Note: Otto Kline, real name, Otto Kreinbrink, was a trick rider for the Barnum and Bailey circus, killed at a performance at the old Madison Square Garden in 1915. He was from Naperville and was brought home to be buried. His stone is decorated with detailed carvings of a cowboy hat, lariat and a broken spur and the outline of a cowboy boot.
From the April 22, 1915 New York Times, p. 1:
"CIRCUS RIDER KILLED IN RING BEFORE 5,000.
Otto Kline, Famous for Vaulting Over Back of Running Horse, Thrown Against a Box.
LOST GRIP ON SADDLE.
Suffers Compound Skull Fracture - Act Repeated at Night with Substitute.
Otto Kline, the young "rough rider" whose horsemanship won round after round of applause at every performance of Barnum & Bailey's Circus, and who was admittedly one of the greatest trick riders in the United States, met death in Madison Square Garden near the end of the afternoon performance yesterday.
He was doing his famous leaping act, in which he vaulted over the horse and back again, while the animal was running at top speed, an act that always held the spectators breathless.
The accident occurred in full view of about 5, 000 people, at least half of them children. In the performance about twenty-five riders appear and take part. It follows the big acrobatic "turn" and precedes the wire rope walkers and dancers.
The act opens with lasso throwing in which Tex McLeod and Cy Compton have the principal part. After that comes a dash at dizzy speed around the arena, in which half a dozen men and girls participate, and then came Kline. All the other members of the team retired to the western end of the Garden, leaving him alone in the arena. Mounted on a big cream-colored racer, he vaulted gracefully into the saddle.
The relay act preceded the vaulting performance. In this he rode Kitty, a little black mare, trained to the minute for the hazardous feats of her rider. He circled the Garden first, without leaving the back of the horse, but all the time whirled round and round in his saddle. By the time he had circled the Garden twice Kitty was fairly leaping through space, and then it was that Kline started the vaulting.
Grasping the pommel of his saddle. Kline would swing from side to side, his feet touching the ground at the end of each leap after vaulting over the horse and not once touching the saddle seat.
Twice around the garden he would race, repeating this perilous feat. Yesterday he was half through the second and last dash when just as his horse was opposite the middle boxes on the Twenty-sixth Street side of the Garden he lost his grip on the pommel and was flung head-on against the side of a box. The crash as his head struck the boards was heard all over the Garden.
Kline fell on his back and lay there unconscious while Kitty, his horse, stopped almost in her tracks. The animal seemed to realize that something terrible had happened to her master. McLeod, Compton, and circus attaches ran to the side of the dying man. There was no mark to indicate the nature of his injuries. He was carried gently back into the assembling room and was hurried to Bellevue. For two hours the doctors worked over him, but he didn't regain consciousness, and at 7:40 P. M. he died. The examination of the surgeons showed that Kline had suffered a compound fracture of the skull.
The dead rider's home was Napiersville [sic], ILL., where his parents still live. They were telegraphed last night of his death. He was only 28 years old, yet for more than a decade he had been known from one end of the country to the other as among the best of exhibition rough riders. He was boyish-looking and boyish-acting, and when he was not trick riding for the entertainment of thousands who attend the circus he was generally playing tricks on the other members of the big Wild West number, in which he shared honors with Tex McLeod, Cy Compton and little Miss Dot Vernon. He was married and his wife, who is an actress [Tiny Kline], was telegraphed to last night.
One of the largest crowds that has witness any performance of the circus this season was in the Garden last night. The Wild West act was not eliminated, and other rider, Arthur Maywood, appeared and did the stunts that had won so much applause for Kline. He rode Kitty, too. But Maywood was nervous, and spectators who knew of the death of Kline noted that his face was very pale and his lips drawn as he raced around the Garden, vaulting over the saddle of Kline's little mare. Little Dot Vernon did not smile once during the act, and there was sadness on the faces of Compton, McLeod, Walters, and others.
The accident was the third fatal one in the Barnum and Bailey Circus in ten years. Late in the afternoon of April 1, last year, Miss Ella Hackett, a daughter of Dr. Clarence Hackett of 153 East Forty-third Street, fell from a trapeze and was killed in Madison Square Garden. She met death during the interval between the afternoon and evening performances, and the accident was witnessed only by her young sister and circus employes [sic].
The other Barnum and Bailey performer who was killed was Prince Yourturke, a Russian tight-rope walker, who fell to his death in Atlantic City in 1912.
1887 - 1915