Friday, August 17, 2012

TAINTED CAVIAR AND BODY SNATCHING - Dr. Michael N. Regent

When I am looking for stories for this blog I use several methods. Sometimes I see a gravestone that looks interesting, photograph it, then do the research to find out the story.  Other times I come across an interesting story, then find and photograph the gravestone.  Neither method was used in this case.  Several years ago when I started photographing graves at Jewish Waldheim Cemetery, I would pick a section then photograph all the gravestones in that section that had photos on them.  I felt (and still feel) that everything should be done to preserve these gravestone photos, because theft and the elements have caused so many of them to disappear.  


Back in July of 2009 I photographed all the gravestones that had photos on them at Gate 16 - Anshe Knesses Israel #2.  Since then I have slowly but surely been posting all of these photos to Find A Grave.  Last Saturday I was working on a posting for Michael N. Regent (December 6, 1865-June 5, 1908).



Just on a whim I checked to see in Family Search had a death certificate for him.  Luckily, they did.


I saw that Michael Regent had been a physician.  What was the cause of death?  It looked like "Uraemia and Ptomaine Poisoning - Source of same unknown.  Probably due to eating ???? ???? sandwich."  What kind of sandwich?  I couldn't decipher the handwriting.  I'm glad someone else could.  There was a second death certificate posted for Michael Regent:


This one was easy to read:  "Uraemia and Ptomaine Poisoning due to eating affected caviar sandwich."  After reading this, I decided that Michael Regent's story would be interesting for the blog - a physician who ate tainted caviar, when he should have known better.  But when I checked the Chicago Tribune archives for Michael Regent I saw that there was much more to the story.


From The Chicago Daily Tribune, October 27, 1899:


ACCUSED OF INSURANCE FRAUD.
Three Officers of Knights and Ladies of Security Arrested  on  Charges of Mrs. Anna Kerous.

Dr. Michael Regent was arrested yesterday by detectives from the Maxwell Street Station and taken before Justice Dooley.  He gave bonds in the sum of $1,000.  Warrants had been issued for the doctor and for Mrs. Della Mahoney and Miss Margaret Sheehan, the three being officers of the Illinois Lodge, Knights and  Ladies of Security of Kansas and parties to a suit now being brought against them by the grand lodge in Justice Woods' court.  It is said the amount of insurance money involved is nearly $25,000.00.

Mrs. Anna Kerous, 634 West Eighteenth street is the complainant in the case in which these arrests were made.  Miles J. Devine, her attorney, says he has evidence that the officers of the lodge collected $2,000 on  a policy taken out by the mother of Mrs. Kerous that they represented to the beneficiary that her mother's standing was not good and paid her but $400, stipulating that she should not mention the matter to anyone.

The Illinois lodge has been drawing heavily upon the funds of the grand lodge for death losses and it is asserted that  many checks have been cashed by Dr. Regent.  Dr. Regent said when arrested yesterday that he was the victim of enemies (emphasis mine) and that he was innocent of  the  charges.  Attorney Devine says Miss Sheehan told how·operations were carried on, claiming she did not receive her share of the  profits.    ·

And it got worse.  It even made the New York Times of July 22, 1900:

A CORPSE TRUST
"Demonstrators' Association of Chicago" Said to Dictate Prices

Chicago's latest trust is no longer the Bachelors' Trust, but the Corpse Trust.  This gruesome discovery has been made by the State Attorney's Office, and will, it is said, be revealed Monday at the trial in the Criminal Court of  Michael N. Regent, Delia Mahoney, Margaret Sheehan, Nora O'Brien and James O'Brien (Ed. Note:  What's a good Jewish doctor doing among all those Irish???)  on a charge of conspiring to defraud the beneficiary order of the Knights and Ladies of Security out of $1,000 by "faking" dead bodies.  Before the organization of the trust the demand so far outran the supply in the local market that competition often put the prices on corpses away up.  Only the rich buyers of bodies could get any.   

Experience taught the medical colleges to form a combine, it is said, and the result was the organization of the Demonstrators' Association, of which Prof. William T. Eckley is the President and Distributing Agent.  The object is said to be the gathering of all corpses that are for sale in Chicago, and the allotment of them among the medical colleges according to the just dies of each institution on a one price basis.  

Regent and the others are accused of getting a corpse from the association under false pretenses. 

The trial of Dr. Regent and the others electrified the nation during the summer of 1900.  To recount everything that happened would take an entire blog of its own, but a look at the headlines gives a good idea of what was taking place:

SAY DEAD WERE AID TO FRAUDS - July 23, 1900

TELLS OF GREAT INSURANCE PLOT - July 24, 1900

CHEATED WITH PAUPER DEAD - July 24, 1900

TELLS STORY OF INSURANCE PLOT - July 27, 1900

TELLS OF INSURANCE FRAUD - July 28, 1900

DR. REGENT TAKES THE STAND - August 2, 1900

REGENT UNDER HOT FIRE REGARDING HIS ACTS - August 3, 1900

OLSON SPRINGS A MINE ON THE DEFENSE IN REGENT TRIAL - August 7, 1900

CONVICT FOUR IN REGENT PLOT - August 10, 1900
Judge Orders the Physician and Delia Mahoney to Prison for the Insurance Fraud
Fines for the O'Briens
Case, Which Has Occupied Twenty-three Days, Ends in a Speedy Verdict of Guilty
State Announces Its Intention to Push the Remaining Cases Against the Convicted Defendants

Dr. Regent was fined $1,000.00 and sent to prison for an "indeterminate sentence".  After his conviction, an unflattering portrait of Dr. Regent was published in the Chicago Tribune:

CAREER OF DR. M.N. REGENT
He Was Born in the South of Russia and His Progress, Up and Down, Has Been Rapid.

Dr. Michael N. Regent is of Russian Jewish parentage and was born in the south of Russia in 1864.  When 18 years old he came to the United States, landing in New York, where for a period he worked on the streets at $1.50 a day.  Later he came West, to Oshkosh and other small towns of Wisconsin, where he got work on country roads and also with track laying gangs of railways.

After a few months of railroading he went to Milwaukee, where he learned cigar making.  He was in that work two years.  Saving the money he thus earned, he came to Chicago and undertook the study of medicine.  He graduated in 1896 from Bennett Medical College and later from Rush Medical College.

The name Dr. Regent was born to was Regentovitch.  When he established himself in South Halsted street he went into the County Court and got the sanction of the law in clipping off the last two syllables of his patronymic.  In the ghetto, and among those of his people to whom he has been known since he came to this country, Dr. Regent does not bear the highest reputation for probity.  On the witness stand in his own behalf he not only contradicted himself, but was flatly contradicted on statements of fact by the testimony of half a dozen witnesses.  He told the jury he was a graduate of Cracow University, Austria.  This is believed to be an untruth.  He came to this country when but 18 years old and therefore must have passed the rigid examinations of the Austrian university at a tender age.
Chicago Daily Tribune - August 10, 1900

As promised, the government went after Dr. Regent again with a second trial for fraud and conspiracy - this time in March of 1901:

JURY IN THE REGENT CASE - March 2, 1901

TELLS OF INSURANCE PLOT - March 5, 1901

"CHIEF MOURNER" TELLS STORY - March 6, 1901

TELLS OF BOGUS FUNERAL - March 7, 1901

CALL DR. REGENT A DUPE - March 10, 1901

REGENT IN OTHER CASES - March 13, 1901

SEES HIS BURIAL PERMIT - March 14, 1901

REGENT TRIAL NEARS END - March 15, 1901

FIND ALL GUILTY IN REGENT CASE - March 17, 1901
Jurors Give Doctor Penitentiary

With that, Dr. Regent was sent to Stateville Prison in Joliet to serve his sentence.  The next mention of him in the newspapers was on June 22, 1902:

DR. REGENT LET OUT OF PRISON
Knights and Ladies of Security Insurance Conspirator Paroled by State Board

Dr. Michael N. Regent, head of the life insurance conspiracy, and his co-conspirator, Mrs. Delia Mahoney, have been released from the Joliet penitentiary. 

The pardon board was prevailed upon by the wife of the doctor, and agreed to parole Regent, who had been in the penitentiary more than the year required by law.  The release of Mrs. Mahoney followed as a matter of course. 

Last night Dr. Regent returned to Chicago, and went to his temporary home at West Fourteenth street, where there was a joyful reunion between him and his four children.

Dr. Regent was sentenced to Joliet under the indeterminate law in November, 1900, for conspiracy to defraud the Knight and Ladies of Security.
Chicago Daily Tribune – June 22, 1902

Nothing more is heard from Dr. Regent until his untimely death in June of 1908:

DR. MICHAEL N. REGENT, 474 Ashland Boulevard, died of ptomaine poisoning, according to the coroner’s jury which investigated the circumstances of his death yesterday.  A caviar sandwich which he ate at his home Friday afternoon is believed to have been contained the poison.  Dr. Regent has been a citizen of Chicago for twenty-two years. 
Chicago Daily Tribune – June 7, 1908 

Is it really as simple as that - that he died from eating a tainted caviar sandwich?  Or, had his enemies finally caught up with him?  As far back as 1899 he was talking about the unseen enemies that plotted his destruction.  His dying from ptomaine poisoning seems a little too "perfect".  Who better to carry out a murder that looked like an accidental poisoning than another member of the medical profession?  We will never know if Dr. Michael Regent died from eating a tainted caviar sandwich, or by more nefarious means.  But thanks to the information on the Internet we can come to our own conclusions.


Dr. Michael N. Regent

May he rest in peace.  

13 comments:

  1. What a great story! I'm going to enjoy following your blog.

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    1. Welcome aboard Connie. I have some great stories for upcoming weeks. Truth really is stranger than fiction!

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  2. Thank you. I loved reading this story under the stone. I have always walked through cemeteries & graveyards wishing I knew their stories, This was a great one.

    I think I will start researching some of the older stones here. Thanks again.

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  3. Welcome aboard, Chevy! I used to think I was the only person fascinated by cemeteries - I was happy to find that there are alot of us out there.

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  4. Hooray, hooray, hooray! I was so glad to see mention of you on GeneaBloggers this morning! I just love the work you are doing here. This is something that lots more people need to see and take notice of. Thank you for always providing an interesting and thoroughly researched post on stories well worth remembering!

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    1. Hi Jacqi - Always nice to hear from you. Our violin-playing friend suggested I apply to GeneaBloggers and they graciously accepted. Got some more interesting stories in the queue - stay tuned!

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  5. What a cool idea. Love the stories.

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    1. Welcome TJ - greetings to another dog lover from me and my two spoiled beagles. I've got some interesting stories coming up - stay tuned!

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  6. Welcome to the GeneaBloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

    May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

    Dr. Bill ;-)
    http://drbilltellsancestorstories.blogspot.com/
    Author of "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories" and family saga novels:
    "Back to the Homeplace" and "The Homeplace Revisited"
    http://thehomeplaceseries.blogspot.com/
    http://www.examiner.com/x-53135-Springfield-Genealogy-Examiner
    http://www.examiner.com/x-58285-Ozarks-Cultural-Heritage-Examiner
    http://www.examiner.com/heritage-tourism-in-springfield-mo/dr-bill-william-l-smith
    http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/drbilltellsexcitingstories
    The Heritage Tourist at In-Depth Genealogist: http://www.indepthgenealogist.com/

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  7. What a unique headstone.

    By the way, welcome to Geneabloggers.

    Regards, Jim
    Genealogy Blog at Hidden Genealogy Nuggets

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  8. Welcome to Geneabloggers! I truly enjoyed reading your blog and look forward to more interesting posts! Good luck to you in your research and writing - keep digging under every stone! :)

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  9. Wellcome to Genebloggers, really interesting,love the concept of a story under every stone. My husband would relate to this, as he as spent many an hour with me tramping cemetries looking for family graves and taking photos of the grave stones. I look forward to reading more of your blogs.

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  10. Hi Jim, read through a lot of your blog today; really fascinating in a lot of different ways- not just as a Jewish genealogist! I look forward to seeing even more.

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