name appeared in a newspaper list of Iroquois
Theater victims the day after the fire, and also in
the Everett Marshall book about the fire. Her name was not included in
the coroner's inquest list, however, or in subsequent
For other individuals with a conflicting status, the
trail has led sometimes to an Iroquois victim and
other times not, so I set about looking for signs
that Victoria Dray was alive after December 30,
Fruits of my hunt were so
bountiful that it's hard to decide what to pass
along. She had no children so there may not be
another living person who is interested in Victoria
but it would be a shame for such an interesting
character to be forgotten.
Victoria may or may not have
attended Mr. Bluebeard at the Iroquois but definitely did not
die there and was probably not injured.
That last conclusion is based on a sense that if
Victoria Dray had so much as singed an eyelash at
the Iroquois, she would have led the fight to
prosecute the theater syndicate.
Victoria Clara Guillott
(1873-1937) was born in Vermont to Canadian natives,
Hubert and Sophia Guilott. The family moved
west and by 1882 lived in Minneapolis.
Victoria remained in the Midwest as an adult while
her parents and some of her five siblings resettled
In 1899 Victoria married her
first husband, commercial realtor and mortgage
holder, Homer Ira Dray (1872-1901), of Chicago.
Homer may have gotten his start in real estate by
working for his uncle, Walter S. Dray a Chicago
realtor from the mid 1880s until his death in 1894.
Walter's estate, adjusted for inflation, would today
amount to nearly $5 million. I was not able to
learn how Homer died but am curious so
drop me a line if you have information about his
No children resulted from
Homer and Victoria's marriage, probably because he
died before their third anniversary and she did not
remarry until she was forty-five. Victoria's
inheritance was sufficient to let her travel, do a
bit of financial speculation and maintain homes in
several cities, or so she claimed, so she may have
been too busy. Her 1905 hiring of fifteen-year-old Minnie Pfannenschmidt may have been born of
maternal yearnings (see below).
Race horse named Venus
In February, 1903, nine
months before the Iroquois Theater opened, Victoria
was making her own drama in Chicago newspapers.
She maintained she'd purchased a horse named Venus for $150 from
Judson G. Sherman (1844-1913) who
then refused to produce the horse. A one-time
banker, Sherman was treasurer of the National Horse
Sale Company in Chicago, specializing in the sale of harness
racing horses. Judson maintained that Victoria
never paid for the horse, that the receipt she
presented was inaccurate because the
ownership transfer of Venus depended upon
a real estate transaction that was not completed.
Victoria was having none of
She first staged a six-hour
sit-in at his office, refusing to leave and
threatening Sherman with her umbrella. While
ensconced, Victoria answered a few of his phone
calls, ordered in lunch and made herself an
annoyance until he physically ejected her. The
manner of the ejection would become one of
Victoria's several suits against Sherman. The
sit-in came to the attention of the newspaper and
the resulting story read like a Lucy Ricardo and Mr.
Moony skit. In 1903 it probably made Victoria
a subject for derision.
Undeterred, Victoria spent
the next year pursuing Sherman. She went
looking for the horse at his home in Lake Geneva.
When she found no Venus she pled her case to
Wisconsin courts and succeeded in seeing Sherman
indicted for larceny in March, 1904.
Meanwhile, Victoria brought a $10,000 suit against
Sherman for throwing her down the stairs when he
ejected her from his offices in 1903. Nothing
was reported about the conclusion of either case but
Sherman's horse-selling career was not interrupted,
so he was not imprisoned, indicating there was a
Parental child abuse in 1905
In 1905, Victoria's name again appeared in
the newspaper, this time as an accidental
participant in a child abuse case.
Fifty-four year old widower, William Pfannenschmidt
who had immigrated to America from Inbenck, Germany
in 1875, earned his living selling oil door to door.
His second wife died in 1903, soon after their
wedding, leaving him with six children
aged four to fourteen.
Four of the Pfannenschmidt
children remained at home in 1905 when William
Pfannenschmidt went to Nebraska to find a homestead.
He left his fifteen year old daughter, Helen,
nicknamed "Minnie," in charge of the household,
including the garden and her three younger siblings, aged
Victoria Dray lived near
Minnie but not close enough to easily explain how
they came to know one another. However they
became acquainted, the result was that Victoria hired Minnie to work for her
– in an unknown capacity but presumably as a
domestic – in exchange for clothing and an
unreported amount of money.
When William returned from Nebraska
and learned Minnie had not done as instructed,
he beat her with his fists, whipped her with a belt
and kicked her.
Minnie fled and went to the
Friends of the Homeless who reported the abuse to
the police. William was arrested and his case was
heard by judge Healy.
"My father pounded me with his fists and kicked
me," she said to Judge Healy. "I worked as hard as I
could and tried to keep the house clean for him."
Pfannenschmidt was fined,
Minnie Pfannenschmidt remained with Friends of the
Homeless, her eleven year old sister Annie
Helen Pfannenschmidt went to live with an
older married sister, Emma.
The two boys, nine-year-old
Charles and twelve-year old-Fritz, remained with
William remarried two years
later, to his third wife, forty-eight-year-old
widow, Mary Collins, becoming stepfather to
fifteen-year-old daughter, Susie Collins.
The story of the
Pfannenschmidts doesn't end just yet. Three
weeks after the wedding, Mary died under
circumstances that a neighbor, family
priest and her daughter Susie found suspicious.
They thought William had poisoned Mary for her small nest
egg, and had possibly done the same to his prior
Police and the coroner's office
investigated and found nothing to suggest Mary did
not die of natural causes. The following year
William married a fourth time but that wife too
would be gone when he died in 1946 at age ninety
reported about what happened to Susie Collins.
Hopefully the courts did not
force her to return to the home of a man with a
history of violence whom she'd accused of murder.
And what became of Minnie?
By 1940 she was widowed and worked as a cook –
living with the father who had beaten her thirty-five years before.
Victoria tries on a millinery enterprise
In 1907 Victoria incorporated
the Victoire millinery company in New York with V.
Mayne Turner, Alexander S. Bacon and herself as
directors. A year later it was reorganized
with herself as president, Mabel Dickinson as
secretary and Alexander S. Bacon as a director.
Initial capitalization was $2,000. Other than
incorporation filings, I found no evidence of business
activity. Alexander Samuel Bacon was an author
and V. Mayne Turner owned the copyright on one of
Bacon's books. In 1916 the pair formed a
partnership in a printing firm.
Victoria back in court, wins suit
against Lithuanian tailor
In 1908 Victoria brought suit
against a Chicago tailor
for refusing to reduce his bill on dresses she
maintained fit poorly. Reported as George Gansky, the tailor may have been twenty-nine year
old Joe Ghenski who lived on Ellen St. with twelve
other Lithuanian and Russian tailors and
cited expert knowledge as her father and brother were tailors.
Municipal Civil court judge of the First District,
Edwin K. Walker (186-1953), had Victoria don two of
the four dresses she purchased and
ruled that one was an inch too long and the other an
inch too loose at the waist. Walker ordered the
tailor to turn over all four dresses and reduce his bill by $12
(another paper reported $22). Victoria
gloated to the press.
Stakeouts, wanted posters, burglary and lies bring
Victoria a third win in the courts
In 1910 Victoria spent much of
the year in Detroit courts pursuing officers of the
Draper Company Ltd. She wanted compensation
for the job
she claimed they'd offered and return of her $1,000 investment.
Victoria went after three of its
founders: Arthur Wellington Draper, John D. Kuppenheimer (known as the Prince of Bu) of
the Oriental Silk Company of Montreal, and John's
brother, Jacob D. Kuppenheimer.
The Draper Company had been
incorporated in 1909 to
manufacture indelible ink and carbon paper, with a
head office in Detroit.
contributed $1,000 to their original $100,000 in
capital. She asserted that Kuppenheimer also promised her a job as a traveling sales
representative with a $40 weekly salary.
When the company and job
failed to materialize, and Kuppenheimer denied
having made the job offer, Victoria hired an
attorney – and went to work herself on a variety of
schemes to bring pressure on the plaintiffs:
- When Draper evaded an arrest
warrant, Victoria had fliers printed that
pictured the principals in the company and offered
$200 for information about their whereabouts.
Newspaper reports did not state how many fliers were printed, or
how Victoria managed the distribution, but Draper's wife
came across one of the fliers while traveling in
- When Victoria learned that Draper was back
in Detroit and planned to escape again, she hired a taxi and
did stakeouts at various train depots until she spotted him. She summoned a
policeman and Draper was arrested.
- A dramatic courtroom moment
came when Victoria submitted copies of letters
that overnight had disappeared from Draper's office. Newspapers did not report whether
Victoria pulled off the document heist by
herself or hired a burglar.
In court records she gave as
her occupation that
she was a corset model for the American Lady Corset
Company. I checked decades of ALC
advertisements but all incorporated stylized illustrations
of young ingénues
and I found nothing to corroborate Victoria's
involvement with the company. At thirty-seven
she wouldn't have had the look the company
favored but the company did have a line of models
for fuller figures.
In any case, for Victoria,
truth was malleable. When it became important in
prosecuting the case against Draper for her to be a
Michigan resident, Victoria testified that she had
always had a residence in Detroit. She must
have meant except for from 1899 to at least 1907
when she lived in Chicago. Had someone
checked they would have found what I did, that the
only Dray in Detroit City directories 1907-1915 was a
single man. Victoria Dray's
name did not appear until 1916 (but I could not find
her in the 1910 US Census so she may have been in
Detroit but the directories missed her – for a
decade). At other times she claimed to have
residences in Chicago, Manhattan and Paris. I
don't know about Paris but in Chicago and Manhattan
her residence consisted of a room in a boarding
Kuppenheimer hit back with
numerous countersuits but in the end there was a
settlement returning Victoria's $1,000 investment
plus $1,000 for her trouble.
moves to Michigan, becomes Victoria Clara Guillott
Victoria lived in Michigan the
last two decades of her life, operating the
Antler's Stag Hotel and cafe and marrying in 1918
and again in 1925.
In 1918 she married Canada
native, Adelard Lebert (1883-___), age thirty-five,
and the pair settled in Port Huron, Michigan.
Four years into the marriage, Adelaid disappeared
after he and Victoria argued (perhaps about her
having claimed she was only thirty five at the time
of their marriage instead of her actual forty five),
and did not return home. Victoria filed for
desertion a few months later but continued making
payments for the next three years on his two life
insurance policies, for coverage totaling over $8,000. While
watching, I suspect, for news of a death that met
her purposes, i.e., one involving an unrecognizable
and unidentified male corpse within a short distance
of Port Huron.
Having been briefly thought
an Iroquois theater victim herself, Victoria would
have followed Iroquois news closely and known about
the various miss identifications of badly burned
bodies. Thus a story in July, 1925 of a
horrific suicide may have been just what she was
looking for. Across the St. Clair river in
Sarnia, Ontario, an unidentified man jumped into a
flaming furnace at Imperial Oil Limited and was
burned beyond recognition with only a portion of the
came forward to identify the body as her missing husband, Adelard Lebert. Corroborating identifications
from Adelaid's two brothers convinced the coroner,
Dr. Douglas Logie, who issued the death certificate for Adelard
Lebert. The Lebert brothers paid for funeral services
got the death certificate she needed to collect the life insurance payout.
She used the $8,000 to build an apartment building,
even naming the building Adelard Apartments.
following year Adelard Lebert turned up, very much alive.
He had been traveling in California, Washington and
Florida for the past four years. Upon
returning to the area, presumably to visit family in
Ontario, he learned of his supposed death and
thought his brothers should be reimbursed for the
funeral expenses of the stranger they'd buried.
The insurance company tried to force Victoria to
return the money but she denied that the man who
claimed to be Lebert was her husband. Victoria
challenged the insurance company and assistant
prosecutor in Port Huron, Jesse Wolcott, to prove
man who claimed to be Adelard was actually her
husband – accurately calculating
that they would not, or could not, do so. Adelard's
parents were deceased. There were siblings who could have identified
him but the situation called for people who could
connect Adelard to Victoria and it's possible they all lived in Canada. Bringing them across the border to testify may have
For his part, Adelard laid no claim to
the insurance money (presumably he had not paid the
premiums on the policies prior to his disappearance
in 1922). Whatever the considerations, the case was
dropped. And Victoria kept her apartment house.
Victoria marries eighty year
In 1925 at age fifty two,
Victoria married a third time, to a retired
contractor in Port Huron, eighty year old widower,
William Manley (1845-1927). It was reported
that Manley had been a friend of Adelard Lebert.
I failed to find online information about William