Monday, May 11, 2015

It all started in Chicago

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I made a recent trip to Florida. My last day was in Sarasota on a Sunday and since I didn’t have a church to attend, I decided to do something different. The day before, driving up from Naples on I -75, I noticed a sign that said “Sarasota National Cemetery.” After an early breakfast, I drove south to state road 72 and turned east for four miles and found the cemetery.

The cemetery is new, the 295 acres being purchased in 2007, and should serve veterans’ needs for the next 50 years. As I entered the grounds to my left was a large structure of some kind so that was my first stop. It was an amphitheater, seating almost 3,000 and covered by a glass roof of some 20,800 sq. ft. consisting of 792 glass panels. The rostrum is also glass covered and is almost the size of two tennis courts. It can seat a 55-piece orchestra. You can click here for pictures and more information.

Off to one side is a display that traces the history of the glass covered theater. The first display shows a picture of the Chicago Tribune building in 1855 and mentions Joseph Medill. The next is a photograph of President Lincoln because he authorized the purchase of grounds for a national cemetery in 1862. The next is dated 1914 and says: “Medill’s grandsons Col. Robert McCormick and Capt. Joseph Medill Patterson served in U.S. armed forces during World War I. The next display is dated 1944 and is a picture of Medill’s great grandson, James J. Patterson, a graduate of West Point who achieved the rank of captain. The final display is dated 1997 and shows a picture of James J. Patterson and his wife, Dorothy Clarke Patterson, who created the Patterson Foundation that erected the glass covered amphitheater.

Medill, McCormick, and Patterson all names that can be traced back to Chicago and then through northern Ireland to Scotland. This is a complicated story and difficult to tell the story of so many people. This is just a summary. I didn’t even get to the McCormick side of the family.

Joseph Medill married Katherine Patrick on September 2, 1852, and the marriage produced three daughters: Katherine, Elinor and Josephine.

Katherine, the oldest, married Robert S. McCormick who served as our ambassador to Austria, Russia, France and England. He was also the Special Commissioner from Great Britain to the Worlds Columbian Exposition in 1893. They had two sons: Joseph Medill McCormick and Robert Rutherford McCormick.

Elinor, married Robert W. Patterson, Jr. in 1878. (His father was the Reverend Mr. Patterson, pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church in Chicago.) The two had met while teaching Sunday School in a mission church. After graduation from Yale, he began working as a reporter for the Chicago Times and later worked at the Interior. He began working for the Tribune shortly before the great fire in 1871. When Joseph Medill died, Patterson became editor-in-chief of the Chicago Tribune.

 They had two children, Joseph Medill Patterson and Elinor Josephine Medill “Cissy” Patterson. Joseph became the president of the New York Daily News and vice president of the Chicago Tribune.

He also had a very complicated life including the birth a son, James Joseph Patterson, born in France. He was also the father of Alicia Patterson, who founded and edited Newsday.

His sister, Elinor Josephine Medill Patterson, always known as “Cissy” was born in Chicago on November 7, 1884. She was educated at Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Connecticut. It’s a long and complicated story which included a marriage to a Russian count, the birth of a daughter and finally a divorce which took thirteen years. After that she lived for a time in Lake Forest, Illinois, before moving on to Washington, D.C. She was one of the first women to own a major newspaper, the Washington Times-Herald. She died in 1948.

James Joseph Patterson, the great-grandson of Joseph Medill, was raised in Ossining, New York. He graduated from West Point in 1944 and soon after married Dorothy Marie Clarke. (Her father was a prison guard at Sing Sing with 14 siblings.) They met in grade school. After his military career, he joined the Daily News as a reporter in Washington, D.C. In 1958, he became vice president.

Mr. and Mrs. James Joseph Patterson retired to Longboat Key, Florida, where he died on June 24, 1992. Dorothy Clark Patterson died September 20, 2007. Five years after the death of her husband she created the Patterson Foundation with a gift of $5 million. Her estate of an estimated $225 million was added to the Foundation in 2008. She left few guidelines as to how the Foundation should operate. The Foundation built and maintains the amphitheater which is used for concerts and programs. Last year, the Army band held a concert there which was open to the public. Interesting family and I hope I have all the facts correct.

Who is like us? Nae body!

Wayne, President Emeritus

Upcoming Events

June 6, 2015 - This is the last meeting until September. Since it falls on D-Day, we should do something about the invasion. It may be a combination of several power point presentations but concentrate on “Bloody Omaha Beach.”

Highland Games - June 19-20. Held on the grounds of Hamilton Lakes, Itasca, Illinois, located at I-290 and Thorndale Avenue. For additional information click here.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Joseph Medill

Mr. Medill is a member of the Scottish American Hall of Fame. Here is the information on his plaque.

"Commenting on his death in 1899, a competitive Chicago newspaper said of Chicago Tribune editor Joseph Medill, 'No man of his time exercised a more decisive - or on the whole - a more beneficial influence on public affairs as Mr. Medill.'

"As editor of the fledgling Chicago Tribune, Joseph Medill gave the newspaper character and set it on the path to success. He served as mayor of Chicago just after the fire of 1871, instituting the reforms that still endure. He was a confidant and adviser to Abraham Lincoln. And, as editor and delegate, he had wide influence in shaping the Illinois Constitution of 1870.

"Two Presidents offered him cabinet posts but he turned them down. He was one of the founders of the Republican party and instrumental in selecting the name. Joseph Medill was born April 6, 1823, near St. John, New Brunswick, Canada. His parents were Scots Presbyterian who emigrated from Ulster in 1819. The family moved to Ohio when Joseph was 9. He studied law and was admitted to the Ohio bar but quickly turned to journalism. He edited newspapers which he bought and sold until 1855 when he moved to Chicago to become part owner of the Chicago Tribune. From then on until his death, he was a major force in the newspaper’s growth and influence as well as the city of Chicago.

"As an abolitionist, Medill effectively rallied Midwest public opinion against slavery. Medill actively supported Lincoln during his rise to prominence, became his adviser, and urged him to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

"He worked until the day he died in a San Antonio, Texas, hotel on March 16, 1899. Editorials he had written appeared in the Tribune two days after his death."

                                                                     James C. Thompson

In coming day, I want to take some members of the Medill family and follow their lives. One branch is involved in the new National Cemetery in Sarasota, Florida which I visited last week.

Lake Forest report: More than 200 people crowded into the auditorium to watch The Scots of Lake Forest on April 11, 2015. I am told the phone rang constantly on Saturday but there was no additional space. The weather was spectacular, so people had a chance to be outside and enjoy the gardens. You can only imagine how beautiful it was when the Amour’s lived in the house. Those who attended were complimentary so it appears the film exceeded expectations. No doubt there will be more opportunities to see the film, so watch for future announcements.

History Club - May 2, 2015: Join us in Heritage Hall at the Scottish Home, 28th & Des Plaines, North Riverside, IL. I will be doing the presentation continuing our discussion of the Society’s history from 1875 to 1885. We have been doing these history presentation in 10 year blocks. Bob Peterson is kind enough to bring all his expensive equipment and record the session which he then edits and places on a disc. These are available for $20.00 each.

We will also celebrate May birthdays, including mine. If you have a birthday in May come and join us for birthday cake, scones, coffee and tea. Sweet Pea, the dog, will attend, so if you have not had the opportunity to meet SP or to view the Scottish American Museum, May 2 is your day.

History Club - June 6, 2015. This is our last meeting until September and it falls on D-Day. We will concentrate our presentation on bloody Omaha Beach in honor of all our servicemen who served during World War II.

Scottish Festivals and Highland Games - June 19-20 at Hamilton Lakes in Itasca, Illinois. Click here for complete information.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew Society

Friday, March 27, 2015

I am Lolita Sheldon Armour


My name is Lolita Sheldon Amour. Actually, it’s Lola H. but I changed it in the 1900s. I understand that some of you will be viewing The Scots of Lake Forest in our country home on April 11. It was a wonderful place to live and I am pleased it still exists. Did you know I grew prize winning roses at Mellody Farm? I am sure they must all be gone by now. During the Great War, we also grew acres and acres of potatoes for our troops. We had two other homes but this was our favorite.

I was born in Suffield, Connecticut in 1869. My father was Martin J. Sheldon and he was from an old family in Connecticut. My mother was born in England. Sadly, she died when I was eleven. It was a very difficult time but my dad did the best he could under the circumstances. He placed me in Miss Porter’s school in Farmington. It was a great school and gave the training I needed for all the other phases of my life. My father never remarried and died in 1917. He is buried beside my mother in the Woodlawn Cemetery, Suffield, CT.

It wasn’t easy to travel then but I made several trips to Chicago visiting friends. On one of those trip, I met Ogden Amour. I think it was at a party but I do remember it was love at first sight. We talked and talked about our common interests and Ogden was very persistent, a trait that served him well in business. Three weeks later our engagement was announced.

Three months later, May 13, 1891, we were married in New York City. I was 22 and Ogden was 28. My father lived at the Murray Hill Hotel and we reserved one of the private parlors. It was elaborately trimmed with roses, lilacs, and hydrangeas. We stood under a canopy of roses for our vows and Dr. Gunsaulus of the Plymouth Congregational Church in Chicago read the marriage service. You recognize that name, don’t you? He’s the one who preached The Million Dollar Sermon that had such a dramatic effect on my father-in-law, Philip D. Amour.

It was a very small wedding there were no ushers and my husband didn’t have a best man. I only had two attendants: Miss Murray of Chicago and Miss Farrington of Rhinebeck, New York. Only family members and close friends were present. My father gave me away and I so wished my mother could have been there. She would have been so happy.

You should have seen my wedding gown. It was made in Paris of all places and I remember it like it was yesterday. It was made of white brocaded satin with a full court train and trimmed across the front of the skirt with a frill of old point lace. Ogden had given me a diamond lovers’ knot which fastened my tulle vest and I carried a bouquet of lilies of the valley. My granddaughter wore the same dress when she was married in 1953. I wonder what happened to the dress and the diamond knot? After the ceremony we traveled throughout the south.

By September of that same year work began on our first home, It was located on the northwest corner of Michigan avenue and Thirty-seventh place in Chicago. Such a large house for just two people but the Amour’s had an image to uphold. Ogden loved long halls and grand stairways and this house had both. You will see the same pattern when you visit our country home on April 11. The house wasn’t finished until the end of ‘92 and on January 14, 1893 we had a grand open house. Everyone came to visit. It was like the “who’s who” of Chicago. Just look at these names: Kimball, McNeil, Kellogg, Allerton, Keith, Pullman, Farwell, Buckingham, Peck, Spaulding, McIllwaine and the list goes on and on. It was a wonderful night and our poodles had such a good time.

This is a funny story from our past. We owned the first horseless carriage in Chicago. Ogden bought it in Europe and had it delivered to Chicago. So, one day, I left home to get Ogden from work. His office was in the Home Insurance building at Adams and La Salle. Here I am a woman in 1899 driving the first vehicle in Chicago that was not being pulled by a horse. You should have seen the look of amazement on the faces of policemen and of course the horses snorted and bucked at this strange sight and sound. When we finally arrived home, Ogden declared firmly and finally, “Never again, Lolita, it isn’t safe.” We had such marvelous fun and great memories. If I remember correctly, we also brought the first gas powered automobile to Chicago. It was a Panhard and painted a bright red. Sorry we didn’t keep that car. It was such a favorite.

Since we are talking about cars, and since you are going to visit Lake Forest on April 11, I think this is also a funny story. Arthur L. Farwell brought the first car to Lake Forest in 1904. The town fathers thought it so dangerous that they passed a special ordinance for protection. “This required a man on horseback to ride ahead of Mr. Farwell waving a red flag and ringing a copper dinner bell.”

Our daughter was born in 1897. We didn’t think she was going to live. She was premature and crippled. Most premature children born at that time never lived but Lolita was such a fighter and she made it. Perhaps, I should let her tell her own story some day. It was such a painful time that we never had any more children but you should have seen Ogden when he arrived home and had time to spend with our baby.

Ogden could always make money and he accumulated great wealth which in private he shared freely. We supported many charities but tried to be anonymous when we could. Toward the end of his life, events began to turn against him. I won’t go into detail but we lost everything including the mansion in Lake Forest.

It is still painful to talk about his death. Ogden was in London at the time and was staying in the Amour suite at the Carlton hotel. He had contracted typhoid fever and that, combined with a weak heart, was just too much. He was sixty-four and the date was August 27, 1927. We brought him home on the Derengaria and the funeral was held at the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago. The church was filled with the rich and the poor. They touched shoulders with each other as they paid tribute. Many stood around the edges of the sanctuary. He was buried in the family plot at Graceland.

When you visit our home on April 11, I hope you will think of us and how much we enjoyed this place as our summer home. Remember, the program begins at 2:00 p.m. on April 11, 2015 and the film lasts an hour followed by a reception. I hope this small article of memory will help you appreciate the great mansion and the Scots of Lake Forest. Ogden was always proud of his Scottish heritage, and he was a life member of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society. Please wear your Scottish attire and kilt if you have one.

Click here to register................

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society

Personal Note:  I will be in the Sarasota and Naples area, April 14 through Sunday, April 19 If you would like to have breakfast, lunch or dinner, call me or sent an email to I will be attending a meeting, doing Scottish research, etc.  If you are knowledgeable about Bertha Palmer and her land holdings in the Sarasota area, please contact me. If you are a member of a St. Andrew’s Society, please contact me. I will have a rental car and don’t mind driving to you.

April 4, 2015 - History Club meeting will feature the town of Pullman. Our speaker will be Michael Shymanski. He and his wife live in Pullman and they were founding members of the Historic Pullman Foundation. You will hear about some of the Scots who lived and worked in the town of Pullman. Museum opens at 9 a.m. and the program begins at 10.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Scots of Lake Forest

The Historical Society of Lake Forest-Lake Bluff will sponsor a premier of the video “The Scots of Lake Forest” on Saturday, April 11 at 2 p.m. The video will be shown in the Amour house of Lake Forest Academy. Once described as the “most beautiful house between New York and San Francisco” it was built as the country home of J. Ogden Amour. At the time, Mr. Amour was described as the second richest man in the world.

He purchased several contiguous farms and accumulated more than twelve hundred acres. They called it Mellody Farm. The architect was Arthur Heun of Chicago and the contractor was a Scot, Morton R. Mavor. I have read they brought in black dirt to cover two hundred acres a depth of two feet around the house. Construction started in 1905 and the residence of 29,000 square feet was occupied on May 5, 1908. It is built in the shape of the letter H. Landscaping was done by Jens Jensen.

When you attend the event on April 11, you will enter the central hallway which is 20 feet wide and 112 feet long. At the far end is a fireplace. From here one can enter the music room, the library, the dining room and a breakfast room at the back. There are pictures on the walls which show how the house was originally decorated. “Displaying tapestries against warm white walls, the entrance was furnished with long, low benches, giant porcelain jardinieres, marble-topped 18th-century consoles, and a Chinese lacquer cabinet on a gilt-wood stand.” The floor of the main hall was of marble tile, but almost entirely covered with rugs. It must have been spectacular!

Between the dining room and the living room is the great marble stairway leading to the second floor. The marble was rose and green with a bronze railing. The stairway was then covered with a magnificently woven carpet. If you use your imagination, you can almost see their daughter, Lolita descending the stairs at her wedding to John J. Mitchell, Jr. in 1921.

The Amour House is the perfect venue for the showing of “The Scots of Lake Forest.” The Amour’s came from Argyllshire, Scotland where the chief town is Campbelltown. Philip Danforth Amour established the great meat-packing business in Chicago and became a benefactor of the arts and education. He provided the funds to establish the Amour Institute now known as the Illinois Institute of Technology. “He was one of the most generous supporters of the Scottish organization known as the Illinois Saint Andrew Society.” J. Ogden who built the mansion was the only surviving son of Philip D. Amour and his wife Lolita Sheldon Amour.

There were four permanent residents in the mansion and each had a bedroom in a corner of the H shaped second floor. Mr. Amour lived on the right and had a study on the main floor with private stairs and an elevator. Mrs. Amour lived on the left but there was no connecting hallway between the two bedrooms. Lolita lived in the back bedroom and the mother of J. Ogden lived in the remaining one. Each bedroom also had a separate sitting room.

Mellody Farm cost 12 million dollars. It had its own water and power sources. There were orchards, a carriage house with a clock tower, stables, and an ice house. There were gold and silver doorknobs, imported marble walls with a bowling alley in the basement and 210 fireplaces. The Amour’s were very wealthy, but not everyone who lived in Lake Forest was and many of those people are featured in the video showing on April 11 beginning at 2 p.m.  The hour-long film touches on many of the almost 1,000 native born Scots and their children who helped establish Lake Forest. The video also recognizes the hardworking Scots who paved the streets, built the school, dug the sewers and ran many of the original stores in town. Over 2,000 vintage photographs were collected for this project. You will also hear about the Scots who founded Carson, Pirie and Scott and ran Quaker Oats and the Zenith Corporation.

Admission fee $10.00. Lake Forest Academy is located at 1500 W. Kennedy Road, Lake Forest, IL. Seating is limited to 150.

Click here to register.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
The Illinois Saint Andrew Society

Upcoming Events

April 4, 2015 - History Club meeting will feature the Town of Pullman. Our speaker will be Michael Shymanski. He and his wife live in Pullman and he was a founding member of the Historic Pullman Foundation. You will hear about the Scots who lived and worked in the town of Pullman.

May 2, 2015 - History Club meeting will celebrate all the May birthdays and we will cover 10 more years of Scottish history in Chicago. Details later.

June 6, 2015 - “Bloody Omaha Beach on D-Day.”

No meeting in July or August

September 12, 2015 - Speaker is Dr. James E. Davis. “Unusual Features of the American Revolution.”

October 3, 2015 - Dr. Euan Hague

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Hats, Pullman, Lake Forest & a Cairngorm Brooch

All About Hats

On Saturday, March 7, 2015, Mary Robak will be our speaker. She will be talking about how millinery evolved from the fur trade to its peak in the 1920s.  We will hear about the “movers and shakers of the industry.”  “The industry of Edson Keith, Fisk and Gage led the wholesale world in the midwest, west and to a lesser extent, other parts of the U.S. Chicago grew many department stores with a significant reliance on their millinery sales.”

As you know, we have six Bes Ben hats in our museum and they will be on display. We had hoped that the hats might lead us back to the original owners but that appears unlikely. We have one hat box with the name Mary Watt on the tag. Mary was a resident at the Scottish Home and died July 20, 2000. She was born in Scotland, February 2, 1903.

On March 7, the museum will open at 9 a.m., the program will start at 10 and finish in about an hour. Reservations are not necessary but helpful. Call 708.408.5591. There is no charge. Coffee and scones will be available.

The Town of Pullman

The History Club on April 4, 2015, will turn its attention to the Town of Pullman and our speaker will be Michael Shymanski.  He is a Pullman resident and founding member of the Historic Pullman Foundation. As you know, President Obama visited the Pullman district in February and established the district as a National Monument within the National Park System. Mr. Shymanski was featured widely in newspaper and radio articles about the event.

You may hear about the Scots who lived and worked in the town of Pullman.

Lake Forest Video

The premiere of the movie The Scots of Lake Forest will be held on April 11, 2015, at the Lake Forest Academy beginning at 2:00 p.m. The hour-long video touches on many of the almost 1,000 native born Scots and their children who helped establish Lake Forest. You’ll learn about the Scots who founded Carson, Pirie and Scot, ran Quaker Oats and the Zenith Corporation.

Over 2,000 old photographs were collected for this project, many from private collections, as well as the Scottish American History Museum and Lake Forest Historical Society’s photograph collection.

The premiere takes place in the Amour Manson at Lake Forest Academy, the former home of Scotsman J. Ogden Amour. Refreshments will follow the movie. Signed copies of Eddi Reader’s CD, The Songs of Robert Burns, which accompanies the film, will be available for a donation of $20.

Tickets are $10 - reservations requested. Tickets may be purchased by calling 847.234.5253 or visiting the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society website. You can also call Wayne Rethford at 630.629.4516.

250 Carat, Stirling Silver Cairngorm Brooch

I saw this brooch at the Burn’s Dinner held at the Union League Club in Chicago and it is beautiful and impressive. It was crafted by R. & H.B. Kirkwood who were responsible for making the dirks and sgian dubhs for the Gordon Highlander’s Regiment. A very few Cairngorm Military Brooches were made, most likely for the top ranking officers. Date 1902-03.

The dimensions of this extremely large and impressive brooch are as follows:

Diameter: 4 1/8 inches
Height: This brooch will stand c. 2 inches high when worn on your clan tartan sash
Carats: 250

This unique brooch is now for sale. If interested, please contact

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Architect and the Silversmith

In the last blog, I wrote about Robert Jarvie the silversmith. When Jarvie had a problem with design, he often turned to his friend, George Grant Elmslie, the architect. They worked together on a number of projects including items for sale at Carson, Pirie, Scott & Company.

In 1912, the Aero-Hydro Club of Illinois sponsored an International Aviation meet in Chicago. Jarvie was asked to design a trophy for the winner of a ten-mile hydroplane race. He turned to Elmslie for help on the design. “The trophy’s angular column and rounded bowl, embellished with delicately designed flying fish and seaweed, create a perfect setting for the model hydroplane perched on top.” You can see a picture here. For some reason the trophy was never awarded and now resides in the Chicago History Museum.

George Grant Elmslie, the architect, was born February 20, 1871, on a farm called Foot O’ Hill in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, near the town of Huntly. His formal education began in the Riggens School in Gartly and continued in the famous and highly disciplined Duke of Gordon School in Huntly. His father came to Chicago in 1883 and was employed by the Armour Company. The family arrived one year later.

At the age of 16, George Elmslie began training with J. L. Silsbee where he worked with Corin, Maher and Frank Lloyd Wright. He followed Wright to Louis Sullivan where he worked for 20 years and was considered a devoted assistant. During that time, he detailed the exterior of the Wainwright Building in St. Louis and designed the ironwork entrance and interior finish of the Carson, Pirie, Scott building in Chicago.

“Craig Zabel writes of architect George Grant Elmslie who believed he never got proper credit for work done in Sullivan’s office. Still, Elmslie was so respectful of Sullivan that after his death he destroyed Sullivan’s diaries, thus keeping secret part of the master’s personal life and depriving historians of a rich resource.” (Chicago Tribune, March 21, 1991, pg G14.) He also designed, along with William L. Steele of Sioux City, Iowa, the monument erected on Louis Sullivan’s grave in Graceland Cemetery.

On September 14, 1910, Elmslie married Bonnie Marie Hunter. He was 39, and she was 29. William Purcell said “No man was happier in winning his bride than George Grant Elmslie.” They moved to their new home in Minneapolis, where George Elmslie had just become a partner in the firm of Purcell, Feick and Elmslie. According to her death certificate, she was admitted to a Chicago hospital in late August, 1912. She died of a blood clot in the lungs after an appendectomy, September 8 1912, and is buried at Graceland. I found one picture of the couple on the Internet. He was profoundly affected by the death of his wife and often worked himself into a state of exhaustion which required hospitalization. He never married again and there were no children.

Elmslie died April 25, 1952 and is buried in Graceland Cemetery with his wife and three members of her family.

The Internet lists some 400 projects where Elmslie was listed as the architect. Just a few of his commissions are listed below. For more see Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame which is now located in Elgin, Illinois.

  • Henry Babson house, 277 Gatesby Road, Riverside, IL.
  • People’s Gas Light & Coke Co. 4839 W. Irving Park Rd., Chicago
  • Healy Chapel, 332 W. Downer Pl., Aurora, IL.
  • “Windy Pines” 1421 Milwaukee Rd., Glevniew, IL. 
  • Edison Jr. High School, Hammond, IN.
  • Lake Lawn Hotel, Lelavan, WI.
  • St. Charles Country Club, St. Charles, IL.
  • Maxwelton Braes Resort Hotel, Baileys Harbor, WI.
  • The Airplane House, Woods Hole, MA.
  • Purcell-Cutts House, Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Merchants National Bank Building, Winona, Minnesota

I don’t know that Elmslie was a member of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society but his office was in the People’s Gas, Light, & Coke building on Michigan Avenue. Here he would have been surrounded by Scots including John Williamson. There is one record of a gift from George Elmslie supporting the Scottish Home in 1924. He also signed the admission request for the Jarvie’s to the Scottish Home.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society

Upcoming Events:

March 7, 2015 - All about hats, including the Bess Ben hats in the Scottish American Museum. Our speaker is Mary Robak who wants every woman to wear a hat. She and Elizabeth Fanuzzi have been studying our six Bess Ben hats in the hope their original owner could be identified. 

April 4, 2015 - The Town of Pullman. The President is coming to Chicago next week to designate the Town of Pullman, Illinois, a historic site on the National Register. I just heard our speaker, Michael Shymanski, talking about this event on the radio.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Robert Jarvie, Silversmith

A friend of mine recently saw two Onwentsia golf trophies for sale and then I saw two candlesticks made by the same person for sale. We don’t know much about the trophies but the candlesticks came from Oak Park, Illinois, and they sold for $60,000. All three items were made by Robert Jarvie.

Robert Riddle Jarvie was born in Schenectady, New York, on October 24, 1865. His parents, Robert Jarvie and Jane Riddle, were both born in Alva, Scotland. In the 1870 census they were living in Rockford, Illinois.  In the 1880 census the family lived in Minneapolis. The father was 44, the mother was 38 and Robert R. was 15. The father worked in a woolen mill and was perhaps a weaver.

Robert Jarvie came to Chicago in the late 1890s and worked as a clerk in the Department of Transportation. In his spare time, he began to experiment with various metals. “Apparently self-taught he may have also studied at AIC.” (Art Institute of Chicago?)

He married Lillian Gray from Rockford but I couldn’t find a date. Also, one writer says there is no picture of Robert Jarvie or his wife anywhere. She is described in one article as a writer and book seller. There were no children. With the help of his wife, they opened a store in the Fine Arts Building where they sold “candlesticks, lanterns, copper bowls, bookends, sconces, vases, trays, smoking accessories, and desk sets.”

In 1910, Jarvie was commissioned by Charles Hutchinson to produce a silver punch bowl for the Cliff Dwellers Club of Chicago. Both Hutchinson and Jarvie were charter members. This is the only work by Jarvie that I have seen thanks to an invitation from Nike Whitcombe and Brice McDonald to attend one of their events. It is a beautiful bowl and a prized possession.

After 1912, Jarvie’s shop was located on the upper floor of the Old English Cottage at 842 Exchange Avenue in the Union Stock Yards. Here, he designed trophies for the International Live Stock Exhibition. “He won acclaim for his tea sets, candles, and bowls patterned after those of Paul Revere,” He also added furniture making and wool rugs but these were not successful. “These new enterprises failed to sustain him through America’s involvement in World War I and by 1920 he was forced to close his shop. Thereafter he lapsed into obscurity until a recent revival of interest in his work brought him recognition as one of America’s outstanding modern silversmiths.” In 1915, Lillian took a job as secretary at the National Kindergarten College which apparently evolved into National Louis University.

You can see examples of his work in the Hirsch & Adler gallery in New York City, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago History Museum, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. No examples of his furniture making have been found. Very little is know about him after his retirement years but he did work in the silver department at Peacock’s for a short time before they entered The Scottish Old People’s Home. At the time, they lived at 2020 Sherman Avenue in Evanston, Illinois.

They entered the Scottish Home, May 1, 1941.  They had no savings but Mrs. Jarvie had a $7,500 life insurance policy and was drawing a $50 a month pension from Northwestern University. She had worked until 1940 as the secretary to William A. Dyche, business manager of Northwestern University. They also rented 2 rooms in their home. They had been recommended for admission by Mrs. Lister of Evanston, George Elmslie (the architect), and John Jeffrey of 810 Greenleaf Avenue, Glenview, Illinois. She died October 6, 1941 at the age of 70 from cardiac arrest.

The application for Robert Jarvie shows that he had no personal property, no real estate, no pension or benefits, and no life insurance. He was a Baptist and in case of serious illness the Home was to notify Mrs. Raymond Sheets in Rockford, Illinois. It would be interesting to know where they lived in the Scottish Home but those records may be gone. One month after his wife died, Mr. Jarvie was visiting someone in Chicago when he suffered a fatal heart attack. He was 76 years old.

They are both buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Rockford, Illinois.

Wayne Rethford, Past President
Illinois Saint Andrew Society

Upcoming Events:

February 7, 2015 - Professor Euan Hague of DePaul University. "From Christmas Day 1950 to September 2014 - A history of modern Scottish Nationalism.”  The September 2014 Scottish referendum was a remarkable event. Around 85% of the electorate voted, and a majority decided that Scotland should remain in the United Kingdom. The bigger story, however, was that of the Scottish nationalists who gained 45% of the vote for independence and separation from the United Kingdom. This promises to be a very informative meeting for our members. 

March 7, 2015 - “Hats, including our Bess Ben hats.” The speaker is Mary Robak who wants every woman to wear a hat. She and Elizabeth Fanuzzi have been studying the six Bess Ben hats in our museum. You will find their presentation very interesting and entertaining.

April 4, 2015 - The Town of Pullman. 

The Scottish-American Museum opens at 9 a.m. on the day of our event and the program begins at 10. There is no charge. Reservations not necessary but helpful. Call 708-408-5591. The Scottish Home is located at 28th and Des Plaines, North Riverside, Illinois.