Friday, February 28, 2014

TOO MUCH SNOW CAN KILL YOU - William Andrews Merigold

I have mentioned in several recent postings that this year Chicago has had an especially harsh winter.  Since mid-December we have been hit with one snowstorm after another with little relief.  People keep saying that "we have never had a worse winter."  That's not true - Chicago has had many horrible winters through the years.  Although children and dogs love the snow, too much of it can prove deadly to humans.

When I was researching the story on W.D. Kerfoot I happened upon the story of his partner, William A. Merigold who died just one week after Kerfoot in 1918.  The Chicago Daily Tribune of January 13, 1918 carried the following story:

DIES AT HIS DOOR AFTER STRUGGLE THROUGH STORM
W.A. Merigold, Real Estate Man, Victim of Fight With Snow

William A. Merigold, one of Chicago's representative real estate dealers, died yesterday afternoon.  His death was a direct result of exposure and exhaustion caused while attempting to reach his Lake Park Avenue residence through the storm.

Mr. Merigold had been at his downtown office during the day, attending to business, and started home shortly after 4 o'clock.  Apparently he had been in excellent health.  He took a Cottage Grove avenue surface car, alighting at Thirty-seventh street.  The Merigold residence is at 3984 Lake Park avenue, at the edge of the lake.  The streets in the vicinity were exposed to the hardest effects of the blizzard, and were choked with the drifted snow.

Falls Into House and Dies.

Through the banks Mr. Merigold fought his way to his home.  He managed to stumble up the steps.  The door was opened for him and he fell inside and died almost instantly.  Heart trouble, brought on by the exertion of the battle he had made through the snow, was given as the cause of death by Dr. Gilbert White who lives in the same block with the Merigolds and who was summoned at once.

Before we finish the article about the death of William Merigold, let's see what we can "dig up" about his life.

William Andrews Merigold was born May 19, 1850 in Port Dalhousie, Ontario, Canada, the son of William Merigold (1808-1886) and Ann Elisa, nee Chisholm (1812-1883).  He had an older sister, Mary Elisa (1841-1902), an older brother, James Austin (1840-1908) and perhaps two other siblings who died in infancy.  William Merigold the elder was a dry goods merchant by trade.

In 1859 the Merigold family left Canada to settle in St. Louis, Missouri. They then moved to Amboy, Illinois, and ultimately to Chicago in 1861. From an early age young William Merigold's family saw that he had a head for business, so in 1862 when he was twelve years old, he was placed for two years in the business office of William M. Ross in Chicago.  After his time with Ross, young Merigold spent two years working in the offices of the Chicago Tribune newspaper.  In 1866 William Merigold took a job in the real estate office of William D. Kerfoot, so that he could learn the business from a master.

He was all things to Mr. Kerfoot:  clerk, book-keeper, salesman, draftsman, abstract examiner, and appraiser.  In 1871 his talents and contribution to the business were acknowledged, and he was made a partner - at the ripe old age of twenty-one.

For the story of the Kerfoot firm's activities during and after the Great Chicago Fire of October, 1871, you can read my article about William D. Kerfoot:

http://undereverystone.blogspot.com/2013/11/all-gone-but-wife-children-and-energy.html

In 1886, William Merigold decided to strike out on his own, and opened his own real estate firm at 183 LaSalle Street.  Here's the announcement from the Chicago Daily Tribune of January 1, 1887:


Before too long, Merigold's name was connected with every choice piece of real estate in Chicago and the suburbs.  His business expanded so quickly that he soon had to move to larger quarters at 156-158 LaSalle Street to make room for the forty real estate salesmen and clerks he had on his payroll.  

Here's an ad touting the "Merigold Subdivision" on Chicago's west side:


and another for his suburban holdings from the Chicago Daily Tribune in the 1880s:


He negotiated the purchase by Marshall Field of the land where the Field store sits to this day and by 1890 was able to report his offices handled the transfer of properties approaching $1,000,000.00 per year.

It was not all work for William Merigold. On September 3, 1874 he married Miss Emma Louise Smith in Chicago.  Emma Smith Merigold (1853-1938) was the daughter of Sheldon Smith (1825-1903) and Cornelia Parthenia, nee Casey (1821-1912).

William and Emma Merigold were blessed with four children: Maud Susan Kerfoot Merigold (1875-1956), Emma Louise Merigold (1880-????), William Andrews Merigold (1881-1930), and Arthur Sheldon Merigold (1886-1963).

When asked by "The Book of Chicagoans" (1911) to list his major accomplishments he stated:  "Interested in the purchase or sale of many important business properties including the purchase of the entire Washington Street and Wabash Avenue frontage for Marshall Field, sold Handel Music Hall, negotiated 99 year lease of northwest corner of State and Adams Streets and Kennedy Furniture Store on Wabash Ave., sold Frederick Fisher his holdings on Wabash Ave., Henry Shuttler his holdings on Wabash Ave., and properties on State, Madison, Michigan, etc.  Manager of properties of PFW Peck Estate, Stewart Building, Counselman Building, Marine Building, Irwin Building, Green Building, long time agent for all E.J. Lehman's holdings, agent Shuttler & Hotz buildings, located The Fair Store at State & Adams Streets, did the second largest subdivision business in Chicago prior to 1893, Valuer of properties for loans for large corporations, estates and individual owners.  Was one of three organizers and first Secretary of the Chicago Real Estate Board.   

Like W.D. Kerfoot who died just one week before him, William Merigold stayed active in Chicago Real Estate matters up until his death. Whereas Mr. Kerfoot died of complications of old age at the age of 80, Mr. Merigold was struck down at the age of 67, as a consequence of his struggle to get home during a terrible Chicago snowstorm.  Here is William Merigold's Death Certificate.  The official cause of death was "Organic Heart Disease":


Here is his death notice from the Chicago Daily Tribune of  January 15, 1918:


Like his friend W.D. Kerfoot, William Merigold was buried in Graceland Cemetery.  And also like Kerfoot, Merigold's grave marker is very unassuming:


No elaborate Potter Palmer type monuments for these two titans of real estate.

William A. Merigold, like his one-time partner  W.D. Kerfoot spent his whole life immersed in Chicago real estate.  Like Kerfoot, Merigold bounced back after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 realizing that the private ownership of land is one of the bedrocks upon which this country was founded.  But unlike Kerfoot who died of old age, Merigold attempted to fight a Chicago snowstorm - and lost.    


William Andrews Merigold - may he rest in peace.

Friday, February 21, 2014

THE LANDLORD REFUSED HEAT - Ned S. Schuham

One Sunday last Fall I was at Jewish Waldheim Cemetery in Forest Park fulfilling Find a Grave photo requests.  Actually every Sunday last Fall I was at Jewish Waldheim fulfilling photo requests.  Our weather has been so horrible this winter that I have not been able to do any grave photography since December 15th! I'm going through withdrawal...

Anyway, I am always on the lookout for interesting tombstones, so when I saw this one I grabbed my camera:


The tombstone had a nautical theme, so I thought that perhaps Ned Schuham had been in the Navy.  A death date in 1918 for someone relatively young as Schuhan was (just short of 32), also meant perhaps another victim of the Spanish Influenza.  I was right on both counts, but it was not until I did a little digging that I found the tragedy in the story of the death of Ned Schuham.  But before we look at the end of his life, let's take a look at the beginning.

Ned Sinai Schuham was born in Chicago on September 1, 1886 to Robert Schuham (1855-1940) and Bertha, nee Sinai (1863-1937).  Ned would ultimately have two younger brothers:  Jeffrie (1891-1899), and Alfred (1901-1977).  Robert Schuham was a liquor dealer, by trade.  He was born in Russia, and came to the US in 1874 when he was 19 years old.  Bertha Sinai was born in Poland, and came to the US in 1879 when she was 16.  Robert and Bertha married in Chicago on March 22, 1885. 

The 1890 US census is, of course, lost, and I was unable to locate a 1900 US Census record for the Schuham family.  Luckily, there is a 1910 US Census record for them.  It shows the Schuhams renting an apartment at 5118 S. Wabash in Chicago. 

5118 S. Wabash, Chicago

Twenty three year-old Ned was living with his parents and his younger brother Alfred.  Jeffrie had already passed away by this time.  Ned listed his profession as "Commercial Traveler for a Varnish House."

Ned registered for the draft on June 5, 1917.  He was unmarried and lived at 5029 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago.  Unfortunately, that site is now a vacant lot.  He listed his occupation as an Insurance Broker for The Equitable Life Insurance Society of the US, working out of Suite 611 in the Peoples Gas Building in downtown Chicago:


Ned Schuham had light blue eyes and dark brown hair.

On April 15, 1918, Ned Schuhan enlisted in the US Naval Reserve at the Great Lakes naval base in Northern Illinois.  He enlisted as a Chief Yeoman in the Reserve Naval Force.  

The September 28, 1918 Chicago Daily Tribune carried the shocking news of the death of Ned Schuham:


But wait - there's more.  The Chicago Daily Tribune from the very next day, September 29, 1918 carried an article about the influenza epidemic.  It was titled "Sneeze, Cough, Held Cause of 'Flu' Epidemic." Buried in the article we find the sad details about the death of Ned Schuham:

Fight Against Cold Houses.

In his warfare against landlords who refuse to heat their building, Commissioner Robertson appealed to the State's Attorney's office and was assured all possible cooperation by First Assistant Michael F. Sullivan.  Dr. Robertson laid emphasis on the death of Ned H. Schuham (sic) a Great Lakes petty officer who died at his parents' residence in South Michigan avenue.  

"The landlord refused heat," the boy's mother said, "finally we bought our own coal and hired the janitor do the work, but it was too late. Pneumonia set in and my son died."

City Prosecutor Miller said that tomorrow he will file suit against a landlord who, according to Commissioner Robertson's complaint, refused to heat an apartment in which there was a victim of influenza. Fifty-four such requests have been received.

Today landlords in Chicago are required to turn the heat on in their buildings starting on September 15th, but in Ned Schuhan's time it was October 1st.  Any landlords willing to heat their buildings before October 1st were doing so out of the goodness of their hearts, and not because the law required it.  Landlords had two reasons for not turning the heat on earlier.  Most were unwilling because of the increased cost. But during the Spanish influenza epidemic there was another reason: people felt that warm air caused the influenza germs to multiply and spread.  So for the first time, landlords who refused to heat their apartment buildings could say that they were looking out for the welfare of their tenants.  

October 1, 1918 came and Landlords were required to heat their buildings, but by then it was too late for Ned Schuham.  Here is his death certificate:


If you look at the top of the certificate, it says "Home was extremely cold and they were unable to secure any heat says Dr. S."
    
Ned Sinai Schuhan was buried beside his brother Jeffrie at Jewish Waldheim Cemetery, Gate 43 - Free Sons of Israel.  


The Chicago Daily Tribune from October 2, 3 and 4, 1919 carried the following announcement on the obituary page:

IN MEMORIAM

SCHUHAM - The monument erected to the memory of Ned S. Schuham, beloved son of Robert and Bertha Schuham, brother of Alfred, will be unveiled Sunday October 5, 1919 at 3 p.m., Free Sons cemetery, Waldheim.

Ned Sinai Schuham - may he rest in peace. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

BELOVED CHILDREN'S BOOK AUTHOR "LEO EDWARDS" - Edward Edson Lee

I have always been a voracious reader.  I actually taught myself to read by reading, and re-reading my older brother's comic books.  I will usually read everything and anything I can get my hands on.  When I was a teenager, most of my friends collected the Hardy Boys detective novels, but I much preferred the Tom Swift, Jr. adventure books.  After reading all of the Tom Swift Jr. books, I was thrilled to find out about the original Tom Swift books that were published in the early part of the twentieth century.  One of my friends had a bunch of original Tom Swift books that had belonged to his father.  I was talking about the Tom Swift books with my friend's dad one day when he said "Have you read any of the Leo Edwards books?"  When I told him that I had never heard of them, he loaned me "Poppy Ott and the Prancing Pancake" by Leo Edwards:


I was hooked from the moment I started reading.  It was kind of a mystery/detective story but it was also an adventure story.  I returned the Prancing Pancake and asked for more.  This time I borrowed "Poppy Ott's Pedigreed Pickles:


I was always a fast reader, and within a day or two I was ready for "Poppy Ott's Seven League Stilts":


Now there was a problem.  These were all the Leo Edwards books that they had.  This was many years before ebay (it was even before the internet) so I was limited to any books I could find in used book stores. As often as I found a used book store, I never found another Leo Edwards book.  It was not until years later that I was able to complete my Leo Edwards collection thanks to ebay and abebooks.com.

Let's take a closer look at this beloved children's book author to see what we can "dig up" about him.

First of all, "Leo Edwards" was a pen name.  The author's birth name was Edward Elvy Lee.  He was born in Meridan, Illinois on September 2, 1884 to Eugene Henry Lee (1854-c1884) and Mary Emelia, nee Cannon (1851-1913).  Eugene and Mary were married in LaSalle, Illinois on May 31, 1876.  The 1880 US Census finds them in Deer Park, Illinois, but they ultimately settled in Utica, Illinois where they were blessed with four children:  Clara Belle Lee (1875-1938), Clyde O. Lee (1880-1890), Edward Elvy Lee (1884-1944), and an unnamed child who died in infancy.  Eugene Lee was a laborer/farmer by trade.

Unfortunately, Eugene Lee died about the time young Edward was born (1884).  The 1890 US Census is, of course, lost, but by 1900 Clara Belle had married to Charles W. Morse (1872-1950), so it was just Edward and his mother.  In 1897 what remained of the Lee family left Utica, Illinois and moved to Beloit, Wisconsin where Mary Cannon Lee had family.

The 1900 US Census finds 49 year-old Mary Lee, a widow and her 15 year old son Edward living at 903 Park Avenue in Beloit, Wisconsin:

903 Park Avenue, Beloit, Wisconsin

To help support his mother, Edward had dropped out of school and was working as a machinist.  Sometime in the latter part of the first decade of the twentieth century Edward and his mother moved right across the border to Roscoe, Illinois.  They rented rooms in a building at 329 Roscoe Avenue, in Roscoe, Illinois. Unfortunately this building no longer exists.

From a young age, Edward enjoyed writing.  In December of 1909 he submitted a short story to the Beloit Daily News for their Christmas story contest.  On December 15, 1909 he had his first published story when "Only a Dog" was published as the third place winner in the Daily News contest.  It is a bleak tale that tells a story from the dog's point of view.  He submitted his story under the name "Edward Edson Lee" which he may have thought sounded more professional than his birth name of Edward Elvy Lee.  If you want to read "Only a Dog" prepare to be depressed and go here:

http://myplace.frontier.com/~music_lee11/LeoSite/fiction/stories/onlyadog.html

On November 24, 1909, Edward married Miss Gladys Tuttle (1884-1970) of Roscoe.  Gladys was the daughter of Eugene Edgar Tuttle (1864-1934) and Margaret Jane, nee Thompson (1865-1949)  Gladys also has a sister, Mary E. Tuttle (1895-????)  The new Mrs. Lee moved in with her husband and his mother.

The 1910 US Census shows the family still living at 329 Roscoe Avenue in Roscoe.  There was 25 year-old Edward, 20 year-old Gladys, and Edward's mother Mary, who admitted to being 58 years-old.  Edward reported that he was a machinist.  They had no children.   

According to his family's website, Lee continued to work while tuning his creative writing skills.  He worked in the advertising department of the P. B. Yates Machine Co. while in Beloit.  In 1915 he moved to Detroit, Michigan to join the advertising department of the Burroughs Adding Machine Company.

Between 1917 and 1920, Lee moved again to work for the advertising department for the Autocall Company in Shelby, Ohio.

The family website goes on to say that during this time he wrote his first successful story featuring boy detective Jerry Todd: "The Cruise of the Sally Ann" that was published in the Shelby, Ohio Daily Globe. This story became the basis for Jerry Todd and the Oak Island Treasure, which before its publication in book form, was serialized in Boys Magazine (September, October and November 1920).

His success in getting his writing published encouraged him and he left his job in Shelby and went back to Beloit to continue his writing career. He sold many short stories to magazine such as American Boy, The Target, Classmate, and The Pioneer.

The 1920 US Census finds the Lee family living at #14 Marvin Avenue, Shelby, Ohio:

14 Marvin Avenue, Shelby, Ohio

There was Edward, and Gladys and a new arrival, a son "Eugene Edward Lee" (1912-1996) born September 1, 1912.  Edward lists his occupation as being in the advertising department for the Autocall Company (manufacturing) in Shelby.  It was at this time that his career as an author of children's stories finally began to bear fruit.

In late 1921, Edward Lee sold a seven part serial to The American Boy Magazine that ended up being published in the magazine from January through July of 1922.  It was called "Andy Blake in Advertising". It was a success so Lee decided to flesh out the story somewhat into a book-length story and was able to have it published by D. Appleton & Co., New York.  Here is the cover of "Andy Blake in Advertising" by Edward Edson Lee:


The book was released by D. Appleton & Co. on September 15, 1922. There was just one printing  - only 1,467 copies were bound.

For reasons lost in the mists of time, Lee made the decision to leave D. Appleton and move forward with noted children's book publisher Grossett & Dunlap.  In 1924 G & D purchased three Jerry Todd stories and in 1925 they purchased three more.  When Lee joined Grosset & Dunlap he decided to use the pen name "Leo Edwards" - perhaps because it was more "folksy" sounding and not as intimidating as "Edward Edson Lee".

For Grosset & Dunlap's most popular series, publisher Edward Stratemeyer used a team of ghost writers who shared pen names. "Tom Swift" by Victor Appleton, "The Hardy Boys" by Franklin W. Dixon, "Nancy Drew" by Caroline Keene, "The Rover Boys" by Arthur M. Winfield - all of these series were written by Stratemeyer, his daughter Harriet, or any of a number of staff writers they kept at the ready. Unlike the norm at Grosset & Dunlap, all of "Leo Edwards'" stories were written solely by Edward Lee.

The Jerry Todd series was very successful and in 1926, the companion Poppy Ott Series was launched. This was followed by the Andy Blake series (including a reissue of "Andy Blake in Advertising" by Grosset & Dunlap), the Trigger Berg series and the Tuffy Bean Series.

In all, Leo Edwards wrote thirty-nine books that were published by Grosset & Dunlap:

The Jerry Todd series
Jerry Todd and the Whispering Mummy - 1923
Jerry Todd and the Rose-Colored Cat - 1924
Jerry Todd and the Oak Island Treasure - 1925
Jerry Todd and the Waltzing Hen - 1924
Jerry Todd and the Talking Frog - 1925
Jerry Todd and the Purring Egg - 1925
Jerry Todd in the Whispering Cave - 1927
Jerry Todd, Pirate - 1928
Jerry Todd and the Bob-Tailed Elephant - 1929
Jerry Todd, Editor-In-Grief - 1930
Jerry Todd, Caveman - 1932
Jerry Todd and the Flying Flapdoodle - 1934
Jerry Todd and the Buffalo Bill Bathtub - 1936
Jerry Todd's Up-The-Ladder Club - 1937
Jerry Todd's Poodle Parlor - 1938
Jerry Todd's Cuckoo Camp - 1940

The Poppy Ott series
Poppy Ott and the Stuttering Parrot - 1926
Poppy Ott's Seven-League Stilts - 1926
Poppy Ott and the Galloping Snail - 1927
Poppy Ott's Pedigreed Pickles - 1927
Poppy Ott and the Freckled Goldfish - 1928
Poppy Ott and the Tittering Totem - 1929
Poppy Ott and the Prancing Pancake - 1930
Poppy Ott Hits The Trail - 1933
Poppy Ott & Co., Inferior Decorators - 1937
The Monkey's Paw - 1938
The Hidden Dwarf - 1939

The Andy Blake series
Andy Blake - 1928
Andy Blake and His Comet Coaster - 1928
Andy Blake's Secret Service - 1929
Andy Blake and the Pot of Gold - 1930

The Trigger Berg series
Trigger Berg and the Treasure Tree - 1930
Trigger Berg and His 700 Mousetraps - 1930
Trigger Berg and the Sacred Pig - 1931
Trigger Berg and the Cock-Eyed Ghost - 1933

The Tuffy Bean series
Tuffy Bean's Puppy Days - 1931
Tuffy Bean's One-Ring Circus - 1931
Tuffy Bean At Funny Bone Farm - 1931
Tuffy Bean and the Lost Fortune - 1932

The 1930 US Census found the Lee family back in Wisconsin.  They were living in a home they owned (with a value of $4,500.00) at 164 Porter Drive, Oakland, Jefferson County, Wisconsin.  Edward listed his occupation as "Author of Juvenile Books for Boys".  In addition, Lee's income from his books allowed him to buy Hi-Lee Cottage, a summer home at Lake Ripley, just out of Cambridge, Wisconsin.

One of the interesting parts of Leo Edwards' books were the illustrations by noted artist Bert Salg.  He did a dust jacket for each volume, as well as internal illustrations.  All of the dust jackets shown in this article, except for Andy Blake in Advertising, were by Salg.

The Trigger Berg books and the Tuffy Bean books were launched in the depths of the Great Depression and did not sell well, so the series were ended with only four books in each.  Although the Jerry Todd, Poppy Ott and Andy Blake series sold well as the 1930s began, they were ultimately also done-in by the depression, and the last book published was Jerry Todd's Cuckoo Camp in 1940.


The 1940 US Census saw Edward and Gladys still living at the home in Oakland.  Eugene had gone out on his own by then.  Lee listed his occupation as "Author - Juvenile Books."

The family website says that although his writing was successful and he did earn a good living from it for a time, ultimately he was left with very little long term income from the books of any substantial nature. The coming of World War II found him seeking employment in a nearby industrial firm.  He was attacked by illness and other misfortunes and in mid 1944, his son Eugene took him to his home in Rockford, Illinois.

Leo Edwards (Edward Edson Lee) died September 28, 1944 in Rockford, Illinois at the age of 60.  He is buried next to his mother in the Oakwood Cemetery in Beloit, Wisconsin.

In August of 2013 I decided to drive up to Beloit to photograph Lee's grave and pay my respects to the man whose writings had given me so much enjoyment over the years.  It was a beautiful summer day and I found the cemetery with no problem.  I did not immediately find Lee's grave, but a quick call to the cemetery office gave me the exact location.  Here is a photo of the graves of Edward Edson Lee and his mother Mary:



Edward Edson Lee "Leo Edwards" - may he rest in peace.

In this writeup, I just scratched the surface of the many facets of the man who was Edward Edson Lee.  If you would like more information about Edward Edson Lee or Leo Edwards, his family has a wonderful website that you will enjoy:

http://myplace.frontier.com/~music_lee11/LeoSite/index.html

Friday, February 7, 2014

THE GREAT INVENTOR OF THE ART OF HEADWALKING - Baptiste Louis Goldkette

It is always fascinating to wander the rows of Jewish Waldheim Cemetery in Forest Park.  As I have mentioned previously it is filled with the history of the Jewish people in Chicagoland.  Most of those buried at Jewish Waldheim were just plain folks, although there are the graves of some famous (and some infamous) people interspersed among the populous.  As I photograph graves at Waldheim for Find a Grave, I am always on the lookout for interesting tombstones that may mark the graves of people I could write about in this blog. One day I was "mowing the rows" at Gate #3 - Bickur Cholem when I came across this tombstone:

 

It is a rounded monument so it is a little hard to read, but it says:

In Memory of the Great Inventor of
The Art of Headwalking

BAPTISTE
LOUIS
GOLDKETTE

Born
June 28, 1880

Died
June 22, 1920

Beloved 
Brother 
And Uncle

There are many men named Louis buried at Jewish Waldheim, but I believe this is the only person named "Baptiste" buried there.  Let's face it, "Baptiste" is not a Jewish name.  I originally thought perhaps he was not Jewish, but married a Jewish woman and converted - in any case I figured there was an interesting story buried there and I was right.

Several people have done extensive research on the Goldkette family and their origins.  One researcher said that from the Goldkettes' lengthy track record of juggling nationalities, swapping identities and generally fudging personal biographies, he thought they must be Roma (gypsies). Eventually he discovered that they were Ashkenazi Jews from Schleswig-Holstein.  Part of the interest in the Goldkette family is because Baptiste's nephew Jean Goldkette (1899-1962) was a noted bandleader of the Jazz era.   

To better understand Baptiste we need to go back in his family tree. One family document made available to researchers was translated as follows:

While breaking her journey here on the 5th of June 1834, Mine, née Goldstein, wife of the circus horseman Hartwig Goldkette from Hildesheim, gave birth to a boy. Today, 12th June, the circumcision was performed by Rabbi Samuel Basewitz of Frankfurt-on-Oder, and the boy was given the name Louis, in the presence of the merchants Abraham Fürstenheim, Samuel Fürstenheim and Abraham Frank, as well as Mr. Goldkette's mother, Theresa, née Scholom, which is hereby duly certified for the local Jewish community's register of births and circumcisions."

Küstrin, 12 June 1834.

The Louis Goldkette listed above was Baptiste's father. Küstrin (Kostrzyn) is now just inside Poland, 50 miles due east of Berlin.  "Hartwig Goldkette" was actually Hertz Abraham Levi.

From the various old documents, it was clear that the Goldkettes had been working as a circus family in Europe for at least 150 years before they came to the United States.  Baptiste's great-great-grandfather had performed a tightrope act at the coronation of the Austrian Empress Maria-Theresa at Pressburg (modern Bratislava) in 1741.  His great-grandfather, Levy Goldkette, had been a celebrated magician, acclaimed throughout Europe.  His father, Louis - the one born in a trunk near Berlin in 1834 - had been a trick rider, acrobat and circus owner, and died in France sixty years later, still on the road.  The men in the family were 'artistes' - acrobats, bareback riders, clowns and mimes, while the women were 'actresses' - vaudeville singers and dancers.

On the face of it, the family were Jewish Ashkenazim, given the similarity of the name Goldkette to so many other descriptive family names from central Europe: it simply means "gold chain" in German. One researcher was able to uncover that Goldkette was originally a stage name. It was first used in the late 18th century, possibly as the descriptive title of a featured acrobatic number - "The Golden Chain" - but was soon to become the name of the family that performed it. Their name originally was Hasloch and they originated in Schleswig-Holstein, which used to be Danish territory, but later became part of Germany.

Being a historian I am a stickler for the truth.  If I report a fact it is because I have verified it as being true from the source documentation. However, because the Goldkettes were was so fond of juggling nationalities, swapping identities and fudging personal biographies, I am going to report the family information as I have discovered it, while reminding you that most of this information is impossible to verify.

Baptiste Louis Goldkette was born June 28, 1879 in Nyborg, Denmark, the son of Louis Goldkette (1834-1895) and Jeanette, nee Gouldschmidt (1834-????).  Louis and Jeanette married in Whitechapel, London. They had eleven children:  Virginie (????-????), Benois/Banovars (1859-1934), Chon Gaston/Charles (1862-????), Alfred/Emil (1970-1871), Mine/Millas (1870-1951), Rosa (1873-????), Angeline (1875-1961), Franconi Louis (1877-1962), Baptiste Louis (1879-1920), Clara/Klavaija (1880-1940), and Eline (1890-1965).

Records indicate that Baptiste Goldkette first came to the United States in October of 1907 on the ship "La Touraine" out of La Havre.  He listed his occupation as "actor" and arrived with Mina, Eline and Franconi. They reported they were on their way to New York.  Between them they reported they were carrying $16,000.00 (!!!).  They also said they had never been in the U.S. before.  Baptiste was reported as being 5 feet 6 inches tall, with "fair" hair and blue eyes.

In 1908, Baptiste and Franconi took their act on the road to Havana, Cuba where they stayed at the Hotel Isla de Cuba.  They returned to the U.S. in September of 1908.  That time they reported themselves as being of "French" ancestry.

The 1910 U.S. Census (April 28, 1910) shows that at least part of the Goldkette family was attempting to lead a normal life.  Franconi (now called "Frank") Goldkette was a lodger in Chicago with his wife Viola and their one year old son Frank.  He listed his occupation as "Circus Acrobat."

In July of 1910, non-resident alien Baptiste traveled from Cherbourg, France to the U.S. aboard the SS Cleveland (the same ship that would bring Rudolph Valentino to America in 1913).  He was accompanied by his nephew Jean (the soon-to-be bandleader).  Baptiste reported his nationality as "Scandanavian" and Jean reported this his mother was living in Moscow, Russia.

Here is a photo of Baptiste Goldkette with his brother Franconi clowning around with a monkey - perhaps rehearsing their act:

  
Sometime after their return from Cuba in 1910, the Goldkettes moved their base of operation to a farm outside La Paz, Indiana.  Still relatively close to Chicago (about 100 miles), this gave them room to practice their act and keep their animals at a cheaper cost than in Chicago.  No sign of Baptiste in the 1910 Census. Here is a card with their contact information in Indiana:


Baptiste Louis Goldkette died June 22, 1920 in Columbus Hospital in Chicago:

Photo courtesy: Chuckman's Collection of Chicago Postcards

Here is Baptiste's Death Certificate:


His death certificate erroneously lists his year of birth as 1860, but has his correct age - 40.  It also erroneously lists Baptiste's birthplace, as well as the birthplace of both of his parents as "France".  

There must have been some question as to his cause of death, because an autopsy was done.  Autopsies are rare among observant Jews, although there is little evidence that the Goldkettes were particularly observant.  According to his death certificate, Baptiste had been ill for two years, although in the hospital for just one day.  The Cause of Death was listed as  "Locomotive ataxia.  Acute dilatation of the heart, edema of the lungs".  Locomotive ataxia is "loss of coordination of movement, especially as a result of an infection of the spinal cord".  This would have to be about the worst disease for someone who made their living as an acrobat.

Baptiste Louis Goldkette was buried at Gate #3 - Bickur Cholem, at Jewish Waldheim Cemetery on June 24, 1920:


It is interesting that Baptiste's tombstone mentions that he was the inventor of the art of headwalking.  In all my research on Baptiste and the Goldkette family, I did not come across even one reference to headwalking. Then, just as I was wrapping up my research, I found this photo:



which shows Baptiste Goldkette headwalking on Unter den Linden in Berlin, Germany.  How he did it will remain a mystery.


Baptiste Louis Goldkette - may he rest in peace.