Evert “Mac” McCabe
Founder Shot by Wife
Evert “Mac” McCabe, who merged his Motorcycle Delivery Company with American Messenger Company, becoming one the the four UPS founders, was tragically shot to death by his wife in 1933. He was known as “The Man with a Smile” and for 20 years contributed greatly to the success of United Parcel Service
The engaging and innovative Evert “Mac” McCabe was the son of a man named George O’Farrell. Of a strict Catholic family, George O’Farrell was studying to be a priest in Canada. Disenchanted with his vocation, which was more of a family decision than a spiritual “calling,” he left the seminary by climbing over the wall at night. He headed for Buffalo, N.Y. where he met a non-Catholic family named McCabe. He moved into the McCabe household, and later George O’Farrell legally changed his name to that of his new “family.”
George McCabe eventually married and moved to Antwerp, Ohio, where, on September 24, 1886, Evert McCabe was born. The young McCabe family then moved to Elwood, Indiana, where Evert was raised and graduated from high school. McCabe had a big smile and the charisma that could have made him a televangelist in another era.
In high school, young McCabe organized boys’ clubs, and started sales campaigns for newspapers and magazines. One of his classmates was also his next-door neighbor, Wendell Wilkie, who went on to become the Republican candidate for President in 1940.
While a senior, McCabe fell madly in love with a popular, attractive blonde. He learned the girl’s father was a champion chess player, so McCabe practiced and became quite good at chess, thinking it might be a way to get on the girl’s good side. The plan backfired, as McCabe soundly beat the father, who with injured pride, kicked the young man out of the house and asked him not to return.
Dejected, McCabe decided to leave Indiana and hit the road. He was always an optimist and knew he would succeed wherever he went. He hitchhiked and hopped freight trains across the country arriving on the Pacific coast where for a while he worked in a logging camp. He then headed for Seattle, arriving in either late 1904, or early 1905.
In Seattle, McCabe lived at the YMCA and enrolled in the 10-year-old University of Washington where he took classes in journalism, rhetoric and oratory, and Spanish.
He also sought employment and in 1906 took a position as a sales solicitor and collector for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper. At the Post-Intelligencer the charismatic McCabe met another employee, Garnet Sprague, and soon they were dating. Garnet became Mrs. Evert McCabe in 1908.
Later, while out soliciting sales and making collections for the newspaper, McCabe noted a need for a delivery service in Seattle. He rightly felt that most people’s transportation of merchandise and small packages, especially in the burgeoning suburbs, were limited. Very few people owned their own cars.
So McCabe then went to work for a company that made deliveries around the Seattle area using automobiles. They, however, soon went out of business, leaving McCabe with a little experience and a lot of ideas.
As motorcycles were just beginning to come into wider use at that time, McCabe felt that the faster form of motorcycle transportation would be best. So he formed the Motorcycle Delivery Company, the first fully operated motorcycle service in the Pacific Northwest.
McCabe found office space at 4 Union Court, an office that conveniently offered alley parking for the motorcycles. While McCabe was out on the road soliciting new business, his wife Garnet managed the office.
By 1913, McCabe’s Motorcycle Delivery Company had a fleet of about a dozen motorcycles serving the Seattle area. They had become a “tough competitor” according to a manager of one of the rival messenger companies.
Indeed, tough competitor describes Evert McCabe. He went on to become the champion chess master of Seattle, and his tenacity in sales, innovation, and determination helped guide the young company that followed the upcoming merger to success.
The messenger companies merge
Meanwhile, Jim Casey and Claude Ryan had wanted to expand their American Messanger Company and called their competitor McCabe to discuss possible their joining forces. Shortly after that phone call from Casey and Ryan, an intrigued McCabe rode his motorcycle the approximate four blocks over to American Messenger Company on Marion Street. The two owners and the very personable McCabe discussed the possible merger, and how all would benefit by combining forces.
McCabe immediately agreed to talk about it again soon and further explore the possibilities. So they decided to meet a couple of nights later at Joe’s Delicatessen, where over small sandwiches and lots of conversation, McCabe agreed that it would be a good idea to join forces. He said that he would have to discuss it with his wife, who not only handled his books, but was also his partner in the business and tended to be quite possessive.
McCabe returned the next day to say that his wife was opposed to the merger. McCabe had already advanced from mildly receptive to downright excited about the combining of forces, so he too shared the disappointment. Jim Casey then asked McCabe if he minded if he personally talked to Mrs. McCabe and review any reasons or concerns she may have. McCabe said no, he didn’t mind, and encouraged Casey to try.
So Jim Casey reviewed the advantages of merger with a worrisome and anxious Mrs. Garnet McCabe, who then, emboldened with more information and personally getting to know one of the new principals, abruptly changed her mind and granted her approval.
It seems incongruous that McCabe, by far the most personable and outgoing of the eventual UPS founders, would have had a wife who seemed so controlling and domineering. She not only almost killed the merger, but literally would be the death of her husband many years later.
New York -- 1933
Many key UPS people had converged on New York City in 1930 to facilitate the growth on the east coast, most moving their families with them. As always, business people had to juggle their work with their families, and in some cases it can be a daunting challenge.
Evert McCabe, the man whose sales ability and innovations meant so much to the fledgling company, had earlier lost a son and the family took it hard. In addition to his own grief, his heartbroken wife had great difficulty accepting the loss and became obsessed and withdrawn.
The inconsolable and unstable Mrs. Garnet McCabe finally snapped on the night of January 12, 1933 and shot her husband to death. The man known around the company as “The Man With a Smile” was gone.
I had heard the story of the murder in the 1960s but could never document it. Years later I point blank asked former CEO Paul Oberkotter(1972-1973) about it and he was clearly uncomfortable as he didn’t want to answer for the record and didn’t want to lie. He then asked me to rephrase the question which I did. He wanted me to ask him to deny if it happened. He looked me straight in the eye and his answer, saying he couldn’t deny it, assured me the murder of Evert McCabe by his wife was true. Additional research provided the following facts.
A New York Times article, dated January 13, 1933 carried the accompanying article on page 36:
SHOT DEAD BY WIFE IN TUDOR CITY HOME; Evert McCabe, Executive, Slain by Woman Believed Crazed by Death of Son; HAD BEEN WED 25 YEARS; Testimony Indicates Mrs. McCabe Was Melancholia Sufferer, Prosecutor Declares.
Evert McCabe, 45 years old, vice president of the United Parcel Service, Inc. was shot to death at 2 o’clock yesterday morning in the three-room McCabe apartment on the nineteenth floor of the Woodstock Tower at 320 East Forty-second Street, Tudor City. Mrs. Garnett McCabe, 44 years old, his wife, is held as his slayer.
Two guests who were asleep in the apartment at the time of the shooting, the McCabe family physician, who arrived soon afterward, and Mrs. McCabe herself have given statements, according to the District Attorney’s office, that indicate that Mrs. McCabe was mentally irresponsible at the time.
“Two years ago,” said James D.C. Murray, counsel for Mrs. McCabe. “the first born son, Gene McCabe, died at the age of 22. Mrs. McCabe brooded over it and eventually began to suffer from melancholia. She could talk of nothing else; it was an obsession.
“She felt that all the other members of the family ought to keep the memory of Gene alive by talking about him. Her husband resorted to every possible effort to get the subject out of her mind and her ill mind resented that. He took her to their home in Florida early last November, but when she returned two weeks ago, the situation was unchanged.”
Had Picture of Son in Hand
Mr. Murray said the shooting was “wholly an act of a diseased mind.” He pointed out, in support of that statement, that the first persons she encountered after the shooting noticed that she carried a photograph of the dead boy in her hand.
The McCabes were married twenty-five years ago. A daughter, Ruth, born a year later than Gene, is attending school in Honolulu; George, a 14-year-old son, and Larry, an adopted son of the same age, are in a school in Florida.
On Wednesday night the McCabes went to the theatre, returning about midnight. They had as guests Bertrand S. Meyers, sales manager for the United Parcel Service, Inc., and Thomas Barker, an engineer for the firm. The guests retired to a bedroom at one end of the apartment and fell asleep. At 2 o’clock a pounding on the door awakened them.
Mrs. McCabe confronted them when they threw the door open.
“I’ve shot Evert five times,” she cried. “I think I’ve killed him.”
Tears were streaming down her face.
Mr. McCabe’s body lay near the bathroom door. There was a bullet wound in the left side of his head, with powder burns around it, indicating that the weapon had been discharged at close range.
Dr. Edward E. Johnson, the family physician, responded immediately to a telephone call, but Mr. McCabe was already dead. The physician, according to Sylvester Consentino, Assistant District Attorney, told him upon arrival that Mrs. McCabe had admitted to him that she had fired the shot that killed her husband.
Notes Hinted at Suicide
Mr. Consentino said two notes written by Mrs. McCabe were found in the apartment. One of the notes, he disclosed, indicated that she intended to end her own life. The other contained the question, “Why don’t you say something about Gene once in a while?” and asked that the other children be cared for.
When the police came Mrs. McCabe was near a collapse and able to answer only a few questions. She is alleged to have admitted that she bought a revolver in Daytona just before Christmas. Despite her statement that she fired five shots with the weapon, the detectives found that she had fired only one.
At the line-up Mrs. McCabe could hardly stand. Supported by policewomen, she sagged as she stood on the platform.
“Did you have a revolver?” asked Inspector Stilson.
“I don’t know,” she answered weakly.
“How long have you been married?”
Hysteria seized her again and it seemed that she would faint. Inspector Stilson saw it was futile to attempt further questioning and she was led away. When arraigned before Magistrate McGee in Homicide Court later her body shook with her deep sobs and she covered her face with her hands.
Mr. Murray did not object when the magistrate held his client without bail for hearing next Thursday. He attributed her condition to the death of her son, and declared he would have her examined by alienists after the case was presented to the grand jury.
Assistant District Attorney Consentino said the evidence would probably be given to the grand jury on Monday.
On January 16, 1933, the same paper carried the following obituary notice:
McCabe, Evert, on Jan. 12, 1933 husband of Garnet E. McCabe, father of Ruth, George, and Larry McCabe of New York City, son of Mrs. George F. McCabe and brother of Mrs. Helen McCabe Curtis, Frank, and Montclair McCabe of Los Angeles, Cal. Funeral services at Universal Funeral Chapel, 597 Lexington Ave., on Monday, Jan.16, 2:30 P.M. Interment private.
Shortly after the death of McCabe, his estate offered some of his shares of UPS stock for sale to qualified UPS employees. In 1935 the McCabe Estate again offered more shares for purchase by qualified employees. As these offered shares were the only ones available at the time, they were quickly snapped up.
In 1983, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his death, his daughter Ruth McCabe Bertauche presented the University of Washington with two endowment funds, the Evert McCabe Endowed Fellowship program in Private Enterprise, which provides grants to business students, and The Evert McCabe Distinguished Chair in Marketing and Transportation. At the time the university dedicated the Evert McCabe Room, which includes a plaque, other mementoes, and a portrait of the alumnus who went on to be a founder of UPS.
There were about 100 of us there in Seattle on dedication day, May 18, 1983, including former UPS Board Chairman and CEO Paul Oberkotter and a few Washington district personnel. A northern California UPS center manager was also in attendance as Ruth McCabe Bertauche lived in his area, appreciated his service, and invited him.
Mrs. Bertauche was on mailing lists for several UPS company publications and bristled every time she noticed Jim Casey referred to as “The” Founder of UPS. She called the CEO several times to be assured each time that in the future he would be referred to as “one” of the Four Founders. We had to be careful of the wording. In her opinion, Evert McCabe was the founder who invited Jim Casey along for the ride.
While the daughter of Evert McCabe was defensive and proprietary, others in the McCabe family were more agreeable. Evert’s brother, Frank McCabe, became a Hollywood Center driver and retired after 20 years employment in 1954.
This brother of one of the founders wrote me a complimentary post card in May 1967. It read,
Dear Mr. Niemann. Let me offer you congratulations for the fine Big Idea that I receive each week. What a change from the day that I did little news items for Hollywood Station when “Bink” (Vernon Binkley) was editor. Of course, as the company grows larger a much larger issue is necessary, and you are sure doing a fine job, Keep up the good work.
A favor I must ask. If you have at least 2 copies of the B.I. about 4 or 5 weeks ago that Jim Casey told of the early days of U.P. and my brother’s part he played in the days in Seattle until his death in N.Y. It was precious and my sister and brother would cherish having copies. I have watched this co. grow since 1913 and had 20 years employment until retirement in 1954. My son is a driver at South. (Ed note: I also talked with his son Rey McCabe, who was a South Center driver in the 1960s on several occasions). Yours, Frank McCabe.
Evert McCabe’s contributions to United Parcel Service are legendary. He organized the UPS Breakfast Club, the circulating library, the Alexander Hamilton course for management people, and he trained others in personality, psychology, English, and leadership.
He was known as an idea man. And an idea to Mac meant action. According to Jim Casey, “When Mac decided something should be done, he didn’t stop to think of the reasons why it might not be possible to do. He didn’t count on failure—in fact, he completely ignored the possibility of failure.
“He was strong on friendship—believed in honorable dealing with everyone. As outgoing as he was, with a wonderful sense of humor, he was a modest man. He hated those who blew their own horn—and if you ever disappointed him after he had put his faith and trust in you, you would have a hard time regaining that trust.”
In 1967 Jim Casey said about Mac, “As long as United Parcel Service has men who are overly optimistic, men who are dreamers, practical or impractical, men who put their imagination into play, and men who believe in people, there will always be an Evert McCabe.”