Monday, June 26, 2017

Flavel Moseley Social Adjustment School at 24th Street and Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois.

Flavel Moseley Social Adjustment School, built in 1856 at a cost of $25,445, located at 2348 South Michigan Avenue was the oldest school building in the Chicago public system. The school building was demolished in 1959.
Moseley School. Photo taken on 24th Street and the Wabash Avenue side of the school. 1922
Opened in rented quarters in 1854, the Flavel Moseley school was named for the first president of the Chicago school board and founder of the high school library system. The 10 room building had an initial enrollment of 600 elementary pupils in classes which started in February, 1857. When an addition was built in 1857, the Moseley school became the south division high school. 
Class in session at the Moseley School, 24th and Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois. 1900
In 1936, the school was geared for social adjustment.

Track-side tenements on the south side of Chicago. (1944)

Track-side tenements on the south side of Chicago. (1944)
You can see Comiskey Park in the background.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Elie Sheetz - Martha Washington Candies Company.

Mr. Elie Sheetz, a confectioner, founder of the "Martha Washington Candies Company," was born in Pennsylvania, he began business in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in June of 1892, moved to Washington DC and continued doing business in serving each customer in such a way as to bring another customer. Generous to a fault in impulse and purpose, he soon under stood how to cater, not only to the Sweet tooth, but to create a sweet and wholesome atmosphere in his store and among his customers.

His candy soon gained popularity because it was good candy, made of pure materials. It was christened by a happy circumstance; one of the boys selling his candy reported that a lady had jokingly asked for some more of that “Martha Washington” candy. To Mr. Sheetz it was as tho the First Lady of the Land herself had spoken. He at once grasped the possibilities of making goods worthy of the name.
The business grew and grew but Elie Sheetz is not all business. He is first and last just a real man. His factory and store are pervaded with the family spirit; all aglow with the suggestion of just buying the candy at home. On the walls are historical pictures, portraits of the various Presidents, and many rare prints and photographs of Lincoln and his times.
The collection of mirrors makes his home and office a veritable museum in itself. All this Elie Sheetz enjoys with his friends and his customers. He is the sort of man that I could not conceive of being anything but a friend to everybody.
 
The brand name "Martha Washington Candies" was trademarked in Washington DC on July 23, 1906.
79th Street and Halsted, Chicago, Illinois
Martha Washington Candies soon began selling ice cream along with their variety of candy confections.
A Fort Worth, Texas Store.
Elie Sheetz and E.M. Hunt sold their interests in the Martha Washington Candies Company on August 13, 1932. Both will retain their interest in the "Elie Sheetz Candies Company" of Maryland which operates in several eastern states. The chain has grown to control 15 factories and 200 retail shops. The Midwest business was founded by Mr. Hunt in 1911.

One of the company's factories, "kitchens and retail store" was located at 3823-29 North Broadway in Chicago. Elie Sheetz, died on November 11, 1932. By the end of 1936, most all of the 150 nationwide stores were temperature controlled.

Some of the Chicago store locations:
3823-29 North Broadway
4755 North Broadway 
17 East Hubbard Place
51 East Adams Street
31 West Washington Street 
1016 Wilson Avenue
24 West Jackson Boulevard
180 West Jackson Boulevard 
17 South Wabash Avenue
79th Street and Halsted
844 East 63rd Street
11 south Kedzie Avenue

If you know of any other Chicagoland or Illinois locations, please comment below.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

April 26, 1951, General McArthur Day in Chicago, Illinois.

General of the Army, Douglas MacArthur, visits Chicago after his return from Korea in 1951. On April 26, 1951, 15 days after he was relieved as military commander in Korea by President Truman, he visited Chicago on his triumphal tour of the nation.
Chicago welcomes General MacArthur with a parade, State Street, April 26, 1951.
The city afforded "The Old Soldier" the greatest and most spontaneous welcome in its history. The Tribune reported: "Chicagoans never saw the equal of the welcome given Gen. Douglas MacArthur yesterday... The acclaim of the throngs was deafening." Police estimated that more than 3 million persons jammed the official parade route on State Street and Michigan Avenue in the downtown area. Hundreds of thousands more lined the motorcade route from Midway airport to the Loop. Crowds overwhelmed police ranks and surged into State street, cutting off the first 12 cars of the motorcade, as they cheered MacArthur.

Gov. Adlai Stevenson, Mayor Martin Kennelly, and Gen. Robert E. Wood, chairman of the welcoming committee, had greeted the general as he stepped from his four engine Constellation aircraft, the "Bataan," at Midway airport. A 17 gun salute by a field artillery battalion followed, and the motorcade from the airport to the Loop began.

One of the loudest receptions along the parade route occurred where railroads cross over 55th street. Locomotives which had been stationed there blew their whistles as Gen. MacArthur passed.

That night as 50,000 people assembled in Soldier Field in 40 degree temperatures, the hero of the Pacific made a fighting defense of his stand on the Korean war as he challenged the policies of President Truman and called for "a positive and realistic policy for Korea... one designed to bring the war to an early and honorable end." A fireworks display was presented at 8:50pm.

The next day, thousands of persons lined the north shore as he drove to Milwaukee to be honored.

The History of Bob Farrell and His Ice Cream Parlour Restaurants.

Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour opened for business on Friday the 13th of September, 1963. The first parlour was located at 21st and W. Burnside in Portland, Oregon. Bob Farrell and Ken McCarthy were the founders and proprietors of this unique parlour restaurant. "When we opened our first store, we had 32 employees, $1,300 in the bank and owed $26,000," remarks Ken about that first day.
 
From the beginning, the concept was pretty much established, from the player piano in the corner of the dining room to the red-flocked wallpaper on the walls. Tiffany lamps adorn the dining room, while “cherub” fixtures hang on the walls.
The concept was so simple, yet ingenious. Provide a wholesome, fun place for families, kids, couples, school groups to come to celebrate their successes. Provide a simple menu of burgers, sandwiches, and creative ice cream treats. The menu was printed as a tabloid-style newspaper. The largest 50 scoop sundae, the "Zoo," was delivered with great fanfare by multiple employees carrying it wildly around the restaurant on a stretcher accompanied by the sound of ambulance sirens. 

Throw in a candy store for that old-fashioned effect, and make the place fun for everyone.
The ice cream parlour concept was based on the New York City parlours of old; the rest came from Bob Farrell’s upbringing in New York, with delicatessens and corner candy stores. Apparently it worked - people came in droves.
Bob Farrell recollected the first day in his book: "We ran out of ice cream and bananas. We bought all the hamburger the store above us could grind. We cleaned out every hamburger bun, head of lettuce and tomato we could get from area stores."
In 1970 a new retail growth industry had just begun to boom - the enclosed shopping center. From Farrell’s standpoint, this was a perfect vehicle for growth - a captive market of mall shoppers, less up-front capital costs to construct a parlour, and all exterior maintenance was handled by the shopping mall in exchange for a nominally higher rent. It was a win-win situation for Farrell’s. A lease agreement was signed for Woodfield Mall.

Illinois locations were at:
Ford City Shopping Center, 7451 S. Cicero Ave., Chicago, IL.
North Riverside Shopping Center, 7501 W. Cermak Rd., North Riverside, IL.
Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg, IL.
Northwoods Mall, 126 Northwoods Mall, Peoria, IL.


About Robert "Bob" Farrell
Robert "Bob" Farrell, who co-founded a popular chain of ice cream parlors that were the home of countless children's birthday parties, died Friday, August 14, 2015 in Vancouver after an extended illness.

His death was announced by Farrell's Ice Cream Parlours on its Facebook page late Friday. The company said Farrell passed away with his wife, Ramona, and family by his side. He was 87.


Farrell, who was originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., opened the first Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour in Portland in 1963. By 1970, he had opened 55 shops throughout the West. The chain later expanded to more than 130 shops after it was sold to the Marriot Corp. in 1973, and Farrell remained the company's spokesman until just prior to its sale to an investment group in 1985. Several Farrell's still operate in Southern California under a new company.

Later, Farrell became a part owner of Pacific Coast Restaurants Inc., and helped build a string of Stanford's and Newport Bay restaurants in Oregon, Washington and Northern California. In 1995, Farrell left the restaurant business and became a customer service consultant, speaking to employees of companies, such as Nordstrom, Nike and Safeway about putting customers' interests first.

And Farrell loved to talk about customer service, including an infamous anecdote about a diner who once was charged for an extra pickle at one of his restaurants. In the story, a regular customer had been receiving a free extra pickle whenever he asked for it, and was angered when a new waitress charged him a nickel for the extra pickle. The customer wrote Farrell, saying he would stop coming to the restaurant because of the charge. Farrell made amends with the customer by writing him a letter and offering a free ice cream sundae. The phrase "Give 'em the pickle" became a customer service motto for the company.

"The customer is the boss," Farrell said in 1989 recalling the incident. "There are three little words we always want them to say -- 'I'll be back.' There's not a better job in the world than making someone happy."

Farrell was born in 1927 in Brooklyn, and joined the Air Force in 1945 after graduating from high school. After World War II ended, he served at radar stations in the Pacific Northwest. After completing his business degree, he worked as a salesman and manager for the Libby Foods company before opening his first ice cream parlor in Portland in 1963. Farrell made an appearance in TV's "The Merv Griffin Show," and in 1976 he received the Horatio Alger Award from Norman Vincent Peale. At one point, Farrell's held the record for the World's Largest Sundae in the Guinness Book of Records.

Farrell's ice cream shops had an old-fashioned feel to them, and were a popular spot for birthday celebrations, which featured free sundaes and waiters singing "Happy Birthday."

One of the stories he would tell in his customer service presentations involved a birthday party gone awry not long after the first Farrell's opened. An upset customer came to pay his bill. Farrell learned that the man's son was celebrating his sixth birthday, but nobody had given him his free sundae or sung "Happy Birthday."

Farrell went straight to the fountain and made a sundae, topping it with a birthday candle. Then he asked the boy his name, stood up on a table and yelled for everybody in the restaurant to be quiet.

"We made a mistake," Farrell said. "We didn't sing 'Happy Birthday' to Alex, and I want all of you to help us sing it now."

The result was one ecstatic boy who became a loyal customer. Farrell said he continued to see Alex years later, and that he still had the birthday photo taken at the restaurant.

"I didn't sell ice cream," Farrell said of his years with the ice cream parlors. "I sold a good time. Ice cream was the vehicle." 

VIDEOS

The Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour Restaurants Story.


Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour Restaurants Commercial.


Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour Restaurants Crew Delivering Farrell's 'Zoo.'

Friday, June 23, 2017

Wolf Point, Chicago, Illinois. (1885)

Wolf Point, Chicago, Illinois. (1885)
Wolf Point is the location at the confluence of the North, South and Main Branches of the Chicago River. In the present day it's the Near North Side, Loop, and Near West Side community areas of Chicago.

The Oldest Villages and Towns in Illinois.

This is a short history of some of the oldest villages and towns in what is now the State of Illinois.

PEORIA
Peoria was settled in 1680. French explorers René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, and Henri de Tonti built Fort Crevecoeur. But there is strong evidence that this area was inhabited as far back as 10,000 BC.
Main Street, Peoria, Illinois
CAHOKIA
Considering Cahokia was bustling in the early 1000s, this counts as the oldest community in Illinois. This settlement was the most sophisticated pre-Columbian civilization north of Mexico. French Cahokia, founded in 1699, was not the first French outpost, but it was the earliest settlement that survived more than a few years. At its height, Cahokia had a higher population than London, England did during the same time period.
Cahokia Mounds
ALTON
The Alton area was home to Native Americans for thousands of years before the 19th-century founding by European Americans of the modern city. Historic accounts indicate occupation of this area by the Illiniwek or Illinois Confederacy at the time of European contact. Earlier native settlement is demonstrated by archaeological artifacts and the now famous prehistoric Piasa bird painted on a cliff face nearby. The image was first written about in 1673 by French missionary Father Jacques Marquette who described seeing this mythical creature. Alton was developed as a river town in 1818 by Rufus Easton, who named it after his son. Easton ran a passenger ferry service across the Mississippi River to the Missouri shore. Alton is located amid the confluence of three significant navigable rivers: the Illinois, the Mississippi, and the Missouri. Alton was incorporated in 1837 by Brant T. Walker. It was the site of the last Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas debate in October 1858.
Piasa Bird in Alton, Illinois
KASKASKIA
Kaskaskia was a majorly important French colonial village. Its first stone church was built in 1714. It then was taken over by the Virginia militia during the Revolutionary War. Kaskaskia was designated as the capital of the Northwest Territory (1784-1800), and it even served as the capital of Illinois briefly.
Kaskaskia, Illinois - First Stone Church, Built in 1714.
SHAWNEETOWN
The village of Shawneetown was established in 1748 by the Pekowi Shawnee. Pekowi was the name of one of the five divisions (or bands) of the Shawnee Indians. Some 60 years later, it was visited by Lewis and Clark. In 1816, the first bank chartered in Illinois was in Shawneetown. A devastating flood went through the area in the 1930s, leading to a near abandonment of "old Shawneetown."
When the State Bank of Illinois was built 1839-1841 in a Greek Revival style, the building features five Doric columns, which is view as unusual as normally buildings would have an even number. The building was built to house the offices of the Bank of Illinois at Shawneetown. When the bank opened its doors in 1841, banks had the right to print and issue their own paper money. A piece of bank-issued paper money was called a "bank note." The Bank suspended operations in 1843, but the building housed numerous financial institutions from 1854 into the 1930s. Note the water tank  for public drinking.
EDWARDSVILLE
Edwardsville holds the distinction of being the third oldest city in Illinois. In 1805, Thomas Kirkpatrick moved up to this area and named it after his good friend, Ninian Edwards, hence Edwardsville. Five Illinois governors have come from Edwardsville.
Frank Catalano stood in front of his "Hi-Way Tavern" in Edwardsville, Illinois for this photograph while Route 66 was being repaved in 1939.
More of the oldest towns in Illinois: 
Illinoistown; a central Mississippi river crossing settlement to the west.
Prairie du RocherAccording to Jesuit history Prairie du Rocher was incorporated into a village in the year 1722. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

History of Chicago's Shipbuilding Industry.

Shipbuilding in Chicago has always been tied to the city's status as a port. When Chicago flourished as a port it was the site of a thriving shipbuilding industry. As the port has waned so has shipbuilding.

The first ship built in Chicago, the Clarissa, was begun in the spring of 1835 by Nelson R. Norton, but was not completed, or launched, until May 18, 1836. The Detroit, Capt. John Crawford, was built at Milwaukee in 1836-37 for the Chicago trade, at a cost of $50,000. This vessel was lost off Kenosha, Wisconsin in November, 1837, after only six months service. Around 1836, an association of the then young, energetic and enterprising citizens was formed, and they commenced the building of the steamer James Allen. It was completed in 1838, Capt. C. H. Case having charge of its construction. The shipyard was on "Goose Island." The Allen was built to be fast, and to run across Lake Michigan from St. Joseph to Chicago, in connection with the stage and mail line. Her hull was narrow and sharp in form, and light in material.' Two powerful, low pressure, horizontal engines were put on the guards, on the main deck. The boilers were small, and, on trial, proved to be in sufficient. When the Jim Allen had steam up and started on her trial trip for St. Joseph, she went out of Chicago at a speed that pleased, as well as astonished, her owner and designer. The first fourteen miles were run inside of an hour. Then the engines began to " slow up, " and the voyage took about ten hours. Every effort was made to keep up the supply of steam to the two large engines, but the result was the same as experienced during the outward trip. To use the expression of her commander, she would run the first thirty minutes "like a skeered dog," then her speed would gradually slacken to about seven miles an hour, and nothing could coax her to do any better. For two seasons, notwithstanding the utmost exertions taken, there was no improvement in the Allen's average rate of speed, and she was then sold and taken to the lower lakes.

The George W. Dole was also built by Captain Case, soon after the completion of the James Allen, and the two ran together over the St. Joseph and Michigan City route. The former was sunk at Buffalo, in 1856, having previously been changed into a sailing vessel. These were the first and only steamers built in Chicago previous to 1842. In 1842 Capt. James Averell established a shipyard, on the North side, just below Rush street bridge, and very soon after Thomas Lamb commenced business near the same place. The shipyards of Chicago were now beginning to present unusual signs of activity. In 1845 there were constructed the schooners Maria Hilliard, J. Young Scammon, and Ark; in 1846 the barque Utica, brig Ellen Parker, and schooner N. C. Walton. In 1847 eighty schooners had been, or were being built in Chicago, one brig and one propeller—the A. Rosseter—a total tonnage of 4,833. Nineteen schooners, one propeller and one brig owned by Chicago people. The leading ship-builders at this time were Jordan, Miller & Conners. The latter afterward formed a partnership with Riordan & Dunn, on the South side, near the VanBuren street bridge.

By the late 1840s, 82 ships had been built in the city, the overwhelming majority of them schooners. Shipbuilding was of great importance in Chicago during the period 1850 to 1875, when Chicago was the busiest port city in the United States. Wooden ships, both steam and sail, made up the bulk of the lake commercial fleet. Shipbuilders were attracted to Chicago because of its busy port and the fact that it was the lumber center of America. Scores of shipyards were located both along the North Branch and the South Branch of the Chicago River.

The largest and most important shipbuilder was Miller Brothers & Co., located on the Chicago River just above the Chicago Avenue Bridge. The firm built steamships, tugs, canal boats, and schooners. When the shipping industry was booming the Miller Brothers dry docks, the largest on Lake Michigan, were constantly occupied with ships being rebuilt while carpenters were busy with one or more new ships. The busiest time of year for new ship construction was in the late winter and early spring. Sailors idled by the close of shipping joined with the professional ships' carpenters and caulkers to finish new vessels before the navigation season began again in April.

William Wallace Bates, the most influential shipbuilder working on the Great Lakes during the age of sail, operated a shipyard in Chicago in the 1860s and 1870s. Bates turned out a series of clipper schooners renowned for their carrying capacity and speed. Even more important than new shipbuilding was the city's role as a place to repair or rebuild existing ships. With as many as five hundred vessels annually wintering in the Chicago River, the shipyards of the city were kept busy maintaining the fleet. The ship chandlers of the city were also extremely important, as they supplied sails and cordage to the bulk of the Lake Michigan marine.

The decline of wooden shipbuilding brought the decline of Chicago as a construction site. The Chicago River was too small to serve as a building site for the four- and five-hundred-foot-long steel ships demanded by the grain and iron ore trade in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Chicago River shipyards remained active by focusing on small boat or yacht construction. During World War II the Henry Grebe shipyard, on the North Branch of the river, produced the last wooden ships built in Chicago-minesweepers for the U.S. Navy. By that time the servicing and construction of large vessels shifted with the bulk of the city's commercial traffic to the Calumet Region.

The Chicago Shipbuilding Company was the most important of the steel shipbuilding firms in Chicago. Founded in 1890 as a subsidiary of the Globe Iron Works of Cleveland, the company launched in its inaugural year the Marina, the first steel-hulled ship built on Lake Michigan. By 1899 the company was widely regarded as the most progressive and prolific shipbuilder on the Great Lakes. In that year, the company merged with the other large steel shipbuilders on the lakes to form the American Shipbuilding Company. Under the control of the new company the Chicago yards continued to produce new ships, although repair and conversion became an increasingly important part of their business.

Chicago shipyards produced vessels for federal service in the Civil War, World War I, and World War II. With the advent of vessels over a thousand feet long, fewer and fewer ships were capable of meeting the needs of lake commerce. The American Shipbuilding Company limited its Chicago yard to smaller jobs such as scows and barges-taking advantage of Chicago's location at the meeting place of the Mississippi and Great Lakes waterways.
U.S. Navy minesweeper under construction at Henry C. Grebe & Co. shipyard on the west bank of the North Branch of the Chicago River, June 1952.
The opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959 promised a resurgence of the shipping industry in Chicago. Any resurgence was forestalled, however, by the limited size of the seaway's locks and by federal shipping policy. By the late twentieth century, shipbuilding had ceased to be an important activity not only in Chicago but on Lake Michigan. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois. Historical Series Videos from 1857-2007.

Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois. Historical Series in Honor of the 150th Anniversary in 2007.
1857-1860 Illinois State University Historical Series [runtime 14:28]

 1860-1862 Illinois State University Historical Series [runtime 12:36]

 1862-1866 Illinois State University Historical Series [runtime 14:26]

 1867 Illinois State University Historical Series [runtime 13:33]

1868-1876 Illinois State University Historical Series [runtime 14:26]

1877-1890 Illinois State University Historical Series [runtime 15:10]

 1900-1930 Illinois State University Historical Series [runtime 22:05]

1930-1956 Illinois State University Historical Series [runtime 25:14]

1956-1967 Illinois State University Historical Series [runtime 22:49]

 1967-1977 Illinois State University Historical Series [runtime 25:58]

1977-2007 Illinois State University Historical Series [runtime 43:08]


150th Anniversary of Illinois State Alumni Association [runtime 5:40]


The History of the Telegraph in Chicago, Illinois.

The telegraph, which received its first practical demonstration in 1844, came to Chicago in 1848. Telegraphy made possible instant communication with the East Coast, and eventually with the entire country.
An 1844 Telegraph Key by Alfred Vail used to tap out Morse Code for messages.
Daily newspapers began publishing next-day accounts of speeches, elections, and battles, all furnished by telegraph. During the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, a telegram from the mayor brought fire-fighting equipment from Milwaukee; when it was over, citizens lined up at a makeshift Western Union office to inform alarmed friends and relatives that they had survived.
July 25, 1850 - A Telegraph Communication
Chicago quickly became the eastern terminus of “western” communication and by the 1880s was the nation's second city in sheer volume of messages. The telegraph in turn promoted Chicago's economic growth. It proved critical in managing the long-distance railroad routes which made Chicago a vital link between the Midwest and the East Coast. Chicago companies, serving far-flung markets by rail, could coordinate their operations by telegraph. Small-town storekeepers could obtain price information or place orders with their Chicago suppliers. In 1858 the Chicago Board of Trade began receiving market news from New York City by telegraph, while the board's grain and commodity prices, now telegraphically disseminated, propelled it to national prominence as a grain market. Traders could complete deals by telegraph.
Telegraph Poles; Looking East from Clark Street, Chicago. May 10, 1869.
Completion of the Transcontinental Railway Celebration.
Chicago's resources, and its importance as a center of national telegraphic activity, made it the home of Western Union's central division, and the city attracted and fostered a wealth of engineering and entrepreneurial talent. Chicago became a center for manufacturing telegraphic (and later telephonic) equipment when the predecessor of the Western Electric Company relocated from Cleveland in 1870.

Most railroad stations served as telegraph offices, so residents of most neighborhoods and suburbs could send important messages anywhere in the metropolis. To get in touch with a group of employees near suburban Riverside, for instance, George Pullman instantly proposed sending a telegram. On the other hand, Evanstonians seeking information on the Great Chicago Fire were frustrated because the local telegraph office was closed.

In 1869 private line service became available in Chicago, and the American District Telegraph Company soon offered affluent Chicagoans a home service allowing them to summon a firefighter, private policeman, or messenger. Telegraphic communication with other Chicagoans was facilitated by the company's network of neighborhood offices and messengers.

In 1865, the Chicago Fire Department contracted to build fire alarm boxes employing telegraphic signals. Located throughout the city, they allowed citizens to report fires quickly. In 1880 the Chicago Police Department began using call boxes on the streets. Citizens could report crimes, though only after obtaining keys to the boxes, which were selectively distributed; relatively few crime reports were made. More important, the boxes facilitated official communication among the police. Patrolmen were obliged to make hourly “duty calls,” and were thus subject to stricter supervision. They could also summon a paddy-wagon in the event they made an arrest. The call boxes used an innovative combination of telegraphic signaling for routine messages and the telephone for unusual messages, a design adopted by police departments throughout the country.
Telegraph operators with Barclay telegraph instruments, 1908.
The telegraph diminished in relative importance as telephony grew more widespread. By 1940 Chicago had more than one million telephones in use, and 90 percent of fire alarms were telephoned to the Fire Department. Portable two-way radios finally rendered police call boxes obsolete, while other forms of telegraphy were largely superseded by more advanced electronic communications. 

C. Thale 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Crosby's Opera House, Chicago, Illinois (1865-1871)

The need of an opera house in Chicago had become more and more apparent, as the population of the city got larger, and its wealth and taste had also increased. Chicago had always been a liberal patron of music, and its local celebrities, as well as foreign artists, found a public always willing to greet them and to make that greeting substantial.

In 1863, Uranus H. Crosby, of Chicago, a gentleman of means and of great enterprise, conceived the idea of building in this city an edifice of this kind, which, while designed to be of personal profit to its projector, should also be a credit and an ornament to the city, and give stability to the growing interest of the fine arts. Filled with this most honorable ambition, he, in company with W. W. Boyington, Esq., an architect of Chicago, visited the other cities of the country, examining with care all the buildings erected for like purposes, profiting alike by the practical excellencies and the practical defects which they witnessed.

The opera house was built on Washington Street between State and Dearborn Streets on Chicago's Block 37.
Crosby Opera House Main Entrance on Washington Street, Chicago, Illinois.
The results of this careful and deliberate examination was the plan of the present building, which, without exception, is generally acknowledged the best designed structure of the kind in America. It embraces all the conveniences and excellencies of the various similar establishments, and as few of their deficiencies as possible. The front of the building combines simplicity with massiveness, and the ornamental designs are sufficiently elaborate, and yet do not, as is too often the case, spoil the general effect.

In the center is a projection which is twenty-three feet wide, through which is an arched entrance to the building. Upon the parapet above this entrance are placed four statues, representing respectively Painting, Sculpture, Music, and Commerce. These were designed and execute by L. W. Volk, a sculpture of Chicago. Higher in this same central projection are two large figures also designed by Volk, representing Music and the Drama. These are placed one on each side of an elaborate dormer window (see illustration above).
Looking East on Washington Street from Dearborn Street, Chicago, Illinois.


Looking East on Washington Street from Dearborn Street, Chicago, Illinois.
On the ground floor are four large halls or stores, each thirty feet front by one hundred and eighty feet deep, and sixteen feet high.
Looking West on Washington Street from State Street, Chicago, Illinois.
These are occupied respectively by Root and Cady, J. Bauer and Company, and W. W. Kimball, as music and piano stores, and by H. M. Kinsley’s celebrated and elegant confectionery, ice cream and dining establishment.
The second floor of the main building is occupied by offices-real estate, insurance, millinery, and others. The third floor is similarly occupied. The fourth floor is devoted to the studios of artists, the following persons being now there: George P. A. Healy, J. H. Drury, C. Highwood, J. R. Sloan, Mrs. S. H. St. John, P. F. Reed, J. H. Reed, H. C. Ford, John Antrobus, E. Seibert, and D. F. Bigelow. On this same flooris a very fine Art Gallery, thirty feet wide by sixty feet long, and eighteen feet high. It is admirably arranged for the purposes to which it is devoted. It is filled with the works of the artists of this and other cities, and is one of the most attractive exhibitions of Chicago.
Looking West on Washington Street from State Street, Chicago, Illinois.
In the rear of the building is the Opera House, from which the whole edifice takes its name. Passing through the main entrance, already described, to the next floor, a spacious corridor is reached, which is richly ornamented with frescoes, mirrors, and statues. From this corridor open to the right two most spacious and richly furnished toilet rooms, for ladies and gentlemen. On the left of the corridor are three large doorways, through which the visitor enters the auditorium of the Opera House. The effect which is produced by the appearance of the hall, upon opera night, when filled by an audience is very fine. There are seats for 3,000 people. It is in all its parts and appointments, the finest theater in the country, and has been so pronounced by all the artists who have seen it. It must, in fact, be seen to be greatly justly appreciated. No description, no matter how elaborate, will convey that sufficient idea of it that is once obtained by a personal view. It has that rare advantage, that a person in any part of the hall, whether in the topmost seat of the gallery, or on either side, or in the most remote part of the lobby, can see and hear every thing that passes on the stage. The view is wholly unobstructed.
The dimensions of the auditorium are eighty-six by ninety-five feet, and sixty-five feet high. The ceiling is a triumph of art. It is crowned by a central dome, some twenty-eight feet in diameter. This dome is encircled by panels bearing portraits of Beethoven, Mozart, Auber, Weber, Verdi, Wagner, Gounod, Gluck, Bellini, Donnizetti, Meyerbeer, and Rossini, and the other parts of the ceiling are richly frescoed and moulded in gilt. Directly in front of the stage, and over the orchestra, is a painting forty feet long. from the “Aurora” of Guido Reni, the panels on either side of which are filled with allegorical representations of Tragedy and Comedy.

The stage is extensive and convenient, and supplied with every facility. There are six proscenium boxes. The main floor is apportioned to the orchestra, the parquette, and the dress circle, the parquette rising from the orchestra to nearly the height of the circle. The second floor is the balcony circle, the center of which is divided into fifty-six private boxes; these immediately front the stage. On the next floor is the family circle, which, though elevated, is none the less convenient. It is comfortable and admirably adapted to hearing and seeing what passes on the stage. The gallery fronts are protected, and at the same time handsomely ornamented with open wire-work, painted in white and gold, and cushioned with blue silk.

The arrangements for heating and lighting this building are complete, and have proved most successful. The entire number of burners are lighted by one operation of a gas apparatus. The means of exit from the Opera House are various, and so arranged that in case of an alarm, or of actual danger, the audience may get out of the building without confusion, easily, expeditiously, and safely. In addition, there has been added to the building another wing, fronting on State street, and containing a fine music or concert hall, fifty by ninety feet, with galleries on three sides.

This magnificent edifice was built 1864-5, and was ready for occupancy in March, 1865. The cost of the entire building and site was nearly, if not quite, $700,000 (today: $11,145,000), a sum that financially ruined Crosby.

The inauguration of the Opera House was intended to have taken place on the night of Monday, April 17th, 1865; but the death of President Lincoln, which took place on the Saturday previous, caused it to be postponed until Thursday, the 20th of April, when it was opened by Gran’s Italian Opera troupe, the opera being “Il Trovatore.”

Giuseppe Verdi'a "IL TROVATORE"
The Complete Opera.

Previous to the opera, and as soon as the orchestra had taken their seats, there was a universal call by the densely packed audience for Mr. Crosby. That gentleman appeared, and as soon as the applause which had greeted him had subsided, made a brief and excellent address in acknowledgement of the compliment. He declined making a speech, preferring, as he said, to let the building speak for itself. His personal object, as a business man of Chicago, had been to use every effort in his power to promote the interests, elevate the tastes, and conduce to the happiness of the great city in which he had cast his lot. He introduced to the audience the Honorable George C. Bates, who read a poem written for the occasion by W. H. C. Hostner, the “Bard of Avon.” The audience assembled on that evening was undoubtedly the most numerous and brilliant ever assembled on a like occasion in this city.

The opera house and Crosby had trouble turning a profit, so in 1866, Crosby's backers proposed a lottery to raise money.
Crosby Opera House $5 Lottery Ticket (today: $85 per ticket), a large sum of money for the time.
The prizes weren't small; in fact, the grand prize was the building itself. 210,000 tickets were sold at $5 each, with Crosby having been given 25,593 tickets so he had a chance to win the building and its contents back. The public had bought over $1,000,000 in chances on a $700,000 building.
Lottery Drawing - January 21, 1867.
The drawing, held on January 21, 1867, was a major event. The city came to a halt so that people could see who the big winners were.

The winner of the building was Abraham Hagermann Lee of Prairie du Rocher, Illinois. There was no telegraph office in Prairie du Rocher, so a messenger had to be sent on horseback. When the news arrived with Lee, he was at home caring for his sick wife. He soon made the trip to Chicago to meet with Crosby. Lee told Crosby that he had no interest in leaving his wife to come to Chicago to take possession of the opera house. The two men struck a deal; Lee relinquished his claim to Crosby for the sum of $200,000. 

Subtracting the $200,000 given to Lee, Crosby paid off the construction costs, pocketed a $100,000 profit, and still owned the Opera House. Of course, there were questions whether Abraham Lee even existed.

When Lee returned to Prairie du Rocher, he made plans to build a grand residence. He chose a spot below the bluffs and had a house built for him and his wife. Lee died in 1869 and the house was bought by F.W. Brickey, Lee's partner in Prairie du Rocher's grain mill. The house then became known as the Brickey house.
Historic Abraham Hagermann Lee Mansion in Prairie du Rocher, Illinois. (1868-1970)
The Brickeys lived there for many decades, but the house was eventually abandoned, furnishings and all. It began to decay and was eventually destroyed by fire in 1970.

Crosby's Opera House, meanwhile, began to turn a profit. It hosted major performances and the 1868 Republican National Convention. In 1870, Crosby spent $80,000 to have it renovated. The Crosby Opera House turned on its gaslights for the first time since it began it’s summer long renovation just a few hours before the Great Chicago Fire hit. It was scheduled to open with a performance on October 9, 1871, but as we all know, something else happened on October 8, 1871. The Chicago Fire destroyed the opera house. It was never rebuilt. 

Shortly afterward, Uranus Crosby left Chicago and settled in Massachusetts. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Chicago Philanthropist, Anita McCormick Blaine, (1866-1954)

Innovations in educational thought matched those being made in science on campus in the early decades of the twentieth century. Educational reformer John Dewey's appointment to the faculty in 1894 signaled a substantial commitment by the University of Chicago to test new teaching practices and to implement new pedagogical theories. Indeed, the creation of the Laboratory School under Dewey's leadership immediately put the University on the national educational map. But to sustain Dewey's high ambitions, University administrators needed the financial resources that only a major philanthropist could provide.
Into the breach stepped Anita McCormick Blaine (Mrs. Emmons Blaine). The daughter of industrialist Cyrus Hall McCormick and his wife Nettie, Blaine made a substantial gift for a building to house the University Elementary School and University High School on campus—Emmons Blaine Hall.
Moreover, Blaine also provided funds to subsidize the University's programmatic work in education, a welcome expansion of the horizon of philanthropy beyond that of the first cohort of Chicago donors, whose gifts had been directed largely to building construction.

The cause of improving primary and secondary education deeply interested Anita McCormick Blaine, perhaps a reflection of the minimal education she received as a child. Believing that the existing methods of primary instruction were ineffective, Blaine searched for the right person to be her standard bearer, and she found him in Colonel Francis Wayland Parker. Since the 1870s Parker had experimented with new methods of teaching, rejecting the idea that students learned best by rote memorization. Parker's unconventional opinions (e.g., his rejection of the traditional division of subjects, his emphasis on parental involvement, and his insistence on practical learning) attracted much criticism, but Blaine became an ardent and enthusiastic supporter. In 1899 she urged Parker to establish a unique private school on the city's North Side, in which she could enroll her son Emmons, offering to fund the plan herself.

With Blaine's patronage Parker opened the Chicago Institute in 1900 in a rented German Turngemeinde, or athletic club, on North Wells Street. Plans had been developed for an impressive new building and elaborate curriculum for the Institute, but when expenses skyrocketed Blaine and Parker began to consider alternate possibilities. They found a resolution to their dilemma in a plan worked out by William Rainey Harper to incorporate the school within the University of Chicago as a part of its educational program. Blaine then announced that she would transfer her pledged investment of $700,000 in the Chicago Institute to the University of Chicago.
University of Chicago, Blaine Hall from Scammon Court.
By 1901 Blaine and Parker's enterprise had been merged with Dewey's experimental school, laying the foundations for the University's School of Education and for the modern Laboratory Schools of today. All that remained was for the new entities to receive a worthy and permanent home, which they acquired in 1904 with the completion of Emmons Blaine Hall. At the building's dedication ceremony, Blaine clarified her role in the establishment of the School of Education. "I did not found it," she affirmed. "I simply found it."
Anita McCormick Blaine, daughter of Cyrus McCormick,
and her son Emmons Blaine with their dog, Chicago. 1898
Ever a political, social, and religious non-conformist, Blaine supported a system of profit-sharing for her family's reaper business, instituted an eight-hour day for her household staff, became interested in spiritualism, and supported leftist politicians. Her endorsement of progressive Henry Wallace for President of the United States in 1948 perplexed even her closest friends and drew harsh criticism from right-wing commentators. But Anita McCormick Blaine went on to become an avid proponent of world government and international accord and remained committed to the cause for the rest of her life.
Anita McCormick Blaine died on February 12, 1954 and is buried at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago. (UOC)