Thursday, September 22, 2011

Dr. Henry Meyer & Mrs. Mary Meyer, American Serial Killer Team - 1893

Mary Meyer’s share in the murders described below seems to be five victims.

Mary Meyer (maiden name Dresser; alias Mrs. Mary Reuter, alias Mrs. Mary Wayler, alias Mrs. Amelia Baum) victims (in collusion with husband): 1) Mr. Dresser, father; 2) unnamed woman in Newtown, Mass.; 3) Mary Neiss; 4) unnamed girl from Indianapolis, In.; 5) Ludwig Brandt.; 6) Detroit man; 7) Cincinnati man; 8-10) Three persons in Chicago (not including Mr. Dresser).


FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 4): If Dr. Henry Meyer, who was recently arrested at Detroit. Mich., and is now in prison at New York, is guilty of half the crimes laid at his door he is unquestionably one of the deepest dyed villains of the nineteenth century.

The story of his life, as given by the police and newspaper reporters, is, despite its horrors, attractive. It shows how a naturally intelligent and bright mind can be ruined by the love of money and how crime seeks its recruits among all classes of both sexes.

The crime for which Meyer was taken in custody is the alleged murder of one Ludwig Brandt in 1892. But to give an idea, of the criminal’s methods it is necessary to deal with his career prior to his arrival in New York.

Meyer to-day is a man about forty-five years of age. He is about 5 feet 7 ½ inches in height, thin and sickly looking. His face is almost unnaturally sallow; his eyes are pale blue in color; his hair is of reddish hue and he has a thin growth of reddish beard. Prior to his advent at Chicago, in 1876, nothing is known of the man. When he arrived at Chicago he was considered a handsome young fellow. He had a diploma from a German medical college, and found no difficulty in engaging board with a family named Kirchoff.

With commendable enterprise, he attended a course of post-graduate lectures in Rush medical college to gain a knowledge of American methods of treating diseases and wounds. In 1877 he married Miss Kirchoff, the pretty daughter of his landlady. In 1878 he was called to attend, the sick child of Henry Gildermann. In the course of his visits he learned that the grocery keeper was worth about $25,000 and that he carried a heavy life insurance besides. A few months of arduous love-making won Mrs. Gildermann’s heart, and in October, 1878, Mr. Gildermann and Meyer’s girl wife died.

After Mrs. Gildermann had come into possession of $10,000, her share of the estate, and after Meyer had collected the insurance on his wife’s life, the pair were married. The strange case furnished considerable food for neighborhood gossip; and at the instigation of the dead Gildermann’s brother-in-law, Dr. Meyer and wife No. 2 were arrested on February 25, 1879 on the charge of having poisoned the two persons who were so much in their way. Although some pressure was brought to bear to convict the couple, the case was never brought to trial.

Meyer and his second wife lived together for two years, during which time a child was born to them, a girl now about thirteen years of age. In 1881 the child of his first wife was found dead in a bathroom, with unmistakable evidences of poisoning. Meyer was again arrested, but released a few days later. Then the poisoner, who seems to have grown tired of her love, turned his attention to his second wife. She fell ill suddenly, but refused to take the medicines offered by her husband and insisted on the employment of other physicians. This frightened Meyer, who suddenly disappeared. Upon his return he desired to make peace with his wife. His overtures were rejected, however, and the woman secured a divorce from him on the ground of intimacy with a Miss Mary Dresser, the daughter of a retired Chicago merchant.

The Dresser girl soon was completely under the influence of the doctor, who persuaded her father to insure his life in her favor for $10,000. Soon after the policy had been issued, the man fell ill. This aroused the suspicion of the life insurance company and saved the old gentleman’s life. Meyer and Miss Dresser left Chicago, but were arrested at Denver, Col., a year later. Mr. Dresser was persuaded by his daughter, who in the interim had become Mrs. Meyer No. 3, not to prosecute and the doctor was released.

The Dresser woman seems to have been an apt pupil, for in ail the future operations of her husband she played an important part. In January, 1882, the couple, arrived at New, York, accompanied by Ludwig Brandt, alias Gustav M. H. J. Baum, and a Swede named Wimmer. The party engaged the first floor flat at 330 West Thirteenth street. Brandt, who went by the name of Baum, was a nice-looking young fellow, amiable and suave. He made the acquaintance of almost everybody in the flat building and took particular pains to introduce “Mrs. Baum” to all acquaintances. Mrs. Baum in reality was Mrs. Dr. Meyer, who in turn had become “Dr. Henry Reuter,” Baum thought that he was playing a winning hand in the game about to be played. He insured his life in favor of his “wife” in various companies. When the plot began to thicken Dr. Meyer persuaded Baum to take a drug which was to produce a death-like trance. His body was to be exhumed at the proper moment, and after the collection of the life insurance the party was to leave the United States and have a good time with the money secured from the companies. Baum was willing to take the drug and, it is needless to say, entered an endless trance. A reputable physician who had treated the man before his demise issued a certificate of death due to dysentery. The next day, March 31, 1892. the funeral took place, and “Mrs. Baum” immediately demanded the payment of the insurance policy. The officers of the company, however, had a suspicion of crooked work and insisted upon an investigation. When the conspirators heard this they left the city in great haste. An analysis of the dead man’s body was ordered, and nine months later Dr. Doremus reported that the intestines contained sufficient antimony to have caused death. Antimony is a mineral poison which, when administered in small quantities, causes an illness like chronic dysentery.

When the report of Prof. Doremus had been received Detective Sergeants Trainor and Van Gerichten took charge of the case. They obtained a complete history of Dr. Meyer, his wife and Wimmer, their accomplice. The latter was arrested and made a partial confession that Baum had been poisoned in New York. A few weeks later Meyer and his wife were located at Detroit, where they lived in squalor and want. Meyer was taken to New York at once, but his wife was allowed to remain until she had given birth to a son. The grand jury has already found a true bill against the couple and their squealing confederate, and there seems no doubt but that conviction will follow the indictment.

The time between Brandt’s murder and their arrest the couple spent, at least in part, at Toledo, O., where they were known as Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Wayler. Meyer ran a bucket shop [securities fraud operation]. While there Mrs. Meyer gave birth to a child and engaged a pretty girl, named Mary Neiss, to attend it. Meyer soon persuaded this young woman to impersonate Mrs. Meyer and secure a $5.000 life insurance policy. Then the trio removed to South Bend, Ind., where Miss Neiss fell ill. One day Meyer was recognized by a man from Chicago, and it is probably owing to this accident that the girl is still alive. Escaping to Toledo from Indiana Meyer soon discovered another girl victim who was persuaded to impersonate Mary Neiss. She died six months later, but the insurance company refused to pay the policy and ordered an investigation. As usual, this frightened the Meyers, who went to Detroit, where they were arrested by the New York detectives.

Summing up the terrible record of Dr. Meyer it is learned that he is accused of having murdered by poison the following persons: His first wife, Henry Gildermann, his child by his first wife; an alleged wife at Toledo, O., and Ludwig Brandt, alias Baum; and that he attempted to poison: His second wife, Mary Neiss and old man Dresser, the father of his third wife and accomplice.

In view of these circumstances, which seem to be well established, it is no exaggeration to pronounce Dr. and Mrs. Meyer two of the most dangerous criminals of the age, whose death in the electric chair must prove a relief to mankind.

[William Walter Wells, “The Borgias Outdone. - Startling Criminal Record of Dr. Henry Meyer. - Charged With the Deliberate Murder of Five Persons and Many Attempts at Poisoning Others - His Pretty Third Wife and Accomplice.” The Daily Journal (Logansport, In.), Nov. 8, 1893, p. 7]


FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 4): THERE WILL soon be placed on trial in the criminal courts of New York city a woman who has already earned the title of tho American Lucretia Borgia. Mrs. Henry Meyer, wife of the infamous Dr. Meyer, stands in the uncomfortable position of having to answer to eight indictments for murder by poison. In all of these cases her husband will answer as co-defendant.

Those who have studied the part in them attributed to Mrs. Meyer have no hesitancy in believing her worse than the man with whom she stands charged with murder, not only because of what she is supposed to have done, but because she is a woman.

Still, to look at her, she is a rather frail woman, gentle in appearance, not without a certain refinement that money necessarily brings, she would suggest anything but such a creature.

True, her mouth is firm, her lips are thin, and, when compressed, show her to have great determination, but otherwise she does not look different from other women of her class.

To her poor little baby, born in a hospital, whose few days on earth were scant there and behind prison bars, death was kind, but how much good he might have done for his mother if he had been spared a year longer! Nestling in her arms, her pale, pinched little face would have appealed to the twelve men who will have to decide some day whether this mother shall die or not, and a baby can soften tho hearts of jury and make them temper their verdict with mercy as nothing else can.

Mercy! Mrs. Meyer will need this if, as said before, the charges against her are true, for it is terrible to think of what justice would be done in the case.

A remarkable feature already developed in Mrs Meyer’s case is her refusal to say whether or not she is married to Dr. Meyer. This may be accountable for in two ways. The law does not require a woman to testify against her husband, but he is not her husband, she may be allowed to turn state’s evidence, and not only avoid any risk of losing her own life, but save herself any further trouble about it

If, as events develop, she concludes not to do this, and she should acknowledge Dr. Meyer as her lawful husband, she might have to confront the charge of bigamy as well as murder, for, after living with him as his wife and being generally known as such, she became the wife of one of Dr. Meyer’s alleged victims, Ludwig Brandt. When he obligingly died, his widow resumed her former relations with Dr. Meyer.

These were begun in Chicago about the year 1888. Mrs. Meyer was then a Miss Marie Dressen, the daughter of a well-to-do German tradesman, who is estimated to be worth about $50,000. Marie Dressen has been well brought up, and was not a woman above the average in intelligence, just the kind to yield readily to the stronger will and influence of such a man as Dr. Meyer.

He is by no means attractive in appearance has cold, white eyes, like those of Jesse Pomeroy, who was convicted years ago for torturing children, are not the kind calculated to arouse any deep feeling of affection in a woman, but front the time they were first riveted on Marie Dressen her life was changed, and she was soon afterward known as Mrs Meyer.

One day her father began to fall in health, and continuing to grow worse, a friend suggested to him that possibly his life might be insured. Upon investigation it was found that this was so; that a policy had been taken out in the Germania Life Insurance company in favor of his daughter, Mrs. Meyer.

Dr. Meyer was arrested on a charge of forgery in using Mr. Dressen’s name, but was acquitted on a technicality. Mrs. Meyer had pleaded with her father for the man supposed to be her husband. Mr. Dressen relented and spent about $1,000 in trying to acquit Dr. Meyer.

After this Dr. and Mrs. Meyer are supposed to have begun their traffic in servant girls These girls were always selected from among the poor, ignorant Germans, and as soon as they entered the employ of Dr. and Mrs. Meyer were treated by them with the utmost tenderness. As is the case with many foreign families in the case of many foreign families in the same social position as the Meyers, these servants ate at the same table with their employers, who made a great deal of them.

The Meyers would represent themselves to one of these girls as being very well off, and would say they intended returning to Germany in a short time, when they would take her with them. This naturally pleased the girl and endeared the doctor and his supposed wife to her.

The next move the former was supposed to make was to tell the girl before going back to the Fatherland he wanted to get Mrs. Meyer’s life insured. As the latter was represented to be in a delicate condition, and as such would not be accepted by an insurance company as a desirable risk, it is alleged the girl was asked to personate Mrs. Meyer when the application was made for a policy.

She was told it was all right to do so and the girl would persuade herself it was, and that she should be glad to help Mrs. Meyer, of whom she was very fond.

This was the beginning; the courts will have to fill out the rest of the tale.

In the case of Ludwig Brandt, her husband, who died, Mrs Meyer showed the greatest affection and devotion to, and when at the end of his illness another physician was called in to attend him, and he told her Mr. Brandt could not live, she was completely overcome with grief. This grief did not prevent her, however, applying with undue haste for his life insurance, and within two hours after doing so, leaving New York in company with Dr. Meyer, not even waiting to return for the money.

Ever since then detectives have been unearthing evidence against the pair and watching them. The story of their arrest in Detroit is too recent to need to be retold, the history of Mrs. Meyer’s sojourn at Harper Hospital, in that city, however, has never been fully related. When, after the birth of her child, her lawyer visited her there, she told a tale of woe, of how she was ill-treated, drugged and misused; how they tried to extort a confession from her and how she was denied all privacy, a detective being constantly in her room.

Instead of being asked to confess, all the while Mrs. Meyer was an inmate of Harper hospital, she kept constantly saying, “Oh, if I could only speak. If I could only tell all!”

The detectives naturally asked why she did not do so and relieve her mind. Then, too, she would bemoan the fact that she could not commit suicide as her husband advised her to do, for it was found that, although both the doctor and his wife were prisoner, they still kept up communication with each other.

The chief of police of Detroit was appealed to to watch Mrs. Meyer care fully, as there was no doubt if given the opportunity to take her life she would do so. It was deemed advisable to guard against this and two Pinkerton detectives watched her by day and by night.

Instead of objecting to the presence of these men. Mrs. Meyer seemed to enjoy their society, permitted them to assist in helping her about and lifting her in bed, and one, a German, read her a book, sent to her by Dr. Meyer.

Whenever she desired them to do so these men always left the room, two trained female nurses taking their places.

So, it will be seen, her sense of womanly modesty was never outraged. During her entire stay at Harper hospital she showed herself most indifferent to her children. Little Arthur was ill at the time and was removed to another place, and so well cared for that he was returned to his mother in good condition.

She made few, it any inquiries about him, and instead of suggesting a fond mother she appeared almost heartless, thinking only of herself and her own safety.

[“She Poisoned Many And Won The Title of An American Borgia. – The Wicked Life of Mrs. Henry Meyer. – Surrounded By Luxury She Quit Her Home to Revel in the Terrible Crimes For Which She Has Been Indicted.” The Guthrie Daily Ledger (Ok.), Nov. 8, 1893, p. 4]


EXCERPT (Article 3 of 4): While Meyer and his wife are wanted in Chicago on suspicion of having committed four insurance murders there, and in Detroit and Cincinnati on suspicion of having killed one man in each each city from a similar motive, it is believed by the New York authorities that the evidence in neither of these cases is so clearly established as in the case of Brandt or Baum, whose death at No. 320 East Thirteenth street early in 1892, the New York Life Insurance Company’s officials allege, was due to the murderous ministrations of Meyer and his consort. [“Claims – For the Modern Borgias. – New York Officials Believe Their Case – Against Dr. Meyer and His Wife Is Stronger – Than Those Existing in Cincinnati and Elsewhere. – Extradition Papers Upon the Governor of Michigan To Be Issued By Governor Flower.” The Cincinnati Enquirer (Oh.), Jul. 15, 1893, p. 1]


FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 4): Mrs. Meyer, wife of the poisoner, Dr. Henry C. F. Meyer, who is serving a life sentence in Sing Sing, N. Y., for causing the death of Ludwig Brandt, was discharged from custody, on the 16th, by Judge Ingraham in the New York Court of oyer and terminer.

[Untitled, Marion County Herald (Palmyra, Mo.), Jan. 14, 1895, p. 2]



1) Dr. Henry C. W. Meyer – alias Dr. Henry Reuter; alias Hugh Wayler.
2) Mary Dresser Meyer (Meyer wife No. 3), Mrs. Mary Wayler (Toledo, Oh.), Mrs. Mary Reuter (Cincinnati), alias Mrs. Amelia Baum (New York).
3) Carl Muller, alias Jacob Wimmers – accomplice.



1877 – Meyer marries Miss Kirchoff, Chicago (wife No. 1).
Oct. 1878 – Henry Gilderman & wife die.
Feb. 25, 1879 – Dr. Meyers & Wife No. 2 arrested for Gildermamn murders; not prosecuted.
1881 – Meyer’s child by first wife died (poisoned)
1881 – Attempted murder of Meyer wife No. 2.
1887 – Mr. Klotz, druggist, dies. [N. Y. Evening World, Jul. 20, 1893, p. 1]
Ca. 1888 – Mr. Dresser, merchant, dies.
Ca. 1888 – Mary Dresser becomes Mrs. Meyer No. 3.
1889 – Dr. M. arrested in Denver, brought back to Chicago. [NYEW, Jul. 14, 1893, p. 3]
Year? – Arrest of Meyer and Mary Dresser (d of Mr. D., Wife No. 3), Denver, Co.
Mar. 1890 – In Chicago jail, Dr. Meyer and Carl Muller (future accomplice) meet.
Jun. 1890 – Muller released from Chicago jail.
1891 – Newtown, Mass, “jewelled woman” dies. [reported Jul. 15, 1893]
Feb. 11, 1891 – Mary Meyer marries Gustav H. M. Joseph Baum, Chicago.
Jan. 1892 – Meyers arrive in New York City.
Mar. 6, 1892  – Dr. Minden called in to see the sick Brandt (“Baum”), Mrs. M. present.
Mar. 30, 1892 – Brandt (“Baum”) dies.
Mar. 31, 1892 – “Baum” funeral (“fake corpse”), Evergreens Cemetery.
May 30, 1892 –Ludwig (“Louis”) Brandt dies.
1892 – Mary Neiss – servant, accomplice, South Bend, In., att. murder; poison; survived.
1892 – Indianapolis, In., girl, murdered (for Neiss insurance Policy).
Apr. 5, 1893 – Meyers suddenly depart Toledo, Oh., abandoning possessions.
Jul. 12, 1893 – Meyers discovered in Detroit by N. Y. detectives; Mr. M. transported to New York.
Jul. 20, 1893 – New York City; Dr. Meyer charged with murder; pleadds not guilty.
Aug. 5, 1893 – Mary Meyer arrives in New York City.
Dec. 9, 1893 – trial of Dr. Meyer begins, New Yotk City.
Dec. 21, 1893 – Mistrial declared (based on a joror, Mr. Low, having had an epileptic fit).
Apr. 25, 1894 – 2nd trial of Dr. Meyer begins. (was tried twice for the Brandt murder).
May 18, 1894 – Dr. Meyer convicted; second degree murder; sentenced to life.
Jan. 16, 1895 – Mary Meyer released.
A list of suspected murders includes: 4 murders in Chicago; man murdered in Detroit; man murdered in Cincinnati.
[One source: “Henry T. Meyer”]










For more cases of this category, see: Female Serial Killers of 19th Century America (as of January 20, 2014, the collection contains 61 cases)


Links to more Serial Killer Couples


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