Saturday, November 21, 2015

Otto Luyties, Part 2

Patent, Otto G. Luyties

Otto Luyties’ younger brother, Henry, disappeared from New York City in September 1912. The men were ten years apart. Henry, who was deaf, worked at the Dabs Cigarette Company, which bought out their father’s wine and liquor importing business a few years after his death.

Otto contacted the police when Henry had been missing for ten days. He also hired a private detective. The police reported that Henry left his apartment with two suitcases and a pet Chinese yellow chow dog. He gave the dog to a friend and stepped into a taxi on Riverside Drive.

An orderly at St. Vincent’s Hospital said he saw a man who looked like Henry Luyties, seemingly deranged or drunk. A representative of the Kisko Chemical Corporation told Otto that it had received an order for face cream from someone named Henry Luyties who lived in Chicago.

Then came a report that Henry actually left the dog with a friend in Port Washington. The friend was Addison Mizner, a high-society architect who went on to greater fame and fortune designing resorts and mansions along the south Florida coast in the 1920s. After visiting Mizner, Henry strolled to the Port Washington train station with a man named Dodge. Henry was thinking about going to the Maine woods for a rest, Dodge told the police.

Four months later Henry turned up at a hotel in Denver. Otto told a reporter that the family had known where he was since October but had “not wanted any further publicity given to the case.” Otto’s explanation of what happened involved Pennsylvania Station, the Chicago Yacht Club, and much more.

“The whole thing was the erratic action of a man who was suffering from a nervous prostration and desired to get away temporarily from work,” Otto said. “In his state of mind he never looked at a New York newspaper and knew nothing of the stir his disappearance had caused.”  

Until the advent of Social Security, Americans could disappear easily without a trace.  Therefore the discovery of Henry was fortunate – although who knows if he wanted to be found? Either way, Otto managed the situation well despite his probable anger.

Meanwhile, Otto’s younger sister, Hilda Marie, struggled in her marriage.

In 1906, Hilda married Bernard H. Ridder, son of the publisher of the Staats-Zeitung. This paper was the largest German language daily newspaper in the United States. The marriage produced a son but proved to be a bad match. In 1914 Hilda filed for divorce.

Just around that time, Bernard met the woman who would become his second wife. She was Nellie J. Hickey, daughter of an Irish political boss from Mount Vernon, N.Y. Chaperoned by the wife of a Columbia history professor, Nellie attended a convention in Chicago sponsored by “Friends of Peace,” an organization that opposed American entry to World War I.

It’s easy to understand why U.S. citizens of German ancestry opposed a declaration of war against Germany. But many Americans of Irish ancestry also found repugnant the idea of the United States aligned with England. In fact, one reason why Congress voted down the League of Nations was fierce opposition from brilliant legislators like William Bourke Cockran who did not want England in the position of adjudicating international conflicts.

Back to Otto: in 1915, he charged Bernard H. Ridder and his father, Herman, with assault. They “struck and held him and inflicted bodily injuries upon him,” the action stated. Otto wanted $10,000 in damages. “In the first place, there was no assault,” Herman Ridder told a reporter. “In the second, I was not even present at a quarrel my son had with Luyties.”

Otto may have been attacking Ridder's pro-German views or defending Hilda's honor. One has to wonder, though, who assaulted whom.

Hilda was beautiful and vain and wore fake fingernails. Each morning she spent hours in front of a three-way mirror putting her long hair in pin curls. She raised chocolate poodles and entered them in shows.

Otto himself disappeared from the scene when he moved to Sharon Springs, a New York spa town that had seen better times. He died suddenly of appendicitis the day after Christmas in 1922, at age 41, and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, The Bronx.

Otto Luyties' gravestone,
Woodlawn Cemetery, The Bronx, NY

See post November 18, 2015.


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