Anton / Anthony K.
Kwasniewski, found and identified the body of his
twenty-five-year-old brother, John Kwasniewski (b.
1878), at Perrigo's funeral home. Nothing has been discovered
about where John was seated in the theater, the
identities of his theater companions or his funeral
and burial. According to family lore, John's
body was identified by a watch that had belonged to
his father or grandfather. Since his father
had not yet retired it is likely the watch belonged
to his grandfather.
Born in 1878 to bricklayer, Jacob Kwasniewski (1851-1931), and the
late Julianna Kwasniewski (1854-1902),*
John was born in the Poznan area of western Poland and immigrated to America in
1883 with his parents and some of his siblings;
others were born after the family arrived in the
United States. According to childbirth
information reported in the 1900 US Census, had she lived to see it, Julianna would have counted John as the seventh
of her thirteen children to die.
In 1903 John was living with his father at 127
Cleaver Street† opposite today's Pulaski Park and
near St. Stanislaus Koska Catholic church.
From 1901 to early 1903 he had lived with his
brother Anton a few blocks south on Fry Street in
today's Noble Square neighborhood.
John may have moved back in
with his father in June when Anton married. Also
living at 49 Fry that year (later renumbered to 1259
Fry) were other Polish craftsmen and laborers,
including Adam Kosobuzki, a gilder,
Joseph Kosobuzki, a bartender, Frank Dulinski, a
foreman and John Weijnorowski, a wagon maker.
The Kwasniewski family was
part of a large community of Polish immigrants in
Chicago and one of 8,000 families whose lives
revolved around the
Catholic church at Noble and Bradley streets. By
1899 Stanislaus was the largest Catholic parish in
the world, numbering over 40,000 members. The church
is still in operation, open 24/7 – this year, 2017,
celebrating its 150th anniversary.
For Chicago's Poles, Stanislaus was the site of
weddings, funerals and Christenings, as well as an
important social center, hosting fifty different
church societies. Though Anthony Kwasniewski
was married there, a disagreement about his brother
John's funeral forever changed his relationship with
At age eighteen John worked as a clerk and at age
twenty-two, three years before the Iroquois Theater
fire, as a theater usher. 1903 Chicago
city directories described his occupation as
"laborer." His brother Anton was in
the early years of his woodworking career so possibly John had followed him into
Discrepancies and addendum
* Spelled as
Kwasniewski in Chicago city directory, 1900 U.S.
Census and some Iroquois newspaper reports but Kwasuiewski and Kwasieski in others. In the Chicago
Death Index it is reported as Kioasniewski and
alternate spellings were Kwasymewski and Kwaszcynski.
Inclusion of the second w in the spelling is
an important distinction because a John Kwasnieski, without the
second w, lived in Chicago in 1903 and was just a
few years younger than John the Iroquois theater
† Reported in newspapers as 122 Cleaver but as 127
in U.S. Census. 127 Cleaver was later changed to