testimony, leastwise the newspaper reporting it, conflicts with a detailed study
made by architect Louis Guenzel. Entering the Iroquois the morning after
the fire, Guenzel spent two weeks making lists of the configuration, size
and condition of Iroquois components, including all the doors. According
to Guenzel, the door Halpin supposedly exited from was never opened; the
western-most fire escape exit (door
#29), roughly twenty feet to the left, however, was opened. Did Halpin
try the eastern door, find it stuck, turn left, walk down the stairs, exit from
the western door and either didn't mention it or the newspaper didn't quote her
full testimony? Did Halpin adjust her story to help her boss, Will J.
Davis? Davis and his attorney "interviewed" Iroquois
Theater employees after the fire and before they testified. Did Guenzel
err in his observation or in his report? It seems more
likely that a terrified person in the dark made the error.
Twenty-two-year-old Margaret Devine
(b. 1881) started working
in maintenance at the Iroquois Theater on December
30, 1903. She was one of at least two dozen
females named Margaret Devine who lived in Chicago
in the early 1900s.
older coworker, Katherine Halpin, said they could slip into
the back of the second floor balcony and take a peak
at the Mr. Bluebeard pageant, Margaret followed
When the fire broke out,
however, for some reason Margaret didn't follow
Katherine. Perhaps she ran to get her coat, or
some other possession she felt she could ill afford
to lose and became caught in the crowd.
Whatever her reasons for turning another direction
or delaying, had Margaret followed Katherine, she
would presumably have escaped. Katherine had worked at
the theater long enough that she would have known how to operate
the door latches. She went quickly to the
eastern most fire escape door (door
#31) and in minutes was
safe on the ground in Couch Place alley.
Margaret was one of two
Iroquois maintenance workers to die in the fire.
The other was
"Katie" Collins Halpin (1862-1933) lived at 720 W.
14th. She was the widow of teamster Thomas
Halpin, an Irish immigrant who had died three years
earlier, in January, 1901, leaving her with five
children age six to twenty. She was the
daughter of Hanora Hayes Collins and Dennis Collins.
Discrepancies and addendum
Iroquois Theater victim was named
Margaret Devine Evans, a woman from Quincy,
Illinois, who attended the theater with her sister,
Clara Devine, and daughter, Mabel Evans.
Sometimes Clara Devine is cited as the woman who
worked at the Iroquois, but in court Katherine Halpin
testified that her companion at the Iroquois
was Margaret Devine.
That said, I am not satisfied with the information
learned about Clara Devine so cannot say that she
did not also work at the Iroquois, only that
Margaret Devine definitely did so and perished.
Notices I've found in Chicago and other newspapers
about Clara Devine do not state that she was an
Iroquois employee, only that she lived in Chicago
and was the sister of Margaret Devine Evans.
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
me directly. To receive email notification of new content,
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Facebook page will mostly accomplish the same end since mostly
completed Iroquois stories are posted there. Mostly.)