Fourteen-year-old Ralph Kendall Adams (1889-1907)
survived the Iroquois Theater fire but died four
years later. He lived with his
parents, Charles F. Adams (1851-1925) and Alma Earle
Adams (1860-1923), and four siblings, Earl, Leroy,
Charles Jr and baby Alma, the only girl. Two other siblings,
Fred and Paul, had died as toddlers in 1887, a day
apart. The family rented a duplex at 7626
Normal Avenue in Chicago's Auburn Park area.
Charles and Alma, natives of Massachusetts and
Wisconsin, had married in 1879.
Ralph's father Charles was a realtor and mortgage
lender, in partnership with Franklin B. Foster in
1903 as Adams & Foster.* After Ralph's death his
mother became active in a Chicago women's social
group, the Arche Club.
Ralph attended the Harvard
Preparatory School in Kenwood. An alumni of
Benjamin Marshall, designed the Iroquois
Hope to hear from a
Nothing is known of Ralph's
Iroquois experience, his theater companions, or
seating location. The only newspaper reference was
to his being badly bruised. That suggests he was trampled. Hopefully a descendant will come across
this web page and fill us in.
In the years after the
Ralph K. Adams
is likely to have been the Ralph Adams cited in 1906
for participating in a project to re-create
Chicago's title abstracts. It was the sort of
job that a well-established realtor might learn
about and help his son acquire. Cook county
funded a project to recreate title records destroyed
during the 1871 Chicago fire and make them available
for a lower price than offered by private firms.
Ralph reported to project coordinator Robert M.
Simon, former county recorder.
As an eighteen year old,
Ralph went to work for his father's realty company and was
still living at home at the time of his death. A
month prior, a short notice appeared in the
suburbanite Economist newspaper that he'd been
confined to his home with "an attack of malaria."
Not impossible but unlikely given that temperatures
in Chicago that October ranged from 40 to 60 degrees.
Could Ralph have suffered respiratory injury at the
Iroquois Theater in 1903 that made him more
vulnerable to respiratory afflictions in subsequent
years? Seems possible.
In the days immediately prior
to Ralph's illness the family traveled to New York
city and back, providing opportunity for exposure to
various types of elements and disease.†
Sister Alma never married,
spending most of her adult life living with her
brother Charles Adams jr., a Quaker Oats executive, and his family in
Elizabeth, NJ, occasionally visiting her other brothers, Leroy and Earle, in Abilene, Texas and
Miami, Florida. She died at age forty eight.
Charles, Alma and many of
their children, including Ralph, were interred in
the family plot at Woodlawn Cemetery in Allouez,
Discrepancies and addendum
* Charles Adams split with
Foster around 1908. Two years later Foster
went missing one day after writing a half
dozen bad checks. Charles went on to sell
several large land tracts in the Rogers Park
† The occasion for the
travel was a bon voyage party in New York city for
Leroy, the second oldest Adams boy. Leroy had spent two years
in Mexico City then come home to Chicago for a visit
in September, 1907. He was headed to Rio de
Janeiro in Brazil to manage an electric light plant.
His parents and four siblings, including Ralph,
traveled to New York to see him off. During
Leroy's brief visit in Chicago a romance developed
between he and a young woman that resulted in their
engagement thirteen days before Ralph's death, and
their marriage fifteen days after his death.
The union ended in divorce four years later, Leroy citing
addiction and the woman jailed for writing bad
checks in Los Angeles. After some years with
U.S. Steel Leroy went on to prosper in the oil
industry as president of Galvez Oil with wells in six states.
His marriage in 1922 was more successful.