Mother and daughter,
Mabel and Ruth Irle
Two old friends in
their early thirties, Mabel and Electa, took Mabel's
eleven-year-old daughter, Ruth Irle, and her fifteen-year-old friend, Helen Ainslie, to see Mr Bluebeard. The
children survived but Mabel and Electa did not.
When the fire appeared
on stage, Helen asked Mabel to leave but Mabel
thought they should wait in their seats in the third
floor balcony. Ruth and Helen waited for a few
minutes but finally ran for the exit and escaped.
Mable and Electa did not make it out of the
Boston native, Mable Wiley Irle (b.1871), was
thirty-two years old. Her daughter, Ruth Elisabeth Irle
(1892-1988), eleven. Mabel's husband of twelve
years, Michigan native Andrew Irle (1867-1912), was a noted
detective superintendent for the Pinkerton agency.
Mabel's body was found at Rolstons mortuary,
identified by the engraving in her wedding ring. She
was buried in Haverhill, Massachusetts.
After the fire Andrew
relocated to St. Louis, remarried and continued
working for Pinkerton. He was a key figure in the
Pinkerton agency for many years. (See story
below about his memory.) Ruth Irle went to live with
an aunt and uncle. As an adult she married a
couple times to a Sager and a Smith, living in
Minnesota and Iowa.
In one of the many
interwoven relationships involved in the Iroquois
disaster, Andrew's boss,
William A. Pinkerton, was a
close personal friend of Iroquois Theater manager,
Will J. Davis.
Electa A. Sylvester
Mabel went to the theater with her friend from
Plainview, Minnesota, former school teacher Electa
Anna Sylvester (b.1870). Electa was visiting the
Irle family for the holidays. She was the daughter
of George Washington Sylvester and Matilda Cook
Electa graduated from
the Winona Normal School and taught in North Dakota
for several years prior to returning to her home
town in Minnesota. Ill health ended her teaching
career and she worked with her brothers in the
She was buried in
Woodlawn following a funeral at the Methodist
Electa was identified by her name on a
Ruth Irle's friend,
ten-year-old Helen M. Ainslie (1893-), survived
the Iroquois fire. Despite instructions from the
adults that they should remain in their seats, Ruth
and Helen ran for an exit. Helen Ainslie was one of
six children born to James S. Ainslie, a
and Katherine L. Hopkins Ainslie. Helen
married W. G. Hamilton and had two or three children.
Jan, 1914 Literary Digest
"A SLEUTH WITH A CAMERA EYE
"A keen eye and a good memory are no doubt useful
to book-agents, congressmen, drummers,
postmasters, and some others we might name, but
they are particularly handy in chasing crooks
and the detective who can glance at a criminal
and remember his looks for years is usually the
one who wins rapid promotion.
"It was so in the eye of Andrew Irle, who, before
his death in Chicago the other day at the age of
forty-six, was nationally famous for his ability
to remember faces, names and handwriting.
Something about his work is told editorially by
the Chicago Inter Ocean:
'Most of us frequently
experience more or less embarrassment from
the inability to associate faces with names.
Our memories of the face and the name are
stored, as it were, in separate mental
compartments and we can not quickly bring
them together. In Andrew Irle's brain they
seemed to be stored in the same compartment
and always, apparently, came out together.
'Many public men have
owed much of their popularity to their
ability at once to call a man by name when
they see his face. The average man is
pleased to be thus instantly and accurately
remembered. Andrew Irle's faculty went much
further. His eyes, like the photographic
camera, seemed to record all details of
appearance, and his brain put under the same
index all things seen or heard about any
person in whom his business interested him.
'He seemed to have for
men whom he had met what may be called a
"complete" memory. When he saw the face
again, or a picture of it, he recalled at
once the name, the time, and place where
seen before, the circumstances and the
companions. Scores of stories are told about
his wonderful identifying memory, out of
which one must suffice here.
One day there came into the Pinkerton
agency, with which Irle was connected, a
photograph from the police of Portland,
Ore., of a man under arrest in connection
with a bank robbery. The direct evidence
against him was not strong and he was not at
all known as a criminal to the Pacific coast
police. as soon as Irle saw the picture he
declared it to be that of a man arrested and
convicted for a similar offence at
Binghamton, N.Y. about ten years before,
giving the exact date, circumstances, and
the names of accomplices. And so it was.
On his release from prison, after about four
years, the convict had either turned to
honest ways or at least had kept out of
sight of the police. He had simply
disappeared from his old haunts in the East.
Either he had failed to make a success of
honest industry or had thought it safe, in a
distant part of the country and after a
lapse of nearly ten years, to resume a
Mr. Irle had the same complete memory for
handwriting. Only a few weeks ago he was
shown a portion of a letter. He at once
named the writer, tho more than ten years
had passed since he had last seen any
writing by the same hand, and then only a
short note. By Andrew Irle's death society
has lost a member whose special faculties
and peculiar powers made him remarkably
useful and efficient in its protection
against its predatory elements.' "