
from the fate that overtook little Nellie Reed and from the 
terrible scars and burns suffered by many of their number. 

A score of their number were under arrest, held as wit- 
nesses, men and women alike. The management came to their 
relief to the extent of furnishing bonds that secured their 
temporary release. Klaw and Erlanger also furnished trans- 
portation back to New York for such as were at liberty to go. 
Then another obstacle arose. Few had the means to settle 
their hotel bills, and the proprietors of the places would not 
release their baggage. At this juncture relief came from out- 
side sources. Mrs. Ogden Armour provided for the chorus 
girls, contributing $500 to settle their bills. That night over 
a hundred of the players were headed back to the great metrop- 
olis they call home, to seek new engagements, and if unsuc- 
cessful, to do the best they could. And the majority started 
with certain failure staring them in the face. 

It was on Sunday, January 3, 1904, four days after the fire, 
that the members of the "Mr. Bluebeard" company turned 
their faces homeward, for to all players New York is "home." 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 179 

Just before the train started a plain white box was put on board 
the baggage car. It contained all that was mortal of Nellie 
Reed, the sprightly little girl who had delighted scores of 
thousands by her mid-air flights from the stage at each per- 
formance. 

It was her last railroad "jump." Poor little thing, still in 
her early teens, she closed her earthly career with the close of 
the show, and went back "home" with it ! If the future has for 
her any further flights they will be of celestial character, and not 
through the agency of an invisible wire such as guided her 
above the heads of Iroquois theater audiences and which was 
at first thought to have interfered with the fall of the curtain 
and to have been directly responsible for the appalling holo- 
caust. 

It was a sad departure. Nearly 150 persons comprised the 
"Mr. Bluebeard" party, and nearly as many more took the 
trip from "The Billionaire" company, also owned by the same 
management. Only a day or two before the fire that closed 
the "Bluebeard" show death had laid its hand heavily upon 
"The Billionaire," playing at the Illinois theater only a few 
blocks distant. "The Billionaire" himself died big, rollick- 
ing Jerome Sykes, who made famous the part "Foxy Quiller" 
and the opera of that name and who a few years ago made such 
a hit as the fat boy in "An American Beauty" that he outshone 
Lillian Russell, its star. Sykes contracted a cold at a Christ- 
mas celebration for the members of the two companies and 
when he died the production died with him. 

So with the Iroquois catastrophe there were two big, ob- 
viously successful, companies wiped out of the theatrical world 
at one blew and without notice. The members of each had 
half a week's salary due; that was their all. It was promptly 
paid and with that and their tickets all set forth in the happy 



i8o IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

possession of their baggage, many through the charity of Mrs. 
Armour. 

All not quite ! There were two members of "The Billion- 
aire" who did not make the last "jump," two who were in the 
audience at the Iroquois and perished in the maelstrom of 
flame and smoke. The curtain had been rung down for them 
forever. They, at least, would know no more of pitiful quests 
for engagements, of wearying rehearsal and momentary, 
superficial conquest. They had played their last stand. 

"This is the saddest day of my life," declared one of the 
chorus members in the presence of the writer. "Here I am, 
1,000 miles from home, no prospects of another engagement 
this season, and only $5 in the world." 

"I have less than you," said a frail appearing girl, with 
tears in her eyes. "I lost my savings, $22, in the fire, and I 
have only $3 to go home with." 

"It it the life of the stage," said a matronly wardrobe woman. 
"The poor girls are penniless, and if the injured were left 
hind it would be as charity patients. The responsibility of 
the managers of the show ceases when the production is 
closed. I know many of these girls are without sufficient 
money to pay for a week's lodging, and it is a sad outlook 
for some of them this winter." 

And the wardrobe woman told the truth it was merely a 
striking example, a pitiful vicissitude of "the life of the 
stage." 



CHAPTER XIII. 
OTHER HOLOCAUSTS. 

Since the time that civilized man first met with fellow man 
to enjoy the work of the primitive playwright, humanity hag 
paid a toll of human life for its amusements. Oftener than 
history tells the tiny flicker of a tongue of flame has thrown 
a gay, laughing audience into a wild, struggling mob, and 
instead of the curtain which would have been rung down on 
the comedy on the stage, a pall of black smoke covered the 
struggles of the living and dying. 

Of all the theater disasters of history, none ever occurred 
in America equaling the loss of life in the Iroquois fire. 
Only two in the history of the civilized world surpass it. There 
have been fires accompanied by greater loss of life, but not 
among theater audiences. 

But the grand total of persons killed in theater holocausts 
is large and the saddest comment on this list is that most of 
the victims were from holiday audiences of women and chil- 
dren. Lehman's playhouse in St. Petersburg, Russia, was 
destroyed in Christmas week, 1836, and 70x5 persons lost their 
lives. The Ring theater, Vienna, Austria, was destroyed Dec. 
8, 1 88 1, and 875 persons lost their lives. These are the only 
theater holocausts whose deadliness surpasses that of the Iro- 
quois. 

To all have been the same accompaniments of panic, futile 
smuggle and suffocation. In the last century with the intro- 
duction of the modern style of playhouse, these fatal fires have 

181 



182 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

increased. The annals of the stage are replete with dark pages 
that cause the tragedy of the mimic drama depicted behind the 
footlights to pale and shrivel into comparative nothingness. 

Perhaps it is a fatal legacy from the time when civilized 
society gathered in its marble coliseums and amphitheaters to 
witness the mortal combats of human soldiers or the death 
struggles of Christians waging a vain battle against famished 
wild beasts. Whatever it may be, death has always stalked as 
the dread companion of the god of the muse and drama. 

An English statistician published six years ago a list of fires 
at places of public entertainment in all countries in the preced- 
ing century. He showed that there had been 1,100 conflagra- 
tion?, with 10,000 fatalities, and he apologized for the incom- 
pleteness of his figures. Another authority says that in the 
twelve years from 1876 to 1888 not less than 1,700 were killed 
in theater disasters in Brooklyn, Nice, Vienna, Paris, Exeter 
and Oporto, and that in every case nearly all the victims were 
dead within ten minutes from the time the smoke and flame 
from the stage reached the auditorium. As in the Iroquois 
fire, it was mainly in the balconies and galleries that death 
held its revels. 

Fire wrought havoc at Rome in the Amphitheater in the year 
14 B. C., and the Circus Maximus was similarly destroyed 
three times in the first century of the Christian era. Three 
other theaters were razed by flames in the same period, and 
Porfipeii's was burned again almost two centuries later, but the 
exact loss of life is not recorded in either instance. The Greek 
playhouses, built of stone in open spaces, were never endan- 
gered by fire. 

No theaters were built on the modern plan until in the 
sixteenth century in France, and not until the seventeenth did 
any catastrophe worthy of record occur. When Shakespeare 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 183 

lived plays were generally produced in temporary structures, 
sometimes merely raised platforms in open squares, and it 
was after his time that scenic effects began to be amplified and 
the use of illuminants increased. Thus it was that dangers, 
both 2o players and auditors, were vastly increased. 

'n the Teatro Atarazanas, in Seville, Spain, many people 
<v5 r killed and injured at a fire in 1615. The first conflagra- 
tion of this kind in England worth noting happened in 1672, 
when the Theater Royal, or Drury Lane, standing on the site 
of the playhouse in which "Mr. Bluebeard" was produced be- 
fore it was brought to Chicago, was burned to the ground. 
Sixty other buildings were destroyed, but no loss of life is 
recorded. 

Two hundred and ten people lost their lives and the whole 
Castle of Amalienborg, in Copenhagen, was laid in ashes in 
1689 from a rocket that ignited the scenery in the opera house. 
Eighteen persons perished at the theater in the Kaizersgracht, 
Amsterdam, in 1772, and six years later the Teatro Colisseo, 
at Saragossa, Spain, went up in flames and seventy-seven 
lives were lost. The governor of the province was among the 
victims. Twenty players were suffocated in the burning of the 
Palais Royal in Paris in 1781. 

In the nineteenth century there were twelve theater fires 
marked by great loss of life, and the first of these occurred in 
the United States. At Richmond, on the day after Christmas 
in 1811, a benefit performance of "Agnes and Raymond, or 
the Bleeding Nun," was being given, and the theater was 
filled with a wealthy and fashionable audience. The governor 
of Virginia, George W. Smith, ex-United States Senator Ven- 
able, and other prominent persons were in the audience and 
were numbered among the seventy victims. The last act was 
on when the careless hoisting of a stage chandelier with lighted 



184 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

candles set fire to the scenery. Most of those killed met death 
in the jam at the doors. 

The Lehman Theater and circus in St. Petersburg was the 
scene of a fire in 1836, in which 800 people perished. A stage 
lamp hung high ignited the roof, a panic ensued, and there 
was such a mad rush that most of the people slew each other 
trying to get out. Those not trampled to death were inciner- 
ated by the fire that rapidly enveloped the temporary wooden 
building. 

A lighted lamp, upset in a wing, caused a stampede in the 
Royal Theater, Quebec, June 12, 1846, and 100 people were 
either burned or crushed into lifelessness. The exits were poor 
and the playhouse was built of combustible material. Less than 
a year later the Grand Ducal Theater at Carlsruhe, Baden, Ger- 
many, was destroyed by a fire, due to the careless lighting of 
the gas in the grand ducal box. Most of the 150 victims 
were suffocated. Between fifty and one hundred people met a 
fiery death in the Teatro degli Aquidotti at Leghorn, Italy, 
June 7, 1857. Fireworks were being used on the stage and a 
rocket set fire to flie scenery. 

One of the most serious fires from the standpoint of loss of 
life was that in the Jesuit church of Santiago, South America, 
in 1863. Fire broke out in the building during service. A 
panic started and the efforts of the priests to calm the immense 
crowd and lead them quietly from the edifice were vain. The 
few doors became jammed with a struggling mass of men, 
women and .children. The next day 2,000 bodies were taken 
from the church, most of them suffiocated or trampled to 
death. 

The Brooklyn theater fire was long memorable in this coun- 
try. Songs, funeral marches and poems without number were 
written commemorating the sad event. Vastly different from 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 185 

the Iroquois horror, most of the victims of the Brooklyn the- 
ater were burned beyond recognition. At Greenwood cemetery 
in Brooklyn there now stands a marble shaft to the unidentified 
victims of the holocaust. 

Kate Claxton was playing "The Two Orphans" at Con- 
way's Theater in Brooklyn on the night of Dec. 5, 1876. In 
the last scene of the last act Miss Claxton, as Louise, the poor 
blind girl, had just lain down on her pallet distraw, when 
she saw above her in the flies a tiny flame. An actor of the 
name of Murdoch, on the stage with her, saw it about the 
same time, and was so excited that he began to stammer his 
lines. Miss Claxton tried to reassure him and partly suc- 
ceeded. 

Then the audience realized that the theater was on fire, and 
a movement began. The star, with Mr. Murdoch and Mrs. 
Farren, joined hands, walked to the footlights and begged 
the audience to go out in an orderly manner. "You see, we 
are between you and the fire," said Miss Claxton. The peo- 
ple were proceeding quietly, when a man's voice 'shouted, "It 
is time to be out of this," and every one seemed seized with a 
frenzy. The main entrance doors opened inwardly, and there 
was such a jam that these could not be manipulated. 

The crowds from the galleries rushed down the stairways 
and fell or jumped headlong into the struggling mass below. 
Of the 1,000 people in the theater 297 perished. They were 
either burned, suffocated or trampled to death. The actor 
Murdoch was one of the victims. 

That same year, 1876, a panic resulted in the Chinese theater 
of San Francisco from a cry of fire. A lighted cigar which 
someone playfully dropped into a spectator's coat pocket 
caused a smell of burning wool. The audience became panic 
stricken and rushed madly for the exits. At the time there 






186 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

were about 900 Americans in the auditorium, and of this 
number one-quarter were seriously injured. The fire itself 
was of no consequence. 

The destruction of the Ring theater at Vienna, Dec. 8, 1881, 
remains the greatest horror of the kind in the history of civili- 
zation. It was preceded on March 23 of the same year, by 
the burning of the Municipal theater in Nice, Italy, caused 
by an explosion of gas, and in which between 150 and 200 
people perished miserably, but the magnitude of the Vienna 
holocaust made the world forget Nice for the time. The 
feast of the Immaculate Conception was being celebrated by 
the Viennese, and Offenbach's "Les Contes d'Hoffman," an 
opera bouffe, was the play. The audience numbered 2,500. 

Fire was suddenly observed in the scenery, and a wild panic 
started. An iron curtain, designed for just such emergencies, 
was forgotten, and the flames, which might thus have been 
confined to the stage, spread furiously through the entire 
building. The scene was changed from light-hearted revelry, 
with gladsome music, to one of lurid horror. 

The exits from the galleries were long and tortuous and 
quickly became choked. As in the Iroquois theater fire, those 
who had occupied the gallery seats were the ones who lost 
their lives. But few escaped from the galleries. The great 
majority of the spectators were burned beyond recognition by 
their nearest relatives. One hundred and fifty were so charred 
that they were buried in a common grave, and the city's 
mourning was shared by all the world. 

The next fire of this nature to attract the world's attention 
and sympathy was the destruction of the Circus Ferroni at 
Berditscheff, Russian Poland. Four hundred and thirty peo- 
ple were killed and eighty mortally injured. Many children 
were crushed and suffocated in the jam, and horses and other 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 187 

trained animals perished by the score. This was on Jan. 13, 
1883, and the origin of the conflagration was traced to a 
stableman who smoked a cigarette while lying in a heap of 
straw. 

TWO GREAT PARISIAN HORRORS. 

The burning of the Opera Comique in Paris, May 25, 1887, 
was a spectacular horror. Here again an iron curtain that 
would have protected the audience was not lowered. The 
first act of "Mignon" was on, when the scenery was observed 
to be ablaze. The upper galleries were transformed into in- 
fernos, in which men knocked other men and women down 
and trampled them in their eagerness to save themselves, while 
the flames reached out and enveloped them all. 

Many of the actors and actresses escaped only in their cos- 
tumes, and some rushed nude into the streets. The scenes in 
the thoroughfares where men and women in tights and ball 
dresses and men in gorgeous theatrical robes mingled with the 
naked, and the dead and dying were strewn about, made a 
picture fantastically terrible. The official list of dead was 
seventy-five, but many others died from the fire's effects. 

The theater at Exeter, England, burned Sept. 5, 1887, was 
ignited from gas lights, and so much smoke filled the edifice 
in a short time that near 200 were suffocated in their seats. 
They were found sitting there afterward, just as though they 
were still watching the play. This was the eleventh, and the 
Oporto fire the twelfth of the big conflagrations of the country. 
One hundred and seventy dead were taken from the ruins 
of the Portuguese playhouse after the flames which destroyed 
it on the evening of March 31, 1888, had been subdued. 
Many sailors and marine soldiers in the galleries used knives 



i88 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

to kill persons standing in their way, and scores of the victims 
were found with their throats cut. 

Ten years after the Opera Comique fire occurred the great- 
est of all Parisian horrors, the destruction by flames of the 
charity bazar, May 4, 1897. Members of the nobility, and 
even royalty, were among the victims. All of fashionable 
Paris were under the roof of a temporary wooden edifice 
known to visitors to the exposition of 1889 as "Old Paris." 
The annual bazar in the interest of charity had always been 
one of the most imposing of the spring functions. The 
wealthy and distinguished, titled and modish were there fn 
larger numbers than on any previous occasion. 

The fire broke out with a suddenness that so dazed every- 
one that the small chance of escape from the flimsy structure 
was made even less. Duchesses, marquises, countesses, baron- 
esses and grand dames joined in the mad rush for the exits. 
The men present are said to have acted in a particularly cow- 
ardly manner, knocking down and trampling upon women and 
children. The death list of more than 100 included the Duch- 
esses d'Alencon and De St. Didier, the Marquise de Maison, 
and three barons, three baronesses, one count, eleven count- 
esses, one general, five sisters of charity and one mother supe- 
rior. The Duchess d'Alencon was the favorite sister of the 
Empress of Austria and had been a fiance of the mad King 
Ludwig of Bavaria. The Duchess d'Uzes was badly burned. 
The shock of the news and the death of his niece, the Duchess 
d'Alencon, accounted for the death on May 7 of the Due 
d'Aumale. 

The Gaiety Theater in Milwaukee on November 5, 1869, 
furnished more than thirty victims to the fire fiend, but only 
two of these were burned to death. The Central Theater in 
Philadelphia was destroyed April 28, 1892, and six persons 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 189 

perished. A panic occurred at the Front Street playhouse in 
Baltimore December 27, 1895, among an audience composed 
entirely of Polish Jews. There was no fire, but a woman who 
had seen a bright light on the stage thought there was, and 
her cries caused a stampede that resulted in twenty-four deaths. 

Statisticians show that theaters as a rule do not attain an 
old age, but that their average life in all countries is but 
twenty-two and three-fourths years. In the United States the 
average is but eleven to thirteen years, and here almost a third 
are destroyed before they have been built five years. More 
playhouses feed the flames just prior to and after than during 
performances, because of the added precautions of employes. 

Two deadly conflagrations occurred in New York in 1900. 
The first the Windsor hotel fire, which resulted in the death of 
80 persons. Fire broke out in the old hotel on Fifth avenue 
about midnight. With lightning rapidity the flames shot up 
the light and air shafts, filling the rooms with smoke and mak- 
ing them as light as day. The guests suddenly aroused 
from sleep became panic stricken. The fire department was 
unable to throw up ladders and give aid as fast as frightened 
faces appeared at the windows. The result was that many 
jumped to death. They were picked up dead and dying in 
the streets. Others ran from their rooms into the fire-swept 
hallways and were burned to death. 

A short time later fire broke out one afternoon on the docks 
across the river from New York at Hoboken. The fire was 
on a pier piled high with combustible material. It burned 
like powder, spreading to the ocean liners tied to the pier and 
the efforts of the fire department were not effective in check- 
ing it. The cables which held the blazing vessels to the piers 
burned through and they drifted into the river, carrying fire 
and death among the shipping. Longshoremen unloading and 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

loading the vessels jumped in panic into the river. Others 
found themselves cut off from both land and water by the 
flames on all sides and were burned like rats in a trap. It 
was estimated that 300 lives were lost. Many bodies were 
never recovered and others were found miles down the river. 

Property losses are seldom proportionate to the financial 
losses from fire. In the Iroquois theater fire the property loss 
was almost inconsequential, while at the burning of Moscow 
by the Russians, Sept. 4, 1812, the property loss amounted to 
more than $150,000,000, while no lives were lost. 

Constantinople, with its squalid and crowded streets, has 
always been a fruitful spot for fires. They are of annual oc- 
currence and as the Turkish fire department is a travesty, are 
usually of considerable magnitude. The great fire of that 
city was in 1729, when 12,000 houses were destroyed and 
7,000 persons burned to death. Aug. 12, 1782, a three days' 
fire started in which 10,000 houses, 50 corn mills and 100 
mosques were burned and 100 lives lost. In February of the 
same year, 600 houses were burned, and in June 7,000 more. 
Fires are the best safeguards for Constantinople's health. 

Great Britain has had comparatively few fires. In 1598 
one at Tiverton destroyed 400 houses and 33 lives. In 1854 
50 persons were killed at Gateshead. The great fire of London 
raged from Sept. 2 to 6, 1666. It began in a wooden build- 
ing in Pudding Lane and consumed the buildings on 436 acres, 
blotting out 400 streets, 13,200 houses, St. Paul's and 86 
other churches, 58 halls and all public buildings, three of the 
city gates and four stone bridges. The property loss was 
$53,652,500, while only six persons were killed. 

Nearly every large city of the United States has had its 
great fire. That of Boston was on Nov. 9 and 10, 1872. Fire 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 191 

started at Summer and Kingston streets and 65 acres were 
burned over. The property loss was about $75,000,000 and 
there was no loss of life. 

The great fire in New York began in Merchant street, Dec. 
16, 1835. No lives were lost, but the property loss was $15,- 
000,000 and 52 acres were devastated, 530 buildings being de- 
stroyed. Ten years later a much smaller fire in the same dis- 
trict caused the death of 35 persons. 

July 9, 1850, thirty lives were lost in Philadelphia, and 
February 8, 1865, twenty persons were killed by another fire. 
Large fires in that city have almost invariably been accom- 
panied by loss of life. 

As the result of a Fourth of July celebration in 1866, nearly 
half of Portland, Md., was swept away by fire. The property 
loss was $10,000,000, but there was no loss of life. In Sep- 
tember and October of 1871 forest fires raged in Wisconsin 
and Michigan. An immense territory was swept over and 
more than 1,000 persons lost their lives. 

The greatest fire of modern times was the one which started 
in Chicago, October 8, 1871. A strip through the heart of the 
city, four miles long and a mile and a half wide, was burned 
over. The total loss was $196,000,000 and 250 persons lost 
their lives. By the fire 17,450 buildings were destroyed and 
98,860 persons were made homeless. Within four years the 
entire burned district had been rebuilt. 

Fires in Chicago attended with loss of life have been of 
increasing frequency in the past few years. Fire in the Hen- 
ning & Speed building on Dearborn street, in 1900, caused four 
girls to lose their lives. Since it and before the Iroquois dis- 
aster have come : The St. Luke Sanitarium horror, 10 lives 
lost, 43 injured; the Doremus laundry explosion, 8 lives lost; 



192 



TROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 



the American Glucose Sugar refinery blaze, S killed; North- 
western railroad boiler explosion, 8 killed, Stock Yards boiler 
explosion, 18 killed, and about a year ago the Lincoln hotel 
fire, 14 visiting stockmen suffocated. 

In view of this terrible array of suffering and death, it 
would seem that no precaution could be too great to avert 
future calamities. But although human life is beyond price, 
it is probable that the world at large will move on very much in 
the same old way an arousing and an upheaval of public 
sentiment for a time after the burned and maimed have been 
laid away, and then a gradual return of carelessness. It would 
seem impossible, however, that the United States could forget 
for many generations the Iroquois disaster, and that it must 
result in a final reform of all arrangements looking to the 
safety of theater goers. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

STORIES AND NARRATIVES OF THE HOLOCAUST. 

From two women who sat within a few feet of the stage 
when the fire broke out in the theater, and who remained calm 
enough to observe the actual beginning of the holocaust, there 
came one of the most thrilling and significant stories of that 
afternoon of panic. 

Mrs. Emma Schweitzler and Mrs. Eva Katherine Clapp 
Gibson, of Chicago, were the two women who told this story. 
They occupied seats in the fifth row of the orchestra circle. 
Mrs. Schweitzler was the last woman to walk out unassisted 
from the first floor. Mrs. Gibson was carried out badly 
burned. 

"The curtain that was run down," said Mrs. Schweitzler, 
"was the regular drop curtain painted with the 'autumn scene.' 
It was the same curtain that was lowered before the show 
started and the same one used during the interval following 
the first act. No other curtain was lowered. 

"As soon as the drop curtain came down it caught fire. A 
hole appeared at the left hand side. Then the blaze spread 
rapidly, and instantly a great blast of hot air came from the 
stage through the hole in the curtain and into the audience. 
Big pieces of the curtain were loosened by the terrific rush of 
air and were blown into the people's faces. Scores of women 
and children must have been burned to death by these frag- 
ments of burning grease and paint. I was in the theater until 
the curtain had entirely burned. It went up in the flames as 
if it had been paper, and did more damage than good." 

193 



194 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

"So far as could be observed from the audience, the asbestos 
curtain was not lowered at all," said Mrs. Schweitzler. "I 
was particularly interested in that 'autumn-scene' curtain be- 
cause I paint oil pictures myself. 

"Before the show started I sat for a long time examining 
the painting. From our seats in the fifth row we could see 
every detail. The 'autumn scene' was done in heavy red and 
in order to get some of the effects the artist had to use great 
daubs of paint, smearing it on pretty thick in some places. I 
am certain that the backing was common canvas and if this 
was so it must have been covered with wax before the paint 
was put on. This same curtain came down after the first 
act, so I had plenty of time to know it. 

"When the fire started my first feeling was that the stage 
people were acting recklessly. For several minutes the fire 
was no bigger than a handkerchief. A bucket of water would 
have saved the lives of every one. But there seemed to be no 
water on the stage. 

"One of the stage hands first took his hand and then used a 
piece of plank to smother the flames. It kept spreading. After 
Eddie Foy had made his speech the 'autumn scene' curtain 
came down. 'Pull down the curtain/ was all the cry I heard. 
They did not say 'Pull down the asbestos curtain/ nor was 
there any mention of any fireproof curtain. The 'autumn 
scene/ with its highly inflammable paint, came down, and it 
was like pouring fire into the people's faces. It was a great 
piece of bungling far worse than if no curtain had been low- 
ered at all. 

"It has been said that noise and panic-like screaming fol- 
lowed the burning of the curtain. This is absolutely not true. 
The whole place was almost gruesomely silent. 

"Mrs. Gibson and I were half way in from the aisle and 



IROOUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 195 

had to wait for many to go out before we started. At the 
aisle some one stepped on Mrs. Gibson's dress and she fell to 
the floor. Men, women and children trampled over her, and 
having done all I could I started out. In the lobby I begged 
some men to return for Mrs. Gibson, but they said it was no 
use. The curtain by that time was burned up." 

Mrs. Gibson, wife of Dr. Charles B. Gibson, confirmed Mrs. 
Schweitzler's assertions that no asbestos curtain was visible 
from the audience. "From the place where I fell," said Mrs. 
Gibson, "I crawled on hands and knees to the entrance. When 
I got to the rear the curtain was all burned away." 

ESCAPE OF MOTHER AND TWO SMALL CHILDREN 

Mrs. William Mueller, Jr., 3330 Calumet avenue, who at 
the time was confined to her bed from injuries sustained by 
trying to get out of the Iroquois as the panic began and from 
bruises sustained by being 'trampled upon, tells the story that 
she with her two children, Florence, 5 years old, and Belle, 3 
years old, occupied three seats in the second row from the back 
on the ground floor on the right side of the theater. The chil- 
dren became restless as the second act began and Mrs. Mueller 
took them to a retiring room. 

After the children had been in the retiring room for some 
minutes, they wanted to go back and see the performance. 
Mrs. Mueller started back into the lobby to go to her seats, 
when she saw, in a glass, the reflection of the flames. She 
hurried back into the retiring room and asked for the chil- 
dren's wraps, saying she thought something was wrong and 
did not want to stay in the theater any longer. The maid in 
the room asked her what was the matter and Mrs. Mueller 
told her. 



196 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

"Oh, that's all right. I won't give you the things now," 
the maid replied. "I'll go and see what is the matter." 

Mrs. Mueller demanded the children's wraps, but they were 
refused. Just then Mrs. Mueller thinks she must have heard 
the first cry of alarm and she ran to the front doors with the 
children. She tried one door and found it locked. Then she 
tried another, and that was locked. She pushed against it 
and then threw herself against it, trying to force it open. She 
does not remember seeing any employee near the outer door. 

Mrs. Mueller then heard people in the audience shrieking 
and then she fainted. It is thought that the oldest little girl, 
Florence, also fainted. 

As the people pushed out of the theater they trampled upon 
Mrs. Mueller and the child. Mrs. Mueller was horribly 
bruised and was. either kicked in the eyes or else some one 
stepped on her face. It was at first feared she would lose her 
eyesight. 

The first person carried out when the rescue began was 
Mrs. Mueller ; she was right in front of the doors. Near her 
was Florence. Just before the men entered, and after every 
one else seemed to be out, little Belle came walking out. A 
man ran to her, picked her u and took her to a barber shop, 
where she continued to cry for her mother. The little girl, 
Florence, was also carried out and was taken to the same bar- 
ber shop, where the two children were later found by Mr. 
Mueller. Mrs. Mueller was taken to the Samaritan hospital, 
where she was found that night. 

EXPRESSION OF THE DEAD. 

John Maynard Harlan visited the morgue in search of the 
tody of Mrs. F. Morton Fox and her three children, who were 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 197 

intimate friends of Mrs. Harlan. In speaking of his experi- 
ence he said : 

"I was profoundly impressed by the expressions on the faces 
of many of the dead. Perhaps it was only a fancy, but it 
seemed to me that the faces of those having the higher order 
of intelligence showed less horror and more resignation. Some 
of these seemed to have passed away almost with a smile of 
faith, so serene were their countenances. But the faces of the 
less intelligent were uniformly struck with suffering to a ter- 
rible degree. 

"When I found Mrs. Fox's little boy the smile of courage 
on his face was one of the most noble sights that I ever saw. 
It seemed to me that I could see the brave little fellow trying 
to reassure his mother and facing death with a heroism not ex- 
pected of his years." 

ONLY SURVIVOR OF LARGE THEATER PARTY. 

Mrs. W. F. Hanson, of Chicago, was the only member of a 
theater party of nine to escape. She wept as she talked of her 
companions and shuddered as she recalled the manner of their 
death. 

"I cannot tell how I got out of the theater," she said. r "I 
remember starting for one of the aisles when the panic was at 
its height. I was separated from my friends. We had a row 
of seats in the second balcony. Suddenly someone seized me 
and I was tossed' and dragged along the aisle and I lost con- 
sciousness. When I came to my senses I was in a store across 
the street. Every one of my companions perished. We com- 
posed a holiday theater party and we were all related by mar- 
riage." 



198 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

' 
ALL HTS FAMILY GONE. 

Arthur E. Hull, of Chicago, who lost his entire family 
in the Iroquois fire, tells the following pathetic story : 

"It is too terrible to contemplate. I can never go to my 
home again. To look at the playthings left by the children 
just where they put them, to see how my dear dead wife ar- 
ranged all the details of her home so carefully, the very walls 
ring with the names of my dear dead ones. I can never go 
there again. 

"Mrs. Hull had called the children from their play to go 
and see the show. They were laughing and shouting about the 
house in childish glee, when she, all radiant with smiles, came 
to tell them of the surprise she had planned for them. 

"They left their toys just where they were. She fixed the 
things about the house a bit, and then took them with her. 

"Mary, our maid, went with them. She, too, was joyous at 
the prospect, and a happier party never started anywhere. 
Everything was smiles and sunshine. 

"They had planned for a day of joy, and it turned out a 
day of sorrow. Sorrow more deep than can be fathomed by 
human mind. Sorrow so acute that it is indescribable." 

The party consisted of Mrs. Hull, her little daughter, Helen 
Muriel, her two adopted sons, Donald DeGraft" and Dwight 
Moody, together with Mary Forbes. 

The two boys had been adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Hull but 
three weeks before, and had lately come from Topeka, Kan., 
where their father, Fred J. Hull, had died. 

The party was gotten up for them particularly, and it was 
the first and last time they were ever to witness a stage pro- 
duction. This was only one of a score of recorded cases where 
the unselfish desire to give pleasure to the young caused their 
death. 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 199 

A FAMILY PARTY BURNED. 

Dr. Charles S. Owen, a physician and one of the most prom- 
inent men in Wheaton, died at the Chicago homeopathic hos- 
pital from injuries sustained at the Iroquois fire. On Christ- 
mas day Dr. Owen held a family reunion, and eight relatives 
came from Ohio to spend the holiday week. Wednesday a 
theater party was arranged and twelve seats were secured at 
the Iroquois in the front row of the first balcony. Out of the 
entire party of twelve Dr. Owen was the only one to escape. 

CARRIES DAUGHTER'S BODY HOME IN HIS ARMS. 

It appears that Miss Blackburn had attended the matinee 
with her father, James Blackburn. They had seats in the first 
balcony. In the panic father and daughter became separated. 
The father escaped to the Randolph street lobby and then 
started back for his daughter. He found her body on the 
staircase horribly burned. Catching up the lifeless form and 
wrapping it in his overcoat, Mr. Blackburn rushed to the 
street and procured a cab, in which he was driven with his 
burden directly to the Northwestern station. He caught the 
first train for Glen View and had the body of his child at home 
in half an hour. 

SAD ERROR IN IDENTIFICATION. 

Mrs. Lulu Bennett, Chicago, whose daughter, Gertrude 
Eloise Swayze, 16 years old, was a victim of the holocaust, 
thought she would avoid the gruesome task of making a tour 
of the morgues, so she asked a friend to search for her daugh- 
ter's body.. After visiting a number of morgues he finally 
found the body of a girl at Rolston's, in Adams street, which 
he identified as Miss Swayze. The body was conveyed to the 
mother's residence, but when she looked at the body she turned 



200 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

away with a moan and said: "That is not my Gertrude; take 
it away, take it away. There has been some terrible mistake 
made." 

Mrs. Bennett made a personal tour of the morgues afterward 

and found her daughter's body. 

. 

THE HANGERi OF THE ASBESTOS CURTAIN. 

The asbestos curtain at the Iroquois theater was not hung in 
a manner satisfactory to Lyman Savage, the stage carpenter 
who put it up, according to a statement he made to his son, C. 
B. Savage, head electrician at Power's theater, a short time 
before his death which occurred indirectly as a result of the 
fire. 

Mr. Savage, who lived at 1750 Wright wood avenue and 
who was a stage carpenter in Chicago for twenty-five years, 
worked at the Iroquois theater until two weeks before the fire, 
when he was compelled to leave because of kidney trouble. 
His son ascribes his death to excitement over the Iroquois 
fire. That disaster was uppermost in his mind. 

Mr. Savage said: "I asked my father if he hung the as- 
bestos curtain at the Iroquois theater and he said he did. I 
then asked him if he hung the curtain according to his own 
ideas, and he replied in substance: 'No, that curtain was not 
hung my way, but Cummings' (the stage carpenter's) way. If 
you want to see a curtain hung my way you should see the cur- 
tain in a theater I worked on in Michigan last fall.' 

"My father did not specify what point about the hanging 
of the curtain he did not approve, and I do not know what 
feature of the work he was not satisfied with. 

"I asked my father if the curtain was hung on Manila 
ropes, and he said that it was not, but that it was hung on wire 
cables. I know that to be a fact, for I saw the cables myself. 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 201 

"I do not desire to shield any negligent person, but Stage 
Carpenter Cummings was not responsible for the lowering of 
the curtain only in so far as he was responsible for having some 
one there to lower it. 

"I was on the stage when the fire broke out, having gone to 
the theater to see Archie Bernard, the chief electrician. The 
statement has been made that the lights were not thrown on 
in the auditorium after the fire was discovered. Just before 
the fire broke out Bernard was stooping down preparing to 
change the lights, and he had just said to me : 'I will show 
you how I change my lights.' 

"When the fire was discovered I saw him reach down to 
throw a switch. Whether he threw the switch that lights the 
auditorium I do not know, but I do know that the fire from 
the draperies fell all around the switchboard and burned out 
the fuses. Consequently if the lights had been turned on the 
fact that the fuses were burned out would cause them to go out. 

"The first I knew of the fire was when I heard some one 
behind and above me clapping his hands. I looked up and saw 
McMullen trying to put out the blaze with his hands. If he 
could have reached far enough he would have extinguished 
the fire. He did the best he could. 

"I carried four women out of the theater and burned my 
hands. I stayed on the stage as long as it was possible for me 
to do so." 

KEEPSAKES OF THE DEAD. 

Many Chicago people spent a part of the Sabbath following 
the fire in the dingy little storeroom at 58 Dearborn street, 
where the effects and the valuables of the Iroquois theater 
are kept. 



202 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

The storeroom was crowded all day. The line formed at 
Randolph street and pushed its way to the north. A mother 
stepped to one oit the show cases. She had lost a boy and she 
had come to find his effects. She was looking through the 
glass when she called one of the policemen to her side. 

"That's it. that's my little boy's," and she pointed at a 
prayer book. 

The policeman took it from the case. 

"Yes, that's it," she% murmured. 

From the street came the tolling of the half hour. 

"Just a week ago he started for Sunday school with it. It 
was a Christmas present and he took it to church for the first 
time." 

A young man, well dressed and prosperous looking, came in 
and walked along the wall, gazing at the dresses and the furs. 
Suddenly he seized a fur boa and kissed it. 

"It was her's," he cried. "May I take it with me?" 

The officer told him to visit the coroner and get a certificate. 

Two young men entered the place and began making flip- 
pant remarks. The officers overheard their conversation and 
escorted them to the threshold of the door. Two heavy boots 
assisted in making their exit into the street a rapid one. 

THE SCENE AT THOMPSON'S RESTAURANT. 

John R. Thompson's restaurant at 3 o'clock in the afternoon 
of the fatal day was an eating-house, decked here and there 
with late lunchers ; at 3 :2O it was a hospital, with the dead and 
dying stretched on the marble eating tables ; at 4 o'clock it was 
a morgue, heaped with the dead ; at 7 130 it was again a restau- 
rant, but with chairs turned on top of the tables that had been 
the slabs of death, with the aisles cleared of the human debris, 
and the scrub woman at work mopping out the relics of human 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 203 

flesh, charred and as dust, and sweeping in pans the pieces of 
skulls that had lain about the mosaic floors, yet damp with 
the flowing length of woman's hair. 

The terror, the horror, the tragedies, the martyrdom, the 
piercing screams of the dying, the agonized groans, the excite- 
ment of the surging mob, the hurrying back and forth of the 
police with their burdens of death and life that only lasted a 
moment, the pushing of physicians, -the casting of dead about 
on the floors like cord wood, one on top of the other, to make 
room on the marble slabs of tables for the oncoming living, 
the cries of children, the sobbing of persons recognizing their 
loved one dead, or worse than dead this unutterable horror 
can never be imagined, and was never known before in Chi- 
cago, not excepting the horrors of the great fire, or the martyr- 
dom of war. 

LIKE A FIELD OF BATTLE. 

"- he scene presented was most horrible. It was like a battle- 
field where the dead are being brought to the church or the 
residence that has at a moment's notice been turned into a hos- 
pital. In they came, the dead and the injured, at first at the 
rate of one every three minutes ; then faster, several at a time, 
until the restaurant was heaped with maimed bodies lying on 
the tables or the floor, with surgeons bending over them, and 
. on the cashier's counter, with the girl there sobbing with her 
face hidden in her hands, afraid to look at the ghastly specta- 
cle. 

There were scores of physicians, three to each table, and 
they worked with vigor and earnestness and skill, but with the 
tears coursing down the cheeks of many a .one. At first the 
bodies were carried into Thompson's, then they went across 
the street ; many of them were put in ambulances and taken to 



204 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

the emergency room for women in Marshall Field's store, and 
still many others of the injured those yet able to walk were 
half dragged, half carried to the offices -of physicians in the 
Masonic temple. 

WOMEN EAGER TO HELP. 

Women fought and shoved and pushed their way through 
the crowd to get to the door of the improvised hospital, that 
became a morgue only too rapidly. 

"I am a nurse. Let me help," said some. 

"I am a mother. My boy may be dead inside. For God's 
sake, let me save a life," said another, a \voman in middle 
age. 

Others came in from the crowds, neither mothers nor nurses, 
women with the spirit of heroism who longed to serve 
humanity when humanity was at so low an ebb. 

"She's dead," was more often than not the verdict after 
much work. "Next !" and the cold and stiffened form of 
the victim was dragged, head first, from the marble eating 
table, thrown quickly under the tables, and another form, per- 
haps that of a tiny child, took its place. 

STEADY STREAM OF BODIES. 

So fast came the bodies for a time that there was one steady 
stream of persons carried in the still living while without 
the morgue stood the ambulances waiting for their burdens. 
The sidewalk, muddy and crowded, was strewn with the dead, 
lying on blankets or else thrown down in the mud, waiting to 
be taken to the various morgues of the city. 

There was a figure of a man a large man with broad 
shoulders and dressed in black whose entire face was burned 
away, only the back of the head remaining to show he had ever 



IRO0UOIS THEATER DISASTER. 205 

had a head; yet below the shoulders he was untouched by the 
fire. 

There lay women with their arms gone, or their legs, while 
one had one side burned off, with only the cross shoulder-bone 
remaining. She had worn a pink silk waist and black skirt ; 
the fragments of the garments still clung to her like a shroud 
that had lain in the, grave. 

There was a little boy, with a shock of red-brown hair, whose 
tiny mouth was open in terror and whose baby hands were 
burned off so that his tiny wrists showed like red stumps. 

CLOTHING TORN TO SHREDS. 

There was one young girl, her garments so torn from her 
splendid figure that her arms and white bosom rose uncovered 
from the tattered and torn not burned shreds of her cloth- 
ing, and the shreds of a turquoise-blue silk petticoat draped her 
limbs. She had died from suffocation fought and struggled 
and died. On her finger sparkled a diamond ring, and about 
her slender throat was a string of pearl beads. 

There was another body of a girl that several persons said 
they knew, yet no one could speak her name. She was 'beauti- 
ful in her terrible death, with a wealth of blonde hair, and 
staring blue eyes. She was dressed in a blue-black velvet 
shirt waist, with gold buttons, a mixed white and tan and gray 
walking skirt, with a pink silk petticoat beneath. She had 
died of suffocation, and, as she lay on the marble table dead, 
a tiny blue chatelaine watch, ticking merrily the hour, was 
pinned upon her breast. 

The crowding, the howling, the screaming in Thompson's 
was so highly pitched, that no one could hear the orders of the 
physicians. Bedlam reigned no order, no leader, everyone 
doing what he could to help. At length came the loud voice of 



206 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

a man, and those who could hear, stopped and listened, while - 
those at the front of the restaurant said : "Some man has gone 
crazy with grief." 

It was State Senator Clark, who, seeing the need of an or- 
der, jumped to a table and gavei-one. 

"Everyone get out," he cried, '"and make room for the doc- 
tors. Let there be three doctors to a table and one nurse while 
they last." 

Skillfully, cleverly, worked the looters of the dead. Rings 
were torn from stiffened fingers, watches, bracelets, chains, 
purses taken from bosoms, then out in the surging crowd of 
excited humanity went the thieves, lost to recognition by those 
who saw them loot in the terribleness of the scene. 

I 

PRAYERS FOR THE DYING. 

Through the mangled mass of humanity moved a priest 
with a crucifix in his white hands Father McCarthy of Holy 
Name Cathedral, saying the prayers for the dying not for 
the dead, but to give the last words of a hope beyond. Many 
persons died with the words of Father McCarthy sounding 
like music in their ears. 

"I was with the Army of the Potomac during the Civil 
War," said Dr. H. L. Montgomery as he worked over the 
dying. "I rescued 150 people during the great Chicago fire. I 
have seen the wreckage of explosions. But I never saw any- 
thing so grimly horrible as this." 

"Will Davis is in the theater now and acting like crazy," 
interrupted the voice of a boy. "Can't no' one speak to him ?" 

And out dashed all the employes of the burning theater to 
find Mr. Davis as he paced the destroyed gallery floor and 
looked at the ruin below and at the dead as they were hauled 
out of the debris. 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 207 

Little Ruth Thompson, the seven-year-old daughter of John 
R, Thompson, was in the fire and almost to the front exit when 
the mob hurled her back. The tiny child fought and was yet 
forced back. She climbed onto the stage, burning as it was. 
and worked her way to the rear door and out into the alley, 
then through into the scene of death and pain in her father's 
restaurant. 

"Papa, I got out. Where's grandpa ?" she cried. 

There was one old man, with white beard and hair, who 
wept over the body of his aged wife. He was Patrick P. 
O'Donnell of the firm of O'Donnell & Duer. 

Death, pain, tragedy and at 7 130 o'clock the place was a 
restaurant again. 

CHILD SAVED FROM DEATH IN FIRE BY BALLET 

GIRL. 

Left under the burning stage during the mad rush by tlie 
members of the "Mr. Bluebeard" company at the Iroquois 
theater fire a four-year-old girl, who appeared in the perform- 
ance as one of the Japanese children, was heroically rescued by 
Elcis Lillian, one of the ballet girls, who was the last to escape 
from the theater. 

"I was the last to escape from under the stage," said Miss 
Lillian, "and as I rushed headlong through the smoke I saw 
the little girl screaming with fright and almost suffocated. 
The rest had escaped, leaving the child behind. I took the 
little one under my arm in a death-like grip and succeeded in 
getting into the aisle behind the boxes; and ran through the 
smoking-room and out the front door. I don't know how I 
managed to hold on to the struggling child, or how I came to 
get out the front way. 



208 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

"I was dressed in tights, and as soon as I reached the street 
ran into Thompson's, and there soon had her revived. The 
mother, frantic with grief, came in, and when she saw her 
daughter and heard my story she fell upon her knees, thank- 
ing me for saving her little girl's life." 

PRIEST GIVES ABSOLUTION TO DYING FIRE 

VICTIMS. 

When the Rev. F. O'Brien of the Holy Name Cathedral 
learned of the fire and heard that so many were dying he 
rushed into the Northwestern Medical University, into which 
many victims had been taken, to administer the last sacraments 
to members of the Catholic Church. Finding he was unable to 
attend the great number being brought in, he announced that 
he would give a general absolution to all the Catholics among 
the victims. 

The scene of that last absolution beggars description. Dur- 
ing the brief moment the priest, with uplifted hands, besought 
God to pardon all the frailties of his dying servants, the poor, 
mangled men and women seemed to realize that they were face 
to face with the inevitable. Though crazed with pain, they 
ceased to moan, and fastened their fast-dimming eyes on the 
priest. 

When the absolution was given many of the victims, horribly 
burned, with the flesh of their head and fr ce blackened, and in 
most cases so burned as to expose the uones, put out their 
hands imploringly toward the priest, for one handclasp, one 
word of sympathy before they passed away. 

Even the stalwart policemen were affected by the touching 
spectacle. Another priest of the Holy Ghost order arrived 
shortly after, and both clergymen administered absolution, 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 209 

remaining until the injured were removed to various hospitals 
and the dead to the morgues. 

LITTLE BOY THANKS GOD FOR CHANGING HIS 

LUCK. 

Warren is the ten-year-old son of former Governor Joseph 
K. Toole of Montana, prominent for years in national poli- 
tics. In the last four months the boy has been the victim of 
three accidents, each of which bore serious consequences for 
the little fellow. 

Thursday night, when he knelt down at his bedside in the 
Auditorium hotel to say the evening prayer which his mother 
had taught him, he mumbled : 

"I thank you, God, that you did not let me go to the theater 
Wednesday afternoon. You see, if you had not delayed my 
mamma when she went down town shopping that day, my 
little brother and I would have been in the fire. I thank you, 
God, for changing my luck." 

Warren's mamma and papa heard the prayer. Before he had 
reached the "Amen" both had silently bowed their heads. 

"Yes, Warren, your luck has changed," said the former 
Governor, as he bent over his son to say "Good night." 

Less than four months ago Warren was playing with a 
gun. The firearm exploded and the boy was seriously in- 
jured. He had not fully recovered when he fell from the top 
of a cart and broke his arm. Then, a few weeks ago, a dog 
upon whom he lavished much of his youthful affection sud- 
denly sprang at him and bit him between the eyes. He was 
badly scarred, but his parents were thankful that he did not lose 
his sight. 

On Wednesday he importuned his nurse to take him to see 
"Mr. Bluebeard, Jr." The nurse referred him to his father, 






2IO 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 



and the latter told him that he and his brother could go if his 
mother returned from her shopping trip in time to take them. 
The holiday crowds detained Mrs. Toole until quite late in 
the afternoon. Now little Warren is convinced that good 
fortune has at last deigned to smile upon him. 



USE PLACER MINER METHODS. 

Methods of the California placer miner were used by the 
Chicago police in recovering the valuables lost in the mad rush 
for safety by the Iroquois theater fire victims. Big wagon 
loads of dirt and ashes taken from the theater floor were taken 
down under police guard to a basement at Lake street and 
Fifth avenue. There a placer mining outfit, including sieves 
and gold pans, had been erected and City Custodian Dewitt C. 
Cregier thus searched for valuables in the rubbish. 



DAUGHTER OF A. H. REVELL ESCAPES. 

Margaret Revell, daughter of Alexander H. Revell, with her 
friend, Elizabeth Harris, accompanied by a maidservant, sat in 
the parquet of the theater, fortunately next to the aisle. At 
the first alarm they were swept to the door by the crowd, and 
were among those who got out early, escaping with only 
minor bruises. Mr. Revell was among the early searchers on 
the scene, and remained giving assistance after learning of the 
safety of his daughter. 

PHILADELPHIA PARTNER IN THEATER HORRI- 
FIED. 

The news of the terrible Chicago calamity was a severe blow 
to S. A. Nixon of Philadelphia, part owner of the Iroquois 
theater. When tht ntwi wag confirmed ho broke down and 
wept bitterly. 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 211 

Fred G. Nixon, son of Mr. Nixon, said : "We were at the 
dinner table Wednesday evening when the telephone bell rang 
and I answered. A newspaper man told me that the Iroquois 
theater in Chicago had been destroyed and many persons killed. 
I could not believe it and I asked : 'Are you sure it was the 
Iroquois?' 'Positive,' came the answer. My father had paid 
no attention to what I said, but the word 'Iroquois' attracted 
him, and as I returned to my seat he asked : 'What was that 
you said about the Iroquois?' 'Oh, nothing,' I replied, trying 
to be calm. 

"But my face betrayed me. The news had paled me, and 
my father, suspecting something was wrong, insisted, and I 
told him. He refused to believe it and went to the telephone 
to satisfy himself. In five minutes he heard the worst. Then 
he collapsed and sobbed like a child. For eight hours we sat 
up waiting for full particulars, and at 3 o'clock Thursday 
morning, when father went to bed, he was almost a nervous 
wreck." 

-. 

ALL KENOSHA IN MOURNING. 

Next to Chicago the blow of death at the Iroquois fell 
heavier on Kenosha, Wis., than any of the other cities 
whose residents perished in the disaster. Two of the leading 
manufacturers of the city, Willis W. Cooper and Charles H. 
Cooper, and the children of Mr. and Mrs. S. H. Van Ingen 
were among the dead. 

Kenosha was in deep mourning. Trade was practically sus- 
pended and the people gathered on the streets in little groups 
discussing the one topic. Four bodies were brought to the 
city on the evening train, and a crowd of over a thousand peo- 
ple gathered at the railway station, and walked in silence 
through the streets behind the hearses. All the bodies were 



212 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

taken to the morgue, from which place they will be removed to 
the stricken homes. 

FIVE OF ONE FAMILY DEAD. 

The story of the wiping out of the children of H. S. Van 
Ingen, the former manager of the Pennsylvania Coal Company 
in Chicago, and a resident of Kenosha, is one of the saddest 
stories of the tragedy. Following the custom established years 
ago, Mr. and Mrs. Van Ingen and their five children, Grace, 
twenty-three years old; Jack, twenty; Edward L., nineteen; 
Margaret, fourteen; and Elizabeth, nine, had all come to Chi- 
cago for a matinee party. Schuyler, another son, the sole sur- 
vivor of the children, was to join the family for a dinner and 
family reunion at the Wellington hotel after the matinee. The 
seven persons were seated in the front row of the balcony 
when the panic ensued, and Mr. Van Ingen, marshaling his 
little force, started for the exit at the aisle, but the mighty 
crush of people separated the parents from the children, and 
Mr. Van Ingen, putting his arm around Mrs. Van Ingen, car- 
ried her one way, while the children were swept the other. 

The last Mr. Van Ingen saw of the children was when Jack, 
the oldest boy, took his little sister, Elizabeth, in his arms and 
shouted to his father : "You save mother and I'll look after the 
rest." In another moment the party, including the children, 
was trampled down. 

Mr. and Mrs. Van Ingen started to return to the theater for 
the children and both of them were fearfully burned in the at- 
tempt. The bodies of the two boys were located in the evening. 
Margaret and Elizabeth were found the next day. Grace, the 
oldest daughter, and one of the best known young women of 
Kenosha, was identified still later. Mr. and Mrs. Van Ingen, 
both terribly burned, were taken to the Illinois Hospital. 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 213 

COOPER BROTHERS DEEPLY MOURNED. 

Willis Cooper was one of the best known men in Kenosha. 
He was the secretary of the great Twentieth Century move- 
ment in the Methodist Episcopal Church which resulted in 
$20,000,000 being- raised for missions. He was last year the 
prohibition candidate for governor of Wisconsin, and was re- 
cently elected head of the lay delegation of the Wisconsin 
churches at the general conference of the Methodist Church. 
Mr. Cooper was a millionaire, and his gifts to church charities 
often exceeded $10,000 a year. In Kenosha he was the gen- 
eral manager of the Chicago Kenosha Hosiery Works, the 
largest stocking making plant in the world. 

Charles F. Cooper, his brother, was the factory manager 
and general salesman of the company. He was the president of 
the Kenosha Manufacturers' Association, of the Kenosha Hos- 
pital Association, and the Masonic Temple Association. He 
was the founder of profit-sharing in the Kenosha plant, and 
under his direction it became known as the plant "where the 
life of the worker is flooded with sunshine." He was most 
popular with the working classes in Kenosha, and when his 
body was taken to the morgue hundreds of men and women 
stood with uncovered heads while it passed. 

There occurred between the acts at the Century theater, St. 
Louis, on New Year's night, an unusual incident, when C. H. 
Congdon, of Chicago, arose from his seat and related incidents 
of the Iroquois theater tragedy. 

He had proceeded only for a few minutes when some one 
in the audience began singing "Nearer, My God, to Thee," 
which was immediately taken up by the whole audience, the 
orchestra joining in with the accompaniment. 



CHAPTER XV. 
SOCIETY WOMEN AND GIRLS' CLUBS. 



Miss Charlotte Plamondon, daughter of the vice-president 
of the Chicago board of education, who waited until the fire 
had caught in the curtains over the front box, in which she sat, 
before attempting to get out, related her experience at the 
Chicago Beach Hotel : 

"I can't tell you how I escaped the awful fate of others/' 
she said. "I only know that when the flames began t crackle 
over my head and dart down from the curtains of our box 
I leaped over the railing of the box and fell in the arms of some 
man. I think he was connected with the theater, for he imme- 
diately set me down in a seat and told me to be quiet for a 
moment. 

SCREAMS OF TERROR HEARD. 

"Then I think I lost all reason. I have a vague recollection 
of having been pushed up along the side aisle that runs by the 
boxes. It was as quiet as death for a moment. The great 
audience rose like a single person, but no sound escaped it un- 
til those in front were wedged in the doorway. Then a scream 
of terror went up that I shall never forget. It rings in my 
ears now. Women screamed and children cried. Men were 
shouting and rushing for the entrance, leaping over the pros- 
trate forms of children and women and carrying others down 
with them. 

814 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 215 

"Back of me, I remember, there was a sheet of flame that 
seemed to be gathering volume and reaching out for us. Then 
I forgot again, and not until the crowd surged toward the wall 
and caught me between it and the marble pillar did I realize 
what the danger was. The pain revived me. I know I was 
almost crushed to death, but it didn't hurt. Nothing could 
hurt, with the screaming, the agonizing cries of the women and 
children ringing in your ears. 

CHORUS GIRLS ESCAPE PARTLY CLAD. 

"And then, somehow, I found myself out on the street and 
the dead and dying were around me. When I realized that I 
was out of the place and safe from the fire and crush, all my 
strength seemed to leave me. But the cold air braced me after 
a moment and I went around to the drug store, where the dead 
were being brought in and the poor actresses and chorus girls 
were coming in with scarcely anything on them. 

"I never felt as I did when it dawned upon us that the 
theater was on fire. It seemed like a dream at first. The 
border curtain right near our box blew back, and I think it hit 
a light or something, for when it fell back into place I saw it 
was on fire. , 

"The chorus girls kept right on singing for a couple of 
minutes, it seemed. Then one of the stage men rushed out and 
shouted : 'Keep your seats.' N 

"Oh, the stage men behaved like heroes! As I think of it 
now, they conducted themselves with rare courage. I saw a 
couple of the girls fall down, and I knew that they were over- 
come. 

FOY TRIES TO PREVENT PANIC. 

"Just then Eddie Foy ran out on the stage, partly made up, 
and cried: 



2i6 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

" 'My God, people, keep your seats !' 

"When Foy said this I regained my senses, and when the 
asbestos curtain did not come down I felt that the situation 
was critical. The flames had taken hold of the front row of 
seats behind the orchestra and were creeping up the curtains 
over our box, when I jumped to my feet and leaped over the 
railing. 

"I saw the children lying in heaps under our feet. Their 
little lives were ended, and rough feet were bruising their flesh ; 
and such inno'ceiit children! Men leaped over the rows of 
prostrate forms and fought like they were mad, trying to get 
out of the entrance." 

ESCAPE OF ANOTHER SOCIETY WOMAN. 

Mrs. A. Sorge, Jr., whose husband is a consulting engineer, 
with offices in the Monadnock Building, and who lives at the 
Chicago Beach Hotel, attended the theater in company with 
Dr. Jager, who is a guest of Mr. and Mrs. Sorge. They occu- 
pied a seat well down in the parquet. 

"When the fire started," said Mrs. Sorge, "persons on the 
stage told us to keep our seats. Dr. Jager also told me to sit 
still, and we did until the flames began to come near us. Then 
we clasped hands and started for the door. 

"I was not half so much afraid of the fire as I was of being 
crushed to death, and I tried in every way to keep out of the 
crush. Dr. Jager got separated from me by catching his foot 
in an upturned chair, but he soon found me. We later man- 
aged to get out on the street without suffering any injuries of a 
serious nature. 

"The saddest thing I saw inside the burning building was 
a little girl looking for her baby sister. The two had got 
separated in the rush for the entrance, and it is quite likely 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 217 

that both were killed in that crush, for it was something 
awful/' 

MINNEAPOLIS WOMAN'S STORY OF THE FIRE. 
Mrs. Baldwin, wife of Dr. F. R. Baldwin of Minneapolis, 
immediately after her return from the scene of the awful Chi- 
cago catastrophe, through which she had passed, overwhelmed 
with the horror of the sights and sounds she had seen and 
heard, gave the following account : 

"It was too unutterably shocking for one to realize at the 
time. The horror of the thing has grown upon me ever since. 
It fills my mind and imagination, so I can hardly think of 
anything else. I cannot help feeling almost ashamed to be 
here, safe and unharmed, while whole families were burned 
and crushed to death in that awful place. I cannot say how 
glad I am to be home and see my babies* safe, when so many 
mothers are crying aloud in Chicago for their children to 
come back to them. 

"At first nobody seemed to realize the awful danger. No 
water was used to put out the flames on the stage. It was 
only flimsy, gauzy scenery at first that was burning, and the 
people on the stage tried to tear it down and stamp it out as 
it fell. I heard no screams, and the people for many moments 
kept their seats. I did not hear the cry of 'fire.' 

"But all at once a great ball of fire or sheet of flame I 
don't know how to express it shot out and the whole theater 
above us seemed to be full of fire. Then there was a smothered 
sound as of a sighing by all in the theater. 

"By that time I began to realize that it was time to see what 
could be done about getting out. It so happened that I could 
not have chosen a better place from which to get out of the 
building. jJA[e were on the alley side, opposite the Randolph 



-2i8 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

street side of the building, and only two seats from the 
wall. 

"I did not know that there was an entrance here, but all 
at once the doors seemed to be opened close to us. We had but 
to take two or three steps and then were thrown forward out 
of the doors by the crowd behind us. My mother, who was 
with me, was unhurt, and I had but a few bruises. 

"One of the first things I saw as I got up was a girl lying 
on one of the fire escape platforms with the flames shooting 
over her through the window. One man, who jumped from 
the platform, had not taken two steps before a woman who 
jumped a moment later from a height of about forty feet came 
right down upon him, killing him upon the spot 

"The sights all about the city have been many times de- 
scribed, but nothing can picture those terrible scenes. In a 
flat just below my mother's five out of a family of six perished, 
leaving but one demented girl. 

"Of another family living near us, only the husband and 
father was left, his wife and four boys and his mother all hav- 
ing been killed in the fire. As I passed near the theater the 
next day I saw a man walking up and down in front of the 
building muttering to himself, and every now and then he 
would sit upon the curb and look up at the building, breaking 
out into peals of laughter. He had been through the fire." 

GIRLS' CLUBS SORELY STRICKEN. 

Mrs. Walter Raymer, wife of the alderman, attended the 
Iroquois in charge of the "F. P. C," a club of young girls, 
of which her daughter was treasurer. Of the eight members 
only two escaped uninjured. Miss Mabel Hunter, the president, 
was killed; Miss Edna Hunter was taken to her residence, 85 
Humboldt boulevard, severely injured; Miss Lillian Ackerman 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 219 

was borne to the Samaritan Hospital, burned about the head 
and body. 

Edna Hoveland was badly injured, and her little sister, who 
accompanied her, was burned to death. May Marks is dead. 
Viva Jackson, missing all Wednesday night, was found in the 
morning at an undertaker's rooms. The two who escaped 
injury were Miss Abigail Raymer, daughter of the alderman, 
and Miss Florence Nicholson. 

The eight girls, all between sixteen and eighteen years old, 
had organized their little club a few r weeks ago for the purpose 
of literary study and recreation, and the theater party was 
arranged by Mrs. Raymer as a surprise for the members. 

The Tlieta Pi Zeta club of the junior class of the Engle- 
wood High School, with the exception of two members, was 
wiped out of existence. The club was composed of eight 
young women living in Englewood and Normal Park. Seven 

had purchased seats in the sixth row of the dress circle. What 
they encountered after the panic started no one knows, for 

of the seven only one, Miss Josephine Spencer, 7110 Princeton 
avenue, was saved and she was taken to the West. Side Hos- 
pital terribly burned. The only member who entirely escaped 
was Miss Edith Mizen of 6917 Eggleston avenue, daughter 
of Mr. and Mrs. George K. Mizen. Her parents objected to 
her attending a theatrical performance. 

Those who perished are Helen Howard, 6565 Yale avenue ; 
Helen McCaughan, 6565 Yale avenue; Elvira Olson, 7010 
Stewart avenue; Florence Oxnam, 435 Englewood avenue; 
Lillie Power, 442 West Seventieth street; and Rosamond 
Schmidt, 335 West Sixty-first street. 



CHAPTER XVI. 



EDDIE FOY'S SWORN TESTIMONY. 

Eddie Foy, whose real name is Edwin Fitzgerald, has faced 
many audiences under all conditions and circumstances during 
his stage career of a quarter of a century, during which he rose 
from a street urchin to the distinction of one of America's most 
entertaining and unctuous comedians. Never before had such 
interest centered in his appearance as when on Thursday after- 
noon, January 7, 1904, he took the witness stand to relate un- 
der oath what he knew concerning the calamity of the preced- 
ing week. 

The actor's face was a study. His deep-lined countenance, 
ordinarily irresistibly funny without effort on his part, took 
on a truly tragic aspect as he entered upon his story. His in- 
describable, husky voice that has made hundreds of thousands 
laugh with merriment, was broken ; there was no suggestion of 
humor in it. Instead it was a wail from the tomb, the utter- 
ance of a man broken with the weight of the woe he had be- 
held in a few brief, fleeting moments. 

The questions were propounded by Coroner Tracker and 
Major Lawrence Buckley, his chief deputy, and were promptly 
and fully answered by the comedian. 

The full text, as secured through a stenographic report, 

* 

follows : 

Q. Will you kindly tell us, Mr. Foy, or Fitzgerald, in 
your own way, what transpired ? 

A. Well, I went to the matinee with my little boy, six 
years old, and I wanted to put him in the front of the theater 

220 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 221 

to see the show. I sent him out before the first act by the 
stage manager, and he took him out and brought him back 
and said there were no seats. I sent him downstairs and put 
him in a little alcove that is next to the switchboard, under- 
neath where they claim the fire started, and where I saw the 
fire first. 

Q. That is on what side of the stage? 

A. On my right facing the audience. On the south side 
of the stage. The second act was on. I was in my dressing- 
room tying my shoes, and I heard a noise, and I didn't pay 
much attention to it at first. I says to myself, "Are they 
fighting again down there" there was a fight there about a 
week or two ago; and I says, "They are fighting again." I 
looked out of the, door and heard the buzz getting stronger 
and stronger, with this excitement, and I thought of my boy 
and I ran down the steps. I was in the middle dressing-room 
on the side, and I ran down screaming "Bryan." I got him at 
the first entrance right in front of the switchboard, and looked 
up and saw a fireman there. I don't know what he was doing ; 
he was trying to put the fire out. Then the two lower borders 
running up the side of this canvas were burning. I grabbed 
my boy and rushed to the back door, and there was a lot of 
people trying to get out. 

DESCRIBES STAGE BOX. 

Q. What door? 

A. The little stage door on Dearborn street. 

Q. How did you find that door was it open? 

A. No. I knew where the door was. 

Q. Was the door open when you got there? 

A. Yes; they were breaking through it. 

Q. Who? 



222 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 



A. All of our people. 

Q. Employees on the stage? 

A. Not many of them. It was crowded there, and I threw 
my boy to a man. I says: "Take this boy out," and ran out 
on the footlights to the audience. When I did they were in a 
sort of panic, as I thought, and what I said exactly I don't 
remember, but this was the substance my idea was to get the 
curtain down and quietly stop the stampede. I yelled, "Drop 
the curtain and keep up your music." I didn't want a stam- 
pede, because it was the biggest audience I ever played to of 
tvomen and children. I told them to be quiet and take it easy 
"Don't get excited" and they started up on this second 
balcony on my left to run, and I says, "Sit down; it is all 
right; don't get excited." And they were going that way, 
and I said to the policeman, "Let them out quietly," and they 
moved then, and I says, "Let down the curtain," and I looked 
up and this curtain was burning the fringe on the edge of it. 

WOULD NOT COME DOWN. 

O. It was caught, was it? 

A. It did not come down. 

Q. How near to the bottom of the stage was it ? 

A. Three feet above my head. I would have been outside if 
the curtain had come down. 

Q. It was lowered down after you hallooed? 

A. I hallooed for it to come down. 

O. And it came down that far and then caught ? 

A. I did not see it come down, but it was there when I 
looked up. 

Q. When you looked up it was caught, was it ? 

A. Yes, sir, it must have been caught it didn't come 
-Wn, Then when I was hallooing, I kept hallooing for the 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 223 

curtain to come down how many times I don't know and 
talked to this man to let them out quietly, there was a sort of a 
cyclone ; the thing was flying behind me ; I felt it coming. 

Q. What do you mean by a cyclone cyclone of what ? 

A. It was a whirl of smoke when I looked around the 
scenery had broken the slats it was nailed to ; it came down be- 
hind me, and I didn't know whether to go in front or behind. 
The stage was covered with smoke, and it was a cold draft, 
and there was an explosion of some kind like you light a 
match and the box goes off. I didn't know whether to go front 
or not, so I thought of my boy maybe the man did not take 
him out so I rushed out the first thing and went back of the 

\ 

stage. 

Q. You went out yourself, then? 

A. Yes, sir, and I was looking for my boy all the way in. 
I wasn't sure he was out. I found him in the street. 

Q. Do you know what started the fire, Air. Fitzgerald ? 

A. No, sir. 

LIGHT NEAR THE FIRE. 

Q. Was there any light of any kind near where you first 
saw the fire? 

A. Yes, sir. 

Q. What kind of a light? 

A. A lens light one that you throw spot light on people 
with. 

Q. How close was that to the drop that was on fire ? 

A. That I could not tell there were three or four drops on 
fire when I got there for the boy. 

Q. They were all close together? 

A. Yes. 

Q. Too high up for anybody to reach? 



224 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 



A. Impossible. 

Q. Were there any other fires of any kind, fires or lights, 
near those drops or the fire, besides this drop light? 

A. That was the only one I saw. 

Q. Then there would not be anything else able to ignite 
those drops, only this light? 

A. I should think so, yes. 

Q. You are satisfied in your own mind that it was caused 
from that light. 

A. That it was caused from that light. 

Q. You have been playing there in the theater since "Mr. 
Bluebeard, Jr.," started, or since the theater opened, haven't 
you? 

A. Yes, sir. 

Q. Do you know of any drill or any precautions that were 
taken by the management or parties in charge of the theater in 
emergency cases in the case of fire that is, drilling or hand- 
ling the employees as to what they should do in case of fire? 

A. . No. I know I couldn't smoke in the theater; the police- 
man was around there all the time in the dressing-rooms. 

SAW NO EXTINGUISHERS. 

Q. Did you notice any fire extinguishers of any kind on the 
stage ? 

A. No, sir, I did not. 

Q. Any appliances of any kind to be used in case of fire ? 

A. No, I don't think I did; there might have been. 

Q. Did you notice any fire extinguishers in your dressing- 
room? 

A. No, sir. 

Q. Did you ever notice while in the theater whether there 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 225 

was any policeman or fireman stationed on the stage or around 
the stage ? 

A. Yes, sir, there was a fireman there always on the 
stage. 

Q. Did you ever hear while in the theater of an asbestos 
curtain there? 

A. I cannot say that I did. 

Q. Did you ever hear of a fireproof curtain there? 

A. Yes, sir. 

Q. Did it take long for this curtain that you say was down 
and stuck to burn ? 

A. I couldn't stay there long enough to see if it was burn- 
ing it was on fire. 

Q. You have had a good deal of experience in theaters? 

A. Thirty-five years. 

Q. Would you consider that there was as good a protec- 
tion taken at the Iroquois theater as there was in the average 
theater throughout the country in cases of fire? 

A. You mean in the construction of the theater? 

Q. Not the construction, but I would say in the manage- 
ment, and in the furnishing of fire extinguishers and appli- 
ances to extinguish fires. 

A. Well, I never took notice of the fire extinguisher. If 
a man would look at that stage he would naturally think they 
couldn't possibly have a fire without everybody getting out in 
front of the theater. 

Q. I didn't ask you that. My question was, in your ex- 
perience in traveling through the theaters in different cities, 
would you consider there was as good protection taken on the 
Iroquois stage to extinguish fire, as there was in the average 
theater throughout the country? 



226 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 



A. Well, I couldn't say; I never took notice of what was 
on the stage to extinguish fires. 
Q. Did you at any other theater ? 
A. Well, I have seen fire extinguishers around at times. 

TALKS OF APPARATUS. 

Q. In theaters where you have noticed these fire extin- 
guishers, what part of the theater did you see them in ? 

A. Well, they were fire extinguishers like a man would put 
on his back, with a strap to it. 

Q. Where were they? 

A. On the platform in the theater. 

Q. Did you notice anything of that kind at the Iroquois 
theater? 

A. No, sir, I did not; I cannot say that I did. 

Q. Now, if you did not see those appliances, you did not 
see them when you went in the stage entrance? 

A. No, sir. 

Q. You cay you saw them in other stage entrances? 

A. Yes, sir. 

Q. You didn't see them at the Iroquois theater? 

A. No, sir, not any time I was there. 

Q. Did you see any hose of any kind that could be used in 
cases of fire? 

A. I don't know whether there was any; I didn't see any. 

Q. Did you know of any other fire that occurred in the 
theater previous to this one? 

A. No, sir. 

Q. You have been with the company for how long? 

A. I played right along with it in Wisconsin and New 
York last season, and opened in Pittsburg with it and have been 
with it ever since. 






IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 227 

Q. Did you play at Cleveland ? 

'A. Yes, sir. 

Q. What was the date of the fire in Cleveland? 

A. I don't know the date ; there was a fire on the stage. 

Q. Was the cause the same as at this fire ? 

A. No; the flies caught fire at this fire. This was on the 
stage. They could not get at this fire. 

Q. What caused it? 

A. That I don't know, sir. 

Q. Did you consider it a dangerous lot of scenery to travel 
with, lights and scenery combined? 

A. I don't know; I consider all scenery dangerous. 

Q. Did you consider this dangerous? 

A. No, sir. 

ONLY ONE EXIT OPEN. 

Q. Were both of the exits on the stage open ? 

A. Only one door, a little door that we go through always 
was open when I went out. 

Question by Foreman Meyer of the Jury : Mr. Foy, when 
you came out to the footlights to try tp quiet the people and 
you cried for the curtain to come down, did you see the curtain 
come down? 

A. I did not see the curtain come down. I screamed for 
the curtain to come down, and I told the orchestra to keep up 
the music, and then I addressed the audience, thinking I would 
get the curtain down. I would have been in front of the cur- 
tain if it came down. 

Q. You said at the same time you looked around? 

A. I looked around, yes, sir. 

Q. What was the color of the curtain as you looked 
at it? 



228 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 



A. I couldn't tell the color. It was right over my head. 

Q. Could you tell from any observation at any time before 
that? 

A. No, sir. 

Question by Juror Cummings : When you counseled the 
audience to keep quiet were you working on the assumption 
that there was a fire brigade on the stage? 

A. Well, my idea was to get the curtain down and stop 
the panic. The audience was composed of women and 
children. 

Question by Deputy Buckley : From the time that you first 
heard the noise, when you were in the dressing-room until you 
got out, about what time elapsed? 

A. Well, I have been trying to figure that out in my own 
mind. I don't think it was ninety seconds. 

WIRE ACROSS AUDITORIUM. 

Q. Do you know, Mr. Foy, whether there was a wire ex- 
tending from the stage across the auditorium to any of the 
balconies or any part of the theater or auditorium outside? 

A. Yes, sir. 

Q. Where was that wire located? 

A. The wire hung from the center of the auditorium to 
the side of the stage, to where the fire, they say, started, on 
my right-hand side facing the audience. 

Q. Was that the side of the stage where the curtain was 
caught? 

A. I could not say. I have been trying to fix that in my 
mind. 

Q. You cannot say whether it was hung on the wire on 
the right or left hand side ? 






IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 229 

A. No, sir. I should not think that it had anything to do 
with it. 

Q. Was that stationary? 

A. It hung from the front, and it was unhooked and put on 
the woman when she went out in the air. 

Q. Did any part of it go behind the curtain ? 

A. Yes, it went behind the curtain, but that could not have 
possibly stopped it, because it would have broken it. I don't 
think the curtain was low enough down to touch it, because 
the girl is only a little girl, Miss Reed, and they had to hook it 
on her. 

Q. About how high up was the wire? 

A. Well, so that a man like the stage manager would take 
it off and the man that was assisting in this flying ballet would 
hook it on this little girl that flew out. 

Q. She was killed? 

A. She was killed. 



CHAPTER XVII. 



EFFECT OF THE FIRE NEAR AND FAR. 

Many of the members of the "Mr. Bluebeard, Jr.," company 
were arrested and retained as witnesses in the trial, on a charge 
of manslaughter, of Messrs. Davis and Powers, Building Com- 
missioner Williams and the stage manager, electricians and 
carpenters especially concerned in the manipulation of the 
lights and curtains. On the Saturday night succeeding the fire 
Mayor Harrison closed all the theaters in the city, numbering 
thirty-seven, for a period of two weeks, or until a thorough 
investigation could be made as to whether they were comply- 
ing with the city ordinances in every detail. 

People with seat checks were turned away from the doors of 
the theaters. Even the fireproof Auditorium was not per- 
mitted to remain open, and Theodore Thomas and his musi- 
cians returned to their homes without playing. 

Theatrical people in the dressing-rooms of the theaters took 
off their makeup and left. Ushers turned out the lights and 
the managers locked the doors. It was a condition without 
precedent in any large city of this or any other country 
every public place of theatrical amusement closed by com- 
mand, as the result of a great disaster. 

And not only did the terrible calamity close every theater 
in Chicago, but it sent the city authorities, fire inspectors, 
aldermen and all, scurrying through the city, examining the 
big department stores and their means of escape for their thou- 
sands of employees. The alarm and inspection also extended 

230 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 231 

to the public schools of the city. Nor was the awful upheaval 
felt with startling force only at home, but like an earthquake 
its vibrations reached distant cities and countries. The mon- 
archs of Europe, with the great public men of America, sent 
words of sympathy over the throbbing wires, those which 
came from Emperor William being : 

"NEUES PALAIS, Dec. 31. To the President of the United 
States : Aghast at the terrible news of the catastrophe that has 
befallen the citizens of Chicago the empress and myself wish 
to convey to you how deeply we feel for the American people 
who have been so cruelly visited in this week of joy. Please 
convey expression of our sincerest sympathy to the city of 
Chicago. Many thanks for your kind letter. In coming years 
may Providence shield you and America from harm and such 
accidents. WILHELM I. R." 

Within a few days there was abundant evidence that pro- 
found sympathy had given place, in all the large cities of the 
world, to practical endeavors to avert like calamities. 

NEW YORK THEATERS AND SCHOOLS. 

As his first official act, Nicholas J. Hayes, who on New 
Year's became fire commissioner of New York, ordered an in- 
vestigation of all the theaters of that city. He declared that 
he intended to ascertain whether the New York playhouses 
were so constructed and equipped as to safeguard human life 
in case of fire or panic. 

"The protection of human life is the first and most import- 
ant duty of the fire commissioner," said Mr. Hayes. "In this 
work no one shall hinder me from doing my full duty." 

In each battalion district where a theater was located the new 
fire commissioner designated a competent assistant foreman 
as theater inspector and provided for weekly inspection of 



232 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

i 
theaters. These inspectors were under the supervision of a 

general theater inspector. One of the tests at once applied by 
Commissioner Hayes was to have the inspector pour gasoline 
on the asbestos curtain and then apply fire. Several houses 
were at once closed, as the curtains failed to stand the test. 

City Superintendent of Schools Maxwell, of New York, 
also issued special fire instructions to the district superinten- 
dents and principals of schools, whom he directed to perfect 
fire drills and the rapid dismissal of school children under their 
care. 

CRUSADE IN PITTSBURG. 

The Pittsburg department of public safety immediately 
began a crusade against the violation of the ordinances re- 
garding theater construction and equipment. Managers were 
compelled to arrange their fire escapes, curtains and apparatus 
so that everything worked with facility. At the Nixon theater, 
at the close of a performance, the people were rapidly dismissed 
after a fire alarm, and ushered out into the alley exits and down 
fire escapes in two and one-half minutes. Other theaters were 
put through similar drills. 

WASHINGTON THEATER OWNERS ARRESTED, 

Warrants were issued for the arrest of the proprietors of 
three of the seven Washington theaters. Failure to comply 
with building regulations in making improvements resulted in 
the withholding of the license of one theater. The two other 
proprietors were arrested for failure to provide proper exit 
lights, fire escapes and stage stairways. 

MASSACHUSETTS THEATERS INVESTIGATED. 

As a result of the fire Chief Rufus R. Wade, of the Massa- 
chusetts state police, at once issued orders for his inspectors 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 233 

to make immediate and thorough inspection of every theater 
in the commonwealth outside of Boston. The statutes give no 
jurisdiction over Boston, but his orders meant that more fhan 
100 theaters under his supervision would receive immediate 
attention. 

The Chicago theater horror caused such a decreased attend- 
ance at Boston theaters as to mean comparatively empty houses 
for some time afterward. Huge^reas of vacant seats were to 
be observed and the crowds at theater exits at 10:45 were 
prominent for their absence. 

ACTION IN MILWAUKEE. 

Spurred to action by the theater horror in Chicago, the city 
officials of Milwaukee, Wis., closed four theaters. The 
orders to darken the houses followed an investigation by the 
chief of the fire department. In the Academy and the Bijou, 
popular-priced houses, and in the two vaudeville houses, the 
Star and the Crystal, the chief found the "fire" curtains were 
made of thin canvas. 

PRECAUTIONS AT ST. LOUIS. 

In St. Louis the commissioner of public buildings and the 
chief of the fire department served notice on theater managers 
that the provisions of the city ordinances designed to prevent 
fire and panic must be rigidly carried out. A new ordinance 
revising the building laws was at once laid before the city coun- 
cil. One of its new features insists on a metal skylight or fire 
vent over the stage. This vent must be so constructed as to open 
instantly and automatically. Fire Chief Swingle sent notice 
to the managers that all aisles must be kept cleared. 



234 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

ORDERS AFFECTING OMAHA THEATERS. 

Building Inspector Withnell ordered several radical changes 
in theaters and large department stores as a result of the fire. 
All the theaters were required to increase their exit facilities, 
and one theater was ordered to put in additional aisles and re- 
move 150 rear seats in the parquet circle and balconies, which 
would interfere with a free exit in case of panic. Asbestos 
curtains were ordered into use at all the theaters. 

EFFECT ABROAD. 

The news of the awful calamity shocked the great cities 
of Europe beyond expression, and its discussion excluded even 
such large agitating questions as the Eastern possible war 
between Japan and Russia, which might involve the entire 
Old World. The so-called American colonies of London,, 
Paris and Berlin were especially shocked, many members of 
whom sought for news of friends and relatives who might be 
among the list of dead or injured. As the complete list could 
not be cabled for several days thereafter their suspense was, in 
many cases, unbearable, and scores took the first steamers for 
America. 

HORROR FELT IN LONDON. 

Upon the receipt of the first news all local and foreign topics 
of interest were forgotten in London in the universal horror 
over the tragedy. The extra editions of the newspapers giving 
the latest details were eagerly bought up and newspaper pla- 
cards bore in flaring type the announcement of further news 
from Chicago. The flags over the American steamship offices 
were half-masted. 

The accounts of the deadly panic were read by the English 
people with peculiar sympathy and horror, for the pantomime 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 235 

season was at its height and the London theaters were daily 
packed with women and children. 

Yet certainly the first night after the news was generally 
known, which was Thursday, no appreciable effect was felt on 
the attendance of most of the London theaters. The usual 
number were watiing in line at the Drury Lane box office early 
in the evening. The vaudeville had "house full" boards prom- 
inently displayed. Still another playhouse in the Strand 
showed only a slight falling off in attendance, but when the 
actual list of dead, injured and missing was received by cable 
and posted in the newspaper offices, hotels and other public 
places, there was a very marked decrease in the number of 
theater goers. Later still came the detailed information called 
for by the fire committee of the London county council, which 
indicated that the Chicago theater offered better chances of 
escape than a number of houses in the very heart of London. 
This was the first step toward a thorough overhauling of the 
theaters of the world's metropolis. 

LONDON THEATER PRECAUTIONS. 

With the story of the horror upon the pale lips of all, there 
was at the same time, in the minds of many of the theater goers 
of London, a feeling that the regulations of the lord chamber- 
lain and the London county council reduced to a minimum 
the possibility of the occurrence of a similar tragedy in their 
midst. Nevertheless theatrical men of experience agree that, 
after all, the most elaborate precautions may be taken, and 
when the crucial moment arrives they may prove of not the 
slightest value. 

PRESENT RULES FOR LONDON THEATERS. 

On the programme of every theater in London is printed the 
following extract from rules made by the lord chamberlain : 



236 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

"The name of the actual responsible manager of the theater 
must be printed on every playbill. The public can leave the 
theater at the end of the performance by all exit entrance 
doors, which must open outward. 

"Where there is a fireproof screen to the proscenium opening 
it must be lowered at least once during every performance, to 
insure it being in proper working order. 

"All gangways, passages and staircases must be kept free 
from chairs or any other obstructions." 

To guard against the possibility of a person in a moment of 
fright jumping from a balcony, the London county council in- 
sists on a brass railing being fixed on the tier In front of the 
upper circle. 

CURTAIN OFTEN TESTED. 

His Majesty's Theater is one of the largest and best 
equipped theaters in London. The precautions taken there may 
be mentioned as representative of what many London theater 
managers do to protect their patrons. A big iron asbestos cur- 
tain is worked by a lever in the "prop" corner on the prompter's 
side. The curtain is lowered just after the audience has been 
seated, before the play begins, not only to test it, but to give the 
audience confidence. Thursday night following the Iroquois 
fire Beerbohm Tree, the proprietor, ordered the curtain to be 
lowered twice, the second time after the first act, and this will 
be done in the future. 

CLOSE WATCH FOR FIR/E. 

Two firemen belonging to the fire department, but paid by 
the theater, come on duty at 7 o'clock. Every light or naked 
torch carried on the stage it is their duty to watch. It is the 
custom here, as at all theaters, to keep blankets dripping wet 



IROQUO1S THEATER DISASTER. 

f 

hanging at certain points all round the stage. Cutting-away 
apparatus and buckets are kept in the flies. 

"I have never heard of a great theater fire," said Mr. Dana, 
acting manager, "where trouble has been caused by flames in 
the front of the house. The exits in London theaters must be 
direct to the streets, not false exits, as I am afraid is too often 
the case in America. Nevertheless, when all is done, the fact 
remains that no one has ever invented a patent for stopping 
a panic." 

s TREE TELLS OF RUSE. 

"It is certainly the most terrible tragedy I ever heard of," 
said Mr. Tree, the proprietor. "It is quite easy at times to 
prevent a panic from the stage by a little presence of mind. 
I was playing once in Belfast when suddenly behind a transpar- 
ency I saw a reddish blaze and guessed it was a fire, but went 
quietly on until a convenient pause. Then I announced to the 
audience that something was out of order and the curtain 
would descend quietly and remain down a few minutes. I 
assured them there was absolutely no danger. The cur- 
tain descended amid applause, and while the band played the 
fire was quickly smothered. The curtain rose and the play 
went on without a soul leaving the house. 

"It is quite possible at such a time for a person to hypnotize 
an audience. In all cases of theater disasters it has been the 
panic, not the fire, that has caused the big loss of life. 

"It is probable if the audience had known where the exits 
were the Iroquois theater might have been cleared in two 
minutes. I think that every night uniformed attendants should 
be stationed in all theaters, whose duty it should be to call out 
'This way out' when the audience is leaving. I am surprised 
there appeared to be no outside balconies with stairways, as is 



238 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

the case in most American theaters, which is an advantage 
which we have not got here." 

FORTUNE FOR SAFETY. 

Sidney Smith, business manager of the Drury Lane theater, 
where "Mr. Bluebeard, Jr.," was produced two years ago, said : 
"The kernel of the whole matter is that human beings will be 
human beings. There is no possible provision against a panic. 
Our theater is the only isolated one in London." 

W. C. ZIMMERMAN ON EUROPEAN THEATERS. 

W. Carbys Zimmerman, of Chicago, the well-known archi- 
tect, sailed for America on the Saturday succeeding the fire, 
with his wife, in a state of intense anxiety as to whether his 
children had been caught in the Iroquois disaster. 

Mr. Zimmerman had just completed a tour of inspection of 
the theaters of Vienna, Paris and London. "My work in 
London," he said, "was interfered with by the appalling news 
from Chicago. I had seen only a few theaters here when I 
heard of the Iroquois fire. After that I had no heart to make 
further investigation. My observation leads me to think the 
Vienna theaters the safest in Europe. Many of them are quite 
detached from other buildings. They are splendidly furnished 
with exits and fire-fighting appliances. The theaters of Paris, 
except the best ones, are extremely dangerous. 

"From what I saw in London I judge that fire in many thea- 
ters would result in great loss of life. The passages are often 
so narrow that two people can scarcely pass. The managers 
naturally put a rosy face on the matter. They pretend that the 
Chicago fire has not reduced their bookings, but intelligent ob- 
servers know better. Immense improvements are certain to be 
effected in London theaters in the immediate future. 



JROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 239 

"Every theater should be isolated from other structures. It 
should have exits all round and these should be used regu- 
larly. There should be no emergency exits whatever. The 
fireproof curtain should be used constantly in place o'f the 
ordinary drop curtain. All passages should be straight and 
wide and all scenery noncombustible. Lastly, professional fire 
fighters should be properly posted throughout the performance. 
Europe recognizes that amateur firemen are useless in a crisis." 

THE EFFECT ON GAY PARIS. 

Thousands of Parisians, both French and Americans, in- 
cluding all those who had friends and relatives in Chicago, 
eagerly scanned the list of the dead and injured in the Iroquois 
disaster, as it was posted at the newspaper offices and distrib- 
uted throughout the hotels and public places in the city. This 
step greatly relieved the anxiety of many of the American 
colony, while at the same time it confirmed the fears of those 
whose friends or acquaintances were caught in the fire. 

The theater managers complained at once that the Chicago 
catastrophe had a most damaging effect .on receipts. All the 
popular matinees were comparatively deserted and the chil- 
dren's New Year pantomimes were complete failures. Cool 
heads pointed out that the Parisian theaters, as a rule, are 
better equipped against fire than those of Chicago, but without 
effect. The lesson of terror had seized the public. 

UPHEAVAL OF BERLIN THEATER WORLD. 

The Berlin evening papers of the fateful day expressed 
horror and sympathy over the Chicago catastrophe, comparing 
the details with those of the Vienna and Paris theater fires. The 
fire department of the city announced that it would immediately 
make a fresh study of the protective arrangements of the locaJ 



240 1ROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

theaters, so as to prevent, if possible, a disaster similar to the 
one at Chicago. 

Directors of all the Berlin theaters were promptly sum- 
moned to police headquarters and apprised of the kaiser's de- 
mand that fire protection be made more adequate. The 
directors of many houses came before their audiences and 
publicly stated their intention to install the new facilities or- 
dered by the kaiser. These precautions included the lowering 
of the iron curtain five minutes before each performance and 
during the intermissions ; an increase in the number of firemen 
on and off the stage, and illuminated exit signs, incapable of 
extinguishment by smoke or flame. Before each performance 
the firemen were also to make minute inspection of the build- 
ing and furnish a formal report that all was right before the 
curtain was raised. 

The greatest bomb, however, cast into the theater world of 
Berlin was Emperor Wilhelm's order summarily closing the 
Royal Opera House until certain alterations, necessary for pro- 
tection from fire and possible panic, were made. The kaiser's 
action attracted the attention of the whole community, which 
concluded that if the largest and best-equipped playhouse in 
Prussia was unsafe many minor establishments must be posi- 
tively dangerous. Berlin, without doubt, contained a dozen 
music halls and other places of amusement where a fire panic 
would be deadly, and they followed the fate of the Royal 
Opera House and were closed until safeguards approved by the 
proper authorities were provided. In the future proprietors of 
Berlin theaters will also station special policemen in their 
houses for the sole purpose of controlling audiences in case of 
fire, or panic, or both. Thus did the Chicago tragedy pro- 
foundly affect one of the great theater centers of the world. 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 241 

MR. SHAVER ON BERLIN THEATERS. 

Cornelius H. Shaver, president of the Railroad News Com- 
pany of Chicago, who was in Berlin at the time of the fire, 
said: "Many of the theaters in Germany strike me as fire- 
traps. Several Berliners assure me that the ushers are the 
only ones sure of escaping with their lives from at least three 
of their best houses. The auditoriums in many German thea- 
ters are 150 feet back from the street and to reach them one 
must journey through a labyrinth of courts, corridors and sud- 
den turnings. In the interior the precautions against fire are 
excellent, including iron curtains, automatic sprinklers and 
squads of city firemen ; but German theaters and hotels are lack- 
ing in so essential an equipment as outside fire escapes." 

VIENNA RECALLS A HORROR OF ITS OWN. 

The catastrophe at Chicago aroused the most painful in- 
terest and the utmost sympathy everywhere in Austria, tne 
Viennese having a keen recollection of the disaster at the Rang 
theater in 1881, when 875 people lost their lives. Intense 
anxiety prevailed in the American colony, as many doctors and 
musical students who form the bulk of the colony come from 
the Middle West of the United States. 

Herr Lueger, the burgomaster of Vienna, sent a cable mes- 
sage to Mayor Harrison, expressing sympathy and deep con- 
dolence over the terrible catastrophe. 

THE NETHERLANDS AND SCANDINAVIA. 

Upon receipt of definite news of the Iroquois theater disaster 
the theaters and music halls in The Hague were overhauled by 
the authorities. Amsterdam and Rotterdam demanded strict 
enforcement of the regulations against fire and new legislation 
looking to that end was at once gut in force. 



242 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

In Copenhagen, Stockholm and Christiania the Danish, 
Swedish and Norwegian licensing authorities for public amuse- 
ments caused a rigid inspection to be made of all playhouses 
with a view to better safeguards against fire, and that inspec- 
tion is still progressing and will doubtless bear good results 
as in other European centers^ 

Enough has been said to indicate that virtually the entire 
hemisphere of the West has been stirred to practical action by 
the terrible calamity which this book records. It is not within 
the range of human possibility that theaters can be made abso- 
lutely perfect, any more than other human institutions, nor is 
it possible that the awful lesson furnished by the Iroquois 
theater disaster will have been forgotten before substantial 
improvements are made in the amusement houses of the world 
for the present and future protection of human life. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

SUGGESTIONS FOR SAFE THEATERS. 

Clarence J. Root, of Chicago, an assistant of Prof. Cox in 
the weather bureau, makes the following suggestions in con- 
nection with the safe-theater agitation : 

"Location All theaters to be in buildings by themselves, 
like the Illinois and Iroquois. No stores or offices to be located 
in them. Buildings should be isolated, with wide private or 
public alleys or courts entirely around the rear and sides. A 
false wall could be built in front of the side courts where they 
project upon the street, thus helping the appearance of the 
block. These should, however, have wide arches through 
them. 

"Construction All buildings to be absolutely fireproof. The 
buildings should be built of steel, fireproof tiling, steel lathing, 
etc. Scenery of asbestos or aluminum would be practicable. 
Aluminum is light and easily handled. The seats to be up- 
holstered in leather. The floor to be constructed of metal, 
cement, mosaic or composition, with thin rubber matting over 
them, such as is used on sleeping-car steps. Ornamental iron 
work can be used on boxes, front of balconies, etc. Stair rail- 
ings of brass or fancy copper. The fire curtain to be of steel 
and asbestos both. The heavy steel would prevent any bulging 
from a draft. 

"Exits No steps or stairs should be used In the aisles or 
exits or anywhere in the theater. Easy inclines, similar to the 
ones in the new Pittsburg theater, should be used in the aisles, 



244 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

the inside entrances and exits, and the outside exits, all to be 
covered with rubber to prevent slipping. Two or three very 
wide exits ought to be provided on each side of the theater, 
and in addition, one (say twice as wide as the aisle) at the 
rear end of each aisle, the hallway leading from these rear 
exits, if not opening outdoors, to be wide enough to accommo- 
date the entire number of exits. These rules should apply in 
the balconies, also. The outside fire-escapes to be long, easy 
inclines, with high sides, to prevent people from jumping. 
Each exit to have its own independent incline, so that the 
crowd from the first balcony cannot block those from the upper 
gallery, as in the Iroquois fire. All doors to swing outward 
and not to be locked during the performance. They should be 
inspected before each play and should be so connected, elec- 
trically, that every door in the house could be thrown open in- 
stantly, merely by the touching of a button, these buttons to be 
located on the stage and other places convenient to the ushers 
and employees. Theaters should not be built 'L* shape. That 
was one fault of the Iroquois. The crowd naturally followed 
the aisles to the back of the house and then, instead of finding 
themselves at the outdoor exits, as in most playhouses, they 
had to go clear to one side of the theater. This mixed them up 
with the crowds from the other aisles and concentrated too 
many people in one place. 

"Summary A theater as described above could not burn, 
but a sprinkler system would do no harm. Heating and power 
plant in another building would prevent danger of an explo- 
sion. The aisles should be very wide and no standing room or 
portable chairs allowed. It may seem unnecessary in a fire- 
proof theater to have* such elaborate exits, but panics will occur 
from other causes than fires. A plan of the house should be 
printed on the cover of the program ; this should plainly show 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 245 

the exits. A description of the fireproof qualities of the theater 
should also be printed. This will secure the confidence of the 
audience, and perhaps avert a panic. In a house built and 
equipped, strictly in accordance with the above ideas, a fire 
would be impossible and a serious panic unlikely." 

FRANCIS WILSON SAYS "NO STEPS." 

Francis Wilson, the well known actor, in speaking of the 
fire, said: 

"I suppose similar scenes always will follow a sudden rush 
in any building crowded with men and women, but I feel 
strongly that theater buildings could be improved so as to re- 
duce the danger in a stampede to a minimum. It is my opinion 
that there should not be a single step in a theater. The de- 
scents should be gentle inclines. That this is possible is 
shown by the construction of a new theater in Pittsburg, where 
even the gallery is reached by inclines. 

"It is the thought of the many stairways that must be passed 
quickly, and possibly in darkness, that drives the occupants of 
the galleries to panic at any alarm. If they were sure of a 
clear pathway straight to the street half their fear would be 
allayed. In doing away with steps in the auditoriums of 
theaters the builders should not forget the actors." 

STAIRCASES WITH RAILINGS. 

Suggestion by W. B. Chamberlain, of London : 
"In nearly all fires in theaters loss of life seems to be at the 
head of stairs. This is natural, as persons who come first 
to the head of the stairs, hold back, being afraid to go down 
quickly lest they be pushed down by those behind them. Peo- 
ple seem to think a broad staircase safer than a narrow one. 
I don't think this is the case, as in a narrow one you can put 



246 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

your hands on two sides, and go down with less fear of being 
thrown forward. All wide staircases should be provided with 
handrails, for if you have both hands on handrails you can 
run down quickly. If theaters were below ground you would 
in case of fire run up instead of down. They would be much 
safer for want of air to feed the flames." 

PRECAUTIONS ENFORCED IN LONDON. 

According to Sir Algernon West, of London, since 1858 not 
a single life has been lost in a properly licensed theater build- 
ing in that city, except of a fireman, who perished in the per- 
formance of duty at the Alhambra in 1882. During the few 
days following the Iroquois disaster, theater managers and the 
public praised the wisdom of the rules of the county council, 
whereas some of the former had been wont to find them rather 
irksome. In addition to the main rules about lowering the as- 
bestos curtain once during the performance, doors opening out- 
ward, stairways and passages to be kept free, there are some 
other precautions which must be observed. All doors used for 
the purpose of exit must, if fastened during the time the pub- 
lic are in the building, be secured during such time only by 
automatic bolts only of a pattern and position approved by the 
council. The management must allow the public to leave by all 
exit doors. All gas burners within reach of the audience must 
be protected by glass or wire globes. All gas taps within 
reach of the public must be made secure. 

An additional means of lighting for use in the event of the 
principal system being extinguished must be provided in the 
auditorium, corridors, passages, exits and staircases. If oil 
or candle lamps are used for this purpose, they must be of a 
pattern approved by the council, and properly secured to a 
noninflammable base,. out of reach of the public. Such lamps 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 247 

must be kept lighted during the whole time the public is in 
the premises. No mineral oil must be used in them. All 
hangings, curtains and draperies must be rendered noninflam- 
mable. Scenery is painted on canvas that has been first pre- 
pared with a solution recommended by the county council, to 
make it noninflammable. The paints used by the scenic artists 
contain no oils. 

WHAT THE CHICAGO CITY ENGINEER SAYS. 

John Ericson, the city engineer of Chicago, has this to offer : 

"A theater building should have an open space on all sides, 
with exits and entrances leading directly out, and not, as now 
is mostly the case, be wedged in tight between other large 
buildings, with a number of exits all leading to one or two 
not too wide hallways which again, together with the stair- 
ways from the balconies and galleries, merge into one entrance. 
These halls and stairways are only too easily blocked by the 
frantic people in case of a panic. The aisles in most of our 
theaters are also too narrow and should be made considerably 
wider. 

"The excuse that space is too valuable for such extravagance 
cannot hold. If the return for the capital invested in such a 
case does not seem sufficiently large to the investor, then rather 
charge a little more for the entertainment or reduce the num- 
ber of playhouses so as to insure full houses, but in the name 
of humanity construct those that are used in such a way that 
calamities such as have occurred will be an impossibility. 

"I am also of the opinion that perforated water pipes over 
the stage, into which water can be turned at a moment's notice 
so as to drench the whole stage if necessary, would add greatly 
to the safety of life and property. 

"An automatic sprinkler system would probably have been 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

less effective in the case of the Iroquois fire, as great damage 
to life would have probably been done before such sprinklers 
would have been put into action." 

OPINION OF A FIREPROOF EXPERT. 

William Clendennin, editor of the Fireproof Magazine, con- 
demned the Iroquois Theater building as long ago as last Au- 
gust. Here is his opinion, which he asserts is based on a per- 
sonal investigation: 

"The Iroquois theater was a firetrap. The whole thing was 
a rush construction. It was beautiful but it was cheap. Every- 
thing but the structural members was of wood; the roller on 
the asbestos curtain, the pulleys, all of a cheap compromise. 

"I made an investigation of the theater last August and 
condemned it on four different points. My condemnation was 
published in the August number of the Fireproof. The points 
are: 

"l. The absence of an intake, or stage draft shaft 

"2. The exposed re-enforcement of the concrete arch. 

"3. The presence of wood trim on everything. 

"4. The inadequate provision of exits. 

"A theater has two parts the stage and the house or audi- 
ence part. There should be a roll shutter between the two and 
the best sort of a curtain is a compromise. The poor stuff in 
the curtain at the Iroquois theater made it doubly a compro- 
mise ; a great danger, a terrible trap. 

"The stage may be compared to a closet. When you open 
a closet door the draft is outward, not inward. So when the 
,fire started on the stage the draft pulled it toward the audience. 
It was a quick flame puff. 

"The arch, or ceiling, was covered with a cheap concrete. 
The first puff of flame destroyed this. It crumbled away, ex- 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 2249 

posing the twisted mass of steel reenforcement and girders, 
and fell on the audience. This killed many. Looking from 
below, the bewildered, choking and maddened crowd thought 
it was the result of a panic above. They believed the galleries 
were falling and in the rush resulting many more were killed. 
"The Iroquois theater was the most-talked-of construction 
in the country at the time of its building. It was believed to be 
the expression of the most modern ideas in regard to theater 
building; to be about as near fireproof as one could be. My 
investigation satisfied me that it was one of the worst firetraps 
in the city. There was so much wood and so much plush and 
inflammable trimming about everything. The insufficient exits 
tell the rest of the story." 

ILLUMINATED EXIT SIGNS. 

On this point T. B. Badt, a consulting electrical engineer of 
Chicago, writes: 

"It has been stated that in the Iroquois no exit signs were 
over the doors, and it has been suggested that this was one of 
the causes of loss of life. The question arises, what would 
signs have been good for if the theater was thrown in dark- 
ness? The signs would not have been seen any more than 
the doors underneath the draperies. In order to avoid such 
trouble I should propose the following : 

"Have over each door a transparent sign made out of metal 
with glass crystal letters, and have same illuminated from the 
outside of the building wall by means of a lantern attached 
on the outside, and have this lantern supplied by a source of 
light independent of the theater lighting system, either electric 
or gas. The sign would be illuminated at all times during the 
performance; it would not be an objection during dark scenes, 
because there would be practically no light thrown through 



250 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

the glass letters to interfere with the darkness inside; at the 
same time the sign would stand there glaring the word 'exit/ 
no matter how dark the theater or how light the theater. The 
main point I am trying to raise is that any device which has to 
be operated in case of an emergency is liable to fail, but an illu- 
minated sign that will be illuminated at all times will be there 
no matter what trouble may happen, because nobody can forget 
to light it during the excitement, as it is already lighted be- 
fore the performance commences. This, in my opinion, is the 
keynote for all devices which are intended to prevent panics 
in theaters. An automatic device is dependent upon certain 
conditions, usually rise of temperature near the ceiling. A 
manually operated safety device depends upon the presence of 
mind and cool-headedness of a certain employee and in my 
opinion all these features should be eliminated. Everything 
should be ready for an emergency and not be dependent upon 
somebody or something to make it ready. All exit doors ought 
to be unlocked and swing open towards the outside, and this, in 
connection with the permanently illuminated sign above the 
door saying 'exit,' in my opinion, would prevent any of the 
calamities heretofore experienced in theater disasters." 



CHAPTER XIX. 

THE SWORN TESTIMONY OF THE SURVIVORS. 

Scores and scores of witnesses assembled in the little com- 
mittee rooms and antechambers of the council hall in the 
great Chicago administrative building, each with his story to 
add to the story of horror, when the inquest over the dead 
began on Thursday, January 7, 1904, one week and a day 
after the disaster. 

Some were muffled under great rolls of bandages that con- 
cealed frightful scars and burns. Others gave no outward 
indication of the season of terror they had passed and sur- 
vived to tell the tale. Fashionable theater goers, actors, act- 
resses and stage hands, chorus girls, belted policemen and grim 
firemen, all met on terms of temporary equality, forming a 
heterogeneous assemblage waiting the call to take the stand. 
One by one they were admitted to the vast council chamber 
where for days the inquisition continued. 

Vast throngs of curious besieged the place, clamoring for 
opportunity to view the proceedings. None, save the favored 
few citizens to whom tickets were issued, municipal, county and 
state offcials and representatives of the press, enjoyed that 
opportunity. To them day after day a growing tale of suffer- 
ing and death was unfolded such as has not fallen upon mortal 
ears for half a century. It was a harrowing recital that 
satiated and sickened the auditors and left them faint at each 
adjournment. 

For days preceding the opening session Coroner Traeger, 

m 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

his deputies and the six jurors had been engaged in a canvass 
of hospitals, undertaking establishments and morgues, viewing 
the dead. Nor was thst ghastly work over when they entered 
upon the semi-judicial task of taking testimony. Ever and 
anon they halted the inquiry to proceed to the bedside of some 
victim that had died after lingering suffering. This formality 
was necessary before burial permits could issue. Each suc- 
ceeding call brought to the jurors a shudder. Theirs was a 
gruesome task for the public service and they felt its burden 
keenly. 

The trend of the statements taken were the same. Details 
formed the only variations. Some of the statements follow : 

THE FIRST WITNESS. 

John C. Galvin, 1677 West Monroe street, Chicago, the 
first witness heard, said : 

"On the day the fire occurred I stepped into the vestibule to 
buy tickets for the following evening. It must have been a 
little after half past three. As I stepped into the entrance 1 
looked into the lobby and turned to the ticket office, and as I 
did so the center doors of the lobby foyer and the outside en- 
trance doors were blown open as though by a gust of hot air. 
I looked into the foyer and I saw people running toward the 
entrance. I realized at once what the trouble was, and went 
to the lobby doors and tried to open the west door there, that 
being the nearest to me. It was locked on the inside and I 
couldn't do anything with it. 

"Then I tried to pacify the people from rushing or crowd- 
ing, tried to save the panic, but it was no use. I would judge 
there were probably a dozen, not more than a dozen, cleared 
the door before the crush came. I recollect the first person 
to go down seemed to be a rather stout woman, who seemed 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 253 

to be free herself, somebody stepping on her skirt. She 
turned to gather up her skirts and she was borne down by the 
crowd, and then they piled on top of each other. I did what 
I could to release the jam, pulling the people from under the 
crowd and getting them out into the entrance, out into the 
street, but all the while the vestibule was filling up by those 
returning to help their friends, and people rushing into the 
street and helping to bring the crowd to. I tried to open the 
outside entrance door, the west door, which I found was bolted 
on the inside at that time. I tried to lift the bolt, but I couldn't 
do that. 

"Then I kicked out two of the panels. I kicked the glass 
out of the panels, and I then returned to the west vestibule door 
and I kicked out the panels of these two doors, that is, the west 
door, and tried to take some of the people out through the 
openings. After we got out of the doorway I walked back into 
the entrance gallery and walked around, and there was a dense 
smoke coming from the theater. 

"I was expecting a big crush in the vestibule, a much larger 
crush than I saw. I thought there would be a jam on that 
stair, but nobody came down the stairs to my recollection, not 
a soul. They never lived to reach it. All the time I was there 
I saw no one whose dress or demeanor would indicate they were 
policemen, firemen or attaches of the theater. I remained doing 
what I could to relieve the situation until driven out by the 
smoke. I then went across the street and watched the de- 
struction of the theater." 

MARLOWE'S EXPERIENCE. 

James C. McGurn, 2 Rosemont street, Dorchester, Mass., 
known on the stage as James C. Marlowe: 
"I was in the Garrick theater, a block distant, to see the 



254 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

show. At the first alarm I hurried out and went down to the 
Iroquois theater entrance. I went inside and the firemen were 
in working at the time, getting lines of hose in there. Some of 
the firemen were already pouring streams through into the 
lobby. There was a tremendous draft there and the lobby was 
clear, but directly inside the door that had been opened there 
were dense volumes of smoke. The first thought that struck 
my mind, being conversant with theaters, was that there might 
be somebody in the house. Just then a man came in there, 
followed by another man, a citizen, and we were the only men 
in the lobby outside of the firemen. He asked for the gallery 
stairway and immediately after that I saw him going up the 
stairs to the right as you go in the lobby. He went up these 
stairs with his men and a fireman followed him. 

"I was watching the stairs, and they were up there thirty 
seconds, about, when the fireman came down with the first body, 
a little girl, about eight years old. He shouted out to the fire- 
men for God's sake to get up there, and all the firemen I saw 
in the lobby dropped everything and went up, and they weren't 
up there but a few seconds before they came tumbling down 
with bodies, and after I had remained there about three min- 
utes more I saw dozens of bodies brought down. One fireman 
slipped with the body of an old lady about the fourth step and 
fell down on the marble floor and I helped put her into the fire- 
man's arms. The smoke was so dense I could not see much 
and as I could do nothing to help any one I hurried out of the 

foyer." 



MUSICAL DIRECTOR'S SWORN STATEMENT. 

Antonio Frosolono, 170 Seminary avenue, Chicago, musi- 
cal director at the ill-fated theater : 
"I was in the Iroquois theater playing at that performance 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 255 

in the orchestra. I was not directing the performance, as the 
company has its own director. I was sitting sideways, facing 
the east door of the stage. The stage was to my left. I do not 
know how the fire started, only I heard a confusion. 

"The Tale Moonlight' scene was on and sixteen people, the 
double octette, occupied the stage. Some of them did not sing, 
and some of them went out of their places. Eddie Foy came 
out arid announced that if everybody would keep quiet every- 
thing would be all right. Then, when I turned around, the 
stage fireman had kicked a piece of blazing curtain down in the 
orchestra. 

"Then the bassoon player made a terrible scramble to get 
out, and I think he succeeded in getting out Then after that 
Mr. Dolere, the musical director for the company, went out 
like a shot out of a gun ; he went over the stand and everything. 
He went under the stage. Then everybody else got out. I still 
sat there, because I did not see much danger to myself, as 
I thought, or anybody else. I saw the people when they went 
out, and I heard the cries, and that is what attracted my atten- 
tion. I stayed there until everybody else had gone out of the 
orchestra. The time when I thought it was time to get out 
was when the bass fiddle and the 'cello got to burning. 

"All were excited on the stage. Some tried to put the fire 
out and others ran. Some one was trying to lower the curtain, 
but it would not come down all the way. Of a sudden it 
bulged out over my head like a balloon. Then the flames began 
to rush out from under the curtain. I saw the people rushing 
out, some jumping over, hallooing and screaming; then I 
turned around at that instant to my right and saw that the 
violin and 'cello and bass fiddle had caught on fire at one of 
the music stands, and then I went out* 







256 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

MRS. PETRY'S ESCAPE. 

Mrs. Josephine Petry, 6014 Morgan street: 

"On Wednesday afternoon at 2:15 I went to the Iroquois 
theater. It was late; the performance had begun. My ticket 
entitled me to what I thought was the balcony, but it was at 
the top of the house, and when I went up there the theater was 
dark and the people were standing four deep behind my seat. 

"It was the second act, the moonlight octette, if I am not 
mistaken, when I saw on the left hand side behind the prosce- 
nium arch a bright light. I kept my eyes on that, because to 
me it did not look right, and it got brighter all the time. Eddie 
Foy came right beside the proscenium arch, right where the 
fire was on the side, over him, and told the people they should 
keep their seats, there was no danger. Naturally a few got up, 
but they sat down again. Some people said : 'Keep your seats.' 
I got up and some one said beside me: 'Sit down, there is 
nothing the matter/ I sat down again, but the glare was get- 
ting much brighter and pieces of charred cloth were falling 
down, although the flames by then had not come forward. 
They were all behind, but you could see the light so brightly 
I picked up my wraps and went out. 

"I went out by the same way I entered. At the lower floor 
about a hundred people were trying to get out. The doors 
were locked. When I left the charred remnants of the scenery 
were falling down in large chunks onto the stage, and the lights 
were so bright that they scared me, and I got up, but the 
flames had not reached the stage yet when I left, but when I 
got down to the exit and I turned my head there was a mass 
of flames behind; it was all flames, and yet I did not hear a 
sound." 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER* 257 

UP AGAINST LOCKED DOORS. 

Ebson Ryburn, stock broker, 3449 Prairie avenue, Chicago : 
"I was at the box office with the intention of purchasing 
tickets for the night; I went to the box office about 3 130 p. m., 
and when I went in there were three or four others ahead of me. 
Suddenly I heard some commotion on the inside and several 
persons rushed out, and there must have been as many as five 
or six, I guess, got out, and then I heard a woman cry Tire.' 
Up to that time I did not think it was anything serious. I 
thought probably it was a scare and I looked in through the 
door and I saw more coming rushing and I rushed over to 
hold the doors open, and did so for a length of time urftil 
quite a number got out, and I noticed several going to the door 
next to it; that is, the last door west; and then came over to 
this other door. 

"They tried to push it open. I left where I was and went to 
that door and tried to force it open and could not. I saw be- 
tween the two doors a bolt or a bar, and there was quite a 
number coming out the other door then and I saw there was 
no chance to come out, and I tried to open the other door op- 
posite that leading into the street, and that door was in the 
same condition, locked or bolted ; it was fastened ; I could not 
get out of that door and I could not get in the other. Then 
there were quite a number coming out, and I noticed several 
men, and by that time I could see smoke, a little haze of smoke, 
and every one coming out seemed to be frightened, crazy-like, 
and so I got out myself into the street. The fire department 
had not yet arrived." 

BLOWN INTO THE ALLEY. 

Mrs. James D. Pinedo, 478 North Hoyne avenue, Chicago i 
"I reacted the theater to attend the fatal matinee late, abou* 



258 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

2 125 o'clock. The performance was in progress and we could 
not secure seats, so we got standing room tickets and entered. 
When I reached the extreme right of the theater the people 
were only standing one deep. There was a space there where 
I could see the stage, especially the left part of the stage where 
the sparks started, and the curtain had just rung up for the 
second act, a few minutes after the chorus was singing, when 
I saw a man using his hands trying to put out the sparks. 
When I saw those few sparks I quietly turned around to see 
if there was any fire escape or exit on that floor in case there 
should be a fire, and I didn't move because I was afraid of 
precipitating a panic. I simply turned my head and I saw 
what I supposed was an exit. I couldn't tell. 

"I saw drapery and naturally supposed, being a theater-goer, 
that it masked an exit. I turned back to the stage then, and 
in the meantime these sparks had changed into flames, and I 
put on my rubbers I was very calm at the time and I got 
ready to move out. Eddie Foy told us to be perfectly quiet 
and avoid a panic, and there were also some men and women 
in the back part of the audience who also told the people to 
sit down. I have never seen an audience who were saner than 
these women and children. They sat perfectly still I should 
say for at least two minutes, while those sparks changed into 
flames. They were perfectly calm. I think most of these 
women realized there were little children there. The audience 
was nearly packed full of children. 

"Then I saw the big ball of flame come out from the stage 
and fall in the auditorium of the theater on the heads of those 
in front, and I thought, 'Now is the time to get out.' I walked 
quietly to what I thought was an exit, and there was a little 
man there before me, who had. torn aside the drapery, and I 
saw an iron door or doors heavily bolted, and we couldn't get 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 259 

them open. It was bolted and I heard this man ask the usher 
to please unlock the door, and he refused. The usher was 
standing there and we were frantically, of course, trying to get 
the door open, but it would not open, and I judge we were 
standing at least two minutes, probably a minute and a half 
time that seemed long enough in a case like that. 

"Finally the man induced this usher to try and open the 
door. At least they were trying to, the two of them, and I 
was right behind them trying to open that door when all of 
a sudden there was a rush of wind. I thought at the time it 
was an explosion, because I didn't know of any force powerful 
enough to open those iron doors, and those iron doors Blew 
open, and blew us into the alley. Of course that is my last 
recollection. I was then safe." 

JUST OUT IN TIME, 

Ella M. Churcher, 850 Washington boulevard, Chicago: 
"I occupied the fourth row from the front in the top gallery, 
seats 42, 43 and 44, with my mother and nephew. I was sit- 
ting in the middle. A shower of sparks was the first suggestion 
of fire. Then the curtain was lowered and Eddie Foy stepped 
out. I couldn't hear his words., but his motions were to sit 
down and keep our seats, and we did so until I saw the red 
curtain that went down after the first act give away in the 
upper left hand corner and pieces fell, making a large opening. 
It was on fire. 

Then we got up and had to go about ten feet, that took us to 
the wall,and three steps to go up to the exit leading to the mar- 
ble stairway. As we turned the last look I caught was a tongue 
of fire leaping to the gallery and a cloud of smoke with it, and 
we got the heat from it, scorching and blistering both of my 



26o 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER, 



ears and both my nostrils and scorching my hair and chiffon 
boa on my neck. At that instant we stepped out on the marble 
stairway, right out of it, and we got down stairs safely, and 
then we passed out to the street 

SPORTING MEN TESTIFY. 

Frank Houseman, 293 Warren avenue, Chicago: 

"Dexter, the baseball player, and I dropped into the Iroquois 
that afternoon about 2:20 and found the house sold out 
with the exception of two boxes and standing room. We 
bought a couple of seats in an upper box and went in. The 
house was crowded and it was dark, for the performance was 
in progress. We found an usher and started up the stairway 
to the box. The stairway was pitch dark. 

" 'This is a dark stairway; this is funny they don't have a 
light or something here,' I said to my friend. I stumbled a 
couple of times going up the stairway. Finally we got to where 
we were seated. Well, during the intermission between the 
first and second acts we had a good view of the audience, being 
up high, and I remarked to my friend that there were a great 
many women and children present in event of any trouble. 

"When the curtain rose for the second act, if I can remem- 
ber, probably five or ten minutes after, I noticed a spark directly 
on the opposite side to the stage in behind. We were sitting 
up where we viewed the audience and it was very easy for 
us to distinguish the spark, and I saw a man it looked as 
though he was on a pedestal of some kind ; it must have been 
a bridge of some kind that he was standing on working to 
put out the light, so I quietly said to my friend : 'Do you see 
those sparks over there?' He says: 'Yes; they will put that 
out all right.' 
< ".Well, I instantly thought about the stairway that I had to 



IROQUO1S THEATER DISASTER. 261 

come up getting into this box, and somehow or other I could 
not get it out of my mind. I said : 'Well, now, I don't know ; 
we better get down near the door it looks pretty good the 
outside.' So we finally started, and as we started out of the box 
I suggested that he tell the gentleman and lady that were in the 
box with us that they had better come on, which I understand 
he did. He came down the stairs. 

"It was a blast of flame or fire, a sort of ball or something 
that appeared to me like it was a lot of scenery that was burn- 
ing down, scenery or flimsy work. It burnt a great deal on the 
order of paper. All I thought of was the opening of that door, 
because the people at that time were crowding close to me and 
screaming and hallooing, and I don't just remember just how I 
got that door open, but anyway it opened and carried the 
crowd out. I tried to do what I could around there for the 
people that were being trampled on, trying to pull them out 
from the middle of the alley and start them on their way if they 
were not too badly hurt, until they began ^jumping off the fire 
escapes above, and I noticed and looked up and saw that the, 
people were not moving. 

"The flames by that time had come out of the top exits 
that were open, and the fire escape held 'all the people it could 
and the flames were surrounding them, and they were jumping, 
and those that were not pushed off jumped off. I was trying 
to get the people on the lower fire escape, which I can 
guess at it was probably ten or fifteen feet from the 
ground. We got a couple of them to jump down because 
it was but a little ways up; they began jumping right from 
overhead and of course I had to look out that no one fell on 
me, or would jump on me, and I could not do very much of 
anything, only to pull out the people being trampled upon, and 



262 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

pull them to one side, until one man jumped on, I think, three 
bodies, and started to get up and go away, and was just about 
in a rising position when there was a lady fell on him, and he 
didn't move after that. It became so dangerous then that I 
had to get away. 

"My intentions were to go around and out the same way I 
got in, or to get near the door, because I remarked to him 
when I got down stairs : 'We may have to help some of these 
little children here in case they don't put this out/ although I 
thought they would put it out. Well, there were three or four 
people standing along there, and when we reached the main 
floor just about that time the audience began to notice there was 
a fire. 

"Previous to this time they had not seen it and they began to 
mumble and some of them to rise, and Mr. Foy came out and 
tried to quiet them by stating that it was merely a little curtain 
fire ; that they would put it out, and to be as quiet as possible. 
It seemed to relieve them. A great many of them returned to 
their seats. I thought I could hear Mr. Foy speak to some one 
back in the scenery as though he was waiting for the drop 
curtain. 

"Well, it began to look pretty bad about that time and I 
looked around and I saw the curtains, the first I had noticed of 
the exits there. I said to some one standing there, 'Where does 
this lead?' He says, 'Outside;' so I stayed there probably 
thirty seconds, when the bits of scenery and pieces of fire began 
to drop down all around the stage, and one or two of the girls 
that were on the stage at the time of the octette, fainted ; well, 
I pushed this fellow aside, and for a moment momentarily 
looked at the lock, and it happened to be a lever that lifts up. 

"I am familiar with it, as I have one in my home, and I 
didn't have much trouble with it, but I was kind of disap- 



1ROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 263 

pointed when I opened it, because I thought it would lead out- 
sidewhen I faced the iron doors. At that time there was a 
big blast came out from the stage." 

Charles Dexter, professional baseball player : 

"I met Mr. Houseman and he invited me to go to the theater 
with him, and we went together and we were a little bit late. 
We got seats in an upper box. 

"The house was quite dark when we went in, and we were 
ushered into the right hand box, that is, to the right of the 
stage; I guess that is the north box, and we got to see about 
the last part of the first act, and just about two minutes after 
we came in a lady and gentleman came in and we gave them 
our seats ; they sat directly in front of us ; I took the back seat, 
and just as the moonlight scene came on, the octette, Mr. 
Houseman turned to me and said : 'Do you see that little blaze?' 
And I told him I did. 

"He said : 'I think it is about time for us to get out of here.' 
I told him I thought everything would be all right ; that he had 
better not start down stairs or say anything that would be liable 
to cause a panic, and he said he would go down quietly, and 
for me to tell the people ahead of me what to do. The stair- 
way was so dark I tried to follow out. 

"I knew he had started down the steps, and I had to wait 
and light a match to tell where I was going down the steps, 
from the box down to the first floor. I lost Mr. House- 
man then; I looked for him but could not find him, and I 
walked around and stood very near the first box. By that time 
the blaze had gone up. 

"Mr. Foy was on the stage telling the people to be quiet or 
pass out quietly. I couldn't tell exactly what he said, and I 
noticed the orchestra seemed inclined to leave, and I could hear 
him yelling to the leader to play, which he did. 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER, 

"They played for quite a little while; then the fire com- 
menced dropping all around Mr. Foy, and I thought that I 
\vould get out, go out from the front door; I didn't know 
any other means of exit, and I started out that way. By that 
time the people had started out of their seats and I found that 
I could not get out that way very well. I thought that the best 
thing that I could do would be to come back and jump on the 
stage, hoping to get out the stage door. People were running 
around, and I didn't know what to do, and I ran into a crowd 
of little children. 

"The people were running over one another. I saw some 
draperies hanging and I opened them. I didn't know where 
I was going, and I found two doors of glass or wood. I didn't 
stop to examine them but I opened them. I found myself up 
against some iron doors. I didn't know how to work them. 
The only thing I could see was a cross-bar, and I started to 
shove that up, and I couldn't shove very well, and I started 
to beat at it. By that time the people were pushed up against 
me, and I didn't know whether I would be able to get it open or 
not. I had all the poor little kids around me, and I beat the 
thing until finally it went up, and as it did of course the people 
behind me we went out into the alley. 

"I turned and looked back and saw a wave of fire sweeping 
over the whole inside .of the theater." 

AN ELGIN PHYSICIAN'S TALE. 
Dr. De Lester Sackett, Elgin, 111. : * 



" 



I attended the fateful matinee performance, accompanied 
by my wife, my sister-in-law and my little girl. We occupied 
seats in the third row of the first balcony at the extreme north 
end of the theater, next to the alley. At the time the fire 
broke out we were sitting where we could look right over to 



1ROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER, 265 

the extreme left of the stage, and what seemed to be a couple of 
limes, or an electric light; we could see sparks dropping from 
that sometimes. We could not see the light itself, but could 
see those sparks, evidently dropping from that kind of a light. 

"That was my first impression upon seeing it. And instantly 
there was more or less excitement, and the party who played the 
part of "Bluebeard"' came to the extreme front of the stage at 
our extreme left and tried to allay the excitement by making 
motions with his hands, keeping the orchestra playing and the 
girls dancing, at the same time trying to get the audience tc 
keep quiet. He said that there was danger from excitement, 
but not much danger from the fire. 

"There was much excitement in the immediate vicinity of my 
seats, with no gentlemen nearer than the three gentlemen sit- 
ting a little further to my right and back in the second section 
from us towards the rear were two young men ; all others were 
women and children. There seemed to be perfect confusion 
and I rose to my feet and tried to quiet them, and counseled 
that they should not become excited ; that there was more dan- 
ger from a panic than there was from the fire. I never dreamed 
that the fire could reach us there, and we had to keep our posi- 
tions in our seats, as I had counseled others to keep quiet, and it 
would not look very well for us to take the lead then and run, 
so we remained there until my wife said to me, 'Every one has 
left their seats, and we must get out of here.' 

"I then turned and looked at the stage and saw how the fire 
had progressed and said to her : 'It is a race with death,' and 
I tried then to get my little girl, who w r as eleven years old, 
next to me. She w-as sitting next to the aisle. I reached be- 
yond my wife and sister-in-law and I got my little girl and 
then I tried to crowd them into the aisle. 

"The pressure was so great I could not get them into the 



266 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

* 

aisle. People crowded up the aisle so thick I could not get them 
in there, and I discovered the seats in our rear had been 
vacated. Everybody was getting to the aisle, and I told my 
wife our only show. was over these seats, and I took my little 
girl and started and told them to follow me, which they did. 
At that time in the extreme left-hand corner back of us we 
could see light coming up they had got an opening there 
in the rear of this balcony. 

"We couldn't see any opening, but we could see the light 
from the opening, and then we went over the seats. I didn't 
look back after I started. My wife and sister-in-law followed 
us, and we went over the seats and out of that rear exit back of 
the seats to the extreme north into the alley, where we found 
a fire escape. 

"The doors were open when we got there, but I cannot help 
but feel that if we had started sooner we would not have got to 
those doors. If we had waited longer we certainly would not 
have- got through. My ears are still not healed from the burn- 
ing they got. My nose was burned, and my sister-in-law's 
bandages have not been removed from her face yet, she was 
burned so bad, and it was all from hot air coming from that 
stage. 

. "On the first landing from the exit we went out of, evidently 
two ladies had turned and were coming up the fire escape, in- 
stead of going the other way, they were so confused. I told 
them to turn and go down. They did not until I reached them 
and I took hold of one lady and turned her around and started 
her down and pushed the shutter back against the wall 
I remember that very distinctly and then we went on 
down and when I got to the foot of the escape I turned my 
child over to my wife and went back for my sister-in-law and 
crowded my way up between the people by keeping to the ex- 



IROQUO1S THEATER DISASTER. 267 

treme outside railing, and got up probably to the first landing 
and found her coming down. 

"It is my impression that the curtain that was lowered was 
burned. I know that when the party playing the part of 
"Bluebeard" was out there he kept those girls dancing until 
one of them fainted, and they lifted her up, and I thought it 
was the most heroic thing I ever saw, those girls remaining 
there with the fire dropping all about them and still dancing in 
an effort to quiet the audience. The draft was something fear- 
ful. It carried the fire with it. The flames came clear out 
over the parquet, and so much so that after I started up those 
steps we didn't dare to look back." 

MR. MEMHARD'S DIFFICULT EXIT. 

Albert A. Memhard, 750 Greenleaf avenue, Rogers Park, 
Chicago : 

"I attended the matinee performance at the Iroquois, De- 
cember 30, 1903. I was sitting in section A, the tenth seat in 
the first row in the first balcony or dress circle on the north side 
of the house, and on the right hand with reference to the stage. 
I was between two aisles just about the middle of the section. 
I was there before the orchestra started to play and saw the 
curtain go up before the first act and the same curtain come 
down and then be raised before the second act. I was in CQITI- 
pany with a theater party made up of Mr. Gurnsey, who is 
employed at the same store as myself, and our families. Soon 
after the second act started we saw, almost all of us at about 
the same time, sparks of fire coming from the left hand corner 
of the stage, perhaps eight feet from the top, but we sat still 
until it began to come out in flames, the flames dropping on the 
stage. Then we started out. 

"I could not open the first exit door I reached. I then went 



268 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 



to the second exit and after some trouble I got it open by lift- 
ing up a brass lever. Then the inside doors opened, which 
were wood and glass. I had the iron doors to open next. I 
opened them by lifting a loijg bar. I went out on the fire 
escape with my friends, who were with me with the exception 
of my son, who had gone ahead, following the crowd. When 
I saw he was not with us I went back and ran almost to the 
top of the stairs. I brought him back. We went down the 
fire escape and out the alley to Dearborn street. 

"The fire exits were all covered by heavy draperies tfiat 
might readily be mistaken for simple decorations and were not 
marked or labeled in any way. Neither was there any one on 
hand to direct the crowd how to get out. The only light was 
the illumination afforded by the fire." 

THE THEATER ENGINEER. 

Robert E. Murray, 676 Jackson boulevard, Chicago, engi- 
neer at the Iroquois theater : 

"I was down stairs underneath the stage when I heard 
some confusion about 3 130 o'clock. I rushed upstairs onto the 
stage and the first person I saw \vas the house fireman. He had 
some kilfyre and was trying to sprinkle it on the fire. I saw 
the curtain down about ten feet from the stage and I tried to 
jump up and grab it to pull it down, but it was out of my reach. 
By that time there was fire coming down so I had to get away 
from there. I went to the elevator and saw that the boy was 
making trips and bringing people down as fast as he could. 
When I saw he was doing his duty I went downstairs and 
told my fireman to shut off steam in the house and pull the 
fires, so as to prevent the possibility of an explosion. 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 269 

,* 

RUSH OF CHORUS GIRLS. 

"Then some of the musicians and chorus girls came rushing 
through and they wanted to know which way out. There was 
a door in the smoking room in the basement and I opened it foi 
them. Some went out that way. The smoke was so thick that 
some of them ran back. I took them to the coal hole and 
shoved them out of the coal hole. The smoke was getting so 
thick in there we could hardly stand it, so I told the fireman to 
take our clothes and go to the coal hole and get out. I stayed 
there and shut the steam off in the boilers, and was trying to 
get the fire out to save any boiler explosion if the fire should 
get too hot. 

"After I thought everybody was out of there I made a trip 
around the dressing rooms in the basement and hallooed, 
'Everybody out down here.' Then I met a girl by the name ot 
Nellie Reed. She was up against the wall scratching it and 
screaming. I grabbed her and went out with her to the street. 
I went back to the boiler. My toolbox was there, and I grabbed 
the toolbox and jerked it back on the coal pile and then I 
crawled out of the coal hole myself into the fresh air." 

A SCHOOL GIRL'S ACCOUNT. 

Ruth Michel, school girl, 698 North Robey street, Chicago: 
"I was sitting in the top balcony in the second row near the 
north or alley wall when the fire broke out. There were four 
in our party, all girls, and we reached our seats about five min- 
utes before the performance began. The curtain went up for 
the second act and there was, I think, about twelve actresses 
on the stage. There was a green light thrown over the stage, 
to represent the moonlight, a greenish blue. I saw a man at the 
side of the stage making motions with his hands ; I didn't know 
whether he was coming in at the wrong time or not, and then I 



270 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 



saw a spark come from above the stage. Then a spark fell 
down, and one of the women in our party said, 'We will get 
out of here,' and a man rose and said he would knock our 
heads off if we got out, so we sat there. Then they tried to 
drop a curtain and it didn't come down very far. 

"Then they dropped another curtain. It came down beyond 
the one that got stuck, came down all the way, I think. That 
one caught fire right away, even before it reached the stage. 
Then an awful draft came and it blew the flames right out 
over the audience. We got out of our seats, got out of an exit 
all right and went out on the fire escape. I got down two or 
three steps and we were driven back by the flames below us. 
The heat came up just like a furnace and I went up two or three 
steps and then I got under the railing and dropped to the 
alley. I lit on my toes and a man caught me at the same time, 
so I was not hurt. The distance was the same as from the 
fourth story window of the building across the alley. Men in 
the alley called to rne not to jump, but I knew I had to jump 
or else burn up, because the flames were coming up so right 
behind me." 

"I am only surprised that you escaped alive to tell of it," 

softly commented the coroner. 



CHAPTER XX. 

LACK OF FIRE SAFEGUARDS. 

Examination of Robert E. Murray, engineer of the theater, 
and through that fact, the man in charge of its machinery and 
mechanical equipment, revealed in a startling way the absolute 
unpreparation for fire or emergency that characterized the pa- 
latial opera house. Coroner, jury and spectators alike were 
stirred by the confession of absolute disregard for life evinced 
by the management and the certainty that no thought had been 
given to the possibility of a fire. 

The entire fire equipment of the Iroquois as described by 
Murray consisted of two kilfyre tubes on the stage and one be- 
low the stage; a two inch stand pipe on the stage, two under 
the stage, and one near the coatroom in the front of the house. 
Only one of these, that in the front of the house, was equipped 
with hose. The kilfyre tubes were two inches in diameter and 
eighteen inches long. Incidentally Murray said that the fer- 
rule along the bottom of the "asbestos" curtain was of wood, 
and not iron. 

Questions and answers touching on these conditions, as 
given under oath, follow: 

Q. Do you know whether the employees of the theater were 
at any time instructed by anybody to use these kilfyres or hose 
in case of fire ? 

A. No, sir. 

Q. Was there anything on the reel of hose in the coatroom 
to indicate what it was there for ? 

271 



272 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER, 

A. No, there was no sign en it. 

Q. Was there anything there to tell you or anybody else 
how to use the hose in case of fire? 

A. No, sir. The hose was on the reel and all you would 
have to do 

Q. Never mind what you would have to do. Was there 
anything- there for anybody to know what to do? 

A. No, sir. 

The witness testified that when he reached the stage after 
attending to his engines, the "asbestos" curtain was caught 
part way down. 

O. No signs saying "Exits" or "This way out" or any- 
thing? 

A. No, sir. 

Q. Any fire alarm boxes that you know of in case of fire ? 

A. No, sir. 

Q. No bells to ring in case of fire? 

A. No. 

Q. No appliance to call the fire department in case of fire? 

A. No, not that I know of. 

O. What would you have to do in case of a fire, go out 
in the street for a fire alarm or fire box? 

A. If I could not put it out I would run to the box or to the 
telephone. 

Q. Do you know where the wires were that worked the 
ventilators, where they were located? 

A. On the north side of the stage, on the proscenium wall. 

Q. Who had charge of working them? 

A. The people on the stage. 

O. What do you know about the skylights, how were they 
opened ? 

A. I never noticed, 




HABEY J. POWEES, 
One of the Theater Managers Arrested for Manslaughter. 




MONEOE FTJLKERSON, 
Attorney for the Fire Department. 




EDDIE FOY, 
Leading Actor, who told the audience to go out slowly. 




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WILL J. DAVIS, 
One of the Theater Managers Arrested for Manslaughter. 



1ROQUO1S THEATER DISASTER 289 

A UNIVERSITY STUDENT'S STORY. 

Equally damaging testimony was given by Fred H. Rea, ' 
3231 South Park avenue, a student at the Northwestern Uni- 
versity Dental School. After telling of the scenes when "death 
alley" was bridged by planks and laddeis thrust from the school 
windows he told of the death jam on the fire escapes. 

Rea's story was one of the most graphic told which narrated 
the horrors of Death's Alley, and the narrow escape of those 
who were fortunate enough to be rushed over the planks 
thrown to them from the University building. It was not only 
a story, but an additional evidence of the total lack of prepara* 
tion for the meeting of just such an emergency. 

"At the time the fire broke out I was in the Northwestern 
University building on the third floor in the law school," he 
said. "I heard something that sounded like an explosion and 
all the students present immediately ran to the lecture Foom. 
There we met some painters who were repairing the ceiling in 
the corridor. They joined us, bringing with them three planks 
and ladders. These planks we placed from the back window j 
of the lecture room across to the upper landing of the gallery. 
One ladder was placed across from the fire escape of the lec- 
ture room to the second landing. Across the ladder, I think, 
only one person came, as the flames from the exit were so hot 
that nobody could reach it. 

"Fourteen or fifteen persons came across the plank, and all 
but three or four were badly burned. I saw at least three per- 
sons try to pass down the fire escape from the top landing, but 
they were unable to do so, because at the second landing from 
the top the doors were not swung clear back against the wall. 
The doors were at right angles to the wall, and through the 
exit smoke was pouring and part of the time flames Several 



290 IROOUO1S THEATER DISASTER. 

people^on the tipper landing- deliberately climbed over the rail- 
ing and dropped to the alley below. 

"I saw one woman drop and strike a ladder which was 
placed to the fire escape and bound off into the alley. A man 
climbed out over and was clinging by his hands, when one of 
the firemen came up from below and held him until a ladder 
could be run up. A number of people who fell in the jam on 
the exit burned right there before our eyes. We could see their 
clothes on fire. That was on the landing of the fire escape, 
partly in and partly out of the exit." 

A CLERGYMAN'S STORY. 

The Rev. Albertus Perry, 5940 Princeton avenue, Chicago, 
was passing the theater when the panic started. He ran into 
the vestibule and thence into the foyer, where he saw men 
breaking open the doors. He remained but a short time, and 
left, overcome by the terrible sight. 

'The great marble hall was filled with madmen and hysteri- 
cal women fleeing for life," he declared. "The doors, of which 
there appeared to be several sets, were lockd against them 
with the exception of the center door of each set. Men were 
beating against the steel and glass barriers and women crowded 
with the desperation of death stamped upon their faces. Smoke 
was puffing out, filling the beautiful foyer and telling in awful 
eloquence of the triumph of death further in. I could do noth- 
ing to relieve the situation for there was nothing within the 
power of mortal man to do to stop the horror. So I left, over- 
come by the terrible sight that had met my eyes." 

THE FLY MAN'S STORY. 

Charles Sweeney, 186 North Morgan street, Chicago, "fly 

man" on first flying gallery, nearest point where the fire started : 

"In the second act, in the Tale Moonlight' scene, I wa? 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 291 

sitting on a bench, and there were two or three more of the 
boys. About ten feet from the front of the fly gallery I saw a 
bright light. The other boys saw it, I guess, at the same time 
and we ran over there. I saw a small blaze on one of the 
borders. I don't know exactly which one. I hallooed across 
the stage to Joe Dougherty. He was the man taking Sey- 
mour's place. Seymour was sick. I said, 'Down with the as- 
bestos curtain.' Smithey and I got tarpaulins and we slapped 
the flame with them. We did the best we could and then it 
got out of our reach. It went right along the border toward 
the center. Then it burned and one end of it fell down, bent 
like. Then it blazed all over and I saw there was no possibil- 
ity of doing anything. I ran upstairs to the sixth floor and 
hallooed to the girls. I led them down in front of me, and I 
kept telling them to be careful and not to have a stampede or 
anything of that kind, and then I came down and went outside 
the building." 

SCHOOL TEACHER'S THRILLING EXPERIENCE. 

Alice Kilroy, 67 Oregon avenue, Chicago, a Chicago school 
teacher : 

"During the performance I stood in the upper balcony, 
right near the alley ; a few feet from the top exit south, about 
the third or fourth seat from the end. I stood right back of 
that. When the fire first began we thought it was part of the 
performance and my sister said to me, very calmly, 'Even if 
there is no fire, let us go out in the exit.' We knew this was 
an exit because we had seen it opened. An usher had been out 
and we stepped out there. 

"As soon as we stepped out the heat was intense and we saw 
we could not go down the steps, so we stood there on the 
platform of the fire escape. I tried to get in the theater again, 
but the people were rushing out and I could not go against the 



292 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

mob. I saw that the mob was trying 1 to get out of the exit, 
and so I had to stand right where I was. We stood 
there it seemed to me, about six minutes, and we knew we 
were burning, and there wasn't anything to do but to 
stay there. We couldn't go any other place. After a 
few minutes some water fell on us. I did not see very much 
because I held a collarette up to my face to protect it from the 
hot air, which was unutterably awful. When the water came 
that kind of refreshed us and dampened the fire so we could 
stand up for a few minutes longer, and then a plank was nut 
from the opposite building and we went over the plank and es- 
caped to the Northwestern University building. The crowd 
behind us that had been fighting and pushing so hard seemed 
to die away and collapse all in an instant. The scrambling 
and pushing ceased. This crowd was at the entrance to the 
door. Something happened to them and they did not have any 
life, because they did not push when I turned back. When I 
first started to go in when I turned back there was lots of 
life, then I turned and faced them, the mob going out, because 
it was so hot out there I thought I could go back in the theater. 
Part of them fell on the floor and part outside on the fire escape 
platform. I think I was the last to escape alive over the planks 
across the alley. I was terribly burned; you can see by the 
bandages that I don't dare to take off yet." 

GLEN VIEW MAN'S EXPERIENCE. 

Walter Flentye, Glen View : 

"I occupied seat 7 in section R, handy to the entrance. I 
think it was about half-past 3, while that octet was singing 
there in the pale moonlight, that I just noticed a kind of a 
hesitation on the part of the octet, and pretty soon I saw a few 
sparks begin to come down about the size of those from a ro- 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 293 

man candle. They were coming down from the upper left 
hand corner of the stage, and pretty soon the fire began to grow 
more and more, and I should say that pieces of burning rags 
dropped down of different sizes. About that time Eddie Foy 
came out and tried to calm the audience. I don't just exactly 
remember what he said, and I kept my seat. I had no idea 
that there was to be anything of that kind ; that the fire was 
to be as large as it was, and the audience down below were go- 
ing out. I had a friend beside me that left. I don't remem- 
ber just what I said to him. He said he was going 
and he went out and a little later I got up, and, without 
any trouble, went through the door, and I went immediately 
to the check room. I had checked a valise and umbrella, and 
at that time I had no idea of any such a fire as that. So I 
thought I had plenty of time and I took my valise and umbrella 
and set them on a settee to the left of the foyer and put on my 
overcoat and hat. 

"When I first came out I noticed that there were a lot of 
women that were almost frenzied by the excitement and they 
were around toward the entrance, and I noticed one man car- 
rying a woman. That was while I was going to the checkroom, 
and after I had put on my coat I looked and there were two 
women and a man that went to the door to look in, and I kind 
of thought the woman might rush in, so I said, 'Don't go back, 
it is too late now.' And they all turned around and I lookefl 
once more and by that time it looked as though there was a 
mass of fire belched out, and I remember seeing it catch the 
front seats, and after I went out and walked across the street 
and I talked to a policeman who stood in front of Vaughn's 
store and by that time about eight or ten policemen came 
along from down Randolph street, and shortly after the fire- 
men came. Then for the first time I realized what a terrible 



294 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

thing I had escaped and the true horror of the situation un- 
folded itself;' 



THE LIGHT OPERATOR. 

William Wertz, 12024 Union avenue, West Pullman, 111. : 
"I was operating a light on the rear part of the stage on the 
afternoon of the fire. I noticed that the actors, eight boys, 
were looking up toward the right hand of their places, and as 
soon as they did that I stepped back one or two feet, still hold- 
ing my lamp in sight so as to attend to it should it go down. 
I looked toward the place that the people had gazed and I no- 
ticed a small blaze there upon a little platform used for throw- 
ing a light on the front of the stage. As I looked there I saw 
the fireman of the house, who was back on the stage, running 
forward hallooing, 'Lower down the curtain !' and climb up to 
the little platform. He had either taken a tube of kilfyre in 
his hand or there was one up there, as I very distinctly saw him 
sprinkle it on the fire. Then the man took his hands and tried 
to tear down the blazing pieces of scenery. 

"Then I saw one drop after another go into the flame. I 
saw a lot of people running up to that point of the fire, others 

r 

from the balcony dressing rooms come running down, and on 
the side of me, or close to the door were several girls becoming 
hysterical, excited. That was at the stage door opening onto a 
little bridge-like platform leading to Dearborn street. I went 
up to the girls and said, 'Come on, girls, get out of here as soon 
as possible.' I took one by the arm and put her out. 

"When I came out there the girls started to run forward, 
and I went in again, because I was in my shirt sleeves and I 
wanted to take my coat and save what goods I had. As soon 
as I entered the stage again I heard a lot of noise and crying 
and calling and I went forward to that point and succeeded 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 295 

in pulling some more of the young ladies out. Then when I 
got on the little bridge leading from the stage to Dearborn 
street, I noticed that the whole scenery was in a blaze, that it 
was falling down and I tried to get in again, but through the 
enormous heat, and I believe that the city fire people just had 
arrived there with the hose and pulled me back so I couldn't 
get in there any more. 

"I know there was an asbestos curtain in the theater and 
that it was used. During the time I have been connected with 
different theaters through the country I have always looked up 
to the curtains, and often put my hands on them. What was 
called by employees in the house the asbestos curtain, and also 
in several theaters in Chicago, has written on it, 'asbestos cur- 
tain.' When I entered this house on several occasions before 
the show I saw this particular curtain hanging there, a dirty 
white color, and on one or two occasions, in passing by, I 
pushed my hand against it and it felt to me exactly like other 
curtains hanging in Chicago, and on which 'asbestos' is written. 
One, for instance, in the Grand opera house, has written on it 
'asbestos/ and is the same color in the back and has the same 
feeling when you put your hands on it as this one in the Iro- 
qucis theater. 

"It was that curtain Sailers, the house fireman, was shouting 
for when I heard him. The fireman said, 'Down with that cur- 
tain,' and the other voice, which I thought was Mr. Carleton's, 
the stage manager, said, 'For God's sake lower that curtain.' 
Several other voices hallooed out, 'What is the matter with the 
curtain ? Down with the curtain/ But it didn't fall and the 
holocaust followed." 



296 IROOUO1S THEATER DISASTER, 

x 

THE JAMMED THEATER. 

The unlawful and deadly crowded condition of the theater 
at the time of the fire was emphasized by the testimony of Ru- 
pert D. Laughlin, 1505 Wrightwood avenue, who, although he 
reached the theater before the curtain went up, found the spaces 
behind the seats crowded and people sitting on the steps in the 
aisles. Laughlin and Miss Lucy Lucas, his niece, had seats in 
the second balcony, or gallery. 

"We went into the theater about ten minutes before the or- 
chestra come out and had some difficulty in getting into our 
seats," he said, "on account of the people standing in the aisles 
and at the back. The people were sitting on the steps. 

"The steps were very steep and people occupied them quite a 
way down. They had to rise and stand aside to let us make our 
way to our seats. There was a man and a woman sitting on the 
step right beside our seats. At the end of the first act I went 
out to the foyer. I had considerable difficulty getting out. 
There was a great deal larger crowd in the aisles and sitting 
on the steps than there was when we came down n*rjt. They 
were strung along the aisle and there were a great many women 
on the steps. I went out and walked around for a while and 
then came back and took my seat. I had to make the women 
get up as I was coming down the aisle again. 

"When the fire started I went right to the first exit and out 
on the fire escape platform. When I got to the door there were 
flames and a great deal of smoke coming out from a window 
that was near there, and we couldn't go out at that time, so 
we waited for a few seconds, and the fire died down. Then 
we went down the fire escape to the alley. 

"Many other people escaped by the same means before us^ 
at least I should judge there was, because we saw a number of 
hats and furs and things of that sort on the steps. There wasn't 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 297 

anybody coming down in back or in front of us while we were 
going down.'* 

GAS EXPLOSION HOURS BEFORE THE FIRE. 

That the explosion of a gas tank came near destroying the 
Iroquois theater a few hours previous to the performance on 
the opening night, about a month before, was testified to by 
John Bickles, 6711 Rhodes avenue. According to Bickles, a 
gas tank under the stage exploded with such force that flames 
shot over an eight-foot partition. It was only after a hard 
fight on the part of employes of the theater and the fact that 
there was little inflammable material near the fire that the 
flames were subdued. Bickles stated that he did not know what 
sort of a. gas tank exploded, as he did not inquire of the other 
employees. At the time he was standing in a room opposite 
the one in which the gas tank exploded. 

"The flames leaped over an eight-foot partition, but did not 
burn me," said Bickles. "I went on to the stage soon after the 
explosion and the next day was discharged by the George A. 
Fuller company, builders of the theater, by whom I was em- 
ployed as a carpenter. There was no work was the reason. 
There were a number of actresses and sewing women in the 
theater at the time of the explosion. The first performance 
was to be given that evening and everybody was making ready. 
I was the person who fixed the wall plates for the skylights, 
but I never saw them after they were finished." 

From Bickles' testimony it seemed the George A. Fuller 
company had kept a number of its men in the theater after it 
was occupied by the Iroquois Theater company. They were 
completing unfinished details. The fact of the fire, he said, 
was hushed up. 



298 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

PANIC AMONG THEATER EMPLOYEES. 

Gilbert McLean, a scene shifter, at work on the stage when 
the fire started, told of the failure of the fire extinguisher to 
put out the blaze, and declared that the failure of the fire cur- 
tain to drop was due to a misunderstanding among the men in 
the flies who were supposed to operate it. Then men appeared 
not to know what was wanted and lost priceless time hesitating. 
McLean's story would indicate that the stage employees ran 
away long before the audience knew that there was danger. 
Speaking of the efforts of the stage fireman to put out the 
blaze soon after it started in the grand drapery, McLean said : 

"If the extinguisher had been effective he could not have 
reached the fire at that time, though the part he did reach did 
not seem to be affected at all. Then there was a commotion, 
everybody was running back and forth, and I yelled as loud 
as I could to send the curtain. I saw the men did not under- 
stand the signal; they were signaling from the first entrance 
then by a bell. I could hear the bell ringing and I could see 
the fly men, as they called them, and saw they didn't under- 
stand. I yelled as loud as I could and they did not seem to 
understand me or to know why the curtain should be sent at 
that time, as it was not the regular time for the curtain. t 

"Well, the fire kept making headway towards the back of 
the stage. It spread rapidly right straight back. There seemed 
to have been a draft from the front of the theater. The show 
people started to go out fast, coming from the basement 
and from the stage and leaving the stage by the regular 
stage entrance. Somebody hallooed, 'She is gone. Everybody 
run for your lives.' I went towards the rear door then and 
made my way out as best I could. 

"There had never been any fire drill on the stage so far as 
I know and I never heard any fire instructions. Many were 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 299 

out before I left and I guess all the stage people got out some 
way or another. It was every man for himself then." 

i 

AN EX-USHER'S WORDS. 

Willard Sayles, 382 North avenue, Chicago: "I was for- 
merly an usher at the Iroquois theater. During my period of 
employment the fire escape exits at the alley side of the house 
were always kept locked. There was one exception. The opening 
night Mr. Dusenberry, the head usher, had me open the inner 
set, the wooden doors that concealed the big outside iron ones. 
The people on the aisle were complaining that it was too warm. 
He gave orders to the director and myself to open the wooden 
inner doors to the auditorium. Later on Mr. Davis came up 
and told me to close them and not to open them unless I got 
instructions from him. That was the only time I got insruc- 
tions from either one of them. We had not got instructions 
as to what doors we were to attend to in case of fire. The only 
time we got instructions was the Sunday before the house 
opened; Mr. Dusenberry called us all down there and told us 
to get familiar with the house. There was no fire drill or any- 
thing of that kind." 



CHAPTER XXI. 

IRON GATES, DEATH'S ALLY. 

That two iron gates, securely padlocked, across stairways 
in the Randolph street entrance, held scores of women and chil- 
dren as prisoners of death at the Iroquois theater fire horror, 
was the startling- evidence secured on Saturday, Jan. 9, ten 
days after the holocaust by Fire Department Attorney Monroe 
Fulkerson. 

In a statement under oath George M. Dusenberry, superin- 
tendent of the auditorium of the playhouse, admitted that 
these gates had remained locked against the frantic crowds 
through all the terrible rush to escape. Against these, bodies 
were piled high in death of those who might have gained the 
open air had they not been penned in by the immovable bars. 

Not until the sworn statement had been secured from Dusen- 
berry were the investigators brought to a full realization of the 
horrors of the imprisoned victims. 

These deadly iron gates, four to five feet high, according to 
Dusenberry's testimony, were quietly removed after the fire. 
One of the gates was at the landing of the dress circle. The 
other was on the stairway which led from the dress circle en- . 
trance to the landing above. At the Randolph street entrance 
were two grand staircases. Passage down one of these stair- 
cases was shut off completely by the iron gates. 

According to Dusenberry, the gates were locked with a pad- 
lock, requiring a key to open them. It was the custom to open 
these gates after the intermission at the close of the second act, 

300 



1ROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER, 301 

so as to give the people -an unobstructed passageway for leav- 
ing the house at the close of the play. 

The exact condition made by the locked gates and the ex- 
tent to which they contributed to the immense loss of life may 
be realized by Dusenberry's sworn testimony in detail on this 
. point. 

DUSENBERRY'S TESTIMONY. 

It was as follows: 

Q. Do you recall an inspection which I made of the stair- 
way of the second floor of that theater the next day after the 
fire? A. Yes, sir. 

Q. And showed you two iron gates that folded up like an 
accordion? A. Yes, sir. 

Q. Please state whether or not these two gates were locked 
at the time of the fire. A. Yes, sir. 

Q. State where the lower one was located. A. At the 
landing of the dress circle. 

Q. And do I understand that one side of it was solidly 
hinged with an iron rod and that the other side of the gate 
was fastened by a chain locked by a padlock? A. A small 
lock. 

Q. The lock required a key to open it? A. Yes, sir; a small 
key. 

Q. How high was this gate? A. I should think four or 
five feet. 

Q. And was I correct in saying it folded up like an accordion 
when not in use? A. Yes, sir. 

Q. Where was the other one located ? A. On the stairway 
which led from the dress circle entrance up to the landing 
above. 

Q. And was it secured and locked in the same manner as 
the other gate? A. Yes, sir. 



302 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

PURPOSE OF THE TWO GATES. 

Q. Consider the first one; what was its function? A. In 
order that we could have system in handling the house. 

Q. Yes ; but what was it used for ? A. When people were 
going upstairs that gate simply turned them for the balcony 
stairway. 

Q. You are talking about the lower gate? A. Yes, sir. 

Q. So, by reason of this gate, when the people started out 
they could have only one direction in which to leave, instead 
of two, as would be the case if no gate were there ? A. Yes, 
sir. 

Q. Let us consider the other gate ; what was it for ? A. To 
keep the people from going down into the dress circle, and to 
keep them on the regular stairway for the balcony. 

Q. I believe you told me that you locked these gates your- 
self just before this matinee began ? A. Yes, sir. 

Q. That is correct, is it? A. Yes, sir. 

Q. Did you ever say anything to Mr. Noonan or Mr. Pow- 
ers or Mr. Davis as to the importance of having men stationed 
there, instead of a gate, sd that in case of fire this would not 
be an obstruction? A. No, sir; they were always unlocked 
after the second intermission. 

Q. In what act was that ? A. At the close of the second 
act they would be always unlocked. They were exits. 

Q. At the time this fire began and people started out, were 
they still locked or unlocked? A. They were locked. 

NEVER ANY FIRE DRILLS. 

Dusenberry admitted that at the time of the fire's outbreak 
he was descending from the top balcony after having made an 
inspection of the entire house. This was his custom, to see 
that the ushers w r ere in their places. He said that 100 persons 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

were standing in the passageway back of the last row of seats 
on the first floor and about twenty-five persons occupied stand- 
ing room in the rear of the first balcony, and seventy-five in 
the rear of the top balcony. 

He admitted that he had never received any instructions 
from any of the owners or managers of the theater as to what 
to do in case of fire. He said that he had been told in a general 
way by Will J. Davis that he was to instruct the boys in their 
duties as ushers and make them familiar with the house. 

There had never been any fire drills, he said. He did not 
know, he said, from what point or in what manner the large 
cyclindrical ventilator over the auditorium was worked. It 
was because this ventilator was open and those above the stage 
closed that the fire was drawn into the front of the house. He 
said the nine exits on the north side, three of which were on 
each floor, were all bolted at the time of the fire ; also that the 
nine pairs of iron shutters outside the inner doors were bolted 
at the time, and that he had never received orders from any one 
to have these unbolted while the audience was in the house. 

GATES WERE BATTERED. 

"I found these gates in a battered condition by personal in- 
spection, the next morning after the fire/' Fire Department 
Attorney Fulkerson added. "I hunted up Mr. Dusenberry 
and took him to the place and examined him on the spot as 
to each minute detail. The examination was with reference 
to their being locked, and as to why a man had not been sta- 
tioned there, in glace of a gate, to direct the peopje. 

"I called two policemen as witnesses. The reason I have 
kept this matter secret until now was the fact that this is the 
first day I have had an opportunity of examining Mr. Dusen- 



304 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER, 

berry under oath and taking his statements in shorthand to be 
used in any proceeding that may follow. 
' "The importance of his testimony is that he is the man the 
theater management had put in direct control of the audience 
and auditorium, and the facts which he has testified to speak 
for themselves. Let the public draw its own conclusions. 

"I wish to say, however, with reference to those iron gates 
that they are no part of the building or the stairway as turned 
over by the builders and were not a part of the plans of the 
same, but a feature installed by the management after the stair- 
ways were finished and accepted, and no permit was obtained 
from the city building department to place the gates there. 
They proved to be the gates of death. Until this time they 
have been overlooked in the general investigation and silence 
has been maintained by the fire department for the purpose of 
clinching the evidence concerning them. This was rendered 
necessary through the fact that those best qualified to tell of 
their danger gave up their lives in acquiring that knowledge. 
They were gathered from behind the deadly barriers and now 
lie in eternal silence beyond the re*ach of all earthly summonses 
and the jurisdiction of our tribunals." 

Ernest Stern, 3423 South Park avenue, Chicago: 

"There was nothing left in the playhouse but standing room 
when my sister and I arrived, so we bought tickets according 
that privilege and took up a position in the middle of the first 
balcony. We were standing there when we saw the first evi- 
dence of fire and at once ran out. We owe our lives to that 
fact. 

"It was about the middle of the second act when I noticed 
the blaze on the upper left-hand corner of the stage. Those on 
the stage seemed to be in semi-panic. The people didn't know 
what to do. Then there seemed to be somebody giving direc- 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 305 

tions for them to put down the curtains after a burning piece 
of scenery or something fell on the stage. A man came out 
and gave instructions for them to pull down the curtain and 
after that we went out the door, downstairs and came to a door 
on the left hand side in the foyer, facing the street, and in the 
inner vestibule. There was a man there. He was not in uni- 
form. He was trying to open the door, which was locked. 
There was a pair two doors and one of them was open and 
a great crowd was going out. This man was trying to unlock 
the other door and he could not do it. I broke the glass, and 
that wouldn't do either, so I kicked the whole door out and we 
escaped." 

DIDN'T BOTHER ABOUT LOCKED DOORS. 

That the foyer doors, which the van of the fleeing audience 
found closed, were locked during the performance was the 
statement of Harry Weisselbach of Chicago. He was at the 
ticket office in the outer vestibule off Randolph street, some time 
before the fire and saw two men in an argument regarding the 
doors. They were coming out of the theater. 

"That's a mean trick, to lock the doors so people can't get 
out," said one of the men. "They have locked the doors again," 
he continued, looking back a{ the door man. "I wonder if 
there is a policeman around here." 

The man's companion replied that he wasn't going to bother 
about the matter and the two left the theater. Weisselbach 
went around to the Northwestern University school and was 
there only a short time when the fire in the theater started. His 
story of the fire from that viewpoint was similar to that told 
by Witness Fred H. Rea. 



CHAPTER XXII. 



DANCED IN PRESENCE OF DEATH. 

Heroes and heroines every one of them the members ot 
the octette told the coroner how they sang and danced to re- 
assure the vast audience of women and children while death 
lowered overhead and swept through the scene loft, a chariot 
of flame. Modestly they revealed the part they played in the 
catastrophe while billows of flame, death's red banners, men- 
aced their lives. 

Madeline Dupont, 145 Franklin avenue, New York: 
"I first saw just a little bit of flame, which was on the right 
hand side' of the first entrance on the west, the first drop of the 
curtain. It was just above the lamp that was reflecting on 
the moonlight girls. It was a calcium light. I went back and 
got in my place with the pale moonlight girls and the boys 
came out and sang their lines. Then we eight girls went on the 
stage as we always did went down to the front of the stage 
and going down stage I saw the flame getting larger. Mr. 
Plunkett, the assistant stage manager, was in the entrance, 
ringing for the asbestos curtain to come down. He rang the 
bell until we reached the front of the stage, where we went on 
singing. We sang one verse of 'The Pale Moonlight* song, 
and then Mr. Foy came out and spoke to the audience. What 
he said I don't know, and then Miss Williams fainted. She 
was one of the 'pale moonlight' girls, and stood alongside of 
me. She was taken out, and then Miss Lawrence and myself 
were the last girls to leave the stage. I went downstairs to 

306 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 307 

notify the girls down in the basement in the dressing rooms. 
I called to them that there was a fire, and advised them to run 
for their lives. Nobody was coming up then. Then I went out 
of the regular stage door entrance." 

Ethel Wynne, New York City: 

"When I was about to make my exit I noticed a very small 
flame to the right of the stage at the first entrance. It was 
really above the short fellow a little gentleman, rather who 
stands on the bridge. This flame was above his head. When 
he noticed it he put both hands up to get the burning material 
just grabbed up to get the material that was burning. But 
the flame was away beyond his reach. 

"The calcium light is below that, and it appeared to me as 
though it was the side of the curtain where the curtains are 
drawn up, or something. The flames spread very rapidly. I 
remember seeing Mr. Plunkett very plainly in the first entrance 
and hearing bells ringing for the curtain to fall. I said to 
Miss Dupont and Miss Williams, 'The curtain will fall in the 
meantime, the bells have rung.' We went to the back to make 
our entrance and the bell still continued to ring. I remember 
very plainly that I heard some one yell, 'Drop the curtain.' 

"I noticed clearly that the curtain was caught, and it must 
have been on our left. It came down on the right hand side. 
The flames were going up very rapidly. I very foolishly lost 
my reason and walked back to the back steps, where I had made 
my entrance. From there I unfortunately had to watch the 
awful sights that we know of. I don't know to this hour how 
I got out of the burning theater." 

Gertrude Lawrence, 5 West I25th street, New York: 

"I was the leader of the octet, and I was on the platform 
going to meet my partner when I first saw the flame. I went 
on working as usual, down to the front, and paid no more at- 



308 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

tention to it because I thought it would soon be out. It was 
on the right hand side of the stage, above the stage. I noticed 
there was quite an excitement on the other side, but I went 
on working. I thought if there was an awful fire there would 
be a panic, and I thought by working I would quiet the people. 
Then I turned and saw the flames and went up the steps, there 
looking back and seeing the audience in the awful panic. Then 
I went out the usual stage door." 

Daisy Beaute, 178 West 94th street, New York: 
"I was standing in the third wing ready to go on, and I saw 
a flame on the left hand side, facing the audience, from the 
draperies above the first entrance on my right hand side. It 
was in the draperies clear at the top of the arch in the stage 
opening. We kept on dancing, but Miss Williams fainted. 
I ran for my life without waiting to see anything more." 

Miss Edith Williams, the member of the octet who fainted 
on the stage, swooned again soon after she took the witness 
stand. Deputy Coroner Buckley had just administered the 
oath and asked the young woman to be seated, when she fell 
backwards. The fall was broken by a stenographer, and the 
woman saved from serious injury. She was assisted to the 
witness room and revived. Another witness was called. 

Miss Anna Brand, another member of the octet, testified 
to the facts similar to those related by Miss Dupontjtand Miss 
Wynne, Miss Lawrence, Miss Beaute, Miss Richards and Miss 
Romaine, the remaining members testifying in a similar strain. 
None admitted knowing -wha opened the rear stage door lead- 
ing to Dearborn street, the door through which came the cold 
blast that forced the fire into the auditorium. 

"Jack" Strause, 31 West nth street, New York: 
"The octet had just made its entrance, walked four steps 
and danced eight, bringing the members to the center of the 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 309 

\ 

stage, when lj discovered the fire overhead at the side of the 
proscenium arch. My partner in the scene, a young woman, 
cried out that she was fainting. She braced up, however, did 
a few more steps and collapsed. As I stooped to pick her up I 
saw the curtain fall possibly six or seven feet. From that 
time on I observed nothing more of the progress of the fire, 
being engrossed in an effort to carry out the unconscious young 
woman. Upon reaching the big scene door at the north of the 
stage, a strong blast of air blew us both into the alley. The 
rush of air was occasioned by the falling of a partition behind 
me, I think. I carried the girl into a neighboring restaurant, 
where she revived." 

Samuel Bell (Beverly Mars) : 

"We saw the fire start about the time we made our entrance, 
but continued with our 'turn/ reaching the center of the stage. 
The fire was spreading and large sparks and fragments of burn- 
ing material were falling, but we kept on until Miss Williams 
fainted. I saw the people in front commence to get excited 
and I put up my hands and told the people to keep as quiet 
and move out as easily as they could and not to get excited. 
I looked up again and I saw the drop curtain coming down. 
I should call it the asbestos curtain. It came down, as near as 
I could judge, about six or eight feet. Then I turned to look 
for my partner and she had gone. I looked on the stage to see 
her and I could not find her. She had gone off the stage. I 
merely went off the stage, out of the same side I had entered ( 
I could not say exactly which entrance and then out of the 
stage door, which was wide open." 

Victor Lozard, 235 Bower street, Jersey City: 

"I was coming out with the boys, eight of us, at the right 
side. We came up and met our partners and we got down as 
far front as the footlights, when Miss Williams fainted, which 



310 I ROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

v 

attracted my attention to some flames up at the first entrance 
on the right side. I then immediately turned around and 
helped pick Miss Williams up, and by that time my partner had 
left me, and I left the stage on the right side. I went up and 
was going to leave by the stage door, but people were going 
out there, and so I went over to the back drop, to the right 
of the stage, and there, about the middle of the stage, I was 
blown down or knocked down, I don't know what happened to 
me, and the next I knew of myself I was out in the alley. I 
don't know how I got there." 

John J. Russell, Boston, Mass. : 

"I had taken the first twelve steps of the dance when I first 
noticed the fire. It was in the first entrance, prompt side, about 
fifteen feet above the stage. The flame then was about five 
inches in length. 

"I noticed that for about a second. I continued on with the 
rest of the business, and me and my partner, as I always had 
done in that number, went down to the footlights. When we 
got there we continued in the business for about three or four 
seconds after getting down. Then Miss Williams fainted. 
The flames were falling to the stage, large pieces of burning 
material, and seemed to create quite a little disturbance among 
the people in the audience. I spoke to a number and tried to 
quiet them. 

"I told them to be seated, that everything would be all right, 
and to quiet down, and quite a number did. After Miss Wil- 
liams fainted it attracted my attention, of course, to what was 
going on on the stage. I saw one of the moonlight boys pick 
Miss Williams up in his arms and go toward the stage en- 
trance, other members of the octet following, except myself. 
I staid until they were out of sight. I left the stage by the sec- 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 311 

oncl entrance on the prompt side. I went down stairs by the 
stairway beside the stage elevator. 

"I came back on the stage again, made one more trip down 
stairs, and then I came to the stage once more. I went partly 
up stage, toward the stage entrance, that was all in flames. I 
looked to the other side of the stage and that was all in flames. 
I went down to the footlights, crossing again across the stage, 
and jumped over the footlights into the auditorium and made 
my way out to the first exit on my left, looking into the audi- 
torium from the stage, into the alley. The panic was on at 
that time and it was a dreadful sight." 

The statements of the remaining members were almost 
identical with those quoted. 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

JOIN TO AVENGE SLAUGHTER OF INNOCENTS. 

Ten days after the fire horror, while blood curdling dis- 
closures were coming to light revealing the fate of the penned- 
in fire victims in a new and more ghastly aspect, and while 
school officials and pupils gathered to express grief for the 
39 teachers and 102 pupils who were gathered in the grim har- 
vest, an inspired movement sprang from the aftermath of woe. 
It was a cry for justice. 

In an upper chamber in a towering sky-scraper in the heart 
of teeming, bustling Chicago, scores of sad visaged men and 
women assembled to lay aside their burden of woe and enter 
upon the prosecution of those whose avarice, neglect or incom- 
petency had snuffed out all happiness and sunshine from their 
lives. A preliminary organization of relatives of victims of 
the Iroquois theater fire was effected in consequence on Satur- 
day, January 9, for that purpose, at a meeting held in the of- 
fices of the Western Society of Engineers, in the Monadnock 
building. 

The meeting was held in response to a call sent out by Arthur 
E. Hull, asking that concerted action be taken by the relatives 
and survivors to cause the speedy prosecution and punishment 
of any who were criminally responsible for the disaster and to 
learn those financially liable for claims. Mr. Hull lost his wife 
and three children in the catastrophe. 

Long before 3 o'clock, the time set for the meeting, many 
fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and near relatives of vic- 

312 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 313 

tims began to gather. Nearly every seat was taken when the 
meeting was called to order. There were perhaps 125 people 
present, among whom over a hundred lost near and dear rela- 
tives in the fire. 

Attorney W. J. Lacey announced the object of the gathering 
by reading the call and suggested the formation of a temporary 
organization. Mr. Hull was elected chairman and Edward T. 
Noble secretary. 

MR. HULL'S STATEMENT. 

Mr. Hull spoke briefly of his reason foFcalling the meeting. 

"The last time I saw my wife and little ones," he said, "was 
on the morning of the fire. I did not iviiow until late in the 
evening that they had perished in the flames. There are many 
others who have suffered as deeply as I have, on account of this 
horror. There are some families/perhaps, whose means of sup- 
port have been wrested from them. There is suffering and sor- 
row throughout this great city. It is my desire that we work 
together in the effort to find out who the men are that are crim- 
inally and financially responsible for our terrible loss and bring 
them before the bar of justice. 

"It was the duty of the contractors who built the Iroquois 
theater to see that the building was complete in every detail be- 
fore turning it over to the management. This, in my opinion, 
establishes their responsibility. The architect may also be held 
responsible. 

"As to the building inspector, I think he should be prosecuted 
to the fullest extent of the law. It was his failure to hold the 
management to a strict adherence to the law that .brought about 
the destruction of nearly 600 precious lives. We have recourse 
to the courts of justice. Let us stand together and see that 
punishment is meted out to the guilty." 



3 I4 IROQCJOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

ATTORNEY T. D. KNIGHT SPEAKS. 

Chairman Hull then called for an expression from his attor- 
ney, Thomas D. Knight, who spoke as follows : 

"Mr. Hull's object in calling this meeting is to place the 
responsibility where it belongs, not upon the scene shifter and 
the stage hand, but upon men high in authority the manage- 
ment and owners of the theater. They are the men he regards 
as financially and criminally liable for the disaster that de- 
stroyed his family and families of many of those present here 
today. It was Mr. Hull who caused the arrest of Mr. Davis 
and Mr. Powers of the theater management, and Building 
Commissioner Williams. As Mr. Hull is so deeply affected 
by his loss he has requcoted me to state that it is his desire that 
a permanent organization be effected. 

"I believe an executive committee should be appointed to as- 
certain just what is best to be done and do it. I would sug- 
gest also the appointment of subcommittees on civil authority, 
permanent organization and finance. This last committee would 
be an important adjunct of this organization. It should be 
the aim of the finance committee to learn how many families 
are destitute as a result of the loss of their means of support 
in the fire and see that they are provided for. There are plenty 
of men of wealth in the city today who would gladly contribute 
to such a worthy cause. 

CORONER'S WORK THOROUGH. 

"As to the question of who are financially responsible the 
coroner's investigation has been thorough, careful and fair. 
The coroner's questioning has been competent and complete in 
every respect. It is probable that he will be able to determine 
just which men are to blame. Enough has been developed al- 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 315 

ready to prove that there was gross and culpable negligence on, 
the part of the proprietors of that theater. 

"As far as Klaw & Erlanger are concerned we have evi-\ 
dence connecting them already. The blaze that ignited the 
draperies and scenery was proved to have come from the 'spot' 
light, which was operated by an employee of the 'Mr. Blue- 
beard' company, which is owned by these men, who control the 
theatrical trust. If it can be shown that Mayor Harrison and 
other city officials by their negligence contributed to the loss, 
then they can also be held responsible. There is no doubt but 
that those who are liable can be attacked in the civil courts." 

REMARKS BY ELIZABETH HALEY. 

A general discussion followed, during which Miss Elizabeth 
Haley, residing at 419 Sixtieth place, arose and made some 
revelations in regard to the lack of fire protection in various 
public schools. She said : 

"I presume the gentleman who has just spoken is an attorney 
and I would like to ask him if the men who allowed such crimi- 
nal conditions to exist the mayor, aldermen and city trustees 
if they could not be held liable, both civilly and criminally ? 
I am a school teacher, and I would like to know if men who 
time after time have competely ignored reports about the abso- 
lute absence of fire protection in school buildings are not liable ? 

"To my personal knowledge reports have been made month 
after month to them, and nothing was ever heard of them. I 
know of schools where there is no fire hose, no fire extinguish- 
ers, no fire apparatus of any kind, no fire alarms, no telephones, 
no fire escapes not a thing that would enable the hundreds of 
children to save their lives in the event of a fire. And these 
buildings are locked at 9 o'clock, with only one exit left open. 
Are not the mayor, the aldermen, and the trustees directly re- 



316 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 



sponsible for this state of things, and are they not the men who 
should be prosecuted along with the proprietors of that thea- 
ter? 

"On November 2 last, the newspapers reported that a com- 
plaint had been made before the city council that the theaters 
were violating the laws. That report went to a subcommittee 
and has never been heard of since ; and a day or two later Mayor 
Harrison came out with a statement in which he defied criticism 
and declared that there was no truth in the complaints. The 
whole thing strikes me as a splendid lesson in civics that we 
cannot shirk our duty, even as high officials." 

The following committee, the majority residents of Chicago, 
was named to act, pending further action : J. L. McKenna, 758 
South Kedzie avenue; Henry M. Shabad, 4041 Indiana 
avenue; J. J. Reynolds, 421 East Forty-fifth street; E. S. Fra- 
zier, Aurora, 111 ; Morris Schaffner, 578 East Forty-fifth street. 

All of these men lost members of their families in the fire, 
Mr. McKenna losing his whole family. 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

AWFUL PROPHECY FULFILLED. 

More than a quarter of a century ago the prophecy was 
made by the Chicago Times that a terrible calamity was in 
store for the public on account of the lax provision made for 
escape from burning theaters. The prophecy was put forth 
in the guise of a pretended report of such a horror in the issue 
of that publication for February 13, 1875, and was as follows: 

"Scores of houses are saddened this beautiful winter morn- 
ing by the fate which overtook so many unsuspecting people 
in Chicago last night. The hearts of thousands will be stirred 
to their depths with sympathy for the unfortunates. It was a 
catastrophe awful in its results, yet grand in its horror. 
Nothing has equaled it for years; it is to be hoped that its 
counterpart will never be known. 

"There are smoking ruins down in the heart of the city- 
ruins of one of the finest theaters in Chicago, which fell a 
prey to the devouring element last night. There are mourning 
households and rows of dead bodies at the morgue. There will 
be anxious inquiries on the lips of many persons with whom 
one will meet manifesting an eagerness to know whether 
friends were swallowed up in the flames or made good their 
escape. 

"While it cannot be said that the catastrophe was entirely 
unexpected, yet it came so suddenly and so little had been 
done to obviate it, that its results are fearful to contemplate. 
For months the frequenters of the various places of amuse- 
ment in Chicago had often questioned themselves whether 

117 



318 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

there would not come the day when in some of these buildings 
grisly death would stalk forth, like a thief in the night, and 
lay his cold hands upon the unsuspecting throng; at last the 
terrible moment and the horrible reality dawned. 

"With all her experience in conflagrations and attendant 
horrors, Chicago has nothing to compare with this catastrophe. 
Even the fire of 1871, which swept over a vast extent of coun- 
try and reduced proud and formidable looking buildings and 
scattered their strength to the winds, lacked the comparative 
loss of life which this one disaster has entailed. Property may 
be dissipated, but it can be recovered once more. 

"Death robs us forever of our dear ones, and leaves a void 
which time can never fully fill. 

MOURNING AND INDIGNATION. 

"As we tread today upon the very heels of this latest sad 
event and take a comprehensive view of its details and results, 
no one, not even though he have no personal interest in the 
loss entailed, can help joining in the expression of mourning 
i which will go up, and at the same time give vent to the already 
too long-suppressed feelings of indignation, which have from 
time to time arisen when thinking of the flimsy manner in 
which theaters are built, their lack of protection against fire 
and the inadequate means afforded inmates to escape there- 
from in the event of an undue excitement that should spread 
a panic, ere the breaking out of a fire. 

"The sympathy for the dead will be equally balanced by 
vigorous denunciation of the criminality of everybody who, 
in an official or proprietary capacity, is interested therein. 

NOTHING ELSE SO HORRIBLE. 

"In the history of the country there are few events that can 
match this one. The burning of the Richmond theater, the 






IROOUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 319 

falling of the Pemberton mill, the burning of the cotton mill 
at Fall River, the breaking loose of the Haydenville mill pond, 
with now and then of late years the engulfing of some steamer 
on inland lakes or the ocean, have for the time cast a great pall 
of mourning over the land, but they only stand in the same 
category with this last disaster, and can hardly rival it in 
swiftness of culmination or suddenness of origin. 

"For the time being this will furnish the chief topic for con- 
versation, and if the Times mistakes not, it will as well arousa 
the public to a complete realization of the unsafeness of 
theaters in general, and have the beneficial effect even in its 
tragic nature of moving the people to insist upon the adoption 
of a certain amount of safeguards against a like event in the 
future. The time to move in this matter is at this critical 
juncture, even while the charred remains of the 

> UNFORTUNATE VICTIMS 

are lying stark upon their biers and friends are stabbed with 
the grief of the untimely taking off of their friends. 

"In the excitement of this hour it is no time to deal in sen- 
timental reflections. The scenes of the past night are too fresh 
to warrant lengthy dwelling upon the morale of the occur- 
rence. It is sufficient that it is distinctly understood that the 
catastrophe was more the result of insufficient means of egress 
from the theater than was the primary cause of the develop- 
ment of the fire, although the latter, aided by the first and 
helped on by the panic stricken people, who from the outset 
appreciated the terrible position in which they were placed, 
augmented to a large, degree the number of deaths. 

"Chicago theaters as a general thing are tinder boxes into 
which humanity are packed by avaricious managers without 
any regard to their safety or thought of the imminent risk 



320 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

which is nightly impending. Evidently their only desire is to 
fill the house, gather in as much money as possible, while they 
take no heed to the dangers which surround their patrons on 
every hand. 

"The lesson had to be taught some time, it was inevitable; 
it had to be located at some one of the places of amusement, 
although all of them were and those remaining are still 
liable to share the same fate at any moment. If the experi- 
ence of one should teach the others a little wisdom, the exist- 
ing evil may perhaps be remedied, although it shall have been 
at the sacrifice of human life. 

FIRE! FIRE! 

"The gallery was overflowing and the gate that opened to 
the stairway which led to the floor below, as usual, was locked, 
so that those who bought cheap tickets could not make their 
way to higher-priced sections on the lower floor. In the upper- 
most gallery where the 'gods' are supposed to assemble, and 
from which comes much of the inspiration which upholds 
the ambitious actor and transports the ranting comedian and 
raging tragedian to the seventh heaven of bliss in this gallery 
there was a motley crowd. 

"They were there in large numbers, because the play 
had something that savored of blood ; there was a broadsword 
combat and a murder scene. For reasons the very antitheses 
of these were the people downstairs drawn thither there were 
love scenes and heart-burnings and statuesque posings, and 
artistic excellencies of varied kinds. It was a play that touched 
the feelings of humanity, the vulgar as well as the refined. 

BEFORE THE DISASTER. 

"The auditorium was ablaze with light, the audience were lit 
up with gaiety. Handsome women, richly clad, ogled one 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 321 

another and cast coquettish glances at dashing gentlemen. 
Fond mothers, chaperoning blooming daughters, chatted 
pleasantly, while indulgent fathers, although seeking relief 
from the cares of the day in the charming play, found neigh- 
bors near at hand with whom to discuss sordid business or 
perplexing politics. 

THE HOLOCAUST. 

"As has been stated, the house was filled with spectators. 
When the premonition of the impending disaster had been 
given out, and after the first great thrill of horror had, for 
the instant, frozen the blood of every spectator and caused an 
involuntary check to every heart, there came quickly the mani- 
festation of a determination to 'do or die/ to escape from the 
angry flames if possible. And with this determination came 
the positive assurance of the growing calamity, through the 
person of one of the actors, who but a short time previous had 
been playing the buffoon, setting staid people agape with 
amusement and turning dull care into festivity. Hastily 
drawing the foot of the curtain back from the proscenium 
pillars, he thrust his blanched countenance into view and 
screamed with terrified voice: 

" 'Hurry to the door for your lives ; the stage is afire !' 

THE STAMPEDE BEGINS. 

"It hardly needed these words of warning to perfect the de- 
moralization which had seized upon the terrified crowd. The 
stampede had already commenced ; the work of death had been 
inaugurated. 

"Those who escaped, and with whom the Times reporter 
had the good fortune to talk, on last evening, say that the de- 
tail of the horrors of that scene would defy description. One 



322 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

or two of these informants were so far down in the dress 
circle that they saw the whole of the catastrophe and meas- 
ured its horrible magnitude as best they could under the ex- 
citement that prevailed. How they escaped is more than they 
could tell, but they found themselves borne along, lifted and 
pushed forward till the door was reached, and the outside and 
safety gained. They describe the scene inside the theater as 

ONE OF STUPENDOUS HORRORS. 

"The affrighted audience, rising from their seats, began 
simultaneously to attempt to reach the means of egress. Timid 
females raised their hands to heaven, shrieked wild, despairing 
cries and fell to be trampled into eternity by the heels of the 
wild rushing throng. Mothers pleaded piteously in the tumult 
and the roar that their darling daughters might be spared, while 
they themselves were resigned to the fate which was inevitable. 
Stout men with muscles of iron and cheeks blanched with 
terror clasped wives and sweethearts to their breasts and 

CURSED AND BLASPHEMED, 

and piteously prayed the one that their progress was im- 
peded, the other to those who, like them, prayed for a safe 
deliverance, but who were unable to afford the slightest assist- 
ance. 

"Meanwhile the flames had eaten their way to the front, 
and with one fell swoop licked up the combustible drop curtain, 
spread themselves across the proscenium and were working up 
towards the ceiling. Reaching this point the destroying ele- 
ment seemed to pause a moment as~though pitying the position 
of the puny individuals who were fleeing its approach, and then 
remorselessly swept down in forked fury and pierced venom. 
The terror-stricken crowd felt the hot breath of the monster 
and surged and swayed and tried to escape its fury. 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 323, 

DEAD BODIES FOUND. 

"The corpses recovered were, as has been before stated, taken 
;o the street, removed two blocks away from the scene of the 
disaster, and, for the time being, laid out upon the pavement, 
awaiting the recognition of friends. Fathers and mothers, who 
in the tumult of the stampede had become separated from 
children; husbands who, despite their efforts, had felt them- 
selves torn away from wives ; friends who had been 

SUDDENLY AND FOREVER PARTED 

from friends; young men, who, while they had no friends to 
lose in the building, yet felt themselves bereft by reason of the 
common sympathy of the human heart; all these had, during 
the time preceding the recovery of the bodies, rilled the streets 
and poured out their inconsolable grief in loudest tones. The 
Times reporter to whose lot fell the recording of the scenes 
depicted under this head hopes that it may never again be his 
to witness a repetition of the scene. The anguish, the frenzy, 
the loud wailings, the heart-broken demonstrations were, in- 
deed, overpowering and calculated to make an impression upon 
even the most stony heart that will last as long as reason holds 
its sway. 

THE FRENZY OF FRIENDS. 

"The silent bearers of these bodies, as they came and went, 
could not but be moved to tears at the reception which their 
burdens met. Here a charming girl, cut off in the flower of her 
youth and at the height of her pleasure; there a promising 
lad, full of hope but an hour before. Again, the silvered head 
of a loved mother, and soon the sturdy frame of one who had 
passed the heydey of youth and was beginning to enjoy the 
fruits of his youthful labors. There were people well known, 
whose sudden taking away will shock many a friend this 



324 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

morning; and there were others, too, male and female, who, 
lacking friends in life, found no mourners save the full heart 
of a sympathetic public to regret their departure. 

TOO HORRIBLE TO DWELL UPON. 

"But these scenes are too painful to be dwelt upon. One 
by one the dead were removed, some to near hotels, to await the 
coming dawn, when they might be taken to their late homes, 
and others being sent to the morgue by the police. At 2 
o'clock officers were still searching, and the populace who had 
been drawn together by the awful catastrophe had dispersed 
in the main, although a few still lingered about the ruins, 
anxious to offer assistance where it might most be needed, 
while two streams of water continued to be poured into the 
building that every spark might be extinguished. 

HOW THEATERS SHOULD BE BUILT. 
"Granting that the conflagration detailed never happened, 
it is something liable to occur at any time in this city. News- 
paper accounts more sensational in headlines and more shock- 
ing in narrative are to be expected almost any morning. The 
above is but a suggestion of what may at any time become a 
reality. Theaters are so built and so crammed with inflam- 
mable materials that a fire once started in them would in an 
incredibly short period gain such headway that nothing under 
heaven could check its mad and devouring career. Further- 
more, the means of exit and all other avenues of escape 
are so limited that a panic once inaugurated in a crowded 
house would bring destruction upon the heads of a large pro- 
portion of the audience. Have theater-goers in Chicago ever 
thought of this, as, crowded into a seat, with means of hasty 
exit cut off, they have sat and looked around them upon the 
hundreds of others similarly situated? 



CHAPTER XXV. 
LIST OF THE DEAD. 

A. 

ADAMEK, JOHN, MRS., 40 years old, Bartlett, 111. 

ALEXANDER, LULU B., 36 years old, 3473 Washington 
boulevard; identified by husband, W. G. Alexander. 

ALLEN, MRS. MARY S., 27 years old, 5546 Drexel boule- 
vard. 

ANDERSON, RAGNE, 39 years old, scrubwoman, Iroquois ; 
229 Grand avenue. 

ANDREWS, HARRIET, 20 years old, West Superior, Wis. 

ALEXANDER, BOYER, 8 years old, 475 Washington 
boulevard; body identified by his father, Dr. W. A. Alex- 
ander. 

ADAMS, MRS. JOHN, lola, 111., identified by R. H. Os- 
trander. 

ALDRIDGE, LUELLA M'DONALD, 792 West Monroe 
street. 

ALFSON, ALFRED, 24 Keith street; identified by father. 

\NDERSON, ANNIE, 29 years old, 2141 Jackson boule- 
vard. 

'ANNEN, MARGARET, 299 Webster avenue; identified by 
Charles Annen. 

B. 

BARRY, WILMA, 17 years old, 4330 Greenwood avenue, 
stepdaughter of E. P. Berry, the insurance man, was with 
v Mrs. Barry, who escaped. 



326 1ROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

BARRY, MISS MAGGIE, 26 years old, 236 Lincoln ave- 
nue. 

BARNHEISEL, CHARLES H., 3622 Michigan avenue; un- 
known to family that he had attended theater, and published 
list of dead containing name conveyed the first information 
to family; body identified by relatives. 

BISSINGER, WALTER, 15 years old, 4934 Forrestvilk 
avenue, son of Benjamin Bissinger, real estate man ; attend- 
ed Howe Military academy at Lima, Ind.; was with sis- 
ter, Tessie, 20 years, and cousin, Jack Pottlitzer, of Lafay 
ette, Ind., who was killed; the sister escaped. 

BURNSIDE, MRS. ESTHER, 437 West Sixty-fourtfc 
street; body identified by her son, C. W. Burnside, and the 
family physician, Dr. Schultz. 

BYRNE, CONSILA, 16 years old, 616 West Fifteenth street 
Identified by sister. 

BICKFORD, GLENN, 16 years old, son of C, M. Bickford 
947 Farwell avenue, Rogers Park. 

BICKFORD, HELEN, 14 years old, daughter of C. M 
Bickford. 

BREWSTER, MARY JULIA, 116 Thirty-first street 
daughter of Mr. and Mrs. L. H. Brewster, 

BRENNAN, PAUL, 608 West Fulton street; identified tf> 
Rolston's. 

BAGLEY, MISS HELEN DEWEY, 18 years, 24 Madisos 
Park ; identified by J. J. Mahoney. 

BARKER, ETHEL M., 27 years old, 1925 Washington 
boulevard; identified by father. 

BATTENFIELD, MRS. D. W., 43 years old; Delaware, O. 

BATTENFIELD, JOHN, 23 years old; Delaware, O. 

BATTENFIELD, ROBERT, 15 years old; Delaware, 01 

BATTENFIELD, RUTH, 21 years old; Delaware, O 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER, 327 

BESMICK, JOSEPH, West Superior, Wis. 

BEYER, infant. 

BIRD, MISS MARION, Tola, 111. ; identified by cousin. 

BLOOM, MRS. ROSE, 3760 Indiana avenue, 30 years old 

BOEAM, PAUL, 608 West Fulton street. 
1 BOETCHER, MRS. CHARLES, 4140 Indiana avenue, 

BOICE, W. H., 5721 Rosalie court. 

BOICE, Mrs. W. H., 5721 Rosalie court. 

BOICE, MISS BESSIE, 15 years old, 5721 Rosalie court. 

BOLTIE, HELEN, Winnetka, aged 14. 

BOND, LUCILE, Hart, Mich. ; identified by an aunt. 

BOWMAN, MRS. JOSEPHINE, 20 Chalmers place; iden^ 
tified by B. F. Jenkins, a neighbor. 

BOWMAN, BEATRICE M., 33 years old, 20 Chalmers 
place, daughter of Mrs. Josephine Bowman. 

BOWMAN, LUCIEN, 14 years old, 20 Chalmers place. 

BRADWELL, MISS MYRA, Windsor hotel. 

BRADY, LEON, 4356 Forrestville avenue. 

BROWN, HAROLD, 16 years old, 94 Thirty-first street t 
' identified by Ella Huggins. 

BUEHRMANN, MARGARET, 13 years, 46 East Fifty- 
third street. 

BUTLER, MRS. F. S., 649 Michigan street, Evanston; suf- 
focated by smoke in first balcony ; body identified by sister 

BOTSFORD, MABEL A., 21 years old, Racine, Wis. 

BARTLETT, MRS. WILLIAM, Grossdale, 111. 

BERGH, ARTHUR, 4926 Champlain avenue. 

BOGGS, MRS. M., 6933 Princeton avenue. 

BRENNAN, MARGARET, 40 years, 608 West Fulton 
street. 

BAKER, MISS ADELAIDE, 17 years old, 4410 Ellis ave- 
nue. 



$28 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

BANSHEP, GEORGE, 28 years old, engineer, 4847 For- 
restville avenue. 

BARTESCH, WILLIAM C, 24 years old, 464 Racine ave- 
nue. 

BARTLETT, ARTHUR, 6 years old, West Grossdale, 111. 

BECKER, MASON A., 3237 Groveland avenue. 

BELL, MISS PET, 60 years old, 3000 Michigan avenue. 

BERG, OLGA, 11 years old, 408 West One Hundred and 
Eleventh street ; identified by father. 

BERG, FRANK. 

BERG, MRS. HELEN, 408 West One Hundred and Elev- 
enth street. 

BERG, VICTOR, II years old, 408 West One Hundred and 
Eleventh street; identified by Frank Berg, father. 

BERGCH, Mrs. Annie, 30 years old, 4926 Champlain ave- 
nue. 

BERRY, MISS EMMA, 19 years old, 236 Lincoln avenue. 

BERRY, MRS. C. C., 56 years old, 236 Racine avenue. 

BERRY, OTTO, Battle Creek, Mich., visiting at 236 Lincoln 
avenue. 

8EUTEL, WILLIAM, 33 years old, Englewcod avenue, near 
Halsted street 

BEYER, OTTO, 38 years old, Diversey boulevard. 

BEZENACK, MRS. NELLIE, 40 years old. 

3IEGLER, MISS SUSAN MARSHALL, 27 years old, 
6518 Minerva avenue. 

3LISS, HAROLD F., 23 years old, Racine, Wis. 

BLUM, MRS. ROSE, 30 years old, 5248 Prairie avenue. 

BOLTE, LINDA W., 14 years old, Lakeside, 111. ; identified 
by uncle, John H. Willard, 2942 Indiana avenue. 

8RINSLEY. EMMA L., 29 years old, 909 Jackson boule- 
vard. 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 329 

BROWNE, HAZEL GRACE, 14 years old, South Bend, 
Ind. 

BURKE, BERTHA, 41 years old, 511 West Monroe street; 
taken to Reedsville, Wis. 

BUSCHWAH, LOUISE ALICE, 12 years old, 1810 Wel- 
lington avenue. 

BUTLER, BENNETT, 13 years old, 649 Michigan street, 
Evanston. 

C. 

CALDWELL, ROBERT PORTER, 15 years old, St. Louis 

grain dealer. 

CALVEN, MRS. HENRIETTA, Knox, Ind. 
CAVILLE, ARTHUR, 24 years old, 54 Twenty-sixth street. 
CHAPMAN, MISS NINA, 23 years old, Cedar Rapids, la. 
CHRISTOPHERSON, MRS. MINNIE, 35 years old, 231 

N. Harvey avenue. 

CLAY, MISS SUSIE, 36 years old, 6409 Monroe avenue. 
CLAYTON, JOHN V., 13 years old, 534 Morse avenue. 
COGANS, MRS. MARGARETHA, 26 years old, 5904 Nor- 
mal avenue. 
CUMINGS, IRENE, 18 years, 5135 Madison avenue. Was 

with Miss Baker, 4410 Ellis avenue, who was injured. They 

were in the third row of the balcony. 
CROCKER, MRS. LILLIE J., 3730 Lake avenue, teacher 

at Oakland school. She went to the theater with Mrs. 

Pierce and daughter, of Plainville, Mich. 
CANT WELL, MRS. THOMAS, 733 West Adams street, 

mother of Attorney Robert E. Cantwell ; identified by James 

Roche, a cousin. 

COHN, MRS. JACOB, 222 Ogden avenue. 
COPLER, LOLA, 18 vears old, address not known. 



330 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

CHAPMAN, BESSIE, 19 years old, Cedar Rapids, la., 211 

Lincoln avenue; identified by her uncle, C. W. Pierson. 

with whom she was visiting. Was at theater with her 

sister Nina. 
CHAPMAN, NINA, 23 years old, 211 Lincoln avenue; iden- 

tified Jby her uncle, C. W. Pierson, Cedar Rapids, la. 
COULTTS, R. H., 1616 Wabash avenue. Body identified 

by granddaughter. 
CASPER, CHARLES E., Kenosha, Wis.; body identified 

by G. H. Curtis of Kenosha. 
CURBIN, VERNON W., 10 years, 6938 Wentworth ave- 

nue. Identified by uncle, Carlos B. Hinckley. 
CALDWELL, ROY A. G., supposed; identified by cards in 

clothing. 

CLARK, E. D., 30 years old, 5432 Lexington avenue. 
CHRISTIANSON, HENRIETTA, 18 years old, 445 West 

Sixty-fifth street; identified by W. A. Douglas. 
CHRISTOPHER, MISS BELL, Decorah, la. 
COOPER, MRS. HELEN S., 27 years old, Lena, 111. 
COOPER, WILLIS W., Kenosha, Wis., son of Charles F, 

Cooper, Kenosha. 

COOPER, CHARLES R, Kenosha, Wis. 
CORBIN, LOUISA, 37 years old, 6938 Wentworth avenue. 
CORCORAN, MISS FLORENCE, 218 Dearborn avenue, 

identified by brother. 

CHAPIN, AGNES, 4458 Berkeley avenue. 
CORBIN, NORMAN, 9 years, Peoria, 111. ; identified by Vic 

tor B. Corbin. 



DEVINE, CLARA, 29 years, 259 La Salle avenue ; identified 
by M. Reece. 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 33* 

DYRENFORTH, HELEN, 8 years old, daughter of Harold 

Dyrenforth, 832 Judson avenue, Evanston; body identified 

by father. 
DYRENFORTH, RUTH, daughter of Harold Dyrenforth 

Evanston; body identified and taken away by relatives. 
DRYDEN, TAYLOR, 12 years old, 5803 Washington ave- 
nue; body identified by father. 
DRYDEN, MRS. JOHN, 5803 Washington avenue, mothei 

of Taylor; body identified by husband. 
DAWSON, MRS. WILLIAM, Harrington, 111. 
DECKER, MYRON, 3237 Groveland avenue. 
DELEE, VIOLA, 22 years old, daughter of the late Lieut. 

W. J. Delee, of Central police detail, 7822 Union avenue; 

body identified by M. J. Delee, her uncle. 
DIFFENDORF, MRS., 45 years old, Lincoln, 111. 
DIXON, LEAH, 100 Flournoy street. 
DUNLAVEY, J., 6050 Wabash avenue. 
DIXON, EDNA, 9 years old, 100 Flournoy street. 
DODD, MRS. J. F., 45 years old, Delaware, O. 
DOQD, MISS RUTH, 12 year* old, Delaware, O.; identifier 

by Dr. E. S. Coe. 
DOLAN, MARGARET. 
DONALDSON, CLARA E. 

DORR, LILLIAN, 16 years old, 4924 Champlain avenue. 
DOWST, MRS. CHARLES, 927 Hinman avenue, Evans 

ton ; body identified by husband. 
DRYCHAU, MRS. JOHN, of St. Louis. 
DU VALL, MRS. ELIZABETH, 498 Fullerton avenue, 40 

years old. 
DU VALL, SARAH, 10 years old. South Zanesville, O.; 

identified by aunt. 
DECKHUT, MAE, Quincy, 111.; body identified. 



332 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

DAWSON, GRACE, 5 years old, 334 Harding street; iden- 
tified by her father. 

DANNER, J. M., 55 years old, Burlington, la. ; identified by 
his son-in-law, Harry Wunderlich, Wilson avenue and 
Clark street. 

DAVY, MRS. ELIZABETH, 53 years old, 34 Roslyn place. 

DAVY, MISS HELEN, 15 years old, 35 Roslyn place. 

DAWSON, THERESA, 25 years, 10 Market avenue, Pull- 
man; identified by husband. 

DAY, MRS. SARAH, 50 years old, colored. 

DECKER, KATE K., 58 years old, 3228 Groveland avenue. 

DECKER, MAMIE, 33 years old, 3237 Graveland avenue, 

DEE, EDDIE, 7 years old, 3133 Wabash avenue. 

DEE, LOUISE, 2 years, 3133 Wabash avenue. 

DEVINE, MARGARET, 22 years old, 95 Kendall street. 

DICKIE, EDITH, 25 years old, school teacher, 619 Sixty- 
fifth place. 

DIFFENDORFER, LEANDER, 16 years old, Lincoln, 111. 

DINGFELDER, WINIFRED E., 18 years old, Jonesville, 
Mich. 

DONAHUE, MARY E., 18 years old, 1040 West Taylor 
street. 

DOOLEY, MRS., Claremont avenue, near Ohio street. 

DOTTS, MARGARET S., 32 years old, 188 North Eliza- 
beth street; identified by husband. 

DOW, FLORENCE, 17 years old, 642 West Sixtieth street. 

DRAY, VICTORIA, 22 years old, Indiana avenue. 

DREISEL, CLARA, 30 years old, North Robey street and 
Potomac avenue. 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 333 

E. 

EDWARDS, MARGERY, 14 years old, Clinton, la., identi- 
fied by father, William Edwards; father and daughter were 
guests at 700 Fullerton avenue. 
EBERSTEIN, FRANK B., 20 years old, 84 Twenty-sixth 

street, identified by his father. 
EISENDRATH, MRS. S. M., 10 Crilly court. 
EISENDRATH, NATALIE, 10 years old, 10 Crilly court, 
EBERSTEIN, MRS. J. A., 84 Twenty-sixth street, ident! 

fied by husband and sister. 
ENGEL, MAURICE, 73 Dawson avenue, identified by namf 

on charm. 
ELAND, ALMA, nurse, with two children of Harold Dyren- 

forth, 832 Judson avenue, Evanston. 
ESPER, EM1L, 31 years, 190 Osgood street. 
ERNST, ROSENE, 202 Twenty-fourth place. Identified 

by mother. 
ESTEN, ROSA, 23 years, 305 Halsted street; identified by 

M. Eighberg. 

EBBERT, MRS. J. H., 48 years old, 5516 Marshfield avenue 
EDDUZE, HARRY, 16 years old, Mattoon. 
EDWARDS, MRS. M. L., Clinton, la. 
EGER, MRS. GUS, 3760 Indiana avenue. 
EISENSTAEDT, HERBERT S., 16 years old, 4549 For 

restville avenue. 

ELDRIDGE, HARRY, 17 years old, Mattoon. 
ELDRIDGE, MONTEK, 18 years old, 6063 Jefferson avt 

nue. 

ELKAU, ROSE, 14 years old, 3434 South Park avenue. 
ELLIS, MRS. ANNIE, 40 years old, 207 East Sixty-seconc 

street. 
ENGELS, MINNIE, 36 years old, 73 Dawson avenue 



334 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 



ERSIG, TYRONE, 17 years old, 239 West Sixty-sixth 

street. 
EVANS, MATTIE, Burlington, la. 



F. 



FAIR, MISS ELLEN, 45 years old, 7564 Bond avenue. 
FALK, GERTRUDE, 20 years old, 3839 Elmwood place. 
FITZGIBBON, ANNA G., 17 years old, 2954 Michigan 

avenue. 
FLANNAGAN, THOMAS J., 24 years old, employed at 

Iroquois. 

FOLICE, NELLIE, 22 years old, 301 Claremont avenue. 
FOWLER, ELVA, 17 years, 3450 West Sixty-third place. 
FRAZER, MRS. EDWARD S., Aurora, 111. 
FRIEDRICH, MRS. HELEN, 35 years old, 341 Center 

street. 
FREER, JENNIE E. CHRISTY, 53 years old, Galesburg, 

111. 

FRICKELTON, EDITH, 23 years old, 632 Peoria street. 
FRICKELTON, GEORGE E., 17 years old, 5632 Peoria 

street. 

FROST, P. O. 
FOX, MRS. EVELYN, Winnetka, daughter of W. M. 

Hoyt; was accompanied by three children, all of whom 

are dead; body of mother found by Graeme Stewart. 
FOX, GEORGE SYDNEY, 15 years old, son of Mrs. Fox.. 
FOX , EMILY, 9 years old, daughter of Mrs. Fox. 
FOX, HOYT, 12 years old, son of Mrs. Fox. 
FRADY, MRS. E. C, 4356 Forrestville avenue. 
FR.ADY, LEON, 4356 Forrestville avenue. 
FOLTZ, MRS. C, O., 1886 Diversey boulevard, 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 335 

FOLEY, H. 

FALKENSTEIN, GERTRUDE, identified by card in cloth- 
ing. 

FITZGIBBONS, JOHN J., 18 years old, 2954 Michigan 
avenue. 

FEISER, A1ARY, 793 North Springfield avenue, wife of a 
Larrabee street patrolman. 

FAHEY, MARY, 25 years old, 4860 Kimbark avenue; iden- 
tified by T. H. Fahey. 

FOLKE, ADA, 23 years old, Bervvyn. 

FORBUSCH, MRS. C. W., 35 years old, 927 Hinman ave- 
nue, Evanston ; identified by W. P. Marsh. 

FOLTZ, ALICE, 1886 Diversey boulevard. 

FORT, PHOEBE IRENE, principal of Myra Bradwell 
school, 146 Thirty-sixth street. 

FRACK, ODESSA, Ottawa, 111. 

FRANTZEN, LINDA, Winnetka. 



G. 



GARN, MRS. FRANK WARREN, 831 West Monroe 
street, daughter of L. Wolff, 1319 Washington boulevard, 
attended the theater with her sons, Frank, 10 years old, and 
Willie, 9 years old. All perished. Mrs. Garn was iden- 
tified by her husband. 

GARN, FRANK L., 10 years old, 831 West Monroe street. 

GARN, WILLIE, 9 years old, 831 West Monroe street. 

GUSTAFSON, MISS ALMA, 10003 Avenue N, teacher in 
the John L. Marsh school at South Chicago. She attend- 
ed the theater with Miss Carrie Sayre and a party of school 
teachers from South Chicago. 

GOULD, MRS. B. E., identified by friends through jewelry. 



336 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 



GOULD, B. E., Elgin, 111., clerk of the Circuit court of Kane 
county. Mr. Gould was accompanied to the play by his 
wife, who also perished. 

GARTZ, HARRY, 4860 Kimbark avenue. 

GARTZ, MARY DORETHEA, 4860 Kimbark avenue, 12 
years old, daughter of A. F. Gartz, treasurer of the Crane 
company; attended theater with sister, Barbara, maid and 
nurse; all perished. 

GARTZ, BARBARA, 4 years, 4863 Kimbark avenue; iden- 
tified by Maud Purcell. 

GERON, MRS. MABLE, Winnetka; body identified by her 
brother. 

GAHAN, JOSEPHINE, 129 Twenty-fifth place. 

GASS, MRS. JOSEPH, 243 Grace street. 

GEARY, PAULINE, 21 years old, 4627 Indiana avenue. 

GEIK, MRS. EMILE, died at St. Luke's hospital. 

GESTREN, ALMA. 

GRAFF, MRS. REINHOLD, Bloomington, 111. 

GRAVES, MRS. CLARA, wife of W. C. Graves, 723 East 
Chicago avenue; identified by sister-in-law, Lucetta Graves. 

GUDELMANS, SOFIA, 327 North Ashland avenue. 

GOOLSBY, MISS VERA, of Americus, Ga. ; attending col- 
lege in Chicago. 

GERHART, BERRY, 25 years old. 

GOERK, DORA, 1030 Bryan avenue, 10 years old. 

GUERNI, JENNIE, 135 North Sangamon street. 

GUTHARDT, MISS LIBBY, 16 years old, 159 One Hun- 
dred and Thirteenth street. 



H. 

HAINSLEY, FRANCES, 5 years, Logansport, Ind.; identi^ 
fied by father. 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. j.\: 

HARBAUGH, MARY E., 30 years old, 6653 Harvard ave 
nue. 

HOFFEIN, MISS ADELINE J. C, 24 years old, 29; 
Haddon avenue. 

HARTMAN, JOHN, 5705 South Halsted street. 

HENNING, CHARLES, 6 years old, 5743 Prairie avenue. 

HENNING, WILLIAM, 14 years old.' 

HENNESSY, WILLIAM, 14 years old, 4411 Calumet ave- 
nue. 

HICKMAN, MRS. CHARLES, 24 years old, 4743 Calumet 
avenue. 

HIGGINSON, JANITHE B., 2 years old, Winnetka, 111.; 
identified by P. D. Sexton, 418 East Huron street. 

HIPPACH, ROBERT A., 14 years old, 2928 Kenmore ave- 
nue. 

HIVE, ENA M., 15 years old, 613 West Sixty-first place. 

HOLLAND, JOHN H., 60 years old, 6429 Evans avenue. 

HOLST, MRS. MARY W., 36 years old, 2088 Van Buren 
street. 

HOLST, AMY, 7 years old, 2088 Van Buren street. 

HOWARD, MRS. MARY E., 54 years old, Jonesville, 
Mich.; identified by son, Frank Howard, 3812 Prairie ave- 
nue. 

HOLM, HULDA, 176 North Western avenue. 

HULL, MARIANNE K., 32 years old, 244 Oakwood boule 
vard. 

HULL, HELEN, 12 years old, 244 Oakwood boulevard. 

HULL, DWIGHT, 6 years old, 244 Oakwood boulevard. 

HULL, DONALD, 8 years old, 244 Oakwood boulevard. 

HAYES, FRANK, 22 years old, son of Police Sergeant 
Dennis Hayes, Larrabee street station ; identified by younger 
b'rother. 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

HAVELAND, LEIGH, daughter of J. P. Haveland, 31 Hum- 
boldt boulevard; body identified by father. Later father 
found the body of Clyde O. Thompson, Wisconsin univer- 
sity student, who was guest at Haveland home and had ac- 
companied the daughter to the theater. 

HUDHART, ADELAIDE, 41 years old, 159 One Hundred 
and Thirteenth street ; identified by her husband, James Hud- 
hart. 

HIPPACH, JOHN, 8 years old, son of senior member of firm 
of Tyler & Hippach. 

HART, MRS. NELLIE E., Atkinson, 111.; identified by 
father, John English. 

HUTCHINS, MISS JEANETTE, 22 years old, teacher at 
Winnetka ; identified by brother. 

HOWARD, HELEN, 16 years old, 6565 Yale avenue; was 
a student at Englewood High School. 

HICKMAN, CHARLES, 4743 Calumet avenue; identified by 
Dr. H. H. Steele. 

HALL, EMERY M., husband 6f E. Grace Hall, the Vermont, 
571 East Fifty-first street. 

HOLST, GERTRUDE, 12 years old, 2088 Van Buren street; 
identified by her father. 

HRODY, MRS. ANNA, 35 years old, 1353 South Fortieth 
avenue. 

HEWINS, DR. EMERY, Petersburg, Ind.; body identified 
by daughter. 

HELMS, OTTO H., 77 Maple street. 

HENNING, EDDIE, 14 years old, 4753 Prairie avenue. 

HENSLEY, MRS. GUY, Logansport, Ind. 

HENSLEY, GENEVIEVE, 8 years old, Logansport, Ind. 

HEWINS, MRS. L., 20 years old, Petersburg, Ind. ; identified 
by friends. 



1ROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 335 

HENRY, MRS. G. A., 1198 Wilton avenue. 

HERRON, BESSIE L., 133 Conduit street, Hammond, Ind. 

HIGGINS, ROGER G., 9 years old, 419 East Huron street. 

HIGGINSON, MISS JEANETTE, Winnetka; body identi- 
fied by her brother. 

HENNESSY, WILLIAM, 441 1 Calumet avenue. 

HOLMES, MRS. 

HUTCHINS, MISS FLORENCE, Waukegan. 

HART, MISS ELIZABETH, Sherman avenue and Demp- 
ster street, Evanston. 

HERGER, BERTHA, Hammond, Ind. ; identified by Thomas 
Weisman. 

HIRSCH, MARY, 19 years old, 617 Halsted street. 

HOLBERTON, E. R. 

HOLST, ALLAN B., 12 years old, 2088 Van Buren street; 
son of William M. Hoist ; identified by father. 

HENSLEY, MARIAN, 5 years old, Logansport, daughter of 
G. Hensley. 

I. 

[RLE, MRS. ANDREW, 32 years old, 1240 Lawrence ave- 
nue, wife of Andrew Irle, assistant superintendent of the 
Pinkerton National Detective Agency; body identified by 
name in wedding ring. 

J. 

JAMES. C. D., 40 years old, Davenport, la. 
JAMES, C. O. ; identified by card in clothing. 
JONES, MRS. ANNA, 46 East Fifty-third street. 
JACKSON, VERA R., 19 years old, 216 Humboldt boule- 
vard. 



340 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

JONES, MRS. WARNER E., 38 years old, Tuscola, 111.; 
visiting at 46 East Fifty-third street. 

K. 

KOCHEMS, JACOB A., 17 years, 262 Warren avenue; iden- 
tified by father. 

KENNEDY, AGNES, 6528 Ross avenue, former teacher at 
Hendricks and Melville W. Fuller schools. 

KENNEDY, FRANCES, Winnetka. 

KELL, MRS. CHARLES. 

KAUFFMAN, ALICE, 5 years old, Hammond, Ind. 

KOCHEMS, MRS. FRANK, 262 Warren avenue; identified 
by husband. 

KRANZ, MRS. SARAH, Racine, Wis.; died at Samaritan 
hospital. 

KUEBLER, LOLA, 16 years old, 344 Fiftieth street. 

KULAS, MRS. GEORGIANA, 349 Chestnut street; identi- 
fied by Mrs. C. J. Benshaw. 

KURLEY, MINNIE, 5 years old, Logansport, Ind. 

KEKMAN, FRAMELLES, 525 Austin avenue. 

KOUTHES, MRS. E. K., Montreal. 

KWASUIEWSKI, JOHN, 25 years old, 122 Cleaver street. 



LAKE, MRS. ALFRED, 60 years old, 278 Belden avenue. 
LANGE, HERBERT, 16 years old, 1632 Barry avenue. 
LANGE, AGNES, 14 years old, 1632 Barry avenue; body 

identified by her father. 

LA ROSE, LAURA, 12 years, 833 N. Clark street. 
LA ROSE, JOSEPHINE, 8 years old, 833 N. Clark street 
LA ROSE, MATILDA, 10 years old, 833 N. Clark street 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 34? 

LEATON, FRED W., 24 years old, University of Chicago. 
LEA YEN WORTH, MRS. CARRIE, 45 years old, Decatur. 
LEFMAN, MRS. SUSIE, 38 years old, Laporte, Ind. 
LEHMAN, MISS FRANCES M., 525 North Austin avenue, 

Oak Park, a teacher in the H. H. Nash school. 
LEMENAGER, MRS. JESSIE, 38 years old, 53 Waveland 

Park. 

LEVENSON, ROSE, 28 years old, 268 Ogden avenue. 
LONG, RYAN, 12 years old, Geneva, 111. 
LONG, HELEN, 14 years old, Geneva, 111. 
LONG, KATHERINE, 9 years old, Geneva, 111. 
LUDWIG, MISS EUGENIE, 18 years old, Norwood Park. 
LASSMANN, MRS. SUSIE, Laporte, Ind.; identified by 

Frederick M. Burdick, a friend. 
LIVINGSTON, MRS. DAISY, 271 Oakwood boulevard; 

body identified by her brother, T. B. Livingston. 
LOWITZ, MRS. NATHAN, 274 Sheffield avenue; identified 

by means of ring, "Nat to Minnie." 
LOWITZ, MRS. N. S., Keokuk, la. 
LEATON, FRED W., aged 25 years, 537 East Fifty-fifth 

street; medical student at the University of Chicago; home 

at Terry, S. D. 
LINDEN, ELLA, 21 years old, 4625 Lake avenue; identified 

by her brother, Frank Linden. 
LOVE, MARGARET, Fulton street 

M. 

MAHLER, EDITH L., 8 years old, 2141 Jackson Boulevard. 
MANN, MISS EMMA D., teacher of music in public schools ; 

1388 Washington boulevard; identified by Louis Mann, her 

brother. 



34* IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER, 

MACKAY, ROLAND S., 6 years old, 5029 Indiana avenue 
MARTIN, HAROLD C, 14 years old, n Market circle. 
MARTIN, ROBERT B., 12 years old, Pullman, 111. 
M'CHRISTIE, MISS ANNA, 27 years old, 6315 Lexingtot 

avenue. 
M'GUNIGLE, MISS MAYME, 30 years old, New York 

visiting- Miss Reidy, 614 South Sawyer avenue. 
MEAGLER, MISS MARIA, 656 Orchard street, a school 

teacher. 

MEYER, ELSA, H., 10 years old, lived at Grossdale, 111. 
MILLER, HELEN, 23 years old, 369 West Huron street. 
MILLS, CHARLES V., 623 Sedgwick street. 
MILLS, MRS. W. A., 623 Sedgwick street. 
MILLS, ISABELLA, 21 years old, 6263 Jefferson street. 
MOORE, MRS. MATTIE, 33 years old, Hart, Mich.; stay- 
ing with sister-in-law, Mrs. Bond, at 4123 Indiana avenue; 

identified by Herman Mathias, 107 Madison street. 
MOSSLER, PEARLINE, 13 years old, Rensselaer, Ind. 
MUIR, S. A., 35 years old, 301 Winthrop avenue; connected 

with the Chase Furniture Company, 1411 Michigan avenue; 

identified by George B. Chase, vice-president of the com- 
pany. 

M'CLURG, ROY, 14 years old, 5803 Superior street, Austin, 
M'MILLEN, MABEL, 20 years old, 2824 North Hermitage 

avenue. 
M'KENNA, BERNARD, 2 years old, 758 Kedzie avenue I 

body identified by the father. 
MOLONEY, ALICE, daughter .of former Attorney General 

Moloney, Ottawa, 111.; body identified by her father and 

brother. 
MARTIN, EARL, 7 years old, son of Z, E. Martin, Oat 

Park ; body identified by father. 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 34* 

MUIR, MAMIE, Peoria, 111. ; identified by name on clothing 

MURRAY, CHARLES; identified by letters found in cloth- 
ing. 

MARKS, MISS MAY, 19 years old, 69 North Humboldt 
boulevard. 

McCAUGHAN, HELEN, 16 years old, 6565 Yale avenue. 

MEAD, MRS. 278 Belden avenue; identified from clothing. 

MERRIAM, MRS. H. H., 489 Fullerton avenue; body iden- 
tified by Dr. Hequenbourg., 

MERRIMAN, MILDRED, daughter of W. A. Merriman, 
manager of George A. Fuller's. 

MITCHELL, MISS DORA, 20 years old, Laporte, Ind.; 
identified by friends. 

MYERS, ELSIE, 8 years, Grossdale, 111. 

McKEE, T. W., 64 years old; identified by Lola Lee. 

MOAK, ANNA, 278 Belden avenue. 

MANN, MISS EMMA D., 18 years old, 1388 Washington 
boulevard; identified by Louis Mann, her brother. 

MATCHETTE, EMILY, 21 years old, 636 Sixtieth street 

MOOHAN, H. B., 30 years old. 

MOORE, MRS. KITTIE, 45 years old, 119 West Fifty-ninth 
street. 

MUIR, MRS. EUGENIA, 301 Winthrop avenue. 

MILLER, WILLARD, 9 years old, 4919 Vincennes avenue. 

McCLELLAND, JOSEPH, Harvard, 111. ; identified by uncle. 

McCLURE, LAWRENCE, 230 East Superior street; identi- 
fied by George, his brother. 

McGILL, ELIZABETH, 12 years old, Pittsburg, Pa., guest at 
residence of Charles Koll, 496 Ashland avenue ; identified by 
her mother. 

McKENNA, MRS. JOHN L., 758 Kedzie avenue 

MEAD, LUCILLE, 11 years old, Berwyn. 



344 



1ROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 



McLAUGHLIN, WILLIAM L., nephew of Mrs. Frank W. 
Gunsaulus, died at 9 '.30 p. m., at Presbyterian hospital. 

MENDEL, MRS. HERMAN, 53 years, 5555 Washington 
avenue; the body was shipped to Neola, la., for burial on 
Sunday; Mr. Mendel is a retired banker. 

MENGER, MISS ANNIE, 222 Twenty-fourth place; iden- \ 
tified by Elta Menzeh 

MILLS, PEARL M., 5613 Kimbark avenue; identified by 
Ward Mills. 

MOAK, LENA, 19 years old, Watertown, Wis.; guest at 278 
Belden avenue. 

MOORE, BENJAMIN, 119 West Fifty-ninth street; iden- 
tified by grandson. 

MOORE, MISS SYBIL, Hart, Mich.; identified by letter. 

MURPHY, DEWITT J., 1340 Sheffield avenue; identified 
by father. 

MURRAY, CHARLES, 36 years old, Martinsburg, O.; iden- 
tified by J. H. Dodd. 

MUELLER, MRS. EMELIA, 60 years, Milwaukee; iden- 
tified by daughter, Mrs. Herman Groth. 

MORRIS, MABEL A., 17 years old, 5124 Dearborn street. 

MULHOLLAND, JOSEPHINE, 33 years, 4409 Wabash 
avenue; identified by Clarke Griffith. 

N. 

NEWMAN, MRS. MARY, 32 years old, housekeeper for the 

Rev. Father J. C. Ocenasek, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes 

church. 
NEWBY, MRS. LUTHER G., Drexel hotel; identified by her 

father. 
NEWMAN, MRS. ANNA, West Grossdale; identified 

her rings. 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 345 

NORTON, MATTIE, Ontonagon, Mich., attending school 

at Academy of the Visitation, Ridge avenue and Emerson 

street, Evanston. 
NORTON, EDITH N., Ontonagon, Mich., attending school 

at Academy of the Visitation, Evanston. 
NEWMAN, ARTHUR, 10 years, West Grossdale. 
NORRIS, MRS. LIBBIE A., 30 years old, 5124 Dearborn 

street. 
NORRIS, MABEL, 20 years old, 5124 Dearborn street 

O. 

ORLE, MABEL M., 1240 Lawrence avenue. 

OWEN, DR., Wheaton, 111., died at the Homeopathic Hos- 
pital. 

OWEN, MRS. MARY, 44 years, Wheaton. 

OAKLEY, DR. ALBERT J., 40 years old, Sixty-fifth and 
Stewart avenue; identified by Dr. L. Phillips. 

OXNAM, FLORENCE, 16 years old, 435 Englewood ave- 
nue. 

OAKEY, LUCILE, 13 years old, daughter of A. J. Oakey, 
Sixty-fifth street and Stewart avenue, 

OAKEY, MARIAN, 11 years old, Sixty-fifth street and 
Stewart avenue; identified by F. R. Bradford. 

OLSEN, MRS. O. M., 833 Walnut street; identified by hus^ 
band. 

OLSON, MISS AUGUSTA, 27 years old, 218 Seventy^ 
ninth place; identified by brother-in-law. 

OWEN, WILLIAM MURRAY, 12 years old; body identified 
by father. 

OWENS, AMY, daughter of Mrs. Owens, 6241 Kimbark 
avenue. 

OWENS, MRS. FRANCES O., 6241 Kimbark avenue 



346 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 



OLSON, ELVIRA, 18 years old, daughter of William H 
Olson, 7010 Stewart avenue. 

P. 

PERSINGER, HEWITT, 10 years old, 50 Florence avenue ; 

identified by J. W. Harrison, a cousin. 
PASSE, ELIZABETH, 6 years old, 552 East Forty-ninth 

street; identified by her father. 

PAGE, CHARLES T., 6562 Stewart avenue; body identified. 
PAGE, HARROLD, 6562 Stewart avenue, 12 years old. 
PAULMAN, WILLIAM, 22 years old, 3738 State street. 
PAYSON, RUTH, 14 years old, I Elizabeth street, Oak 

Park. 

PECK, WILLIS W., 2644 North Hermitage avenue. 
PIERCE, MRS. L. H., 32 years old, Plainwell, Mich. ; guest 

at home of her brother, R. B. Carter, 3821 Lake avenue, who 

identified body. 
POWER, MISS LILLY, 442 West Seventieth street, 21 years 

old. 

POLZIN, HENRIETTA, Knox, Ind. 

PAGE, BERTHA, 45 years old, 6562 Stewart avenue iden- 
tified by a brother. 
PEASE, MRS. GRACE, wife of P. S. Pease, 6140 Ingleside 

avenue; body identified. 
PEASE, ELIZABETH, 7 years old, daughter of P. S. 

Pease. 
PECK, ETHEL M., 16 years old, 2042 Hermitage avenue; 

identified by Dr. Steele. 
PELTON, MISS LILLIAN, 30 years old, Des Moines; 

identified by W. F. Wilson of Des Moines. 
PERSINGER, MRS. FRANK, 50 Florence avenue; iden 

tified from clothing. 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 34/ 

PINNEY, MRS. BELLE, 353 South Leavitt street. 

PALMER, MRS. KATIE, 33 years old, 1141 Judson avenue, 
Evanston. 

PALMER, RICHARD G., 14 years old, 1141 Judson ave- 
nue, Evanston. 

PALMER, WILLIAM, 42 years old; salesman; 1141 Judson 
avenue, Evanston. 

PALMER, HOWARD, 10 years old, 1141 Judson avenue ; 
Evanston. 

POLTE, LINDEN W., 14 years old, Lakeside, 111.; body 
identified by John W. Willard, uncle. 

PATTERSON, CRAWFORD JULIAN, 12 years old, 4467 
Oakenwald avenue. 

PATTERSON, WILLIAM ADDISON, 10 years old, 4467 
Oakenwald avenue. 

PAYNE, MRS. JAMES, 357 Garfield boulevard, 35 years. 

PEASE, MRS. AUGUSTA, 55 years, 552 East Forty-ninth 
street. 

PILAT, JOSEPHINE, 13 years old, 34 Humboldt boulevard. 

POND, MRS. EVA, 1272 Lyman avenue. 

POND, RAYMOND, 14 years old, 1272 Lyman avenue, Ra- 
venswood. 

POND, HELEN, 7 years old, 1272 Lyman avenue, Ravens- 
wood. 

POTTLITZER, JACK, 11 years old, Lafayette, Ind. 

PRIDEMORE, EDITH S., 32 years old, Fifty-eighth and 
Kimbark avenue. 

Q. 

QUITCH, MRS. W. J., 249 North Ashland avenue. 



348 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

R. 

RATTEY, WILLIAM A., 917 North Artesian avenue, died 
at the county hospital from burns and internal injuries; 
identified by Charles J. Rattey, 980 Talman avenue, his 
brother. 

REED, NELLIE, 66 Rush street, leader of the flying ballet in 
the "Mr. Bluebeard" company, died at the county hospital 
from burns on the body; she was identified by Hermann 
Schultz of New York, a member of the company. 

REGENSBURG, HELEN, daughter of Samuel H. Regens- 
burg, Vendome hotel, Sixty-second street and Monroe ave- 
nue. 

REGENSBURG, HAZEL, daughter of Samuel H. Regens- 
burg, Vendome hotel. 

REIDY, ANNA, 614 South Sawyer avenue, daughter of 
Policeman John Reidy. 

REISS, ERNEST, n years old, 4244 Vincennes avenue; 

identified by uncle. 

* 

REIDY, MARY, 614 Sawyer avenue, sister of Anna. 

REIDY, NELLIE, 614 Sawyer avenue, and sister of other 
two women, identified by Catherine Campbell, 623 South 
Sawyer avenue. 

REISS, ERNA, 3760 Indiana avenue. 

REITER, MISS REINA, 55 years old, 30x30 Michigan ave- 
nue; with Miss Reiter at the play was her sister, Miss Pet 
Bell, Potomac apartments. 

REITER, MRS. M. S., 3000 Michigan avenue; identified by 
C. F. Cooper. 

ROBERTSON, MINNIE, 15 years old, Park Ridge; body 
identified by brother. 

RANKIN, MRS. MARTHA, 498 Fullerton avenue. 

RANKIN, LOUISE, South Zanesville, O. 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER, 

REID, COL. W. M., Waukegan, aged 70 years, formerly as- 
sessor ; identified by papers in his pocket, by R. G. Lyon, 

REID, MRS. W. M., Waukegan. 

RICHARDSON, THE REV. H. L., 44 years old, 5737 
Drexel avenue, pastor of Congregational Church in Whiting, 

' Ind. ; also student in the divinity school of the University of 
Chicago ; was pastor of a Congregational Church in Ripon 
Wis., for twelve years. 

RIFE, MRS. WILLIAM, 516 East Forty-sixth street. 

RIMES, DR. M. B., 6331 Wentworth avenue; attended thea- 
ter with wife and three sons. 

RIMES, MRS. M. B., wife of Dr. Rimes. 

RIMES, MYRON, 10 years old, son of Dr. Rimes, 

RIMES, THOMAS M., 7 years old, son of Dr. Rimes. 

RIMES, LLOYD B., 5 years old, son cf Dr. Rimes. 

ROGERS, ROSE, 32 years, 1342 North Sangamon street 
identified by husband. 

ROBERTS, THEODORE. 

RUBLY, MRS. LOUISE, 60 years old, 838 Wilson avenue r 
identified by her son, G. H. Rubly. 

RADCLIFFE, ANNA, 6404 Calumet avenue. 

RAYNOLDS, DORA, 18 years old, 4216 Forty-fifth street 

REIDY, ELENORA, 20 years old, 614 South Sawyer ave- 
nue. 

REIDY, JOHN J., 614 South Sawyer avenue. 

REISS, ERNEST, n years old, 4244 Vincennes avenue, 

REYNOLDS, MARIE, 30 years, Sunnyside park. 

ROBBINS, RUTH W., Madison, Wis. 

ROETCHE, LILLIAN, 20 years old. 

ROTTIE, LILLIAN, 10 years old, 7218 Lafayette avenue 
RUHLEMAN, CLARA, 63 years old, Detroit. 



550 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

RUTIGAR, MRS. ELEANOR, 55 years old, 750 South 
Trumbull avenue. 

S. 

SANDS, MRS. H. R, 40 years old, Tolona, 111. 

SANDS, KITTIE, Tolona, 111., 15 years old, visiting Miss L. 
Barnett and Miss J. Dawson, 1006 West Fifty-fourth 
street. 

SCHNEIDER, GEORGE GRINER, 20 years old, 437 Bel- 
den avenue. 

SCHNEIDER, JAMES, 157 Roscoe boulevard. 

SCHNEIDER, MRS. JAMES, 22 years old, 157 Roscoe boul- 
evard. 

SCHREINER, MRS. MAMIE L., 30 years old, 2183 West 
Monroe street. 

SCHREINER, IRMA MAY, 5 years old, 2183 West Monroe 
street. 

SECHRIST, MISS HATTIE, 2928 North Paulina street. 

SECHRIST, JUNE, 8 years old, 2928 North Paulina street. 

SCHAFFNER, MISS MINNIE, 25 years old, 578 Forty- 
fifth place; teacher in Forrestville school. 

SKINNERS, MRS. ALICE, 24 years old, 4344 Oakenwald 
avenue. 

SIMPSON, ADA, 40 years old, visiting at 537 West Sixty- 
fifth street, Denver. 

SMITH, MISS BONNIE, 15 years old, 2177 Washington 
boulevard. 

SMITH, RUTH M., 15 years old, 2177 Washington boule- 
vard. 

STAFFORD, BESSIE M., 1253 Wilcox avenue. 

STRATMAN, RUTH, 18 years old, 421 East Forty-fifth 
street. 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 35* 

STERN, MARTIN, 1385 Congress street. 

SAYRE, MISS CARRIE, of 7646 Bond avenue, school teach- 
er in Myra Bradwell school, Windsor Park; identified by 
friends; she was in the party of school teachers with Miss 
Alma Gustafson. 

SWARTZ, MISS MARJORIE, student at Washington col- 
lege, Washington, D. C, 20 years old, daughter of Dr. 
Thomas Benton Swartz, 146 Thirty-sixth street; died at St. 
Luke's hospital. 

SAVILLE, WARREN E., 19 years old, 46 East Fifty-third 
street; formerly lived at Kankakee, 111. 

SEYMORE, A. L., 758 West Lake street. 

SMITH, MRS., Desplaines, 111. 

STAFFORD, MISS ROSIE, 18 years old, address not 
known. 

STILLMAN, MISS CARRIE, daughter of Prof. Stillman of 
Leland Stafford university, California; was in seat in first 
row of first balcony. 

SHERIDAN, ANDREW, 35 years old, 4155 Wentworth ave- 
nue ; identified as engineer of ,Wabash railroad company, by 
F. J. Herlihy. 

STOOD ARD, DONALD, u years old, Lanark, 111.; body 
identified by the father, B. M. Stoddard. 

SYLVESTER, ELECTRA, 30 years old, Plainview, Mo., 
visiting Mrs. Andrew Irle, 1240 Lawrence avenue; body 
identified by name on handkerchief. 

SUTTEN, HARRY P., 17 years old, 1595 West Adams 
street. 

SEGRINT, MRS. A. N., 40 years old, Paulina street and 
Lawrence avenue, Irving Park; identified by husband. 

STEINMETZ, MRS. O. T. P., 2541 Halsted street. 

STRONG, E. K., 10 Oakland Crescent. 



352 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

SAWYER, MRS. J., 102 Cleaver street. 

SCHMIDT, ROSAMOND, 18 years old, daughter of H. G. 

Schmidt, 335 West Sixty-first street. 
SCHOENBECK, ANNA, 408 East Division street; identified 

by mother. 

SCHOENBECK, ELVINA, 408 East Division street. 
SCHREINER, ARLENE, 6 years old, 2183 West Monroe 

street; identified by relatives. 
SILL, LUCILE, 7604 Union avenue, 25 years old; identified 

by E. S. Hall. 

SMITH, MARINE, Desplaines, daughter of Mrs. Smith. 
SHABAD, MYRTLE, 14 years old, 3041 Indiana avenue. 
SPECHT, MRS. B., 6542 Stewart avenue. 
SPECHT, MISS EVA, 6542 Stewart avenue. 
SPINDLER, MRS. J. H., Lowe, Ind.; visiting sister, Mrs. 

E. C. Frady, 4356 Forrestville avenue. 
SPINDLER, BURDETTE, Lowe, Ind., son of Mrs. J. H. 

Spindler. 
SQUIRE, MISS OLIVE E., 914 Cuyler avenue; identified by 

her father. 
SQUIRE, OSCAR, 7 years old, 942 Cuyler avenue; identified 

by father. 

STARK, MRS. N. M., Des Moines, la.' 
STODDARD, ZABELLA, 27 years old, daughter of D. M. 
Stoddard of Minonk, 111.; was accompanied by young 
brother. 
STRONG, MRS. JAMES N., 23 years old, 10 Oakland 

Crescent. 
STUDLEY, THE REV. G. H., 3139 Parnell avenue, pastor 

of the Asbury Methodist Episcopal church, at Thirty-first 

street and Parnell avenue. 
SUETSCH, W. J., 33 years old, 2496 North Ashland avenue 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 353 

SUTTLER, MRS. L. J., Des Moines, la. 
SWARTZ, IRENE, 12 years old, 143 Thirty-fifth streei. 
SULLIVAN, ELLA, Knoxville, la., body identified by L, C. 
Flurnit. 

T. 

TAYLOR, MRS. J. M., 31 years old, 1222 Morse avenue s 
Rogers Park ; identified by daughter-in-law, Mrs. A. Taylor, 
1028 Farwell avenue, Rogers Park. 

THOMPSON, CLYDE, O., Madison, Wis. ; student at Uni- 
versity of Wisconsin ; Thompson had taken his fiancee, Miss 
Leigh Haveland, to the theater ; both perished. 

TAYLOR, JAMES M., 60 years, 1222 Morse avenue, Rogers 
Park; identified by Albert A. Taylor. 

TAYLOR, REAM, 1204 Morris avenue. 

TORNEY, MRS. EDNA, 28 years old; lived at Francisco 
avenue and Adams street. 

TRASK, MRS. E. W., Ottawa, 111. 

TAYLOR, MISS FLORA, 22 years old, at St. Luke's Hos- 
pital. 

TEASTER, F. W. 

THOMAS, REMINGTON HEWITT, 18 years old, 62 
Woodland Park, son of Frank H. Thomas. 

THONI, CLARA, 4644 Evans avenue; identified by Maud 
Partell. 

TRASK, MRS. R. H., Ottawa, 111. ; identified at Carroll's. 

TURNEY, MRS. SUSIE, 40 years old, 534 East Fiftieth 
street; identified by her son. 

TARNEY, CARRIE, 534 East Fiftieth street. 

TAYLOR, RENE MARY, 12 years, 1222 Morse avenue. 

THATCHER, WALTER, 38 years old, 341 West Sixtieth 
place. 



IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

THOMPSON, C. J. (supposed) ; name on collar. 
TOBIAS, FLORENCE, 1182 Flournoy street. 

V. 

VALLELY, MRS. J. T., 858 Sawyer avenue. 

VALLELY, BERNICE, daughter of Mrs. Vallely. 

VAN INGEN, ELIZABETH, 9 years old, Kenosha, Wis. 

VAN INGEN, JOHN, Kenosha, Wis., 20 years old, famed 
golf player, son of H. F. Van Ingen ; was at the theater with" 
parents, three sisters, and two brothers; died at Sherman 
house, where he and his parents were taken. 

VAN INGEN, GRACE, Kenosha, 23 years old, daughter of 
H. F. Van Ingen. 

VAN INGEN, NED, 18 years old, son of H. F. Van Ingen, 
Kenosha. 

VAN INGEN, MARGARET, 16 years old, daughter' of H. 
F. Van Ingen, Kenosha. 

W. 

WOLFF, HARRIET, daughter of L. Wolff, president of 
L. Wolff Manufacturing Company, 1319 Washington boule- 
vard. 

WACHS, MRS. ELLA, of Laporte, Ind.; body identified by 
her brother, F. C. Flentye. 

WASHINGTON, MISS FREDA, 22 years old, 1897 Mel- 
rose street. 

WEINDER, PAUL, 17 years old, 201 South Harvey ave- 
nue, Oak Park; identified by father. 

WELLS, DONALD, 12 years old, 1228 Diversey boulevard. 

WALDMAN, SAM, 20 years, 608 Milwaukee avenue. 

WALMAN, SIMON, Austin. Identified by Edward Will- 
iams. 



1ROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 35 ( 

.VASHINGTON, JOHN, 22 years old, 1847 Melrose street. 

vVILCOX, MRS. EVA M., 45 years old, 109 South Leavitt 
street. 

WHITE, MRS. W. K, Washington Heights. Identified by 
Secretary White of the finance committee, city hall. 

WHITE, MISS FLORENCE O., 22 years old, 437 West 
Thirty-eighth street. Identified by F. J. Shaw. 

WHITE, MRS. HIRAM, and child, Logansport, Ind. 

WIEMER, MRS. THOMAS, 30 years old, 838 Wilson ave- 
nue. Identified by husband. 

WILLIAMS, HOWARD, 18 years old, Cornell student. 

WENTON, MISS ALICE, 6241 Kimbark avenue. 

WAGNER, MARY ANNA, 629 Sedgwick street. 

WECK, ERICK, Milwaukee; guest of Joseph Schneider, 
Chicago. 

WIRE, EVA, 15 years old, 613 West Sixty-first place. Iden- 
tified by her uncle, E. A. Mayo. 

WOOD, MRS. J., 545 West Sixty-fifth street. 

WULSON, HOWARD J., 213 Halsted street. Identified by 
E. J. Blair. 

WEBBER, JOSEPH, Janesville, Wis. 

WEBER, MRS. CARRIE, aged 49 years, wife of John J. 
Weber, 402 Garfield avenue. 

WUNDERLICH, MRS. HARRY, 34 years old. Identified 
by her husband. 

WESKOPS, IRMA, aged 15 years, 4939 Champlain avenue 
Identified by brother. 

WEIHERS, IDA, 1970 Kimball avenue. 

WEINFELD, HANNAH, 20 years old, 3745 Wabash ave- 
nue. 

WERNISH, MRS. MARY, 341 Center street. 

WERSKOWSKY, MRS., 125 Sangamon street. 



356 IROQUOIS THEATER DISASTER. 

WINDER, BARlRY, 12 years old, 201 South Harvey avenue, 

Oak Park. 

WOLF, SADIE, 26 years old, Hammond, Ind. 
WOODS, MRS. J. L., 49 years old, 437 Sixty-fifth street. 

Z. 

ZEISLER, WALTER B., aged 17 years, University of Chi- 
cago student, son of Dr. Joseph Zeisler, 3256 Lake Park 
avenue. Identified by name on watch charm. 

ZIMMERMAN, MISS BESSIE, 954 St. Louis avenue, 
teacher in public schools, died at St. Luke's hospital. 

ZIMMERMAN, MARY E., 20 years old, 841 South Turner 
avenue. 

RESIDENCE OF VICTIMS. 

Aurola, 111 1 Granvllle, Mich 2 Oak Park, Til 5 

Harrington 111 2 Grossdale, 111 1 Ontonagon. Mlcb. .. '2 

Bartlett, III 2 Hammond, Ind 4 Ottawa, 111 3 

Battle Creek, Mich.. 2 Hart. Mich 3 Palo Alto, Cal 1 

Berwyn, 111 2 Harvard, 111 2 Petersburg. Ind 2 

BInghamton, N. Y... 1 Janesvllle, Wls 1 Pittsburg Pa 1 

Btoomington, III 1 Jonesvllle, Mich 1 Plalnwell, Mich 2 

Brush, Colo 1 Kansas City, Mo 1 Quincy, III 2 

Burlington, Iowa ... 1 ' Kenosha. Wis 1 Racine, Wis 3 

Cedar Rapids, Iowa. 3 Keokuk, Iowa 1 Rensselaer, Ind 1 

Chicago, 111 300 KIrkville, Mo 1 Rock Island, 111 1 

Clinton, Iowa ...... 2 Knor, Ind 1 Savannah 111 1 

Custer Park, 111 1 Knoxville, Iowa .... 1 St. Louis, Mo 3 

Davenport. Iowa.... 1 Lafayette, Ind 1 St. Mary's. Ind 1 

Decatur, III 1 Lake Geneva, 111.... 1 Thief River Falls, 

Decorah, Iowa 1 Lakeside, 111 1 Minn 1 

Delaware, 8 Laporte, Ind 2 Tolono, 111 2 

Des Molnes, Iowa... 5 Lena, 111 1 Washington Heights, 

Des Plalnes, 111 2 Lincoln III 1 III 3 

Detroit, Mich 2 Lockport, III 1 Watertown, Wis. 2 

Dodgevllle, Ind 1 Logansport. Ind 3 Waukegan, III. ' 3 

Elgin, III 2 Lowell, Ind 2 West Grossdale, III.. 4 

Eola, III 2 Madison, Wls 1 West Superior, Wis.. 2 

Evmnston 111 12 Madison, S. D 1 Wheaton 111 3 

Fargo, Minn 1 Martinsburg. 2 Winnetka, 111 8 

Freeport, III 1 Mattoon, 111 1 Woodford, 1 

Galesburg, III 1 Milwaukee, Wls. ... 3 Woodstock, 111 2 

Geneva, 111 3 Mlnonk, 111 2 Zairesville, 3 

Gibson City, 111 1 New York City 2 

Glen View, 111 1 Norwood Park, 111... 3 Total 570 

This remarkable table shows that victims of the fire were from thirteen 
states and eighty-six cities and towns. 



CHAPTER XXVI. 
THE STORY OF THE BURNING OF BALTIMORE. 

All the world was startled on Sunday, February 7, 1904, 
just 39 days after the Iroquois theater horror, by another 
sickening visitation of the fire fiend. This time the devour- 
ing element fell upon the city of Baltimore and all but effaced 
it from the map. Millions upon millions in property were 
swept away, old established firms annihilated and miles of 
streets occupied by business houses laid waste. Fortunately 
this disaster was accompanied by no loss of life. 

Twenty-seven hours elapsed before the conflagration was 
checked. Fire fighters hurried to the scene from a number 
of near by cities and aided the local fire department in sub- 
duing the flames. Strangely enough it was a coal yard that 
broke the onward sweep of the sea of fire and enabled the 
firemen to bring the fire under control. Even then it burned 
for days, feeding on the debris and wreckage that marked 
its early progress. The greatest danger past troops and 
police relieved the firemen who sought rest exhausted and 
maddened by the terrible ordeal through which they had 
passed. 

History affords no parallel of the conditions in fire-swept 
Baltimore on the following Tuesday when its people awoke 
to the mighty task of reconstruction looming up before 
them. After having suffered a loss estimated at $125,000,- 
ooo a cry of rejoicing went up among them because of the 
absence of casualties. Not a life was lost in the avalanche of 
flame and only one person was seriously injured Jacob In- 
glefritz, a volunteer fireman from York, Pa. While the 
hospitals were full to overflowing the injuries sustained were 
of a minor nature. A strange comparison with the Iro- 



358 THE BURNING OF BALTIMORE. 

quois theater fire of a month before! In that instance 600 
met death and a host were seriously injured in a fire of fif- 
teen minutes' duration confined to one building that suffered 
insignificant damage. Here in a fire that swept for days 
over the business heart of a great city not a life was lost. 
Such is the strange operation of providence. 

Other conflagrations suffered by American cities have 
nothing in common with Baltimore experience. Fire de- 
stroyed 674 buildings in New York on Dec. 26, 1835, caus- 
ing a property loss of $17,000,000 without causing loss of 
life. Thirty-six years later Chicago burned, wiping out 17,- 
450 buildings and 250 lives and entailing a loss estimated 
at $200,000,000. The following year, 1872, fire laid waste 
65 acres of property in Boston, causing a property loss of 
$80,000,000 and killing fourteen persons. The partial de- 
struction of Ottawa and Hull, Canada, April 26, 1900, in- 
flicted a loss of $17,000,000 and brought death to seven. On 
June 30 of the same year the North German Lloyd dock fire 
in Hoboken, N. J., cost 150 lives and $7,000,000 in property. 
Jacksonville, Fla., lost $10,000,000 through a visitation of 
fire that swept through an area 13 blocks wide and two miles 
long. The last in the list was the Paterson, N. J., fire of 
Feb. 8, 1902, which destroyed 75 buildings valued at $18,- 
000,000. 

As fire and water have ever been recognized as the most 
potent agencies of death and destruction it will readily ap- 
pear that seared, scorched Baltimore was fortunate indeed 
in the absence of casualties. On the calm of a restful Sab- 
bath, marred only by the presence of a high wind, the con- 
suming storm broke upon the doomed city. To that wind 
and the presence of hundreds of old fashioned highly inflam- 
mable structures nestling among the sky scrapers may be 
attributed the indescribably rapid spread of the flames. 

The start of the fire was in the basement of Hurst & Co.'s 
wholesale dry goods house. After burning for about ten 
minutes there was a loud report from the interior of the build- 
ing as the gasoline tank used for the engine in the building 



THE BURNING OF BALTIMORE. 359 

exploded. Instantly the immense structure collapsed, send- 
ing destruction to adjacent buildings in all directions and 
causing the fire to be beyond control of the firemen. 

Spreading throughout the wholesale section, the fire burned 
out every wholesale house of note in the city, swept along 
through the Baltimore and Fayette street retail sections, de- 
stroyed all the prominent office buildings, leveled banks and 
brokerage offices, as well as the Chamber of Commerce and 
Stock Exchange, in the financial section, then sped on through 
the wholesale and export trade sections centering about Ex- 
change place. It finally stopped at Jones falls, a creek that 
runs through Baltimore, but swept along the creek to the 
lumber district and the docks. 

As soon as the threatening character of the fire was real- 
ized appeals were sent broadcast for help and desperate meas- 
ures were adopted to prevent the spread of the flames. To 
gain that end huge buildings were leveled through the agency 
of dynamite. Eleven fire engines and crews were hurried 
from New York by a fast special train and they joined in 
the battle early and fought like demons until exhausted. 
Philadelphia, Wilmington, Washington, Frederick, Md., 
Westminster, Md., and York, Pa., each sent brave contin- 
gents of men with an equipment of apparatus to reinforce 
the desperate firemen of Baltimore. 

The first attempt at dynamiting was in the large building 
of Armstrong, Cator & Co., but it failed to collapse and at- 
tention was turned to the building at the southwest corner of 
Charles and German streets, where six charges of dynamite, 
each charge containing 100 pounds, were exploded. The tre- 
mendous force of the explosion tore out the massive granite 
columns that supported the building and left it with apparent- 
ly almost no support, but the walls failed to collapse and 
stood until the flames had crossed Charles street and were eat- 
ing into the block between Charles and Light streets. 

Meantime the fire had been communicated to the row of 
buildings on South Charles street, between German and Lom- 
bard streets, and all those places, occupied principally by 



360 THE BURNING OF BALTIMORE. 

wholesale produce and grain dealers, were in flames. Before 
midnight the Carrollton hotel was in flames and the fire was 
sweeping toward Calvert street with irresistible fury. 

It was a terrible Sunday afternoon and night! People 
forgot their usual devotions at church to pack their most 
valued possessions ready for flight. Men of wealth left their 
families and firesides to join in the work of suppressing the 
flames. Women prepared to flee with their valuables before 
the wave of fire they momentarily expected to roll down upon 
them. Wealth and employment were disappearing under 
the advance of the fiery element and gloom, fear and dark 
forebodings settled down upon the doomed municipality. But 
there was neither sleep nor rest for man, woman or child. 

Firemen working on the south side had succeeded in check- 
ing the flames at Lombard street and, as the wind was blow- 
ing from the northwest, there was no danger of it spreading 
farther in that direction. The western limit had also been 
reached at Howard street and the danger was confined to the 
east and north. 

The progress of the flames toward the north had in the 
meantime been so rapid as to be simply appalling. From 
structure to structure they flew, licking up the massive build- 
ings as if they were composed of paper. In the block between 
German and Baltimore streets they flew along and almost be- 
fore it could be realized the buildings along Baltimore street 
were blazing from roof to basement. 

For a time it was hoped the fire could be kept from cross- 
ing the north side of Baltimore street and the firemen made 
a desperate effort to prevent it. The effort was useless, how- 
ever, and soon the tall, narrow building of Mullin's hotel be- 
gan to dart out tongues of flame and the remainder of the 
buildings between Sharp and Liberty streets were ablaze and 
the fire was marching north. The flames flew rapidly from 
place to place and soon the entire south side of Fayette street 
was in their grasp. Down Fayette to Charles they swept and 
in a short space of time the building occupied by Putts & 
Co. was doomed. 



THE BURNING OF BALTIMORE. 361 

Seeing, that nothing could save it, it was decided to destroy 
the building with dynamite in the hope of preventing the 
fire from crossing Charles street. The explosion was success- 
ful in accomplishing the object as the entire corner collapsed 
instantly. This had, apparently, no effect upon the progress 
of the fire, for almost before the sound of the falling walls 
had died away the building on the east side of Charles street 
began to blaze, and it was evident the block between Charles 
and St. Paul streets were doomed. 

In a desperate but futile effort to prevent the fire going fur- 
ther to the east building after building was dynamited in this 
block, but it was all of no avail and the fire swept steadily 
onward. 

The Daily Record building was soon in flames and not 
many minutes later the fire had leaped over St. Paul street 
and the lofty and massive Calvert building began to emit 
smoke and flame. The Equitable building, just over a narrow 
alley, quickly followed and these two immense buildings gave 
forth a glare that lighted the city for miles around. 

It was thought that the fire could be prevented from cross- 
ing to the north side of Fayette street and here again a des- 
perate stand was made by the firemen. Again it was use- 
less and soon the large building of Hall, Headlington & Co., 
on the northwest corner of Charles and Fayette streets, was 
blazing brightly. With scarcely a pause the fire leaped across 
to the east side of Charles street and enveloped the handsome 
building of the Union Trust company, while at the same time 
the large buildings to the west of Hall, Headlington & Co., 
occupied by Wise Bros. & Oppenheim, Oberndorf & Co., 
were aflame throughout. 

Down Fayette street to the east the flames swept, and soon 
the new courthouse was ablaze. The fire area then extended 
along Liberty street north to Fayette, east to Charles, north 
to Lexington, south on Charles to Baltimore street, east on 
Baltimore to Holliday and from there in spots to Center Mar- 
ket space. 
.When it was seen the courthouse could not be saved the 



362 THE BURNING OF BALTIMORE. 

court records were all removed to the northern police station, 
two miles and half away. The Continental Trust building, 
a thirteen-story structure, caught at the tenth floor and was 
totally destroyed after burning like a great torch. The pri- 
vate bank of Alexander Brown, located at Baltimore and Cal- 
vert streets, in the very heart of the fire district, a one story 
stone structure, miraculously escaped annihilation, the sur- 
viving building out of a great spread of two square miles 
of costly structures that caught the early morning sun that 
fateful day. Sunrise that disclosed naught save ruin, chaos 
and confusion. 

Thus raged the warfare of man against a relentless hungry 
element for 27 hours. It was 1 1 140 Sunday morning when 
the fire started. At 2 140 Monday afternoon the joyful news 
was spread that the allied fire departments had the flames 
within control. Hotels, banks, business houses, factories 
in fact everything in the heart of the city was swept away. 
All the local newspapers save one were destroyed, the street 
car systems were without power to operate and the lighting 
facilities were sadly crippled. Towering ruins loomed up on 
every hand, swaying in the breeze and jeopardizing life. And 
still the countless fires in the burned district raged on, illum- 
inating the heavens and clouding the atmosphere with dense 
smoke against which myriads of sparks twinkled like minia- 
ture stars. 

The last places to go before the fire started to burn itself 
out, were the icehouse and coal yard of the American Ice 
company. The coal yard, which spread out about 200 yards 
south of the icehouse, was the means of staying the march of 
the flames on the south and Jones falls on the east. The 
Norfolk wharf of the Baltimore steam-packet company, 
which was stocked with barrels of resin and other miscella- 
neous merchandise, was destroyed before the ice company's 
plant was reached. 

At 10 o'clock Monday the fire was reported under control, 
but a little later the flames were sweeping along the harbor 
and river men began taking their vessels rapidly out into the 



THE BURNING OF BALTIMORE. 363 

middle of the stream. There were about seventy-five of 
these vessels and they were hastily anchored down the bay. 
The buildings of the Standard Oil company and the Buck- 
man Fruit company along the water front were soon in 
flames. This renewal of the energy of the fire continued un- 
til well along into the afternoon of the second day. 

Following is a partial list of the principal buildings de- 
stroyed in the baptism of fire or by dynamite in an effort 
to stay the flames: 

The courthouse, loss $4,000,000 

The postoffice 1,000,000 

Equitable building, twelve stories 1,135,000 

Union Trust Company building, n stories 1,000,000 

Continental Trust building, 16 stories 1,125,000 

Baltimore & Ohio general offices 1,125,000 

Calvert building , 1,125,000 

Hopkins bank. 

Holliday Street theater. 

Guardian Trust building. 

Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone company. 

Maryland Trust company. 

.Alexander Brown Banking company. 

Bell Telephone building. 

Custom house. 

Western Union building. 

National Exchange bank. 

United States Express office. 

Mercantile Trust building. 

Baltimore American. 

Baltimore Herald. 

Baltimore Sun. 

Baltimore Evening News. 

Baltimore Record. 

John E. Hurst, dry goods, $1,500,000. 

William Koch Importing company, $150,000. 

Daniel Miller company, dry goods, $1,500,000. 

Dixon & Bartlett company, shoes, $175,000. 



364 THE BURNING OF BALTIMORE. 

Joyner, Wilse & Co., hats and .caps, $100,000. 
Spragins, Buck & Co., shoes, $125,000. 

Cohen- Adler Shoe company, $125,000. 

L. S. Fitman, women's wrappers; Jacob R. Seligman, 
paper, and Nathan Rosen, women's cloaks, $100,000. 

Morton, Samuels & Co., boots and shoes, and Strauss Bros., 
storage, $100,000. 

Bates Rubber company, .$135,000. 

Guggenheimer, Wells & Co., lithographers and printers, 
$125,000. 

M. Friedman & Sons, clothing, and F. Schleunes, clothing, 
$150,000. 

Schwarzkopf Toy company, $100,000. 

National Exchange bank, building and contents, $125,000. 

S. Lowman & Co., clothing, $125,000. 

John E. Hurst & Co., storage, $150,000. 

Lawrence & Gould Shoe company and Bates Hat company, 
$125,000. 

S. Ginsberg & Co., clothing, $125,000. 

Winkelmann & Brown Drug company, $125,000. 

R. M. Sutton & Co., dry goods, $1,500,000. 

Chesapeake Shoe company, $100,000. 

S. F. & A. F. Miller, clothing manufacturers, $150,000. 

S. Halle Sons, boots and shoes, $100,000. 

Strauss Bros., dry goods, $250,000. 

A. C. Meyer & Co., patent medicines, $150,000. 

Strauss, Eiseman & Co., shirt manufacturers, $150,000. 

North Bros. & Strauss, $150,000. 

McDonald & Fisher, wholesale paper, $100,000. 

Wiley, Bruster & Co., dry goods, and F. W. & E. Dammam, 
cloth, $125,000. 

Henry Oppenheimer & Co., clothing, and Van Sant, Ja- 
cobs & Co., shirts, $175,000. 

Lewis Lauer & Co., shirts, $100,000. 

Champion Shoe Manufacturing company and Drfggs, Cur- 
rin & Co., shoes, $100,000. 

Mendels Bros., women's wrappers, $125,000. 



THE BURNING OF BALTIMORE. 365 

Blankenberg, Gehrmann & Co., notions, $125,000. 

Leo Keene & Co., women's cloaks, and Henry Pretzf elder 
& Co., boots and shoes, $125,000. 

Peter Rohe & Son, harness manufacturers, $125,000. 

James Roberts Manufacturing company, plumbers' supplies, 
$ioo,ooa 

R. J. Anderf & Co., boots and shoes, and James Robert- 
oon Manufacturing company, storage, $100,000. 

L. Grief & Bros., clothing, $150,000. 

Maas & Kemper, embroidery and laces, $125,000. 

Within 72 hours of the start of the fire the people of Bal- 
timore were giving thought to reconstruction. After an in- 
vestigation it was announced that the vaults of the Continental 
Trust company, which contained securities to the value of 
$200,000,000, were intact and that most of the great bank 
and safety deposit vaults escaped destruction. To relieve 
banks and citizens from the embarrassment of financial trans- 
actions the next ten days were declared legal holidays in 
the commonwealth of Maryland. 

Mayor McLane reflected local public sentiment when he 
sent out the following declaration to the world at large : 

"Baltimore will now enter undaunted into the task of res- 
urrection. A greater and more beautiful city will rise from 
the ruins and we shall make of this calamity a future blessing. 
We are staggered by the terrible blow, but we are not dis- 
couraged, and every energy of the city as a municipality and 
its citizens as private individuals will be devoted to a rehabil- 
itation that will not only prove the stuff we are made of but 
be a monument to the American spirit." 

With the exception of the Baltimore World all the local 
newspapers suffered the loss of their plants, moved their staffs 
to Washington and issued editions regularly from there de- 
voted to Baltimore news. The World, published in the thick 
of the ruin and desolation, gave voice to its sentiment in the 
following editorial: 

"God be merciful unto those who suffered from the awful 
calamity that swept down on Baltimore. 



366 THE BURNING OF BALTIMORE. 

"Tongue fails; pen is inadequate and refuses to compre- 
hend the extent of the disaster that has overtaken us. We 
have heard of awful calamities to others; in fancied security 
we have looked on in sympathy while others have suffered. 
Now the pain, the anxiety, the suffering is ours and we stand 
appalled, unable to realize the immensity of the terrible affair. 
"The World is the only newspaper office in the city that is 
standing. Once it was on fire and was saved only by the 
earnest, valiant and courageous work of the World employes 
and the goodness of God. To our suffering contemporaries 
we extend the greatest sympathy and to the hundreds of 
other sufferers also. For those thousands who are thrown 
out of work in the dead of winter, with sorrow and suffering 
staring them in the face, our heart throbs with a feeling that 
we cannot express. All we can say is, 'God help them.' " 

Local and national military authorities took immediate 
charge of the situation to prevent looting and disorder, pos- 
sible because of the vast sums of money in the various safes 
and vaults scattered about in the ruins. Recognition of the 
disaster came from the nation in another practical form. A 
bill was promptly and appropriately introduced in Washing- 
ton by Representative Martin Emerich of Illinois reciting the 
destruction by fire in preamble and then continuing: 

Whereas, The fire has so crippled the merchants and busi- 
ness interests in the City of Baltimore that they are un- 
able adequately and properly to provide and care for the 
many who are rendered homeless and penniless by this ca- 
lamity, and 

Whereas, The City of Baltimore and its people are prob- 
ably unable in the face of the unlocked for catastrophe to 
provide proper means for effectually checking the fire and 
promptly to remove the embers and debris; and 

Whereas, The same, while remaining, are constantly a 
menace to the safety of many citizens, it is enacted that the 
Secretary of the Treasury be authorized and directed to pay 
upon the order of the City Council of Baltimore, certified 
by the Mayor of the city, to any designated authority of 



THE BURNING OF BALTIMORE. 367 

said city, any necessary sum of money not exceeding the 
sum of $1,000,000 out of any money in the treasury of 
the United States not otherwise appropriated, to be used 
for the purpose of providing shelter for those rendered 
homeless by the said fire, and also to be used for the pur- 
pose of clearing the streets and localities devastated by 
the fire and in order to render the city available for the 
use of residents and others as speedily as possible. 
The bill was referred to the committee on appropriations. 
Two days after the fire insurance men estimated the loss 
at $125,000,000 and the insurance carried at $90,000,000. 
For the thousands of clerks and other employes whose posi- 
tions are gone forever there seemed to be nothing before them 
but to move to other cities. 

In the work of rebuilding came employment for another 
army, but it offered no avenue of escape to those whose doom 
was sounded by the explosions of dynamite and the crash of 
falling walls. Few of the men were fitted for the heavy labor 
of the building trades. 

Baltimore's great wholesale houses and wharf district have 
been ruined not irrevocably, but to such an extent that the 
fear grips the heart of every Baltimore business man that the 
city may be unable to recover from it for many years. 

Amid ruins still hot and smoking Baltimore began its resur- 
rection and made known its determination to rise, Phoenix- 
like, through its own efforts, by politely, yet firmly declining 
proffers of help that poured in from all sides. The blow that 
befell Baltimore aroused an intense civic pride that found ex- 
pression in an effort to work out its own salvation. In de- 
clining financial assistance Mayor McLane was actuated by 
the spirit shown by the Chamber of Commerce, Stock Ex- 
change and practically every local commercial body, which 
came forward with offers of all the money needed by the city 
for immediate use. It was decided that should the Herculean 
task prove too great for the municipality there would still 
be ample time to seek outside assistance. 

.While heavily armed soldiers marched about the blistering 



368 THE BURNING OF BALTIMORE. 

ruins with stately tread holding back those who only a few 
hours before had fought the police to save their valuables at 
the risk of their lives, the latter-^-energetic business men 
were already preparing to re-open their establishments. Old 
buildings, long unused, private residences near the business 
section, in fact, every available structure to be secured blos- 
somed forth within 24 hours with crudely lettered signs on 
board or cloth announcing that within was the temporary of- 
fice of a firm. The names on some of these signs were those 
that rank high in the financial and commercial circles of the 
world, and in these temporary offices men who for years have 
known only mahogany desks worked on cheap tables and plain 
boards. 

One of the surprises of the fire was the discovery after the 
excitement was over that two financial concerns whose homes 
were directly in the path of the flames escaped practically un- 
harmed. These were the Mercantile Trust company and 
Brown Brothers' Bank. The escape of these buildings was 
due to their lack of height. They do not exceed four stories, 
and as they were surrounded by lofty structures the flames 
swept over them. 

Unconcealed joy greeted the discovery and the information 
that millions upon millions in securities in various vaults es- 
caped destruction, whereas all was at first believed to have 
been swept away. Practically all of the vaults and strong 
rooms and safes of the financial concerns whose buildings 
were destroyed were found unhurt. A tremendous loss in 
securities had been anticipated at first, and when vault after 
vault yielded up its treasures unharmed the joy of the guar- 
dians was boundless. 

From one trust company's safes alone papers to the amount 
of more than $200,000,000 were recovered. Merchants and 
their assistants, smoke soiled and begrimed and hollow-eyed 
from anxiety and loss of sleep, worked like laborers in the 
smoking ruins to uncover their safes, and in nearly every in- 
stance they were rewarded by intact contents. 




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