During January, 1904
there were seven separate investigations in progress
about the Iroquois Theater fire The police and
fire department investigations resulted in reports
that contributed to the coroner's investigation.
Then there was an investigation by the Underwriters
association, a private investigator hired by
industrialist Crane, and one conducted by the Chicago Tribune, complete with architects and
engineers and one by architect Louis Guenzel. The only investigation with legal
standing was the one conducted by coroner John Traeger and his appointed jury.
On January 1, coroner John Traeger appointed six men to the
coroner's jury and they were sworn in at 10:30 am
that morning. The appointed jurors:
L. H. Meyer (foreman)
– secretary at Kennedy Furniture company
– salesman for A. H. Revell & Co. furniture
Walter D. Clingman
– salesman for Tobey Furniture
– manager at Browning , King & Co. clothing
wholesaler/retailer. Was transferred to
his employer's Boston branch midway through the
– manager in Marshall Field credit department
Dr. Peter Byrnes
– salesman at Lyon & Healy musical instrument
first task was to view the bodies, as required by
law, and he Iroquois Theater. Jurors were
carried in two patrol wagons to morgues at funeral
homes and hospitals, beginning with Rolstons at 22
Adams St., Jordans, St. Lukes Hospital and Buffums.
As other individuals died in the days after the
fire, the jurors made special trips to hospitals.
They also went to one home to view the body of a
girl who was carried off from a morgue in the first
hours after the fire.
inquest officially began at 9:00 am on January 7,
1904 and continued for sixteen days, involving 180
witnesses and evidence examination, including
multiple trips to the Iroquois Theater, hospitals
and morgues to view the dead. Law required
that they view the deceased.
Traeger specified that the investigation would be to
determine the cause of the fire and responsibility
for loss of life to Mary Edna Torney and 564 others.
The cause of death would be entered as "shocks and
injury" for all. The proceeding would first hear
reports of investigations by police and fire
department, then testimony from members of the
audience, ushers, stage hands, twenty-five orchestra members,
actors, theater owners and the architect.
January, 25, 1904 the jury issued it's findings. Their
verdict was that the fire started when drapery came
into contact with an arc lamp. City ordinances were
not followed, including the presence of fire alarm boxes, fire apparatus and
stage flues, nor were ordinances
regarding fireproofing scenery and stage woodwork.
coroners office reported that the inquest cost less
than $1,000. The coroner's jury did not
specify charges for each of the accused.
next morning all but Sallers was booked and all
except William McMullen posted bond:
$5,000 signed by William Pinkerton, backed by
$75,000 in real estate*
Williams $5,000, signed by Andrew Gram and Victor Falkenau*
Musham $5,000 signed by James Ciare and Daniel
Loughlin $2,000, signed by William Jung, a
Randolph Street saloon keeper and John J. Powers*
Cummings $5,000 signed by Harry Powers backed by
$100,000 in real estate**
Special grand jury indicted along with Iroquois
business manager Thomas Noonan, Feb 20, 1904.
Davis, Noonan and Cummings were indicted for
manslaughter, Loughlin and Williams for neglect of
Special grand jury declined indictment.
Family of 10 perished
Clark street in
Chicago early 1900s
Belle Adams Pinney lost
her life at the Iroquois Theater
If you have additional
info about an Iroquois victim, or find an error, I would like to
hear from you. Chaos and communication limitations of 1903
produced many errors I'm striving to correct and welcome all the help I can get. Space is provided at the
bottom of stories for comments, or