The Trouble with Harry — From Riches to Rags

Genealogy for the Heath family's of Saffordshire and surrounding areas.

The Trouble with Harry — From Riches to Rags

Postby Donna Tunison » Sun Aug 04, 2019 10:59 am

"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." — Ecclesiastes 1.9

Harry Heath <William Henry <Charles Pettit <David <Andrew II <Andrew I

Like the Heaths, most families’ worse nightmare is when a member makes sensational headlines like these in 1910 national newspapers

Dope Fiend King Gets One Year.
The Tacoma (WA) Times front page

Long Term for an Opium Fiend.
The San Francisco (CA) Chronicle front page

Former Cadet Arrested. Naval Academy Graduate Convicted of Selling Morphine
Baltimore (MD) American

and at least one Canadian paper:
King of Dope Fiends is Sent to Jail
The Vancouver (BC) World, Page 9

How did Harry get to this point? How much did the newspapers get right about his past? Was the morphine/cocaine addiction endemic to where he was living?

Harry was born 16 Mar 1858 in Philadelphia, and at age 17 enlisted in U.S. Navy on 11 Oct 1875 at Philadelphia to serve until his 21st birthday. His name is first found in a St. Louis newspaper in October 1879 for his arrest in attacking and beating a woman without cause of provocation, but the case was withdrawn due to lack of corroboration. He was married to Lillie (1) this time, and the following February, her name appears in the newspaper for attempting to “steal” their trunk of clothes from the boarding house they were staying, as the landlord was retaining it for lack of payment of their board bill. Harry and Lillie left St. Louis and by 10 June 1880 were living with his parents in Philadelphia, his occupation was roofer, and their daughter, Elinor born a month later. Harry and his family were still living in Philadelphia the following year and his occupation is listed in the city directory as storekeeper. After 1882, Harry’s occupation listed in the city directories as bricklayer and by 1883, Harry and Lillie were back in St. Louis. Both are mentioned in a July 4th issue of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat article called “Amusements” at the Pickwick Theater Pocahontas called an old-time burlesque opera (light, farcical), where she sang ballads between acts to a fairly large audience. Harry interestingly had a role as the defendant in the second opera, “Trial by Jury” but due to the non-appearance of the lead tenor it was not performed. Lillie died five months later on 22 December and is buried at Cavalry Cemetery in St. Louis.

Harry appears to be moving back and forth between Philadelphia, St. Louis and Chicago, as the 1885 Philadelphia Directory lists his address the same as his parents, but on 11 May, Harry married Claudine Gerry in Chicago. The following year, Harry and Claudine are living in St. Louis as two want ads in the Globe-Democrat appear, “one wanting good altos, tenors, and bassos for chorus in a comic opera;” and the second “seeking second-hand orchestration of comic operas.” The following month, a story appeared again in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, titled "Amusements” at the Pickwick Theater, a performance of “Mascot” by the Boston Opera Company, with Harry as Rocco, a farmer.

In May 1888, Harry was involved in “A Queer Case. Sudden death of Mrs. Elizabeth Bell on Pine Street Today . . . .”, about a woman who overdosed on morphine. The original story given by the supposed husband, Charles Bell was not given credence by the police. Elizabeth was suffering from neuralgia/toothache was the claim, and Charles who knew nothing about the drug, had his friend who was living in the house, Harry Heath, help him administer it to Elizabeth. The following day the newspaper had a paragraph saying at the quest the “mystery” had been cleared up, that Charles had told his lawyer the truth and he and Elizabeth were not married and she had committed suicide, leaving a note. In August Claudine and Harry had their first child Edna Belle, born in Chicago, but by the end of December, the baby died. They had another child, born the following December, named Charles Pettit, but he died in mid-February 1890. It is interesting to note that the 1889 Chicago Directory lists Harry’s profession as actor. The 1890 directory lists Harry’s profession as contractor.

Harry’s Downfall
Harry’s name does not appear in the newspapers again until 1898, which became the first of many, but the only time in the Philadelphia Inquirer on March 9, titled “Says He is Not the Man,” regarding his arrest at his parents’ house by police him for larceny, claiming he is George Heath and then recanting. Harry was one of three people wanted by the State of Illinois and the governor issued requisitions for extradition. Two weeks later, Chicago and Wisconsin papers are reporting the downfall of Harry:

Is in Disgrace, A Man Who Once Held Down and $8,000 Job (2)
Neenah (WI) Times

Downfall of Harry Heath, He Superintended the Construction of the Pabst Building
Milwaukee (WI) Sentinel

His Cure Becomes His Bane
Chicago (IL) Tribune

Cocaine Caused His Fall
The Daily Inter Ocean, Chicago, IL.

Harry’s crime was detailed in a Neenah, Wisconsin paper as selling ‘bed clothing’ stolen by Anna Donahue, alias Annie McDermott, from Chicago’s Palmer House, where she was a chambermaid. The stolen property consisted of 23 sheets, 21 pillow slips, and two towels, of which they received $8 from Sallie White of 142 Custom House. Harry admitted selling the items, but denied theft. The Daily Inter Ocean incorrectly stated that Harry was arrested in an institution where he was being treated for the morphine habit. ‘A relative’, Mrs. Cary (another paper said Gray), a physician, claimed Harry had fallen from a building, dislocating his shoulder, and a physician treated him with morphine to relieve the pain. Harry was sentenced to one year in the House of Correction (Bridewell) on 02 Apr 1898.

Newspapers reported Harry worked for George A. Fuller Company (3) and had been superintendent of construction including the Manhattan building and other large structures in Chicago, as well as the Pabst building (4) in Milwaukee. They also claimed that Harry had graduated from the Naval Academy in Annapolis as a Naval Architect, but the academy has no record of his attending.

Harry’s name does not appear on the 1900 census, and is missing in the Chicago Directory; Claudine had divorced him, reverting back to her maiden name, and was living with her mother Anna Gerry. Harry’s daughter Elinor was living with her Heath grandparents in Philadelphia. Harry remarried on 10 Aug 1904 to Mary Pearson-Wharre-Cliffe in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and his name appears in the 07 May 1905 edition of The Chicago Tribune when Mary files from divorce charging cruelty and stating that he is addicted to using cocaine. Harry’s father, William Henry died the following month on 30 April in Philadelphia.

In 1907, Harry’s name next appears in newspapers along with Anna Donahue, alias Annie McDermott.
1907-04-24 The Evening Statement02.jpg
1907-04-24 The Evening Statement02.jpg (107.68 KiB) Viewed 4474 times

The following year in the Chicago Tribune 14th July issue, Harry come to public attention after being caught by police along with Thomas Donahue selling the cocaine cure for a “nickel,” which Harry claimed when questioned, “I don’t know that it is anybody’s business what I charge. There’s a lot of poor fellows who ain’t got a needle and when they come to my place, I shoot the hypo into them. I give them two shots for a nickel, and make a nice profit at that price.” The 23 Jul 1908 publication The Pharmaceutical Era, “Harry Heath, aged 30 (40), who the police say makes a living by selling cocaine in the South Side ‘levee’ district was arrested last week. Thirty bottles containing morphine and cocaine were found in his room.” (p. 124)

In 1910, Harry, whom the police called the “king of the dope fiends, again was arrested for selling cocaine and morphine from his room at 1719 South State street. Assistant State’s Attorney charging him with the cause the death of more men and women, than any one person alive.” On the 12th of April 1910, he was convicted and fined $1,000 (about $26,960 in 2019 US$) and sentenced to one year in Bridewell. (5) The 1910 Census dated 15 April has Harry address is the Chicago, Cook County Jail (The Bridewell), age: 52, marital status: widowed, occupation: architect & builder. (Until the mid-20th century, people who ended their marriage through divorce typically stated their status in the census as widowed as divorce was considered a social taboo.)

Elinor Heath (1880-1968) married her first husband May 2, 1903 and had her first child January 15, 1904. She divorced him and remarried a second time in 1912 and had a second child in 1913. Harry’s second wife, Claudine remarried in 1906 and died in 1911; his mother died on 26 February 1914 in Philadelphia and on the 19 May, he finds himself again arrested and convicted for selling drugs and sentenced to one year at Bridewell and a $1,000 (about $25,614 in 2019 US$) fine. This is the last time Harry is found mentioned in any publications. He died in Chicago on 24 Sep 1916, and his remains were sent to Philadelphia and buried in the family plot at Woodland Cemetery.

Chicago’s Cocaine/Morphine Addiction Epidemic
Attitudes about cocaine in the mid to late 19th century are reflected in an 1876 issue of the Lawrence (KS) Daily Journal advertising Barnett’s Cocaine is a perfect dressing for hair, “no matter how stiff and dry, in a single application renders the hair soft and glossy for several days, and is the best and cheapest hair dressing in the world; and an 1878 Leicester Chronicle (Leicestershire, England) advertisement claiming Dr. Tibbles’ Compound Essence of Cocaine is a perfect substitute for Alcoholic Drinks, will stimulate, invigorate, and nourish the body, but not intoxicate or weaken the brain. Cocaine was even an ingredient in the 1886 Coca-Cola original recipe created by Margery Heath-Janney’s descendant, John Stith Pemberton. But these attitudes were slowly beginning to change as reflected in an 1887 St. Louis Globe-Democrat article describing how Chicago doctor, Dr. Charles Bradley, had been a “slave to morphine” becoming a cocaine addict and it’s destruction on his health and family. William Rosser Cobbe wrote in 1896 how the drug addiction problem was created by doctors/dentists and druggist prescribing cocaine from headaches to tooth pain. Cobbe himself was a physician and drug addict.

An 1893 Decatur (IL) Herald article called “Uncle Sam Slumming. . . Investigating the Moral Plague Spots of His Largest City”, regarding a twelve month investigation by an agent for the Department of Labor, O. A. Bernard, of fifteen cities, and saying Chicago had the worse conditions of all, including European cities of the time. He said, the drug habit was a creating a path for people to end up in the slums, affecting tens of thousands in the United States. Mr. Bernard said the law was not stringent enough on the sale of morphine, cocaine, and opium that almost anyone can get all the drugs they desire; and that physicians should only use them in the most urgent cases, and refuse to prescribe them once the emergency is over.

In 1897, Chicago politicians attempted to make it unlawful to sell, barter, exchange, give away, or in possession to sell, exchange or give away drugs that contained in whole or part of arsenic, cocaine, or morphine, except upon prescription or a regularly licensed and practicing physician. A March 3, 1906 Washington Post article claimed that 70,000 Chicagoan were victims of cocaine and increasing, and the Chicago Tribune had a story about the cocaine problem and easy access to purchasing it. But it was not until Congressman Francis Burton Harrison’s (D-NY) 1914 bill, called “Harrison Narcotics Tax Act,” that cocaine and morphine/opiates became regulated and taxed the production, importing, and distribution drugs and made buying without a doctor’s prescription illegal.

1. Lillie’s parents were Edward C. and Ellen Taylor Bernoudy. Her father, well-known in St. Louis was co-partners with Lewis Ruffner as commission merchants in wholesale dealers of provisions and produce. Edward was one of the early baseball players playing for the St. Louis Cyclones and is mentioned in “This Game of Games” and the book “Baseball Pioneers, 1850-1870”. He died in 1871.

2. $8,000 in 2019 dollars would be approximately $247,000.

3. Fuller one of the early builders of skyscrapers in New York and Chicago, creating the modern concept of general contractor compared to general practice at time where the architect firms were involved in every aspect of the construction. Fuller’s was first Chicago job in 1889 was the Opera House; followed by the Tacoma Building, many structures at Chicago’s 1893 Columbia Exposition/World’s Fair, and other buildings in Chicago. Two of Fuller’s buildings still survive today, including the oldest surviving skeletal supporting skyscraper in the world and designed by the Father of the American Skyscraper, William Le Baron Jenney, Chicago’s Manhattan Building (1889-1891); and the famous Flatiron Building, originally called the Fuller Building in Manhattan.

4. The Pabst Building was a 14-story neo-gothic skyscraper designed by Chicago architect Solon Spencer Beman, built in 1891 on 108 East Wisconsin. It was demolished in 1981.

5. Bridewell/Cook County Jail was one of the most notorious prisons in America also housed Al Capone in 1917 and 1966 mass-murderer, Richard Speck. Photos of the jail:]
Donna Tunison
Posts: 42
Joined: Tue Dec 20, 2016 7:12 pm

Return to Genealogy

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests