The Annual Dinner of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society is scheduled for November 18 at the Inner-Continental Hotel on Michigan Ave., Chicago, Illinois and you can get all the necessary information at their web site.
This event has now been held continuously for 166 years and is the oldest of its kind in Chicago. The original purpose was to celebrate St. Andrew’s Day as indicated by the headlines in the Chicago Daily Journal of December 6, 1845. November 30 is St. Andrew’s Day but, if it fell on Sunday as it did in 1845, the event was held the next night. As most of you know, it was at the Lake House hotel, along the banks of the Chicago River and only a few steps from the present location of the Wrigley Building.
James Murray, Esq. came from Buffalo, N.Y. to chair the meeting. Mr. Murray was a private banker who had lived in Chicago but had sold his business to Alexander Brand and moved to Buffalo. He was assisted by George Steele and Daniel McElroy. Also, on the platform were Judge Thomson and the Rev. Mr. Giles. The Daily Journal reported that between “fifty and sixty sat down to a sumptuous dinner.”
Music was supplied by two individuals but it is unclear what kind of instruments they played. Here is a list of some of the songs they played after the appropriate toasts: It was in this order: “God Save the Queen,” “Star-Spangled Banner,” “Lochiel’s March,” “Washington March,” “Yankee Doodle,” and “Green Grow the Rushes O.” You can hear all of these songs on the Internet. (One song I couldn’t find on the Internet was “Nannia ch,” however the newspaper is very old so perhaps I am not spelling it correctly.)
Apparently there were no dancers but there may have been a piper because George Anderson had written to Rockford, IL. seeking one. The actual letter was purchased from a collector several years ago and is on display in the Scottish American Museum.
After the nine planned toasts with appropriate music, there were some 20 “volunteer toasts” which included such things as: “The Bench and Bar in Illinois,” “The Lyrics of Scotland and her Literature,” “Robert Burns,” “The City of Edinburgh,” and last of all “The Highlands of Scotland” offered by D. E. Ross. The paper reports that the room was “appropriately decorated with the Stars and Stripes blending with the Plaid and Thistle.” There is no indication of what was on the menu or what those in attendance wore.
Captain John McClellan (not the famous Civil War general) was in attendance. He was here working on the Chicago harbor. There is no known record of who planned the event or when they began planning but since George Steele was shown as president in 1845, one would suspect that he was much involved. We do know he passed around a paper soliciting names of those interested in forming a St. Andrew’s Society. The first formal meeting of the new organization was held in January 1846.
The event on November 18 will be totally different from the first one, even the emphasis will not be the same, but it all started 166 years ago.
Wayne Rethford, Historian
Scottish-American History Club