Photos show Walter and Jack several years prior to 1903
Twenty-year-old Tessie Bissinger tried valiantly but failed
to save her fifteen-year-old brother, Walter Bissinger
(top), and ten-year-old cousin, Lafayette, Indiana
resident Jacob "Jack" Pottlitzer (center).
Walter Bissinger was the son of realtor Benjamin Bissinger
(1848-1930) and Leah Felsenthal Bissinger
(1859-1911) of Chicago. He had three other
sisters in addition to Tessie. The Bissingers
lived at 4934 Forrestville in Chicago.
One newspaper reported that Walter was an usher who
died at his post but that seems unlikely.
He had attended the Morgan Park Academy in the 9th grade
then gone on to Howe Military
academy in Indiana and in 1903 was home for the Christmas break.
Walter had begun
writing poetry at age seven.
His poems were
published after his death.
Jack, also nicknamed "Jackie," was the only child of
Max Pottlitzer (1867-1907) and the late Emily M.
Felsenthal Pottlitzer (1873-1903). Emily had
died from surgery complications in March, 1903.
Max Pottlitzer was secretary-treasurer of the
Lafayette Cracker Co., owned by his brothers.
He also registered patents for several tools and
In the years after
Theresa “Tessa” Bissinger (1882-1960)
married Signey Henry Bernheim three years after the
fire. She lived in Kentucky for twenty years and died in
This poem was one of Walter Bissinger's last, written in November,
1903, a month before the Iroquois Theater fire.
The Spring at Eagle Rock*
A bubbling fountain from the rock doth leap,
From bold faced cliff doth rise a dainty spring,
Which ever to itself doth laugh and sing,
Unmindful of the mass of stone so steep,
Which towering high above it, guard doth keep.
From Horseshoe island do the wavelets fling
Themselves upon the shore; but hear the ring
And tinkling; 'tis as if around do peep
Invisible sprites and spirits, airy forms
Upon the brink of some pure fairy lake;
For in a hewn log basin it doth fall,
A tiny, shaded pool, a liquid mirror,
Where silver lights and shadows gleam and quake
From overhanging pines and birches tall.
* A spring in northern Wisconsin
sculpture by Joseph Dux on Chicago theater
1903 Coke shampoo
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