In mid December, 1903, Margaret and Reinhold Graff
traveled about seven hours by train into Chicago.
They looked forward to
spending the Christmas holidays with two of their
three grown children who had relocated there. Albert
was building a provisioning business and Anna had
just celebrated her first wedding anniversary with
Luther, a Rand McNally salesman. A third child,
Frank B. Graff, had remained in their hometown, Bloomington,
Illinois, and worked
with his father in the family owned grocery on East
In Chicago, Margaret stayed with Anna and Luther at
the Drexel Hotel at the corner of Oakwood and Drexel
while Reinhold stayed with Albert on the west side
of Chicago. Luther traveled to a teachers
convention on Wednesday but would have been home to
celebrate New Years with his wife and her parents.
husband, Luther G. Newby (b.1864), was a sales rep
for Rand McNally, selling textbooks
and educational tools to schools and teachers.
Before heading out of town with his boss, Chauncey
F. Newkirk, to a teachers convention in
Indianapolis, he purchased tickets for Anna and
Margaret to attend the Mr. Bluebeard matinee at the
elegant new Iroquois Theater.
German immigrants, Reinhold Graff
(1840-1913) and Margaret Lamp Graff, lived at 819
East Grove street in Bloomington, Illinois, about
three hours southwest of Chicago. Reinhold was a
well known grocery store owner. Though not wealthy,
Graff's grocery was prosperous enough to afford a
servant and the Graff's owned their home.
Reinhold was Margaret's second husband. Her first
husband, Jacob Leiser, died during the civil war.
Margaret had immigrated to America from Kiel, Germany
with her brother, Marcus Lamp.
survived by her husband (Reinhold), two sons (Albert
and Frank), four brothers (Charles, Joseph, Marcus
and Henry), and one sister (Lena).
Thirty-nine-year old Luther Newby was a native of
Indiana, one of seven children born to the North
Carolinian Quaker family of Albert and Caroline
Newby. He went to work at Rand McNally after two
years at Earlham College.
Luther and his boss,
Chauncey F. Newkirk, were staying at the Claypool
Hotel in Indianapolis. Both feared their their
families were at the Iroquois. Late the
night of the fire Newkirk received a telegram from
his wife that assured him they were safe and had
gone to a different theater. When he heard about the
Iroquois fire. In a series of telephone calls
he first learned that his wife had escaped and then
that her whereabouts were not known. He boarded a
train back to Chicago.
Reinhold identified his wife's body and Luther
identified Anna's body. Both women buried in
Bloomington, probably in the same family plot though
this has not been verified.
In the years after the fire
Luther married several times after Anna's death, and
fathered a couple children. By 1918 he was married
to Grace B. Buragher Newby and lived in California.
He joined with his younger brother Henry in the Troy
Laundry of Pasadena, eventually becoming the firm's
president. Perhaps harkening back to Luther's years
with Rand McNally, there was an employee library in
the restrooms at the laundry.