The Mr. Bluebeard stage manager William T.
Carlton (1863-) was one of the first to be arrested.
Carleton testified that he saw sparks shooting out
of the switchboard. The switchboard was located
directly beneath the bridge on which the carbon arc
lamp was operated. Carlton's testimony
is puzzling because a day-after newspaper report said
he was not on the stage when the fire broke out, but
in the "front of the house." That means he was
in the auditorium or the lobby, where he could not
have seen the switchboard. There were no
further reports as to his location when the fire
broke out. Carlton wasn't the only one who
spoke confidently of things he hadn't actually
witnessed. House stage boss
James Cummings knew just what happened - though
he was at a hardware store when the fire broke out.
In court testimony it was revealed that the fire
curtain snagged on the
side lamp reflector during
the opening performance of Mr. Bluebeard, a
month prior, tearing a small piece of the curtain. According to H. Hill, an Iroquois house
light operator critical of Carlton's performance,
Carlton relegated the task to whatever worker
happened to be closest, usually his assistant,
It should be noted, that Hill was employed by the
Iroquois Theater whereas Carlton was employed by
Klaw & Erlanger. The combative relationship
that developed between Mr. Bluebeard and
Iroquois personnel during the trial must have made
it difficult for jurors to distinguish fact from
Though Carlton was among the early batch of twelve
arrestees, released on $5,000 bond, he was not held
over for the grand jury trial.
William Carton immigrated to the U.S. from Canada in
1883. In 1903 his family lived in Manhattan
while he was the road with the Mr Bluebeard
company. His family consisted of a wife of 17
years, a Virginia native named Lois (1864-), and two
daughters, Evelyn (1884) and Catherine (1894-). Two
other children had died.
was not able to find William and his family after
1904. He was too young to retire but
employment in his craft may have become difficult
after all the negative Iroquois publicity. In
the 1900 census he described himself as an actor,
suggesting that stage management wasn't his first
Coincidentally, another William T. Carlton (1859-1930) in the
theater industry was a light opera singer and
company producer associated with the Bostonians.
Earlier in 1903 he performed a benefit concern in
Chicago with Jessie Bartlett Davis.