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Louis & Elliott Wisbrod
Personal photo of Elliott (Louis) Wisbrod .
(Mario Gomes Collection)

Louis Wisbrod and Elliott Wisbrod, not two people, but one person. Intriguing personality who showed up on the Chicago roaring twenties scene as Louis Wisbrod with a new found profession. He becomes a salesman selling firearms and equipment to police and gangsters at the same time. He will later morph into Elliott Wisbrod as the years go by in Chicago. Louis will move from place to place, changing his name and age on many documents which make it hard to pinpoint this enigmatic man. His birth date for example is all over the place. He gives varying dates to authorities on various documents, 1886, 1888, 1893 etc....  
On April 30, 1918, Louis Wisbrod marries Sophia Dick. They live in the Russian/ Yiddish section of Chicago on Claremont avenue.


Wisbrod advertisement selling his version of the bullet proof vest. He also sold tear gas guns, equipment.
(Mario Gomes Collection)


In the early 1920's Wisbrod goes to work as a salesman for the Detective Publishing Company which was selling the "Dunrite" bullet proof vest. During this time and around 1926, he decided to take what he was taught from this company and go on his own selling the "Wisbrod" bullet proof vest. This betrayal created some issues with Alexander Dunlap, so much so that he took out an ad in the Chicago Tribune on November 9,1926, stating the following;

Description:
Louis Wisbrod Height 5' 4"; weight 140lbs; hair, light and thin; eyes, blue; nose, long and pointed; mouth, large, incessant talker and speaks with a decided Jewish accent. Falsely claims to be inventor of tear gas appliances and bullet proof vests. May now be found selling the heavy so called bootleg bullet proof vests.

Undaunted by the competition's attacks Wisbrod teams up with fellow firearms dealer Peter Von Frantzius in order to get exposure for his bullet proof vest. This was short lived as both were hardheaded fellows. He ended up suing Peter Von Frantzius after he had made false claims to police that Wisbrod sold a Thompson submachine gun without any paper work. Wisbrod went to court and sued Von Frantzius for $50,000 after showing officials that he did indeed have the appropriate paperwork for that gun.
Elliott Wisbrod modelling his bulletproof vest for the Peter Von Frantzius 1927 catalog. This was when they were on friendly terms before Wisbrod sued Von Frantzius.
(Mario Gomes Collection)





Louis Wisbrod demonstrating the firing capabilities of a Thompson submachine gun.

Wisbrod also had tried to sue St. Louis reporter Harry T. Brundige, who once stated during the investigation of murdered Chicago reporter Jake Lingle and later published in a magazine article that Wisbrod was a gangster, in company of gangsters supplying them with weapons and bulletproof vests. Wisbrod vehemently denied he was ever a gangster and threatened to sue Brundige for those slanderous statements. Wisbrod did admit that he was friends with Al Capone and that he was very proud of it! Like Von Frantzius, Wisbrod didn't really care who he sold his wares to (Gangsters or Police). Because of this fact he was questioned several times by police for the 1929 St. Valentine's day massacre or whenever a Wisbrod vest was found at a crime scene.
Herman Bundesen (center) and Louis Wisbrod (seated right). He was being interviewed for the St. Valentine's day massacre.




Elliot Wisbrod's personally inscribed photo sent to Earl Wright who purchased one of Wisbrod's Chicago bullet proof vests. This vest later belonged to Mr. Jack Chapman. His wife sold it to me for the myalcaponemuseum collection.
(Mario Gomes Collection)




(Mario Gomes Collection)




(Mario Gomes Collection)
Probably for better status and advancement of his business in around 1930, Wisbrod began stating his heritage as German Lithuanian and shied from his Yiddish/ Russian heritage. Wisbrod was now rubbing elbows with big wigs, gangsters and officials. He also had run for Evanston alderman in 1931, on the citizen ticket, but eventually dropped out of the race. Meantime he travelled all over the country from Canada to New York in order to demonstrate his vest to Police officials. He was so confidant in his product that he was fired at 6000 times in his lifetime protected by his vest during live demonstrations. On February 16, 1933, Elliott Wisbrod confirms that Mayor Anton Cermak had come to him shortly before he was assassinated inquiring about purchasing 4 of his bullet proof vests. Sadly Cermak did not follow through on the purchase while in Miami because he was in a hurry. On April 25, 1934, Elliot Wisbrod states that he sent a bullet proof vest to J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover wants to see the vest and get a price quote per vest. Wisbrod thinks this has to do with the FBI's hunt after John Dillinger.




Wisbrod proudly personally demonstrated his product.
(Mario Gomes Collection)


July 1935, Elliott Wisbrod sails alone to France. On November 7, 1935, Wisbrod shot a 17 year old black youth who tried to steal Mrs. Sophia Wisbrod's purse. Edward Cowan made it to the hospital with wounds to his leg, hip and side. The youth had foolishly picked the wrong targets.

In 1927, Elliott Wisbrod spearheaded the Alimony Club in Chicago and Wisconsin.


Wisbrod was the head of  the Alimony Club which was a support group for men who were wiped out financially by misguided judges who took pity on sobbing wives and awarded them unjustly astronomical alimony payments.
By 1940, Sophia and her children William and Geraldine are living without Louis who is often out on the road and may have been by that time estranged from his wife. He is listed in the 1940 census as M/7 which stands for married, but not living there which can also mean his possible desertion of the family. Sophia works as a saleslady for a woman's retail Millenery shop. Louis' son William will become a decorated pilot in the airforce.






Elliot Wisbrod 1930's Chicago bullet proof vest with case and a squared sample of bullet proof plating that was shot by Wisbrod. This also came with a signed photo of Elliott Wisbrod
(Mario Gomes Collection)





Most bullet proof vests had 6 buttons. This particular Wisbrod model has 7 buttons and four pockets. The manhood protection extension can be slipped in or out of the vest.
(Mario Gomes Collection)




Inside of vest shows the stitching for the word "Police". This vest may have been refurbished by Wisbrod to resell. Many customers returned bullet proof vests to have them retrofitted with stronger plates in order to stop newer and higher velocity rounds. Wisbrod claimed his used Swedish steel.
(Mario Gomes Collection)






Closeup of bullet proof square sample included with Wisbrod case, vest and signed photo. Here we can see where a bullet was test fired. Elliott Wisbrod would demonstrate with these samples and once shot one in Captain of dectectives John Stege's office in Chicago.
(Mario Gomes Collection)





Back of shot bullet proof sample.
(Mario Gomes Collection)




Wisbrod Case
(Mario Gomes Collection)


 His product, just like General Thompson with the Thompson machine gun also brought him lots of strife. Tired of all the political nonsense and heat his dealings were bringing him in Chicago, that and also the competition brought on by other vest makers (Chicago Publishing's Dunrite, American Armor), Wisbrod moved his operations to Alameda, California by the end of the 1930's (1939-40). The reason could also be the fact that Chicago had quietened down as far as gang warfare, so police and gangsters no longer purchased as much bullet proof vests, tear gas bombs and guns. Elliott Wisbrod appears on "What's My Line" on May 29, 1955, which can be seen on youtube. Living in Alameda, California, he passes away in 1965.





Elliott Wisbrod on "What's My Line" May 1955.








Early 1940's standard bullet proof vest made by Elliott Wisbrod. He had by this time moved his operations to California.
 (Mario Gomes Collection)






Inside of 1940 Wisbrod vest.
(Mario Gomes Collection)







Tag in vest showing it's amazing capabilities for the times.
(Mario Gomes Collection)




This web page is dedicated to the memory of Mr. Jack Chapman of Oklahoma city, Oklahoma who once owned the 1930 Chicago Wisbrod bullet proof vest above. My special thanks to Mrs. Chapman, and a heartfelt thank-you to Kimberly Dilbeck of Oklahoma who made it all happen.