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When Chicago sausage king Adolph Luetgert’s (1845-1899) wife disappeared in May 1897, rumors spread that he’d turned her into sausage and sold the links to unsuspecting consumers. And while police later claimed to have disproved the rumors—finding two rings and an alleged finger bone in a vat of toxic potash—the legend persisted. Luetgert, serving a life in prison sentence for the alleged homicide, repeatedly proclaimed his innocence. Mysterious sightings of a very much alive Mrs. Luetgert, and an expert witness’s testimony that the bone in evidence was from a hog, bolstered Luetgert’s claims. Read more about it!
The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.
The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.
|May 17, 1897||Adolph Luetgert arrested for his wife’s murder.|
|July 20, 1897||A friend of Mrs Luetgert claims to see her six days after the supposed murder.|
|August 7, 1897||The prosecution conducts experiments to see if a human body could be dissolved in boiling potash.|
|October 1, 1897||Expert witness for the defense claims bone presented by prosecution is hog femur.|
|October 22,1897||After an eight week trial and seventy hours of deliberation, the jury is deadlocked and dismissed.|
|January 21,1898||Adolph Luetgert testifies in second trial.|
|February 9,1898||Adolph Luetgert convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.|
|July 27, 1899||Adolph Luetgert dies in cell from heart disease.|
|July 28, 1899||Chicago lawyer Frank Pratt claims Luetgert confessed to him in February 1898.||July 30, 1899||Adolph Luetgert’s children and lawyer proclaim his innocence at his funeral.|
|1913||Residents of the building where the Luetgerts lived claim multiple sightings of the couple’s ghosts.|