Two sets of cousins
in two theater parties attended the Dec 30, 1903 afternoon matinee of Klaw &
Erlanger's pantomime Mr. Bluebeard at Chicago's newest luxury
playhouse, the Iroquois Theater on Randolph St. Two were among the 600 victims of a fire that broke out on
the stage in Act II, and became American's worst theater fire.
The Livingston - Straus party,
seated at the front of the first floor:
- Brother and sister
eleven-year-old Lester Livingston (1892-1948)
and seven-year-old Madeline Livingston
(1896-1967)* Madeline fell during their
escape and reportedly Lester picked her up and
eight-year-old Madeline Straus (1895-1974) and
five-year-old Louise Straus (1898-1987)
- The Straus governess, identity not
The Regensburg party, seated in the
sixteen-year-old Adele Adelle "Addie" Regensburg
and thirteen-year-old Hazel Regensburg (1889-1903), who became
were the children of three Straus children, Sarah,
Isabelle and Simon, their grandparents the widowed
Madeline Goldsmith Straus (1840-1917) and late
Frederick W. Straus (1833-1890). It was not
reported whether the two parties of cousins knew of
the other's presence in the Iroquois theater that
Lester W. Livingston and Madeline
Livingston were the children of Indiana
natives, Maxwell M. Livingston (1863-1927) and
Sarah Straus Livingston (1868-1954) of South Bend,
Indiana, where they lived at 424 N. Michigan. A third
sibling, Fredrick Livingston (1898-1983) was only
five and did not attend Mr. Bluebeard. Max
Livingston operated a clothing store in South Bend
in 1903 but later moved to Chicago and worked as an
insurance agent. The family
donated a library to the Northern Indiana Orphans
home at Logan and Lincoln Way in Mishawaka, Indiana†
in appreciation for their escape and in memory of
Iroquois Theater fire victims, including their
Regensburg cousins. Max Livingston was a
member of the home's Building Committee. In
the years after the fire Madeline married Cheri Sourdis
Freund and had three children. Lester married
Edna May and had one child.
The Straus's (sometimes
Louise were the children of mortgage banker Simon W. Straus
(1866-1930) and Hattie Klee Straus (1871-1966).
Hattie was pregnant for their third child at the
time of the Iroquois fire. Adelle was a former
student at St. Mary's Academy in South Bend. Both
were regular visitors at the Livingston home.
In the years
after the fire Madeline
married twice and had two children. Louise also
married twice but did not have children. Simon
Straus was very successful in banking and hotels, at
his death leaving a large inheritance to his family
members. An anonymous $25,000 donation was
made to the Iroquois Theater memorial society that
helped put the fund to build an
Iroquois Memorial Hospital over the top.
Simon's brother-in-law, Samuel Regensburg (right)
was an officer in the organization at the time.
Simon is on my short list of possible benefactors.
Adelle Adele “Addie” Regensburg and her
sister, Hazel Regensburg were the children of Samuel H. Regensburg
(1860-1922) and Isabelle "Belle" Straus Regensburg (1865-1949).‡
Adele was a student at St. Mary's College in South
Bend, home for the Christmas holidays.
Samuel and Belle
married in 1886. Like his father before him,
Henry L. Regensburg, Samuel worked as a grocer in
Chicago. Henry had lost his first grocery
during the 1871 Great Chicago fire. In 1903 the
Regensburg family lived at 3440 Michigan Avenue in
Both girl's bodies were found
at Rolston's funeral home. At their funeral,
attended by many classmates and family, their
caskets were displayed in one room in the family's
home while guests gathered in an adjoining room.
The girls wore white dresses they'd worn a few days
prior at a party. The detail about their
dresses tells us they died of suffocation and were
not badly trampled or burned, allowing open caskets.
The service had to be short, Dr. Emil G. Hirsch
advised, because he had four other funerals to do
that day for iroquois Theater victims. He went from
the Regensburg's to the
Zeisler's. Their floral-covered white
caskets were carried out to white carriage hearses
born by white horses. The carriages took the
caskets to the a Northwestern train probably bound
for the Rose Hill cemetery though this is not
verified by photos of their grave markers.
In later years Samuel and Belle became
involved in the Iroquois Memorial Association, Sam
serving as president of the group in 1918.
Discrepancies and addendum
another party named Livingston at the Iroquois
Theater but I've not found evidence of a familial
relationship between them.
Jean and Daisy Livingston are discussed here.
* The name
was sometimes spelled Livingstone.
† Operated in
the early 1900s by the Children's Aid Society of
Indiana, the orphanage had been founded by the
Women's Christian Temperance Union in 1882 and
evolved into today's
Family & Children’s Center. Though located in
Mishawaka, IN, in the early 1900s it was commonly
referred to as the "South Bend Orphan Home." In
addition to Max Livingston, benefactors of the home
included Samuel Leeper, J. M. Studebaker and other
prominent members of the community.
A 1907 description of Orphanage history.
‡ Belle may have been at the
Iroquois with her daughters and survived; a “B.
Regensburg” was reported as a victim in some
newspaper reports but the Chicago coroner’s office
did not issue a burial permit for a third
Several newspapers inaccurately reported that Adele
was the younger of the sisters but information the
family reported to the 1900 U.S. Census enumerator,
supported by the Cook County birth certificate index
makes Adelle the eldest and Hazel the youngest.