Monday, January 23, 2012

Curling on the Chicago River in 1854 - Influence of Hughston McBain in Forming the Chicago Curling Club.

This is one of the cold days of our winter season in Chicago. There’s a dusting of snow but the sun is shining so it feels warmer. I came across an old article in the Chicago Daily Tribune about curling that I thought was interesting and well-written. The writer talks about the age of curling and mentions that it is an “Auld Scotia sport.” In fact he says the game was old when “Columbus wore aprons.” (Is that a reference to diapers?) James Duncan, the secretary of the Chicago club in 1854, had seen stones bearing the date 1701 but the game is much older. Scots took the game to Russia and the Germans have a similar game except the stones are wooden blocks.

The game was introduced to Chicago as early as the 1850s and was played on the Chicago River. Among the oldest members are names familiar to our Society: John Alston, Peter McFarland, Dr. McAllister; James Hutton and George Wilson. “As old age and consequent feebleness impairs and dims every facility it seems to have no power over the Scotsman’s love for curling.” James Hutton played until he was 72 and many have participated “up to the very time that death claimed him.”

Under the Rules of the National Curling Club (1890) members were forbidden to gamble or play matches for money. However, they could play matches for money if the winnings were given to the poor. In one year the match was played for a barrel of flour which was given to a worthy widow on the North Side. You could also play for medals “so as to create a friendly rivalry.” One medal was donated by Capt. John T. Raffen, one of Chicago’s most famous Civil War veteran and active in our Society.

The article lists a number of Scottish names and if you read these weekly blogs some of the names are familiar. Names like; James McWhirter, Alexander White, John Campbell, James Ralston, John McArthur and John T. Raffen. Four honorary members are mentioned: John Alston, Andrew Wallace, Robert Clark, and Alexander Kirkland. All of these men had served the Illinois Saint Andrew Society as president.

In 1888 the club in St. Paul issued a challenge to Chicago. The president, David Hogg, was not sure he could get four players to “go to the Northwest and play.” Each person had to pay their own expenses without any promise of reimbursement. He only needed four but 19 volunteered. All 19 decided to go and keep the others company.

There were also clubs in Lincoln Park and South Park. Thomas Dougal, a relative of my friend Bob Black (now deceased), was Secretary of the Lincoln Park club. Thomas Dougal had a soap factory along the Chicago River and his entire family is buried in Rosehill cemetery. The South Park club used the pond at Washington Park and some of its members included Robert G. Tennant, John Amour, F. N. Amour, William Nicholson, and John Muir.

The article concludes with the description of how the game is played and ends with this; “the Chicago clubs, the elements being propitious, promise a lively season with a number of local and foreign matches to enliven it.” That was in 1854.

In 1999, I received a letter from James McBain of McBain. He is the son of Hughston McBain, president of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society in 1963-1965 and had just retired as the Chairman of Marshall Field and Company. Mr. McBain was a recognized leader in Chicago and his accomplishments would fill several books. You could write a separate book about his Scottish connections. Enclosed in the packet from James McBain was a small booklet, “A History of The Chicago Curling Club.” It was written, printed and distributed “compliments of Hughston McBain and Fred Duncombe.” Mr. McBain "personally conceived and organized the United States Men Curling Association" and had Marshall Field and Company sponsor the United States National Curling Championships..."

The Chicago Curling Club, located at 555 Dundee Rd. in Northbrook, IL. is beginning its 63rd year. They have an excellent web site with pictures of the American Curling History Museum and have just concluded the Annual Men’s International Bonspiel. The official site of USA Curling, the national governing body, says that curling “is one of the fastest growing sports in the United. States.”

Much of the thanks must go to those early Scots willing to play on the Chicago River in 1854.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus

Please attend the next meeting of the Scottish American History Club on February 4, 2012. Tom Campbell of Baker and McKenzie will be our speaker. He is the author of “Fighting Slavery in Chicago.” Meeting begins at 10 a.m. Museum is open at 9 a.m.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Memorial Service for Hugh Robertson

Remarks by Joseph S. Wright:

Hugh Robertson managed to be both a warm and human person and a wise and successful businessman. Those who knew him well – and I see many here who were his closest friends and associates – we remember his cheerful optimism; his pride in his family and in his company and then his friends. We are here today because each of us has at some time had his life touched by a warm and gentle man.

We will each of us remember him differently – as an employer who had an extraordinary compassion; as an associate who could renew our spirits in times of adversity, as a friend in the widest sense in which that word can be used. We shall miss him, but we won’t forget him; it is certain that all those buying things he stood for will always be important, and that we shall always be the better for having known him. And let us not forget that if Hugh Robertson had anything to say about this, he would doubtless read Tennyson’s poem:

"Sunset and evening star and one clear
call for me. And may there be no moaning
at the bar when I put out to sea."

When Thomas Carlyle composed his lectures on “Heroes and Hero Worship,” he caught something that seems universal: the desire in all of us to discover an individual who personifies those characteristics we look up to. For those of us who knew Hugh Robertson, it was not necessary to read Carlyle or study history to find such a man. He was there with us.

His concern for everyone who worked at Zenith, his integrity, his humanity, the drive of his personality – all of these made for him one for whom we had a very real veneration. In addition, there was a warmth about him that made us love him. I remember going with him through the plant every year at Christmas time, and how the employees looked forward to the chance to talk with him.

Every year around 23 April there will be a phone call. “Well, young fellow, how does it seem to be a year older?”

And once, when it seemed to be taking an awfully long time for something to be approved, I made the mistake of asking him when we might expect a decision.

“Young man,” he said, “are you trying to rush me? ”

No one rushed Hugh Robertson.

It was his concern for those who had retired from Zenith that encouraged the development of our retirement planning program and the establishment of our Zenith – Chicago chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons.

To those of us who worked under him, he seems a personification of what Zenith stood for and we remember him as a man of truly historic stature.

NOTE: The Memorial Service for Mr. Hugh Robertson was held on January 12, 1980 at the First Presbyterian Church, River Forest, Illinois. Mr. Wright was the chairman of the Zenith Corporation.

Please visit us on Facebook - Scottish American History Club of Chicago.

Wayne Rethford, Historian
Illinois St. Andrew’s Society

Friday, January 13, 2012

Hugh Robertson - Zenith Corporation

Let’s begin with the census records. In the 1900 census, James Robertson is shown as having been born in Scotland in January 1869. He had been married for 13 years and his wife, Carrie Robertson, had also been born in Scotland. The marriage had produced five children, three of whom were still living when the census was taken. Hugh was the oldest boy, born in Scotland in February 1888, and at the time of the census he was at school. Two other boys were at home, both born in Illinois – Tom was eight and John was four. The father was a bookkeeper and they lived in a rented house in Chicago.

By the 1910 census, James Robertson was 46 and and had now been married for 24 years. He was a public accountant, owned a house with a mortgage and had emigrated to the United States in 1887. His wife is listed as Marjorie C. and also born in Scotland. Hugh, the oldest son, is now 23, single, and working as a department manager for an automobile company.

In 1920, Hugh was 32 and married to Mabel Robertson age 31. They were living in the Seventh Ward and he is now the general manager of an automobile company. They were living in a rented house and the records note that he had been naturalized in 1918. There were two children, the oldest was seven and also named Hugh and the youngest was John, two years of age.

By 1924, Hugh Robertson was working for Eugene F. McDonald, president of the Zenith Corporation as the office manager. (They perhaps had met when both were working for automobile companies.)  Mr. Robertson would spend the rest of his life at Zenith. From office manager he became the company’s Treasurer. He was elected a director in 1929, executive vice president in 1934, president in 1958, chairman of the board in 1959 and honorary chairman in 1964. When he retired in 1972 after serving as a member of the board for 43 years, he was named director emeritus.

In the 1930 census, we learn he is still renting a house and paying $140 a month. He owns a radio. (That was one of the questions on the census.) The census shows that he married at 25 and his wife was born in Illinois.  The oldest son, Hugh, was now 17, John was 12 and there was another child - Marjorie R. Robertson was six years old.

On August 22, 1942, Mr. Robertson registered for the draft. Here we find that his birthday was February 12, 1887, and that he was born in Glasgow, Scotland.  He lived at 738 Bonnie Brae, River Forest, Illinois, and the next of kin was Mabel B. Robertson.  He was 5'8" tall, 175 pounds, with gray eyes, brown hair and a light complexion. His employer was the Zenith Radio Corporation, 6001 Dickens, Chicago Illinois.

In 1964, Mr. Robertson received the Illinois St. Andrew Society’s Distinguished Citizen Award. James C Thomson wrote that he was “a long time member of the Society and regularly attended the Anniversary Dinner."  Later in 1968, when the Scottish home was in a building program, Mr. Robertson was listed as a major donor. Others listed as major donors were; Hughston McBain, Foster G. McGraw, Angus J. Ray, R. Douglas Stuart and James B. Forgan. The list has a total of 23 names but the gift amount for each person is not given.

Hugh Robertson died in December 1979. A memorial service was held at the First Presbyterian Church in River Forest on January 12, 1980. In some of the old boxes stored at the Scottish Home, I found the Memorial Service Program and some letters with the following information. Dr. Paul, a former pastor of the church where Mr. Robertson had been a member more than 50 years, conducted the service. Assisting in the service was the society’s chaplain, J. W. McGlathery, and the piper was George Gray.  Psalm 131 is printed on the program along with some verses of Robert Burns. Hugh Robertson is buried in Lake Forest Cemetery.

A Memorial fund was established for the benefit of the Scottish Home which “was one of the late Zenith board chairman, Hugh Robertson’s, life long causes.” Zenith employees contributed to the fund along with a major contribution by the company. The money was used to renovate the “undercroft” – a lower-level room used by the home where the Scottish American Hall of Fame would be located.

James C. Thomson, president of the society in 1980, wrote about the quality of life at the Scottish Home. He said “it is not something that can be achieved through facilities alone – but through the sharing of our time, love and emotions in the interest of residents. In his own devotion to the Scottish Home, the late Mr. Robertson exemplified these qualities and we are grateful that the fund in his memory will continue this tradition of service.”

I also found in the old boxes a letter to one of his grandchildren. It was written by Joseph S. Wright and contained comments about the Memorial service. The granddaughter’s name was Mrs. William Ince and she lived in Arvada, Colorado. A recent check of the white pages shows a number of people living in Colorado with the same last name. Perhaps some family members will contact us after reading these comments on the Internet.

Tomorrow I would like to post comments made at the Memorial service by Joseph S. Wright; it is a fitting tribute to the life of a great  Scot.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Zenith Corporation - Founded by Eugene F. McDonald

 Eugene F. McDonald was born March 11, 1886 in Syracuse, New York, and earned his first money while a schoolboy by reading electric meters. School did not appeal to Mr. McDonald and at the end of his sophomore year he left school to take a factory job with the Franklin Automobile Company. In high school he developed a business of repairing electric doorbells.

Moving to Chicago he became an automobile salesman and, as a publicity stunt, once drove a car up the steps of the General Logan Monument in Grant Park - with a photographer present and a policeman to arrest him. He paid the policeman $10 for the arrest.  He was the first to offer “professionals,” like plumbers and painters, a payment plan for the purchase of an automobile.

When the United States entered World War I, he enlisted in the Naval intelligence service and eventually became a lieutenant commander. He kept the title for the rest of his life. With two other men he founded the Zenith Corporation in 1923. From the call letters of their amateur station, 9-2n, they developed the trade name of Z-Nith and thus the name Zenith. The company survived the Great Depression and was soon the leader of radio manufacturers. At the same time Commander McDonald launched a career as an explorer and adventurer that publicized the Zenith products and sent sales to new records.

He formed and was the first president of the National Association of Broadcasters and pioneered the development of the short-wave radio.  When Donald B. MacMillan (a Scot?) made his Arctic trip he was equipped with transmitters and receivers supplied by the Zenith Corporation. “He expanded the radio medium into international communications, ship-to-shore, radar, and VHF and UHF television.”  The company slogan was: “The quality goes in before the name goes on."

Mr. McDonald was married once but divorced in 1947. There were two children born to the marriage: Jean Marianne and Eugene McDonald, Jr.  The son was known as “Stormy” and he met a tragic and somewhat mysterious death in 1958.  His body was brought back to Chicago from Arizona where a funeral service was conducted.  His place of burial is unknown. It is very possible that his daughter may still be living, perhaps in California, and it appears there may also be grandchildren living.

Thirteen years after his death, his former wife sought to have the divorce set aside. There was a long and ugly trial played out in the local newspapers. The children sided with the mother but she was finally denied her request. The McDonald  estate was estimated to be worth $30 million but there were also lower estimates given as well.

The Zenith Corporation was a great company and a good example to others. During the Great Depression, Zenith employees took less pay and worked longer hours to keep the company alive. As the economy improved, Comdr. McDonald rewarded them with greater ownership and a share of the company profits. I have to assume from his name that he was Scottish but I don’t know that for sure.  Perhaps someone can help me with that information. There is no record of him participating in any of our Saint Andrew Society events.

Eugene F. McDonald died May 15, 1958, in Billings Hospital, Chicago, Illinois.  His place of burial is not known as of this writing.

He was succeeded at Zenith by Hugh Robertson. Mr. Robertson was born in Glasgow, Scotland.  More about him later.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrews Society

Next meeting of the History Club is February 4, 2012.  Speaker is Tom Campbell author of Fighting Slavery in Chicago.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Bruce Crossan Ogilvie

Bruce Crossan Ogilvie

Bruce C. Ogilvie born on June 21,1915 in Avon, NY, the fourth son of George Russell and Myra Bell Emery Ogilvie. He died May 11, 2010 at the age of 94 in Benzie County, Michigan. He was a member of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society.

Born to a Scots immigrant parent, he lived much of his early life in rural areas of New York, Michigan, Ontario and Maine. As a Maine State Scholar in 1933, he attended Farmington State Normal (now University of Maine at Farmington) from 1933 to 1935 to earn his initial teaching certificate. After one year of teaching at a one-room school in Chesuncook, Maine, he returned to Farmington for an additional year to obtain his Life Certificate in 1937.

In 1938, he earned a Bachelor of Education from Rhode Island College of Education, and continued to teach school in Rhode Island for one additional year before attending graduate school at Clark University, Worcester, MA, completing most of the requirements for a Master of Arts in Geography. As war approached, he joined the Office of Strategic Services, Washington, DC as a cartographer. In 1942, he received a direct commission in the U.S. Navy Reserve, and served as a Line Officer Afloat in the North Atlantic until 1944, then as a Cartographer with the US Navy Hydrological Office in Washington, D.C. until after the end of WWII. He resigned his Navy commission as a Lieutenant Senior Grade in 1952.

In 1947, appointed Instructor in Geography at the University of Georgia, Athens for one year, and then returned to complete his Master’s thesis at Clark University followed by a postgraduate fellowship in Urban Geography leading to an earned Ph.D awarded in 1956. In the 1960s and 70s he taught Cartography in the graduate school of Geography at the University of Chicago, as a member of the adjunct faculty.

In 1959, he began as Map Editor and later, The Geographer, at Rand McNally & Co., Chicago, IL. From 1960 through 1977, he was responsible for company-wide production of maps, globes and atlases for which the Company was so well known. He was Editor and Coordinator of many projects, including The Time-Life Atlas (1961) and The International Atlas (1973), author of The Children’s World Atlas (1980) and numerous other publications and articles. He also wrote, printed, published and distributed nationally five miniature books: The Heart Shaped World Map: 21st Century Reflections on 16th Century Cosmographic Maps, 2008, The Little Red Schoolhouse (2000), Olde Tyme Geography (1997, Joggerfy of the U.S. of A. (1995) and, A Litter of Picnickers (1993).

In 1978, at the urging of a former student, he became a consultant to the U.S. Geological Survey, Department of Interior, Reston, VA. He translated to full-time federal employment in 1979 in the Geographic Information Section, including time as Acting Chief for several years in National Geographic Information Center. He retired, once again, in 1985, and moved back to the Chicago area.

During the first fifteen years of retirement, he taught part-time in North Suburban Schools as a substitute teacher, filled in at local community colleges, and private colleges and universities when needed. He thoroughly enjoyed over sixty years of elementary, high school, college and graduate level instruction.

The University of Maine at Farmington honored him, on his 70th year reunion, shortly after his 90th birthday, as the keynote speaker at the June 23, 2005 ceremonies.

Had it not been for the loss of eyesight, he might have continued teaching. As it was, he retained a strong sense of his place and purpose throughout these last years of his life, always quick to question, investigate, listen and learn.

His son, Bruce Campbell Ogilvie, who lives in Frankfort, Michigan, recently made a gift to the Scholarship Fund of the Society in the name of his father and mother. The Bruce C. and Martha M. Campbell Ogilvie Scholarship for Geographic Education will be available to persons interested in the study of geography. Contact the Society office for further information.

Wayne Rethford
President Emeritus Illinois St. Andrews Society

The Scottish American History Club meets this Saturday at the Scottish Home. The museum opens at 9:00 a.m. and the program begins at 10:00 a.m. At this meeting there will be a Power Point presentation on the years, 1866-1876, as we work through our history in ten year segments. We will look at the 6 men who served as President of the Society and what activities the Society was involved with and some of Chicago history as well.

We will also have on display for the first time, the restored and framed certificate from the Order of Scottish Clans designating Clan MacNeil as an official member in 1909. The certificate has been restored and preserved. It is amazing.

February 4, 2012 we will feature Tom Campbell and his book, “Fighting Slavery in Chicago.” Mr. Campbell is a life member of the Society and his lecture has been featured on television, so we are please he can join us.

March 31, 2012 - We are making preliminary plans for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Auditorium theater and another site which has not been finalized. Watch for further details.

The April meeting will probably be canceled.