Vintage Chicago Tribune: Paul Durica’s April 1924 finds

Ballots, bullets and a birth certificate made headlines in Chicago one hundred years ago.

That’s what our friend Paul Durica, director of exhibitions for the Chicago History Museum, discovered as he continues to wade daily through pages of the Chicago Tribune from 1924.

We’re sharing a few of his finds from April of that year here, but many more can be found on his website,

Have you enjoyed his dispatches? Durica is also a knowledgeable tour guide and if you’d like to meet him, he’s giving a walking tour called “Crime of the Century: Leopold, Loeb and the Murder of Bobby Franks.”

Vintage Chicago Tribune: Murder, mayhem and ‘all that jazz’ — the real women who inspired Oscar winner ‘Chicago’

April 1, 1924: Ballots — and bullets — fly in Cicero

Capone brothers Al and Frank set their eyes on Cicero with a desire to build gambling houses and speakeasies. There was just one problem — city officials needed to be shaken up in order to abide with these plans.

Frank Capone began establishing Capone-approved candidates for various positions. On election day in 1924, the Capones beat, kidnapped and intimidated voters who were planning on casting ballots for anti-Capone candidates. Things got so bad in Cicero that Chicago police were summoned to restore order to the community.

One of the first things police saw as they pulled into town was a dapper Frank Capone walking down the main street. As their cars headed toward him, Frank pulled his gun for fear it was rival gangsters. The officers, fearing any Capone with a gun, pumped Frank’s body with a still-undisclosed number of bullets.

The death of Frank meant a lot to Al’s career. It showed that a gangster can’t be too careful when in public. Al was the top man in the Capone family and next in line to succeed Johnny Torrio, ruler of Chicago’s underworld. As a result, Capone began traveling with a fleet of bodyguards whenever he was out.

Cicero remained Capone’s capital until 1931 — when he was sent to prison on tax evasion charges.

April 3, 1924: ‘I’ve shot a man, Albert’

Beulah Annan — a young, liquored-up woman (remember this was during Prohibition) — shot her equally inebriated lover to death in the Chicago apartment she shared with her husband.

She sat with the body for hours as her phonograph wailed the jazzy tune “Hula Lou” repeatedly. Ironically, the first phone call Annan made was to her husband: “I’ve shot a man, Albert. He tried to make love to me.”

Vintage Chicago Tribune: ‘Prettiest woman ever accused of murder in Chicago’

Another young woman named Maurine Dallas Watkins reported Annan’s expedited travails through Cook County’s legal system — from inquest to trial — for the Tribune.

Annan’s exploits became the framework for Watkins’ three-act play “Chicago,” which was staged for the first time in 1926. Roxie Hart, the protagonist, was surrounded by a cast whose words, actions and emotions were pulled directly from the headlines — including many of Watkins’ own.

April 8, 1924: Len Small — perhaps the dirtiest Illinois governor of them all — wins primary election

Small, a Kankakee farmer, former state senator and two-time former state treasurer, was elected governor in 1920. Just seven months after taking office, he was indicted on charges of embezzling millions of dollars while treasurer but was acquitted. Over the next few years, eight of the jurors who acquitted Small ended up with state jobs. Other people associated with the case also landed on public payrolls, including the presiding judge’s brothers.

Before the primary election on April 8, 1924, one reader with initials R.H.L. wrote in the Tribune’s “A Line O’ Type Or Two”: “If Len Small wins the race there’s no end to our disgrace.”

Still, Small was renominated and reelected, despite a Tribune editorial declaring him the “worst governor the state ever had.”

In 1928, voters finally said they had had enough. Small lost in the GOP primary to longtime Illinois Secretary of State Louis Emmerson in what was seen as a mandate for reform.

April 14, 1924: Who’s more ‘American’ than Johnny Weissmuller?

Illinois congressman Henry Rathbone — whose father Maj. Henry Rathbone was a guest in President Abraham Lincoln’s box at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., the night Lincoln was assassinated — didn’t question Chicago swimmer Johnny Weissmuller’s athletic prowess. But he did question the natator’s nationality — was he American? It was a valid question considering Weissmuller — who had broken multiple world records since he began competing with the Illinois Athletic Club in 1921 — was set to compete in his first Olympics that summer. Rathbone knew Weissmuller’s parents moved to the United States from Austria-Hungary (now part of Romania) and had not become naturalized citizens.

When asked where he was born, Weissmuller said Chicago and added that he had no intention of ever being anything but an American citizen. Weissmuller produced a birth certificate that corroborated these statements. And why hadn’t his father become a U.S. citizen? Weissmuller said his father tried, but was rejected by naturalization authorities for his inability to speak English.

The swimmer went on to win three gold medals and a bronze in water polo in the 1924 Paris Olympics then two more gold medals in 1928, before starring in “Tarzan” films.

Weissmuller’s Romanian birthplace was not revealed until after his death in 1984 at age 79, according to the United States Olympic & Paralympic Museum. That’s when Weissmuller’s son first learned of his father’s well-kept secret. Apparently Weissmuller used his brother’s birth certificate in order to compete with the American team overseas.

April 24, 1924: ‘Brainiest woman’ turns gun on her lover’s wife

Chicago’s youngest and first female assistant U.S. district attorney was a brilliant Polish immigrant named Wanda Stopa. She had been one of only two women to graduate from John Marshall Law School in 1921. But just three years after graduation, Stopa left her career, married a Russian count then fell in love with a rich, married advertising executive, Y. Kenley Smith, who paid for her to live in New York.

When Smith refused to leave his wife Genevieve, nicknamed Doodles, Stopa showed up at their Palos Park home on April 24, 1924, intending to kill Smith’s wife. She took a shot, but it hit the couple’s elderly caretaker, Henry Manning, killing him. Stopa went on the run, killing herself by swallowing poison in a Detroit hotel room.

Approximately 10,000 Chicagoans turned out for her wake and funeral.

Want more vintage Chicago?

Thanks for reading!

Join our Chicagoland history Facebook group and follow us on Instagram for more from Chicago’s past.

Have an idea for Vintage Chicago Tribune? Share it with Ron Grossman and Marianne Mather at and