December 17, 1913 – According to a will filed for probate on this day the estate of William Deering, a sum between $12 million and $13 million, is left to his immediate family. (That's about a third of a billion dollars in today's dollars.) The bulk of the estate is comprised of stock in the International Harvester Company and in real estate in Chicago and Evanston. Deering was generous during his lifetime, giving nearly a million dollars to Northwestern University and establishing the Deering orphanage in Lake Bluff. William Deering was born in South Paris, Maine in 1826 and as a young man went to work managing his family’s dry-goods business, which, by the time of the Civil War, he had transformed into a successful wholesale house. During the war the business made a fortune selling pants and uniform jackets to the Union Army. After the war Deering left the business with a hefty stake and headed to Illinois where he became a partner with Elijah H. Gammon, who was in possession of the manufacturing rights to a horse-drawn grain harvester. They established a factory in Plano, Illinois and in 1880 Deering bought out Gammon and moved to Chicago where, after a series of trial-and-error efforts, he came up with a reliable twine binder for use with the harvester. He incorporated the business in 1883 as William Deering and Company and nearly two decades later produced the first self-propelled harvester. The company grew rapidly, challenging the undisputed leader of the agricultural implements industry, the McCormick Harvesting Machine, Co. The brutal war between the harvester companies that began the twentieth century ended in 1902 when J. P. Morgan and Co. negotiated with five companies to sell their assets to a new corporation called the International Harvester Co. [farmcollector.com] Cyrus H. McCormick, the son of McCormick’s founder, became president of the new company and Charles Deering, William’s son, was made chairman of the board. South Deering on the city's far South Side, the largest of the 78 official community areas in the city, is named for Charles. William Deering died in Coconut Grove, Florida on December 9, 1913.
December 18, 1985 – A federal grand jury hands down indictments in the Operation Greylord investigation with two former judges and ten lawyers among the 22 individuals who are named. Two former judges, James L. Oakey and John F. Reynolds, are accused of “accepting thousands of dollars in bribes to fix cases and to allow lawyers to solicit clients outside their courtrooms.” [Chicago Tribune, December 19, 1985] Seven Cook County deputy sheriffs, a Chicago police officer and a Circuit Court clerk are also named in indictments that allege more than 200 acts of bribery. In the course of the ongoing investigation, 22 people charged in Graylord have already been convicted with one person acquitted. Five more individuals still await trials. The indictment charges that some payoffs go back as far as 1969. Part of the charges pertain to a “Hustlers’ Club” established some time in 1981. In this scheme attorneys paid out $500 a month for “the exclusive right to hustle three courtrooms in police headquarters.” Considered unethical, the practice of approaching prospective clients with offers to represent them was made to work by bribing deputies to overlook the practice and by making secret arrangements with judges to sign orders turning over defendants’ bond money to the lawyers. The participating judges would then get part of the bond money and deputy sheriffs received 15 to 25 percent of the proceeds for steering clients to the lawyers. Ultimately, by the time Operation Greylord wraps up, a total of 93 people are indicted, including 17 judges, 48 lawyers, ten deputy sheriffs, eight policemen, eight court officials, and a state legislator.
December 18, 1913 – The Chicago White Sox defeat the New York Giants in Manila by a score of 7 to 4. It couldn’t have been a lot of fun as the Chicago Daily Tribune reported, “The spectators presented the unusual spectacle of watching a baseball game from under a canopy of umbrellas, for it rained during the greater part of seven innings, after which the game was called.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 18, 1913] After a reception and banquet hosted by Army and Navy officers, the players board a ship for a two-week trip to Brisbane, Australia where it is hoped the team will arrive in time to play a game on New Year’s Day. The "World Tour" by the White Sox and Giants has not been matched since as the two teams began playing against one another in Cincinnati, Ohio on October 18, 1913 and ended the tour 46 games later in Cairo, Egypt on February 2, 1914. The tour was underwritten by Sox President Charles Comiskey and Giants Manager John McGraw without a single dollar of advertising funding the venture. At the end of the global circuit the White Sox had won 24 games and lost 20 with two ties.
December 18, 1935 – Three side-wheel lake steamers, former “floating palaces,” that originally cost more than $700,000 are sold at a federal auction. Highest bidder is the Woodmere Scrap and Metal Company of Detroit. It will remove the engines from the liners and convert the remaining hulls into barges, effectively ending the careers of the “City” ships of the Goodrich Transit Company – the City of Holland, the City of Benton Harbor and the City of St. Joseph. Although the plan is to save the City of Saugatauk she, too, will end up as a barge carrying pulpwood and petroleum products. With the sale an era ends on Lake Michigan. The Chicago Daily Tribune reports, “Michigan’s fast fruit industry was responsible for the former prosperity of the passenger line. Old residents recall seeing the ‘city’ boats jammed with passengers and with fruit piled high on the decks, steaming out from the lake ports. The big paddle wheels leaving mountains of foaming water behind the trim liners added much to the spectacle. It was a rich trade until the development of motor trucks as freight carriers after the world war. In five years the lake fruit service was a memory. Passenger trade alone would not support these luxury liners, so they were tied up in the St. Joseph ship canal.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 19, 1935] The photo above shows the City of Saugatauk early in her life when she carried the name City of Alpina.