Michael Schaack / © From the Kevin Wester collection
Guest writer Kevin Wester continues his series on Luxembourgish links with the Windy City, Chicago! In this article, we explore noteworthy Americans with Luxembourgish heritage.
Michael J. Schaack – Chicago Police Department Caption & Inspector
Michael Schaack, one of the most noteworthy officers in the history of Chicago’s Police Department, was born in Septfontaines, Luxembourg, on April 23, 1843. At the age of 13, he emigrated to Chicago with his parents and siblings. Like most teenage boys of his day, Michael needed to find a job to supplement his family’s income. He first worked at a furniture factory earning $3.00 a week. After a while, he moved to the Luxembourg community of Port Washington, Wisconsin, where he worked as a farmhand. At the age of 18, Michael moved to Cairo, Illinois, to work in a brewery, and finally, he was employed as a ship’s helmsman on the Great Lakes.
On June 15, 1869, at the age of 26, Michael became a member of the Chicago Police Department. He began his service in the crime-ridden “Old Armory” district of the city. He served there for six years. Michael then was transferred to the northside of Chicago where he worked among many of his fellow Luxembourgers. Soon thereafter, he was transferred to the Secret Police force and he was made a Sargent in 1872. He showed great success as a Secret Police officer being credited with more than 860 arrests including notorious murderers, robbers and burglars.
Over the years, Michael gained a reputation as a tough, relentless, intuitive and no-nonsense police officer, investigator and interrogator. He was a force to be reckoned with on the streets of Chicago and his name and persona were known throughout the city. He was loved by many and hated by others depending on one’s lifestyle and political ideology. He and his wife were frequently threatened as trials were underway and their home was set on fire twice by arsonists as acts of intimidation. Yet Michael never stopped crusading for justice and the law.
Michael was promoted to Lieutenant in 1879 and Captain in 1885. In 1892, the office of Inspector of the Northside was created and Michael was named to this position. This gave him complete control over the entire police force north of the Chicago River. It also gave him jurisdiction to spy on fellow officers and investigate corruption within the northside police force.
Haymarket Riot - Illustration from Michael Schaack's Book Anarchy & Anarchists / © From the Kevin Wester collection
During his illustrious career, Michael was well-known for his role in solving some of Chicago’s most heinous and challenging crimes including the Mulkowski murder, Cronin murder, Luetgert murder, Colliander murder, Hroneck dynamite case and the Krug poisoning. Yet, the event that brought him the most notoriety was his role in finding and arresting the “anarchists” responsible for Chicago’s famous Haymarket Riot and bombing on May 4, 1886.
On the previous day, May 3, one person was killed and several more injured as Chicago police intervened to protect strikebreakers and to intimidate strikers during a pro-union rally at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company. This pro-union rally was part of a national campaign for an 8-hour workday. In response to what they viewed as police brutality, members of the labor movement, often referred to as “anarchists,” called a mass meeting for the following day in Chicago’s Haymarket Square.
The gathering was pronounced peaceful by Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison, who attended the rally as an observer. After the Mayor and most of the demonstrators departed, a contingent of police arrived and demanded the crowd disperse. At that point, a bomb was thrown by an individual who was never positively identified and police responded with gunfire. Seven police officers were killed and 60 other officers were wounded before the violence ended that day. Civilian casualties were eight dead and almost 40 injured.
The Haymarket Riot created widespread hysteria directed against radical immigrants and labor leaders. Many such individuals were rounded up and arrested in Chicago and throughout the United States following the Haymarket Riot. The riot also set off a panicked investigation by the Chicago Police Department to capture those who were responsible for the bombing and the deaths of the seven officers.
In the days following the bombing, Michael was publicly outspoken that the police department’s Central Detective Bureau and those at police headquarters were incompetent and not doing enough to find those responsible for the bombing. He took it upon himself to find the perpetrators. Michael soon had 160 alleged anarchists under surveillance and his officers were sent to spy on numerous social halls and saloons known to be the gathering places of Anarchists.
In large part, due to Michael’s investigation, eight men were soon arrested. In August 1886, the so-called “Chicago Eight” were convicted of murder on the ground that they had conspired with, or even aided, an unknown assailant. Some of the eight “anarchists,” however, were not even present at the May 4 event and their alleged involvement was never proven. Some considered the sensationalized trial to have a biased jury and no solid evidence. Others who despised Michael Schaack claimed that he had planted evidence to get the conviction.
Chicago Police Department Officers Killed in the Haymarket Riot. / © From the Kevin Wester collection
Nevertheless, four of the defendants were hanged on November 11, 1887. One of the others committed suicide on the eve of his execution and the other two had their death sentences commuted to life in prison but were pardoned in 1893. Public opinion remained divided. For some people, these events led to a heightened anti-labor sentiment. While pro-labor forces saw the eight men as martyrs for the cause.
In 1889, Michael released a book he wrote entitled Anarchy and Anarchists. A History of the Red Terror, and the Social Revolution in American and Europe. Communism, Socialism, and Nihilism in Doctrine and Deed. The Chicago Haymarket Conspiracy, and the Detection and Trial of the Conspirators. The book presented his reflections on the event of the Haymarket Riot and the threat that the labor movement and the “anarchists” posed to society. The book clearly revealed how Michael was continually at odds with people of differing political and social ideologies. In his book Anarchy and Anarchists, he writes:
Among the [Anarchist] saloon-keepers there was one who seemed to have a special liking for me. This man, who had a place on Lake Street, when taking his first drink in the morning would invariably drink to my health saying: “I hope that that d---- Luxemburger, Schaack, will be killed before I go to bed tonight;” and when he was about to close his doggery for the day, he would take two drinks and say: “I hope I will find Schaack hanging on a lamp-post in the morning when I get up.”
Michael continued to serve as a Chicago Police Captain and Inspector until shortly before his death on May 18, 1898, at his home in Chicago. He struggled with diabetes and rheumatism. Masonic services and a huge police funeral procession were held for Michael. He was buried in Rosehill Cemetery on Chicago’s northside. It is said that his funeral was the largest attended funeral to that point of Chicago’s history. To this day, Michael Schaack remains one of the biggest legends in the history of the Chicago Police Department.
Rabbi Emil Hirsch – Reform Judaic Rabbi
Emil Hirsch was born in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg in 1851. He was the son of Prussian-born Rabbi Samuel Hirsch who had been appointed Chief Rabbi of Luxembourg in 1843 by King William II of the Netherlands, the Grand Duke of Luxembourg. Samuel Hirsch was a pioneer of Reform Judaism and served in Luxembourg until 1866, when the Hirsch family emigrated to America. They settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where Samuel became the rabbi at the Reform congregation Keneseth Israel.
Emil G. Hirsch - Rabbi / © From the Kevin Wester collection
In Philadelphia, Emil attended the Episcopal Academy and the University of Pennsylvania, where he played intercollegiate American football. Following in his father’s footsteps, Emil went back to Europe in 1872 to begin his rabbinic studies. He attended the Higher Institute for Rabbinic Studies and also the universities of Berlin and Leipzig. Five years later, he returned to the United States and began his illustrious career as the leading reform rabbi in the United States. He served congregations in Baltimore, Maryland and Louisville, Kentucky, before being named rabbi of Chicago’s well-known Sinai Congregation in 1880. Emil remained rabbi at Sinai Congregation until his death in 1923.
His tenure there coincided with the incredible growth of Chicago as a city and the rapid growth of Chicago’s Jewish population. Sinai Congregation grew in leaps and bounds with Emil’s progressive ideas and his dynamic preaching. The congregation was home to some of Chicago’s wealthiest Jews including Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears, Roebuck.
Emil quickly gained a reputation as one of Chicago’s leading preachers. He emphasized social justice and the need for both “deed and creed” in living out a spiritual life. His message was well received by Jew and non-Jew alike. He promoted progressive ideas of feminism and moved all Sabbath services at Sinai Congregation to Sunday as a way of integrating into mainstream American society.
A prolific writer and challenging educator, Emil was a professor of rabbinical literature at the University of Chicago. He edited numerous journals of Reform Judaism, served as president of the Chicago Public Library board and founded a vocational high school for Jewish immigrant youth.
Emil died in Chicago on January 7, 1923, at the age of 71. Chicago newspapers hailed him as one of the most influential religious leaders Chicago had ever known. Over 10,000 Jews and non-Jews attended his funeral. He was buried in the Jewish area of Chicago’s famed Rosehill Cemetery. Following his death, the city of Chicago named a high school in the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood of the city in his honor, Emil G. Hirsch Metropolitan High School. Emil’s teaching and writings continue to influence Reform Judaism in the United States to this day.
Chris Evert – American World Number 1 Tennis Player
Chris Evert-Lloyd holds 04 June 1983 up the trophy after winning against Mima Jausovec of Yugoslavia in straight-sets 6-1, 6-2 in a one-sided final at Roland-Garros in Paris. / © DOMINIQUE FAGET / AFP
Chris Evert was born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 1954. She is a descendant of the Luxembourgish families Evert and Didier who emigrated from Luxembourg to Chicago. Both families were greenhouse operators “on the Ridge” on Chicago’s northside where many Luxembourg immigrants had settled. Her father, Jimmy Evert, was born in 1923 in Chicago. Interestingly, he learned to play tennis in the parking lot of his parish, St. Henry’s Church, which was a mother-church for Luxembourgers in Chicago. Jimmy quickly became a skilled and determined tennis player.
Jimmy served the United States in World War II and then attend the University of Notre Dame on a tennis scholarship where he became an All-American player. In 1947, he won the men’s singles title at the Canadian Championship and was ranked as high as No. 11 in the USA standings. In 1948, he moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he became tennis director and coach at Fort Lauderdale’s Holiday Park. Jimmy served as tennis director there for nearly 50 years and the complex was renamed as the Jimmy Evert Tennis Complex in 1997. He died in Fort Lauderdale in 2015 at the age of 91.
Jimmy mentored and coached his five children in tennis at Holiday Park. All of them excelled in tennis, but daughter Chris went on to bring fame to the Evert family. Though she was only 5 foot-6 inches tall, Chris’ two-handed backhand and her remarkable speed quickly led her to become “America’s tennis sweetheart” and a name and face recognized for tennis around the world.
Chris’ list of tennis accomplishments is mind-boggling. She became the first tennis player, male or female, to win 1,000 single matches and compile the second most career match wins (1,309), just behind Martina Navratilova, who had 1,442 wins. She won 18 major championships which tied her for fifth-best in women’s history. Chris won at least one major singles titles a record 13 years in a row. She was the first female player to reach $1 million in career prize money in 1976 and was awarded a total of over $8 million in prize money throughout her career. The Associated Press named her Female Athlete of the Year in 1974, 1975, 1977 and 1980.
Throughout it all, Chris retained a sense of humility and concern for others. In her retirement, Chris organized a charitable fund called Chris Evert Charities. Her non-profit organization partners with The Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida to fund programs for the needy which are not fully-funded by the state of Florida. Her organization sponsors of number of annual fundraising events including the Chris Evert Pro-Celebrity Tennis Classic. To learn more visit chrisevert.org.
Kevin Wester resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA and is the former Executive Director of the Luxembourg American Cultural Society. He now operations Luxembourg Adventures tour company and assists individuals in reclaiming Luxembourg nationality. He is an avid genealogist and researcher of Luxembourg and Luxembourg American topics. You can contact Kevin by email.