THE CRIME? EMBEZZLEMENT

On Friday morning, January 2, 1914 the head cashier of the Farmers Bank of Schaumburg, walked through the bank’s front door and was greeted by a letter addressed to the directors.  Written by Frank Henning, the assistant cashier, the letter told the story of how he had embezzled $40,000 from the bank so that he might speculate in the stock market.  He’d lost all of it–every single penny–and he begged to please, give him a chance, and he’d repay it.  Then he left town leaving only the letter to answer for his crime.Bank

The bank had opened in 1910 on the northeast corner of Schaumburg and Roselle Roads with a first day’s deposit of $21,000.  The bank was a source of pride for the hard working German farmers of Schaumburg Township who were pleased to have their own local institution to hold their savings.

Fast forward three years later and the 22 stockholders were holding a hurried meeting on Saturday, January 3, 1914 to discuss the details of the crime and figure a way to keep the bank solvent.  It seemed that Mr Henning, who had been with the bank since its beginning, left his home on New Year’s Day, telling his wife and 2 year-old daughter that he was going to attend a theatre party in Chicago that evening. Instead, he posted one letter to the bank and one to his wife confessing his crime.

The bank’s letter contained a $1000 bond and Mr. Henning’s $1000 certificate of stock in the bank.  It was all that was left of his tenure and he probably would have raised a red flag had he earlier tried to cash in the bond. He also left promissory notes made out to the stockholders that were due over a period of six months to five years in the future, with his guarantee that he would return the money.  In addition, he told them he was travelling to Omaha to begin working on that process.

In an immediate response, the stockholders raised the capital stock from $25,000 to $50,000 with each of them putting up close to $1500 to cover the loss.  They also hired a clerk from the First National Bank of Elgin to do an audit of the books.  Lastly, they hired the Burns Detective Agency, led by William J. Burns whose photo is shown below, to find Mr. Henning so that he might be brought to justice.  Warrants for his arrest were placed on the following Monday.  Burns Detective Agency

His wife was just as upset and puzzled as the stockholders.  The family lived on the second floor of the bank and after the embezzlement returned to a nearby town to live with their immediate relatives.

Mr. Henning, however, wasn’t on the lam for long before he made a crucial mistake.  He sent a letter to a friend asking about his wife and daughter and must have included his whereabouts in the text.  Either the friend turned it over to his wife or to the Burns Detective Agency, because it didn’t take them long to determine that Mr. Henning was not in Omaha but in New York City.  By January 13 they had tracked him down in the Woolworth building [shown below] and taken him into custody.  Woolworth Building

Shortly after, he spilled the whole story.  In an article from the Cook County Herald dated January 16, 1914, it states, “He talked freely with the detectives who took him—mainly talking about his wife.  He told them how he worked his way through a business college, worked in a country store and saved his money, and during the panic of 1907 speculated with his employer and made $1800.  He dabbled in stocks from then until he left Schaumburg and always lost.  Henning said he had an opportunity in 1910 to purchase stock in the Farmers bank of Schaumburg… He had no money, but borrowed $1000 from his father, an ironworker, and after buying an interest in the bank, became bookkeeper.  The money he had borrowed was all the savings of his father, and in the hope of paying it back he filled out signed drafts on the bank’s correspondents in Chicago.  With the money thus obtained, he resumed speculating in the Chicago stock market.  Henning said he always lost but by skillfully covering up his speculations he managed to avoid suspicion until late in last December.  Then he realized the game was up.”

In the same article he mentions how he arrived in New York with $2500 that he had on account with a Chicago broker.  Thinking he might get a law degree and make the money back more quickly, he talked to a number of law schools—including Fordham—and discovered that none of them “would graduate him in six months.”  Shortly after, the detectives tracked him down.

And this is where the story gets more interesting.  Next week we meet the gentleman who enters the scene and gives Schaumburg Township a small touch of early fame, albeit unasked for…   

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library

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One Response to “THE CRIME? EMBEZZLEMENT”

  1. Larry Rowan Says:

    Fascinating! Thanks. I can’t wait for the next installment of this mystery story. I remember when the building had to be moved because of the road widening project. Coincidentally, it was moved to the present site of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage on Roselle Road where I work. Unfortunately, no one bought the building for the exorbatent fee of $1.00. It was razed later after vandals burned it.

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