Nineteen-year-old Will "Willie" J. Davis Jr.
(1884-1965), was the only child of Iroquois Theatre
manager and co-owners
Will J. Davis and
Bartlett Davis. Willie worked in the ticket
office at the Iroquois and in some pre-fire
newspaper notices was described as the "assistant
treasurer" at the Iroquois but his actions on Dec 30, 1903
are unknown. From a remark by his father shortly
after the fire it seems that Willy was present at
the Iroquois during the fire, but it appears that his name was
intentionally kept out of the press.
No one referred to him and he was not interviewed. After the Iroquois fire,
Willie worked at the
Illinois Theater for his father and attended
college, later becoming a lamp manufacturer (see
At his mother's death in
1905, he became heir to a sizable inheritance, which
perhaps influenced his decision in
February, 1907 to defy his father's wishes and
accept a demotion from treasurer to press agent at
the Illinois Theater so as to marry his sweetheart,
Florence Eleanor Turtle (1884-1947). A
newspaper reported that the wedding was against his
father's wishes, but the light tone of the story
suggests that his wedding did not create a serious
fissure. Florence, a native of Pensacola,
Florida, was a graduate of the Georgetown Convent.
Some 1907 newspaper stories reported that Willie
left his studies at Purdue University but later in
life he described himself as a Purdue graduate.
It should be noted, however, there were signs he inherited
some of his father's P.T. Barnum genes.
Willie became president of the American Lighting
Company founded in 1900 by W. C. Jones, Keene H.
Addington and William D. Murphy Jr. It seems likely
Willie used his inheritance to buy a controlling
interest but I didn't find verification of that.
Prior to Willie's involvement, the company spent
1902 - 1904 trying to sign contracts to light
various cities around the country. Looked like
a case of more ambition than capital but that's a
Willie concentrated on one product line: flood
lights. The following year he sold the company
to Western Electric (for unknown sum) and went to
work as a sales representative for the Western
Electric Davis flood lighting system. Before
selling the company, in June, 1916 he donated lamps
to light the Lincoln statue and Grant statues in
Chicago for the first time and persuaded the city
council of Niagara Falls, NY to spend $10,000 to
install 25 of his 1,000-watt flood lamps to light up
the American Falls and the Niagara river rapids.
Will Sr's death in 1919, Willie, Florence and their
four children lived iat one of the two farms that
were part of land amassed by Will Sr. in Crown
Point, IN, named Willowdale. The other farm
was occupied by his stepmother,
Mary Ellen O'Hagan Davis. With help from
Purdue, he planted a 20-acre experimental apple
orchard. Though he claimed the venture a
success and predicted northwest Indiana would become
an apple growing center, he sold the land in 1938
and the family relocated to Pensacola, FL.
Willie was the executive secretary of the Pensacola
Chamber of Commerce. He lost Florence the