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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 entrance to the landing above. At the Randolph
street entrance were two grand staircases. Passage down one of these
staircases was shut off completely by the iron gates.

According to Dusenberry, the gates were locked with a padlock, requiring a
key to open them. It was the custom to open these gates after the
intermission at the close of the second act, so as to give the people an
unobstructed passageway for leaving the house at the close of the play.

The exact condition made by the locked gates and the extent to which they
contributed to the immense loss of life may be realized by Dusenberry's
sworn testimony in detail on this point.


It was as follows:

Q. Do you recall an inspection which I made of the stairway 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,

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

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.


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 yourself 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. Powers or Mr. Davis as
to the importance of having men stationed there, instead of a gate, so
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.


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 were in their
places. He said that 100 persons were standing in the passageway back of
the last row of seats on the first floor and about twenty-five persons
occupied standing 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 cylindrical 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.


"I found these gates in a battered condition by personal inspection, 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 stationed there, in place
of a gate, to direct the people.

"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. Dusenberry 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 stairways 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 reach 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 evidence 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 directions 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 uniform. 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."


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
at 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.



Heroes and heroines - every one of them - the members of the octette told
the coroner how they sang and danced to reassure 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,
menaced 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 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 125th 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 attention 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 Dupont and Miss Wynne, Miss Lawrence,
Miss Beaute, Miss Richards and Miss Romaine, the remaining members
testifying in a similar strain. None admitted knowing who opened the rear
stage door leading to Dearborn street, the door through which came the
cold blast that forced the fire into the auditorium.

"Jack" Strause, 31 West 11th street, New York:

"The octet had just made its entrance, walked four steps and danced eight,
bringing the members to the center of the stage, when I 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

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 burning 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

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 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 Williams 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 entrance, other members of the octet following, except
myself. I staid until they were out of sight. I left the stage by the
second 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 auditorium
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



Ten days after the fire horror, while blood curdling disclosures 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 harvest, 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 incompetency 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
Saturday, January 9, for that purpose, at a meeting held in the offices 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 victims 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 relatives 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 spoke briefly of his reason for calling the meeting.

"The last time I saw my wife and little ones," he said, "was on the
morning of the fire. I did not know 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 support have been wrested from them. There is
suffering and sorrow throughout this great city. It is my desire that we
work together in the effort to find out who the men are that are
criminally 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 before 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."


Chairman Hull then called for an expression from his attorney, 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 management and owners of the theater. They are
the men he regards as financially and criminally liable for the disaster
that destroyed 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 requested me to state that it is
his desire that a permanent organization be effected.

"I believe an executive committee should be appointed to ascertain just
what is best to be done and do it. I would suggest 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.


"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 already 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 evidence 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. Bluebeard' 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."


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 criminal 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 completely ignored reports
about the absolute absence of fire protection in school buildings are not

"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 extinguishers, no fire apparatus of any kind, no

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