Newspapers did not report where the Schonbecks were
seated at the Iroquois Theater but their modest
means make the second- or third-floor balconies
It is not known if Carl attended the theater with
his wife and daughter but it seems unlikely.
He worked as a bartender and the day before New
Year's eve would have been busy.
Hours later Carl F. Schonbeck (1863-1921) was
searching morgues and hospitals for the bodies of
his wife and daughter. Anna's body was found at
Rolston's funeral home and possibly identified by her mother. Elvira's* body was found at Jordan's funeral home
and identified by her father. Anna's mother's
involvement is uncertain. One newspaper
reported that Carl's grieved alone, that he had no
one else. The remark may have meant that he
had no other children.
Unfortunately a fire in
1921 destroyed the 1890 census records that might
have added clues as to parents and siblings of Carl
and Anna. In the late 1800s, there was an increase in the number
of single individuals making the crossing from
Europe to North America, as opposed to whole
families, and it is possible that
Carl, age twenty-two, and Anna, age twenty-one, left
their families behind.
were part of a large influx of Swedish
emigrants who settled in Chicago, an
estimated 100,000 by 1900. The
volume decreased a bit during the 1890s but
in 1903 the
number of Swedish immigrants coming to America
increased by nearly fifty percent.
The ticket cost for steerage passage had
dropped, making emigration more
affordable for servants and laborers.
It is possible Anna worked as a domestic
during the five years before she and Carl
The Schonbeck's lived at 402 E. Division St. in
Chicago, near today's Seward Park. In Chicago
city directories of 1903, where addresses were given
for an individual's home and employer, only one
address was offered for Carl Schonbeck, that of the
saloon where he worked. It is
possible his family of three lived there too, in the
parents were natives of Sweden. Carl
immigrated to America in 1885 and Anna in 1890. They
married in April 1895. Carl worked as a bartender
and saloon keeper.
Elvira was one of nine
hundred elementary students at the James A. Sexton school at
160 West Wendell at the corner of Wells. Prior
to 1902, the fifteen room school had been the North
Division High School, constructed in 1883.
The structure still stands and is today a Chicago
landmark, since 1993 home to the Salazar Bilingual
Education Center. Elvira was the only
student from the school reported to have been an
Iroquois Theater fire victim.†
The double funeral was held
on the afternoon of Monday, January 4, 1904. Anna and
were reportedly buried at Rosehill Cemetery in
Chicago but this has not yet been verified.
In the years after the fire
Carl remarried in 1905, to
another Swedish immigrant, Ida Parton (1863-1926), and moved to Seattle where he worked as a
bartender and she as a cook. (Like Chicago, Seattle
was home to one of the period's largest communities
of Swedish-Americans with nearly ten percent of
Swedish-Americans living there in 1910. In
trying to learn more about Anna's parents and
siblings I found several Daulphs living in Seattle. In 1916 Ida was injured
in an automobile
accident while on route to pick him up at Western
Washington Hospital for the Insane on Steilacoom.
At the time of his death in 1921, Carl owned
a pool hall. He and Ida did not have children.
As to Carl's years in Chicago, I found little
information other than that he participated in a Swedish
Discrepancies and addendum
commonly spelled Schoenbeck, which was also the spelling
recorded on Carl's naturalization papers. In later
years the name was sometimes shortened to Beck. Elvira's
name also appeared in newspapers and other
publications as Elvina, Arlene and, in a list of
Chicago school children victims, as Mabel.
When Carl and Anna married Anna's birth year was
given as 1871 but in the 1900 U.S. Census it was
reported as 1869.
† Three years after the
Iroquois fire, teachers at the Sexton school requested
permission to erect a Christmas tree. Those
who remembered Elvira may have hoped to add a more joyful
the school's Christmas holiday but the request
kicked off a debate amongst school officials.
The result was that the school
board denied Sexton's request and ruled that
Christmas trees were too serious a fire risk and
barred from Chicago public schools. President
Grover Cleveland had erected a tree with electric
lights in the White House in 1895 and over the next
decade there would be a major shift nationwide to
electric lights, but in 1903
candles were still common Christmas tree
Matt Soniak at Mental Floss offers an interesting
bit of Christmas tree light history.