Monday, November 28, 2011

Joan Pinkerton and William Chalmers, Part II

I have written several articles about Joan Pinkerton. She is one of the more memorable personalities in Chicago history. I wish there was more information but perhaps I don’t know where to look. Joan Pinkerton, was born on July 22, 1855 to Alan Pinkerton and his wife. She was their only living daughter. (The name Joan is carried through many generations in this family.)

Joan Pinkerton was described as being beautiful, well-educated, and extremely popular. I couldn’t find a reference as to her schooling except that she was sent "back East." She loved music, and she loved to dance which may explain the ballroom on the third floor of their Ashland home. In the society pages of the Chicago Daily Tribune, you can see the name Joan Pinkerton and William Chalmers attending weddings, club dances and other social events. She was described as “a leader in the city’s social and charitable life for more than four decades."

Joan and William were very popular young people in Chicago. When their wedding was scheduled, October 21, 1878, they sent out 500 invitations. Some 3,000 young people arrived at the Third Presbyterian Church. The Chicago Tribune reported that “the galleries, the seats, and the floor – every available space was taken. A large number stood upon the seats, much to the disgust of the church trustees.” Outside the streets were jammed with horses and carriages for blocks around. "There was never such a wedding in Chicago.”

Outside of the social scene, Mrs. Chalmers became interested in crippled children because her sister Isabel was a crippled child who died in 1863. In Chicago at the corner of Polina and Park Avenue, was a home for crippled children. Its official name was The Home for Destitute and Crippled Children. Joan Chalmers became interested in these children and wanted them to have a place in the country once they were able to leave the facility on Park Avenue. She was instrumental in the purchase of 68 acres valued at $12,000 along the Aurora & Elgin Electric Line, some 3 miles west of Wheaton, Illinois. There is much more to this story and it will be reserved for another blog in the future.

I don’t know how much they traveled, but on June 5, 1898 they sailed for Europe on the Cunard steamship Lucania. Also on board were Mr. And Mrs. Lambert Tree. This note appeared on March 5, 1902 . “Mrs. W. J. Chalmers and Miss. Joan Chalmers are going abroad.  They will leave town on Saturday and sail from New York on March 15, going directly to Paris. Their stay abroad will not be a prolonged one, as Mrs. Chalmers expects to be back in time to open her country house at Lake Geneva early in June. At some time on this trip they were joined by Norman Williams, Jr. of Chicago and all three returned on the steamship Pennsylvania. They were met in New York by Mr. Chalmers and shortly thereafter a statement was issued that Miss Joan Chalmers was engaged to be married to Norman Williams, Jr.

Mr. & Mrs. Chalmers were in Europe when World War I started and they returned home immediately and began to raise money for the Belgian children caught in war. They returned to Europe in 1921 and brought home a collection of war medals which was later given to the Art Institute. One of the medals was dated May 5, 1915 which shows “death” booking a passage on the Lusitania. The ship was sunk May 7, 1915. Mrs. Chalmers believed that this was clear evidence that Germany intended to sink the ship. Does the Art Institute still have the medals on display?

During her lifetime she was: President of the West End Woman’s Club; member of the Saddle and Cycle; the Fortnightly and the Woman’s Athletic Club. Mrs. Chalmers also once taught a Sunday school class at the Third Presbyterian Church. She believed that if one remained young at heart they would never grow old.

Mrs. Chalmers died on January 25, 1940. Her funeral was held in St. Chrysostom’s Episcopal Church, 1424 North Dearborn street. Burial was private in Graceland cemetery. Two grandchildren survived: Mrs. F. Hamilton Merrill of New York and Norman Williams, Jr. of Woodstock, VT.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew's Society

The next meeting of the Scottish-American History Club will be January 7, 2012.

Donations to the History Club may be made through the Illinois St. Andrew's Society.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

William J. Chalmers & Joan Pinkerton, Part I

William James Chalmers was born in Chicago on July 10, 1852. His father was Thomas Chalmers born in Dundee, Scotland. His mother, Janet Telser, was also born in Scotland. William was educated in the public schools of Chicago and did not attend college. He began working with his father early in life at the Eagle Works Mfg. Company where his father was General Superintendent. In 1872 they created a new firm called Fraser & Chalmers which became the largest manufacturer of mining machinery in the world. In 1900 they united with the Allis Engine Works at Milwaukee and became Allis-Chalmers with William J. as the President.

Joan Pinkerton was the only daughter of Alan Pinkerton, the detective. She was described as a striking brunette, well educated and highly independent. A classmate of hers, Lizzie Chalmers, had a brother named William and they were introduced at a party in 1876. They had a great deal in common since they were both first generation Scottish Americans. William was described as handsome, well educated and cultured. He shared Joan’s love of music. Throughout the Summer and Fall the romance blossomed. William became a regular visitor to the Pinkerton home at 554 W. Monroe Street. Mr. Pinkerton traveled frequently and Joan’s mother encouraged the relationship.

Alan Pinkerton vigorously, and with anger, opposed the marriage but the ceremony occurred October 21, 1878. It was held at the fashionable Third Presbyterian Church with Dr. A. E. Kittredge officiating. The reception was held at 372 Monroe Street which was the home of the newly married couple. The house was fully furnished including an elegant piano. It was filled with many expensive wedding gifts. The house was later robbed and many of those gifts were stolen.

In the mid-1880's, the Chalmers built a new home at 315 S. Ashland Avenue. It contained 15 rooms with a ballroom on the third floor. Across the street lived Carter H. Harrison the mayor of Chicago. The Chalmers house is still standing but is now a condominium. You can find pictures on the Internet. They sold the house in 1897. It is unclear where they lived next, but their final residence was 1100 Lake Shore Drive in Chicago.

Carter Harrison was mayor for five terms and was greatly loved by the people of Chicago. He was assassinated in his home on Ashland Avenue, October 28, 1893, around 8 p.m. The first persons on the scene were William and Joan Chalmers. They had heard the gunshots and ran to give assistance and comfort to the dying Mayor but nothing could be done to save him. The man who did the shooting was Eugene Patrick Prendergast. He was defended by Clarence S. Darrow on the grounds that he had become insane after the shooting. Prendergast had two trials and was found guilty both times. He was hanged on Friday, July 13, 1894, and was later buried in Calvary Cemetery. Carter Harrison was buried at Graceland Cemetery. Six hundred carriages, driven three abreast and 15,000 men followed the body to its final resting place.

Alan Pinkerton believed that William Chalmers would never accomplish much and thus he opposed the marriage. You can be the judge. Mr. Chalmers was President of the Commercial National Safe Deposit Co; Director of Frazer & Chalmers in London, England. Member of the Chicago Board of Education; Director of World’s Columbian Exposition; President of the Commercial Club of Chicago; Director of the Field Museum of Natural History; Member of the Union League Club, Chicago Athletic Club, Lake Geneva Country Club, Saddle and Cycle Club, and the Engineers Club of New York. The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago has the largest cut topaz in the world. It is named for William J. Chalmers.

The Chalmer’s were known for their philanthropy. They supported many causes including the Illinois Saint Andrew Society and the Scottish Home. Our records of giving are few in number but we do know that in 1927, the Chalmers sent a check for $500. Because of their many connections to Society members we would believe that they were consistent contributors. In one of the old boxes, we found a letter from Mr. Chalmer’s secretary dated 1931 which said: “Mr. Chalmers thought the enclosed picture of Scots-American Tribute to Scotland’s Dead might be of interest to the inmates of the Scottish Old Peoples Home.” The pictures are now apparently gone.

Mr. Chalmers died December 10, 1938. His wife, Joan Pinkerton Chalmers, died January 25, 1940. On at least two of our history tours, we have visited the Chalmers grave and the monument erected in their honor. There is much more to the story which we will continue in our next blog.

Wayne Rethford
President Emeritus & Historian
Illinois St. Andrew's Society

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Twenty Years After the Fire

One more blog about the dinner being held on November 18 at the Inter-Continental Hotel in Chicago.  You can get full details by clicking here.

The date is December 1, 1891 and the location is the Sherman House in Chicago. It is now twenty years since the disastrous fire in 1871.  The headlines in the Chicago Daily Tribune read “St. Andrew’s Night Celebrated.”  It was the 46th anniversary of the event.  “Before the banquet the members and guests assembled in the upper halls of the hotel and for an hour the corridors were crowded with bonny Scots, each of whom wore a sprig of Stewart plaid on his coat lapel.”  There is no explanation of why they wore the Stewart plaid instead of a sprig of heather.

The annual business meeting and elections occurred before the actual dinner and the newly elected President and Board of Governors were then introduced.  The mayor of Chicago, Hempstead Washburne, made an appearance at the business meeting and returned later for the meal.  Not sure if the Mayor was a Scot but he certainly felt at home in their presence.  He lived at 1448 Astor street where he died on June 6, 1927.  He was said to be a loyal Republican and was a member of the Chicago Club, the University Club, and the Saddle and Cycle Club. His grandson, 2nd Lt. Richard P. Washburne was lost in a raid over Germany during World War II.  His parents lived at 608 Arbor Vitae Rd. In Winnetka.

Here are some of the people who attended:  Inspector of the police department, Alexander Ross;  U. S. District Attorney, Thomas E. Milchrist; Bishop McLaren represented the clergy; Clarence S. Darrow also attended and actually gave the toast to the City of Chicago.  I wonder if he had Scottish connections?

At 8:30 the guests started for the dining room walking two abreast.  They were led by Inspector Ross and Lieut. Adam Fyfe.  “Following them were two pipers, who set the marching time with the stirring music of bagpipes.”  Following the pipers was the last surviving charter member, John Alston, and Bishop McLaren.  The dinner took an hour and then the speeches began. 

Here is part of the Menu:   Blue Points - Deep shell, Green Turtle and Celery.
Blue Fish, Burgundy Sauce, Roast of Premium Hereford Beef.  Mashed Potatoes, French Peas, Oyster Patties, Claret Punch, Quail, Scotch Haggis, Tutti Frutti, Assorted Cakes, Fruit, Stilton Cheese, Water Crackers and Coffee.  (It is obvious they ate well.  It is also the first mention of haggis being served.)

There were a number of toasts as usual.  The first being “The Day and a’ Wha Honor it”, followed by a toast to the Queen, followed by one to the President of the United States. Clarence Darrow offered a toast to “Internationalism.” Rev. John Rouse gave “The Land We Left and the Land We Live In.”

“Then the sound of pipes was heard and stalwart men, arrayed in the full costume of Highland pipers, marched into the room playing “The Campbells Are Coming.”  When a moment later the face of Gov. Campbell of Ohio was seen closely behind the pipers, there were the loudest cheers.”  The reporter said he made a “facetious speech.”

There is a long list of names of those who attended.  Some of the names I recognized are: William Kirkwood, C. W. Morris, Dr. McArthur, James McVicker, Geoffrey MacDonald, Hugh Ritchie, and George Sutherland, The number attending is not given.

Friday, November 11, 2011

President Roosevelt's D-Day prayer - A remembrance on this Veteran's Day, 2011

June 6, 1944

My fellow Americans: Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest-until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men's souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home -- fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas -- whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them--help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

Many people have urged that I call the Nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

Give us strength, too -- strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace, a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Chicago Fire and The Celebration of St. Andrew's Day

One hundred forty years ago the Chicago Fire occurred and the Chicago History Museum now has an iPhone app that “combines a chronology of the fire and an analysis of the several ways in which it has entered historical memory.” You can get more information on their web site.

The City was destroyed on October 8, 1871 and the Society’s banquet honoring St. Andrew was scheduled for November 30. It was a very difficult time for the inhabitants of Chicago and some may have thought the annual dinner should have been cancelled. The President at the time was General John McArthur, a Civil War hero. The two vice-presidents were William Stewart and A. M. Thomson. Wm. M. Dale was the Treasurer with John Stewart serving as Secretary. These men could have cancelled the dinner, but they did not.

The evening of the dinner, men who once were wealthy now found themselves with nothing. Everything they owned was destroyed, only their spirit and integrity remained. Eight thousand Scottish families felt the terrible effects of their city being destroyed. The smell of smoke permeated the environment even to the clothes they wore. “Still, 120 guests managed to show their support...”

The Chicago Tribune, as it always had, carried the story. (Dec. 2, 1871, page 4). It begins: “We do not remember who it was who said that the Scotch were always leaving their native land, and always singing in her praise. The last part of the statement is undoubtedly true, and the first does not admit of much question. The land of the lake, mountain and heather is well remembered by her sons, no matter  what part of the world; like their own thistle down, chance may have blown them. The St. Andrew Society will hold their regular annual banquet at the Briggs House, and celebrate the occasion with becoming hilarity.”

The walls of the banquet room were bare. All pictures, signs and membership records had been lost when the Court House fell in flames. (They had been given permission to use a room in the court house for their meetings and all their possessions were stored there.) There is no mention of pipers, music or Highland dancers. In fact, it was almost like the first dinner held in 1845. The menu is not given - food was in short supply but there is mention of “hot scotch.” There were speeches and toasts as usual and General MacArthur spoke of charity and generosity but it must have been a quiet and subdued evening. The paper also reports: “Before sitting down to meat, each member adorned himself with a sprig of heather, imported from Scotland for the occasion.” A list of attendees is not given, so we don’t know who said Grace over the meal.

Near the close, George Anderson was again called upon to recite Tam O’Shanter. “He declined saying after the great calamity he had no heart to recite a poem abounding in such tender associations.” He did however present to the Society a ram’s head, “handsomely mounted, and ornamented with many Scottish devices.” The ram’s head is now the beloved mascot of the Society and will have a place of honor at the event this year scheduled for November 18. Click here for more information about the Annual Dinner.

The closing paragraph of the article reads: “After the customary toasts and responses, the assembly broke up, having spent a delightful evening.”

This annual dinner, originally held to celebrate the Patron Saint of Scotland, has never been cancelled.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew’s Society