James Strong and his wife Florence celebrated their
first wedding anniversary in October. On December
30, 1903 they took James’s mother, Elizabeth K.
Strong and their niece, Vera Goolsby, to the
afternoon matinee of Mr. Bluebeard at Chicago’s new
James M. Strong (b. 1877) was a clerk at the Board
of Trade. His wife, Florence, was the former
Florence May Burgess (b. 1880). The family lived at
10 Oakland Crescent.
Vera Goolsby (b. 1887) was a native of Americus,
Georgia and daughter of railroad engineer, John B.
Goolsby, and Savannah “Vannie” E. Goolsby. Vera was
living in Chicago while attending school. She
was buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery in Americus,
The Strong party was seated in the third-floor balcony.
When they left the auditorium the stairs immediately
outside the balcony were impassible. The Strongs
were among a group of people who decided to go to a
flight of utility stairs at the end of the east
promenade. The door was locked, so James smashed the
glass and climbed through the transom, hoping to
find a pass key. He was joined by Iroquois lamp
but before the men could force open the door, the
fireball hurled into the auditorium and the theater
filled with smoke and flames. Elizabeth Strong,
Florence Strong and Vera Goolsby perished along with
the others in the stairwell. Burned and overcome by
smoke, James was taken to Michael Reese Hospital.
The bodies of James' relatives were retrieved by
Landing at Iroquois
Theater that became a deathtrap
Three fires in 68 days.
Then came the Iroquois
Florence Hutchins missed
her Mount Holyoke graduation
Amnesia, burial of wrong
woman and Herman says, "Nope!"
William McMullen and the
lamp that started the fire
Commissioner George D. Williams
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