Thursday, April 3, 2014

On the Road to Bathgate Act 4g: George S. Foster, Chicago Politician, Lawyer, Banker and More

Chicago Eagle, January 20, 1900
What can I say about George S. Foster? 

He led an incredible life. As a teenager he lived in a sod shanty where a snake slithered from the roof down into his cup of tea. As an elderly man he was a gentleman farmer who lived comfortably on the shores of Lake Michigan. Along the way he was a successful lawyer and a zealous advocate for unpopular clients. 

George S. Foster represented a notorious bond thief. He defended ghouls who stole money from the pockets of Iroquois theater fire victims. He helped to save the House of David religious commune from extinction. 

George Foster was a politician. He was intensively involved in Chicago and Cook County Democratic organizations. He served the City of Chicago as alderman, and later lost races for municipal court judge, the Illinois state assembly and the United States Congress. 

George S. Foster helped to find three community banks -- each of which, like most of their peers, failed during the Great Depression. 

There is much to say, so let's get moving. 

My great uncle, George S. Foster, lived a long and fruitful life.  He was born in Canada, moved to North Dakota, and then Iowa and Illinois, before spending his final years in Michigan. George was brother to my grandfather, Ike Foster, and son of my great grandfather, William Foster. Uncle George was husband, father, lawyer, politician, banker and so much more.  

George and Ike, along with their siblings, James, William and Robert, were offspring of immigrant parents, William Foster (Ireland) and Margaret Sanderson (Canadian born of Scottish immigrants). Isaac was the eldest. George S. was two years Ike's junior. A half sister, Emily Lillia, was born after George's mother Margaret died and William remarried. George was born in Monckton, Ontario, Canada on June 27, 1864. To put that birth date into historical perspective, George S. came into this world the same day that General William Tecumseh Sherman commanded Union forces in the Civil War Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. Sherman continued on to capture Atlanta, from where he burned and marauded his way on the pivotal March to the Sea.

A. George S. Foster After the Dash

We start our look into George S. Foster's life with an obituary, not because that relates the total sum and substance of his life, but because it frames a picture for presenting the life that he led. Towards the end, George S. moved from his adopted home of Chicago, Illinois, across Lake Michigan to a shoreline farm in Benton Harbor, Michigan. George's obituary was published June 8, 1946 (below right) in the Benton Harbor News Palladium :

George S. Foster
Fatally Stricken
Wednesday Evening

Atty. George Sanderson Foster, a prominent Chicago, Ill, lawyer and well known in the twin cities [Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, Michigan], died between 5 and 8 p.m., Wednesday evening of a heart attack while hoeing grapes on his fruit farm, 345 Lake Shore drive. He was found by his son, William.

Born June 27, 1864 in Monckton, Canada, he married Hattie Goebel, Dec. 27, 1923. For 50 years he practiced law in Chicago and for several years he owned a fruit farm on the Lake Shore drive where he made his summer residence. Atty. Foster and his family recently made this farm their permanent residence.
He was a member of the American Bar association, the Illinois Bar association of Cook county, a 32nd Degree Mason, the Press club of Chicago, of which he was a former chairman, and the Aviation club of Chicago. Atty. Foster was at one time an alderman of Chicago.
Surviving are his wife, Hattie, two sons, William, at home; and George of Quincy, Ill., one daughter, Mrs. Margaret (sic) Huff of Chicago, Ill; and three grandchildren.
A son, Clarence of Oak Park, Ill., was killed a few weeks ago in an auto accident.
The body was taken today from the Kerlikowski funeral home to Chicago where services will be conducted at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Kampp funeral home, 318 North Central Avenue.
George S. Foster's life was of sufficient repute for his passing to be noted in The New York Times.


Ex-District Attorney of Chicago,

Lawyer There 55 Years


CHICAGO, June 8 -- George S. Foster, an attorney in Chicago for fifty-five years, died Wednesday at his farm near St. Joseph, Mich. He was 81 years old.
Mr. Foster was Twenty-seventh Ward Alderman from 1895 to 1927 (sic) and prosecuting attorney of Cook County from 1905 to 1907. He once was president of Cragin State Bank, now closed.
He leaves a widow, a daughter and two sons.
Uncle George died seven years before I was born. Obviously, we never met. As a child, I knew his daughter, Margarette (sp?) Foster Huff (almost six decades my senior). She wore fox and mink and lived in an upscale townhome on the lone block of East Bellvue Place in Chicago, lying between Lake Shore Drive on the east and Rush Street on the west. Chicagoans know it as the place where Lake Shore Drive sweeps toward the lake past the Playboy (nee Palmolive) Building, topped at the time by a 360 degree rotating beacon. Rush Street (which Chicagoans know becomes State Street a little further south) was a nightlife hotbed. Oak Street, a block south of Bellvue, is where the Gold Coast starts. She apparently had a short, but violent marriage.

Sherman Daily Democrat (Sherman Tex.), April 21, 1922
Aunt Margarette (as I called her) and I were of different worlds. 

B. George S. Foster's Early Years -- Canada, North Dakota and Iowa

Map of Bathgate and Pembina, NE corner of North Dakota.
In 1876, George S. emigrated from Smith Falls, Ontario with his father and siblings Isaac, Robert and William (James remained in Canada with an uncle) to the border city of Pembina, North Dakota, on the banks of the Red River of the North. The city was originally county seat of Pembina county. Pembina lays along the road (then more like a trail) between Fargo, North Dakota and Winnipeg, Manitoba.

My aunt Charlotte passed along this story of the primitive conditions that George lived in when he resided in Pembina and Bathgate, 12 miles to the southwest (Dad/Papa in this passage is Isaac).

To clarify, a crop is part of a bird's digestive tract located in its throat. Birds use the crop to store partially digested (i.e., rotting) food. As for the coffin business, later in life, George passed along to biographers simply that his father was engaged in the lumber business. Uncle George was lawyer to the core.

Bathgate Sentinel, May 16, 1882
George S.'s father, William, was founder of Bathgate, North Dakota. William homesteaded a claim on a sweeping bend of the Tongue River in 1879. After perfecting his claim (requiring residence, making improvements to the land and raising crops) William sold his quarter section to developer Comstock and White, giving rise to Bathgate. The developer platted and sold the town, lot by lot. William retained a large lot on the north end of town and was informally known as "the mayor." During the 1880s, William subdivided and sold off individual lots from a second quarter section immediately north of town, known as "Foster's Addition" to Bathgate (see the newspaper ad to the right). He advertised that Foster's Addition was "High and Dry," unlike land abutting the Red River which habitually flooded (as it does to this day). 

Like good farmers everywhere, William made hay while the sun shined. During the 1880's in eastern North Dakota, the hay was land sales and the sun was commerce facilitated by the railroad line coming into town. It was boom time. William promoted the town far and wide. Shortly after Bathgate's founding, the local paper reported William's wintertime travel as follows:
Mr. W. Foster and wife left this a.m. for Ontario. The "mayor" will visit a host of friends in Smith's Falls, his late place of residence, and will no doubt, devote every spare moment, championing  Dakota generally, and Bathgate, the metropolis of Pembina Co., in particular. Bathgate Sentinel, December 19, 1882.
Older brother Isaac took advantage of the boom to launch his career. He started early as a stock man, a farmer, a businessman and an entrepreneur, making early headway at becoming a preeminent citizen of Pembina County. Isaac eventually stepped into his father's shoes in the real estate (or as they sometimes called it -- land man's) profession as well.

As younger brother George S. matured into adulthood, he followed in kind, finding work where he could and attempting to set himself up in business, as opportunities availed. As a young man, he was a worker, ambitious and a leader, but seemed to get into trouble whenever he held the reins. 

The Bathgate Sentinel reported on the 17 year old:
Geo. Foster while coming to Bathgate with a load of lumber one day last week, met with an accident owing to his team attempting to run away, which remitted in the breaking of the tongue of his sleigh. Bathgate Sentinel, March 21, 1882.
Changing the conveyance from sleigh to wagon did not improve the outcome.
Bathgate Sentinel, October 18, 1883.
George Foster and two other young men were putting a hay rack on to the wagon when the train came along and frightened [the] team causing them to run away. Part of the rack was thrown off on to one of the young men but did no serious damage. George escaped with a bruised knee and a few bruises about the head and face. No further damage was done.
In view of his checkered experience with equine beasts, one might think that George should turn his attention to more urban pursuits. And indeed he did. A month later the Sentinel noted that George Foster was then working with John Houston. Mr. Houston was a pioneer Bathgate settler, a farmer and a businessman in town with multiple interests.

Whether the business referred to below was of a personal or commercial nature, the interlude points certainly to George seeking horizons beyond Bathgate.
Bathgate Sentinel, January 24, 1884.
Geo. Foster had "business" in Baltimore [,North Dakota, a dozen miles south of Bathgate,] on Sunday last. Bet our Manitoba bonds he makes it pay. We casually remark he did not return until one o'clock the next morning.
Bathgate Sentinel, July 16, 1885
Shortly before his 21st birthday, the Bathgate Sentinel  (see left) reported that "George S. Foster of this town represents the largest and most reliable loan company in Pembina County." 

Like his dad, George used the wintertime to visit friends and family back in Canada, where he bragged on his business success. On February 9, 1988, the Smith Falls (Ontario) Record News reported:
-Mr. George S. Foster, of Bathgate, Dakota, was in town last week and part of this, renewing old friendships. Mr. Foster is in the real estate and loan business in which he has been eminently successful.
But the land boom could last only so long, and Bathgate would grow only so much. Before the decade was gone, George S. picked up stakes to move to Iowa to earn a college degree and find a wife. From there he moved east to Chicago where he would study law and find a new life at the bar and in Chicago and Cook County politics. 

George S. Foster's life and career had veered away from the farm permanently. He would not make it back to Bathgate again except as a visitor, such as in the summer of 1914.
Bathgate Pink Paper, July 29, 1914.
We were all surprised on Saturday afternoon when George Foster got off of the Winnipeg train to visit over Sunday with Isaac and family. George looks exactly as he used to and does not seem to have aged much. He appears quieter and probably is not stealing stove pipes from claim shanties as he did from Adam Corider's thirty years ago and as a consequence Adam could not find his shanty until the snow melted in the spring. George says he is prospering in Chicago and hopes soon to make a longer visit with the old time friends.

C. George S Foster's Early Legal and Political Career.

George S. Foster graduated the Iowa State University, with honors. He married Miss Nellie M. Miller, daughter of Dr. A.H. Miller, on December 23, 1891, at Washington, Iowa.  

Uncle George attended and was one of the earliest graduates from the Chicago College of Law (now known as the Chicago Kent College of Law). 

Chicago Tribune, June 10, 1891

As was the procedure at the time, George was admitted to legal practice on his diploma.

Uncle George moved quickly up legal and political ladders. First, he cut his teeth on minor cases.

George S. Foster representing John Ludwick & Son,
suing for $500, Chicago Inter Ocean, January 23, 1892
George S. Foster representing divorcing spouse claiming habitual
drunkeness and desertion , Chicago Inter Ocean, May 5, 1993. 

George ran for Chicago city council in as alderman representing the twenty-seventh ward, in 1895. He was the fresh faced kid. George's incumbent opponent, alderman Matt Conway, was denounced by the Chicago Tribune as a "fraud" and a "bad" man. 

Chicago Tribune, March 21, 1895
George was put forward  as "an honest man with a clean record" and was unanimously endorsed by the Civic Federation.

Chicago Tribune, March 7, 1895
In early March, the Chicago Tribune had listed George Foster's candidacy (see right) on the Democratic ticket in the twenty-seventh ward alderman's race, along with the full slate of candidates in the other 33 wards.

In April, the Chicago Tribune foretold the race's outcome. According to the paper, uncle George had the businessmen on his side. They were tired (see below) of incumbent Alderman Conway's "alleged efforts to represent them."

Chicago Tribune, April 1, 1895
Sure enough, George did it. It was out with the old with the old and in with the new. Here is the vote tabulation for George's successful run for office,

27. M. J. Conway, R 1,462 
G. S. Foster, D 2,045 
A. Hofmann, Peo 178 
E. G. Stearns. Pro 21 

And here was the announcement of sweeping political change reported in the Chicago Inter Ocean.

Chicago Inter Ocean, April 3, 1895

Then before you know it, George's first political biography was written up, and published along with bios of other members of the city administration:

George B. Swift Administration   
George S. Foster, Alderman Twenty-seventh Ward.  GEORGE S. FOSTER, Democratic Alderman of the 27th ward, was born at VJ Monckton, Canada, January 27th, 1864. He attended the grammar schools and State University of Canada (sic) and is a graduate of Lake Forest University (sic) and the Chicago College of Law. He commenced the practice of law in this city and has advanced to a high standing in his profession. He enjoys a large practice, being the attorney for some of the leading firms and corporations of this city, among them the Piano M'f 'g Co., Win. Deering & Co. and the Ottley M'f 'g Co. He has the honor of being the only Democrat ever elected to the Council from the 27th ward, which is hopelessly Republican. He is a member of Dearborn Lodge, A. F.& A. M., LaFayette Chapter, Palestine Council, Apollo Commandery, Oriental Consistory, Banner Lodge K. P., Pembina Lodge I. O. O. F., Court Cragin I. O. F., and an active and popular member of many athletic associations, among them the Pacific Athletic Club and the Clover Cycling Club, of which he is President. He is also a member of the Mohawk and County Democracy Marching Clubs, the Cherokee and Irving Park Clubs, and is considered one of the political and social leaders of that part of the city. 

Chicago Inter Ocean, June 6, 1897
Did that bio say Clover Cycling Club? No doubt, if George were alive today, weekends he would be garbed in spandex racing pants and a Lance wannabe yellow jersey. Weekdays he would sport an Earl Blumenauer style bike cutout on his lapel.

The Chicago Inter Ocean spoke glowingly (see right) of Uncle George's tenure as cycling club president.
The club succeeded in getting at its head one of the most energetic, influential and popular citizens of the Twenty-Seventh ward, in the person of George S. Foster, who has left nothing undone that would benefits the club in any way. He has donated the club a fine gold cup, for which the club holds races every year.
The club will have three races this summer, a five and ten mile and the Foster cup race. Among the speedy men of the club are William F. Truesdale, Norman Hopper, Josephy Clayton, Mort Aldridge, William Macomb, S. Swanson, and Bert Leslie. The club has several more "hot" members, but the above deserve special mention.
Donating a cup and naming it after oneself? George had political self promotion down pat.
Chicago Tribune, April 1, 1901

In a subsequent political campaign, we learn, courtesy of George's former friends at the Chicago Tribune, that uncle George wasn't just an advocate and supporter of bicycles and bicyclists; he was also on the side of the street car companies. Imagine that! If uncle George found himself resurrected in Portland, San Francisco, Milwaukee, Washington, DC, Arlington, VA, or any number of urban areas today, he wouldn't miss a beat. He could be the street car and bicycle guy from the get go. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

A political foe attacked George for his support of the street car companies (see right).
Denounces George S. Foster
At Almira Hall, 1271 Armitage avenue, George S. Foster, the Democratic nominee was denounced.
"This hall would not be the place for Foster." said Mr. Harlan. "for the sun shines in here and might show him up. He does not like investigation. Foster is a scalawag. He is bad -- thoroughly bad. He would not hesitate to sell you out, and I say it for your benefit. But for the street car companies Foster would not be running right now, and were it not for those companies we would have a decent Democratic ticket in the field.
As the verbal lashing makes clear, Uncle George's honeymoon in elected office did not last long. After two years he was voted out, in no small part due to association with the notorious Schrage bond robbery, which we will expand upon shortly. When he lost his campaign for reelection in 1897, the Chicago Tribune (see below) said George S. Foster was one of the "malodorous" aldermen who were dropped from the rolls. 

Chicago Tribune, April 9. 1897

According to the Tribune, George and the others had been labeled as "unfit for reelection from the 'Municipal Voters' League.'"

Though George S. Foster would never be re-elected alderman, or to any of the other political offices he he put in for, that was not for wont of trying or a failure to stay active in party politics.  He was written up in "Prominent Democrats of Illinois, A Brief History," which featured biographies on much better known Illinois Democrats such as Stephen Arnold Douglas (of Lincoln, Douglass debate fame) and Adlai Ewing Stevenson. 
1899 Democrat biography photo.
This time they got George's education right. It appears that the man never ran across a fraternal organization he could resist.

D. George S. Foster's Association With "Red Chris" Strook, Bond Thief

When George S. Foster continued to seek political office, his campaigns thereafter were sullied by his connection with the a notorious defendant in the Schrage bond robbery case. Armed robbers stole property, primarily bonds, valued at $45,000, which would be equal to more than a million dollars in today's currency. When charges were filed, attorney George S. Foster vouched for the bail bond (below left) of the principal accused, Christopher Strook.

Chicago Inter  Ocean
January 7, 1897
The bond of Christopher Strook, alias, "Red Chris," was signed before Judge Hutchison, Oct. 30, [1896] by George S. Foster, attorney and an alderman of the Twenty Seventh Ward, and J.R. Burres, an attorney in the Ashland block. The latter claims he signed the bond merely as a matter of form, and that he did not schedule any property.
The bond of Christopher Strook was filed at $6,000. In signing the bond Alderman Foster swore that he was worth $30,000 above his debts and owned the following property:
Lots 13 to 21 inclusive, block 27, original Town of Norwood, west half of section 6, township 30, range 13, valued at $5,000; lot 4 block 1, Wheeler's addition to Irving Park, the northwestern quarter of section 22, township 4, range 13, valued at $1,300; lot 13, block 20, Irving Park, valued at $4,000; the east half of lot 5, block 0, Keeney & Rend's addition to Evanston, valued at $600; lots 42 to 48 inclusive, block 0, Chicago Land Investment Company's subdivision, valued $4,200, and mortgaged for $700; lots 23 and 24, block 10, Chicago Land Investment Company's subdivision, valued at $1,200, encumbered for $200.
When asked last night why he had had the case of Burke and others indicted in the Schrage case on the call of the Criminal Court today Chief of Police Badenoch said:
"A few days ago information was brought to the department that John McLean and Christopher Strook, alias "Red Chris," had jumped their bail and left town. At the same time a suggestion was made to the department that the bonds given in the Criminal Court for these men were more or less 'strawy.'
It took five years, from the time of the bond robbery to the conviction of "Red Chris" Strook and other defendants, for the Schrage bond robbery saga to get resolved. The case involved sensational (and never proven) allegations of police involvement, a co-conspirator safe-cracker ("Sleepy Burke") turned state's evidence, mistrials, legal contretemps, and a slippery and hard to find defendant (Strook).  Dozens of newspaper stories were published -- many mentioning that George S. Foster had vouched for "Red Chris," all keeping the case in the public eye. This was a stain that George S., who was performing a service for a client, would carry throughout his career.  For more on the Schrage case, see Appendix A. 

E. George S. Foster's Political Career After the Strook Case.

For fifteen years after losing re-election to City Council in 1897, George S. Foster repeatedly sought appointment or election to political office.  Here is the litany (for George's involvement in party politics see Appendix B).

In 1898 George vied for a seat as state representative (see Eleventh District below):

Chicago Inter Ocean, July 17, 1898
In the 1899 election cycle, uncle George's name was mentioned as a possible reconciliation candidate for city attorney:  
The Chicago Inter Ocean, March 12, 1899
Fred E. Eldred, one of the quartet of the Democratic machine, proposed a new candidate for city attorney yesterday. He is George S. Foster of the Twenty-Seventh ward. Mr. Foster is a lawyer, and has served one term in the city council as an alderman. He has not figured in politics. Mr. Eldred made the suggestion of Mr. Foster's name to get his party out of the ugly fight it is now in. Miles Devine and Danile Donahoe are threatening to divide the West Wide into warring factions, who will keep up the war after the election. With Mr. Eldred's influence behind him, Mr. Foster's friends yesterday thought he would be nominated.
But George would not figure in that race.

Also, in 1899, he was pushed for a seat on the Chicago School Board.

Chicago Eagle, May 13, 1899
Chicago Eagle, May 20, 1899

Later that year, the Chicago Eagle endorsed George S. Foster for State's Attorney.
Chicago Eagle, August 26, 1899
When that didn't work out, George was backed for City Attorney. 

Chicago Eagle, September 15, 1900
In 1901, George S. Foster was re-nominated for Twenty Seventh ward alderman.
Chicago Inter Ocean, March 4, 1901
George campaigned for alderman (see below) at Columbia hall.

Chicago Inter Ocean March 23, 1901
George was endorsed by the Chicago Eagle.
Chicago Eagle, March 23, 1901

George was denounced by the Chicago Tribune (see below) as "a man whose past record is so notorious and whose present political associations are so damaging that it becomes only less important to rebuke his effrontery in posing for the suffrages of the people than to reelect Alderman Keeney as a decent representative of the ward."

Chicago Tribune, March 26, 1901

And George lost (see below) again.

Chicago Eagle, April 6, 1901
George S. Foster was repeatedly endorsed for a seat on the municipal court.
Chicago Eagle, July 13, 1901

Chicago Eagle, September 13, 1901

Chicago Eagle, September 28, 1901

Even when George wasn't running for something, the Chicago Eagle found cause to promote his resourcefulness.

Chicago Eagle, April 11, 1903

Chicago Eagle, June 6, 1903
Chicago Eagle, November 12, 1904
In view of the Chicago Eagle steadfastness in endorsement, it should be no great surprise that George placed commercial advertising copy in the same.

Chicago Eagle, March 14, 1903
In 1904, George S. Foster ran unsuccessfully for Congress, some 40 years prior to his nephew Lyn's unsuccessful run. George was endorsed by the Chicago Eagle.

Chicago Eagle, September 10, 1904

Chicago Eagle, June 25, 1904
Chicago Eagle, July 30, 1904

Chicago Eagle, 17 September, 1904

Chicago Tribune,
February 8, 1907

In 1907, George S. Foster served as a part time appointed assistant prosecutor (see right).
George S. Foster, an assistant, is a democratic committeeman from the Twenty-seventh ward. He is a former alderman. He has a private law practice at room 702, 50 Dearborn street. He said he would starve if it was not for his private practice.

Chicago Inter Ocean,
August 1, 1908
When running for judge in 1908, George S. Foster earned the dubious distinction of receiving a "No Recommendation" on qualifications from his peers (see left).

George S. Foster was candidate for the municipal court (see below) again in 1910.

Chicago Eagle August 20, 1910
Chicago Eagle, September 3, 1910

During his 1910 run for judge, George attended a "big meeting" sponsored by the Twenty-seventh Ward's Democratic organization to address 1,500 attended.

Chicago Eagle, September 3, 1910
In 1911, the Chicago Tribune recommended against George's nomination for Alderman, citing Uncle George's role representing "Red Chris" Strook in the Schrage bond affair, some 15 years previous. They said George "voted for notorious ordinances" and had a "bad record."  That campaign ended, once and for all, his ambitions for elected office.

Chicago Tribune, February 24, 1911
George S. Foster's career in elected office was one and done. That deflated career did not, however, stop him from prospering as a lawyer, and banker -- quite the contrary. 

F. George Foster's Legal Practice.

While he campaigned for office and politicked in the Democratic Party, uncle George made a living as a lawyer, his practice no doubt helped by political connections and constantly having his name before the public. George S. Foster had his fair share of boring, bread and butter, debtor/creditor cases, including the following 1897 action, public noticed in the Chicago Inter Ocean
Chicago Inter Ocean, September 13, 1897

Chicago Tribune, November 10, 1901
Another case where debt went bad, was this 1901 receivership action filed against the Home Finders association, which moved into a house, and assumed and defaulted on a mortgage held by George's client.  George represented the mortgagor Deering Building and Loan association, which was a savings plan for the company employees. The Chicago Tribune (see right) reported on the case as follows:
The Deering Building and Loan association is conducted for the benefit of employees of the Deering company. Occasionally there is a surplus of funds, which is loaned on real estate or other securities. The mortgage on the property was taken when it was held by Mr. Christian.
Lawyer Foster Explains
"It certainly has been a big thing for [association head] Mr. Hoover," said Attorney Foster. "He has shown to his patrons and supporters the picture of an elegant building owned by the association. He has occupied it for a year and owned it, but I can show he has not paid a cent on it. I have no doubt he impressed a great many people by advertising this residence as the property of the association."
George did no give up representing notorious defendants. He signed on with the ghoulish saloon keeper in the aftermath of the tragic and deadly Iroquois Theater fire. First, here is some background on the fire.
Tribune staff reporter 
A safety standard for theaters and public buildings rises from the ashes of the Iroquois Theater, where more than 600 people were killed.
School was out for Christmas, so the Wednesday matinee performance of "Mr. Blue Beard," a musical starring funnyman Eddie Foy, overflowed with a standing-room audience of nearly 2,000 people, mostly women and children, at the 5-week-old Iroquois Theater. The richly appointed amusement palace on the north side of Randolph Street between State and Dearborn Streets was said to be fireproof. It would prove as unburnable as the Titanic would prove unsinkable nine years later.
In the second act, as the orchestra swung into a dreamy waltz called "Let Us Swear by the Pale Moonlight," an arc light on the left side of the stage sputtered and ignited a strip of paint-saturated muslin on a drape. Unnoticed at first by the audience, the flame ran up the strip and into the fly space above the stage where scenery hung.
Suddenly, blazing fabric rained down on the stage. The singers raced off, one with a costume on fire, and the audience began to bolt. Foy then ran onstage, raised his hands and tried to calm the crowd.
For a moment, the panic eased. But the draft from an open stage door fed the flames. A fireball leaped across the footlights and engulfed a velvet curtain. Stagehands tried to lower the asbestos curtain to keep the blaze from spreading to the seats, but it stuck a few feet above the stage floor. Then part of the stage collapsed, and the lights went out.
Charred interior of the Chicago Iroquois Theater.
That touched off a stampede for the 27 exits, some of which were hidden by drapes; others were locked to foil gate-crashers. Bodies slammed into bodies. Within minutes, tangles of corpses were piled 7 feet high as the living groped for an escape route over the dead, only to succumb themselves to gas, smoke and flames.
By the time firefighters fought their way inside, an eerie silence had fallen over the charred and darkened remains of the theater.
"Is there any living person here?" one fire marshal shouted over and over. "If anyone is alive in here, groan or make a sound." No one did.
Some 575 people died that day, and hundreds were hurt. Another 30 would die from their injuries in the following weeks. The theater's managers and several public officials were indicted in connection with the fire, but none was ever punished.
Chicago Inter Ocean, January 20, 1904

In the fire's aftermath, there was massive public outcry against officials responsible for public safety and licensing the venue, the designers of the theater and the Iroquois' operating management.
A coroner's inquest began within a week. Over two hundred witnesses testified. It was a national sensation, exposing unbelievable laxity on the part of the theater and city officials charged with public safety. Hearings revealed that 'complimentary' tickets motivated city inspectors to ignore the fire code and let the theater open. Theater principals, building owners, Chicago Mayor Carter H. Harrison and others were indicted, but those cases eventually were dismissed on technicalities. The only person to serve a jail term was a tavern keeper whose nearby saloon was used as a temporary morgue. He was convicted of robbing the dead.
Who represented the accused tavern keeper? None other than George S. Foster (see right).
Acting large on their own confession, the grand jury took only a few minutes yesterday to indict Louise Witz, Thomas A. McCarthy, and Charles A. Conway for stealing about $200 from the body of Mrs. R. H. Trask of Ottawa, Ill. who died in Witz' saloon while under medical treatment for injuries received in the Iroquois fire. Later in the day Mayor Harrison followed up the indictment by canceling Witz' license for a saloon at the corner of Dearborn and Randolph streets.
After the indictment had been returned the three men were arraigned before Justice Caverly at the Harrison street police court, where they vigorously protested against their case being "rushed to trial." They did not deny the charge, but demanded that the case be put back for ten days.
"The men have had no time to plan their defense," said Attorney George S. Foster who appeared for the three, "and it would be unjust to force them to have a hearing this morning."
In a lighter vein, George S. wasn't too busy to help a couple join into a dubious matrimonial bond. Mr. and Miss Twiss were in a big hurry to get married.  George was perfectly happy to oblige (see below):

Chicago Inter Ocean, July 10, 1904

Lowell (Mich.) Ledger,
December 1, 1904
George told a story for publication that was parable of how lawyers and the law suck their clients dry.





Verdict for Substantial Amount Successively Dwindled Until There Was About Enough Left for One Night's Real Good Time

"Owen O'Brien, well known in Lawndale, sustained dangerous personal injuries while running an elevator in a paper mill in Appleton, Wis," said Lawyer George S. Foster. "He brought suit against the paper company in Judge Jenkin's court and was awarded judgment for $15,000. The company's counsel appealed the case and it was retried before the late Judge Gresham.
"The latter held that the complainant should have made himself acquainted with the condition of the elevator before taking the risk of running it. His directions to the jury were to the effect that the company was not responsible for the accident. So the jury brought in a verdict exonerating the company and the $15,000 judgment went glimmering.
"The company, however, recognized that O'Brien, who had been long in its service, was entitled to some compensation, and therefore offered him, through his lawyer, $1,000. This the lawyer advised him not to accept, as he had good grounds for an appeal and would probably get judgment in his favor on a third trial. He told O'Brien to return to Chicago, whence he had come to attend the trial, and that he would probably hear favorably from him in due time.
"After about sixty days O'Brien got a letter from a Chicago lawyer asking to see him at the latter's office."
"Well, your attorney in Wisconsin has settled that case of yours," Owen was informed, when he appeared. 'Everything has been arranged very favorably and there is some money here for you and a document to sign.'
"He pushed toward him a written undertaking to abandon all claims against the company and any further proceedigns in consideration of the sum of $60.
"'But I was to get $1,000 anyway, protested O'Brien.
"'Oh, there were costs of court and lawyer's fees and other expenses, and this is all there is left."
"O'Brien refused to sign and went forth to seek satisfaction. Lawyer after lawyer declined to take up the case. At length one obliging lawyer said he would, but on reconsideration though it would be hopeless and advised him to accept the $60, saying he would go and gt it for him. O'Brien reluctantly consented, and the lawyer got the money. He deducted $20 for his services and handed O'Brien $40. And O'Brien was so mad he blew in $20 before he went home and had only $20 left. -- Chicago News.
The lawyers always win.

George continued to sue for moneys owed, again (see below),

Chicago Inter Ocean, September 13, 1907
and again (see below).

Chicago Inter Ocean, September 27, 1907
He picked up the random bankruptcy case as well (see below).

Chicago Inter Ocean, March 10, 1910

Then George went where the money is -- into banking.

G. George S. Foster's Banking Career.

George S. Foster was president and/or on the Board of Directors of three banks launched in Chicago in the early 1900s. These were Irving Park National Bank at 4201 Irving Park Road, Bowmanville National bank at 4806 N. Western Avenue (at Lawrence and Lincoln) and Cragin State Bank, at the point of Armitage Street and Grand Avenue, on Chicago's north side.

George's banking career was documented in the following book:

Financing an Empire
History of Banking in Illinois

George S. Foster, prime mover in the organization of a number of financial institutions of Chicago, including the Cragin State Bank, of which he is a director, has been a successful practicing attorney of the city during the past third of a century. He was born in Ontario, Canada, on the 27th of June, 1865, the son of William and Margaret (Sanderson) Foster. His father, also a native of Canada, crossed the border into the United States and took up his abode in Chicago, Illinois (sic), where he engaged in the lumber business. 
George S. Foster enjoyed liberal educational advantages in his youth, attending the grade and high schools of Canada and the State University of Iowa. He received his professional training in the law department of Lake Forest University (sic), from which institution he was graduated with the degree of LL. B. in 1892. The same year he entered upon law practice in Chicago, where he has continued active to the present time, being accorded a clientage of growing volume and importance as he has demonstrated his ability in the work of the courts. 
In addition to his professional activity he has long figured prominently in financial affairs, having taken a leading part in the organization of a number of banking institutions. Mr. Foster organized the Cragin State Bank of Chicago, of which he is a director, was one of the original stockholders and organizers of the Irving Park National Bank, the Bowmanville National Bank and the National Bank of Commerce and has served on several committees of stockholders in all of these institutions. He is also the president of the Deering Vault & Trust Company and acts as attorney for several building and loan associations. He has membership in the Chicago Bar Association and in the Illinois Bar Association and is filling the position of chairman of the Commercial Law Association of Illinois. 
In Washington, D. C, (sic) Mr. Foster was married to Miss Nellie Miller and they became the parents of three children: George, Margaret (sic) and Clarence. The two sons are veterans of the World war. For his second wife Mr. Foster married Hattie H. Grebel of Chicago. They have one son: William. Mr. Foster takes a very active part in politics as a supporter of the democratic party. He was chosen alderman from the old twenty-seventh ward, served at one time as assistant prosecuting city attorney and has rendered effective service as a member of the Cook county central committee. 
During the period of the Spanish- American war Mr. Foster was commissioned captain by the state of Illinois. He was made chairman of the Aviation Club of Chicago at the time of the World war, was elected to the National Air Congress at Omaha and' became a member of the Sixth Aero Corps, comprising Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin. Mr. Foster occupies the vice presidency of the Press Club and fraternally is identified with Banner Lodge of the Knights of Pythias. He is also a York and Scottish Rite Mason who has crossed the sands of the desert with the Nobles of Medinah Temple of the Mystic Shrine. He has won and retained the warm friendship and esteem of those with whom he has been associated in professional, banking, fraternal and social relations.

The Irving Park National Bank was formed in December, 1911, with $100,000 in capital and George S. Foster's backing as a director (see below).

Wall Street Journal, December 11, 1911

The Bowmanville National Bank was chartered July 27, 1912 backed by $50,000 of capital (see below).

Dun's Review, July 27, 1912
Both Irving Park National and Bowmanville National were successful early on in securing a cut of the City of Chicago's depository banking business. The Chicago Inter Ocean reported as follows:

Chicago Inter Ocean, 
November 27, 1912

Ten New Institutions Send Bids to Carry Funds of Chicago and Win Their Share of Business for 1913
TOTAL AMOUNT IS $21,500,000
Annual Interest Paid in Municipality is $400,000 -- Per Cent Two and One-Quarter to Two and One-Half
Ten new banks are seeking the city business, which pays an annual interest of $400,000. Fifty-eight banks which were depositories last year all submitted bids for the handling of the money again.
The State Bank of Chicago and the Jefferson Park National bank are the only two old banks bidding 2 1/2 per cent for the money. Others bid 2 1/4 per cent. Three of the new banks which bid 2 1/2 per cent are: Ravenswood National bank, Irving Park National bank, and Bowmanville National Bank.
The Cragin State Bank was a child of the Roaring Twenties. Here is what the "History of Banking in Illinois" book had to say about its founding.
The Cragin State Bank of Chicago was organized on the 30th of December, 1922, by a committee composed of the following gentlemen: George S. Foster, chairman of the organization committee ; B. C. Beckman, president of the Beckman-Dawson Company and director of the First National Bank of Naperville, Illinois; Walter J. Conlon, president of the Conlon Electric Washer Company; William Wickert, superintendent of the Nubian Varnish Company ; Fred N. Groen, Jr., president of the Groen Manufacturing Company; S. G. Harwood, department manager of Carson, Pirie, Scott & Company; William F. Bleck, president of William F. Bleck & Company; II. II. Franzen, cashier of the Rosselle State Bank; Ralph N. Ballon, cashier of the National Bank of Commerce; Stanley Mcintosh, banker; Rev. Father Burke, and Walter IT. Young. 
The institution was organized with a capital of one hundred thousand dollars and paid-in surplus of twenty thousand dollars. Its first officers were as follows : George S. Foster, president ; Fred H. Groen, vice president ; and IT. H. Franzen,cashier.

Irving Park National bank was best known for its mention by billionaire industrialist Henry Crown, one time Chairman of General Dynamics and owner of the Empire State Building. In Crown's obituary The New York Times related,
Henry Crown, Industrialist, Dies; Billionaire, 94, Rose From Poverty By JOAN COOK
Published: August 16, 1990
Henry Crown, the billionaire whose life exemplified the Horatio Alger rags-to-riches story of American industrialists, died Tuesday at his Lake Shore Drive apartment in Chicago. He was 94 years old.
Mr. Crown had been ailing for some time, a family spokesman said. 
Henry Crown was the patriarch of one of America's greatest fortunes, recently estimated at $2 billion by Chicago magazine. It includes millions made in hotels, buildings, railroads, meat packing, coal, sugar, recreation and the aerospace industry. The family ranks 11th nationally in wealth, according to Forbes Magazine. 

Mr. Crown was named Henry Krinsky at birth, the third of seven children of a Lithuanian immigrant sweatshop worker, Arie Krinsky, and his wife Ida. His father changed the family name to Crown while Henry was a boy. 
He left school in the eighth grade and after a number of jobs, he and an older brother, Sol, started a business selling steel in 1915. Sol later died of tuberculosis. 
Mr. Crown's first deal in the steel business resulted from research and bold negotiations, traits that became emblematic of his career. He had brokered the sale of 20 tons of steel from Inland Steel, which asked for a financial statement from the fledgling company. 
The week-old S. R. Crown & Company had $50 in the bank and shared its office with another business. Instead of showing a financial statement, Mr. Crown showed a letter from a bank guaranteeing the purchase. 
The Inland credit manager said to him: ''We don't do business that way, kid. We're selling to you, not to the bank.'' 
Mr. Crown said, ''Mr. Sullivan, do you question the credit of the Irving Park National Bank for $1,200?'' ''Well, no,'' the credit manager said. ''Thank you for the steel,'' he replied.
Like most federally chartered banks in its day, the Bowmanville National bank fueled the debt driven economy by printing currency of its own (see below). Now, we leave that function to Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve system and regional Federal Reserve banks, with little different results.

The Bowmanville National bank was a regular advertiser in "The Sentinel," a "Weekly Newspaper Devoted to Jewish Interests."
The Sentinel, October 16, 1925
A neighborhood history says about Bowmanville "This bank cost $200,000, and featured Bedford stone, a large community hall, and too much self-confidence."  Here is a picture post card of what $200,000 bought in 1912.

The building no longer exists but an old "ghost" sign was uncovered when a nearby building was demolished a few years back.

The advertised range of services offered included bonds, savings accounts, checking accounts, safe deposit vaults and making and selling first mortgages.

Of the three banks, Cragin State bank was George's baby because, as we noted, he was its first president. The "History of Banking in Illinois" related: 
At the time of its organization it constructed a new and modern bank building on the location historically known as "Whiskey Point." The Cragin State Bank was organized by the people financially interested in this neighborhood for the purpose of providing modern banking facilities for the community.

The triangular site at the corners of Grand, Armitage and LeClaire avenues was purchased and a fine two-story brick "flat iron" building was erected. This provided a splendid permanent home for the bank in a very convenient location. Its cost, including subsequent improvements, is approximately one hundred and fifteen thousand dollars. The Cragin State Bank is an affiliated member of the Chicago Clearing House Association and also has membership in the Cook County Bankers Association, the Illinois Bankers Association and the American Bankers Association. Illinois Banking History
The bank building is gone, but a replica can still be purchased on auction sites in piggy bank form.

Cragin State Bank Piggybank, True replica.
The Cragin State Bank building's location and the name for its location were explained thus.

Chicago Tribune, May 14, 1922
"Whisky Point" an alcoholic landmark which has achieved more or less fame among the thirsty for long years, at Grand and Armitrage avenues, is to make way for a $100,000 bank building. K.M. Kitzthum & Co., bank architects and engineers, have designed a structure to house the newly organized Cragin State bank. It will have stores on the first floor in addition to the banking space, and also will have a large safe deposit vault. There'll be offices on the second floor for rent. George S. Foster is president of the bank.
The Iola Register, November 6, 1922

The temperance and prohibition movement was impressed.
The Board of Temperance, Prohibition and Public Morals of the Methodist church has been investigating the results of National prohibition in Chicago by means of interviews with prominent business men and bankers of that city, especially as to its effect upon thrift and prosperity, and has made public some most interesting and suggestive facts.
Paticularly noticeable is the increase in savings deposits in banks which are located in foreign speaking communities. Bankers are not of two minds in regard to this. It is noticeable with what frequency banks have been established at old saloon locations. A picturesque change of this character is the establishment of the new Cragin State Bank at Armitage and Grand streets, on the location of the old "Whiskey Point" Saloon.

After fronting the bank applications, Uncle George was out of there.
By January, 1914, Uncle George was no longer a director of Irving National bank (see below left). As of June 30, 1919, and likely many years earlier, George S. Foster was no longer listed as a director of Bowmanville National Bank (see below right).

Chicago Tribune, 
July 8, 1919
Chicago Inter Ocean,
January 14, 1814

As for George S. Foster's service at Cragin State Bank, that was similarly truncated. From the "Illinois Banking History" we know that " George S. Foster resigned in September, 1923," meaning his bank presidency lasted just ten months.

It would appear that George S. Foster was not desirous of being a banker. More likely, he fronted charter applications to facilitate regulatory approval, and then used his position to secure a goodly portion of the steady flow of legal business that every bank produces. Small practice lawyers who hook their stars to small banks have long and prosperous careers.

Like thousands of small banks throughout the country, each of these three banks failed during the Great Depression (then, as now, the federal government protected capitalist cronies in the large banks and happily promoted increased concentration of economic power in the banking sector). These banks specialized in placing and holding mortgages in their local communities, creating a pool of illiquid investments that made the banks particularly susceptible to panics and runs. Chicago was very hard hit, "Chicago area banks suffered one of the highest failure rates in the US, especially in the first halves of 1931 and 1932. Indeed, out of 193 state banks in June 1929, only 35 survived up to June 1933."

Irving Park National Bank closed in 1931.

Bowmanville National Bank shut its doors on June 20, 1932 (see below).
The Lincoln (Neb.) Star, June 20, 1932
A neighborhood history reports, "Many local residents lost their savings when Bowmanville went under, though not all of them. 'My folks were smart,' [local resident] Lange said. “They dealt with the Continental Bank downtown.'”

Cragin closed on June 10, 1931 (see below). 

The Ogden (Utah) Standard Examiner, June 11, 1931

H. More on George S. Foster's Personal Life

George S. Foster reached out to the black community. He was an ambassador of sorts to the funeral of Robert T. Motts, owner and manager of the Pekin Theater.
In 1904, political operator and gambling boss Robert T. Motts opened the Pekin Theater in Chicago. Dubbed the "Temple of Music," the Pekin became one of the country's most prestigious African American cultural institutions, renowned for its all-black stock company and school for actors, an orchestra able to play ragtime and opera with equal brilliance, and a repertoire of original musical comedies.
When he died in 1911, Motts' funeral covered the front page in a Chicago African American newspaper.
The Broad Ax (Chicago, Ill.), July 15, 1911

The Broad Ax reported:
Frank W. Solon, Superintendent of Streets of Chicago, James A. Quinn, State Senator Franics P. Brady, Alderman Wilson Shufelt, Attorney George S. Foster and other prominent white citizens, attended funeral services. Mr. Foster, and four other white families aside from his own, residing on the North side all came from Washington, Iowa, the Birthplace of Robert T. Motts, and knowing him and highly respecting his family, Wednesday evening they held a meeting at the home of Mr. Foster and they selected him to visit the home and convey their unbounded sympathy to the members of his family, and to attend the funeral services, and to bring back a full report to them as to how they were conducted and so on and Mr. Foster carried out their instructions to the letter.
The outreach was a good business move. Personal and business were never completely separate in George's world. George S. Foster hawked his services to African Americans and leased units in two buildings.
The Broad Ax (Chicago, Ill.), September 4, 1912
Attorney George S. Foster, suite 1309 Ashland Block, knows many Colored people of standing in many parts of Chicago. He owns and rents two buildings to them at 3315 and 3317 S. State street, and he is always willing to assist them in a legal way or otherwise, when they need a friend or are in trouble. 
The section of State Street where George's buildings were located is just off the Dan Ryan Expressway today. For forty-five years, the massive crime-ridden Robert Taylor homes housing project was a few blocks down the street.

George S. Foster's marriage to Nellie Miller yielded three children -- George S. Foster, Jr., born in 1893, Margarite (or Margaret) Foster born in 1895 and Clarence Foster, born in 1900 and killed, as mentioned in George Senior's obituary, in an auto accident in 1946. 

It appears that the marriage of George S. Foster and Nellie had once been marked by domestic bliss. Mrs. George S. Foster wrote to a local paper and rocked on about the nutritious attributes of Grape-Nuts.

Rock Island Argus, May 2, 1901 
This was a time when a woman would brag about putting meat on her bones.

There came at time, however, when the marriage was on the rocks. George's friends at the Chicago Tribune, could not but help to publish salacious details.

Chicago Tribune, March 14, 1914
I have no record of divorce. I do know that Nellie was still listed as wife in George S. Foster's household in the 1920 federal census. Grandson, baby Robert Huff was also listed. And we know that George married Hattie Goebel on December 27, 1923. Hattie was twenty years George's junior and a public school teacher according to the 1930 census. Of that union a third son, William, was born to George in 1924. What happened between 1920 and 1923 I cannot say.

As for George's personal activities and interests, we have previously reviewed his affinity as a young man for cycling.  And we know when he died he was tending fruit trees in his orchard. His biographies and obituary lay out at length his masonic associations.  

For a time George S. Foster was chairman of the Speakers Committee of the Press Club of Chicago.

Book of the Press Club, Schoop Show Program, May 26, 1915

Uncle George had a love for human flight when it was in its in infancy, which led to his being selected flight commander of the Illinois Training School of the Aeronautical Reserve Service..

Aviation and Aeronautical Engineer, Vol. 1, 1916
Everyone loves a parade and so did George, who is listed below along with Robert R. McCormick, owner and publisher of the Chicago Tribune, and others, for their support of a patriotic parade as the drumbeat built up for the United State's entrance into World War I. 

Chicago Commerce, May 19, 1916

George's Benton Harbor, Michigan residence was originally a summer home.

Chicago Eagle, April 30, 1925

As George came to split his attention between Chicago and Michigan he also came to represent the House of David, which operated out of Benton Harbor. It was a representation that started professionally and evolved into a personal friendship with the Irsraelite community's leaders.

Nationally, the House of David was best know for its bearded, barnstorming baseball team, that played all comers, incuding major leaguers in the off season.

Regionally, the House of David was well known for an amusement park, Disney of its day.

The communal religious group was a commercial powerhouse
Not only did they own hundreds and hundreds of acres of land, they were pioneers in vegetarian soups and health foods. They built state-of-the-art cold storage here. Benton Harbor had the largest open-air fruit and vegetable market in the world, and the House of David cold storage stablized prices in this area of Michigan. By 1920 their amusement park, Eden Springs, was easily a forerunner of places like Disneyland and Great America."

According to Adkin, the House of David was the first organization to market a vegetarian hamburger and sell bottled mineral water for drinking purposes. The House's musical bands traveled across the country. But by far the most famous export of the Israelites was the House of David baseball team (which became the City of David baseball team when the community split into two factions). Famed for their pinstripe uniforms, long hair, and flowing beards, these barnstormers crossed the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Cuba, playing other semipro teams, Negro leagues squads, and even the occasional major league club.
But scandal reared its ugly head.
In the late 20s the House of David was rocked by a scandal that haunts it to this day. [Commune leader] Benjamin Purnell was accused of being a charlatan, rapist, and child molester--charges the Israelite faithful still maintain were fabricated by commune members who could not adhere to the House of David's way of life. Purnell allegedly operated "a fraudulent enterprise in the guise of religion," while engaging in coerced sexual intercourse with the women and young girls of the colony. Clare Adkin's Brother Benjamin reports that Purnell was accused of inducing girls to have sex with him "upon the representations that sexual intercourse with him is a religious rite."

From this court case sprang the countless rumors about the conduct of Benjamin Purnell--such as that High Island was a secret meeting place where Purnell abused young girls, and that Shiloh contained secret tunnels where Purnell conducted illicit trysts. On November 10, 1927, Purnell was found guilty of fraud, and the assets of the colony were put into receivership while the members chose a new leader. Whatever the validity of the sexual misconduct charges, they were never proven. Sixty-five years old and in poor health, Benjamin died in December of 1927 before they could be addressed in court.

Following Purnell's death, a serious conflict developed over who would take his place. Some sided with Judge Harry Thomas Dewhirst, a former California politician and businessman, while Mary Purnell wanted to dissolve the House of David and distribute its assets among the members.
Uncle George's original involvement with the House of David was peripheral. In 1927, he represented two members who were seeking a divorce.

The News Palladium (Benton Harbor, Mich.), September 1, 1927

Then in 1928, George S. Foster joined with House of David member, lawyer, and former California judge, H. T. Dewhirst, in seeking to have a receivership imposed by state lifted, and the religious colony cleared of all charges.
The Ironwood (Mich.) Daily, July 11, 1928

The Michigan Supreme Court ultimately vacated the receivership but did not authorize a rehearing to clear the colony's name. The House of David split into two communites with George's co-counsel, Judge Dewhirst, becoming the leader of the largest resulting part. Here are a couple of pictures of Dewhirst, one in front of a colony operated commercial establishment, and the other from Dewhirst's service on the baseball team.  

H. T. Dewhirst (left) at the Grande Vista,
a House of David operated motel and
restaurant near St. Joseph, Michigan in 1939.

H. T. Dewhirst in his House of David
baseball uniform (front right).

As for the hair and beards,
Their personal grooming fulfilled a divine edict in Leviticus 19:27: “You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard.” They also saw facial hair as a way to live in the likeness of Jesus and his apostles.
Babe Ruth sports fake beard before exhibition game with the House of David.

More significantly,
A Christian commune founded in Michigan by Benjamin Franklin Purnell, a self-proclaimed messenger of God, the sect sought to reunite the 12 tribes of Israel in preparation for the return of Jesus Christ at the onset of the new millennium. Members gave all their worldly possessions to the commune and were required to refrain from sex, alcohol, tobacco, and meat.
In the end, Judge Dewhirst and Uncle George became best buds, with George honored as a special guest at the dedication of the Grande Vista (that was pictured above), and George and wife Hattie hosting H. T. Dewhirst at their home for the Judge's birthday.

The News Palladium (Benton Harbor, Mich.),
August 12, 1942

The News Palladium (Benton Harbor, Mich.), 
August 14, 1935

And to Michigan came my Uncle Herb, attendee at every family funeral and loyal to the end, visiting the bereaved widow of George S. Foster six months after George's passing.

The News Palladium (Benton Harbor, Mich), November 1, 1946


APPENDIX A: More on the Schrage Bond Robbery

The bond was forfeited in the criminal case and George S. Foster was held liable (below left). The headline read "Chance to Learn Whether Bondsmen of 'Red Chris' and John McLean Are Good or Not"

Chicago Inter Ocean,
January 8 1897
Summary: Before Judge Sears, in the Criminal Court, bonds of Christopher Strook, alias "Red Chris," and John Mclean, two of the Schrage robbers were declared forfeited. Strooks's bondsmen are Alderman George S. Foster of the Twenty-Seventh Ward, and his attorney, Joseph R. Burres; amount $5,000. McLean's bondsment are Arthur P. Wicks and John McAndrews, in $6,000.

Assistant State's Attorney Pearson was asked yesterday afternoon as to the probable course of procedure regarding the forfeited bonds and said:  "I presume that the property scheduled by the men who signed the bonds which were forfeited this morning ins now being investigated by the man in this office who has charge of bail bonds, and in case he should discover any evidences of fraud he would at once report the matter to the court, and the bondsmen would be cited for contempt of court, and either fined or placed under heavy bonds to await the action of the grand jury. At any rate, suit will immediately be begun against the bondsmen of Strock and McLean to collect the amount of the forfeited bonds. Our action in calling the cases today was due to the desire of the police authorities to ascertain whether the bonds were good or not."

There were hearings as well before the Civil Service Commission, because a witness had identified Assistant Chief of Police Alex S. Ross as receiving the stolen bonds. In the following story on the Civil Service Commission hearings, witness and co-conspirator, turned state's witness, "Sleepy" Burke, recanted his earlier testimony about Assistant Chief Ross receiving stolen property, when he was confronted with George H. Williams. Witness Burke's testimony was thus:
It [Burke's face] light (sic) up with a flash of recognition as soon as he saw Williams.  Pointing his finger at him he said, "That is the man who took the envelope with the bonds from Mr. McLean."
"Do you mean Mr. Williams?" asked Luther Mills.
"Yes," answered Burke looking straight at Williams."
"Are you positive he is the man who was with Ed Smith's at the time?"
"How about your statement yesterday regarding Assistant Police Chief Ross?"
"I was mistaken. Mr. Ross was not the man. This is the man with Ed Smith and took the envelop containing the bond from John McLean."

Chicago Inter Ocean, January 9, 1897

At the Inter Ocean newspaper report end, it was said that the investigation was "attended yesterday by Alderman Foster," an association that would never end.

Back in criminal court, the case of a co-defendant, Joseph Gordon -- who had been unable to post bail -- proceeded rapidly. State's witness "Sleepy" Burke did not pick up his nickname playing tiddlywinks.  He testified during Gordon's trial as follows:
Chicago Inter Ocean
February 27, 1897 
"Why did you select Joe Gordon as one of your comrades?" asked the attorney for the defense.
"Because he was good in his line of business. I had been with him in jail before."
"What line of business?"
"Opening safes."
"You are a professional safe-blower yourself, are you not?"
"There are others."
"Well, you are pretty good at it?"
"Yes; I can do a job of safe-blowing all right."
"Did you not give a show in Whiting, Ind., some time ago?"
"Yes, sir."
"Did you advertise to lecture on the prison mysteries of Joliet and to open any safe in ten minutes of forfeit $100?"
"I lecture on prison life, but I did not say I could open any safe in ten minutes." 
"Did you circulate these handbills?" A number of small bills were handed to the witness and which told of his ability as a safe-blower.
"I did use those bills...."
After the prosecution rested its case, Joseph Gordon, pleaded guilty. But that was not to be the end of it, not by a long shot, because Chris Strook was still on the lam.

It took several years to track down Chris Strook and a couple more to finish his trial. 

Chicago Inter Ocean, February 12, 1899
Here again "ex-Alderman George S. Foster" had his name invoked as liable for the forfeited bond.

Strook was brought to his first trial.

Testimony Taken in the Schrage Robbery Case

Los Angeles Herald, June 9, 1899
Chicago June 8. -- What promises to be one of the most sensational cases in the criminal annals of Cook county was resumed in Judge Gary's court room today. "Red Chris" Strook being on trial charge with complicity in the Schrage bond robbery of three years ago. For a long time the perpetrators eluded capture, and it was openly charged that prominent police officials were implicated in hushing the affair up and assisting the criminals to escape.
"Sleepy" Burke was the first witness called by the state and the famous ex-safe blower took the stand. He told of going to Schage's house with "Red Chris," Gordon, Baker, Hunt and James Muldoon, Burke said that after the old man was gagged, the bonds and money aggregating $45,000 were taken and divided among the band.
Publicity was nationwide. The New York Times was on the case, noting that charges implicating high police officials had been revived by the defense. The defense asked for delay to buy time to secure supporting testimony from a bond broker in Philadelphia. The Civil Service Commission had cleared the police department, but that was no bar from raising the issue of police involvement at criminal trial, which guaranteed the case would be widely reported and closely watched.

Legal errors and a hung jury resulted in charges being pursued against "Red Chris" Strook multiple times, repeating the drumbeat of unfavorable publicity, and compounding the damage as far as uncle George's political career was concerned.   

Strook used every trick in the book to string out his prosecution and avoid conviction, even double dealing his own lawyers.

Chicago Inter Ocean
April 1, 1900
Strook is said to have ignored his attorneys altogether in taking his case in his own hands.  He sought to escape from imprisonment through what is know as the "four term" law. This section of the statute provides that person confined in the county jail must be placed on trail within four terms of court after the indictments are returned unless the prisoner agrees to a continuation.
Strook Creates Surprise
.... O'Donnell Brady, who are Strook's attorneys, made an agreement several days ago with Assistant State's Attorney Sprogle to have the case against their client continued until the next term of court, which begins tomorrow.  Attorney Brown of O'Donnell and Brady's office, appeared at the state's attorney's office yesterday and told Mr. Sprogle that he was ready to have Strook's case called and continued. Mr. Sprogl and Mr. Brown went into Judge Waterman's court and Strook was summoned, as the Criminal law provides that all persons charged with crimes shall be in court when any action on their cases is taken.
"I understand that you want to continue this case," Judge Waterman said, while Strook, Mr. Sprogl, and Attorney Brown took positions near the court.
"Is that the case against me?" Strook asked.
Judge Waterman replied in the affirmative when, to the surprise of the lawyers, Strook declared that he would not consent to a continuance. "I've been in jail too long now, and I want to be tried right away" Strook declared.
A jury was hastily called and empaneled putting to rest  Strook's gamesmanship. Strook was eventually convicted. For George S. Foster, the stain of adverse publicity was evermore. 

APPENDIX B: George S. Foster, Political Party Activities

George S. Foster Party Activities

George S. Foster selected to the campaign committee for the seventh Congressional district.
Chicago Inter Ocean, August 22, 1896
George S. Foster speaker at multiple Democratic meetings.
Chicago Tribune, October 14, 1898

George S. Foster joins Cook County Democratic central committee.
Chicago Tribune, December 6, 1898
George S. Foster competing for president of ward Democratic club.

Chicago Inter Ocean, June 29, 1902

Committeeman George S. Foster wrangles for control of ward Democratic club.

Chicago Tribune, June 29 1902

George S. Foster presides as president of 27th ward Democratic club.
Chicago Inter Ocean, March 25, 1906

Chicago Tribune, September 25, 1906
George S. Foster on Democratic Cook County committee.
Chicago Daily News Almanac & Yearbook, 1907 
George S. Foster in a Manitoba land matter.

Chicago Tribune, April 5, 1914

1 comment:

  1. Thank you. It's fun to research and weave in the historical references and gratifying to know readers appreciate that.