Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Marshall Field, Jr., heir to the department store fortune and holder of the most famous name in Chicago history, died here at his home of a gunshot wound on November 22, 1905. Who fired the shot? There are three theories.
The official inquest concluded that Field had accidentally shot himself while cleaning his gun. Practically everyone saw this as an unlikely story from the start.
A number of witnesses claim that Field was a guest of the famous Everleigh Club brothel that evening, and was shot during foreplay with one of the residents. Fearing public embarrassment, he asked to be driven home, where his wounds proved more serious than expected. However, some of these supposed witnesses cannot be considered reliable, as they stood to benefit from selling their stories to the press.
A third theory -- and possibly the most likely -- is that, regardless of whether Field was at the Everleigh Club that evening or not, he was severely depressed and committed suicide in his bedroom. On the other hand, no suicide note was ever discovered, although it is possible that a note may have been suppressed by his powerful family to avoid embarrassment.
Field's mansion on S. Prairie Avenue still stands, and is currently being renovated into a six-flat condominium. It's not clear whether buyers would find Field's history a positive attribute in a home, but the developer certainly seems to be making it a keystone of the advertising campaign.