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.

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