Bates the Bigamist

Although the Luetgert case practically filled the pages of Chicago newspapers in the fall of 1897, they did leave enough space to cover some other sensational cases of the day, including the bigamy case of David E. Bates.

Bates was arrested on bigamy charges on August 4, 1897.

He lived under the name David E. Bates at 849 W. 61st Street, where he was the husband of Julia McCarthy. But he was also residing under the name David E. Gates a short distance away at 6402 Bishop Street, where he was the husband of Nettie Swain.

The Chicago Daily Tribune reported:

By interchanging a G and a B, David E. Bates, or Gates, had been able to maintain two families in Chicago, if the charges on which the dashing young fellow is locked up at the Stock-Yards Police Station are true...

Bates, according to newspaper clippings found in his clothing, has had matrimonial ventures in other neighboring States. It is said he has confessed to four marriages.

Fair-haired, attired in a blue serge suit, and wearing a jaunty yachting cap, Bates sat sullen and dejected at the station last night, and answered the questions fired at him in surly monosyllables.

Bates is employed as a clerk in the receiving department at the Union Stock-Yards, and is considered a leader among the young society people in Englewood. He was arrested at an early hour…

"My suspicion was first aroused by his borrowing tendencies," said A.P. Lawrence yesterday. "I knew he was not spending much money on my sister-in-law and I determined to find out more about him. For some time I have been suspicious that Bates was leading a dual life. He appeared to be aware I was on this trail and dodged me through the alleys.

"I finally traced him to the other house, and then learned of a former marriage…"

When Bates was arrested a large bundle of letters was found in his possession, nearly half of which were from women in various parts of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois. Some were couched in loving terms, while in others the alleged bigamist was reproached for inconstancy…

According to the article, Bates would have breakfast at one home, dinner at the other. He had groceries delivered to one home, and he brought groceries to the other home himself. He kept two accounts of expenses, one for Bates and one for Gates.

Bates cashed in on his notoriety by hiring himself out as a sideshow act, prompting Luetgert to suggest he might do the same. On August 23, 1897, the Daily News published the following advertisement for the Clark Street Dime Museum:

Englewood’s Masher Marvel….
Gates, Yates, Skates:
All after Bates.
Cruel, Cruel Fates!
Got Mixed Up in His Dates
With His Charming Loving Mates.
A Prison Cell Now Waits
For POOR David Bates.

As Bates went on trial January 3, 1898, the Tribune reported:

Alleged bigamist David Ellsworth Bates, with a brilliant red necktie and carefully creased trousers as evidence of the material prosperity which he owed to his dime museum engagement as a star matrimonial freak, tilted back in his chair in Judge Horton’s court yesterday, and gazed, with an assumption of amusement, through gold rimmed eyeglasses at the array of wives who have helped to bring him notoriety. In a row sat Mrs. Ida Calderwood Bates, Mrs. Nettle Swaim Gates, and Mrs. Julia McCarthy Bates, chatting in whispers like old friends.

Bates tried to bow to the women when they came in together, and was decidedly snubbed. After the noon adjournment he met Mrs. Nettie Swaim Gates at the elevator and bowed and smiled at her, but got only a sneer for his pains.

Bates was found guilty, sentenced to a term of imprisonment and a $1,000 fine. Before Bates had recovered from his surprise, he was again arraigned on another charge of bigamy.

On January 7, the Daily News reported:

Bigamist Bates thinks of writing a book. In the jail to-day he expressed the belief a volume containing his experience would prove of value to him in a financial way, besides setting forth his case in a more favorable light to the public.

One chapter of the talked-of work he has discussed with some freedom. It was entitled "How to Win a Woman’s Love."

"That question," said Bates, "I can answer in two words — observation and sympathy. You must observe a woman clearly, study her little likes and dislikes, then sympathize with her troubles... Women are susceptible — very susceptible to sympathy."

"Did you ever try poetry and moonlight nights?" an irrelevant person asked.

"No; I never went much on poetry."


"No, I am not a musician."

"Flowers, dances, boat rides, ice cream soda—"

"Oh, those attentions are all right. But you can never win a woman’s love with them. Nor you can’t win her by good clothes, though you must always appear neat. Women don’t care for dudes — that is, the right kind of women. She wants sympathy; she wants a man to be manly — to be at her side and help her through the troubles of life."

On January 14, Hannah Maria Bates visited her son in prison, asking him about his health. The following morning the Daily News interviewed her:

"I haven’t been in Chicago since the World’s Fair," she said this morning. "I didn’t intend to come now, but Davy wrote for me. He said he was ill, had suffered from the headache and that I must not desert my boy now. So I hurried on to Chicago. I’ve a bottle of camphor in my valise which I brought for him. I think it will cure his headache, don’t you?" she queried with all kindness in her voice.

"I don’t censure Davy openly," she continued. "I think his conscience will do that, don’t you? Some of the people up in Michigan tell me that he has become an awful man, but I can’t believe all the horrible views they take of the matter.

"Davy always ran about a great deal. When he was 18 years old he married Kittie Rivers. It wasn’t his fault because she was so much older than he and just ‘hooked’ him. He was divorced from her all right, though. Then he married another girl, who lived near our farm, which lies between the towns of Three Rivers and Constantine. He came to Chicago when he was 24 years old, bringing his second wife with him. I think the wicked ways of this big city have been too great for him to resist.

"Davy has paid a great deal for falling into evil ways, though. I understand he made a great deal of money at the museums here, but I don’t know where it went if he did. Lawyers must have secured it, for he never sent me any. I had no change and I was very glad to get lodging at the police station. They were awfully kind to me there, but, oh, I saw some women who were drunk, and — well, I learned more in that one night than I ever knew before."

In February, Bates wrote an article for the New York Journal (which was reprinted in the Chicago Sunday Tribune), offering his tips for wooing women:

You ask: "How was it possible for you to win the love of so many different women in so short a time?"

Simply through my knowledge of women and human nature.

"Were they all good, true and beautiful women? Did they love you and you them?" Earth contains no better, truer, or fairer flowers, and I sincerely believe that each loved me with all the intensity of passionate love that good women cast about their hearts’ idols.

At an early age I was made to believe that the dark-haired girls were sweeter, truer and better tempered than the fair-haired ones, but I have been forced to believe the contrary.

While the brunette may not exhibit such high temper, yet her deep, quiet nature furnishes fuel to prolong the fire of her angry passion. While the blonde may fly at you like an enraged tigress, yet the tempest is soon over and all is sunshine again.

Wear a mustache if possible. I have found that women greatly admire mustaches, no matter what color they are. Of course, this is merely an adjunct, but it will help you to win your battle.

Go about your suit with the cool deliberation of a philosopher. Do not be too gay. When a girl is in love with you it is time enough for gayety.

When you are talking to her look her squarely in the eyes; not rudely or boldly, but calmly and honestly. Women do not like men who cannot meet their gaze.

Much also depends upon your feet. Wear patent leather if possible.

I have also found, as a general thing, that girls do not like red shirts or pink neckties. They look too effeminate.

For brunettes I would suggest dark and quiet clothes. Brunettes are generally quick observers and loud clothes seem to annoy them. If you are courting a blonde you may wear big checks if you like. They do not seem to care much about the clothes you may wear so long as they are in good taste. At least that has been my experience.

Blondes are also fond of blue and white neckties.

Don’t startle a lady with the vehemence of your love. The days of melodrama have gone by. I have found that love is a tender plant and must be tenderly nurtured.

Do not be a dude. No woman likes an effeminate man so long as there are other kinds to choose from.

Do not use slang unless the lady uses it. I lost a brilliant match once by a pernicious habit of saying "You bet." Then I quit slang altogether.

Let me tell you: No matter what your feelings may be, do not let your heart run away with your judgment. Take things easy.

There are very few girls you cannot kiss before becoming engaged to. Most of them will love you if they kiss you. Therefore, if possible, get up a wager of — say, a box of candy against a kiss.

Lose the first two or three bets until the lady thinks she had a cinch. Then work in a sure thing. Call as usual in the evening. When the opportunity arrives insist upon payment. Do not tremble or lose nerve. The girl will blush and try to change the subject. If she blushes she will pay up with proper coaxing.

If she says, "I prefer to give you back your candy," all is off and there is nothing doing.

There should never be a trace of liquor on your breath. Neither should a young man indulge in cloves, sassafras, or cardamon seed. Girls look upon them as mere subterfuge.

When the time comes for you to kiss a young woman do not grab them like cakes off a hot griddle. Go about it slowly. Do not dishevel her hair or muss her collar, or rake it like medicine. Kissing is a very important function, and an ignorance of its principles often leads to a mutual disgust.

I lost the love of a most estimable young woman once through pure carelessness. We were engaged and were sitting one evening in the darkened parlor of her home. I asked her for a kiss, and, without replying, she put her arms around my neck and started to kiss me.

By a piece of criminal neglect I had a clove in my mouth. She retired to her room ... No effort of mine could ever win her back again.

When the time comes to ask the momentous question be sure that you are dressed in your best frock suit, and be equally sure that she is in a receptive humor. Do not wear a dress suit. It is not a graceful thing either in case of acceptance or rejection.

I have never knelt in proposing. In nine cases out of ten it will make you appear cheap and affected.

There are a hundred different ways of telling whether or not a girl loves you. I have noticed that when they are in love they are full of softness and curves. When they are indifferent they are angular and polite. A girl will find a thousand different ways of showing that she loves you.

In conclusion, I would say don’t forget the little attentions due a fiancée. Don’t walk along the street three or four feet in advance of your betrothed.

After marriage do not forget that it is your duty in time of sickness and trouble to share the burdens and sorrows, as well as the joys of life.

© 2003 by Robert Loerzel.

Picture: Chicago Chronicle, Jan. 6, 1898.