Friday, January 30, 2015

"Z" FRANK BEFORE YOU BUY!! - Zollie S. Frank - Part 1

After I wrote the blog entry on Fanny's Restaurant:

I started thinking of all the businesses that had disappeared or changed over my lifetime. Someone who was alive when I was born would not even recognize Evanston or Rogers Park today.  In addition to Fanny's they might be looking for Wieboldts department store or Woolworths "The Dime Store", or Kroch & Brentano's book store.  They might want to buy a suit at Lyttons or Baskins - all gone today.  If they lived on the North side of Chicago and wanted to but a car they might decide to head over to "Z" Frank Chevrolet on Western Avenue. Now that they have torn down the vacant building with the big "Z" Frank sign, nothing else remains of what was once the biggest Chevrolet dealer in the United States.  Let's take a look at what was behind the famous (to Chicagoans) slogan "Z" Frank Before You Buy!!

Zolmon Sidney Frank was born January 1, 1907 in Dayton, Ohio to Charles Frank (1864-1957) and Lena, nee Hummer (1865-1930). The name "Zolmon" is derived from "Solomon."  Charles Frank was from Russia-Poland, whereas Lena was Hungarian - born in Budapest. Charles Frank came to the US in 1872, his wife in 1886.  Zolmon joined his five older sisters:  Augusta (1893-1986), Ida (1894-1982), Esther (1897-1974), Blanche (1901-1974) and Mildred (1902-1987). Charles Frank was in the wholesale produce business.  Family lore is that the last name was originally "Frankel."

Young Zollie Frank worked in his father's produce business all of his young life, and that's where he learned all the ins and outs of buying and selling.  In 1935 after finishing high school and one year of college at Ohio State University, Zollie decided to go west - to California to continue his father's work in the wholesale produce business.  He did stay at Ohio State long enough to pledge to the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity (The "Sammies").

En route from Ohio to California he stopped in Chicago to buy a car. While at the dealership arranging to purchase the car, Frank met a Chrysler factory representative who was taken with his initiative.  He told Frank that if he couldn't make his fortune in Chicago, he wouldn't make it anywhere.  That started Frank thinking.

When he later stopped back to pick up the car he had bought, he was sufficiently intrigued to set up a meeting with the man from Chrysler. The man from Chrysler told Frank about a Chrysler dealership for sale. Frank decided to buy it and make his fortune not in California but in Chicago.

Zollie Frank started out in 1936 with just $7,500.  He paid $2,500 for Keystone Auto Sales, the Chrysler-Plymouth dealership at 6116 N. Western Ave., and saved the other $5,000 for working capital.  At that time Keystone just sold Chryslers and Plymouths.  When Frank bought the dealership it was the smallest Chrysler Plymouth dealership in Chicago.  (There is now a strip shopping center on that site.)

Years later he related, "I bought the place on a Saturday and moved in on a Sunday.  The first day open I sold three cars and took two in trade, a Whippet and a Ford.  I didn't know anything about cars except what they cost me and the fact I had $185 profit to work with.  The first customer had a Whippet for trade.  It wasn't worth anything but I gave him $60 for it, and my profit was $125.  He made $125. on the second sale, but the full $185 on the last sale of the day.  

"A couple came in as I was closing the door at 5 p.m.   I quoted them full list price on the Plymouth and they took it.  But they didn't know how to drive, so I offered to teach them.  It took 8 lessons.

Frank went on, "I had met the man who would become my brother-in-law when we were dating sisters.  Armund Schoen joined me in business and helped me found Four Wheels.  As it happened, we also married the sisters we were dating; the one sister is now my wife, Elaine, and the other, Armund's wife, Rita.

Zollie Frank is mostly remembered today for being a car dealer, but the truth is that he and Armund Schoen came up with an idea that revolutionized the auto leasing business.

"When Armund and I founded Four Wheels in 1939, a new Chevrolet cost about $495 - without a heater, radio, or spare tire.  I figured we could lease that car for about $45 a month and make money on it.

Armund Schoen - Zollie Frank - 1939

"In those days, automotive fleets existed, but they usually were owned by the individual corporations. Large dealerships handled fleet sales. "Z" Frank was considered a small, neighborhood store, so we got very little of this kind of business, attractive though it was.  We lacked the capital and contacts to compete effectively with large dealerships for fleet sales.

"From the standpoint of operating a successful business, however, I saw that many advantages could come with diversification.  Deriving income from corporate as well as retail business would provide more stability, since retail sales tend to be volatile and are easily affected by economic conditions in general.  We were looking around for a way to expand our business while also providing greater corporate stability.

"Corporate fleet leasing proved to be the answer.

"A big Chicago pharmaceutical company - Petrolager - posed a particular problem: The company had 75 salesmen in those days and paid them for mileage and gasoline for using their own cars on the road.  It also helped them buy their cars, lending them the required one-third down payment.

"But, the salesmen often left the company before paying off the loan, and Petrolager was losing its down payment investment.  In the 1930s, owning a car made a person a highly marketable commodity in the sales business.  Once a salesman had his own car, he was ripe for pirating by other companies.

"I happened to meet Petrolager's president and sales vice president when they stopped at my dealership to purchase two Chrysler Imperials for their own use.  When I heard about their 75 salesmen and the problems Petrolager was having with their car arrangements, I knew there was an opportunity for me.  I proposed a $45 per month lease arrangement, with the car replaced yearly and including tires, maintenance, oil changes, and collision insurance, with no deductible.

"We started out leasing Petrolager five cars with the understanding that if the system worked well for both of us, the fleet would be expanded in one year.  The Petrolager venture turned out to be profitable for all involved, so the next year they leased 75 cars.

"Although company-owned fleets did exist in the "old days," what Armund and I did basically was to take several separate ideas and package them in a completely new way.  By putting each car on a long-term (12 months back then) lease to businesses, we assured ourselves of a steady cash flow.

"We named the company Four Wheels and designed the logo accordingly to pique companies' interest in this new idea.  That helped when Armund and I went out to sell a concept with which few were familiar.  Closed-end, full-maintenance leasing at that time was the most attractive proposal with which to approach corporate executives. It was a simple, easy-to-understand plan whereby Four Wheels assumed responsibility for virtually all costs except fuel and liability insurance.

"Clients no longer had to worry about buying, selling, or maintaining cars, or what their costs might be.  All that was required of them was to put gas in the cars and pay us $45 a month.  Simplicity was necessary because this was such a new concept and little literature existed to explain what we were doing.  We had to educate the public about automotive fleet leasing.

"In cases where Four Wheels was competing against company-owned fleets, our job was to graphically demonstrate how leasing would give them more for their money than owning, and fewer headaches.  In effect, we acted as a security blanket for client companies.

"Of our original 21 clients, we still do business with 17.

"In 1939, I borrowed my first million dollars to finance Four Wheels. National Bond and Investment, a well-known commercial finance organization of the day, approved the loan - not on my firm's bank statement, but on National's belief that we would make a success of the venture.

In the comments related above, Zollie Frank mentions his wife Elaine. Zollie Frank married Elaine R. Spiesberger (1917-1992) on December 20, 1937 in Chicago.  He was thirty years old; his bride was twenty.

The 1940 US Census finds the Frank family living at 1309 W. Estes in Chicago.

1309 W. Estes Avenue, Chicago

They were paying $60 per month for their apartment.  Zollie listed his occupation as "Propiertor of a Retail Auto Sales Company."

Next week:  Z Frank becomes a Chevrolet dealer and ends up selling more Chevys than any other dealer in the world!

Remember:  "Z" Frank Before You Buy!!

Frank Motors Chrysler-Plymouth and Four Wheels Leasing

Friday, January 23, 2015


Recently a frequent reader of this blog sent me the following photo of a grave at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois:

Photo courtesy William Kazupski

It is the grave of Baby Boy (Ronald) Jarrett - a "Medical History Baby."  Then the tombstone says "His Death Saved the Lives of Many."  The person who took the photo thought there would probably be a good story under that tombstone and I'm sure he's right - but I can't find it.

Before we look at the Medical History Baby, let's see what we can find out about his family.

Baby Boy Ronald Jarrett was born and died on November 12, 1942.  He was the son of Roy Jarrett and Catherine, nee Bonomo.

Catherine Bonomo was born in May of 1919 in Illinois - probably Chicago.  She was the third child (and only daughter) of Joseph Bonomo (1889-1985) and his wife Jennie (1892-1929).  Catherine had two brothers, Philip (1914-1976) and Samuel (1916-1999).

Catherine shows up as an infant on the 1920 US Census.  The family is living at 3613 S. Wells Street in Chicago.  There is a high-rise apartment on that spot today.  Catherine's father Joseph was a house builder by trade.  He had come to the US from Italy in 1907.

Catherine's mother Jennie died in 1929.  In the 1930 US Census, eleven year old Catherine has gone to live with an aunt and uncle, Fannie and Tony Bruno, and their two year old daughter Mary. Catherine's brothers stayed with their father.

This is where the trail goes cold.

Ronald Jarrett's father was named Roy Jarrett.  There are many records for a Roy Jarrett, and even some for LeRoy Jarrett but the dates don't line up.  I could not find any record of the marriage (or divorce) of Roy Jarrett and Catherine Bonomo.  I could not find Roy or Catherine in the 1940 US Census.  The address they gave on Ronald's birth certificate, 2615 S. Shields Avenue, was the same address Joseph Bonomo used when he registered for the draft in 1942. Unfortunately, in the 1940 US Census for 2615 S. Shields there is no Bonomo (or Jarrett) listed.

2615 S. Shields, Chicago

Now lets look at the Medical History Baby.  Here is his death certificate:

He lived for one hour and fifty minutes.  The Cause of Death (verified by autopsy) was "Intracranial hemorrhage" complicated by a "Laceration of right tentorial leaf."

I am not a doctor (nor do I play one on TV), but from what I have read, these types of injuries are often complications of the birth process.  I was unable to find any literature that mentioned Ronald Jarrett specifically but I had better luck checking on the doctor who signed the death certificate, Harry P. Maxwell, MD.  Dr. Maxwell was one of the founding members of the Neurosurgical Society of America.  He has written numerous research papers on neurological injuries in newborn babies.  I think it is safe to say that in some way Dr. Maxwell was able to learn from the injuries of little Ronald Jarrett, and through that was able to develop methods or procedures that might save future newborns from these types of injuries.  Unfortunately I was not able to find out any particulars of the Jarrett case.

Little Ronald Jarrett was buried in his maternal grandparents' (Bonomo) plot at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Alsip:

Photo courtesy William Kazupski

Unfortunately I was unable to find out anything more about Roy Jarrett or Catherine Bonomo Jarrett.  If anyone has any more information about Ronald Jarrett or his parents, please let me know and I will pass it along in a future update. 

Photo courtesy William Kazupski

Ronald Jarrett - alive for less than two hours, yet he left the world a better place than he found it.  May he rest in peace.

Friday, January 16, 2015

SHE MADE THE VIKINGS COME ALIVE - Ottilie Adalina Liljencrantz

Last week I told you the story of Gustave Adolph Mathias Liljencrantz, a noted civil engineer who started his career in Sweden and then emigrated to Chicago.  I mentioned when writing about Gustave that he had a famous daughter who I would be writing about this week, and so here is the story of Ottilie Adalina Liljencrantz.
Ottilie Adalina Liljencrantz was born January 19, 1876 in Chicago to Gustave Adolph Mathias Liljencrantz (1842-1927) and Adalina Charlotte, nee Hall (1845-1915).  Ottilie was their only child. When she was born, the family was living at 69 (now 529 W.) Grant Place in Chicago:

529 W. Grant Place, Chicago

The 1880 US Census shows the family still living at the Grant Place address.  Gustave listed his occupation as "US Surveyor."  Adaline's mother Harriet Hall was also living with the Liljencrantz family.  She listed her occupation as "Help of Home," and four year old "Ollie" was listed as being "At Home."

The 1890 US Census for Chicago is lost, but the City Directory of the time shows the Liljencrantz family living at 3808 Johnson Court (now 3808 S. Vincennes, Chicago).  The site was formerly occupied by part of the Ida B. Wells Homes; now it is a vacant lot.

The first time the name Ottilie Liljencrantz appeared in the newspaper was on April 25, 1894 when the Chicago Daily Tribune reported on a marionette show she staged in her home:

This was followed up on January 20, 1895 by a Tribune story reporting that Ottilie Liljencrantz was staging her own play "In Fairyland" at the Carleton Club as a benefit for the Home for Destitute Crippled Children in Chicago:

The 1900 US Census shows the family living in the same place, although it is now referred to as 3808 Elmwood Place.  Fifty-seven year old Gustave lists his occupation as "Assistant US Engineer." The other members of the family are fifty-five year old Adaline,  twenty-two year old Ottilie, and Adaline's mother, eighty-two year old Harriet Hall.  No occupation is listed for Ottilie.

We don't know specifically when Ottilie Liljencrantz started to write stories, but we do know that her first novel, The Thrall of Leif the Lucky: a Story of Viking Days was published by the A.C. McClurg & Co., Chicago in March of 1902 when Ottilie was only twenty-six years old.

The publishing of her first novel got a writeup in the Chicago Daily Tribune of March 11, 1902:

Reviews of the book were mixed.  Here is one from the Chicago Tribune literary critic from March 15, 1902:

In their Christmas advertisements for 1902, Ottilie's publishers A.C. McClurg & Company called The Thrall of Leif the Lucky "The most beautiful book of fiction for the year."

McClurg must have been satisfied with the book's performance, because in May of 1903 they published Ottilie's second novel, The Ward of King Canute: a Romance of the Danish Conquest. Here's an ad from the Tribune on May 2, 1903 that lists some of the critics' comments:

For her third novel, Ottilie Liljencrantz decided to change publishers. Her book The Vinland Champions was published in November of 1904 by D. Appleton & Company, New York.

In all, Ottilie Liljencrantz published five novels (one posthumously), all historical fiction about the days of the Vikings:

Every year saw the novels of Ottilie Liljencrantz grow in popularity.  By mid-1905, A.C. McClurg & Co. was reporting that The Ward of King Canute had just gone its second edition, and The Thrall of Leif the Lucky was in its eighth edition!

With the increased popularity of her books, came increased fame for Ottilie Liljencrantz.  On November 24, 1905, the New York Times reported that Miss Liljencrantz was one of the authors invited to the upcoming dinner at Delmonico's given by George Harvey to celebrate the seventieth birthday of Mark Twain.

In February of 1906, Ottilie's new publisher Harpers announced the release of her next novel, Randvar the Songsmith: A Tale of Norumbega:

As with her other books, the reviews were mixed, but by now she had built up quite a following, so sales of Randvar were brisk.

The 1910 US Census hinted at problems in the Liljencrantz household. First of all, the family has moved.  Their new address is 627 E. Groveland Park in Chicago:

627 East Groveland Park, Chicago

Sixty-eight year old Gustave Liljencrantz lists his occupation as "Civil Engineer."  For some reason Ottilie's mother Adaline is not listed as living in the household.  Thirty-four year old Ottilie is listed, as well as Adaline's mother, ninety-two year old Harriet Hall.  Also listed are twenty-two year old Violet Meyer, a nurse, and sixteen year old Bessie Pienski, a live-in servant.

The nurse must have been there to take care of Ottilie, because she passed away on October 7, 1910.  Readers of the Chicago Daily Tribune of  October 8, 1910 saw the following:

Here is Ottilie Liljencrantz' death certificate:

She died at the Streeter Hospital, 2646 Calumet Avenue in Chicago:

The cause of death was uterine cancer complicated by cancer of the liver.  The newspaper article about her death mentioned an operation two weeks previously; the death certificate said she had been hospitalized for eighteen days.   The death certificate said she was to be buried at Oakwoods Cemetery but we know that she is interred in the mausoleum at Rosehill Cemetery:

Ottilie Liljencrantz's popularity continued after she was gone.  On November 6, 1911, one year after her death, the A.C. McClurg publishing company brought out a volume of Ottilie's short stories which they titled A Viking's Love: and Other Tales of the North:

In November of 1928, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios released 'The Viking' an all Technicolor production based on The Thrall of Leif the Lucky starring Donald Crisp and Pauline Starke.  Here is the New York Times' review of 'The Viking:

The Internet has given new life to the literary works of Ottilie Liljencrantz. Virtually all of her works are available to read online, and a whole new generation of readers are being captivated by her tales of Viking days through Kindle or Goodreads or Project Gutenberg.  

Here is just one of the 5-star reviews for The Ward of King Canute:

Awesome!  This is a great work of fiction. Liljencrantz's writing evokes a bygone era and really illustrates the life of Canute and his army during the Danish conquest. This book is filled with many colorful characters, but King Canute, Elfgiva of Northampton, and Randalin really stand out.

It is wonderful that through the miracle of the Internet, Ottilie Liljencrantz lives on, more than one hundred years after her untimely death.

Ottilie Adalina Liljencrantz - she made the Vikings come alive.  May she rest in peace.

Friday, January 9, 2015


Unit One was the first section of the Rosehill mausoleum to be built.  It was completed in April of 1916.  If you were to enter through the main entrance doors, after you passed a section of private family rooms, you would find a white stone staircase on your right.  This staircase leads to the upper level of Unit One.  It is a large open room lined with private family rooms except for the east wall, which is made up of niches for cremated remains.  There are niches with white marble faces along each side, and the middle is comprised of forty two niches with glass fronts:

If you were to look to the left as you face the wall of niches, you would encounter the final resting place for three members of the Liljencrantz family:  Gustave, Ottilie, and Adaline.
This week we will take a look at the life of Gustave Liljencrantz, a renowned civil engineer, and next week we will look at the life of his daughter Ottilie, a noted author who died a the age of thirty-four.

Gustave Adolph Mathias Liljencrantz was born April 11, 1842 in the province of Upland, Sweden.  His parents were Baron Johan Carl Liljencrantz (d. 1862), a Custom House inspector, and Henriette, nee von Schoultz.

Young Gustave first attended the New Collegiate School, and after that the Royal Technological Institute, both of Stockholm.  He graduated as a civil engineer in June, 1866.  Later on he became a gentleman of the chambers at the Swedish Royal Court.  Men who held this position were in the business of asking for favours on behalf of clients, and passing messages to the monarch or lord heading the court.  These "gentlemen" comprised a mixture of nobles hoping to rise in their career, and those—often of humble origin—whose specialized abilities the monarch wanted to use or reward.

Gustave Liljencrantz was assistant engineer at the construction of the Dalsland Canal in Sweden from 1866-1869.  The Dalsland Canal, still in use today, is said to be one of the world's most beautiful.  In 1869 Gustave left Sweden, settling in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  In Milwaukee he took a position as a draftsman in the U.S. Engineer Office until 1870 when he joined the Chicago, Minneapolis & St. Paul Railroad, also as a draftsman.

In 1871 he moved again - this time to Chicago where he returned to the US Engineer Office, quickly rising through the ranks as his talents became apparent.

On April 27, 1875, Gustave married Miss Adaline Charlotte Hall (1845-1915), a native of North Pownal, Vermont.

On January 19, 1876 they were blessed with a daughter who they named Ottilie Adaline Liljencrantz (1876-1910), the subject of next week's article.

The 1880 US Census finds the family living at 69 (now 529 W.) Grant Place in Chicago:

529 W. Grant Place, Chicago

Gustave listed his occupation as "US Surveyor."  Adaline's mother Harriet Hall was also living with the Liljencrantz family.  She listed her occupation as "Help of Home."

Being an engineer, Gustave also liked to tinker with gadgets in his spare time.  On September 18, 1883 he received his first US Patent #285048, for a "Fruit Jar Opener:"

Not being satisfied with that, he received another US Patent #286836 on October 16, 1883 for a different fruit jar opener:

As a US Engineer, Gustave Liljencrantz spent a good portion of his time creating maps for the government.  Here's one he produced in 1880 of the Chicago Harbor:

Gustave Liljencrantz was listed in the 1889 edition of the US Register of Civil, Military and Naval Service as an Assistant Engineer at an annual salary of $175.00.

Gustave received another patent on September 2, 1890, #435701 for a "Folding Stair-Chair":

The 1890 US Census for Chicago is lost, but the City Directory of the time shows the Liljencrantz family living at 3808 Johnson Court (now 3808 S. Vincennes, Chicago).  The site was formerly occupied by part of the Ida B. Wells Homes; now it is a vacant lot.

On May 18, 1896, Gustave Liljencrantz became a naturalized US citizen.

The 1900 US Census shows the family living in the same place, although it is now referred to as 3808 Elmwood Place.  Fifty-seven year old Gustav lists his occupation as "Assistant US Engineer."  Living with him are fifty-five year old Adaline,  twenty-two year old Ottilie, and Adaline's mother, eighty-two year old Harriet Hall.

Changes are apparent in the 1910 US Census.  First of all, the family has moved.  Their new address is 627 E. Groveland Park in Chicago:

627 E. Groveland Park, Chicago

Sixty-eight year old Gustave lists his occupation as "Civil Engineer."  For some reason Adaline is not listed as living in the household.  Thirty-four year old Ottilie is listed, as well as Adaline's mother, ninety-two year old Harriet Hall.  Also listed are twenty-two year old Violet Meyer, a nurse, and sixteen year old Bessie Pienski, a live-in servant.

The nurse must have been there to take care of Ottilie, because she passed away on October 7, 1910 after complications from an operation.  As mentioned above, Ottilie Liljencrantz was a renowned author, and her story will be told in this blog next week.

On June 5, 1912 Gustave Liljencrantz published a book of his own:  Rapid Cost Estimation for Piers and Breakwaters.  While not as popular as his daughter's books, his book did receive rave reviews in the engineering community.

Adaline Hall Liljencrantz' mother Harriet Parker Hall, died on February 27, 1912 at the age of ninety-three.

Being past the usual retirement age of sixty-five, Gustave did not give up his love of tinkering.  On March 10, 1914 he received US Patent #1089713 for a toy gun that he designed:

and in June, 1915 he received a US Patent #1143210 for a game called "Running for President:"

Gustave Liljecrantz retired in the spring of 1916 when he turned seventy-four.  He had buried his loving wife and his devoted daughter.  He was old and he was tired.  On August 10, 1916 he applied for a US passport.  He had a ticket to sail on the  Frederick VIII, leaving New York on September 6, 1916 for Sweden.  Here is his passport photo:

Gustave Adolph Mathias Liljencrantz c 1916

He said in his application he planned to stay in Sweden visiting relatives for "possibly one year."  He ended up staying there for the rest of his life - eleven years.

Readers of the Chicago Daily Tribune of November 6, 1927 saw the following article on page 12:

After his body was cremated, he joined his beloved Adaline and Otillie in the Rosehill mausoleum:

The death records for Ottilie Liljencrantz and Adaline Liljencrantz indicate their interment at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago.  In those days Graceland did have a crematory - perhaps they were cremated at Graceland and may have originally been interred there, but after seeing the magnificent Rosehill Mausoleum, the decision was made for all three to be interred at Rosehill.

Gustave Adolph Mathias Liljencrantz, a civil engineer from Sweden who used his talents to make Chicago a better place - may he rest in peace.