I don’t know if you, as a reader, are old enough to remember a character from “Flintstones” cartoon named Schleprock. He made several appearances in the cartoon show but was known for just bringing bad luck with him wherever he went and sometimes the characters around him were victimized for just being in his presence. The Hippach Family of Chicago may just be our version of Schleprock.
I first became aware of the Hippach family on a research visit to Rosehill Cemetery, one of the city’s oldest and prettiest. I was speaking to a long-time employee of the cemetery and he mentioned the Hippach family to me. I was originally there to take photos of the monuments of some of Chicago’s more well known residents such as John G. Shedd, Richard Warren Sears, Mayor John “Long John” Wentworth and others.
Ida Sophia Hippach was born Ida Sophia Fisher on November 24, 1866 in Chicago and later married Louis A. Hippach who was the co-owner of Tyler and Hippach Co., a plate glass dealer, in Chicago. The Hippachs had four children; Robert L, born November 1889, Archibald A., born September 1892, Gertrude B. (Jean), born October 1894 and Howard H., born May 1896.
The beginning of the family’s struggle with fate started, as best I could determine, with the loss of both young sons, Robert (who would have been 14 at the time and Archie, who would have been 12 in the infamous Chicago Iroquois Theatre Fire of 1903. For those readers not familiar with the great fire, it occurred on December 30, 1903 at a matinee performance of the play, “Mr. Bluebeard”. The crowd consisted of mainly women and children and numbered at about 1,000. Over 600 innocents died in that fire and the political repercussions that followed the enormous loss of life formed the basis for many of the theatre fire/safety codes in use today by not only the city of Chicago but the nation. There have also been numerous ghost stories associated with the alleyway behind the current Ford Center for the Performing Arts that occuppies the same location as the ill-fated Iroquois. A large number of individuals lost their life in that alleyway when they fell attempting to crawl across ladders that had been stretched from the windows of the then Northwestern Dental School to the blocked fire escape of the upper level of the theatre. I have been in that alleyway and there is a feeling of sadness or foreboding that I have felt even during broad daylight.
Ida Hippach had a very hard time adjusting to the death of her two sons and decided to take a European vacation with her daughter, Jean to attempt to relax and calm her nerves. On the 10th of April 1912, While in Cherbourg, France, Mrs. Hippach decided to purchase tickets for her and her daughter on a luxury liner bound for New York City. They were told that they purchased the last two remaining first class tickets for this maiden voyage of the liner and felt lucky to have been able to purchase them. At almost midnight on the 14th of April 1912, Mrs. Hippach and her daughter were asleep when the luxury liner struck an iceberg! Yes, you guessed it, the two had luckily booked a trip on the RMS Titanic!
They however were one of the fortunate 711 survivors of the disaster and picked up by the Carpathia after rowing about two miles to get to the rescue ship. The Carpathia headed to New York and Mr. Hippach and their remaining son Howard travelled to New York to meet them. They all arrived safely back in Chicago on April 21, 1912 aboard the Twentieth Century Limited.
If the Iroquois Theatre fire and the sinking of the Titanic were not enough, On October 29, 1914, Howard Hippach who was their only remaining son, died in a a vehicle crash in Lake Genevea, Wisconsin at the age of 19.
Less than one year later, Jean, the only remaining child was a passenger in a vehicle driven by Hugo Carlson. On August 29, 1914, Hugo and Jean were driving along Lake Shore Drive and were just north of Fullerton Aveneue when their vehicle struck and killed an 8 year old boy named John Dredling while his father, mother and four siblings watched. Carlson jumped from the vehicle to render aid to the boy and while he and Jean were outside the vehicle trying to help the little boy and console his family an unknown passerby stole a briefcase from their automobile!
In addition to the aforementioned tragedies, Mr.Louis A. Hippach’s glass company, Tyler and Hippach, was bombed by radical labor groups in 1922 and an employee, George Linton, was robbed at gunpoint by three assailants making off with $5,000 in company payroll in 1926.
Eventually it seemed that fate had mercy on the Hippachs when Louis A. passed away on May 30, 1935 and his wife Ida followed suit on September 22, 1940 both dying of seemingly non-violent causes.
So the next time you think that you are having a bad day or that things don’t seem to be going your way, take a moment to reflect on the Hippachs and if you find yourself paying your respects to one of Chicago’s unluckiest families at Rosehill Cemetery be sure to look both ways before crossing the street!