This Week in 1908 (April 28-May 4)
How long ago was 1908?
In nearby Portage Indiana, a notorious murder starts to make the news. It starts with the discovery of three children and a headless woman after a fire in Portage. Upon investigation, however, details begin to emerge. It turns out the woman who owned the farm, Belle Gunness, had been luring men to her home by promising to marry them. She had done the same thing in Chicago, and elsewhere. After luring the (Scandinavian) men, each of them disappeared, and Gunness collected insurance money. Though the headless body discovered in her barn was declared to be hers, the woman’s size and shape was completely different than Gunness. Locals still think that she escaped unscathed. (Photo: Belle Gunness and her children, from the La Porte County Historical Society collection)
Elsewhere this week…
Sigmund Freud conducts a conference in Vienna to discuss the findings of his groundbreaking studies. He turns 50 May 6th.
*Orval Overall (photo) pitches a 2-hitter at West Side Grounds versus the Cardinals (May 2), as the Chicago Cubs get off to a good start to the season. At the end of the week the Cubs are atop the standings, with a record of 11-3.
*The Pirates are 2 games back. Their star player is shortstop Honus Wagner. John McGraw’s Giants, featuring star pitcher Christy Mathewson, are 3 1/2 games back. The Cubs/Pirates/Giants race will be a barn burner all year long.
*The New York Yankees are the worst team in baseball, and will remain so for the rest of the year. (They are still known as the Highlanders)
~In Springfield, Illinois Governor Charles Deneen (photo) celebrates his 45th birthday. He has been Governor for three years and will remain governor another five years. He’ll also serve as a Senator in the twenties. He rose to fame prosecuting the famous “sausage vat” murderer Adolph Luetgert, who was convicted of killing his wife Louisa. Her body was never discovered but because he was a sausage-maker, local legend had it that he ground her up and sold her in one of his sausages.
~William Randolph Hearst, about whom the movie “Citizen Kane” is loosely based, also turns 45. He has not yet retreated into his castle. He’s still giddy from starting the Spanish-American War, whose hero is now the President of the United States (Teddy Roosevelt). Among his many newspapers, he is the publisher of the Chicago Examiner, which was founded six years earlier at the behest of the Democratic Party.
~In Germany, Baron von Richthoven turns 16 (May 2). Within a decade the Red Baron will be world famous…and dead.
~Also in Germany, a baby named Oskar is born. He will one day go on to save thousands of lives in World War II. His last name is Schindler.
Price Check: A “Carbon crucible steel Fulton hatchet finished in copper bronze” would have set Belle Gunness back about 44 cents at Sears.
If you travel back in time, and want to help Belle Gunness clean up the blood in her house, don’t expect to use an SOS pad. They won’t be invented until 1917.