Monday, February 23, 2015

Pullman National Monument

On February 19, 2015, President Barack Obama signed a proclamation establishing the Pullman National Monument during a ceremony held at the Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy, 250 E. 111th Street in Chicago.  The event marked the culmination of decades of work on the part of residents, preservations, and many others to protect and interpret America’s first planned industrial town and a site associated with important milestones in the labor and civil rights movements.

Robin Kelly, U.S. Representative for Illinois' 2nd
Congressional District, opened the ceremony

The model town was created in the 1880s by the Pullman Palace Car Company to manufacture railroad passenger cars and to house workers and their families.  Founder George M. Pullman (who lived at 1729 S. Prairie Avenue, on the corner directly opposite from the Glessner house) strove to create an environment of good housing, parks, and other amenities as a way to foster a happy and reliable workforce.  Designed by architect Solon S. Beman and landscape architect Nathan F. Barrett, the town stood in stark contrast to the crowded and inadequate living conditions which were typical for many factory workers in Chicago and elsewhere.  The Town of Pullman, at that time outside of the city limits of Chicago, quickly became an internationally famous experiment in planning and attracted visitors from around the world, especially during the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell acknowledged the students
from Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep during her talk

That same year, the country was hit with a severe economic depression that resulted in reduced orders for railroad cars.  The company was forced to lower wages, but did not lower the rents charged to those workers occupying company housing.  Company workers went on strike on May 11, 1894 and were soon joined by members of the American Railway Union, effectively paralyzing the railroads and mail delivery across much of the country.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced the President

As the strike continued, Congress passed legislation designating Labor Day as a Federal holiday, with President Grover Cleveland signing that order on June 28, 1894.  Tragically, the strike was not resolved until mid-July by which point thirty workers had been killed after Federal troops were brought in to end the strike.

In August 1894, Illinois sued the company, alleging that their ownership and operation of the town was in violation of its corporate charter.  The Illinois Supreme Court upheld that decision in 1898, by which time Robert Todd Lincoln had succeeded George Pullman as president of the company (Pullman died in 1897).  Most of the residential properties were sold off by the company in 1907.

President Barack Obama

Another significant chapter in the history of the Pullman Company involved the establishment of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1937.  Founded by A. Philip Randolph, it was the first African American led union in the country, served as a model for other African American workers, and significantly contributed to the rise of the civil rights movement in the United States.

Anthony Beale, Alderman of the 9th Ward, at the post-ceremony reception
held at the Historic Pullman Visitor Center

The architecture, urban planning, transportation, labor relations, and social history of the Pullman National Monument have national significance.  The district was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1970 and a City of Chicago Landmark in 1972 (with a large addition in 1993). 

Red white and blue ribbons, flags, and bunting
were proudly displayed throughout the Pullman community

The establishment of the Pullman National Monument creates the first unit of the National Park Service in the city of Chicago.  The Pullman National Monument encompasses 200 acres bounded by East 115th and 103rd Streets, South Cottage Grove Avenue, and the Norfolk and Western railroad tracks.  The National Park Service owns the iconic Administration Clock Tower Building, but most of the property within the monument boundaries will remain in private hands.  Nearly $8 million from individual donors and organizations has already been raised by the National Park Foundation to support the development of the new visitor center and programs.   The National Park Conservation Association estimates that the National Monument designation could bring more than 300,000 visitors a year, create 350 jobs and generate $40 million in local economic activity.

The temporary Visitor Center will be located in the Historic Pullman Visitor Center, 11141 S. Cottage Grove Avenue.  For more information on the Pullman National Monument, visit


The ceremony took place at the Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy, which is closely linked with the history of Pullman.   In 1897, George M. Pullman left a bequest of $1,200,000 to build and endow a free school of manual training for the children of residents of Pullman or persons employed there.  

The school was completed in 1915 and opened as the Pullman Free School of Manual Training.  It operated until 1950, at which time the Pullman endowment was used to establish the George M. Pullman Educational Foundation.  The building was sold to the Augustinians who operated it as Gregor Mendel High School from 1951 to 1988.  That year it was acquired by the Archdiocese of Chicago, which operated it as St. Martin de Porres High School until 1997, at which time it was sold to the Chicago Public Schools.  In 1998, it opened as the Southside College Preparatory Academy.  It was renamed in honor of former U.S. Poet Laureate and South Side resident Gwendolyn Brooks in 2001.

Ceremony photos by William Tyre.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Frances Glessner, crafter of jewelry

Gold and black opal necklace made by Frances Glessner
Collection of the Chicago History Museum
Photo by John A. Faier for the Driehaus Museum

On February 14, 2015, the Driehaus Museum, 40 E. Erie Street, Chicago, opened its newest exhibit entitled “Maker & Muse: Women and Early Twentieth Century Art Jewelry.”  The exhibition features more than 250 pieces of jewelry, about half from the personal collection of Richard H. Driehaus, and the remainder from museums and private collections around the country.  These artistic pieces are grouped into five categories exploring the Arts and Crafts movement in Britain, Art Nouveau in France, Jugendstil in Germany and Austria, Louis Comfort Tiffany in New York, and American Arts and Crafts in Chicago.  The exhibit will continue through January 3, 2016.  For more information, visit

Gold and yellow stone necklace made by Frances Glessner
Collection of the Chicago History Museum

Of particular interest are three pieces handcrafted by Frances Glessner, who began taking lessons in metalwork in December 1904, actively continuing her hobby for at least a decade.  Glessner House Museum has three examples of her silver work on permanent display in the dining room silver closet (see blog article dated December 30, 2013), but no examples of her jewelry, so this is an rare opportunity to see these exquisitely crafted objects.  The pieces, two necklaces (shown above) and a hatpin (not shown), are from the collection of the Chicago History Museum, which received them as gifts from the Glessners’ granddaughter, Martha Lee Batchelder, in the 1970s and 1980s.

Madeline Yale Wynne

Frances Glessner honed her skills under the guidance of three talented metalworkers.  The first of these, Madeline Yale Wynne, was prominent in Chicago society and the craft community.  Just one year older than Mrs. Glessner, Wynne had arrived in Chicago in the 1880s, taking up residence with her brother on the north side “Gold Coast.”  Mrs. Glessner met with Wynne in the spring of 1904 to have set stones for her and during the next several months purchased a silver chain, a pin, and an amethyst necklace from her as gifts for various family members.  In late October 1904, Frances Glessner noted in her journal, “I went . . . to call on Mrs. Wynne to arrange to take lessons in metal work.”  She took her first lesson on December 3rd, and made an elegant salt cellar in time to present to her husband that Christmas.  (The piece is on display in the dining room.  For further information on Madeline Yale Wynne, see the blog article dated August 29, 2011).

Necklace by Annibale Fogliata for Frances Glessner
Private collection

Frances Glessner’s second teacher was Annibale Fogliata, a native of Milan, Italy, who came from London to Chicago in 1904 to teach metalworking at Hull-House.  As was the case with Wynne, Mrs. Glessner appears to have been a customer of Fogliata for some months before beginning lessons with him.  In January 1905, just a few weeks after the death of symphony conductor Theodore Thomas, Mrs. Glessner noted in her journal, “I sent Fogliata’s beautiful silver and brass picture frame to Mrs. Thomas.”  In March, she gave her daughter a gold pendant made by Fogliata as a birthday gift, and by May, he was crafting metal trays for her to present to her niece as a wedding gift.  In November, 1905, she noted that she was taking lessons with Fogliata:

“Wednesday Fogliata came back and I had my silver lesson.  He was overjoyed to get back.  We put the bands on the two gavels I have had made for the two beekeeper’s associations, from the wood from Rev. L. L. Lanstroth’s garden in Oxford, Ohio.”

Frances Glessner at her work bench in the basement
of her home at 1800 South Prairie Avenue, Chicago

Exactly how long she continued her lessons is not known, but she remained a customer of Fogliata as late as May 1907, by which time he had moved to New York.  He continued working in metal, the 1930 census listing him as an engraver in the steel industry.

Necklace of gold and amethyst made by Frances Glessner
Private collection

Frances Glessner’s third and final teacher was Fredrik W. Sandberg, who will be the subject of an article on March 2, 2015.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The many sides of Frances Glessner

On February 2, 1897, Frances Glessner wrote the following in her journal:

“I went to Hartley’s on West Madison St. and had my photograph taken – a multigraph.”

Fortunately this most unusual photograph is part of the museum collection.  In this article, we will look briefly at Hartley’s and then at the interesting process by which these photographs were taken.

Hartley’s Studios opened in Chicago in 1877.  According to an advertisement published in the Chicago Tribune on January 5, 1890, “Hartley’s Studios are the largest and finest in the United States, and nothing but first-class work allowed to leave the studios.”  That same advertisement featured their trademark rooster with the following riddle – “Why is Hartley’s Rooster the Smoothest Bird of His Kind? – Because He Always Carries His COMB with Him.”  This was followed by a poem which read in part:

“With resonant Crow and hearty good cheer,
Our Rooster would welcome another New Year!
Still armed, as you see, with powder and gun,
And joyously Crowing o’er victories won!
The hearts of his foes were hateful and flinty,
But have met the sad fate that befell poor McGinty!
Many thanks to our patrons, may abundance of Cheer
Fill every hour of this Happy New Year.”

Chicago Tribune, February 5, 1893

The studio was located at 309 W. Madison Street, using the old street numbering system in place at the time.  In 1909, that address was changed to 1044 W. Madison Street, which would have placed the studio less than two blocks away from the Glessners’ former home at Washington and Morgan streets.

It is not surprising that a large and prominent studio such as Hartley’s would have embraced the novel new multigraph method of photography for its customers.  The process appears to have originated about four years before Frances Glessner had her photograph made, the first known reference appearing in a scientific journal in October 1893.  A year later, the Scientific American published an article which included several illustrations, including the one below, clearly showing how the image was captured.  The subject sat facing two mirrors set at an angle of about 75 degrees to each other.  This resulted in five views of the sitter being captured simultaneously on the negative. 

Scientific American, October 6, 1894

The image shown at the top of the article beautifully captures Frances Glessner’s distinctive hairstyle, one which she maintained consistently throughout her married life, at the request of her husband.  Given that the multigraph photo captures her from behind and from both sides, we are clearly able to see exactly how the hair was positioned, and the hair ornaments that were used.  She opted for a second photo, shown below, which captures her wearing her coat and hat, the latter sporting a jauntily placed bird. 

Together, these two images captured interesting and unique views of Frances Glessner and also afforded her the opportunity to see herself as others saw her.

For more information on multigraph photography, see “A Multigraph from Montreal,” written by Irwin Reichstein for the May-June 2007 issue of Photographic Canadiana.  The article contains several illustrations showing humorous uses for this photographic novelty.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Blizzard of 2015

For the second time in four years, Chicago found itself in the midst of a blizzard as the first day of February rolled into Groundhog Day.  In 2011, more than 21 inches of snow fell on the city in the third worst blizzard in Chicago’s history.  This year, the official total of 19.3 inches of snow was measured at O’Hare Airport at 6:00am on February 2nd, ranking the storm as the city’s fifth worst blizzard on record.  However, the 16+ inches of snow that fell on February 1st now holds the record for the greatest snowfall in one day in Chicago's history.

The Glessner house was designed as a winter residence, so it weathered the storm without an issue.  The brilliant design of architect H. H. Richardson, minimizing window openings on the north side of the house, was fully appreciated as winds exceeding 40 miles an hour pounded the house.  In the south-facing courtyard, lesser winds sculpted the snow into graceful drifts, as seen in the photos below. 

Critics of the house labeled it the “fortress” and the “prison” when it was first constructed.  During a blizzard such as we experienced last night, no doubt they would have all been glad to be safely huddled inside by the parlor fireplace, as the relentless forces of nature howled outside.

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