I've found no lists of
members of the Iroquois Theater orchestra and
varying estimates on the number of musicians, up to
forty. An interview with director Dilley
a newspaper report in the Richmond, Indiana
newspaper where lived the parents of cello player
Eddo Kline, described their relief at learning their
son was among the survivors in the thirty-three
member orchestra. Philip Carli,* (to whom I am
much indebted for providing information about
theater orchestras of the period), feels the actual
number was twenty-six.
Those identified thus far
are listed at right in blue panel. Will update
list as more information is found. This story will be "in progress" for
A Chicago musician who died
at the Iroquois Theater, flutist
Helms, is thought to have been in the audience that day rather than in the
orchestra. Had he been performing it is certain there
would have been newspaper note of it.
Clothing of some orchestra members was burned from
falling embers. Poking that in here for the
time being until more is found on that subject.
Comedian Eddie Foy and both
orchestra directors at the Iroquois Theater believed
that music would calm the audience.
Since multiple audience survivors described being
unable to hear Foy from the stage urging calm, it is
likely they were also unable to hear the orchestra
playing. Nonetheless, a half dozen musicians kept playing until soon after the fireball
shot into the auditorium.
According to testimony at the
coroner's trial, Eddie Foy urged the orchestra to
play an overture and director Herbert Dillea led the
group in playing the Sleeping Beauty and the Beast
Overture. Sleeping Beauty was
another Drury Lane Theater production that Klaw and
Erlanger had imported and for which
Frederick Solomon had composed much of the
music, playing in August 1902 at the Illinois
Theater in Chicago, also managed by
Will J. Davis, probably by some of the same
musicians that were performing Mr. Bluebeard
at the Iroquois. Second director and violinist
Antonio Frosolono also described urging the
musicians to keep playing.
On January 7, 1904 Frosolono
testified before the grand jury about his experience
at the Iroquois Theater. He described the fire
curtain lowering, sticking and bulging just prior to
the fireball rolling out from beneath. He told of a
fire hose beneath the stage. (Later witnesses would
testify that water had not been plumbed to the fire
Frosolono and a half dozen other musicians,
including Dillea and Brown, continued performing
until the bass and cello caught fire. Brown
testified that they had no more evacuated than the
woodwork in the pit caught fire. Eddie Foy was
quoted as saying that by the time the last orchestra member, Herbert Dillea, left the orchestra pit, the ground floor of
the auditorium was half emptied.
Foy and Brown's remarks
reveal that though there were few fatalities among
audience members seated on the ground floor, the
risk to them was greater than I've appreciated: the
orchestra pit was in flames as the last of the
audience on the ground floor moved into the lobby,
putting flames around thirty feet away.
The musicians escaped from
the pit into the basement via an
18" wide opening and stairwell that led to a
hallway lined by
dressing rooms, costume rooms and, at the south end,
washrooms and smoking rooms used by theater patrons. Musician Arthur C. Brown
described the opening as difficult to use, requiring
the musicians to "twist and wiggle" to pass through.
The pit exit was compromised
as a result of yet another Iroquois planning error.
The depth of the orchestra pit was originally
seventy-eight inches, said to be in keeping with European
standards at the time. At the dress rehearsal
it was decided that the music could not be heard
sufficiently so a false wood floor was installed
atop the concrete floor, raising the floor height.
Still unsatisfactory, a second wood floor addition
was installed. The measurements cited in the
newspaper stories resulting from an interview with
Arthur Brown are conflicting and the actual floor height in the
orchestra pit is not known. It is safe to
conclude from Brown's remarks that the size and
position of the opening between the pit and basement
was too small and was poorly angled, probably
because it was inadequately altered to accommodate
the raised floor height. Little
wonder some musicians left their instruments behind.
Musicians were expected to
use the exit on Dearborn
#5) but that passage became filled with smoke sufficient that
the last of the orchestra to evacuate, such as
Anthony Frosolono, escaped through a
bathroom window. Others made their way to a
spiral stairwell on the
north side of the theater that ran all the way from
the basement up to box seats on the second floor.
On the ground floor a set of stairs branched from
that stairwell out to the auditorium floor (see
accompanying photo) and a fire
escape exit on Couch Place alley (door
By the time the fire was out and bodies removed,
the basement and orchestra pit was
filled with water from the fire hoses, requiring
pumping the day after the fire.
The often published picture of a fire pumper in
Couch Place alley was likely taken the day after the
fire when the basement was being pumped.
Iroquois Theater orchestra
Louise Horne (c1880†-1956) - cornet. Studied with
composer and cornet virtuoso,
Brown Hall, and performed as soloist with various groups,
including the Fadettes of Boston, Cecilia Musical Club, U.S. Ladies
Military Band, Tuxedo Ladies Band, George C. Wilson Repertory
Company, Ward & Vokes comedy team, Talma Ladies Band, Miss Reno
Mario's Orchestra, Hotel Rudolf in Atlantic City, Twelve Navajo
Girls, Navassar Band and the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in NYC. In
1910 Florence was teaching cornet in Bangor, Maine, her home state,
when she met and married Edmond W. Stilwell, a bank clerk from
Kansas City, KS. Thereafter she confined her musical activity
to teaching though she did perform at Fort Riley during world war I.
One of her two daughters, Winifred Stilwell Culp, would serve as a
lieutenant colonel in the Women's Army Corp during world war II.
Edwin A. "Eddo" Kline (1881-1941) - cello. One of five
children born to Quakers Isaac and Jenny Talbert Kline of Richmond,
Indiana. At Isaac's death Jenny moved to Chicago and lived
with Edwin and his wife, Louella, in Chicago. Edwin continued
to work as a musician into the 1930s, playing with the Chicago Civic
Orchestra. Ill health forced his retirement from performing in
1936 but he worked as in sales for a time. He and Louella had
one child, a daughter named Edwina.
Ernest Libonati - cello
Frosolono - 1st violin, Iroquois music director and
John H. Miller - 2nd violin (1872-1924). Known as Johnny, from Logansport, Indiana. He worked in
Chicago in the early 1900s, performing in theater orchestras and the
Chicago Symphony Orchestra. By 1922 he'd returned to
Logansport where he gave music lessons at the Frank H. Brown Music
Store on Broadway.
16 unknown musicians:
2 first violins
3 second violins
2 French horns
an interesting look at the instruments used in pit orchestras for
various musicals. Peter Pan of 1904, might provide
clues as to the instruments in Mr. Bluebeard.