By keep, Lawrence meant they chose not to terminate their pregnancies. Women who gave birth in unlicensed maternity homes almost always left their babies behind. In most cities, Milwaukee included, there were networks of people involved in the procurement and distribution of abandoned infants. In the 1930s, operating an unlicensed maternity hospital was a crime, but selling the babies who were born there was not always a punishable offense. Well into the 1940s, undocumented adoption was legal in over half the states in the U.S*.1
*While laws were eventually introduced to criminalize undocumented adoptions, those laws didn’t stop the sale of black market babies.
Lawrence walked up to the door, the one that led to what would have been Dr. Trump’s office. Dawn begged him not to knock, but he did anyway. Lawrence’s casual demeanor and warm smile won over the young tenant who was about take her dog for a walk. She welcomed us into the hallway and let us take a few pictures.
“These doors look the same,” Lawrence began. “The same wood, and even the same glass.”
We ascended the winding staircase to the top. I imagined the young women who had climbed these steps, all alone, under much different circumstances.
While conducting door-to-door interviews around the neighborhood decades ago, Lawrence had heard plenty of first-hand accounts about the Humboldt Pharmacy office. From the 1920s until the early 1950s, Dr. Trump was listed in the city directory simply as a “surgeon” with no specialty. Leland failed the Wisconsin state board exam twice 2, but he still had plenty of clients.
In his younger years, Dr. Trump was linked to several suspicious incidents, but his name was always cleared. In 1913, he was charged with possession of a stolen automobile3, and later, another of Dr. Trump’s cars was used in a jewelry heist. He was deemed innocent in both cases. 4.
It probably helped that Leland’s brother, Rodger M. Trump, had extensive legal experience and strong ties to the city’s elite. A 32nd-degree Mason and member of Milwaukee’s Rotary, University, and City Clubs, Rodger was a pillar of the community.
Rodger was also a long-time colleague of Henry Killilea, co-founder of baseball’s American League5. After Killilea’s death in 1929, Rodger succeeded him as Wisconsin counsel for the Milwaukee railroad6.
Leland’s father Charles H. Trump was a wealthy insurance broker and former jury commissioner7, who married an Austrian immigrant under unusual circumstances8. It’s possible their son Leland became fluent in German, his mother’s native language, and this may have helped him gain clients from within the local Austrian and German communities.
Years before Leland earned a reputation across the state for his illegal procedures, he was the owner of a chain of pharmacies. In 1920, soon after prohibition began, Dr. Trump opened his first location in the Humboldt building. By 1930, he acquired at least three more within a few blocks of each other, on Atkinson, Teutonia, and another on W. Vliet he co-owned with brother Rodger until 1929 (the same year Rodger was appointed counsel for the railroad). Possibly, Leland figured out how to cash in on the illegal booze market. According to Smithsonian.com:
During Prohibition, the U.S. Treasury Department authorized physicians to write prescriptions for medicinal alcohol. Licensed doctors, with pads of government-issued prescription forms, like the one shown here, advised their patients to take regular doses of hooch to stave off a number of ailments—cancer, indigestion and depression among them.9.
In 1917, a total of 212 retail pharmacies, or “druggists” were listed in the Milwaukee city directory. In 1918, there were 210 and 1919, there were 209.
In 1920, the year prohibition began, there were 238 registered pharmacies in Milwaukee. The population, as recorded by the 1920 census was 457,14710.
By 1930, there were 381 druggists registered in the city of 578,289 residents. Between 1920 and 1930, the population had grown by over 26%, but the number of pharmacies had increased by 60%.
By 1960, the apex of Milwaukee’s population boom, the census recorded 741,324 residents. That year, there were only 249 pharmacies. Between 1930 and 1960, Milwaukee’s population had grown by 28%, but the number of drug stores decreased by 53%.
Although prohibition hit the brewery city of Milwaukee especially hard, the pharmacy boom wasn’t limited to Wisconsin. According to The Vintage News:
Walgreens, one of the largest pharmacy chains in the United States, had more than 8,000 stores around the country. The company was established in 1901 in Chicago, and by 1919 there were twenty Walgreen pharmacies in the city. Some 10 years later, the number of their stores amounted to 550 in total, having spread across the entire country. The reason for their expansion was, of course, the Prohibition Act and their trade with alcoholic beverages11.
Dr. Leland Trump, who earned his medical license in 1916, had chosen the right career to reap significant financial rewards from prohibition.
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- Myers, Garry C. “Dr. Myers Warns of ‘Black Market’ in Unwanted Babies.” Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wisconsin). 05 January 1945: Page 14
- “United States Deceased Physician File (AMA), 1864-1968.” Images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : 14 June 2016. American Medical Association, Chicago.
- “Doctor is Named in Car Theft.”The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), 28 Dec 1913
- “Auto Larceny is Laid to Jewelry Thieves.” The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), 16 Jan 1934.
- “Trump to be Wisconsin Counsel for Railroad.” The Marshfield News-Herald (Marshfield, Wisconsin), 09 Feb 1929: Page 4
- “Myrick Denies the Report.” The Oshkosh Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin), 26 Jun 1906: Page 1
- Gambino, Megan. “During Prohibition, Your Doctor Could Write You a Prescription for Booze.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 7 Oct. 2013, www.smithsonianmag.com/history/during-prohibition-your-doctor-could-write-you-prescription-booze-180947940/