We compiled information on the fire’s victims from census records, city directories, birth certificates, death records, news accounts, plat maps, immigration records and more. Lists of the dead appearing in Marshall Everett’s The Complete Story of the Collinwood School Disaster (1908), on the Collinwood Fire Memorial at Lake View Cemetery (1910), and in In Loving Remembrance (2008), a pamphlet published by the Cleveland Public Library, helped tremendously.
Early-twentieth-century documents often spell non-Anglophone names inconsistently. We have typically preserved names as they appear on the memorial plaque, because variations are so numerous and confusing. Different sources, for example, use “Perat,” “Parritt,” and “Pert” to refer to the same family. Other data points also conflict at times, but we have done our best to work through inconsistencies. We’re happy to hear from anyone who sees a possible error in our work or who can offer more information, including photographs of children not yet pictured with other victims of the fire. Some family members of those who died in the fire or survived it have already contributed documents and information, and we are grateful for it. Our contact information is linked here.
The 162 children listed on the memorial plaque fall significantly short of the most often cited death toll of 172, obtained by townspeople who canvassed neighborhoods in the near aftermath of the fire. That list of names no longer survives intact. Maybe canvassers counted some victims twice and officials corrected the error before the memorial’s completion two years later. Or maybe canvassers tabulated the dead but sometimes failed to list a name. At this point, the discrepancy between the official death toll in 1908 and the number memorialized in 1910 remains inexplicable.
Not surprisingly, we found photographs for a much smaller percentage of children from the most recently immigrated families, mostly Slovenian, than from families of longer residence in the US. Such portraits were an established practice in much of the US but not in the areas from which many immigrants arrived. The pictures also cost money, whether to pay a photographer or buy a camera and film. When we found no photograph of a child, we cropped the “Victim of the Lake View School Disaster” image from Edna Pahner’s gravemarker in Salineville, Ohio. The original photo is at findagrave.com.
Unless otherwise noted, photographs of children on the “Victims of the Fire” page appeared in Everett’s The Complete Story of the Collinwood School Disaster. His captions often added dramatic stories borrowed from newspapers. While many of these no doubt have elements of truth, Everett and the papers sought particular emotional effects. Everett wrote in a hurry and without exacting attention to detail, striving to get his book to market while the fire remained a prominent topic. For more on the media’s portrayal of the fire, see “Mass Media and the Fire.”