after the Iroquois Theater fire, families of some victims failed to
find their loved ones, despite multiple searches of morgues and
hospitals. In their frustration, they turned to alternate
location possibilities. One theory was that fire victims had
been taken to the private homes of strangers for care. The
idea was posted in the newspaper but no one came forward to report
such an occurrence.
all the families found their victims, with one
remaining who was never identified. In the early
days, the confusion resulted from bodies being so
badly injured that even husbands, parents and
children of the victims misidentified the remains.
One of the misidentified, the
Greenwald boy, was entombed before the mix up was discovered.
The notion that Northwestern
medical students had hidden away bodies was born of grief and desperation, fueled by
recollections of body snatching for anatomy study in the early 1800s. In
1903, that gruesome passage in medical education history wasn't the ancient
history that it is today.
The irony of the accusation against Northwestern students was that
several had performed heroically to help 35-50 people escape from the
Iroquois. With help from painting contractors,
Charles Cubbon and
Joe Leibert, they stretched a ladder, then a scaffolding
plank, across Couch Place, for victims to crawl to
safety. The students laid the victims in the
recitation room, smothering their smoldering
clothing and covering them with blankets to conceal
A few victims were taken to hospitals and survived but most of those who crossed
the plank were badly burned by the fire ball and
smoke inhalation and died soon after reaching
Northwestern. They were transferred to morgues
but the first arrivals of relatives searching for
family members viewed bodies at Northwestern before
heading to morgues and hospitals.
Built by the
Ira Couch family as the third Tremont House Hotel, the
Dearborn Street building became Northwestern's
new home in 1902. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes
spoke at the building dedication.
The third floor was used for the law, dental and