Murdered Over Comics?

I’m really not sure what to make of this article I found in the December 21, 1903 issue of the Chicago Daily Tribune. There was a bit of a moral panic about comic supplements in the end of that decade, but I haven’t found much this early to explain what was going on here.

Is this just an example of the bloody tastes of the yellow press? This story is certainly gruesome, but what other anxieties or concerns about urban life did it touch upon? Murders happen every day in a big city. It’s the ones that touch on broader concerns that grab media attention.

Trigger Warning: this article contains some pretty graphic discussion of domestic violence and murder. Despite the date, this is not an April Fools’ Day post. 


Fred Pflugradt Also Attempts to Shoot Baby 8 Days Old.


Neighbor Beats at Door While Husband Commits Crimes.

A quarrel over the possession of the comic supplement of a Sunday newspaper led yesterday morning to the murder of Mrs. Elizabeth Pflugradt by her husband, Frederick Pflugradt, who afterward committed suicide by shooting. The husband also attempted to slay their only child, a boy 8 days old, whom he had torn from the mother’s arms.

The tragedy occurred in the rooms of the couple above their hardware store at 7039 Halsted street, and while the husband was committing his double crime a neighbor was beating frantically upon the locked door of the bedroom In which the wife was lying, while a sister of Mrs. Pflugradt was running in search of a policeman.

Both Want Comic Section.

The paper was delivered at 8:30 o’clock and Miss Kate Cloudy, the sister who was attending the woman, took it to Mrs. Pflugradt. who was clasping the child In her arms. Mrs. Pflugradt kept only the comic section and asked that the rest be taken to her husband. The man entered the room a few minutes later. Holding the baby toward her husband, Mrs. Pflugradt said:

“Fred, you have not kissed our baby this morning.”

Ignoring her words, the man replied gruffly:

“Give me the ‘funny part’ of that paper.”

Miss Cloudy begged that the mother be allowed to keep it. The mother made the same request, and the baby, frightened by angry words, joined the quarrel by crying. The Infant angered Pflugradt, who ordered his sister-in-law to leave the room.

Begins to Beat His Wife.

Locking the door when Miss Cloudy had gone, the young husband snatched away the paper and then threw it on the floor.

“I’ll teach you to oppose me,” he was heard to say. Then came a cry of pain and the sound of a descending strap wielded by the husband. The mother, her babe torn from her arms, was dragged from the bed and beaten. Her cries of pain alarmed Mrs. Mary Blake, who lived next door.

While Mrs. Blake stood in the sitting room, helpless, Miss Cloudy ran to Sixty-ninth street to find a policeman. What happened before her return is told by Mrs. Blake, as follows:

“For five minutes I pounded on the door. Then I ran to the window to get aid from passersby, but none appeared. I returned to my post near the bedroom, and suddenly heard Mrs. Pflugradt cry:

“‘O, Fred, what are you doing? Think of our child! Would you kill Its mother?'”

Neighbor Hears Pistol Shots.

The answer was a pistol snot, A cry followed and then all was still, except for the crying of the baby. Then came another shot, and a third. The husband fell to the floor.

“At that moment a policeman came. He burst open the door. Kate fell fainting. Beside the bed lay the body of her sister. Close by was that of the husband. Mrs. Pflugradt had been shot through the heart and the man had placed the pistol In his mouth. •

“The baby had been thrown to the foot of the bed, and an inch above its head was a bullet hole in the wall.”

Pflugradt was 28 years old and his wife was two years younger. They were married two years ago and bought the hardware store a year ago. Mrs. Pflugradt acted as clerk In the store daily during the absence of her husband, who was a machinist and generally was working outside. They parted a year ago, but soon effected a reconciliation.

Hat tip to Erin Bush for telling me about the Homicide in Chicago, 1870-1930 database. The curious can find the events described above confirmed at that source, though few additional details are given.
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