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Mr. Dooley's Thoughts on "Lootgert"
Mr. Dooley — or Martin J. Dooley, if you prefer — was the creation of Chicago Evening Post writer Finley Peter Dunne. The Irishman offered his wry commentary about the events of the day in a thick brogue. Mr. Dooley's commentary on the Luetgert case was included in the first book of Dunne's Mr. Dooley columns, Mr. Dooley in Peace and War. The book was originally published in 1898, and is available in a 2001 edition from the University of Illinois Press. To readers unfamiliar with the Luetgert case, Dooley's description of the trial may seem absolutely absurd — but much of the column refers to specific elements of the real trial.
The Mr. Dooley column on the Luetgert case is
below, with annotations explaining the column's allusions to the trial.
On Expert Testimony
"ANNYTHING new?" said Mr. Hennessy, who had been
waiting patiently for Mr. Dooley to put down his newspaper.
|"I've been r-readin' th' testimony iv th' Lootgert case," said Mr. Dooley.||Lootgert — In Mr. Dooley's accent, this is how he says the German name Luetgert.|
"What d'ye think iv it?"
"I think so," said Mr. Dooley.
"How do I know?" said Mr. Dooley. "How do I know what I think? I'm no combination iv chemist, doctor, osteologist, polisman, an' sausage-maker, that I can give ye an opinion right off th' bat. A man needs to be all iv thim things to detarmine annything about a murdher trile in these days. This shows how intelligent our methods is, as Hogan says. A large German man is charged with puttin' his wife away into a breakfas'-dish, an' he says he didn't do it. Th' on'y question, thin, is, Did or did not Alphonse Lootgert stick Mrs. L. into a vat, an' rayjooce her to a quick lunch? Am I right?"
|breakfas'-dsh — Luetgert was never charged with turning his wife into sausage, although it is common myth, which probably has its origins in joking comments such as these.|
"Ye ar-re:' said Mr. Hennessy.
"That's simple enough. What th' coort ought to've done was to call him up,
an' say: 'Lootgert, where's ye'er good woman?' If Lootgert cudden't tell, he
ought to be hanged on gin'ral principles; f'r a man must keep his wife around
th' house, an' whin she isn't there, it shows he's a poor provider. But, if
Lootgert says, 'I don't know where me wife is,' the coort shud say: 'Go out, an'
find her. If ye can't projooce her in a week, I'll fix ye.' An' let that be th'
end iv it.
|"But what do they do? They get Lootgert into coort an' stand him up befure a gang iv young rayporthers an' th' likes iv thim to make pitchers iv him. Thin they summon a jury composed iv poor tired, sleepy expressman an' tailors an' clerks. Thin they call in a profissor from a colledge. 'Profissor,' says th' lawyer f'r the State, 'I put it to ye if a wooden vat three hundherd an' sixty feet long, twenty-eight feet deep, an' sivinty-five feet wide, an' if three hundherd pounds iv caustic soda boiled, an' if the leg iv a guinea pig, an' ye said yestherdah about bicarbonate iv soda, an' if it washes up an' washes over, an' th' slimy, slippery stuff, an' if a false tooth or a lock iv hair or a jawbone or a goluf ball across th' cellar eleven feet nine inches — that is, two inches this way an' five gallons that?' 'I agree with ye intirely,' says th' profissor. 'I made laboratory experiments in an' ir'n basin, with bichloride iv gool, which I will call soup-stock, an' coal tar, which I will call ir'n filings. I mixed th' two over a hot fire, an' left in a cool place to harden. I thin packed it in ice, which I will call glue, an' rock-salt, which I will call fried eggs, an' obtained a dark, queer solution that is a cure f'r freckles, which I will call antimony or doughnuts or annything I blamed please.'||pitchers — The Chicago newspapers
featured numerous sketches of Luetgert and other people involved in the trial.
To read more about a sketch artist, see the biography of
jury — The jury in the first Luetgert trial was actually composed of two clerks, a butcher, a manager, a building contractor, a salesman, a soap maker, a railroad watchman, a collector, a sewing-machine maker, an unemployed printer and an unemployed locomotive engineer.
profissor — Mr. Dooley could be referring to any number of the scientific experts who testified at the Luetgert trial. The best-known expert witness was anthropologist George Dorsey.
wooden vat — Luetgert was accused of dissolving the body in a wooden vat in the basement of his sausage factory.This passage is, in part, a specific reference to defense attorney William Vincent's cross-examination of chemistry professor Mark Delafontaine on September 10, 1897. Read an excerpt.
caustic soda — Luetgert was accused of using a solution of crude potash to dissolve the corpse.
guinea pig — The testimony about the bone fragments in the Luetgert case revolved around the question of whether they were human or animal. At times, animal bones were brought into the courtroom and experts were called upon to identify them as a test of their bone-identifying skills.
experiments — Experts for both the defense and prosecution conducted experiments in which they tried to duplicate the conditions under which Luetgert had supposedly dissolved his wife's body.
" 'But: says th' lawyer f'r th' State, 'measurin' th' vat with gas,
— an' I lave it to ye whether this is not th' on'y fair test,
— an' supposin' that two feet acrost is akel to tin feet sideways,
an' supposin' that a thick green an' hard substance, an' I daresay it wud;
an' supposin' you may, takin' into account th' measuremints,
— twelve be eight, — th' vat bein'
wound with twine six inches fr'm th' handle an' a rub iv th' green, thin
ar-re not human teeth often found in counthry sausage?' 'In th' winter,'
says th' profissor. 'But th' sisymoid bone is sometimes seen in th'
fut, sometimes worn as a watch-charm. I took two sisymoid bones, which I
will call poker dice, an' shook thim together in a cylinder, which I will
call Fido, poored in a can iv milk, which I will call gum arabic, took two
pounds iv rough-on-rats, which I rayfuse to call; but th' raysult is th'
same.' Question be th' coort: 'Different?' Answer: 'Yis' ' Th' coort: 'Th'
same.' Be Misther McEwen: 'Whose bones?' Answer: 'Yis.' Be Misther
Vincent: 'Will ye go to th' divvle?' Answer: 'It dissolves th' hair.'
sisymoid — The prosecution's expert witnesses identified some of the bone fragments as the small sesamoid bones that occur in the hands and feet. Much of the debate focused on the questions of how many sesamoid bones are in the hands, whether that number can vary, and whether sesamoid bones would be likely to survive the dissolving process. View pictures of the bones.
McEwen — Cook County Assistant State's
Attorney Willard McEwen.
|"Now what I want to know is where th' jury gets off. What has that collection iv pure-minded pathrites to larn fr'm this here polite discussion, where no wan is so crool as to ask what anny wan else means? Thank th' Lord, whin th' case is all over, the jury'll pitch th' testimony out iv th' window, an' consider three questions: 'Did Lootgert look as though he'd kill his wife? Did his wife look as though she ought to be kilt? Isn't it time we wint to supper?' An, howiver they answer, they'll be right, an' it'll make little diff'rence wan way or th' other. Th' German vote is too large an' ignorant, annyhow."||pitch th' testimony — In fact, this is not too far off from what eventually happened with the jury. While the jurors did consider all of the testimony, some of them said afterward that they had put little weight on the contradictory scientific testimony.|