Emma Krause

22 November 1896 – 24 July 1915

The Eastland, one of five chartered excursion boats meant to ferry employees, their families and friends from Chicago over to the Michigan City shore for the annual Western Electric Company picnic, keeled over into the Chicago River while still at dock, trapping hundreds inside its hull and leading to the deaths of 844 of the 2,500 passengers aboard at the time of the incident which became known as The Eastland Disaster.

Emma was born in Chicago, in the middle of six children (four surviving) born to German immigrants Herman and Emilia (Rieck) Krause. She had two older sisters, Anna and Elsie, and a younger brother George.

Herman and Emilia married in 1891 and immigrated about a year later. Anna, their first child, was born in 1893. Not too many years after their arrival in the US, Herman was working as a foreman on the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, which seems to have been a good job for the time.

All four siblings were born in Chicago, but between 1900 and 1910, the family not only moved to West 30th Street in Cicero, but owned the house outright. (The house appears to still be standing but every Google streetview photo of it is obscured by a tree.)

In 1910, eldest Anna was working at Western Electric, and she was the only child employed outside the home, though Elsie was 14 and does not appear to have been in school.

In 1912, Anna married which coincides with when Emma started at Western Electric, so it’s possible Anna helped her sister get a job there. Emma worked as a solderer and had been with the company for 2 and a half years at the time of her death. According to her obituary, prior to that, she worked as an inspector at two different department stores.

She was incorrectly listed as 20 years old in her obituary and in Western Electric’s records, but she was only 18 years old. Interestingly, her death record also has the wrong birthdate — her sister Elsie’s birthday as a matter of fact. It appears she’d fibbed about her age. Her earnings were somewhat higher than many other young women who worked at WE for a similar length of time and at similar (real) ages, so one must respect the hustle. I think she fibbed so that she could be a solderer and get the higher pay that came with that job, and that fiction continued until after her death.

Sadly, Elsie also passed away early, dying in 1919 at the age of 24. This may have been due to the Great Influenza or (a supporting theory to the above facts) she may have been in ill health throughout her life. As she died before the census, there is no record of what she was doing in her last years, but her death record lists her as “at home” meaning she did not have a job at the time of her death. This along with the facts we do know — she had not gone to work at 14 even though she doesn’t appear to have been at school, and her little sister Emma used her birthday to make herself older — seem to support this theory.

Even more sadly, Herman also died before 1920 and more than a year before Elsie. He died, in fact, 104 years ago today at only 52 years old.

On the 1920 census, Emilia and George lived together on W. 30th and Anna and her family lived in the same house but were counted as a separate household. Whether the house itself was split up in a way we’d recognize as apartments is unclear, but after Emilia passed away in 1929, the 1930 census listed the address as a single household once more. At this time, George was living with Anna, her husband, and their two children, and Anna’s husband was listed as head of the household. Anna’s husband was a carpenter working in construction; George owned a candy store.

At some point between the censuses, George married and moved into his own house, but he didn’t go far, living literally catty-corner across the alley from his sister (his house is no longer there).

George died in 1961 and was buried at Concordia next to his family. His wife lived another 34 years before joining him; they had no children together. Anna died just two years after her little brother in 1963, but she lived the rest of her life in the house her father bought on W. 30th. She is buried at Woodlawn with her husband who died four years after her.

RIP Krause Family

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