On December 30, 1903
George Schneider (b. 1883), a junior at Beloit College in
Wisconsin, attended an afternoon matinee performance in Chicago
Klaw & Erlanger's Mr. Bluebeard Christmas pageant.
When a fire broke out on stage and spread to the auditorium
George would become one of over six hundred victims of America's
worst theater fire. He was taken to a hospital but died
two days later.
Seventy years later in
the papers of retired Racine, Wisconsin high school teacher
Edwin Sanders was found his notes about the Iroquois fire.
Sanders was himself a student at Beloit so may have heard this
story from fellow students. He said that George Schneider
attended the theater with his girlfriend (not named).
According to Sanders, the young couple escaped from the theater
but George returned to the auditorium to retrieve his friend's
coat. Newspapers, however, reported that George's lady
friend was also killed. Due to other errors in Sanders
notes* his remarks about Schneider have to be weighed lightly.
Twenty year old orphan, George Grenier† Schneider, was was
spending the winter recess with Reverend David Beaton, pastor of the Lincoln Park Congregational
Church in Chicago.‡ Classes were due to restart on
January 6, 1904.
Beaton lived at 437 Belden Ave.
Severely injured, George was taken to the Samaritan
hospital where friends cared for him until he died
two days later.
George was to have graduated from Beloit in a class
of forty-four students in 1905. He was one of
fifteen or so members
in one of the school's three fraternities, the Alpha
Zeta chapter of Sigma Chi. As a junior, he would
have completed Psychology 3 and Ethics 2 before the
Christmas break and looked ahead to 16 credit hours
in Economics 3 and Ethics and Christian Evidences 2.
His annual room, board and tuition: $250.
George’s artwork appeared in the Beloit annual, the
"Codex." The school established a lectureship in his
memory. George may have been a young man searching
for his proper niche.
Prior to Beloit College, he
attended the English High and Manual Training school
of Chicago, Rose Polytechnic (today's Rose-Hulman
Institute of Technology) and the Chicago Art
George was buried alongside his parents on Monday, Jan 4, 1903 at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago.
Services were conducted by Reverend Beaton and many
of his Beloit classmates and faculty attended. His
only surviving relative was a grandmother.
Discrepancies and addendum
* Sanders was not in attendance at the Iroquois. He
saw the back of the theater the day after the fire and read about it in
newspapers, apparently on the first day after the fire when there was more
speculation than fact regarding the fire's origins. Sanders, for example,
thought the fire curtain caught on an aerialists wire rather than a reflector
and that it started in a dressing room, rather than at the proscenium.
Both matters would be clarified the following day and in later court testimony.
† Spelled Griner in some period newspapers. In
early newspaper victim lists he was cited as "George Sexton" and "George Zaxton."
‡ In 1909 the Lincoln Park Congregational and
Evanston Avenue Congregational churches merged to
form the Wellington Avenue Church of Christ that