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Sol Van Praag
Solomon Van Praag
Okay what's this guy doing here and what's his connection to gangsters?Well, his story is an interesting one to say the least. The Van Praags immigrate from Amsterdam.He is the son of Abraham and Sarah Van Praag.He has two sisters and one brother.
Van Praag aspires in politics,while maintaining a life in the seedy part of Chicago.Politics in the mid 1800's is a mudslinging fest to say the least.In Chicago, corruption and scandals are abundant.Pretty much anyone can throw their hat into the ring, in order to run for some type of political job.People like Michael "Hinky Dink" Kenna,"Bathouse" John Coughlin,Big Tim Murphy,Roland Libonati are just a few examples of persons who hold political titles and consort with the criminal types.
Van Praag was a Democratic state representative who was known as a First Ward character for over forty years.His greatest battles were against Hinky Dink Kenna and Bathouse Coughlin.
Most of these politicians owned saloons and cigar stores, which were in essence,simply a guise for gambling and drinking. Many criminal types could be found shooting craps in the back of the cigar store.There they also plotted their crimes.
Van Praag's first saloon (circa1888) is called "The Owl" and is located at 392 South State street.
Police raid the place many times.Van Praag is once rounded up in a raid which finds his establishment loaded with men and women,completely stoned on opium and lying on sofas.
Van Praag claims he just rents out the place to Chinese men and has no control on what takes place there.
These Chinese men ,then in turn, use the place as an opium den for the caucasian crowd.
On May 1,1899 an express driver by the name of George Adams is found dead in the basement of Van Praag's Owl Saloon.The cause of death was overdose poisioning caused by opium.Van Praag was arrested and then released.
Van Praag moves his saloon over to 2226 South Wabash
While Van Praag occupies the premises, it is known as the Tammany Athletic club (Circa 1917).This famous building later becomes known as the four Deuces.(Dubbed by John Torrio). Van Praag maintains his cigar store adjacent to the Four Deuces and has Al Capone as a partner in a fake used furniture business.
September 1923, Al Capone, using the alias Al Brown, mentions during police questioning for the murder of three gangsters, (Jerry O'Connor,George Bucher, and George Meeghan) that he and Sol Van Praag are partners in the used furniture business at 2224 South Wabash.
September 13,1927 after along illness Solomon Van Praag passes away at the age of 70.His corruption in the 'Gay 90's" lead him in and out of politics ,but he always found a foot in the door to get back. In 1916 Van Praag is also in battle with other cigar store rivals. A rival cigar store owner by the name of John Hogarty (2204 South State street) is killed and that causes heat on Van Praag. This causes him to be finally ousted out of politics.
Many of his jobs included, in 1905 as Inspector of restaurants and in 1912 as State Game Warden.
A colorful man to say the least.
First Posted March 2007