Alexei Romanov was born in 1904, to the nation’s great relief and the joy of his parents, Tsar Nicholas and the Empress Alexandra. But the joy of the Russian royals was short-lived. Thanks to an unlucky inheritance passed down to him from his great-grandmother Queen Victoria, Alexei inherited hemophilia, a rare and incurable genetic disorder that prevents the blood from clotting. A hemophiliac can bleed to death from a minor injury. Alexandra was a carrier, but none of her daughters had inherited the disorder. Now the illness had finally manifested itself in the sole heir to the crown, the tsarevich, Alexei.
The little boy was delicate, and for the small circle of people who were in the know, it was clear the son and heir to the Russian throne would never live to inherit it. Apart from the heartache this would cause any family, Alexei’s parents viewed his condition as a threat to the nation’s stability. If he died, the throne would pass to a different branch of the family so the little boy’s precarious health was a closely guarded secret. Though he was frequently ill, the family gave away no hint of anxiety.
The National Institute of Hypnotism once declared Josef Stalin to be one of six people who possessed the most hypnotic eyes in the world, noting their sinister brutality.
Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili was about 34 when he began using the name Stalin, which translates roughly to Man of Steel. A bit grandiose, perhaps, for a man who was just 5’4, and – at that time – a fairly slender fellow.
This series of mugshots begins in 1901, when Stalin was a handsome, ex-seminary student, and documents his changing features in the subsequent years. By the time of the Russian Revolution, Josef Stalin looked to be, and was, a hardened Bolshevik, much respected by Vladimir Lenin for his merciless brutality.
Chicago’s Iroquois Theater opened in 1903 on West Randolph Street. No expense was spared on the massive, L-shaped structure. From the soaring ceilings to the mahogany trim to the gilded accents, the theater was a work of art. It had three levels and could accommodate 1,700 people.
Owner Will Davis expected the theater to be complete mid-year, but the opening was delayed by labor disputes.
When fire-related safety concerns threatened to delay the opening yet again, Davis was irate. The deficiencies including iron gates blocking many of the exits – which were designed to keep people from sneaking in to the shows without buying a ticket – exits hidden by drapes, an absence of proper air flow, and the ubiquitous mahogany trim. The fire-fighting equipment was limited to an asbestos curtain that could be lowered onto the stage to smother out a fire and a half a dozen canisters of a bicarbonate soda compound used to snuff out residential kitchen fires. There were no fire alarms, extinguishers, sprinklers, or water connections; there was not even a telephone.
But corrupt city officials accepted bribes, including free tickets to upcoming events, and the howls of the Fire Department were ignored. The Iroquois Theater’s grand opening took place in November, to wide acclaim.