Police Court Stories

The Milwaukee Daily News in the early teens seemed to always have reporters that would cover the quirky cases of the Police Court. The reporters would delve into it and always come up some stories that were odd.

Friday, April 10, 1914

Mrs. Josephine Harczak is the proprietress of a boarding house on Middlemass avenue and up to Wednesday night Stanislaws Wajevic was the star boarder.

Stanislaws won the heart of Mrs. Harczak, who is a widow and a good cook, by praising her hash and her dead husband, and the fact that he sported a clean collar twice a week and paid his board bill promptly led the good housewife to believe that Stanislaws was a Russian nobleman in disguise.

Stanislaws ogled with Mrs. Harczak at the breakfast table, flirted with her at dinner, and he chucked her under the chin and winked at her after the supper dishes had been cleared away.

It was a romantic courtship and it lasted two weeks. It ended Monday night with a proposal of marriage.

“Will you be mine, fair one?” breathed Stanislaws into his landlady’s ear while they were seated on the sofa, “There is nothing on earth I wouldn’t do for you!”

“Oh, Stanny, this is so sudden! But it took you so long to say it.” she gushed coyly. “I am yours for keeps.”

They would be married in May, promised Stanislaws.

Tuesday night the man jumped up from the table while reading a newspaper and pointed out to his promised one an item which stated that a house a block away had been entered by thieves.

“This is bad,” he told the landlady. “They will come here next. I’ve got a gun and am prepared for ’em. Better let me take care of your valuables, Josie, and they’ll be safer.”

“Good idea.” agreed Mrs. Harczak. She turned over to her fiance $135 in cash and a number of rings.

At 11:30 o’clock Wednesday night there was a great commotion in the Harczak boarding house. Doors slammed, there was a sound of footsteps in the dark hallways and suddenly two revolver shots rang out and woke up the sleepers.

White-faced and apprehensive, the boarders peered out of their rooms.

Mrs. Harczak casually noticed that he bravely entered the hall.

She saw Stanislaws hopping in the hall in blue pajamas and a black rage. He was brandishing a gun and cussing.

“They got it, the villyins!” he howled. “Two sneak thieves got in my rooms and stole your money and jewelry. They skipped out. I shot one of the fellows in the ear but he dove through a window.”

Mrs. Harczak casually noticed that all of the doors and windows were fastened on the inside. It was queer, thought she, that the “burglars” could get in through the keyhole. Then a horrible suspicion dawned on her.

Under the pretense of making the beds, Mrs. Harczak entered the would-be husband’s room Thursday afternoon, instigating a search and found the money and rings reposing at the bottom of her boarder’s trunk. She had the man arrested.

In court Stanislaws asked for a continuance for a week. It was granted.

This one seems particularly appropriate today and may be something we should go back to?

March 13, 1914

Gustave Wiese, found guilty of carrying a concealed weapon on March 6, has been judged insane by Dr. A. F. Young, who was appointed to examine him. He has a mania for collecting revolvers. The man will be removed to the Milwaukee County Hospital for the Insane.

The Milwaukee Earthquake of 1947

In all of recorded history, the Milwaukee area has been at the epicenter of an earthquake only once. This was on May 6, 1947 and luckily was only a short 4.0 magnitude quake, lasting only about 40 seconds. Although no major damage to infrastructure or buildings were reported, several downtown buildings were evacuated by frightened workers.

The sudden jolt threw the pens off of the two seismographs at the Marquette University physics department. The Rev. Joseph Carroll was at the time the head of the Physics Department at the university and it had the only seismographs in the area.

The Milwaukee Sentinel from May 7, 1947 reported:

Mayor Bohn called to see if the City Hall should be evacuated in case of another quake. Inspector Hubert Dax of the Police Department had the same question about the Safety Building.

Both were reassured by Father Carroll, who pointed out that Milwaukee “might not have another quake for 100 years.” He explained:

“The tilt of the rock of the lake shore, which probably caused the quake, will almost certainly not occur in the near future and may never occur again.”

A later quote gave a more interesting history of Wisconsin earthquakes showing how rare this event could be.

Yesterday’s quake is the only one on record in Wisconsin, Father Carroll added, and the only one even rumored in the state before the days of the seismograph was a light one in the 1750s.

School Sign History

Here is a sad story of how the original school zone sign came to be. This article is from a January 1921 issue of Safety Engineering magazine.

Safety Engineering, January 1921

“School, Drive Slow”

How did this effective and widely prevalent traffic sign near schoolhouses originate? Who was the inventor? What led to the invention?

In October, 1914, a little boy in Milwaukee, coming out of school, saw his father waiting for him, in an automobile across the street. His father calling, “Come quick,” he ran across the street as fast as he could. Neither the father nor his little son noticed a heavy truck that was coming along at full speed. Its heavy wheels killed the boy instantly. The father’s grief was beyond description. He was a physician, a specialist for children. The boy was his only child. The unfortunate truck driver tried his best to stop but he was driving at a speed that made stopping impossible. The driver was heart-broken over the accident.

The circumstances of the distressing fatality came to the attention of Miss Emma M. Selle, a friend of little children. The thought came into her mind that signs should be placed near schoolhouses calling attention of drivers to the nearness of the school and commanding them to drive slow and look out for the children. If a sign of that kind had been placed near the school where the little boy was killed, the driver of the truck could have stopped his machine and the child’s life would have been saved.

Miss Selle wrote the pathetic story to a city official, who turned the letter over to the Safety First Committee of Milwaukee, recently organized. There was an 8-mile speed limit ordinance in force in the city and a sign giving that information had been placed near one school in the city. When Miss Selle’s letter came before the City Council, suggesting that the signs, “school, Drive Slow,” be placed in several places near each schoolhouse, money was appropriated for that purpose and the signs were erected.

On December 12, 1916, Miss Selle wrote to President Wilson, asking him to suggest to the governors of the different States, then meeting in New York, that similar signs be placed near all schoolhouses throughout the United States. On December 14, Mr. Tumulty, private secretary to the President, sent an acknowledgement of her letter and said that her suggestion would be brought to the attention of the President. On December 18 Miss Selle received a letter from the office of the Commissioners of the District of Columbia, signed by Mr. D. J. Donovan, secretary, saying that the Commissioners of the District had received her letter to President Wilson, which the President had referred to the Commissioners, and that due consideration would be given to the placing of signs in streets near schoolhouses in order to protect the children.

On December 15, 1916, Miss Selle wrote to Governor Phillips of Wisconsin telling of the accident that had happened. Through the influence of Governor Phillips, the signs, “School, Drive Slow,” were placed near every schoolhouse in the State of Wisconsin—public, parochial and even small country schools.

“school, Drive Slow,” conveys three distinct thoughts:

“School” suggests the near presence of children.

“Drive” arrests the attention of drivers.

“Slow’ is a command which makes every driver involuntarily grip his wheel to slacken his pace.

In some cases, warning signs, made up according to the ideas of city officials, had been placed near schoolhouses. But most of them were complicated, containing many words, and were either not read or not heeded.

Hence, the first real safety sign to protect school children was Miss Selle’s “School, Drive Slow,” which is now being rapidly installed everywhere throughout the United States. Other signs have been developed from the original “Drive Slow” idea, such as “Keep To The Right, Drive Slow,” seen on bridges; and “Danger, Drive Slow,” seen near sharp turns in roads.

Chapman Department Store

Someone who attended one of my presentations this fall was kind enough to send me some pictures she took of the old Chapman Department Store downtown before it was torn down. These pictures are attached along with a short history of the building. A big thanks to Gwen Mickey!

On the south side of East Wisconsin Avenue between Milwaukee and Jefferson Streets there stood one of the earliest and longest standing department stores in the city. Chapman Department stores were located there since its founding in 1857 until it finally filed for bankruptcy in 1987. The store was built in 1885 after a fire destroyed the previous Chapmans Dry Goods store that stood there since 1872. The design was a modern commercial style of white brick with decorations of terra cotta in a French Renaissance style. Mr. Chapman had the best materials used to build his store including highly polished granite for columns, Ohio sandstone and Tennessee marble. Beautifully painted frescoes adorned the store with classical figures that made the customer feel as if they were in a place of elegance. This was no ordinary store and even the offerings were of the best quality so that it became known as the “Palace of Trade”.

In 1911, several adjacent buildings to the east were combined in a large-scale renovation. The Wisconsin Avenue facade was modernized in 1930 but the Milwaukee Street elevation remained as it had originally with the large bay window on the upper floors above the Greek inspired portico at the side entrance.

The store expanded into Madison and Appleton and a few other locations in Milwaukee during its last 9 years. The downtown Milwaukee store closed in 1981 and was torn down to make way for the 30 story 411 Building which was finished in 1985. A few items from the Chapman’s building remain, most notably the fireplace which is on permanent display at the Milwaukee County Historical Society.

Some of the last pictures taken inside the building were by Gwen Mickey. The fireplace stood in the center of the main floor and cost $6,000 back in 1885. It had three identical sides which were used to warm shoppers on cold days. In the back of each fireplace there was the symbol of the Phoenix, rising from the ashes. A picture above the mantel was of Timothy Appleton Chapman himself.

Italian muralist and painter, Vergilio Tojetti painted several of the murals which can be seen here. This was one of two skylights which were originally above an atrium which opened all of the way to the main floor. The murals represented Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter with classical motifs.

1948 Milwaukee River View

For today’s Gigapan view, this is something I posted previously but will post again. This view is looking southwest along the Milwaukee River from above the Dam that used to be just south of North Avenue. Much of Commerce Street can be seen in its industrial glory with coal yards and railroad tracks of the Beerline where condos now sit.

Police Court Scenes 1914

These are a few stories from the police court of cases which made the court a busy place back in 1914. The Milwaukee Daily News had a regular feature which reported on each day’s cases. Some were funny, others were sad

Milwaukee Daily News, March 13, 1914

After tracking one of the women by the marks of her bare feet in an underground passage and pursuing a man up a dark alley, Detectives Hartman and Stout succeeded in apprehending all of the inmates of an alleged disorderly house at 604 Edison Street last night.

When Julia Washington, 30 years old, colored, alleged keeper of the place heard one of the officers ascending the front steps, she sought safety by fleeing into the cellar and entering an adjoining building through an underground tunnel. After tracking the footsteps in the dust in the passage, the detective found his quarry hiding under a bed in the building next door, according to testimony.

Joseph Woligarski, 18 years old, alleged inmate, is said to have made his escape by climbing through a back window, sliding out on the long porch and dropping into the alley. He was seized by the other detective who had stationed himself in the back yard.

Julia Washington was fined $25 and costs by Judge Page, Woligarski was let off with a reprimand and Lulu Williams, alleged inmate, was fined $10 and costs.

Milwaukee Daily News, April 6, 1914

One hundred and twentythree prisoners, the largest number ever appearing in court in a day in the history of Milwaukee, were arraigned before Judge Page. Seventy persons were charged with being drunk and disorderly.

Judge Page held the blame for the immorality wave at the door of the election, holding that discussions of candidates are prone to make men thirsty, and that thirst is the one great factor in the downfall of the over-zealous voter.

About 500 people appeared in court as witnesses. The consultation room had to be used as a temporary “bullpen” to accommodate the prisoners awaiting trial and “coppers’ row” had a sky blue tint which came from sixty “cops” squeezing into a gallery that was made to hold that number.

Johann Lembeisser was tried for being drunk.

“Your honor,” he pleaded after the judge had imposed a fine of $5 and costs. “Seeing there is so many people here may I make a speech?”

“No.” said the court.

Undaunted, Leimbeisser jumping upon a chair, waved a tattered hat in the air and yelled;

“Whurrough! I got drunk, drinking of Hading and not ashamed a bit, am I. The Socialists may eat cabbage but the blamed staff went to their heads instead of their stomachs and that’s why the whole kaboodle of ’em are cabbage heads.”

At this point Deputy Fitzgerald interfered and led the gifted orator away, but not before the man had been rewarded by a deafening round of applause.

TMER&L Auditorium

A high resolution view of the auditorium of the Public Service Building as it looked when finished in June 1906 via Gigapan.

Milwaukee Night Life 1967

This article from the Milwaukee Journal of February 23, 1967 talks about several of the newer night clubs that opened in downtown. They range from music clubs to dance, and themed clubs. One that still remains is the Safehouse which opened in 1966.

The Nauti-gal was something which hopefully didn’t last too long. It seemed like something that was the epitome of the 1960’s. Dancing waitresses would be different to put it nicely. This ad from the Nauti-Gal in the March 5, 1967 Milwaukee Journal explains the idea. Are you ready?

The Gilpatrick Hotel

The Gilpatrick Hotel was relatively short lived as Milwaukee hotels go but it had an interesting history nonetheless. It was opened in 1907 on North 3rd Street where the Hyatt currently sits. The Hyatt has actually been there longer than the Gilpatrick. Here are a few interesting items from my collection on the history of the Gilpatrick.

Be sure to see the re-enactment of the attempted assassination of Theodore Roosevelt on Sunday!

As it looked in 1937:

Remember When from July 12, 1970:

From the Milwaukee Journal, July 31, 1970:

1969, A Milwaukee Space Odyssey

Way back in the late 60’s, astronaut James Lovell was a household name in his hometown of Milwaukee. He was among the crew of Apollo 8 who were the first to orbit the moon in December of 1968. Milwaukee capitalized on their hometown hero by creating a short lived space museum within the MacArthur Square parking structure. It was dubbed the James A. Lovell Space Center and was administered by the Milwaukee Public Museum.

When funding was dropped in 1969 from the City budget, the space museum couldn’t survive. Objects and displays on loan from NASA were taken away and the lights were turned off on October 26, 1969.