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Cassie L. Chadwick
10 October 1857
|Died||10 October 1907 (aged 50)|
|Other names||Elizabeth Cunard|
Cassie L. Chadwick
|Criminal status||Dead |
|Spouse(s)||Dr. Wallace S. Springsteen|
John R. Scott
Dr. Leroy S. Chadwick
seven counts forgery and seven counts conspiracy
|Penalty||14 years prison and $70,000 fine|
Cassie L. Chadwick (10 October 1857 – 10 October 1907) was a pseudonym used by a Canadian woman who defrauded several American banks out of millions of dollars by claiming to be an illegitimate daughter and heiress of Andrew Carnegie. Newspaper accounts of the time described her as one of the greatest con artists in American history.
Chadwick pulled off this heist during the Gilded Age in American history when women were not allowed to vote or get loans from the banks. This is why some historians believe it is one of the greatest bank heists in American history.
Chadwick was born Elizabeth Bigley on 10 October 1857 in Eastwood, Ontario Her parents, Dan and Annie, owned a small farm in Eastwood. She had three sisters: Alice, Mary, and Emily, and a brother, Bill. Her father worked for the Grand Trunk Railway as a section boss and was often away from the homestead.
"Betsy", as she was known to her family, was known to daydream and tell fibs as a child.
At the age of 14, Chadwick went to Woodstock, Ontario. There she opened a bank account with a dubious letter of inheritance from an "unknown" uncle in England and a small amount of cash. While there, Chadwick passed several worthless cheques to various merchants. In 1870, she was arrested in Woodstock for forgery. She was released due to her age and on the grounds of insanity.
Following a three-year absence, Chadwick returned to Eastwood in 1875 to discover that her sister Alice had married Bill York, a carpenter from Cleveland, Ohio and had moved there with him. Chadwick followed her sister to the United States.
Start in the United States
After a brief stay with her sister and brother-in-law, Chadwick rented the lower floor of a house at 149 Garden Street, Cleveland from a Mrs. Brown. Claiming to be widowed, Chadwick assumed the name Madame Lydia DeVere and set up shop as a clairvoyant with funds from a bank loan on her sister and brother-in-law's furniture.
In 1882, as Lydia DeVere, Chadwick married Dr. Wallace S. Springsteen in Cleveland. The couple exchanged vows before a justice of the peace on 21 November. She took the name Mrs. Lydia Springsteen and moved into the doctor's house at 3 Garden Street. A photograph and story of the wedding appeared in The Plain Dealer newspaper.
The article led Chadwick's sister, Alice York, and various tradespeople to the home of Springsteen to demand payment for debts his wife had accumulated. After Springsteen confirmed the stories about Chadwick's past, he threw her out of the house. Springsteen filed for divorce (which was granted early in 1883) and settled her debts.
After the dissolution of her first marriage, Chadwick re-established herself as a clairvoyant. As Madame Marie LaRose, she married John R. Scott, a farmer from Trumbull County, Ohio. She convinced Scott to sign a prenuptial agreement, citing abuse from her first husband. After four years of farm life, Chadwick went to a lawyer in Youngstown and left a sworn statement confessing adultery. She directed her lawyer to file for divorce from Scott.
First U.S. fraud trial
Chadwick's third husband
Upon returning to Cleveland in 1893, Chadwick assumed the name Mrs. Cassie Hoover and opened a brothel on the city's west side. At the brothel, she met her next husband, a wealthy widower doctor named Leroy Chadwick. Knowing of the doctor's recent loss, Chadwick played the part of a genteel widow who ran a respectable boarding house for women. When Leroy Chadwick responded that the establishment was a well-known brothel, "Mrs. Hoover" fainted. Once revived, she claimed that she would never run such an establishment. She begged the doctor to immediately take her from the building, lest anyone think she was complicit in its operation.
As Cassie Chadwick
In 1897 Cassie and Leroy were married. During her time as the wife of the highly respected Dr. Chadwick, it is unclear whether he knew that she had given birth to a son, Emil Hoover. Also, it is unclear whether Dr. Chadwick knew that Emil was in the care of one of the women at the brothel.
When charged with forgery, Chadwick identified herself in court records as single with no children. However, in the 1900 United States census (District 97, Cleveland, Cuyahoga County Ohio), she identified herself as Cassie Chadwick, born 3 February 1862 in Pennsylvania. Her son Emil was enumerated as Emil Chadwick, born September 1886 in Canada.
Chadwick's spending habits exceeded those of her richer neighbours along Cleveland's Euclid Avenue, then known as "Millionaires' Row". Instead of being welcomed into the exclusive enclave of the Rockefellers, the Hannas, the Hays and the Mathers, Chadwick was thought of as a curious woman who tried in vain to buy the favors of some of the wealthiest families in the nation. When invited to social events, it was only out of obligation to her husband.
The Carnegie con
Following her marriage in 1897, Chadwick began her largest, most successful con game: that of establishing herself as Andrew Carnegie's daughter. During a visit to New York City, she asked one of her husband's acquaintances, a lawyer named Dillon, to take her to Carnegie's home. In reality, Chadwick visited Carnegie's housekeeper while ostensibly trying to check credentials. When Chadwick came back, she dropped a paper. Dillon took it up and noticed it was a promissory note for $2 million with Carnegie's signature. When Dillon promised to keep Chadwick's secret, she "revealed" that she was Carnegie's illegitimate child. Carnegie was supposedly so wracked with guilt that he showered huge amounts of money on her. Chadwick also claimed that there was $7 million in promissory notes tucked away in her Cleveland home, and she was to inherit $400 million upon Carnegie's death. Dillon arranged a safe deposit box for her document.
The information leaked to the financial markets in northern Ohio, and banks began to offer their services to Chadwick. For the next eight years, she used her fake background to obtain loans that eventually totaled around $2 million (over $50 million in today's currency). Chadwick relied on the assumption that no one would ask Carnegie about an illegitimate daughter for fear of embarrassing him. Since the loans also came with usurious interest rates, the bankers would not admit to granting them. Chadwick forged securities in Carnegie's name for further proof. Bankers assumed that Carnegie would vouch for any debts and that they would be fully repaid once Carnegie died.
Chadwick carried out a lavish lifestyle as a result of her con. She bought diamond necklaces, enough clothes to fill 30 closets, and a gold organ. She became known as "the Queen of Ohio." She claimed to give money to the poor and to the suffrage movement.
In November 1904, Chadwick received a $190,000 loan from Herbert B. Newton, a Brookline, Massachusetts banker. Newton was shocked when he learned of the other loans Chadwick had received, and called his loan in. Chadwick could not pay and the bank sued. At the time, she had accumulated debts over $1 million. It was also discovered that a number of securities being held for her in various banks were worthless. When Carnegie was later asked about her, he denied ever knowing her, and further stated he had not signed a promissory note in more than 30 years. Chadwick fled to New York, but was soon arrested at her apartment at the Hotel Breslin and taken back to Cleveland. When she was arrested, she was wearing a money belt containing over $100,000. Leroy Chadwick and his adult daughter hastily left Cleveland for a European tour when the scandal broke. He filed for divorce before leaving on the tour.
The news sent shock waves through the Cleveland banking community. Citizen's National Bank of Oberlin, which had loaned her $800,000, suffered a massive run that forced it into bankruptcy.
Second U.S. fraud trial
Andrew Carnegie attended Chadwick's trial, wishing to see the woman who had successfully conned the nation's bankers into believing that she was his heir. Other attendees included members of the Millionaires' Row families from whom she had tried so hard to gain acceptance. The trial was a media circus. On 10 March 1905 a Cleveland court sentenced her to 14 years in prison and a fine of $70,000 for conspiracy to bankrupt the Citizen's National Bank and conspiracy against the government (Citizen's Bank, as a federally chartered bank, was an agent of the federal government).
On 1 January 1906, Chadwick was sent to the Ohio State Penitentiary in Columbus. She brought with her trunks of goods for her prison cell, including clothing, photographs, and furniture. The prison warden allowed this due to her celebrity status.
As her health deteriorated, Chadwick began writing explicit instructions for her funeral. She instructed her son Emil to send a portion of her hidden funds to Canada for the purchase of a tombstone for the family plot. Chadwick suffered a "nervous collapse" on 17 September 1907, leaving her blind. The New York Times reported on 9 October 1907 that Chadwick was suffering from heart and stomach problems.
Chadwick died in the Columbus penitentiary 10 October 1907 (aged 50). The funeral service was officiated by Reverend F.W. Thompson. Her interment was 16 October 1907 in the Episcopal Cemetery (present day Woodstock Anglican Cemetery "A" section VanSittart Avenue) in her birthplace of Woodstock.
For a time, the Chadwick Mansion on Euclid Avenue and East 82nd Street became a tourist destination. In the early 1920s, it was torn down for the construction of the Euclid Avenue Temple (now Liberty Hill Baptist Church).
In popular culture
- Crosbie, John S. (1975). The Incredible Mrs. Chadwick: The Most Notorious Woman of Her Age. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson. ISBN 0-07-082194-1.
- The Globe (Toronto), 12 October 1907, page 07.
- "CASSIE CHADWICK IS FOUND GUILTY". Chicago Daily Tribune. 12 March 1905. Retrieved 21 January 2011.
- "CASSIE CHADWICK DIES IN PRISON" (PDF). The New York Times. 10 October 1907. Retrieved 21 January 2011.
- The Globe (Toronto), 17 September 1907, page 11.
- "CHADWICK PAPER OUT IS OVER $19,000,000; Includes $16,496,000 Under Andrew Carnegie's Name, RECKONED ON HIS DEATH Mr. Carnegie to Be Subpoenaed -- Reynolds Gives Up "Securities " -- Woman's Indictment Expected" (PDF). The New York Times. 11 December 1904. Retrieved 21 January 2011.
- Medium. "Cassie Chadwick's Brilliant Crime", Medium Corporation, London, 3 August 2019
- "Hoax of Heiress Ruined Bankers". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. 30 January 1955. p. 27.
- The Evening Star (Toronto), 11 October 1907, page 15.
- "Great Canadian Liars". CBC Television. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
- "IDENTIFY MRS. CHADWICK AS MME. DEVERE, FORGER; Prison Employes Face Her -- Beckwith Not Sure She's a Fraud" (PDF). The New York Times. 16 December 1904. Retrieved 21 January 2011.
- Crosbie, John S. (1975). The Incredible Mrs. Chadwick: The Most Notorious Woman of Her Age (1st ed.). Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson. p. 203. ISBN 0-07-082194-1.
- Historical Currency Conversions https://futureboy.us/fsp/dollar.fsp. Missing or empty
- "AID FOR MRS. CHADWICK, BUT ARRESTS THREATENED; Famous Man Will Pay, It Is Said, to Avoid Scandal" (PDF). The New York Times. 4 December 1904. Retrieved 21 January 2011.
- "$12,750,000 IN BOGUS CARNEGIE PAPER!". Cleveland Plain Dealer. 10 December 1904.
- "WANT CARNEGIE AS CHADWICK WITNESS; To Subpoena Him in Bank Case -- Notes for $1,250,000 Bear His Name. RECEIVER TO CALL ON HIM Denial Issued by Mr. Carnegie -- President of Wrecked Bank Talks of Mrs. Chadwick" (PDF). The New York Times. 6 December 1904. Retrieved 21 January 2011.
- "CASSIE CHADWICK ILL" (PDF). The New York Times. 17 September 1907. Retrieved 21 January 2011.
- "CASSIE CHADWICK WORSE" (PDF). The New York Times. 10 October 1907. Retrieved 21 January 2011.
- The Globe (Toronto), 15 October 1907, page 03.
- "Picture of Chadwick's tombstone Woodstock Anglican Cemetery "A" section VanSittart Ave". Ancestry.com. Retrieved 29 November 2009.
- "TRACING CHADWICK SATCHEL.; Receiver on Trail of More Missing Possessions of the Woman" (PDF). The New York Times. 22 December 1904. Retrieved 21 January 2011.
- "Cassie Chadwick Life Story Being Turned Into Feature Film". Prweb.com. 13 August 2019.
- Library and Archives Canada. "AMICUS No. 13483158". Retrieved 21 January 2011.