To celebrate the upcoming birthday of her niece,
Sadie Wolf organized an afternoon theater party for
her three young nieces at Chicago's newest theater.
The Mr. Bluebeard pageant with flying
ballerinas and a cast of hundreds in exotic costumes
was sure to please.
Sadie brought along her
domestic employee, Bertha Herger, to help keep track
of the girls and their winter wraps.
|In the Iroquois Theater
- Fatality - hostess,
Sadie Leopold Wolf
- Fatality - guest of
honor, Pauline Mossler, who would have become a
teenager in a week
- Fatality - Sadie's
niece Alice Kaufmann, the five-year-old daughter of
Sadie's husband's brother
- Fatality - Sadie's
domestic employee, Bertha Herger, twenty-two
- The only survivor in party,
niece Selma Leopold, nine-year-old daughter of
Sadie's brother Simon
Sadie's sister presumably
traveled to Chicago from she and Pauline's home in
Rensselaer, Indiana to spend a few days in Hammond
but there was no indication that she attended the
theater. It was a girl's trip but perhaps she
stayed home to look after her son Phillip and
Sadie's toddler, Helen.
For some families with
multiple victims, Iroquois losses blasted a crater
that left survivors white-knuckled at the edges.
For the Wolf-Leopold-Mossler group, with each of
four family units having lost a member, the loss was
spread around a bit. Much agony but a network
to share in grief and comfort. Sadie's widowed husband,
for example, married a sister who had
lost a child in the fire and they raised their
Retail was the family
business, for at least three generations. Dry
goods and clothing, wholesale, small shops
and big stores. From the 1880s to the 1930s
the family remained in Indiana and Chicago but by
the 1940s subsequent generations began moving
westward to Nebraska and California. The
generation of which Sadie, Leo and Rachel were a
part, along with their parents and siblings, are
mostly interred in the Westen Cemetery in
Rensselaer, Indiana with another group in Chicago's
Oak Woods Cemetery.
(b.1878) was the wife of Leopold "Leo"
M. Wolf (1868-1939), a prosperous
merchant in Hammond, Indiana, south of Chicago.
Leo and his brother in law, Carl Kaufmann (see
below) owned the Lions store, employing over two
attended Indiana University where she was in the
Pi Beta Phi sorority* and participated as a first
soprano in a glee club. Sadie's
father had also been a successful
merchant, and landowner,
in the small town of Rensselaer, Indiana about
seventy miles south of Chicago. She was born
and raised there, one of ten children born to
Abraham Leopold (1833-1921) and Emilie Eltzbacher Leopold
Rensselaer then had a population of around 2,500,
about half what it is today. Sadie and Leo
married in 1901 and had Helen the following year.
reported that Sadie's body was found clutching that
of her niece, five year old Alice Kaufmann.
The newspaper reporting that information was rather
loathsome, publishing photos falsely identified as
the Iroquois and wringing every possible drop of pathos
from stories, even making it up if need be. In this
case, however, there may have been truth to the
story because both Sadie's and Alice's bodies were
found at St. Luke's hospital while other members of
the party were found elsewhere. The Indianapolis
newspaper also reported that Sadie was still alive
when found but died after reaching the hospital.
She may have been one of the many victims taken to
Thompson's Diner initially, then transported to a
hospital. So either Sadie or Alice
may have lived for a brief time. A gruesome
likelihood is that Sadie's grip on the child was
remarked upon because it was difficult to separate
Leo, Sadie's husband,
identified her body.
A few years after the fire Leo Wolf married Sadie's
widowed sister, Rachel "Ray" Leopold Mossler
(1867-1937), mother of
another victim, Pauline, and her younger brother Phillip. At Rachael's death in
1937 Leo married a third time.
funeral for Sadie and Alice was held the Sunday afternoon after the fire, conducted by Rabbi Hirshberger
of the Chicago South Side Synagogue.
He had also conducted Sadie and Leo's wedding. Burial was at the cemetery in
of Rensselaer was the youngest of
Sadie's nieces in the theater party. She was
one of two children born to Leo Wolf's sister, Clara Wolf
Kaufmann (1865-1942), and Carl Kaufmann
and Leo Wolf immigrated to America from Germany the
same year, 1892, and were partners in the Lion Store
in Hammond, Indiana. Clara and Carl married in
1895. Alice was born three years later and
Alfred in 1902.
At just over a year old,
Alfred and his caretaking needs may be why Alice's
mother Clara was
not part of the theater party. Alfred grew up,
married a woman named Florence and in 1933 named his
daughter after Alice, a sister he knew only from pictures.
The body of twenty-two-year-old
Herger (b. 1881)
a domestic servant who worked for the Wolfs in
identified by Mr. or Mrs. Thomas Weisman,
relationship unknown. I did find a
Bertha Herger working for the Wangershein family in
Chicago in 1900, which would make sense because
Sadie and Leo were not yet married in 1900, but Bertha then disappears.
The correct name of
the person who identified Bertha
may instead have been Wiedemann, a more
common name in Chicago in 1903; either way, I failed
to find a Bertha Herriger, Heriger or Herger in
1903, in Chicago, Hammond or Rensselaer, nor a
Thomas Weisman, Weismann, Wiedeman or Wiedemann in
Chicago, Hammond or Rensselaer. Could
a clerk have heard Weisman and written Wangersheim?
Or read and interpreted handwriting that said Wangersheim
as Weisman? In 1903 there was a
Bertha Wangersheim, widow of Louis Wangersheim, living at 406 Center in Chicago, while
the David Wangersheim who in 1900 employed a servant
named Bertha Herger continued to live at 694 N.
Park. Did Bertha marry a Wangersheim and go to
work for the Wolfs?
Pauline Mossler (b.1891)
of Rensselaer was named after her great
Sadie's niece, Pauline,
was the daughter of widow Rachel
"Ray" Leopold Mossler. Her father, William Mossler, had died five
years earlier. Pauline had one
brother, Phillip Mossler (1896-1948), age seven.
Newspapers did not report whether
Rachel was in the party or even in Chicago. What with Bertha Herger being at
the theater, Rachel may have stayed home to look
after baby Helen and Phillip. Seems like
Phillip would have enjoyed the Christmas pageant
but maybe it was an all-girls excursion.
After a day-long search by a group of six
people Pauline's body
was found at Sheldon's Funeral home and
identified by her uncle.
Moses Leopold was an attorney and judge in Marion,
Pauline's funeral was held the morning of the Sunday after
the fire in Lafayette, Indiana, conducted by Rabbi Feierlict,
followed by burial in the Weston Cemetery in
Rensselaer, Indiana. Pauline's
grave marker photo found at
A newspaper obituary incorrectly reported
her year of birth as 1897.
In 1900 Pauline, Phillip and Rachel
had lived with Rachel's and Sadie's parents, Abraham and Emelia Leopold.
In the years after the fire, Rachel married Sadie's
husband, Leo Wolf, raising her son Phillip with Leo
and Sadie's daughter, Helen. Explaining their
relationship to others must have been fun.
They were stepbrother and sister and also cousins.
To further complicate, Helen married a man named
Phillip. She named her first daughter Sadie,
after her late mother that she knew only through
photographs. In the odd
coincidences category another brother, Louis, would
die twenty-five years to the day after the Iroquois
Theater fire. Pauline's brother,
Phillip, named has daughter Pauline Clare Mossler
was the only survivor in the theater party.
The nine-year-old was another of Sadie's nieces, the
daughter of her brother Simon Leopold (1869-).
In 1900 Selma and her family lived in the Lafayette
area in Indiana, northwest of Indianapolis. By
1920 they moved to Denver, Colorado. Simons
managed a clothing store. Selma graduated from
the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 1914,
became a teacher and in 1930 taught public school in