Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Habitual Offender's Deadly Work, Chicago, 1891

On January 25, 1891, 23-year-old Minnie Deering died at Schaeffer's Hotel in Chicago, evidently due to the effects of carbolic acid mistakenly administered to her by a saloon keeper named Joseph Hoffman. Hoffman reportedly had been involved with Minnie for about four months prior to her death.

Hoffman had checked into the hotel about a week before Minnie's death, saying that his wife would be coming from the country to visit him. She arrived on January 18. She was reported to be sickly and stayed in her room, having her meals delivered to her there.

On January 23, Hoffman brought in Dr. Dietrich to treat Minnie for a fever. Dietrich prescribed an oral medication and an alcohol and carbolic acid solution to be externally applied. He returned the following day to find Minnie's condition improved. About an hour later, Hoffman summoned Dr. Detrich and reported that he'd mixed up the medications and given Minnie the carbolic acid orally by mistake.

Photo clipped from newspaper, showing middle-aged woman in wire rim spectacles
Dr. Lucy Hagenow
When Dr. Dietrich arrived, he found another doctor, W. P. Goodsmith already there. They pumped her stomach and administered counter measures to no avail. Some reports indicate that the County Physician, Dr. Hektoen, had been called in to attend to Minnie. Whoever the doctors were, they pumped Minnie's stomach and made other efforts to save her, but she died at 12:30 p.m.

"At the coroner's inquest it was shown that Miss Deering had visited Dr. Hagenow for relief from her woes, and that she was suffering from a criminal operation when the acid was administered."

The coroner's jury concluded that ultimately Minnie had died because of a criminal abortion since it had started the chain of events that led to Minnie's death. However, they did not conclusively determine that Hagenow herself had perpetrated it. They ordered her held to a grand jury pending further investigation.

Hagenow's attorney, John C. King, requested a writ to get Hagenow released. Judge Tuthill "readily granted it, saying that the verdict was an admission and an exhibition of ignorance, and that Mrs. Hagenow should not have spent an hour in jail.

Hoffman told the doctors that he and Minnie had secretly married and had secretly come to the city to procure the services of a "Mrs. Hageman," who evidently was Hagenow, since it was she who was arrested.

Hagenow, who had already been implicated of the abortion deaths of Louise Derchow, Annie DorrisAbbia Richards, and Emma Dep in San Francisco, would go on to be linked to over a dozen deaths in Chicago, where the political climate and police corruption were more congenial to her practice. Those women included: Sophia Kuhn, Emily AndersonHannah CarlsonMarie Hecht, May Putnam, Lola Madison, Annie Horvatich, Lottie LowyNina H. PierceJean CohenBridget Masterson, Elizabeth Welter, and Mary Moorehead.

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