November 19, 2008
Junior, We Hardly Knew Ye
It was a simple funeral service in the deceased’s home. Friends and family gathered; favorite hymns, such as “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say, Come Unto Me and Rest,” were played and sung. Flower arrangements filled the drawing room and music room, which held the coffin, and the casket itself was blanketed in violets topped by two crosses of white roses and two wreaths of orchids. It was a simple funeral held at 1919 Prairie Avenue in Chicago on November 29, 1905. But, there was nothing simple about the departed – Marshall Field, Jr., age 37, the son of Chicago’s Merchant Prince, Marshall Field, and “Dauphin” of the Field empire, was dead.
He died of a gunshot wound, but where was he when it happened on November 22nd? Was it an accident, self-inflicted, or was there another person involved?
That question is still being asked 103 years later. The family insists that Marshall accidentally shot himself in his home while examining a newly purchased gun to be used on a contemplated Wisconsin hunting trip. The other description of the unfortunate incident involves the notorious Levee, The Everleigh Club, a sensationalistic press, a one-time chorus girl named Vera Scott and a whole lot of hush money. (Sounds like a movie plot to me.)
So, what is the truth? Do some reading and you be the judge. Is it possible he was carousing at the Everleigh Club with his friend and fellow playboy Ernest Lehmann? Absolutely. It was a very popular place of recreation for the social elite. Was Junior shot at the Club and moved to his home under orders from his Father? No question that Marshall Field Sr. had the power and money to accomplish that slight of hand, even under the watchful eyes of the press. And, what parent would blame him?
But, it is also completely feasible that Marshall Field, Jr. actually did have an accident with the pistol. Of course, he was pretty experienced with firearms...and, are pistols the norm on hunting trips?
As I said, you judge for yourself.
Less than two months later Marshall Field would follow his son to Graceland Cemetery on January 16, 1906.
The Marshall Fields by Axel Madsen
Give the Lady What She Wants! by Lloyd Wendt and Herman Kogan
Sin in the Second City by Karen Abbott
"Says She Killed Marshall Field, Jr.:" New York Times, November 23, 1913.
"DOUBT VERA SCOTT'S STORY; Clevelanders Say She Married There the Day After Alleged Shootng," New York Times, November 24, 1913.
"Good Rumors Never Die: Marshall Field, Jr., was killed by a prostitute in a bordello…wasn't he?" by Dan Rottenberg, Chicago Magazine, February, 1984.