Part nine:
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Her effort in 1901 to borrow $100,000 from a Pennsylvania bank was an indication Cassie Chadwick's spending wasn't being covered by the relatively small loans she'd been getting during her first four years of marriage when she also went through whatever money she brought to the marriage, plus the estate of her husband, who, for reasons unclear in every story I've read, made no effort to stop her. Instead, he apparently withdrew from the marriage, stopping short of filing for divorce. Perhaps she had him in one of her hypnotic trances. Or he didn't want the world to know what a fool he was. Often ill — perhaps with imagined ailments — Dr. Chadwick went on extended trips to Europe with his daughter, leaving his wife to do as she pleased.

In 1902, she launched the con that would make her famous, and may have done it with an incident sure to be included in her proposed movie, should it ever be made. This con would enable her to receive six-figure loans, which she'd need to remain Cleveland's biggest spender.

This particular incident, if it actually occurred according to legend, is an example of a problem facing anyone who sets out to make a movie about Cassie Chadwick. This incident is necessary to such a film, but likely will seem too tritely cinematic because we've already seen similar incidents in many films about con artists and thieves, and all of those scenes required viewers to suspend belief. For example, in real life, no one could pull off the stunt Pierce Brosnan pulled in "The Thomas Crown Affair." But Cassie Chadwick supposedly did something simpler, but equally outlandish, and when she was done, her reputation was golden, her credit rating A-1. Several bankers who should have known better were happy to loan her huge amounts of money, even though it must have seemed odd that someone who would claim her annual income was $750,000 a year needed such large loans so frequently. Odd or not, if she were willing to pay a relatively high interest rate and give them a bonus ...

But first she had to convince the right people she had the funds to cover those loans, and here's how she did it, as explained by an anonymous Cleveland lawyer to an unnamed Chicago Sunday Tribune reporter. What happened reportedly was later verified by many interested parties. The Tribune's story was published December 4, 1904, just when the world was wondering how a woman, who seemingly appeared out of nowhere seven years earlier, could have talked so many lawyers and bankers into loaning her huge amounts of money. What securities did she have to offer? And where did she get them? For Cassie Chadwick, these were easy problems to solve, given her forgery skill and her acting ability:

“Mrs. Chadwick began by consulting a prominent lawyer of this city [Cleveland] in regard to a contract in the form of a settlement between herself and a second party. She indicated in a general way the form of the agreement which was to be drawn up. The attorney was asked to prepare a draft of the instrument and to submit it to her for revision and final touches.

"When he submitted the contract to Mrs. Chadwick, she directed him to make various changes, and for the party of the second part she named Andrew Carnegie. The sum to be settled upon her by the multi-millionaire was no less than $7,000,000.

“Next Mrs. Chadwick requested the lawyer who had drawn up the settlement to accompany her to New York. There she was to obtain Mr. Carnegie’s signature and complete the transaction which was to make her the possessor of a great fortune. Attorney and client found themselves at the Holland House [Hotel] in due course, and thence they took a carriage to Mr. Carnegie’s home.

“When their destination was near, Mrs. Chadwick suggested to her lawyer that as the business yet to be done was of an intimate and personal nature, it might be well for him to wait in the carriage for her return. She entered the Carnegie residence and perhaps remained there twenty minutes. When she came out, it was with an air of triumph and satisfaction, and she told the Cleveland attorney that the settlement was signed and sealed and everything was concluded as she desired.

“In this matter there was no affectation of secrecy. In fact, Mrs. Chadwick’s lawyer gained the impression that she was proud of her alleged business relations with the iron king. Therefore, when the attorney came back to Cleveland, he spoke to some of his friends of the general nature of the remarkable transactions which he supposed himself to have witnessed. The story spread, or, at least, the import of it gained circulation enough to give many Clevelanders the impression that Mrs. Chadwick and Mr. Carnegie had business dealings on a large scale.

“In the light of denials by both parties that they have had any transactions whatever, the inference is plain that Mrs. Chadwick’s visit to the Carnegie home was intended for effect upon her attorney and through him upon her credit and financial standing in Cleveland.

“What happened during the twenty minutes she remained in Mr. Carnegie’s home and whether she met Mr. Carnegie at all only Mrs. Chadwick and possibly Mr. Carnegie’s servants can tell.”

In his chapter on Mrs. Chadwick, George Condon told his version of this incident, and also did not mention the name of the lawyer who accompanied Mrs. Chadwick that day, but had this to say about the young man:

"She had studied her man carefully and she knew he was the kind of person incapable of keeping a confidence; in a word, a blabbermouth."

* * *

Who's her daddy?
You can imagine how the scene at the Carnegie house unfolded. A butler greeted Mrs. Chadwick, who said she was there to check on the references of a domestic who had applied for work at her home, and claimed she had worked previously at the Carnegie home.

Of course, the would-be domestic did not exist, but Mrs. Chadwick managed to engage the butler in conversation and perhaps talked to another member of Carnegie's household staff until a sufficient amount of time elapsed.

Then, wrote Condon, "Cassie thanked the butler, and as she departed, she pulled out a large brown envelope from underneath her coat. She came out to the carriage holding the envelope in such a way as to make it conspicuous.

'The young Cleveland lawyer was spellbound by this time, and losing the reticence which is the nature of good attorneys everywhere, he admitted his great curiosity over Cassie’s visit to the Carnegie house."

With faked reluctance, Cassie confided she was the illegitimate daughter of Andrew Carnegie, who'd been a bachelor until 1887, when he became a 51-year-old groom. Mrs. Chadwick swore the lawyer to secrecy, knowing he wouldn't keep his vow when he returned home.

In Condon's account, he implies no one should have believed her story in the first place because the idea "that Carnegie was the father of a middle-aged woman — Mrs. Chadwick was in her forties — was preposterous." Not really. Carnegie was 22 years old when Elizabeth Bigley was born. Yes, her story was preposterous for several reasons, but not because she was in her early 40s when she told it.

Turned out her selection of Andrew Carnegie as her make-believe father was a stroke of genius. He was a strange, very private billionaire who would have kept something like that a secret. He postponed marriage until 1887 because he'd promised to remain single as long as his mother was alive. He finally wed a year after her death. Bankers weren't about to ask him if he'd fathered a girl in 1857.

The secrecy essential to Mrs. Chadwick's lie made it easier to convince banks of her need for loans, since the cash in the documents she'd forged in Carnegie's name prevented easy access to his money. The embarrassment of Cassie Chadwick's existence — if her story were true — would be even greater around 1900 because Carnegie's wife gave him a legitimate daughter in 1897.

So within a few weeks of that 1902 trip to New York City, the word was all over Cleveland — Dr. Leroy Chadwick's wife was the daughter of Andrew Carnegie, and she was worth millions and millions of dollars. And this came from a very reliable source, or so people thought.

* * *

Did it really happen?
The lawyer's name is no longer a secret — it's James Dillon — but whether the story is true or whether there really was a gullible young Cleveland lawyer named James Dillon are two questions that haven't been convincingly answered. However, both are generally accepted as truth by people who've written about Cassie Chadwick during the past 20 years.

I don't think James Dillon existed. Nor do I think she wanted to spread word that she was Andrew Carnegie's illegitimate daughter. Not yet. She was more interested in bankers knowing that for whatever reason, she was financially backed by one of the richest men in the country. And the bankers would find that out from one of the most trusted men in Cleveland — Iri Reynolds, secretary and treasurer of Cleveland's Wade Park Bank. (That's no typo — his name was Iri, not Ira as it is often written.)

Some eventually came to suspect Reynolds was Mrs. Chadwick's secret partner in her scam, though the overwhelming feeling was he had acted naively and rather innocently in dealing with the woman and in responding to questions from bankers and lawyers who asked about the securities Mrs. Chadwick had handed him for safekeeping.

Reynolds was honorable to a fault. When Mrs. Chadwick gave him her Carnegie documents to be locked in a safe at his bank, she suggested he look at them, knowing he wouldn't. That would be a sign of mistrust. Most likely she told Reynolds she was Andrew Carnegie's daughter, but did it knowing Reynolds was not a gossip. If anything, he'd never repeat it to anyone, but the knowledge of the relationship would make him all the more convincing when he replied to bankers' questions about Mrs. Chadwick's ability to repay loans.

(You may recall from Part 3 that a woman who'd worked for Mrs. Chadwick seemed sure her boss had more than a business relationship with Reynolds.)

Partner in crime?
If Mrs. Chadwick had a secret partner, and I believe she did, he was the New York City lawyer who prepared the papers to which she affixed forged signatures of Andrew Carnegie. I don't know how she paid this lawyer, or how much, but he had to be the person who handled inquiries from creditors who sought the location of slippery William Baldwin, almost certainly a make-believe New York City attorney Mrs. Chadwick claimed controlled the money she said she received twice a year from her mysterious accounts.

Ohio historian Amanda Wachowiak, in her article, "The Complicated Chadwick Affair," shares my skepticism about a naive Cleveland lawyer named Dillon, whose name appears nowhere in news stories about Cassie Chadwick in the early 1900s. All Mra. Chadwick had to do was convince Iri Reynolds that the package she brought back from New York was real. He would be her reliable source. So it was pointed out by the Chicago Sunday Tribune on December 11, 1904.

Chicago Sunday Tribune, December 11, 1904
No single act in her weird career illustrates more clearly Mrs. Chadwick's perspicuity and shrewdness than the manner in which she made Iri Reynolds believe that the package contained millions of dollars worth of securities, and induced him to sign an attest as to their value.

When Mrs. Chadwick deposited the package of securities with Mr. Reynolds, she told him she was the illegitimate daughter of Andrew Carnegie, and in that way accounted for the possession of the bulky package, saying:

"This package contains $5,000,000 worth of Caledonian railway bonds. Please take care of them for me and give me a receipt for the securities."

Mr. Reynolds wrote out the usual receipt for a package of securities and handed it to the woman.

Mrs. Chadwick glanced at the document for a moment and then handed it back, saying:

"Mr. Reynolds, I do not want such a receipt. I want you to state the value of the securities, so that in the event I should die, my heirs will know just what you have been intrusted with. I do not, of course, intend to use this in order to secure loans. You can see that, with these securities, it is unnecessary."

Then, at the dictation of Mrs. Chadwick, Iri Reynolds wrote out the attest, which, in brief, stated that Mrs. Chadwick had in the Wade Park Bank securities, unencumbered, to the amount of $5,000,000. The idea that Mrs. Chadwick was playing a shrewd game never entered the unsuspecting mind of banker Reynolds. As he has frequently said, Mrs. Chadwick had been introduced to him years ago by her husband as a woman of wealth; she had been of good customer of the bank for years, depositing big sums of money at different times.

He never for a moment realized that she might and would use the attest in the manner which she has done, and when he discovered that she was using his name in such a manner, he thought it might be all right, for he fully believed that the alleged securities in the package were worth the value she placed on them — namely: $5,000,000.

With Iri Reynolds convinced, Cassie Chadwick entered the world of high finance, and within a couple of years destroyed one bank, caused runs at a few others, and had to talk one banker out of committing suicide after he showed up at her house, pulled out a gun and threatened to shoot himself.

1. A multiple choice biography
2. Have card, will swindle
3. My, what big eyes she has
4. Temporarily transgender
5. Kindness is costly
6. Lydia had a little lamb
7. She finds a perfect husband

8. Mansion makeover
9. Time for her big scene
10. Deep pocket fishing
11. He's never heard of her
12. A friend in Pittsburgh
13. Back behind bars
14. Her spirit lives on