Series: Remnants of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago
I am not completely sure how many articles will be in this series of articles concerning what is remaining of the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition because as I continue to do research and become more and more involved in the intricacies of possibly the greatest World’s Fair of all time, I become aware of so much more that remains of the “White City”. I also have come across some mysteries surrounding the fair which I will have to share as well.
When Erik Larson’s book, “The Devil in The White City” came out in 2003, it pretty much married the sociopath and murderer, Herman Webster Mudgett, and his alias H.H. Holmes to the 1893 Exposition. While he himself may or may not have actually visited the fair, he did build a “hotel” of sorts at 701-703 63rd Street to both capitalize on the influx of visitors to Chicago and to give himself ample opportunity to kill at will. If you haven’t read the book yet, I highly recommend it for history buffs and true crime fanatics as well. Of course being a Chicago history geek and a former criminal investigator this was right up my alley.
So while H.H. Holmes may not be a relic of the fair I thought it only fitting to include this particular post in my series because it involves an actual document signed by H.H. Holmes that is considered a public document accessible to everyone!
I came across this particular document when I was researching H.H. Holmes’ Chicago dealings and misdealing by surveying the various lawsuits brought against him in the Cook County courts. Of course this would also include any suits brought against his many aliases (of which there are many) and sorting out his lies from the truth (also not an easy task). In fact, the subject of another series of articles I am planning to put out will be on just those cases and some of the little known associations including business dealings with the Cook County Sheriff, J.H. Gilbert who also became interim Mayor of Chicago when Mayor Harrison was shot and killed shortly before the closing of the Exposition.
The document that I am speaking about is an original promissory note supposedly signed by J.L. (Julia) Connor who would become one of Holmes’ confirmed victims. The note was for $1,942.28 payable to H.H. Holmes at the Englewood Bank and was due in September 1891. This gem came from one of the only suits I could find in which Holmes was the plaintiff. On the reverse side of the document are Holmes’ notes with regard to dates of partial payments on the note and each note bears his signature which I compared to his signature on his “confession” which was written in 1896 after his capture and subsequent imprisonment and they appear to be one and the same.
While there is not a large amount of information concerning the suit itself it was mentioned that the money was supposedly promised in order to pay the rent for a William Green and Henry Rodgers on the second floor of his “Murder Castle” at 701 and 703 63rd Street. Again this information alone wasn’t much but helped me expand on Holmes’ dealings with Green, Rodgers, and Cook County Sheriff J.H. Gilbert in a later series of articles devoted to Holmes.
Not that everyone who is a fan of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition would also be interested in H.H. Holmes but if the thought of holding in your hand a 120 year old document that was once held and signed by an individual referred to as “America’s First Serial Killer” interests you, then you merely have to go to the Clerk of the Circuit Court Archives on the 11th floor of the Daley Center at 50 W. Washington Street. You will have to request the case file first by filling out a request form (Holmes Vs. Connor Case # 135341). You will then have to return in about one week’s time once the file is retrieved from an off-site warehouse in order to view the file and pay for copies if you like. One other note, you will have to go through security and a metal detector in order to board the elevators to the 11th Floor. Happy Hunting!