In 1903 forty-six-year-old
Clara E. Brown Donaldson (b.1857)* had been married
for seventeen years to Frank Ludlow Donaldson
(1857-1915). They had no children. Frank worked as a
loop chief at Western Union in Chicago. He had begun
his three-decade career with the company in Wabash,
Indiana at age twenty-two.
Over 5,000 telegrams came in
and went out from the Western Union offices in
Chicago the day after the Iroquois Theater fire.
People sent telegrams to relatives in Chicago upon
recognizing a family member's name in a newspaper
list of Iroquois victims. "Was John at the
Iroquois?" And Chicagoans sent notifications to
friends and family around the country. "John dead at
Iroquois. Come immediately." "John safe, not at
Like any system when pushed to its limits,
transmission problems may have surfaced of a kind
Frank Donaldson usually dealt with.
Newspapers reported that while he worked to keep
equipment operating smoothly on December 30, 1903,
he did not know his wife had gone to the theater and
was among the victims.
It is not known who went with Clara to the
on December 30, 1903. First-day newspaper lists
included an H. Donaldson but, the name disappeared
on subsequent lists.
Clara's body was located at
the county morgue and identified by her husband. Her
brothers, Harry and Louis Brown, traveled from Ohio
to escort Clara's body back to Ohio for burial in
the Pleasant Ridge Presbyterian Cemetery, next to a