In 1903 Barbara and William
Reynolds had been married for eight years and had
one child, seven year old Emma (b. 1896), who at the
Ravenswood school went by her middle name,
Josephine. William worked in the railway industry
and Barbara was a homemaker. The family lived in now-gone
rented housing on
William's parents were from
England. He and Barbara, like
Emma, were born in Illinois.
Named after her mother,
Barbara was the youngest of nine children born to
German immigrants, Barbara Popp Stang (1836-1918) and Joseph Stang
(1834-1916), a saloon keeper and realtor. She was the
eighth child they would see die before their deaths.
(In January, 1916, at age eighty one, with his wife Barbara an invalid,
Joseph Stang succeeded in his third suicide attempt,
diving out a hospital window. Read the
newspaper account below. His wife lived two
Seven year old Emma was named after Barbara's older
sister, Emma Kienzle (1868-1918), wife of William F.
Kienzle (1855-1932), a hardware dealer from
Michigan. The Kienzles had two boys – George
(1894-1969) and Joseph Zienzle (1891-1977) – and
lived lived on N. Paulina St. near the
Ravenswood School, as did Barbara and Emma's parents
December 30, 1903, the day before New Years eve, the
two sisters, Barbara and Emma, set out with their
children, seven year old Emma, nine year old George
and twelve year old Joseph, for a theater matinee at
Chicago's luxurious new theater, the Iroquois.
Playing was Mr.
Bluebeard, a Klaw & Erlanger extravaganza with
hundreds of performers, including exotic costumes
and aerial acts. In terms of a pleasant
holiday outing for three children, it should have
been perfect. Instead, a horrific fire
took the lives of six hundred people, including Barbara and little Emma, with
Joseph and Emma suffering burns.
Upon entering the auditorium
Barbara remarked that it looked like a deathtrap, a
comment that became the theme for Nat Brandt's 2003
Chicago Death Trap: The Iroquois Theatre Fire.
The Reynolds and Kienzle party of five was seated in
the fifth row of the second floor balcony.
Barbara's body was located
early on at Ryan's funeral home and identified by
her husband. William Reynold's search through hospitals and
morgues for Emma's body went on for three long days.
Funeral services were held the
Monday morning after the fire at the Reynold's home.
The cemetery was not named but they may have been
buried in the Stang plot at Graceland Cemetery in
Built in 1873 on N. Paulina St
in Chicago, Ravenswood School is one of the oldest
schools in Chicago. It has been expanded and
remodeled many times over the years. The
Ravenswood suburb was annexed to Chicago in 1889.
Emma Josephine Reynolds was one of three Iroquois
Theater victims who attended the Ravenswood
School on N. Paulina. The others were
Willis Peck and
Also among the victims was
an unrelated girl named Dora Lucile Reynolds.