Nineteen-year-old German immigrant and naturalized
citizen, Emil Theodore
Von Plachecki* (b. 1884) survived the Iroquois
Theater fire by pulling himself up seventeen feet on
a window cord and escaping through a skylight in the
ceiling of a third floor restroom onto the roof.
From there he climbed up two separate ladders to
reach adjoining roofs, then went down a fire escape.
People on the roofs of adjoining buildings helped
him to reach ground level and took him to a drug
store where oil was applied to his burns. From
the drug store he was able to watch the dead being
carried from the theater and on wagons to funeral
homes and hospitals.
He was seriously burned and injured his hand when
breaking the glass in the skylight. As an
eighty-three-year-old man he still bore the scars on
his hands and remembered the scenes at the Iroquois.
Emil became an engineer and supervisor for the water
works department in Chicago where he worked for over
fifty years, retiring in 1958. Nine years after the fire
he married Gertrude Baer Von Plachecki and the pair had three children,
Lester, Edna and Herbert.