Throughout the summer of 1903, Edward Loughlin (in
newspapers sometimes spelled Laughlin)
stopped by to watch construction of the Iroquois Theater.
On November 23, 1903, day of the Iroquois premier, he and a fellow inspector from the Chicago
building department, Julius Lenses, went through the
theater. He gave a verbal report to his boss,
Chicago Building Commissioner George Williams, that the
Iroquois was "OK."
"OK" would haunt him for the rest of his life.
weeks later, the Iroquois burned, killing over 600
Seven days later, the coroner's inquest began.
day later, Edward's wife died. He and Maggie
had been married for twenty-nine years and she had born nine
of his children, of which seven were living, six of
them living with Edward, the youngest of them nine
Seventeen days later, the coroner's jury ruled that
Edward should be held over for a grand jury trial.
To stay out of jail he had to post $2,000 bail.
Twenty eight days later he was one of two indicted
for neglect of duty.
Thirty days later, his son died. Edward
Loughlin Jr. was nineteen.
April 8, 1906, Edward died without seeing a
resolution to the charges against him.
testifying in the Iroquois inquest January 14, 1904,
Loughlin said that his report that the Iroquois was
"OK" referred only to the structure, not to
equipment. The prosecution forced him to reluctantly acknowledge that
his report was probably assumed to apply to both
structure and equipment.
Newspapers characterized his testimony as evasive
and blame shifting. Curiously, newspapers
reported not a word about the death of his wife, or
about how his testimony might have been influenced
by thoughts of his dying wife and four children under age
Often brushed aside was that
two months before the Iroquois fire, on
November 2, 1903,
Building Commissioner Williams had submitted a report to
Carter Harrison jr. that
most of the theaters in the city should be closed
for violating fire ordinances. The mayor
turned the report over to the city council who sent
it to committee where it still sat at the time of
the fire. In a
gathering of the guilty, every Chicago alderman should have been
included, and the mayor should not have been
exonerated. The Iroquois Theater fire was a
tragedy with many fathers.
Edward Francis O'Loughlin (1855-1906), shortened to
Loughlin (and in newspapers often spelled Laughlin)
was a Brooklyn, New York native. He married
Irish immigrant Margaret "Maggie" Ryan Loughlin
(1856-1904) in 1874. She had come to America in
Edward, Maggie and Edward Jr. were buried in Mt.