|On December 30, 1903 Anna
Green took twelve youngsters to an afternoon theater
matinee of Mr. Bluebeard at the Iroquois
Theater in Chicago. The group sat in the
4th row on the ground floor, providing a clear view
of the site of the fire. Anna recognized the danger and
herding the group toward an exit. Her son Byram saw the crowd amassed at
the exit through which they'd entered the auditorium and
urged the group to alternate exits until all had
safely evacuated. When one in their
Lester Coffeen, fell behind, Byram went back into
the auditorium theater and led the girl to
safety, in the process
suffering burns on his hands and arms.
The Inter Ocean
newspaper ran a
lengthy story about Byram's bravery that appeared two days after the
fire, the morning of New Years day. The reporter
made a significant error in researching the story,
however. He matched the party hostess and her
brave son to the wrong Chicago industrialist.
Living in Chicago in 1903 were two men with the last
name Green who customarily went by their first
initials. There was A.W. Green (Augustus
Warren Green) who was a commissioner on the Board of
Trade and A.W. Green (Adolphus Williamson Green) who
was president of National Biscuit (today's Nabisco).
The Inter Ocean story matched the Brave Byram
story up with the National Biscuit man. It
went out on the AP wire and was rerun in newspapers
around the country. The gaffe probably went
unnoticed by many and was chalked up to confusion of the
disaster but in newspaper circles, the Inter Ocean's
face would have been red. Most surprising –
the Inter Ocean did not issue a correction.
Compounding the confusion:
Adolphus Green (1843-1917) and his wife, Esther
Walsh Green (1850-1933) did have a boy of a similar
age to Brave Byram: thirteen-year-old John Russell
Green (1890-1933). Adolphus Green certainly
spent the next several years explaining that the boy
hero of the Iroquois was not his son.*
Mixing up the
husband/fathers wasn't the only error in the Green
family's story. There wasn't a child named
Muriel in the family. Anna and Augustus had
only one daughter, Grace Green Morrow. I
failed to learn her middle name so it could have
been Muriel but since she was
twenty-six, married and with an infant and a toddler
at the time of the fire, her inclusion in the party
seems remote. There were two other Green children
of an age to have been included in the theater
party: Augustus Green jr. and Jesse Samuel Green.
If one of them was at the Iroquois that would bring
the party to the dozen cited in the news story -
though there is little reason to assume the number
in the party is accurate. See marked-up
clipping at bottom of page for a variety of data errors that have
probably frustrated genealogists for a century.
(1890-1948), survivor, age thirteen, 2400 S. Park Ave.
Son of Edward P. Bailey and Minerva C. Spruance
Bailey. Grew up to become a bookkeeper,
married twice, had one child with each wife.
Butler (1891-1906), survivor, age twelve, 1920
Wellington, son of Herman B. Butler and Harriet
Peabody Butler. Herman's father died two
months after the fire. He had been an officer in
the J. T. Ryerson & Son Co. Herman
followed two years later at age fourteen , of
natural but undisclosed causes.
age eleven, 3133 Calumet, daughter of Milo Lester
and Martha Martin Coffeen. Lester grew up,
married Lewis M. Williams, had two children and
spent most of her adult life in the Cleveland,
Byram Green (1889-1950) survivor, age
fifteen, 2306 Calumet (newspaper reported his
age as fourteen). Reportedly, two years
after the Iroquois Theater fire, in September,
1905, his father, Augustus Warner Green, lost
his multi-million dollar fortune when his
commodities brokerage – Irving, Green & Co. –
failed in its attempt to corner the wheat
market. I didn't find substantiation but
didn't spend long looking.
Anna Marie Countiss Green
(1854-1919) survivor, mother of Byrum, age
Calumet, daughter of Robert and Louise Eakin
Countiss. An ancestor fought in the
Keep (1891-1918), survivor, age twelve, 2825 Prairie St,
son of Chauncey B. Keep and Mary Blair Keep.
Chauncey owned Raymond Lead Co., manufacturer of
lead shot and weight strips for decoys.
Henry graduated from Yale in 1915,
Katharine J. Legendre in 1916 and they had one
died in France during the Meuse-Argonne battle
of October 5, 1918 of WWI. His widow
inherited around $300,000 (inflation adjusted)
and his share of a trust fund.
Edward Moberly Jr.
(1890-1921), survivor, age thirteen, 3652
Michigan, son of lumber retailer Edward E.
Moberly and Jennie Blair Moberly. His WWI
draft card reported his status as married but I
failed to verify that. He moved to
Manhattan with his parents around 1910. He
went to Europe in 1919 with the Company B 327th
battalion tank corp to serve on the western
front under Captain George Patten.
Shedd (1891-1987), survivor, age twelve, 3838 Michigan
Ave, daughter of realtor/banker Charles B. and
Margaret Cossitt Shedd. In 1912 she
married Addison Bradley with whom she had two
Shedd (1889-1962), survivor, age fourteen, 3838 Michigan
Ave, son of realtor/banker Charles B. and Margaret Cossitt Shedd. He followed his father into
real estate. In 1931 he married Edith Ware
with whom he had two children.
Virginia L. Whitehead
(1890-1964) survivor, age thirteen, Calumet &
20th, daughter of Elisha and Grace
Grew up, married Edward
and had two children.
Winterbotham Jr (1889-1966), survivor, age fourteen, 2215 Michigan
Ave, son of widow Amelia E. Morris Winterbotham and
the late John Winterbotham, dead in 1892.
His father was a civil war veteran and worked in
his family's barrel manufacturing business. In
1916 John Jr. married Doris Andrews and they had
Discrepancies and addendum
No matter how
many times this reporter inserted the word "little,"
it was not going to turn a middle age woman and
eleven teenagers into vulnerable toddlers.
Maybe overcompensation for what the reporter
probably knew was an inflated story. The party
was on the ground floor from which all but seven
people escaped. The Green boy deserved
recognition but I suspect scooping the competition
with an exclusive story about a wealthy man's family
was the Inter Ocean's primary goal....and
that reporters at other newspapers may have viewed
the name mix up as poetic justice.
Some mostly small errors.
* In the odd coincidences department, one of
the Iroquois injured from another party,
Kate Buddeke, was convalescing
under the care of Esther Green's sisters,
Mary and Minnie Walsh, at the family home at 4725
Lake. In case you've gotten lost in all these
names, Esther is the wife of the National Biscuit president.
Iroquois Theater fire
Famous Pulitzer newspaper
cartoonist Iroquois feature
scenes and people?
Yellow journalism in 1903
Jean Cowgill covered
Iroquois Theater fire
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