Jack Morris Franks was born May 9, 1908 in Chicago, Illinois to fifty-three year old Jacob Franks, and his thirty-one year old wife Flora nee Griesheimer.
Jacob Franks was born February 17, 1855 in London England to Joseph Franks and Hannah (nee Hart). Two-year-old Jacob immigrated with his family to the United States in 1857. In the 1900 Census, Jacob Franks is living in Chicago with his sister Rosina Rubin and her family, and Jacob lists his occupation as "Capitalist".
Flora Grieshimer was born August 15, 1876 in Chicago to Morris (Moritz) Grieshimer and Bertha (nee Dernham). Later on, the family Americanized their surname to "Gresham".
On February 17, 1906, Jacob Franks' fifty-first birthday, he incorrectly stated his age as forty-seven when he married twenty-eight year old Flora Grieshimer. They were married by Rabbi Joseph Stolz of Temple Isaiah in Chicago.
When Jacob and Flora Franks had a son in May of 1908 they did not name him after his father directly. Instead of calling him Jacob Franks, Jr., they decided on the more American sounding "Jack". Jack Morris Franks was born May 9, 1908 in Chicago, Illinois.
Mr. and Mrs. Franks already had a daughter Josephine Helene Franks, born November 30, 1906. The ill-fated Robert Emanuel "Bobby" Franks was not born until September 19, 1909.
Jack Franks had just celebrated his sixteenth birthday when his brother Bobby was kidnapped on May 21, 1924.
|Jack Franks - 1924|
We don't know what went through Jack's mind when Bobby did not come home from school as usual but if the Franks family was like most families, the older siblings were expected to look after their younger brothers and sisters. We can imagine that many times Jack was told "Look out for your brother." As the hours ticked by on that fateful Wednesday Jack must have wondered just what had happened to Bobby. According to accounts at the time Jack had even suggested that Bobby may be at the Loeb's house playing tennis, but when someone checked, Bobby was not there. Both Jack and his sister Josephine had no idea where their little brother was.
Most accounts state that when Loeb and Leopold called the Franks home around 10:30 the night of the 21st, Flora Franks was alone, or (more likely) alone except for a housekeeper. Jack was not at home when the call came in - he was probably out searching the neighborhood for his lost brother.
We can be sure that Jack was present the next morning when the ransom demand letter came in, and he was probably present later that same day when the call came in from his uncle Edwin Gresham that Bobby's body had been found.
Bobby Franks' funeral was held on Sunday, May 25, 1924 from the Franks home at 5052 S. Ellis Avenue.
|5052 S. Ellis Avenue, Chicago|
Here is the account from the Chicago Daily Tribune of May 26, 1924:
For yesterday afternoon while police were following every clew that might lead to the capture of the kidnappers who murdered the young son of the millionaire Jacob Franks, a simple funeral service was held at the home at 5052 Ellis avenue. Then, guarded by six motorcycle police, the body was taken to the Franks mausoleum at Rosehill cemetery.
Only relatives, a few close friends, and twenty of Robert's schoolmates from the Harvard private school were admitted at the house, where grief is mingled with horror and fear - for the life of the daughter Josephine has also been threatened.
The hushed groups here and there did not talk of the tragedy, but their eyes were all fixed on the lodestone of their thoughts, the little white coffin in the library. There before the fireplace where he used to dream, it stood covered with a blanket of crimson rosebuds. The mantel was hidden with crescents of lilies of the valley and orchids, circles of roses and mignonettes and bouquets of peonies. Sheaves of lilies and baskets of old fashioned garden flowers banked the walls.
The service was conducted by Elwood A. Emory, first reader, and Maybelle B. Armstrong, second reader, of the Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist. The twenty-third Psalm was read and other passages of Scripture, and the Lord‘s Prayer with spiritual interpretation from (Mary Baker Eddy's) Science and Health. Glenn Drake, soloist from the same church sang "Shepherd, Show Me How to Go”, and “O, Gentle Presence.”
Mrs. Franks, who had been frantic with anxiety since her son’s disappearance last Wednesday, sat in subdued quiet throughout the reading of the words meant for comfort. She had told her son good-bye alone in the room with him three hours before - and she made no effort to look again in the flower covered casket.
But as she passed a group of schoolboys clustered on the stairway she paused and ran her hands hungrily over their faces. Some with the round features of childhood, others slim in adolescence - and four days ago her son had been with them!
Eight of them served as pallbearers: Maurice Gresham, John Coleman, Justin Cohen, Robert Ascher, Louis New, William Schuyler, Sidney Eppenstein, and Max Welheimer. As they carried the casket slowly out to the hearse, Mr. and Mrs. Franks and 17 year old daughter Josephine, left by a side entrance to escape the photographers and crowd who had gathered at the front. They were escorted by one of the guards stationed at the home as a result of threats made since the murder of the boy. A dozen policemen were in front of the house to regulate the crowd of two or three hundred, who had gathered to see the procession, and the departure was made with quiet dignity.
Twenty-five cars carried the friends to the cemetery. A velvet carpet was laid from the road to the mausoleum, and flowers were strewn on each side. The crowd separated quietly to make way for the casket - still covered with flowers - and stood with bared heads while it was placed inside.
Mr. Emory again read from the Scriptures, "I lift up mine eyes to the hills", and offered prayers. Mrs. Franks, assisted by Josephine and her brother, stood for a long time at the door, looking down at the coffin where her boy lay. Then they put aside the blanket of crimson buds, and placed the slab: 1909 - Robert Franks - 1924.
She trembled, turned away, and went back to the car, where she gave way to her grief in pitiful little moans and sobs. Her daughter, a pretty dark-eyed girl, tried to comfort her, and so did her husband, though he, too, was on the verge of breaking down.
Slowly the procession turned back to town.
As shown in this photo from the funeral, the Jacob Franks family mausoleum had already been built when Bobby was killed in 1924, although nobody had been interred there yet. Bobby was the first "occupant".
You may wonder why a couple who had been married in Temple Isaiah had Christian Science Readers conduct their son's funeral. Sometime between 1906 and 1924 the Franks family converted from Judaism to Christian Science. In the 1910s and 1920s many wealthy society women converted to Christian Science and took their families with them. Apart from the theological tenets of Christian Science, it was a very appealing faith for women to follow. Christian Science was a religion founded by a woman (Mary Baker Eddy) and one of the few "mainline" religions that not only allowed female clergy, it encouraged women to follow the call. In the 1930 Census, Flora Franks listed her occupation as "Christian Science Practitioner."
But life goes on, even after a tragedy such as this. It was not enough that Jack Franks had to deal with his brother's murder and funeral, he also had to endure the indignity of the sensational trial of Bobby's killers: Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, Jr. The trial took place in July, August and September of 1924. Jack went to court every day, along with other members of his family. He had to sit just a few feet away from Loeb and Leopold, knowing that they had killed his brother while trying to commit "The Perfect Crime". He had to witness the emotionally heart-wrenching testimony of both his father and his mother. He had to listen as the autopsy report of Bobby was read into the court record, with its unemotional description of Bobby's wounds and the fact that Bobby's face and genitals had been darkened and disfigured by the acid put on them by Loeb and Leopold. Like the other members of the Franks family, Jack had no closure after Bobby's funeral. All his emotional wounds lay open and exposed day after day and week after week. Every day the newspapers were filled with lurid photos and stories about the perversions of Loeb and Leopold. It was impossible to escape. It is a miracle that none of the Franks family lost their minds, although Flora did suffer from spells of melancholy - but who could blame her.
In researching this story I read the transcript of the trial of Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, Jr. for kidnapping and murder. It is a sordid tale. If you want to read the trial transcript, you can find it at:
On September 10, 1924 to a packed courthouse that included Jack Franks and his family, Judge John R. Caverly pronounced the sentence on Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, Jr.: The term of their natural lives (for murder) and 99 years (for kidnapping). Jacob Franks reported at the time that the Franks family had never wanted to see Loeb and Leopold executed for their crime.
In September of 1924 the Franks family moved out of their beautiful home on S. Ellis avenue and into the Drake Hotel on Lake Shore Drive.
Maybe there were just too many reminders of Bobby in the Ellis avenue home.
In the autumn of 1927 to try to put some normalcy back into their lives, Jack and his father took a vacation together to Banff, Alberta, Canada. Jack wrote of the trip in his book Echoes, published by The Lakeside Press, Chicago, 1929.
It was a limited edition on 1000 copies, each one autographed by Jack M. Franks.
The first part of the book is entitled "The Echo of a Journey with Jacob Franks" and "Which I dedicate to and write about my beloved father."
Here is a photo of Jacob in Banff that Jack included in the book:
The second part of the book is original poetry composed by Jack. He laces his poetry with quotes from "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, and from the Christian Science hymnal, and even manages to take a swipe at the practice of medicine. It seems that Jack had become a willing participant in the Faith of his mother.
If readers expected a tell-all book from Jack, they came away sorely disappointed. The first part is an ode to his father and the second part is filled with random thoughts and musings. There is one poem, however called "And Tender Thoughts Flowed On" which Jack wrote "after scrutinizing a tinted picture of my brother:"
Reviews of Echoes were lukewarm.
Jacob Franks died on April 19, 1928 of heart disease. His death certificate erroneously listed his year of birth as 1857.
|3413 W. 13th Place, Chicago|
Flora's first marriage (to Jacob Franks) was performed by Rabbi Joseph Stolz of Temple Isaiah in Chicago. For her second marriage (to Albert S. Louer) she chose Dr. Preston Bradley of The Peoples Church in Chicago. Bradley preached a form of liberal religious humanism that would fit well with Flora's unitarian and Christian Science beliefs. As far as I could ascertain, Albert Louer remained a practicing Jew all his life.
In 1935, on the eleventh anniversary of the slayings, Jack Franks was asked if he had any opinion as to where or whether Loeb and Leopold should be freed. He said "I have no feelings of animosity. It has been hard for the families. How my family feels about it, I don't know. We never discuss it. As far as I am concerned, I just want them to stay out of my life. They're in another world from me, and I'm not interested in them, that's all."
On June 15, 1937, Flora Grieshimer Franks Louer died of breast cancer at the age of 60.
Her obituary from the Chicago Tribune is short and to the point:
Flora was laid to rest in the Jacob Franks mausoleum at Rosehill:
The Chicago Daily Tribune from July 12, 1938 brought the surprising news of the sudden death of Jack M. Franks:
Jack M. Franks, brother of Bobby Franks who was murdered by Leopold and Loeb, was found dead of a heart attack yesterday in his room at the DeWitt hotel, 244 East Pearson Street. He was 35 (sic)years old. His sister, Mrs. Josephine Glaser of New York City, was notified and is on her way here to make funeral arrangements. He formerly attended the University of Chicago, where he was active in fraternity affairs and a member of the staff of the Daily Maroon, student newspaper. At the time of his death he was a partner in the firm of Franks & Cooke, real estate dealers at 319 South Clark Street.