• Wendy Moxley Roe

Wild West Performer Dies in Front of Thousands

Updated: Jun 25, 2019

Otto Kline, at one time deemed the greatest trick rider in the country, was born Otto Kreinbrink in 1887 in Germany to parents Fred and Louise Kreinbrink. In 1891 Fred and Louise brought Otto, then 4 years old and his young sister ,2, to settle in Naperville, IL. Fred and Louise went on to have seven more children and lived the rest of their lives in Naperville. They are buried in Naperville Cemetery as well.

A young Otto publicity shot

As a teen Otto got a job working at the local hotel breaking wild horses and getting them ready to be auctioned. He soon discovered he was quite talented with the horses. His skill led him to compete in riding events and win numerous championships.

Salt Lake City Herald, August 31, 1913

His trick riding began gaining attention and he adapted the stage name Kline sometime around 1903. Newspaper advertisements from across the country show he performed in many Wild West shows billed as "The World's Champion Cowboy"

In 1911 he was featured in a black and white silent film short titled "Cheyenne Days" about Wild West performers.

Otto Joined Barnum and Bailey Circus in 1913. There he met his future wife Tina "Tiny" Deutsch , who at the time was a dancer. They married in March of 1915. Sadly Otto would die just a short month later.

Dubuque Telegraph, April 22, 1915

On April 22, 1915 , Otto was performing at Madison Square Garden, New York. The leaping act was his trademark trick and one where the captivated audience collectively held its breath. Otto would launch himself over the horse side to side while the horse runs at top speed. On this day the trick did not go as it had hundreds of times before. In the middle of the performance Otto lost his grip on the saddle and was thrown head first into a box. He was taken to the local hospital where he died shortly after from a fractured skull. He was only 28.

His wife Tiny would never remarry. Shortly after Otto's death she joined Barnum and Bailey Circus. She would later settle in California and become the first Tinkerbell that would "fly" across Disneyland to Sleeping Beauty's castle. She passed in 1964 and is buried in California.

Otto's fellow performers pooled money together to give him the ornate headstone that marks his final resting spot in his hometown. The stone is one of Naperville cemetery's most visited and thus Otto's story is remembered often.

Wendy Moxley Roe

June 2019

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