FULL TEXT: 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. lie 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, 1871 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 bees 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, bat 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 Train or 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]
For more cases of this category, see: Female Serial Killers of 19th Century America (as of January 20, 2014, the collection contains 61 cases)***