The Sausage King who sold the meat of his wife

The Sausage King Who Sold the Meat of His Wife

  • The Sausage King of Chicago was accused of killing his wife and selling the meat to unsuspecting customers.
  • One of the earliest usages of forensic testimony that it turn concluded the bone fragments belonged to a human female.
  • The Sausage King believed the missus faked her death and planted a different body at the factory before fleeing into the night.

Fans of 80s teen comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off know that Abe Froman is the Sausage King of Chicago. However, before Froman took the throne there was the original Sausage King of Chicago – Adolph Luetgert (December 27, 1845 – July 7, 1899), but this one was considerably less funny.

Old Adolph emigrated from Germany to Chicago, Illinois in the 1860s where he made a killing in the sausage business. Unfortunately, Adolph’s killing wasn’t confined to the business arena – he also likely butchered his second wife, Louisa Bicknese, and attempted to dispose of her in one of his sausage vats at the A.L. Luetgert Sausage & Packing Co. in 1897. His plan hit a snag when police discovered the body in a sausage vat. A persistent legend has it that Adolph actually ground his wife of 21 years into sausage and sold the meat to unsuspecting customers.

Born in the town of Gütersloh, Adolph was the third-born of the eleven Luetgert children, including his twin, Fritz (Adolph was obviously the evil twin). After leaving school and home at age 14, Adolph became an apprentice tanner. At 19, he struck out to London to seek his fame and fortune. After an unsuccessful six month stint here, Adolph set sail for New York like so many of his fellow countrymen, chasing success in the land of opportunity.

He made his way from the Big Apple to the Windy City where he began to ply his trade as a tanner. After saving up, Adolph started his own business in 1872. He was originally in liquor, but started his sausage business in 1879, which is where he would make his name. His first marriage, to Caroline Roepke in around 1871, ended in 1877 (her death) and resulted in two children. He was married to Louise two months later and the couple would eventually have a further four children.

Adolph Luetgert and Louise Luetgert
From left: Adolph’s second wife Louise Luetgert and the Sausage King Adolph Luetgert himself.

The Sausage Queen disappeared on May 1, 1897. Adolph said that she had gone to visit her sister and never returned. Louisa’s brother Diedrich reported her missing. Adolph changed his story, telling police that she had ran away with a lover. The investigation revealed details of the marriage, such as domestic violence and regular fights. Supposedly the sausage business was in financial difficulty and Adolph’s money woes were such that he had his eye on a rich widow (he fancied himself quite the ladies’ man) with whom to play hide-the-sausage and marry for her money after doing away with Louisa.

A witness came forward stating that they saw the Luetgerts enter the sausage factory on the night Louisa disappeared. A night watchman confirmed this statement, saying that the Luetgerts entered the factory at 10:30 pm at which point Mr Luetgert sent him home early. Louisa never left the factory (at least not in non-sausage form). Adolph was found to have purchased arsenic the day before the murder. But most damning of all, the police discovered partial human remains in a sausage grinder, along with two of Louisa’s rings (one bearing her initials). It seemed that the Sausage was cooked.

Adolph Luetgert's newspaper drawing
Adolph Luetgert – Chicago Tribune July 28, 1899.

Adolph maintained his innocence at trial. The prosecution was hampered by many supposed sightings of Louisa around the country after she was meant to have gone missing. Adolph kept a cool, nonchalant demeanour throughout the trial. The jury was unable to reach a verdict so the case had to be re-tried. This time the prosecution was successful and Adolph was sentenced to life in prison. He died shortly thereafter on July 7, 1899.

The case was an early example of a widely covered trial by the media. Some reporters even tried to spy and eavesdrop on the jury room. It was actually the first celebrity murder trial covered as such in the media. It was also one of the first cases to utilise forensic experts to assist in solving the crime.

The mugshot of Adolph Luetgert
The mugshot of Adolf Luetgert. Illinois State Penitentiary, Joliet.
Adolph Luetgert's bone evidence
‘The Bone Evidence’ – Chicago Journal, 13 September 1897.

One theory holds that Louisa actually got the last laugh against her hot-headed husband, faking her death and planting a different body at the factory before fleeing into the night. There were many reported sightings, across 12 states, of Louisa after she was presumed dead, including one of her boarding a Europe-bound ship from New York. Adolph maintained that this was likely the case. The old sausage factory was partially destroyed in a fire on June 26, 1904, though the external structure still stands at West Diversey Park, Chicago.

The verdict of Adolph Luetgert
The verdict of Sausage King. At the time, the case was called a celebrity case that put murder trials in the mainstream media.
The Sausage Factory of Adolph Luetgert
A vintage advert for The Sausage Factory of Adolph Luetgert.
The Sausage Factory of Adolph Luetgert
From the leaflet of ‘A Business Tour of Chicago’: Luetgert’s first sausage factory on North Avenue.
Adolph Luetgert's newspaper drawing
‘Luetgert’s Evil Eye’ – Chicago Journal, 26 August 1897.
•   •   •

The history of Chicago offers a lot to true crime fans – from gangsters to historical crimes that have made history and now make the city unique. One of the America’s first documented serial killers H.H. Holmes and his horror hotel that consisted of elaborate trap doors, secret rooms, and a master torture room, is also located in Chicago.

Also, The Tylenol murders took place in Chicago. The law enforcements have no clue til this day who was tampering with Tylenol pills that killed at least seven people and made Johnson & Johnson do recall that cost estimated 100 million dollars.

There are even city tours. For example, The Weird Chicago Tours offers True crime and serial killer tours because Chicago has so much to offer.

Unsolved mysteries, Crime
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