Friday, February 26, 2010

Hughston McBain and the Chicago Curling Club of 1948

In Chicago history the name of Hughston M. McBain will always be connected to Marshall Field and Company.  There is not enough room here to give Mr. McBain his due credit but someone should write a book about his life and his involvement in Chicago.  He served as President of the Illinois St. Andrew Society, Chairman of the board of Marshall Field and first president of the Chicago Curling Club.  In 1999, his son James McBain of McBain, sent me several articles about his father including a booklet, A History of the Chicago Curling Club.  The introduction is signed by Hughston M.McBain.

Here is one of the stories.

In 1904, during excavation for a subway where the Municipal Building now stands in New York, a perfectly preserved curing stone was found seventy feet beneath the street level.  Mystified construction workers, once they were convinced that the stone was an implement in an old Scottish game and not an Indian relic, resorted to an old survey map and discovered that early in the nineteenth century a pond existed on the site.  Further investigation proved that the pond was where the New York Caledonian Curling Club was wont to hold its bonspiels, as curling tournaments are called, and that the club paid a city politician twenty dollars a year for the use of it.  The same politician also sold the pond's ice to an iceman for another twenty dollars, which proved something of a hazard to the sport.

"Although this series of events may have had little or no archaeological value, it at least established curling as one of the earliest known organized sports in New York, predating football, baseball, and even golf.  What has happened to curling since some luckless player lost his stone through the municipally juggled ice of that lower Manhattan pond is an interesting and only little-known story."

We owe a debt of gratitude to Hughston McBain as does Marshall Field, The Illinois St. Andrew Society and the Chicago Curling Club which apparently began in 1948 and still exists.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Courtin and Skating in the 1860s

Here is the case:  "Well, Sir, Mary caught the skating fever, which is now raging so fearfully.  I heard her express a wish for a pair of skates, and the next day she had the best pair that could be had in the city and nobody knew who sent them to her.  We went down to the ice, and there Mary just sat quietly down, ordered me on my knees, and quietly placed that foot, the foot, in my lap, and bid me put on her skates. Sir, had Venus dropped down from Heaven, and told me to rub her down with stone and oil, it could not have astonished me more than when that divine foot was placed in my unworthy lap.  I felt very faint - but I buckled on the skates and stood up with Mary by my side.  No; well, let me tell you.  You have seen a kaleidiscope, with a few old bits of glass, in a tin tube, and turning it, have seen all sorts of beautiful figures."

"Just imagine a kaleidoscope, and in place of beads and broken glass, please substitute blue eyes, curling eyelashes, lips ivory, wavy hair, crinoline, gaiter boots, zephyr worsted, hearts, darts, a clap of thunder, a flash of lightning and 'Auld Nick'.  Imagine yourself the center of a system with all these things revolving around you, and a violet bank breathing sighs upon you all the while, and you have Mary and her victim in her first skating lesson."

Mary and I start - she on my left arm-all square.  First, Mary's dear little gaiter boots presented themselves to my astonished vision, and before I have time to wonder how they came up before me, I felt them pressing their blessed beauty with emphasis into the pit of my stomach.  Next scene-wavy hair with $30 bonnet and a divine head came pitching into my waistcoat, with such a force that I feel the buttons against my spine.

Next- Mary gazes at me from between my jack-boots, and anon her blessed little nose is thrust into my shirt bosom.  Ah! my friends, all research and study on the mysterious subject of woman has been comparatively in vain till, in this eventful year of 1861, the fashion of skating has opened new and various sources of information.  Do you remember your first attempt at driving a tandem?  Do you remember how that infernal perverse beast that you selected for your leader, would insist on turning round and staring you in the face, as if to ask, 'what the deuce you'd be at?'  Well, just you go and try a woman on skates, that's all - just try it.  Ah! won't you come to the conclusion that women have sundry and diverse ways of accomplishing their objects?  Dear Mary! I offered myself to her every time she turned up or came round.  I am hers forever."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Curling - A Scottish Olympic Game

We have had a lot of curling this week.  Monday, I was having lunch with my Grandson at Buffalo Wings and on their giant screen was the Olympic curling. At a table near us, people were discussing the game and one said "Canada should be good, it originated there."  Well, that is not quite correct.  Curling is a Scottish game.  There is written information about curling in 1541 and a curling stone has been found inscribed with the date of 1511.  Outdoor curling was very popular in Scotland between the 16th and 19th century and the International Body for Curling is presently located in Scotland.

Curling in Chicago started in 1860 when a meeting was announced for the purpose of forming a Curling Club.  All interested in this "simple, social, dexterous game" were invited to attend.  The first game was held January 18, 1861 on the Chicago river between the Lake and Wells street bridges.  It drew a large crown of on-lookers.  "The ice was rather rough, but there were some excellent players among our Scotch friends."

Another mention of curing occurred in the Chicago Tribune on January 28, 1861  "Some of our Scottish born citizens, have, as we have before stated, established a Curling Club, for the practice of one of their favorite national games.  They were busy at it on the ice in the river Saturday."  On February 21, 1861, a match game was played "on the ice on the Lake near the North Side Skating Pond."  Not sure where the skating pond was actually located.

 The annual meeting of the Curling Club was held December 14, 1861 at the Brigg's House and elections were held. The President was Robert Hervey.  Vice President, Peter MacFarlane.  Secretary and Treasurer William Clark .  Committee on arrangements:  George Wilson, Dr. John McAllister, John McGlashin, and Alexander White.  Skips were George Wilson and William Falconer.

Seven of those names I recognize from my study of Chicago history.  Robert Hervey and John McGlashin had served as President of the Illinois St. Andrew Society.  Dr. McAllister was the Society's physician for many years and cared for hundreds of Scottish immigrants, all without charge.  Peter MacFarlane was a liberal donor to the Society and friend of George Anderson.  The Falconer name has an honored place in our history and some descendants still live in the Chicago area.

The Curling Club was to hold their annual meeting on November 13, 1866, and it was announced that a new set of curling stones had been received from Canada.

The web site of the Illinois Curling Association shows 5 Illinois Curling Clubs:  Northbrook, Highland Park, Kankakee, Glenview and the Oak Park Curling Club which apparently plays at the Exmoor Club in Highland Park.

A Proquest search of the Chicago Tribune from 1860-1978 shows 13,038 references to curing.  I have only read the first 100.

More later.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hoagy Carmichael - Member of the Scottish American Hall of Fame

For nearly fifty years Hoagy Carmichael was one of America's great popular song writers.  He wrote the songs that America sang in the 1920s, '30s, '40s and well into the 50s.  Perhaps his best known works are Stardust and Skylark.   Among the many other are: Lazy River, In the Still of the Night, Two Sleepy People, Georgia on MY Mind, Little Old Lady, Lazy Bones, Old Rockin' Chair. and  Buttermilk Skies.

His songs were unique to America and a sentimental bridge between the jazz of the 1920s and the raucous music of the late 1950s.  When the cacophony of rock hit the airwaves, Carmichael decided to quit.  "I don't want to compete with that kind of music."  Hoagland Howard Carmichael, actor and composer, was born November 22, 1899, in Bloomington, Indiana.  His father worked for a utility company as a lineman.  When queried about his Scottish ancestry, he answered, "Yes, I been of Scottish descent all my life, according to my grandmother."  The Carmichaels came to America from Scotland about 1775.

Kept indoors by rain that postponed a baseball game, he began idly to hit the keys on the family piano and found that he had an unusual talent.  He had "discovered a whole new world."  At Indiana University he earned a law degree but never practiced.  Music was his first love.  Playing with a jazz band, he began to compose songs that took the country by storm.  And his sly, shy mannerisms and croaky voice gave an odd attractive touch when he sang them.  His songs are described as a throwback to an earlier carefree America and an innocence that broke clean from the jazz on which he was weaned.

He returned to Rancho Mirage, California, where he died on December 28, 1981.  He was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Bloomington.

*Was named Hoagland after a circus troupe "The Hoaglands" had stayed at their house during his mother's pregnancy. He father was a horse-drawn taxi driver and electrician.

*He appeared in a total of 14 movies.  He was a Republican who had a strong dislike of FDR.  Supported Wendell Wilkie for president in 1940.

*In 1977 he married Dorothy Wanda McKay.  There was also a 20 year marriage to Ruth Carmichael that produced two sons:  Hoagy Bix and Randy.  Randy was a talented pianist.

*In 1986 the Carmichael family donated his piano, archives and other items to Indiana University.

*There is a letter in our files from Mr. Carmichael, dated Sept. 2, 1980 where he confirms his Scottish heritage.

Monday, February 22, 2010

William Holmes McGuffey - Member of Scottish American Hall of Fame

William Holmes McGuffey is best known for the reader textbooks he wrote.  They became the virtual universal readers in the expanding public school system of 19th century America.  More than 122 million copies were sold in many editions.

The McGuffey readers had a profound impact on the moral teaching of school children of the time because of their high ethical tone stemming from McGuffey's strict Calvinistic faith.

McGuffey was born September 23, 1800 in western Pennsylvania, a descendant of the Scottish pioneers who flowed into the Quaker state throughout the 18th century.  With little formal schooling, he learned rapidly and by age 13 was teaching in a rural Ohio school.  He received his bachelor's degree with honors from Washington College in 1826.  McGuffey went to Miami University, Oxford Ohio, as a professor of foreign  languages.  During the 11 years he was at Miami, he took a great interest in public education.  He assisted local teachers and set up a model elementary school.

In 1835 he contracted with a Cincinnati publisher to write four school readers published in 1836.  A fifth reader was published in 1844. A sixth was added in 1857.  His brother, Alexander Hamilton McGuffey, added a spelling book to the McGuffey series in 1864. The books were an astonishing success.

McGuffey served as president of Cincinnati College during the years 1836-39.  He left Cincinnati to become president of Ohio University , staying there until 1843.

McGuffey was one of the three founders of the common school system of Ohio.  In 1845 he was appointed professor of philosophy at the University of Virginia, a post he filled with distinction until his death May 4, 1873.

In 1827, he married Harriet Spinning of Dayton, Ohio, and they had 5 children.  In 1829, he was ordained as a minister in the Presbyterian Church.  His first wife died in 1850 and a year later he married Miss Laura Howard, daughter of Dean Howard of the University of Virginia.  They had one child who died at the age of four.

He wrote:  "The christian religion, is the religion of our country.  From it are derived our prevalent notions of the character of God, the great moral governor of the universe.  On its doctrines are founded the peculiarities of our free institutions."

"From no source has the author drawn more conspicuously than from the sacred Scriptures.  For all these extracts from the Bible I make no apology."

Friday, February 19, 2010

Charles Lindberg - Chicago to St. Louis, 1926

I have been working on the next History Club presentation scheduled for March 6, 2010.  It's about Scots and early aviation.  Lindberg was not a Scot, but he certainly had a powerful influence on flying.

In 1926, he was young and unknown.  On an April morning he took off from the Maywood, IL., airport in a DeHavilland DH-4, with a sack of mail destined for St. Louis with stops in Peoria and Springfield. It was the first delivery for this route.  He was working for the Robertson Aircraft Corp. in St. Louis.  Robertson was one of 85 companies that later merged into American Airlines.

It was 5:30 a.m. when Lindberg took off; the airport was deserted.  The date was April 15, 1926 and this was the first regularly scheduled flight in history.  It took a little over 3 hours to complete the journey.  On his return trip from Lambert Field a large crowd gathered as he loaded 3 sacks of mail destined for Chicago.

American Airlines maintained that flight from Chicago to St. Louis until July 8, 1978, a total of 42 years. The last jet flight took 53 minutes with no stops at Springfield or Peoria.  The sleek jet on that last scheduled flight had electronic guidance, Lindberg had none.  In Lindberg's day, towns were asked to paint arrows on their buildings pointing to local airports.  Pilots often used railroad tracks for guidance.  Some pilots watched the farm animals, if they scattered at the sound of the plane, they were probably off course  Otherwise, the animals would have been use to the sound of the engine.  If the weather was bad and a pilot couldn't land, he pointed his plane away from populated areas and parachuted to earth.  The mail could be recovered from the wreckage.

The last flight was made, an era ended, and no one even noticed.

The Maywood airport was located near the Edward Hines, Jr. Memorial hospital.  The hospital lay just west of the one runway.  (First Ave.and 22nd street ) To the south was a tract of forest preserve property, now occupied by another giant hospital.  The original plan was to have 11 airports ringing the city of Chicago and Maywood was an import cog in that plan.  A plan was once advanced that First Avenue be closed and the runway extended.  A new road was to be constructed following the Des Plaines river.

In 1929, the Tribune reported that "airplane traffic in Chicago has developed to such an extent that it suffers as much from congestion as automobile travel." The use of the Municipal airport (now called Midway) was reaching capacity and some wanted the Maywood airport used for passenger service as well as mail deliveries. It never happened.

One more comment about Charles Lindberg. On September 16, 1926, Lindberg was unable to land at the Maywood airport because of fog, so he changed course, perhaps flying to Peoria.  Over Ottawa, his plan ran out of fuel and he parachuted to safety.

Yesterday, I had lunch with Don Buik and he remembered the airport in Maywood.  I have yet to determine when the airport closed.

June 23, 1925 - J. Ordway Webster, who lived at 848 Washington Blvd. in Oak Park, IL. was killed while practicing night flights from the Maywood airport.  He was soon to assume the duty of flying night mail from Chicago to New York City.  The service was scheduled to begin July 1.  The plane fell to earth at First Avenue and Roosevelt Rd. an address that many in our History Club will know.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Alison Templeton Binnie - Her story of immigration, Part II

Everything the family had was made by hand.  We made candles and soap.  We ever made some of our furniture.  The women would have quilting bees.  Game and fish were plentiful.  The folk of all the neighborhood would gather together at the river and seine for fish.  The fish were dragged in by the bushel.  They were divided and salted.  Sharing with others was the spirit of the frontier.  The men would get together for turkey shoots.

My son Robert, and his family also took up farming and raised sheep.  Robert would travel from farm to farm shearing sheep sometimes as many as 40 a day and he would be paid 10 cents a head.  Great flocks of sheep would be taken to the river to be washed at shearing time.

Despite the hardships, life was good for us.  I am so proud of my sons and what they have done.  They are fine, hard working men.  The life of a farmer is not an easy one, but I truly believe that if you work for "Mother Nature" ye get paid by "Father Time."


I thought this was an interesting story my gggreatgrandmother wrote.  She died September 23, 1866  She was 90 years old.  She is buried in Dundee, Il.  Her son Robert, married Agnes McLaren (also from Scotland), they had a large family.  One of their daughters, Alison Binnie (born in Airdire, Scotland) married John McLean (John was born in Lanark,Scotland).  They had 14 children.  One of their daughters, Alison McLean (born in Elkadar, Iowa) married Ephrim McBroom.  They had 11 children.  One of their sons Guy, married Vivian Shoop, one of their sons was my father.  I hope others will find this interesting.  If any one is related to any of these people, I would love to hear from you.

If you would like Barb Norbie's email address, please contact the History Club.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Allison Templeton Binnie - An Immigrant to Kane County, Illinois, 1849

Alison Templeton Binnie, was born in Airdrie Scotland in 1776.  This is her story as given to me by Barb Norbie her gr-gr-granddaughter.

I became the wife of John Binnie in 1803 and our life together was blessed with 10 wee bairn. The boys grew into fine young men.  My son David left for America in 1847 and settled in the county of  Kane.  He was so delighted with the prospects here finding the soil so perfect for growing crops and he persuaded his brothers Robert, Henry and Alexander to make the journey here "for t' take advantage of the opportunities available to any one willin to come to this great land."

My darlin husband John had passed on (he was in his 100th yer) and so at the age of 74, I packed my belongins and embarked on the great journey.  Along with my 3 sons, Robert's wife Agnes, and 6 of their children.  We boarded the boat that would bring us across the sea to this grand country.  It was in 1849 that our little clan sailed on the ship Khatadin for Dundee, Illinois.

Many families from our homeland had come here to settle.  The Aberdeen North American Investment and Loan Co. had bought up large tracts of land in the northern portion of the state and Scottish banks in Chicago and Milwaukee financed immigrants.  This financing made it possible for many of our countrymen to purchase land.

My son Alexander was able to acquire land on the west side of the river.  That would be on Sleepy Hollow road between Higgin's road and the Huntly road.  Alexander developed a farm there and I have lived with him and his family all this time.

It was not an easy in the beginning.  For so many of us had so little.  We tried to time our arrival in the spring so there would be time to plant and harvest before the first winter.  For once winter arrived, it was more difficult to hunt and fish.  We could bring only the bare necessities with us from home.  A few tools, a Bible, a few pictures, a plow if there was room and most important a rifle.  We brought as much money  we could.  Some of the women brought cuttins from shrubs and plants and seeds.  The provisions we brought were just enough to keep us from starving.

                                                                                      Continued tomorrow...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sir Harry Lauder - The World's Greatest Rotarian

I have had the opportunity  of speaking three times to Rotary One in Chicago.  This city is where it all began in 1905.  It was a personal honor because people come from all over the world to attend Rotary One.

Paul Percy Harris, one of the Founders,  was not a Scot, but he married a girl from Edinburgh in 1912. Jean Thomson was born and raised in Scotland and is often referred to as his "Bonnie Jean."  or "Bonnie Scottish Lassie." Paul Harris died January 27, 1947.  Jean died November 9, 1963 and is buried in Newington Cemetery in Edinburgh.

Harry Lauder Joined the Rotary Club of Glasgow in 1914 and became one of its greatest supporters. "Rotary is going to be the greatest and grandest cooperative institution ever founded," he once said. That same year, he visited Paul Harris in Chicago and they became close friends.  In 1916, he wrote a jaunty song which he recorded and often sang in concert.  There is a verse but here's the chorus:

Once every week, every week in the year,
A very fine bunch of good fellows appear.
They are the live-est of wires you could find
And so much ahead they are never behind.

He also recorded another original song "Love Makes the World a Merry-go-Round" and on the label are the words "Dedicated to Rotary International."

In February1916, he addressed the Rotary Club of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and the following press interview was given in his private railroad car.  "I am a Rotarian, said he, and I have been this two and a half years.  Across your land and back again have I traveled and visited all the biggest Rotary Clubs along the way.  Just what is your line of work, he was asked.  Weel, I am a character singer.  Fur an hour an' a half I keep them busy.  I sing and dance and dance a bit.."

Shortly after being knighted in 1919, Harry was visiting old friends in Chicago.  Many who heard him speak had also lost sons in the war and were deeply moved by his eloquence.  It was on this occasion that he coined the phrase, "Rotary is a golden strand in the cable of international friendship."

The International convention was held in Edinburgh, Scotland, 1921.  Sir Harry met the passenger ships and lead a parade to the convention site.  When Sir Harry walked into the hall, Paul Harris was giving a speech "he stopped in mid-sentence to shake hands with the entertainer."  At the end, Harry led the group "in a moving rendition of Auld Lang Syne."

To Rotarians he said:  "Leave your lights burning behind you, so that others coming after may benefit thereby.  Perchance your boy or girls, passing that way some day may point to the lamp you left and say, gratefully and with pride:  My dad left that lamp burning."

(In 1992, Don Buik gave me materials about Sir Harry Lauder and some of the information for this blog was taken from there.  I do not know the source, but the author is T. Storm Hunter.)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Harry Lauder, More Thoughs about a Great Scot

His real name was Henry MacLennan Lauder, but he was called Harry.  His wife's real name was Annie Valance but he called her Nancy. In the dangerous coal mines of Scotland, Harry would sing to drown his fear.  The other miners began asking him to sing and soon he was entered into a local talent contest.  He won second prize but his musical career was started.

It was love at first sight with Annie Valance.  She was "destined to be the only woman he would ever love, it was love at first sight and he could think of nothing or no one else."  He wrote the following song for her:

"I Love a Lassie"
"She is my Rosie"
"Queen Among the Heather"
"She's the Lass for Me"
"Bonnie Wee Annie"

When their son was killed in WW I, Harry was performing in London.  They closed the theater and he rushed home to Annie.  But, she encouraged him to return to London because their were others grieving who needed his songs and laughter.  Closing the show also put people out of work and so he returned.  The last words spoken by his son on the battlefield of Flanders were "Carry On."  and so he did.  "The Show Must Go On" was given birth.  When the curtain went down on that first show,  Harry Lauder fainted.

During the war, Harry Lauder at his own expense, hired 100 pipers to march the length and breath of Scotland to recruit soldiers.  "Which is why the bulk of the British forces in WWI were Scots."  The Germans called them "The Ladies From Hell" because they wore kilts, shouted Gaelic war cries and were absolutely fearless in battle.  Scottish losses were horrific.  I have mentioned before that after the war it was reported there were towns and villages in Scotland without a single young man eligible for marriage. I wonder if populations figures bear this out?

Harry Lauder became a millionaire but never demanded a certain fee for performing.  He always took whatever was offered.  "The knight of the Music Hall, the poor coal miner who became a millionaire and an international celebrity, died in Strathave, Scotland on February 26, 1950."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sir Harry Lauder Mourns for His Wife - A Valentine's Day Memory

I will assume that most people reading this will know the life story of Harry Lauder.  If not, there is an abundance of information on the Internet.  When in Chicago, Sir Harry Lauder  visited the old people at the Scottish Home at least once.

Harry Lauder was 5 feet 3 inches tall.  He weighted 170 pounds. Beginning in1906, he made 40 tours to America over a period of twenty years.  During his 1915 tour, he urged the U.S. to prepare for war.  In San Francisco he spoke to a crowd of twenty thousand.

Harry Lauder was born August 4, 1870 in Portobello, on the outskirts of Edinburgh.  By 1900, he was performing in London and had married 17 year old Nancy Vallance.  She often traveled with him to America.  Their only son died on the battlefield of Flanders in France.  John was a Captain in the 8th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.  They were notified on January 1, 1917. King George V gave a Knighthood for his services during the war.

During WW I he became the first person to entertain troops on the battlefield with a small, custom built piano tied to the grill of a jeep.  He continued to entertain during WWII

By 1927, Sir Harry Lauder is on the Hebrides Islands grieving for his wife.  Sir Harry's grief is heavy and on his wife's grave he had placed a wreath with this inscription:

"To my sweetheart, darling wife, the sweetest flower that in the garden grew.  As a memory you will never fade.  You had all my love."  Harry.

A memory for Valentine's Day.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Red Cross Monument on the Island of Islay

I found several articles on the Internet about this monument.  One quotes from a Wisconsin Newspaper article (paper unknown) June 30, 1920.

The American Red Cross financed a monument to the American soldiers lost on the transports Tuscania and Otranto in 1918.  The memorial in the form of a lighthouse is "on the rocky shores of the Island of Islay off the Scottish Coast..."  Some 489 American soldiers were buried in various locations.

The Scottish clan had taken tender care of the graves and the Chief pleaded that the bodies be left on the Island but many families wanted their relatives returned, so a decision was made by the Graves Registration Service to remove them all.  On the Internet you can read about the loving care the Scottish people gave to these fallen soldiers. They were treated like family and there are reports that the people stood crying as bodies were retrieved from the sea.  America and Scotland have a bond that is difficult to explain.

"The coast of Islay is so steep and rocky that the coffins will have to be carried down steep trails cut in the rocks or lowered by ropes and tackle to a waiting barge..."  Some of the soldier were taken to their home cities,  others were taken to Arlington National Cemetery.  All were taken but one.  Six American survivors were also cared for on Islay,  Sergt. C.A. McDonald from Galesburg, IL. being one of them.

If you go to "The Armin Grewe Homepage" you can see pictures of the Island and the memorial.  The plaque reads:  "Sacred to the immortal memory of those American soldiers and sailors who gave their lives for their country in the wrecks of the transports Tuscania and Otranto, Februry 5th, 1918 - October 6th, 1918.  This monument was erected by the American National Red Cross near the spot where so many of the Victims of the disasters sleep in everlasting peace:

On Fame's Eternal camping ground
       Their silent tents are spread
While Glory keeps with solemn round
        The bivouac of the dead.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The liner Tuscania was built by A. Stephen & Sons, Glasgow, Scotland, on the river Clyde.  The ship was delivered to the Anchor Line at the beginning of 1915 for service between Glasgow to New York via Liverpool.  Her maiden voyage was February 6, 1915.  In September of 1916, She began carrying Canadian troops from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Liverpool.  On January 24, 1918, She was loaded with 2,012 American troops and a crew of 384.  She joined Convoy HX-20 at Halifax and proceeded to cross the Atlantic for Le Harve.

On February 5, the German Submarine UB-77 sighted the convoy and at 5:40 pm the commander, Lt. Cdr. Wilhelm Meyer fired two torpedoes at the Tuscania.  The first missed, the second was a direct hit.  By 7 pm all the lifeboats had been launched by some 1,350 men remained on board.    Other ships joined in the rescue and by 10 pm the ship was sinking.  Just four hours after being hit the ship sank with 230 people being lost, 201 were American troops and rest were crew members.  This was the first ship carrying American troops to be sunk and the American people considered this an outrage.

This appeared in a Scottish newspaper as reported by the American press.

"Oban, Argyllshire - Many sad scenes have been witnessed in Islay, but no one can remember any tragedy of the sea which so deeply stirred the feeling of all as the internment of the brave young men from America, who lost their lives when coming to fight for us.  The people of this district did all that was possible to render assistance in the sad work of reverently disposing of the remains and showing all honor to the United States.  Plain coffins were made and a suitable piece of land for burial was given.  All together 50 bodies came ashore in Lochindaal.  Some were temporarily placed in the church at Porthaven, others housed at Port Charlotte and two at Bowmore."

"Port Ellen - The last week was one of mournful activity in this district.  Civilians of all grades took part in searching for bodies on shore, rock and islets, and aiding the survivors in burying the dead. The first internment took place at Killeyan in a wild, romantic spot, known locally as Portman Galon, an adjoining the Mull of Oa."

This dispatch came from London on March 20, 1918.  "Hugh Morrison, a Scotch land owner, who took a prominent part in the relief of survivors and burial of the dead from the steamship Tusscania, has sent to the Associated Press an American flag made by Scotch women and used at all Tuscanian funerals, with the request that it be sent to President Wilson for deposit in a museum to be selected by the President.  With the flag is this inscription:  An American flag made at Islay house, Feb.7, 1918, and hoisted with the Union Jack at all funerals of Tuscania victims on the Scotch coast.  The flag was made by Mary Armour, Florence Hall, Mary Cunningham, Jessie McLellan, Catherine MacGregor, and John McDougall and used at funerals at Port Charlotte, Kilnaughton, Killegas and Kinabus, all on the Island of Islay.  The flag measures 70X33 inches.  Islay house is the residence of Mr. Morrison, who gave the land for two of the Tuscania cemeteries."

Patrick A. Valentine - Husband of Mary Lester Armour

P.A. Valentine was born at Forres, Scotland, on December 13, 1851. He was educated at Victoria College, Channel Islands. He came to America when he was young and made his way to Chicago.  He found employment with a firm at the Board of Trade and was very successful.  His success was noticed by P. D. Armour, Jr. and he was invited into the House of Armour. He became Philips' best friend and closest confidant. As we have noted, he was one of the pallbearers and one of the executors of Philips' estate.

This is how the newspaper described the situation:  "He had become the warm friend of P.D. Armour, Jr., and when the latter died the widow, who had been Miss Mary Lester, turned to Mr. Valentine for advice.  She had an estate of over $8,000,000 to look after and she felt she could not master the business complexities.  Mr. Valentine took charge of her affairs and managed them so well that they greatly increased in value.  Their business relations brought them frequently together and eventually she announced their engagement."

They were married in New York at the Hotel Netherland.  The ceremony was performed by the Rev. Dr. Thaddeus Snively, rector of St. Chrysostom's Church, Chicago.  It was a simple ceremony with no attendants much like her first wedding.  She wore a pale blue satin gown, veiled with chiffon and embellished with a profusion of exquisite lace. After  an elaborate dinner, the couple sailed on the Kron Prinz for a tour of Europe.

They lived at 8 East Sixty-ninth street in New York City  and  their summer home was Danforth Lodge, in Oconomowoc, WI.  P.A. Valentine died on August 21, 1916 of Bright's disease.  He was 55 years old and had been ill for five months.  He is buried in Oconomowoc.  His estate was valued at 10 million.  The bulk of the estate went to his only son, Patrick Anderson Valentine.

Mary Lester Armour Valentine did not die until 1965.  She was 95 years old.  She was the mother of Philip D. Armour III; Lester Armour and P. A. Valentine, Jr. of Greenwich. Conn.  Grandmother of 9, great-grandmother of 17 and one great-great grandchild.  She is thought to be buried at Oconomowoc.

So ends the story.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mrs. Philip D. Armour, Jr. a young widow with 2 children in 1900.

Mary Armour was now a widow with 2 small children.  Her husband, the son of Philip Armour, died suddenly in January, 1900.  They had been married eleven years. His estate was valued at $8,000,000.  The will left everything to the widow and her children.  The real estate which included the great house at 37th and Michigan and 400 acres of property at Oconomowoc, WI. was valued at $1,200,000.  The rest of the estate consisted chiefly of stock in the Armour Co. of Chicago.  All of the household effects, horses and carriages were given to the widow. Mary E. Armour.

The executors of the will were: J. Ogden Armour, Mrs. Mary E. Armour, and P. Anderson Valentine. They acted without surety.  Each child was given $10,000 a year until they reached the age of 21.The date of the will was April 5, 1890.  P.A. Valentine appears to have taken over the task of helping Mrs. Armour handle her funds because his office was normally in New York City.

It appears that Mary Armour moved almost immediately to New York City and made her home at the Hotel Netherland.  When she returned to Chicago, she normally stayed with her mother-in-law on Prairie ave.  I could find no evidence that she ever stayed at the great house again.

A diligent search of the Chicago Tribune does not reveal the fate of the home at 37th and Michigan.

(NOTE:  As wills were probated, they were published in the local newspaper.  When Philip Armour, Sr., died his estate was valued at $15,000,000.  At the time the estate was the largest ever probated in Cook county.  Neither a charity or a friend was mentioned in the will, but Mr. Armour had given away during his lifetime something like $35,000,000.  Of this, $8,000,000 went to educational and charitable institutions.  The Illinois St. Andrew Society was one of his charities but sadly the records are gone.  However we are grateful.)

The History Club has visited the Armour plot in Graceland cemetery several times.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The House Built by Philip Armour, Jr. and Mary Lester

Philip Armour and his brother bought the entire block at 37th and Michigan Chicago.  He and Mary Lester would have the south-west portion of the property.  It was fronted on Michigan Avenue some 182 feet and 200 feet on 37th Street.  The house would have 4 stories with a basement and some 30 rooms.

The main entrance off Michigan ave. would be reached by a broad and easy flight of steps.  The steps led to a large porch and the entrance was "beautifully carved."  The house was to be totally fireproof in every way.  "All the floors are entirely of steel beams with tile arches between them, and concrete on top of these.  The sleepers are imbedded in the concrete and to these the wooden floors will be fastened."  The floor beams are carried on a series of steel columns which extended to their intersections with the roof.  These beams carried the weight of the house.  The roof would be of red Spanish tile.

The architect was Frederick W. Perkins and he designed a house along the "chateau style prevailing in the early French renaissance of the period of Francis I.  It was said to be a style well adapted to the Connecticut brown-stone used in the construction.  There were many dormers, chimneys, and towers.

The plumbing featured porcelain tubs and fine marble lavatories. The drainage system was of iron. Gas and electricity was used for illumination and the electric wiring was carried in iron conduits.

Steam was used for heating the house.  The boilers were placed in the stable which is connected to the house by an underground tunnel.  The air was filtered by means of fine cloth which removed the dust and other impurities.  The air then passed over steam coils to warm the air.  The temperatures were regulated by a series of thermostats.

The interior of the house was furnished "in fine domestic and foreign woods, marbles, and mosaics."  In both the first and second stories there are large halls connected by a stairway of mahogany.  On the fourth floor was a ballroom, 50X60 feet.  There was also an elevator that ran from the basement to all floors.  Construction began in April, 1894, and it took some three years to finish.  The cost was $600,000.00. and was said to have been "the most beautiful house in America."

Philip Armour died suddenly, January 28, 1900.  Mrs. Armour announced her engagement to P.A. Valentine on December 1, 1901.  After the marriage she moved permanently to New York City. The great house was closed.  It's fate is unknown.

Philip D. Armour, Jr. marries Mary E. Lester

Philip Armour is a name well know in Chicago history.  The Armour's had arrived in the American colonies from Scotland before the American revolution. Philip Armour was born May 16, 1832 in Stockbridge, New York.  His mother, maiden name of Allison, was born in Scotland in 1826 and had come to America as a young girl.  It is unclear when they married. Mr. Armour, Sr. was a life member of the Illinois St. Andrew's Society and said to be its most generous donor.  We have no records from 1845-1871 because of the Great Fire.

Mr. & Mrs. Armour had 3 sons, J. Ogden was the oldest, Joseph had died in infancy and Philip Danforth, Jr. was born January 11, 1869 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  The youngest son had been educated by private tutors until he was 16 and then was sent to Andover Academy to prepare for college.  He entered Yale at eighteen.  He was proficient in Latin and Greek with a love for classic literature and art.  For reason unknown he left Yale after one year and prepared to enter the house of Armour & Co.

His Father wanted him to tour Europe for one year before beginning his employment, so with a tutor, he visited all the major countries of Europe.  In Europe he collected books and art work.  The Armour's lived on Prairie Ave. which was "The Street" in 1890, the Lester family lived 2 block away on Calumet.  Their daughter was named Mary and she and P.D., Jr. were friends.  "The boy and girl met daily from the time they were 6 years of age."

After his tour of Europe, Philip began working for Armour & Company.  He started at the very bottom, working in the stock-yards every day.  At the age of 25, he was made a partner and traveled around the world visiting the offices of the company.  He knew employees from every branch and like his father was greatly loved and respected.

In the Fall of 1889, the engagement of Mary Lester and Philip D. Armour, Jr. was announced.  The Mothers began planning for the Christmas wedding.  It was to be the largest, most beautiful wedding every seen in Chicago.  No expense would be spared.  Decorations were chosen, the Bride's trousseau was progressing and the musicians engaged.  It was to be the social event of the year. I can only assume that the Central Church was the chosen location.

On November 7, 1889, Philip came to visit Mary Lester as the wedding plans were being discussed.  Finally, he said, "We are not on exhibition" and he and Mary took a walk to talk.  "If you love me well enough to marry me, he said, you love me well enough to marry me now.  Let's put an end to all this..."  A carriage was called for and the two returned to the Armour's house at 2115 Prairie Ave.  The Rev. F. W. Gunsaulus was sent for and the couple was married.  Mr. Armour, Sr., was still at work.  Immediately after the wedding, the couple boarded a train for the East.  The mothers were left sad, probably a little angry, and dejected!

Philip was quiet, intelligent and a family man.  His only outdoor sport was golf.  He was a member of the Chicago Athletic Club, the Calumet Club, Onwentsia and the Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, IL.

In business he was quick to learn and was the pride of his father.  His closest friend was Patrick A. Valentine. In 1892, Philip and Mary purchased 400 acres near Oconomowoc, WI. and built a summer home known as Danforth Lodge. They also had a home in California.  Two children were born to the marriage:  Philip Danforth Armour III and Lester Armour.

The family left for their home at Montecito, California with their two boys, age 5 and 7. Three weeks later, Philip Armour was dead.  It came without warning and no cause of death was given.  His brother, J. Ogden met the funeral train in Kansas City.  It consisted of two special cars attached to a Santa Fe train.

The body lay in state at the family home where hundreds came to pay their respects. The casket was placed in the library and the home was opened to the public. "His life is an example of an exception to the common adage concerning the rich man's son.  He was known for his business ability, and had he lived he would have made a name for himself...he was beloved by all those who knew him well." Neither the father or mother of Philip were able to attend.  Philip Armour, Sr. was soon to die.

The Rev. Gunsaulus, pastor of the Central Church, conducted the service.  A special train took the body and mourners from 40th and Michigan to Graceland cemetery.  Patrick A. Valentine was an honorary pallbearer.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Pinkerton Villa & The Snuggery

The house, which Pinkerton called The Villa, was a square building with porches on three sides and a cupola on top.  A hallway 8 feet wide ran the entire length of the building, about 50 feet. The hallway was illuminated by 4 chandeliers and there were rooms on each side of the hallway.  Pinkerton's room was at the northeast corner and was lined with bricks.  The bricks made the room "sound-prof" and it was here that he held meetings with ":mysterious visitors." 

Original oil paintings lined the hallway.  They showed the Battle of Gettysburg, Sherman's March to the Sea, Gen. McClellan and his staff, the Battle of Bull Run and the Secret Service Department.  In this last picture Allan Pinkerton was surrounded by 15 of his operatives  Over each door were portraits of noted men who were his personal friends:  Gen. George B. McClellan, Abraham Lincoln, Gen. U.S. Grant and Gen. W. T. Sherman.  Paul Loose, an artist brought from Scotland, did all the paintings.

The house was painted snowy white and trimmed in green.  All of the outbuildings were painted the same. The Snuggery was actually a wine cellar.  It was partly underground and was connected to the house by an underground tunnel.  The tunnel was dug for protection because, after the Molly Maguire investigation, there were threats on his life.  It is said that men with rifles would stand guard in the cupola.  In the Snuggery were wall maps of the West, where Pinkerton would trace the movements of his operatives. 

After Pinkerton's death in 1884, he left instructions in his will that the farm should remain in the family forever.  However, his two sons, Robert and William, had little interest in the farm and it was sold around 1910.  It has since been sold several times and is now owned by Les Bork, owner of Bork Nurseries.

Three or four years ago, members of my family made a trip to Onarga and found the farm and house.  The house was in total disrepair.  It was near collapse then and probably has by now.  The Snuggery is gone and the tunnel is filled.  The sad part is no one made any attempt to save the paintings or the maps.  They were last noticed rolled up and stuffed in a barrel. What was once a beautiful and wonderful place is now destroyed.  The present owner, I am told, has no interest in saving the house or allowing anyone else to do so.  Too bad!  However, it does appears to be a very profitable operation as a nursery.  The larch and maple trees were also gone.

There is a marker in the cemetery for one of his spies.  There is also a marker for the same person at Graceland cemetery.  Timothy Webster was captured and hanged by the Confederates as a spy, but I am not quite sure where his body is interred - Onarga or Chicago? 

We were in Onarga on a Sunday and all the stores were closed.  However, quite by accident we met Patricia Goff who is the owner of the local newspaper.  As a 17 year old student in Larkin High School, Elgin, Illinois, she had written a paper on Allan Pinkerton (1966).  She never lost her interest in the man and now lives just a few blocks from the famous farm.  Patricia was kind enough to share with us her  materials on Allan Pinkerton.  Much of it has been used in writing these blogs, especially a small booklet of the collected writings about Allan Pinkerton and the Larch Farm.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Joan Pinkerton Chalmers

Youth is a time of life;
It is a state of mind.
Nobody grows old by merely living a
          number of years;
People grow old by losing their ideals.
You are as young as your hope,
As old as your doubt;
As young as your self-confidence.
As old as your fear.
In the central place of your heart is a
           wireless station;
So long as it receives the messages of
            hope, beauty, courage, cheer,
And the love of God and your fellow
You are young.

                                                            Joan Pinkerton Chalmers

Allan Pinkerton's Villa - The Larch Farm

In 1864, Allan Pinkerton bought 254 acres of raw prairie land, 80 miles south of Chicago, near Onarga, Illinois. Some of the railroad land was sold off so that by 1870 about 210 acres remained. It was basically a square of land with a large, commodious, one-story dwelling, often called the Villa. The entire farm was enclosed with close-trimmed hedge of orange trees and inside this hedge seven rows of larch trees, set four feet apart.

The larch trees grow in Scotland, so Pinkerton ordered 85,000 trees be shipped to America.  They arrived at the harbor in New York City in sub-freezing weather and the agent responsible for receiving them stopped in a local pub to warm himself with liquor and never made it back to the ship. The trees froze and were ruined.  The agent was fired and Pinkerton ordered another 85,000 larch trees from Scotland.

In addition to the Larch trees over 1,000 evergreens were planted.  Along the main roads leading to the house, rows of maple trees were planted giving a great deal of color to the farm.  Four acres surrounding the house became the lawn.  Walks of graceful curves with beds of coal cinders bordered with blooming flowers.  There were many flower beds which contained marble and terracotta vases filled with flowers and rare plants.

Two greenhouses contained over 2,000 plants each of unlimited variety.  The barns, stables, corn cribs and the ice-house were beautiful and useful buildings.  Everything was watered by a 130 foot well using the latest in windmill technology.  There was also a small lake not far from the house.  In addition to all the trees and plants, Mr. Pinkerton had 2,000 apple trees planted along with pear, quince and cherry trees.  "The fruit and vegetable gardens contained almost every known variety, and received the careful attention of experienced gardeners."  There was also a large strawberry bed and a fish pond.  The fields were limited to corn and oats and a labor force of ten men was employed year round with double that number in the spring and summer.

There were three entrances to the property, each with its own guard house and attendants always dressed in blue uniforms.  "You are welcome to drive through, they'd tell you, but you must walk your horses.  Mr. Pinkerton doesn't like to have dust stirred up on his flowers.  If anyone drove his carriage too fast, the attendant would blow his whistle and order that person off the grounds."  There was also a $5.00 fine.

Pinkerton loved dogs, especially the Scotch terriers, and there was a dog cemetery and a headstone for each dog.  It was reported that he often took his rocking-chair and in the evenings would sit by the cemetery.  In addition to dogs, there were Shetland ponies and Indian ponies.  Dandy was a coal black stallion who is said to have been the "most beautiful and perfect Shetland" ever seen.

It was a beautiful farm unlike anything in Iroquois county and perhaps the entire country.  There is so much more to talk about, especially the house and the snuggery.  We will do that tomorrow.  My family visited Onarga and Larch Farm a couple of years ago and I would like to tell about that later.

Don't forget to register and leave a comment if you like.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Allan Pinkerton - The Great Detective

Born 25th of August 1819, in Glasgow, Scotland.  His father, William, was a policeman and died in a political riot.  He was never a scholar and after his father's death, he quit school and found work as an apprentice cooper to help support his family. As a teen, he joined the Chartist Movement that at its core favored social reform.  It is alleged that he was being sought by police when he married Joan Carfrae and boarded a sailing ship for America.

After a ship wreck and crossing the Canadian-American border, the newlyweds arrived in Chicago without a dime to their name. Pinkerton returned to his trade of being a barrel maker. After breaking up a gang of counterfeiters along the Fox River, he was appointed a deputy sheriff and his future was set.  He joined the Abolitionist Movement and there are reports that his home was a safe house for slaves on their way to Canada.

Around 1848, the family moved back to Chicago and Pinkerton became the city's first detective. The Pinkerton Detective Agency was founded in 1852 and used the "eye" as a logo and the slogan "We Never Sleep."  He became the personal bodyguard for Abraham Lincoln and exposed an attempt to assassinate the President in Baltimore on his way to Washington.  He became a player in the American Civil War and established the forerunner of the US Secret Service.

After the war the Agency grew and earned a reputation as a strike-breaker using strong-armed methods.  Pinkerton gradually turned the business over to his two sons who moved more into security than investigations.  The father began to write detective novels.  He bought property near Onarga, Il. and that will be the subject for tomorrow.  I would also like to write about the youngest daughter, Joan.  She said her father blamed himself for the death of the President because he was in New Orleans and not at the President's side.  He cried for days on end.

Just before his 65th birthday in 1884, Allan Pinkerton slipped on a Chicago sidewalk and after a few days of illness died.  He is buried at Graceland along with other members of his family, friends and employees.

(It is not good to reduce a great man's life to these few comments, but there is a lot more information on the Internet and several books are also available.   The story of his home in Onarga is interesting, I think.  It still stands on private property but is in terrible condition. The owner of the property has refused all offers to save the historic house.)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Alexander Gardener - The Man From Paisley, Scotland

Alexander Gardener was born in Paisley, Scotland, 1821.  As was the case for most teens, he became an apprentice.  Gardener began working for a jeweler at the age of fourteen.  He attended school in the evening at the Glasgow Athenaeum.  Photography caught his interest, especially the wet-plate process and he became an expert.   Gardener also became a socialist and supported Chartism, as did Alan Pinkerton.  He was active in attacks against capitalism.

He was also interested in a colony called Clydesdale located in the "wilderness of Iowa."  I did a goggle search for more information about the Clydesdale colony, but found nothing.  I never actually thought of Iowa as being a wilderness but maybe it was in the 1800's. Perhaps some of our readers can help. Gardener had watched many of his friends and relatives go to the "Utopia" in America and he intended to join them.

In the Spring of 1856, Gardener immigrated to the United States with his mother, his wife Margaret, and two children.  But, they did not go to Iowa instead he settled with his family in New York.  The colony had been devastated by tuberculosis including his sister Jesse Sinclair and her husband.  Matthew Brady an internationally known portrait photographer had paid their fare and invited Gardener to be his partner.

When the Civil War began in 1861, Brady was appointed the official photographer of the Union armies.  Gardener set off to the battlefields with a wagon as a darkroom, to record the war.  He was at the Battle of Antietam where 20,000 were left dead or wounded.  At Gettysburg, he recorded scenes which shocked America including his famous picture the "Death of a Rebel Sniper."

Along the way, he met a fellow Scot, Allan Pinkerton, who was the head of the Secret Service and bodyguard of Abraham Lincoln. They had much in common and so became friends. Gardener was a "quiet, dour intelligent man (much like Pinkerton) who wished to make his name as a photographer."  However, all the pictures he took were credited to Matthew Brady and so Gardener left to establish his own business.  His two volume book "Gardener's Photographic Sketch Book of the Civil War" is today considered a photographic masterpiece.  At the time it was a commercial failure.

In Washington, he ran a portrait gallery and also compiled the first "rogues gallery" for the Washington police and Allan Pinkerton.   He also recorded the progress of the Union Pacific Railway across the plains of Kansas and Texas.  But, his most important client was President Abraham Lincoln.  Five days before his death the President visited Gardener's portrait gallery and had a series of pictures taken.   They were the last pictures of the beloved President.

Alexander Gardener was a remarkable man from Paisley.  He died in Washington, D.C. in 1882 and is buried among America's heroes at Arlington National Cemetery.

Mrs. Fernando Jones - Maiden name of Grahame

Students of Chicago history will know the name Fernando Jones.  He founded an abstract company which after the great fire of 1871 became Chicago Title & Trust.  He arrived in Chicago with his father at the age of 15 in 1835, and became a prominent citizen.

Jane was a Scottish girls whose maiden name was Grahame and whose Clan Chief was James Grahame, Duke of Montrose.  She came to Chicago with her parents when she was ten years old and in 1853 married Fernando Jones.  They had two children.

For more than 50 years, she was identified with the progressive movement in Chicago, especially as it related to womens' rights.  She was one of the founders of the Twentieth Century Club and the Women and Children Hospital.  "Mrs. Jones had a personal friendship with many notable figures of the last century.  It is said to have been partly because of her appeals that General Grant wrote his memoirs."  She died, December 7, 1905.  Her husband died November 8, 1911.  They are buried in Oakwoods cemetery on the south side of Chicago.

Mr. &  Mrs. Jones lived in a three-story red-brick house at 1834 Prairie ave.  It was located directly across from the home of Marshall Field.  Both house are now gone.  It was included in Old Chicago Houses by John Drury, page 31.  They often lived abroad, but when they were home, the house became a gathering place for Chicago citizens who had attained wealth and status.  It was magnificently furnished. Their housekeeper was Jessie Smith.

Jessie Smith was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and came to Chicago as a young girl to join her brother John who was a stone cutter.  In 1869, Mrs. Jones employed her and she remained for 44 years. When Mr. & Mrs. Jones traveled abroad, she was entrusted with care of their home.  After Fernando Jones died in 1911, the family kept the home open and allowed Jessie Smith to live there for the rest of her life. . She died January 14, 1913, and now with her death, the family closed the home.

Several years before, Jessie Smith and her brother had bought a lot in Rosehill cemetery and she was laid to rest beside him.  It has been interesting to note how families treated their servants.  They were often considered members of the family, like Jessie Smith and were often given large gifts through wills and estates.  I doubt you would see that today, but who works 44 years in one place now?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Florence Nightingale Graham - Better known as Elizabeth Arden

Her father was a Scottish grocer in Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada, where Florence was born in 1878.  She was the last of five children and was named for the famous nursing pioneer. (Many children in that generation bore the same name of Florence Nightingale). Her mother died when she was six and she lived in Ontario for the first twenty-four years of her life. She enrolled in a nursing program and took great interest in burn creams and skin salves not just as medicine, but as a potential for beauty creams and lotions.

She left nursing school without graduating because it was not meeting her emotional needs. Her brother had moved to New York and she followed him there. She found a job in a cosmetic shop and then became a partner in a beauty shop. Finally, she opened her own beauty shop on Fifth Avenue and changed her name to Elizabeth Arden. Here she began to formulate, manufacture and sell her own products.

In 1918, she married Thomas Lewis, a banker, and through him became an American citizen. She never permitted her husband to own stock in the company and when they divorced he went to work for Helena Rubinstein. The FBI, in 1941, investigated her company over allegations that the salons in Europe operated as cover Nazi operations. A second marriage to a Russian prince lasted only two years.

During the war, Elizabeth Arden saw the changing needs of women as they entered the work force. She taught them how to apply their makeup and dress appropriately for careers outside the home. She started a fashion business with notable designers like Charles James and Oscar de la Renta on staff. She created a lipstick named Montezuma Red for women in the armed forces that matched the red on their uniforms.

By the end of 1930 it was said that "There are only three American names that are known in every single corner of the globe: Singer sewing machines, Coca Cola, and Elizabeth Arden." Some of her patrons included:  Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth II, Marilyn Monroe, Jacqueline Kennedy, Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford, Wallis Simpson and Mamie Eisenhower. The perfume Blue Grass introduced in 1934 is considered the first all-American scent and is still being sold today.

In the nineteen forties and fifties, she turned to horse racing and breeding. Her stable became the leading money winner in the United States. In 1947, her colt "Jet Pilot" won the Kentucky Derby. The horse Busher was inducted into the Hall of Fame and in 1954 and her filly "Fascinator" won the Kentucky Oaks.

Elizabeth Arden died in New York City in 1966 and was buried in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York. Her monument is inscribed by a large word "GRAHAM' and in smaller letters "Elizabeth N. Graham." Her estate was valued at between $30 million to $40 million. In 2003 the Elizabeth Arden cosmetics company was bought by Unilever for $225 million.

Not bad for a Scottish girl who never lost sight of her dream.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Five Moffitt Sisters & William Mercer

This is one of my favorite stories.  It was published in the Chicago Tribune, December 16, 1906.

The farms of the Mercer's and the Moffitt's lay adjoining with the Raccoon creek flowing between. They were connected by a small walking bridge near Charleston, W. Virginia.  When William Mercer was 19, he took his first bride, Miss Jennie Moffitt, who was 16 to the altar.  In a short time, he was a widower through consumption which seems to have been an unfortunate inheritance of the Moffitt family.

Then came his marriage to Miss Ada Moffitt, Catherine Moffitt and Missouri Moffitt, each in succession and each dying of the same disease that carried off their oldest sister. Three years ago, Miss Anna Moffitt, the last of the family, became Mrs. Mercer, having jilted a young, handsome, and prosperous businessman to wed her quadruple brother-in-law.  She was 26 and her husband was 47.  On September 3, 1905, there was a reception at the Mercer homestead in celebration of her three years of married life.

Mrs. Anna Moffitt Mercer is extremely handsome, being a dark, glowing, muscular girl of the the mountaineer type, and looking exceptionally healthy.  Mr. Mercer has eight children by his various marriages, two of whom are near their stepmother's age and bright, attractive girls.

The well trodden path between the two farms crossed a rustic bridge, and it was here, it is said, William Mercer asked the momentous question which ended in each of the girls becoming a Mrs. Mercer.  Mr. Mercer is a genial, cheerful, joyful man, and, in spite of his having lost so many wives seems to take a great deal of comfort and delight in his present spouse.  In fact his successive wives all said as the time of their death drew near that he was a good a man and as loving a husband as woman could want.

The neighborhood for awhile took a great deal of amusement in talking about Mercer's marrying the Moffitt family.  One inquisitive old mountaineer ventured to ask him:  Why don't you marry somebody besides a Moffitt, Billy, just for a change, ye know?  Billy, looked thoughtfully at the white house across the creek and munching a straw said:  I ain't never thought much about it.  Pears like, though, if ye want a reason, it's kin' o' handy to over there an' git a wife.  I ain't got much time to go chasin' roun' in the mountains for one.  The inquirer said no more about it.

"That the present wife is not jealous of his former better halves is shown by the fact that the crayon portraits of Mercer's four wives hang in a row on the sitting room wall beside her own.  It makes me feel at home, she said, to see the pictures of my sisters about, and I wouldn't be without them."