Friday, January 2, 2015

THE SAD TALE OF Dr. Abraham J. Weissman

You may remember the story I posted back on January 10, 2014 about the girl buried under the broken tombstone, little Dora Rosa Sachs who died in May of 1905:

At the end of that article I made the following comment:

PS - The physician who signed her death certificate Dr. Abraham Weissman turned out to be quite a scoundrel, but we'll save his story for another week.

This is the week that I will tell the story of Dr. Abraham J. Weissman and you can decide for yourself if he was a scoundrel.

Readers of the Chicago Daily Tribune of September 28, 1911 saw the following item:


Under photos identified as "Mrs. A.J. Weissman" and "Dr. A.J. Weissman" was this:

Dr. A.J. Weissman of 1106 S. Ashland avenue, drove up to his house in an automobile while his wife was sick in a hospital, packed $15,000 in the machine and skipped.  His wife says he also took her gems and other valuables.  

1106 S. Ashland is now occupied by part of the University of Illinois at Chicago Campus. 

This was followed by a Page One item in a later edition the same day:

With Spouse in Hospital Dr. A.J. Weissman Packs Money in Car; Takes Her Gems.
Mortgages His Property

Dr. A.J. Weissman, a physician well known in the Jewish section of the west side, drove his automobile up to his residence at 1106 South Ashland boulevard Monday morning.  With considerable deliberation he packed into the machine about $15,000 in cash, all his wife's jewelery, all the family silverware, his medicine case, his private papers, and every other portable item of value he could find about the house.''

Then he got into the car himself, and jerked the speed "into the high." The police learned about this yesterday morning.  They searched for the physician all day.  At the end of their day's labor they hadn't found a trace to the doctor's whereabouts - not even the smell of his gasoline smoke. 

Leaves a Wife, Ill.

The police, however, did find some of the things that the doctor left behind him.  Among them was his wife, who is seriously ill at the Presbyterian hospital.  Two other relicts (sic) are his children, Morris, aged 14, and Louis, aged 9.

The fourth is Mrs. Jennie Cohen, Dr. Weissman's sister-in-law.  She wanted to know what had become of the $4,000 she had given the doctor on Friday to use in buying a mortgage.  Other items that the doctor failed to carry away were some parcels of real estate which he owns in various parts of Chicago.

It is a mistake, however, to conclude that he had overlooked them entirely.  The police found that before Dr. Weissman took his departure he had plastered these properties with mortgages.  The proceeds were part of the "junk" that he packed into his car.

At the Presbyterian hospital, where she has been for eight days, Mrs. Weissman was able to shed a little light on the motive that had inspired the doctor in taking such mysterious leave. 

"Not Sick, but Stubborn."

"I have been sick with a chronic complaint for more than a year," she said.  "Last Saturday my husband paid me a visit.  No sooner had the nurse got out of earshot than he started in to upbraid me for being sick all the time.  he said that I was a bad wife, because I was sick so much.

Interfered with his business.

"I said that I couldn't help being sick, but he replied that I was just stubborn.  Anyway, he asserted he was tired of it.  It was too bad, he insisted, that I hampered him so.  If it wasn't for me, he said, he might be a rich man.  He wound up by saying that he was going to get a divorce.

"The law, he assured me, would justify him in trying to get rid of a wife who was a dead weight on his hands.  It was a great injustice, he said, to compel a man to slave all his life paying hospital bills when, if he were given a little chance, he would be able to save his money and pile up a fortune so that when he died he could endow hospitals and colleges, just like Rockefeller does. 

Says He Took Her Jewels.

"I told him that I guessed his argument was all right.  I said he could go right ahead and get his divorce.  All I asked, I said, was that he would grant me $10 a week alimony and the custody of my two sons.  If I had that, I said,  I'd quit being a dead weight on him.

"He said he would think it over and went away.  I haven't heard from him since.  I guess he thought the $10 a week I wanted was too much.  He figured it out that to go the way he did would be cheaper.

"I got out of the hospital on Tuesday and went home.  I found the place stripped.  My husband had taken everything he could carry off, even little things off the mantelpiece.  My jewelry was gone.  It was worth $1,000. So was all our silver.  The was $50 in bills on the sideboard.  He took that.

"We have two tenants upstairs, A. I. Jacobson and Max Salk.  When I asked them if they had seen Dr. Weissman they said that Monday morning he had called on them and asked them to pay the rent to his brother, Samuel, who lives at 824 West North avenue, until they heard from him again."

Mrs. Weissman was asked if there was another woman in the case.  She said she didn't know. 

May Have Gone to Europe.

"I know of only two girls that the doctor admired," said she.  "One is Pearl Nudelman.  She is 19 years of age and resides at 3440 Cottage Grove avenue.  The other is a Miss Nathanson of 213 East Eighteenth street.  I don't believe they cared anything for him."

Inquiries at the two addresses showed that both girls are in Chicago. They said they hadn't seen Dr. Weissman in a year.

The police are working on the theory that Dr. Weissman may have gone to Europe.  Detectives Deasy and Bywater had a talk with Mrs. Cohen in the afternoon.  She said that Weissman often talked about going back to the "old country" as soon as he was rich enough.

Wow!  Quite a story about the good (?) doctor and his wife.  Before we find out how the issues of 1911 were resolved, and before we look into the mysterious events surrounding the death of Dr. Weissman in 1938, let's see what we can find out about him:

Abraham Joseph Weissman was born November 3, 1871.  On his 1924 passport application he said that he was born in Russia and that his father's name was "Shimel" (Simon).  His mother's name was Lizzie, nee Tenenbaum.  Weissman said he emigrated from Russia about 1890 and immediately moved to Chicago.  He became a naturalized citizen on March 16, 1899.  We also know that he had a brother Samuel, but that's about all we know of his immediate family.

About 1901 Abraham Weissman married Fannie Shore in St. Joseph, Michigan.  She had been married previously to a Mr. Rosenberg and had a son Maurice Rosenberg in 1898.  Sometime after that, Mr. Rosenberg passed away and Fannie was available to marry Dr. Weissman.

Abraham and Fannie Weissman had a son of their own, Benjamin Louis Weissman (1902-1982) on August 31, 1902 in Chicago.

But all was not blissful with the newlyweds.  Late in 1902 Abraham and Fannie Weissman were divorced.  That didn't work out either, because they were remarried on February 10, 1903.  Still unhappy, Fannie again sued for divorce in January of 1904.  She dropped the suit, however before the divorce was final and Abraham and Fannie Weissman were reconciled - at least temporarily.

By the 1910 US Census the Weissman family (and Maurice Rosenberg) were living at 1012 S. Ashland Avenue in Chicago. Abraham lists his occupation as General Practice Physician.  The Weissman family is doing well enough to have a live-in servant: 19 year old Trissa Kaiser.

By the time of the 1911 article, the Weissmans had moved one block south, to 1106 S. Ashland Avenue in Chicago.  Both addresses on S. Ashland are now part of the UIC Campus.

The Weissman family saga was continued in the next day's Chicago Tribune (September 29, 1911):

Brothers say He has Gone to Alma Mater in Warsaw.
Case to the Grand Jury.
Sister-in-law Accuses Physician if Stealing $4,000 From Her.

Dr. A. J. Weissman, who skipped in an auto with $15,000 and other valuables from his house at 1106 South Ashland boulevard Monday, is on his way to Russia.  This was the statement last night of a brother, Samuel Weissman, 824 West North avenue, who says that before leaving Dr. Weissman conferred upon him the power of attorney.

"My brother," he said, "left Chicago because the nagging of his wife was ruining his disposition.  He has gone back to the medical college in Warsaw from which he graduated twenty years ago."

Goes Before Grand Jury.

Mrs. Jennie Cohen, a sister-in-law of the missing doctor, says she does not believe this statement.  "Dr. Weissman," she said. "is,hiding in Chicago.  I will find him and have him indicted by the grand jury for larceny as bailee.  He stole $4,000 from me."

Mrs. Cohen, her husband, and her attorney, I.B. Pearlman, appeared before the grand jury during the day and testified regarding Mrs. Cohen's charge that she placed $4,000 in Dr. Weissman's hands for him to invest in a mortgage.

It is understood that the grand jury voted a true bill, which will be returned in court this morning. 

Fight Over the Property.

The property at 1106 S. Ashland boulevard is valued at $21,000.  On this is a mortgage of $8,500.  The balance of this estate will be demanded by Mrs. A.J. Weissman.  An attachement will be placed on the estate by Mrs. Cohen.

Per the Chicago Daily Tribune of October 8, 1911, Dr. Weissman had been found:

A.J. Weissman, Accused of Embezzlement, Caught in Iowa.
Identified by Relative.
Chicagoan Traced Through Letter His Brother Wrote Him.

In the arrest of "J. Chapman" in Davenport, Ia early yesterday, the police have Dr. A.J. Weissman, alleged embezzler, who left his home 1026 South Ashland boulevard last week with family property, while his wife lay ill in the Presbyterian hospital. 

After recognition by Harris Cohen, 1037 West Twelfth street, his brother-in-law, Dr. Weissman admitted his identity.

Extradition papers are being prepared and Inspector Nicholas Hunt probably will send a policeman to Davenport today to bring the doctor back.  Cohen went to Davenport with detectives at the demand of his wife, who charges that Dr. Weissman embezzled $4,000 she gave him to invest in mortgages.

Trace Through Letter.

Dr. Weissman was believed to have gone to Europe.  Suspicion that he had eloped with a Chicago girl was disproved when the girl was found at her home.

Detective Lavin, who was watching the home of the doctor's brother, Jesse Weissman, owner of a pool hall at 324 West North avenue, saw Jesse Weissman mail a letter.  Lavin waited until a mail collector called. The letter was addressed to J. Chapman, care of J.G. Levinson, 426 Maple street, Des Moines, Ia.  From that address "Chapman" was traced to Davenport. 

Divorce Suit is Pending.

Dr. Weissman is a graduate of Rush Medical college and had a large practice.  He was married to Mrs. Weissman in St. Joseph, Mich., ten years ago.  She was a widow.

The doctor and his wife have frequent quarrels in which, it is said, he upbraided her for her delicate health.  She was in the Presbyterian hospital suffering from a nervous breakdown, when he departed.  She has filed suit for divorce.  The warrant on which Dr. Weissman was arrested was sworn to by Mrs. Cohen.

The Chicago Daily Tribune printed a follow up article on October 14, 1911 reporting that Mrs. Weissman was granted temporary alimony of $25.00 per week and $200.00 solicitors' fees pending the final divorce decree.  

So that was it?  Did they live happily but separately ever after?  Not quite.  The divorce decree was granted, because they had to apply for yet another marriage license when they re-re-married on September 25, 1913!  He was forty-one years old; she was thirty-eight.  They should have known better.  It was obviously a case of can't live together/can't live apart.

They were still together at the time of the 1920 US Census.  They were still living at 1106 S. Ashland Boulevard in Chicago.  Abraham Weissman still reported his occupation as "Physician."  They reported that they owned the building they lived in, but it was mortgaged.  Still living with them were sons Maurice Rosenberg, who was 22, and Louis Weissman, who was 16.

Sometime during the early 1920s Abraham and Fannie divorced again - this time for good.  And although Fannie Weissman stayed single for the rest of her life, Abraham Weissman did not.  About 1925 he married a woman named Matilda called Tillie (1895-????), whose last name is not known.  When they married, Abraham Weissman was 54, and Tillie was 30.  Dr. Weissman and Tillie had a son, David, who was born in 1927.

The 1930 US Census shows the reconstituted Weissman family (Abraham, Tillie and David) living at 1145 Independence Boulevard in Chicago:

1145 S. Independence Boulevard, Chicago

They were renting their apartment for $77.00 per month.  Abraham Weissman reported that he was a physician and shaved a couple of years off of his age, admitting to 57 (he was 59).  Tille was 35 and David was 3. They also still employed a live-in servant, forty year old Sadie Lind.

Dr. Abraham Weissman managed to keep his name out of the newspapers for the remainder of his life.

And that brings us up to Thursday, October 27, 1938 when someone found a body floating in the waters of Lake Michigan at the foot of Webster Avenue.

Lake Michigan at the foot of Webster Avenue, Chicago

The first Death Certificate was filled out by an Officer Roy Dunkleberger of the Chicago Police Department who reported that the body of an "Unidentified White Man" about 60 years old was found floating in Lake Michigan at the foot of Webster Avenue.  The Cause of Death was reported as "Asphyxiation by Drowning."

On October 31, 1938, Louis B. Weissman went to the Cook County Morgue and identified "Unknown White Man" as his father, Dr. Abraham J. Weissman:

Louis reported tha the last time he had seen his father alive was on October 21, 1938.  He said his father was living at 3941 Pine Grove in Chicago and that (no surprise here) he was divorced from Tillie.

3941 N. Pine Grove, Chcago

Once his son had positively identified the remains, a regular Death Certificate could be filed for Dr. Abraham J. Weissman:

Dr. Weissman was buried November 1, 1938 at Jewish Waldheim Cemetery in Park Forest, Illinois - at Gate 48 (Drohitchen).  There was no obituary or death notice in the Tribune.

They told me in the office that no one else is buried in that plot, and that is the case:

We will never know what caused seventy one year old Dr. Abraham J. Weissman's body to end up in Lake Michigan on that October day in 1938.  Since he could not seem to be able to live with anyone while he was alive, it is probably appropriate that he rests alone in the plot at Waldheim.

Was he a scoundrel?  I'll let you decide that for yourself.

Dr. Abraham J. Weissman - may he rest in peace.

1 comment:

  1. Wow.... great detective work and story. Scoundrel or not, he sure had a crazy life.