Dallas Morning News, October 14, 1922. I’ve been invited to appear on This American Life again (yay!), this time to talk about the great Gland Larceny Panic that gripped Chicago and squeezed in 1922. While refreshing my acquaintance with the story, it struck me that I could have done a better job organizing and analyzing the available material, plus I never cross-posted any ‘nad theft stuff from the BNFTP annex at the Chicago Reader‘s site. Anyway, I’m going to give it another go.
Chicago Daily Tribune, October 14, 1922. I’ve yet to determine what this recent local operation was that brought endocrinomania to Chicago, but 1920s were just generally pretty gland-happy, with lots of people investing hope in monkey or goat tissues or extracts as the key to prolonged if not eternal youth. Author Gertrude Atherton would explore these themes in her bestselling 1923 potboiler Black Oxen, which despite the title is actually about a cougar. The celebrated alternative healer and broadcast pioneer Dr. John Romulus Brinkley had founded his prosperous and intermittently homicidal medical practice on these same iffy precepts in 1916. (Crazy motherfucker very nearly became the Huey Long of Kansas too, but Democrats and Republicans cooperated in stealing the 1930 gubernatorial election from him, frustrating the will of that state’s dependably batshit electorate.) Hence a general preparedness to believe in a black market for stolen ‘nads.
I’d love to see a Law & Order prologue for this, but done as a black-and-white silent movie. I.e., with two boozy plainclothesmen and Sampolinski the neighborhood sawbones consulting over poor Wozniak’s ravaged half-sack (title card: “Possibly to rejuvenate some wealthy ancient!”) while the pianist does stride variations on “Mysterious Mose.”
This is fun: According to this early reportage, Wozniak is identified as an unemployed beet picker, but once the story takes off, he’s gonna get promoted to lumberjack.
The above-named Pruchnicki here later morphs into “Kuchinsky” and gets added to the list of probable victims on the strength of the fact that nobody can find him. But I shouldn’t have thought the surgery in question would require that much finesse: It’s been successfully practiced on both humans and livestock since pre-historical times. Anyway, I’ve never trust these awed descriptions of uncanny surgical expertise in true-crime stories. I mean, that’s what they said about those “mysterious cattle mutilations” which turned out to be the work of bugs and other carrion eaters. Seems like a classic eye-of-the-beholder kind of situation.
Here Wozniak is 34 and 12 years married; by next week, he’s going to be 24 and a newlywed. Which, like the lumberjack credential, only befits a man with balls worth stealing.