Thirty-year-old Otto John Ammann (1872-) worked as a
carpenter on the stage at the Iroquois Theater in
Chicago. He was among the many dozens who testified
at the coroners trial after the 1903 fire that
claimed over six hundred lives. His testimony
about his Iroquois Theater experiences was lost with
all the other trial transcripts and nothing of it
was reported in the newspaper.
Otto was the youngest of three children born to
German immigrants – a North Avenue musical
instrument maker and dealer, Liberat Ammann
(1828-1906), and Francis Porscher Ammann
(1835-1923).* According to his WWI draft
registration he was tall and of medium build with
blue eyes and grey hair.
The Ammann family lived for many years at 223 North
Avenue in Chicago, where Liberat Sr. then Liberat
Jr. operated the family musical instrument store.
In the years after the fire
In the 1914 Chicago
city directory Otta described himself as an actor
but by 1920 returned to carpentry.
His brother, Liberat Ammann Jr. (1867-1950),
followed in their father's footsteps and continued
operating the music store. Efforts to learn the
Ammann family's musical instrument focus brought
only one clue. In an 1872 city directory, Liberat
was listed as a piano and organ tuner. Subsequent
directories did not list the store specifically as a
piano source, however, suggesting that while pianos
may have been the foundation, the Ammanns later
offered a wider range of instrument types.
Otto spent the last decade of his life as a patient
in the Cook County Oak Forest Infirmary. He was
described in the 1940 U.S. Census as a widow but in
1930 as single and I found no record of a marriage
thus suspect the 1940 status was a recording error.
The Oak Forest facility was sometimes referred to as
a poor farm, sometimes as an infirmary and sometimes
as a tuberculosis hospital. Did he remain inside the
Iroquois long enough to suffer permanent lung
damage that didn't become impairing for twenty
years? Unlikely. Did the 1899 newspaper report
of Otto's violent outburst at his brother and mother
foreshadow mental problems that
resurfaced twenty-five years later, requiring institutionalization?
Discrepancies and addendum
* I have much sympathy
for genealogists working on this family's tree. The
name Amman was sometimes spelled Amann, Ammann,
Annann and Ammenn. Several variations of Liberat's
name appeared, including Lieberat, Libert, Libart,
Lippert, Leppert, Libust and Sippart. The spelling
of Francis Amman's maiden name was sometimes
sometimes spelled Porche, other times Porscher, and
her given name as Francisca, Franziska, Francis and