Chicago police chief (1901-05) Francis O’Neill (1848-1936) was amongst the first rescue teams to
enter the Iroquois Theater. He had been in a hearing
about fireman misconduct with
fire chief Musham when Lieutenant Beaubien
told him there was a fire at the Iroquois Theater.
O’Neill ordered out every available officer in the
downtown district, as well as men from the 1st, 3rd
and 5th divisions. Within thirty minutes there were
several hundred policemen on the scene of a grisly
Department organization was credited with the
identification of nearly 70% of the victims before
midnight the night of the fire, and in the days that
followed, with recovering and recording 4,530
articles belonging to the Iroquois audience. Police
custodian De Wit, estimated the value at $50,000
($1.2 million today).
Chief O’Neill took charge of removing bodies from
the first dress circle balcony and assigned
Assistant Superintendent Herman F. Schuettler to the third
floor gallery balcony.
Before becoming a policeman O’Neill was a school
teacher, sailed around the world and worked as a
shepherd. He became Chief of Police in 1901, charged
with supervising nearly 3,500 Chicago police
flute player since boyhood, O’Neill loved music,
particularly that of Ireland, his native land.
He compiled several books
of Irish tunes and contributed his large collection
of music to Notre Dame University.
years after the fire
Less than two
months after the fire chief O'Neill lost the last of
his five sons. Eighteen-year-old Roger O'Neill
died from meningitis. His four brothers had
died prior to 1885.
Four O'Neill daughters survived.