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Cassie Chadwick - Con Artist

Updated on August 10, 2016
suziecat7 profile image

Suzanne believes women throughout history have made a difference. Her goal is to discover and celebrate women's contributions to history.

When it came to cons, Cassie Chadwick was a pro. This Canadian-born woman started young and eventually became famous for defrauding banks in Cleveland, Ohio by claiming to be the illegitimate child of Andrew Carnegie. Chadwick was the mistress of lying and performing. She knew how to cover her tracks and she honed fraud into an artform.

The Beginnings -

Cassie Chadwick began her life as Elizabeth Bigley on October 10, 1857. She was born and raised in Eastwood, Ontario, Canada on a small farm. Her father was a section boss for an Ontario railway. Besides her parents, Betsy, as she was called, had three sisters and a brother. She was said to be a chronic daydreamer as a child and was prone to telling elaborate fibs.

 

HER FIRST CON -

When she was 13 years old in 1870, Chadwick traveled to Woodstock, Ontario, Canada. She opened a bank account there using a questionable letter of inheritance from someone she said was an uncle from England. She used this and a little cash to secure the bank account. Once that was done, she went on a spree writing worthless checks at various merchants in town. She was caught soon enough and was arrested in the town of Woodstock for forgery. Because of her age she was soon released on the grounds of insanity.

 

OHIO -

After three years away from home Chadwick returned to the news that her sister, Alice, had married. Alice's husband, Bill York, was from Cleveland, Ohio where the couple made their home. Upon learning this, Chadwick hopped the next train to Cleveland. After a short stay with the couple, Chadwick rented the first floor of a house. She claimed to the landlord to be a widow and immediately changed her name to Madame Lydia DeVere. She felt this was a more appropriate name for her new career as a clairvoyant. She financed her business with a loan secured on the York's furniture.

In 1882, she married Dr. Wallace S. Springsteen from Cleveland, Ohio. She took the name of Mrs. Lydia Springsteen and moved into his house. Because an article and photo appeared in the local newspaper announcing the marriage, people were able to track her down. They included a Toledo businessman who went to see her as a clairvoyant and found his bank account some $10,000 lighter in the aftermath. The article also led her sister and various merchants to the doctor's home to demand payback from Chadwick. Eleven days later, Dr. Springsteen tossed his new wife out and filed for divorce. He also paid all her debts.

Undaunted, Chadwick re-established herself as a clairvoyant in Cleveland. She changed her name once again this time to Madame Marie LaRose. In 1883 she married a farmer from Trumbull County, Ohio. His name was John R. Scott and, citing abuse from her ex-husband, Chadwick convinced him to sign a prenuptial agreement. She lived on the farm for four years. Apparently not satisfied, she went to a lawyer with prenuptial in hand, confessed to adultery and filed for divorce.

Reinventing herself again, Chadwick became a fortune teller who went by the name of Lydia Scott. Unable or unwilling to stay away from her criminal urges she once again resorted to forgery to get what she wanted. In 1889, Chadwick was convicted and sentenced to 9 1/2 years in a Toledo, Ohio penitentiary. She was released on parole in 1891 and returned to Cleveland.

 

THE CHADWICK AFFAIR -

After returning to Cleveland in 1891, Chadwick adopted the name of Cassie Hoover. She opened a brothel where she met her third husband, another doctor named Leroy Chadwick. When she met him she played the part of a bereaved widow who was running a respectable boarding house for women. When Dr. Chadwick questioned her because it was his knowledge that the house was a well-known brothel, she fainted and begged him to take her away from such a reputation.

They were married in 1897. They moved to a house on "Millionaire's Row", an exclusive well-heeled neighborhood. Chadwick's new life included wealth, influence and servants. She spent extravagantly, importing furniture from England and buying fur coats. She was only tolerated by Cleveland's high society because of their respect for the doctor. Her habit of prancing around town like royalty and trying in vain to buy favors from the richest families in America left her on the fringes of acceptable. Despite her very comfortable life, Chadwick was not satisfied.

 

THE CARNEGIE CON -

Chadwick's biggest con game started shortly after her marriage. Her husband was unaware of his wife's scheming plans. In 1902, she went to Cleveland's Wade Park Bank and put a pile of promissory notes valued at $7.5 million into a safety deposit box. The notes appeared to be signed by the richest man in the world, Andrew Carnegie. Chadwick made sure the supposed signature was noticed by "accidentally" dropping one of the notes. She then started whispering to key local gossips that she was the illegitimate daughter of the steel magnate. It didn't take long until everyone in Ohio had heard.

She went on a borrowing binge starting at first with small loans of $500 or $1000 and paying them back right away likely with other loans. She had bigger plans. Using her charm and gaining the confidence of the bankers, Chadwick went into a small bank in Oberlin, Ohio and managed to walk out with $340,000. Included in that was a personal loan of $100,000 from the president of the bank.

Still on a spree, Chadwick went on to borrow from several banks and secured a loan of $180,000 from a Boston businessman. Her efforts totaled well over $2 million. That would be approximately $50 million today. But all good things do come to an end.

Eventually when the loans were not paid back, the bankers started to file lawsuits. Chadwick tried to save herself by driving a carriage filled with lawyers and bankers to Carnegie's mansion. She knocked on the door and was let in emerging again with another so-called promissory note. What the lawyers and bankers didn't know was she was only given entrance by a maid then sent on her merry way.

Her scheme didn't work. Her debtors contacted Andrew Carnegie who said he had no knowledge of Cassie Chadwick and had certainly signed no notes. The gig was up. She was arrested on December 8, 1904 and convicted several months later. Her sentence was 14 years at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Columbus. She became ill and died on October 10, 1907 at the age of 50 after only serving two years of her sentence. Her husband, Dr. Leroy Chadwick was exonerated as he apparently had no knowledge of his wife's actions.

 

FACTS -

Cassie Chadwick's aliases included Elizabeth Cunard, Lydia DeVere, Lydia Springsteen, Emily Heathcliff, Marie LaRose, Cassie Hoover, Cassie Chadwick, Cassie L. Chadwick.

She bore a son by Dr. Chadwick who she named Emil Hoover. It is unclear whether the doctor knew about it. Emil was left to be raised by one of the women in the brothel.

The Oberlin bank was ruined after loaning money to Chadwick. It went into bankruptcy.

Chadwick was charged with seven counts of forgery and seven counts of conspiracy.

Andrew Carnegie was present at her trial. It was a media circus.

Chadwick was wearing a money belt with $100,000 in it when she was arrested. It is assumed she was planning to flee.

She was considered no great beauty but was able to manipulate and charm with her piercing eyes.

 

THE MOVIE -

In 1985 a movie titled "Love and Larceny" was made in Canada. The part of Cassie Chadwick was played by Jennifer Dale. It won the Best TV Movie Award in 1986. Considered a historical crime drama, the movie would probably make Cassie Chadwick proud.

For more historical Hubs - click here - http://hubpages.com/_36otspfnata5l/hub/Music-Of-The-Civil-War

And here - http://hubpages.com/_36otspfnata5l/hub/Bootlegging-In-America

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    • KoraleeP profile image

      Koralee Phillips 6 years ago from Penticton British Columbia Canada

      Another great Hub Suziecat7. I have never heard of her either, but I really enjoyed reading about her. I really like these kind of stories.

      Your writing is really good! Easy to read, interesting and perfect amount of content. Thanks! I look forward to reading more.

      Like most con artists she seemed to have a big ego, and probably thought she would never get caught.

    • platinumOwl4 profile image

      platinumOwl4 6 years ago

      Hello suziecat7,

      your article never cease to amaze me. This is a most interesting story of a thinking woman even if it is criminal in nature.

    • ladyjojo profile image

      ladyjojo 6 years ago

      Very informative good hub.

      My gosh she really was a BIG CROOK. Awful conn woman :(

      Thanks for sharing

    • profile image

      Pamela Sarzana 6 years ago

      Wow, I don't see how she got away with all that. It would be 50 Mil today, that is amazing!

    • kmcmichael profile image

      kmcmichael 6 years ago from Athens, Georgia

      This is really interesting! I would love to see the movie.

    • RunAbstract profile image

      RunAbstract 6 years ago from USA

      What an incredible story! It amazes the mind what others can come up with when chasing money!

      Very well writen and interesting bit of history!

    • SilentReed profile image

      SilentReed 6 years ago from Philippines

      Spread your money around lavishly.Be seen in the right social gatherings rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous.Live as if you have money and unlimited credit. Remember that investors and bankers will gladly lend money freely to those whom they believe have plenty of it already.This are the simple rules to follow if one should decide to go into the investment fraud business.:))

    • suziecat7 profile image
      Author

      suziecat7 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Thank you all for your comments.

    • tcfsu profile image

      tcfsu 6 years ago from Tallahassee, Florida

      Very interesting read, thank you!

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      I know we shouldn't admire a person like this - but boy, she didn't half have some guts!!!

    • carolina muscle profile image

      carolina muscle 6 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      wow.. what a fascinating character!!!!

    • suziecat7 profile image
      Author

      suziecat7 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Sueroy - Yeah - not telling her husband about the kid was one thing but that he didn"t notice?? Thanks for stopping by.

    • suziecat7 profile image
      Author

      suziecat7 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Wayne - It's great to see you here even twice. She was an intriguing woman with many facets. Thanks so much for your comment.

    • suziecat7 profile image
      Author

      suziecat7 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

      WillStarr - You're right - people like Cassie Chadwick have no conscience at all. Thanks for stopping by.

    • sueroy333 profile image

      Susan Mills 6 years ago from Indiana

      Suzie- This was great. I've never heard of Cassie Chadwick alias a-bunch-of-other-people before. This was fascinating! The most intriguing thing to me was to see her fearlessness of being caught. It was almost like she wanted to see how much she could get away with without being caught, and kept pushing that line. Amazing!

      Interesting, also, was that she didn't tell the Dr. about his kid. You would think she would have tried to use the child to trap him into marriage. I guess she had other tricks up her sleeve!

      Thanks for the great article!!!

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas

      Hey Suzie...Like this one so much I came back and read it again! WB

    • suziecat7 profile image
      Author

      suziecat7 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Silva - No, she didn't need the money. It seemed a game to her. Thanks so much for reading.

    • suziecat7 profile image
      Author

      suziecat7 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Garnetbird - Glad you enjoyed.

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas

      Now there's a powerful woman! Obviously she got her kicks from pulling off the con more so that what she reaped from it. She apparently did not have any limitations or doubts when it came to scamming. Good article...thanks for sharing it! WB

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      My elderly parents were having coffee on their back patio when a nice looking couple walked by. My parents waved at them and the woman asked if should could please use the bathroom. While she was in the house, her male companion engaged mom and dad in conversation. They then had a cup of coffee and conversed for another half hour. After they left mom discovered her purse and dad's wallet had been rifled and several hundred dollars and credit cards were missing.

      People like that have no conscience at all.

    • Silva Hayes profile image

      Silva Hayes 6 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

      Wow, she was a classic sociopath. Amazing that she repeatedly got by with so much. Also just incredible that she didn't know when to quit, or else she was simply compelled and driven to continue that behaviour.

    • suziecat7 profile image
      Author

      suziecat7 7 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Akirchner - I imagine there are other women con artists out there who never got caught. Thanks for stopping by.

    • suziecat7 profile image
      Author

      suziecat7 7 years ago from Asheville, NC

      James - I checked with Netflix too. Thanks so much for your kind words.

    • GarnetBird profile image

      Gloria Siess 7 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      Very interesting Hub-! I enjoyed reading this.

    • suziecat7 profile image
      Author

      suziecat7 7 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Thanks, Nell.

    • Mr Tindle profile image

      Mr Tindle 7 years ago

      Great and informative hub, I had never heard of this female con artist before.

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 7 years ago from Central Oregon

      Definitely a character and must try and get a gander at that movie! It's unusual to see a woman so good at this business or at least more shocking.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

      I greatly enjoyed reading your fascinating story. What a character! I have a feeling that amply displayed bosom in the "Larceny" poster helped bedazzle some of the fellas she swindled.

      Your writing is flawless and fast paced. This makes it a pleasure. I like your little facts section at the end too. It reminds me of the boxes of words at the end of some movies that tell you how the characters ended up—I love those!

      I was going to rent the movie but Netflix doesn't carry it.

    • suziecat7 profile image
      Author

      suziecat7 7 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Dahoglund - Thanks for your comment. You're right, we can't help but admire the sheer gall of these people.

    • suziecat7 profile image
      Author

      suziecat7 7 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Gus - Nice to see you. Thanks for reading.

    • suziecat7 profile image
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      suziecat7 7 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Tammy - you're welcome.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 7 years ago from England

      HI, fascinating story, I had never heard of her before. It seems by reading this that it had nothing to do with money, she managed to get all the money that she needed by marrying rich, and then still did this for fun, or gain, we shall never know, really interesting, rated up! loved it! lol cheers nell

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      An interesting story. We seem to have a love/hate attitude toward con artists. Some fictional heroes are along the same lines. It may be we admire their cleverness and understanding of human nature. The old saying "you can't cheat an honest man" I believe attributed to P.T. Barnum

    • GusTheRedneck profile image

      Gustave Kilthau 7 years ago from USA

      suziecat - Well-written biography of an unusual person. Thanks.

      Gus :-)))

    • suziecat7 profile image
      Author

      suziecat7 7 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Scribe - Thanks so much for stopping by - glad you enjoyed.

    • suziecat7 profile image
      Author

      suziecat7 7 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Darlene - Yes, she certainly had balls. Thank you for your comment.

    • Tammy L profile image

      Tammy L 7 years ago from Jacksonville, Texas

      Couple of things I couldn't help but think about while reading this...She died on her birthday. Brett Favre shares her birthday. He doesn't know when to quit either.

      Interesting and well written hub. Thanks for introducing us to this imaginative woman.

    • Scribenet profile image

      Scribenet 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      What I find incredible is the fact this woman was able to walk into banks and get money out of people with just her manipulation and charm! Even in today's society try walking out with $340,000! On top of that' she was a farm girl who managed to snare, not one, but two doctors. The fact that she was even able to convince the second doctor to marry her after he found out she was running a brothel is mind boggling! Incredible!

      I doubt this could happen on such a scale now, since people are more sophisticated, though con artists are still plentiful.

      I have never heard of this person. Fascinating and great reading!

    • suziecat7 profile image
      Author

      suziecat7 7 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Sheila - It's true, she didn't even need the money. Go figure. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 7 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      Wow, yes a women of those times, she had balls that's for sure. Still it seems the whole world is that way now, who can you trust? great hub, very interesting and well researched story. Rate up, peace & love darski

    • suziecat7 profile image
      Author

      suziecat7 7 years ago from Asheville, NC

      You're right, Fyffe. It is incredible that a woman of her time would even attempt such a thing. Nice to see you here, btw.

    • profile image

      Fyffe Aschenbrenner 7 years ago

      You have to admire that she was very bold for a woman at the time. Besides that, it's hard to believe a woman chose a life of such criminal activity.

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 7 years ago

      Good story. I like the way you wrote it. How interesting that this woman had absolutely no 'need' to do what she did, so she was simply doing what she enjoyed doing, right?

    • suziecat7 profile image
      Author

      suziecat7 7 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Sheshocks - It's hard to figure out how she thought and what made her think she could getb away with it. Thanks so much for your comment.

    • sheshocks profile image

      sheshocks 7 years ago

      ..very interesting story. It seems that these people were so rare, but now I believe everyone I know has had a personal experience with a sociopath "con artist" in some shape or form, including by marriage. Something goes awry in development that leaves them devoid of a conscience. Lying is classic, they're charming and extremely likable, but that lacking makes them extremely dangerous as well. This population is on the rise. The family dynamic isn't working anymore and these deviants don't just show up in the movies anymore. The account of this woman, and her audacious misdeeds, who was clearly brazen in her misdeeds, fearless and completely uninhibited by social conventions in any way, was super cool. We're so used to men being the offenders of these kind of crimes these days.