Feature Articles

December 2001

The Short Career of Pony Moore

By John William Tuohy

     On November 22, 1905, Marshal Field Jr., heir to the shopping store fortune and member of Chicago's leading family, was found shot, a bullet in his lower belly, in his home. A butler found him the next morning and rushed him off to the Mercy hospital.

     The fact that Field was alone in the house when he was shot, made it look like a botched suicide, and the story made the front pages of the national newspapers.

     A reporter got a tip that Field had spent the night before, a Tuesday, in the Levee, Chicago's notorious red-light district. The information said that Field was last seen in the famous and elegant Everleigh Club, a house of prostitution, and had left there at 9:00 in the morning.

     Further investigations showed that he may have been shot at the club and then brought home to die.

     The story was repeated by every bartender and hooker in the Levee, and before long speculation became accepted fact, Marshal Field had been murdered.

     The hoods who ran the Levee, men like Bath House John Coughlin and his partner Hinky Dink Kenna, and the up-and-coming Big Jim Colosimo, didn't like it, they didn't like it one bit. The reason the Levee operated unmolested by the law round the clock, seven days a week, was because it had always managed to avoid nasty public relations problems like this.

     The Club's owners, the Everleigh sisters, kept silent throughout the entire scandal, never confirming or denying that Field had spent the night at the club, which fueled even more stories.

     Unfortunately for the sisters, the public, and the police assumed that Field was not only killed in the club but that the sisters had killed him. Several days before Field died, the Everleigh sisters had fired a kitchen helper named Pony Moore. Resentful, and seeing an opportunity for blackmail, Moore convinced a hooker inside the club named Nelli, to say that she saw Minnie Everleigh shoot Field, and that she, Moore, would swear to it.

     Pony figured that the sisters would pay at least a hundred thousand to avoid a public spectacle. But, to Pony's surprise, not only did the sisters not pay, they called the Chicago police, to whom they were paying a thousand dollars a month, and had Pony Moore arrested.

     The truth was that Field had never been in the club at all. But before that could be established, Field died at 4:55 in the morning on November 24, at age 37.

     The sisters hired their own private detective, Christopher C. Crabb, the same man who had sold them the club several years before, to find out what happened.

     Crabb's investigation concluded that Field was shot in his home at 5:30 in the morning from an accidental discharge of an automatic revolver which he had been testing in his dressing room.

     The bullet entered his left side just below his ribs, missed the stomach and intestines, plowed through the edge of the liver and the hit the spleen stopping just before the spine.

     The scion of the Field family fortune was dead and, for the next twenty years anyway, America believed that he had been murdered in the most glamorous whorehouse in the country.

Mr. Tuohy can be reached by writing to

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