Friday, February 21, 2014


One Sunday last Fall I was at Jewish Waldheim Cemetery in Forest Park fulfilling Find a Grave photo requests.  Actually every Sunday last Fall I was at Jewish Waldheim fulfilling photo requests.  Our weather has been so horrible this winter that I have not been able to do any grave photography since December 15th! I'm going through withdrawal...

Anyway, I am always on the lookout for interesting tombstones, so when I saw this one I grabbed my camera:

The tombstone had a nautical theme, so I thought that perhaps Ned Schuham had been in the Navy.  A death date in 1918 for someone relatively young as Schuhan was (just short of 32), also meant perhaps another victim of the Spanish Influenza.  I was right on both counts, but it was not until I did a little digging that I found the tragedy in the story of the death of Ned Schuham.  But before we look at the end of his life, let's take a look at the beginning.

Ned Sinai Schuham was born in Chicago on September 1, 1886 to Robert Schuham (1855-1940) and Bertha, nee Sinai (1863-1937).  Ned would ultimately have two younger brothers:  Jeffrie (1891-1899), and Alfred (1901-1977).  Robert Schuham was a liquor dealer, by trade.  He was born in Russia, and came to the US in 1874 when he was 19 years old.  Bertha Sinai was born in Poland, and came to the US in 1879 when she was 16.  Robert and Bertha married in Chicago on March 22, 1885. 

The 1890 US census is, of course, lost, and I was unable to locate a 1900 US Census record for the Schuham family.  Luckily, there is a 1910 US Census record for them.  It shows the Schuhams renting an apartment at 5118 S. Wabash in Chicago. 

5118 S. Wabash, Chicago

Twenty three year-old Ned was living with his parents and his younger brother Alfred.  Jeffrie had already passed away by this time.  Ned listed his profession as "Commercial Traveler for a Varnish House."

Ned registered for the draft on June 5, 1917.  He was unmarried and lived at 5029 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago.  Unfortunately, that site is now a vacant lot.  He listed his occupation as an Insurance Broker for The Equitable Life Insurance Society of the US, working out of Suite 611 in the Peoples Gas Building in downtown Chicago:

Ned Schuham had light blue eyes and dark brown hair.

On April 15, 1918, Ned Schuhan enlisted in the US Naval Reserve at the Great Lakes naval base in Northern Illinois.  He enlisted as a Chief Yeoman in the Reserve Naval Force.  

The September 28, 1918 Chicago Daily Tribune carried the shocking news of the death of Ned Schuham:

But wait - there's more.  The Chicago Daily Tribune from the very next day, September 29, 1918 carried an article about the influenza epidemic.  It was titled "Sneeze, Cough, Held Cause of 'Flu' Epidemic." Buried in the article we find the sad details about the death of Ned Schuham:

Fight Against Cold Houses.

In his warfare against landlords who refuse to heat their building, Commissioner Robertson appealed to the State's Attorney's office and was assured all possible cooperation by First Assistant Michael F. Sullivan.  Dr. Robertson laid emphasis on the death of Ned H. Schuham (sic) a Great Lakes petty officer who died at his parents' residence in South Michigan avenue.  

"The landlord refused heat," the boy's mother said, "finally we bought our own coal and hired the janitor do the work, but it was too late. Pneumonia set in and my son died."

City Prosecutor Miller said that tomorrow he will file suit against a landlord who, according to Commissioner Robertson's complaint, refused to heat an apartment in which there was a victim of influenza. Fifty-four such requests have been received.

Today landlords in Chicago are required to turn the heat on in their buildings starting on September 15th, but in Ned Schuhan's time it was October 1st.  Any landlords willing to heat their buildings before October 1st were doing so out of the goodness of their hearts, and not because the law required it.  Landlords had two reasons for not turning the heat on earlier.  Most were unwilling because of the increased cost. But during the Spanish influenza epidemic there was another reason: people felt that warm air caused the influenza germs to multiply and spread.  So for the first time, landlords who refused to heat their apartment buildings could say that they were looking out for the welfare of their tenants.  

October 1, 1918 came and Landlords were required to heat their buildings, but by then it was too late for Ned Schuham.  Here is his death certificate:

If you look at the top of the certificate, it says "Home was extremely cold and they were unable to secure any heat says Dr. S."
Ned Sinai Schuhan was buried beside his brother Jeffrie at Jewish Waldheim Cemetery, Gate 43 - Free Sons of Israel.  

The Chicago Daily Tribune from October 2, 3 and 4, 1919 carried the following announcement on the obituary page:


SCHUHAM - The monument erected to the memory of Ned S. Schuham, beloved son of Robert and Bertha Schuham, brother of Alfred, will be unveiled Sunday October 5, 1919 at 3 p.m., Free Sons cemetery, Waldheim.

Ned Sinai Schuham - may he rest in peace. 

1 comment:

  1. Very sobering post. Especially when you think about how cold it has been this winter in the Chicago area.