Friday, December 3, 2010

Samuel Insull and His Association with Thomas Alva Edison and the Scots of Chicago

Whenever prominent people would visit the home of Thomas Alva Edison in Florida, they were always encouraged to bring a stone with their name on it.  He used the stones to make a walkway which you can still see today.  The very first stone in the walkway has the name of Samuel Insull written on it.  Insull at the age of 22 became the personal secretary of Mr. Edison and later the vice-president of Edison General Electric Company in Schenectady, New York.  He was sent to Chicago in 1892 and became president of the Chicago Edison Company which is now known as Commonwealth Edison.  He was often listed among the donors to our St. Andrews Society and often appeared at the St. Andrews Day celebrations.

In 1922, he donated the land on which the British Home in Brookfield, Illinois, was built.  Commonwealth Edison failed during the Great Depression and in 1932, Samuel Insull was indicted on charges of bankruptcy, embezzlement and using the mails to defraud.  He was acquitted on all charges,  However, the public was so angry that Mr. Insull returned to France where he had been living.  He died of a heart attack in a Paris subway on July 16, 1938.  The last of the Insulls died on May 17, 1997, with the passing of Samuel Insull III, the grandson of Samuel Insull.

Members of the family are buried at Graceland in Chicago.  There is even a headstone carved with the name of Samuel Insull, however, it appears he was buried overseas.  I am not sure that Samuel Insull was a Scot, but he sure associated with them and was friends with many Scots during his lifetime.  He was unfortunately blamed for something that could not have been avoided.

I have visited the home of Thomas Edison several times and once the Guide referred to Mr. Edison as being English, so I asked her about this statement.  However, she wasn't very interested in talking about his Scottish roots.  It is sufficient to say that Thomas Alva Edison is a proud member of the Scottish American Hall of Fame.

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