Monday, February 29, 2016

Cross Twigs by Morris & Co.

When John and Frances Glessner undertook the furnishing of their new home on Prairie Avenue in 1887, it is well documented that they incorporated numerous textiles, wallpapers, and carpets produced by Morris & Co.  In recent years, many of these items have been reproduced and can now be seen in the main hall, parlor, library, and bedrooms.  A recent reexamination of a pair of drapery panels in collections storage has resulted in the discovery of a previously unattributed Morris & Co. textile, although a bit of mystery still remains.

In 1995, the museum received an extraordinary bequest from Martha Lee Batchelder, the last surviving grandchild of John and Frances Glessner.  Included in the bequest were hundreds of items originally used in Glessner House including furniture, decorative arts, textiles, silver, jewelry, and archival materials.  The pair of drapery panels was included in the bequest as well, although, for reasons that remain unclear, when received into the collection, they were attributed to Candace Wheeler.

Candace Wheeler (1827-1923) was an important figure in 19th century interior design, and is generally regarded as the first significant female in that field in America.  She was a partner in Associated Artists along with Louis Comfort Tiffany, Lockwood de Forest, and Samuel Colman; commissions for that firm included the redecoration of the White House in 1882.  In addition, she founded the Society of Decorative Art in New York City and designed the interior of the Women’s Building at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.

Recently, art and architectural historian Kathy Cummings paid a visit to the museum, while doing research on Associated Artists and the early work of Louis Comfort Tiffany.  The pair of panels was pulled for her inspection, but since no marking could be found positively identifying them as the work of Wheeler, the decision was made to send images to Wheeler expert Amelia Peck, the Marica F. Vilcek Curator in the Department of American Decorative Arts at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Peck’s initial response was that the panels were not the work of Wheeler at all, and she quickly identified them as a Morris & Co. design called “Cross Twigs.”


The design for Cross Twigs is the work of John Henry Dearle (1859-1932), a talented designer in the Morris & Co. firm.  Dearle was hired by Morris when he was just 19 years old, and soon became a proficient tapestry weaver.  He began producing textile, embroidery, and wallpaper designs by the late 1880s, many of which were strongly influenced by Turkish and Persian textiles he saw in the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum).  He rose to become Morris’ chief designer by 1890 and managed his Merton Abbey Works, a position he continued after the death of Morris in 1896.  After the death of Edward Burne-Jones in 1898, he became the principal stained glass designer as well.  Since Dearle’s early designs were all sold under the Morris name, it was not until the early 1900s that he became well known, serving as the artistic director for the rebranded Morris & Company Decorators, Ltd. 

With no definitive documentation as to when Dearle created the design, it had long been thought that the design for Cross Twigs dated to about 1898.  In 2012, however, a research student at Bangor University in North Wales made a discovery while inventorying the papers from nearby Penrhyn Castle, a National Trust property.  The student, Catrin Wager, found invoices documenting the purchase of extensive wallpapers and textiles from Morris & Co. by Lord and Lady Penrhyn in anticipation of a visit from the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) in 1894.  Cross Twigs, embellished with tassels and fringe, and lined with gold silk, was used for the hangings made for the Prince’s bed.  (For an image of the bed, click here).  This research confirmed that the design was created at least five years earlier than previously thought. 


Cross Twigs is a rich hand-loom jacquard woven silk and linen fabric.  Crossed twigs sprouting simple daisy-like flowers form large diamonds into which are set two alternating patterns of tulips and poppies.  The twigs and outlines of the flowers and leaves are executed in gold, while the flowers and foliage are a rich apricot, with all set against a deep blue background.  

The richness of the fabric is attributable to its surface texture, the result of combining the glossy silk with the matt surface of the linen.  The weaving technique utilized raises the silk portions above the surface, creating a three-dimensional quality.

One lingering question remains – where did the Glessners use these panels?  Historic photos of their Prairie Avenue home do not show the Cross Twig panels in place.  One thought is that Cross Twigs was originally used for the draperies in daughter Fanny’s room.  The only photos of this room date to 1923, by which time the window treatment had been changed.  Another thought is that the panels may have been used in a room at The Rocks, the Glessners’ summer estate in New Hampshire.  A third possibility is that the Glessners may have had the panels made for the home at 1700 S. Prairie Avenue, which they presented to their daughter and her husband, Blewett Lee, in 1902.

It is hoped that documentation will come to light which will solve this last mystery.  But even if it is never known where the panels were used, the museum is delighted to have identified them as the design of John Henry Dearle, adding to our understanding of the Glessners and the extensive use of Morris & Co. products in their home.

Monday, February 22, 2016

London Cries

The title of this article refers not to the collective populace of the City of London weeping, but rather to the title of a most interesting book in the Glessners’ library.  The term “cries” is a reference to the short lyrical calls of street merchants hawking their products and services.  Vendors would create unique melodic phrases so as to be easily identified.  As was the case with folk songs, these charming cries were widely collected and incorporated into larger musical works, or simply documented to preserve them from oblivion.

As noted in a review of the book, published in December 1883:
There is a considerable literature of "street cries," going back to the seventeenth century. Into this Mr. Tuer has made diligent inquiry, and has now given the results to the public in this handsome volume. Not a little information about the social and economic side of history may be picked out from these quaint records of the city life of the past. Our ancestors were accustomed to have their streets made much more musical with these announcements than are the streets of the present. Some things are still sold in this way, though the chief commerce is of a kind that has sprung up in this generation, the sale of penny and halfpenny newspapers. But the cries have, for the most part, been silenced; in the main thoroughfares they have ceased entirely, and in the back streets they are less frequent, The disappearance of some of these articles of sale speaks of an improvement; for one of the cries was a cry of scurvy- grass, for instance, which was still prized at the end of the last century, and another was of "New-Diver water," which it is not now necessary to buy in the street.”


London Cries: with Six Charming Children, & c. was published by Abraham Field and Andrew White Tuer in 1883 under their imprint, the Leadenhall Press, with Tuer authoring the text.  Tuer was born on Christmas Day in 1838 in Sunderland, England and was orphaned at an early age.  Entering the wholesale stationery business, he formed a partnership in 1862 with Field, an established producer of ledgers.  They developed a popular vegetable-based paste trademarked as “Stickphast,” and introduced the “Author’s Paper Pad,” generally acknowledged as the first writing block with detachable sheets.

Tuer was deeply interested in the printing industry and in 1872 began publishing a quarterly publication entitled the “Paper & Printing Trades Journal.”  In 1877, he served on the committee of the Caxton Celebration, which commemorated the 400th anniversary of the introduction of printing in England.

In 1879, the Leadenhall Press (so named for the address of the firm at 50 Leadenhall Street) published its first book entitled Luxurious Bathing, “a treatise on the joys of hygiene” with text by Tuer and etchings by Sutton Sharpe.  Tuer became a major collector of engravings and etchings, and in 1881 published his two-volume Bartolozzi and his Works.

The Leadenhall Press went on to issue more than 450 publications by many of the leading authors and illustrators of the times.  Tuer was known as a leader in his field, producing books which were considered far ahead of their time in terms of design and printing.  A good example was his collection of printers’ jokes entitled Quads within Quads, described as “a book and a box, or rather two books and a box, and yet after all not a box at all, but a book and only one book.”  That rather confusing description describing a “midget folio” housed within a block of extra pages at the back of the “enlarged edition.”

Tuer’s other interests included London history and early children’s books.  The Dictionary of National Biography referred to him as an “omnivorous collector” whose home at Notting Hill was filled with “books, engravings, clocks, china, silver and bric-a-brac of the most varied description.”  He died on February 24, 1900.


The Glessners’ copy of the book was one of 250 “large paper signed proofs” produced for which Field & Tuer charged two guineas, a considerable sum in 1883.  The volume is bound in polished deep burgundy leather and cloth with a gilt embossed spine and elegant marbleized end papers.  An interesting feature of the book is that it is printed on the rectos (right-hand pages) only “for the convenience of those who may wish to transfer some of the smaller illustrations to scrap books.”  

Tuer signed the title page, adding that it was “Proof No. 117.”  The volume contains twelve engraved plates (six subjects, each printed in both sanguine (blood red) and bistre (dark brown)) with tissue guards, as well as fifteen hand-colored illustrations.  The book contains only 48 pages, but due to the heavy quality of the paper, the text block is well over one-half inch in thickness.

As noted at the beginning of the text, “It can be taken for granted that most persons who may buy a copy of this book will do so chiefly for the sake of the plates, which, after framing, they will proceed to add to their of course already tastefully decorated walls.”  If the Glessners did originally by the book with that intention, it is interesting to note that the book is fully intact; no plates were removed.

The text then proceeds to give a detailed history of the London cries, noting that they were first mentioned in a ballad dating to the mid-fifteenth century.  The last three pages of the book give a detailed history of the illustrations which are reproduced, and form the true heart of the book. 

The principal illustrations, the “Six Charming Children,” are reproduced in both red and brown as noted above and were first published in 1812 by S. and J. Fuller, Printsellers, at the Temple of Fancy, Rathbone Place.  The six plates are entitled:
Fresh Strawberries!
All a Blowin’!
Chairs to Mend!
Fine Rabbits!
Potatoes, Full Weight!
Milk ‘O!
The original engraver of these plates is unknown, but Tuer noted that it was the Prince Consort who reintroduced them to the “art-loving public” and that “an original set will now readily bring ten or twelve guineas at Christie’s or Sotheby’s.”

Ten illustrations by Thomas Rowlandson are copied in facsimile, including the original coloring, taken from a set of 54 published in 1820 entitled Characteristic Sketches of the Lower Orders.  

Two illustrations were reproduced from Plates Representing the Itinerant Traders of London in their ordinary Costume printed in 1805.

A series of four oval cuts are facsimiled from a small book entitled The Moving Market; or, Cries of London, for the amusement of good children published in 1815 by J. Lumsden and Son, of Glasgow. 

Three new illustrations were produced by Joseph Crawhall of Newcastle-on-Tyne who achieved widespread fame for his woodcuts using “his cutting tools direct on the wood without any copy.”  

The volume, luxuriously produced, is a fascinating record of the long-lost cries of the street merchants, which were already largely gone by the time of its publication.  Combined with the exquisitely reproduced illustrations, it no doubt gave the Glessners hours of pleasure as they sat in their library carefully examining each page. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

The South Shore Cultural Center building celebrates its centennial

On January 24, 1916, an entry in Frances Glessner’s journal noted that she went to see the new South Shore Country Club building.  New indeed – the rebuilt Country Club had been formally opened amidst great celebration just four days earlier.  Designed by the architectural firm of Marshall and Fox, the elegant Mediterranean Revival style structure continued to house the Country Club until 1974, when the property was sold to the Chicago Park District and converted into its present use as the South Shore Cultural Center. 

The Club itself dated to 1905, when Lawrence Heyworth first conceived the idea of a country club in conjunction with the Chicago Athletic Association, of which he was president.  As Heyworth recalled many years later, he desired a country club so that CAA members “could enjoy dining and wining in a beautiful place out in the country instead of having to resort to dives and saloons, which at that time were about the only available suburban places.”

Heyworth assembled a group of directors including Harold F. McCormick, Joseph Leiter, Charles A. Stevens, and Harry I. Miller, and purchased 65 acres of land along Lake Michigan, between 67th and 71st Streets.  After formally incorporating the club in April 1906, hey hired the firm of Marshall and Fox to design the building and oversee its construction in quick order “as we could not collect the club dues until we had the grounds and the building finished.”  (The partnership of Marshall and Fox, consisting of Benjamin H. Marshall and Charles E. Fox, was formed in 1905.  This was an important early commission for the firm, which would go on to design projects for a number of club members).  For inspiration, the architects were giving a photograph of an old Mexican club in Mexico City that Lawrence Heyworth liked.   (Newspaper accounts later compared the architectural style to George Washington’s Mt. Vernon, reinforcing the fact that journalists are by no means architectural historians).

The first club house opened on September 29, 1906 with over 600 guests present to christen the building with 92 cases of champagne, valued at $3,000.  That fact led to the headline in the Chicago Tribune the next day which read “New Club Toast Defies Farwell,” acknowledging the protest of Arthur Burrage Farwell and the Hyde Park Protective Association, which was attempting to prevent the serving of liquor in the club, located within a dry district.  The attorneys for the club, used an argument reminiscent of George Wellington “Cap” Streeter, who claimed for himself the land comprising present day Streeterville on the grounds the land wasn’t part of the original plat of the city.  The directors of the club, using similar logic, noted that the land upon which the club stood was “made land” and at the time the boundaries of Hyde Park were drawn, the club land “was under the waters of the lake.”

Heyworth was the son of a successful real estate developer who arrived in Chicago from England in the 1860s.  Growing up amongst the Prairie Avenue crowd, he graduated from Yale with a degree in engineering in 1890.  He obtained a position with the contractor George A. Fuller, who oversaw construction of numerous skyscrapers in the city, including the Monadnock and Rookery buildings.  In 1897, Heyworth wed the daughter of Otto Young, a millionaire wholesale jeweler and real estate investor with an impressive mansion on Calumet Avenue and the largest summer “cottage” at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. 

In late 1901, the Heyworths purchased the Howard Van Doren Shaw designed house at 1900 S. Calumet Avenue, just two blocks north of Otto Young’s mansion.  With two young children, the couple appeared to have everything needed for a happy life.  In 1904, Heyworth supervised the construction of a skyscraper at 29 E. Madison Street for his father-in-law, Otto Young.  Designed by Frederick P. Dinkelberg for D. H. Burnham & Co., the classic Chicago School designed building, with lavish tapestry-like ornament, was named the Heyworth Building.  It was designated a Chicago landmark in 2000, the Heyworth name still prominently displayed over the main entrance.

In June 1906, Cecile Young Heyworth sued for divorce from her husband, noting numerous indiscretions that had been documented over the course of a year by a private investigator she had hired.  The couple had not lived together since shortly after the birth of their daughter, Lawrence Heyworth continuing to occupy the Calumet Avenue home.  The divorce was granted on June 9, 1906, just as plans were being finalized for the South Shore Country Club to open.  (Note: The Heyworth’s son Lawrence Jr. achieved notoriety in 1944 when, during his World War II service as a Navy officer, he helped rescue aviator and future president George Bush from the Pacific Ocean).

Heyworth remarried in 1914, and he and his new wife Marguerite moved into a luxurious home in the South Shore neighborhood, not far from his beloved Club.

The club thrived and in less than ten years, it became apparent that a much larger club house would be needed to accommodate the growing membership.   The original clubhouse was moved 700 feet to the south, except for the spacious ballroom addition designed by Marshall and Fox in 1909, which was incorporated into the new building.

The new clubhouse, also by Marshall and Fox, was four stories in height and was a greatly enlarged version of the original structure.  The H-shaped plan incorporated the ballroom wing to the south, a corresponding dining room wing to the north, and a huge connecting “passagio” in between, with a solarium projecting toward Lake Michigan. 

Two pairs of symmetrical towers with balconies crowned the low pitched terra cotta tile roof set atop walls clad in cement stucco with a pebble dash finish.  As an article in The Architectural Record noted, “The exterior of the building does not strive for effect through applied ornament.  It is merely a building of good proportions, eminently suitable for its purposes.” 

Members and their guests approached the club house through a stately gatehouse, part of the original 1906 design, and proceeded down a curved driveway lined with a pergola, or trellis covered walk.  The driveway encircled an elaborate garden designed by landscape architect Thomas Hawkes in collaboration with Marshall and Fox. 

The style of the interior was entirely different, incorporating elements of the Classical Revival and Adamesque styles.  The entrance vestibule and corresponding solarium were illuminated with large skylights, reflecting light upon the white diamond patterned floors with Greek key borders. 

Of particular note was the ceiling of the solarium, centered with a huge plaster medallion embellished with the signs of the zodiac. 

The main foyer, known as the Passagio was two stories in height and connected all the main interior spaces.  It was decorated with fine Adamesque details in blue, pink, and white and was illuminated with three huge crystal chandeliers. 

At the south end of the Passagio was the ballroom with Classical details including Ionic columns with gold capitals, clerestory windows, and dentil trim.  Colonnaded side aisles, large arched windows, and beamed ceilings gave a sense of grandeur to the space.

The dining room anchored the north end of the Passagio, and was surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides, set into colonnaded walls.  A 300-foot terrace surrounded the dining room, and was used for outdoor dining.  Corinthian columns, faux painted to appear like marble, were topped with gold capitals.  

The decoration of the room was done in pink, blue, and white with delicate cameo-like inserts on the ceiling, walls, and chandeliers. 

The building also contained 93 sleeping rooms, billiard parlors, card rooms, libraries, and buffets.  The extensive grounds included stables, a nine-hole golf course, tennis courts, a bowling green, and an expansive private beach on Lake Michigan. 

The first event in the new club house was a New Year’s Eve celebration on December 31, 1915 which drew 2,000 people for a midnight supper. 

The formal opening of the clubhouse occurred three weeks later on January 20, 1916 with, once again, more than 2,000 people in attendance to inspect the elegant building which cost in excess of $400,000 to construct.  Lawrence Heyworth noted that the equipment in the new building “is conceded by those who have seen it to be, without exception, the finest in the world.”

By the early 1960s, the racial makeup of the neighborhood had changed dramatically.  The wealthy white families who made up the membership of the club began moving from the neighborhood in large numbers.  In 1967, the club considering opening its membership to Jews (for the first time since the 1930s) and to African Americans (for the first time ever).  When that move was voted down, the fate of the club was sealed.  In 1973, the club voted to liquidate their assets and the final event, the Cotton Ball, was held in the elegant rooms on July 14, 1974.  An auction of the property of the club was held for members later that month.

The property was sold to the Chicago Park District for $9,775,000.  Although the original plans called for the demolition of all the buildings, a coalition of neighborhood activists and historic preservationists convinced the Park District not to demolish and instead convert the clubhouse into the newly christened South Shore Cultural Center.  Over the span of twenty years, the main buildings were renovated and repurposed.  Other buildings, including the original clubhouse built in 1906, were demolished.

The non-profit Advisory Council at the South Shore Cultural Center was formed in 1986 to advise the Park District on all operations of the Cultural Center, to develop and expand cultural, recreational, and education activities for adults and children, and to promote the maintenance and beautification of the park. 

Today, the Center houses the South Shore Cultural Center School of the Arts which includes youth and teen programs, community art classes, the Paul Robeson Theater, a fine art gallery, two dance studios, music practice rooms, and a visual arts studio.  Banquet facilities are available for rent, and the Washburne Culinary Institute operates a teaching program in the Parrot Cage Restaurant.  The golf course continues to operate and is open to the public, as are the beach, picnic areas, gardens, and nature center. 

The Center has been used in several movies including The Blues Brothers where it was used as the “Palace Hotel Ballroom.”  Future president Barack Obama and his wife Michelle held their wedding reception there on October 3, 1992. 

It was designated a Chicago landmark on May 26, 2004.  

Special thanks to William Krueger, author of Chicago's South Shore Country Club (Arcadia Publishing, 2001) for his 2011 tour of the clubhouse and grounds.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Booker T. Washington

In honor of Black History Month, we take a moment to reflect back on the life of the great educator, author, and orator Booker T. Washington and his two visits to the Prairie Avenue neighborhood in the early 20th century.  Born into slavery in Virginia in 1856, Washington went on to become the acknowledged leader of the African-American community for a quarter century, until his death in 1915.

In 1881, the 25-year-old Washington was asked to become principal of the newly formed Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.  Originally called the Tuskegee Normal School for Colored Teachers, the school was organized as part of the movement to expand opportunities for higher education in formerly Confederate states.  Within a year, Washington purchased a 100-acre former plantation as the site for the school, and directed the students to construct the first buildings as part of a work-study program.  Washington was a firm believer in the value of higher education as the best road for African-Americans to improve their condition, and he remained at the school for 34 years.  Among the donors he attracted to the school were Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller.

Washington achieved national prominence for a speech he presented at the Cotton States and International Exposition on September 18, 1895 in Atlanta, Georgia.  Known as the Atlanta Address, it laid out the foundation for what became known as the Atlanta Compromise, an agreement between African-American leaders and Southern white leaders.  In exchange for the rights of a basic education and due process of law, African-Americans would submit to white political rule.

Second Presbyterian Church

In late December 1901, just six weeks after dedicating their newly rebuilt sanctuary, the congregation of Second Presbyterian Church, 1936 S. Michigan Avenue, invited Booker T. Washington to speak on the importance of education in the African-American community.  The Chicago Tribune gave a detailed account of the speech on December 30, 1901:

Hundreds of people surged around the Second Presbyterian Church, Michigan avenue and Twentieth street, last night, eager to hear the address by Booker T. Washington.  For nearly an hour before the doors opened the sidewalks were packed and when the doors swung open a crush began.

Men and women, white and black, pushed and pulled in an effort to pass through the broad doors at the same time.  Only the diligence of the ushers prevented serious injury to the struggling ones.

“It’s always so in Chicago,” complained one gray-haired man.  “If there’s any one worth hearing you can’t get to him.”

By 7 o’clock there was not one of the 1,500 seats in the church unoccupied.  Then the people began to crowd forward into the aisles until they extended half way down to the pulpit.  In the gallery every inch of available space was filled, while on the stairways leading thereto hundreds of persons stood for an hour waiting for the lecture to begin and then stood another hour listening to the address of the colored orator.  After the address ushers of the church estimated the number turned away at 500.

“’It was an immense crowd,” said Mr. Washington, “and I am sorry there were so many who would not hear me.”

Pleads for Education.

The address of Mr. Washington was a plea for the education of the negro.  He told of the conditions that prevailed in the South at the conclusion of the war, when the black man went out to make his way in the world with no other capital but a pair of strong arms and a brave heart.

Then he related incidents attending the founding of the educational institution over which he presides in Tuskegee, Ala.  The struggles of himself and the first students who came to his school were recounted.  The school grew, however, and as graduate after graduate went out the work became easier.  The graduates spread the fame of the school, and soon it became known over the world.

“A few months ago,” said Mr. Washington, “I sent out 300 letters to prominent men in the South requesting their opinion on the education of the colored man, whether or not it had proven beneficial to him, and if his condition had improved.  With three exceptions every man said education was doing more for the colored man than anything else.  One of the dissenting three said the negro was not so well off as when he was a slave.  The other two were non-committal.

Makes Useful Men.

“We have learned that it is a great thing to teach a man to do some one thing better than anybody else can do it, and so we have sought to make our students skillful artisans.  Wherever we have sent our graduates we have received good reports of them.  We teach them to the good citizens and Christian gentlemen.  No higher aim can be attained by any individual than that.”

Mr. Washington spoke with some pride of the growth of the wealth of his race.  In Virginia he said they own one twenty-sixth of the land and in Georgia, according to the latest tax returns, they possess $14,000,000 worth of property.

Union League Club

Washington returned for a second speaking engagement in Chicago in the spring of 1908.  He was entertained at a luncheon at the Union League Club on April 4, 1908, hosted by Charles L. Hutchinson, long-time president of the Art Institute of Chicago.  The other guests at the luncheon were John J. Glessner, Franklin MacVeagh (who would be appointed Secretary of the Treasury the next year), J. B. Forgan, Chauncey Keep, J. C. Grant, Clarence Buckingham, A. C. Bartlett, Dr. L. D. Case, B. H. Carpenter, and Dr. Park.  That evening Washington spoke to a large audience at the First Congregational Church of Oak Park.

The next day, Washington spoke in the morning at the Abraham Lincoln Center, a settlement house at 700 E. Oakwood Boulevard; in the afternoon at the Kenwood Evangelical Church, and in the evening once again at Second Presbyterian Church. 

John J. Glessner

John Glessner recalled meeting Booker T. Washington in a paper he wrote in 1917 for presentation to the Chicago Literary Club.  For reasons that remain unclear, the paper was never read, although Glessner continued reworking it for a decade.  Regarding Washington, Glessner noted:

As for Booker T. Washington, I met him, as many of us have and as all of us might have.  He was an able man, and a good man, deeply interested about his people, and devoted to their advancement.

Dr. Washington’s hope for the development of the race seems ideal to me – to make good, self-respecting laborers first, then good mechanics, and so up to higher levels.  A good workman, a peaceable, orderly man will be respected everywhere. . . The self-respecting man, whatever his color, not too aggressive, who does well and honestly what he does, will deserve and receive respect.  The modern man of color, I am convinced, is to be a great factor in the industrial history of this country.

Glessner wrote the lengthy paper primarily as a personal reminiscence of the many African-Americans he had known through the years, beginning with his childhood in Zanesville, Ohio.  The document shows that he held rather progressive views for his day.  In closing his remarks, he sensitively thought back on the individuals he had known most intimately, whom he recalled with deep affection:

As for the particular friends of whom I have made a meager record here, they have descended into the lonesome valley – and I still hold them in kind remembrance. . . if there wasn’t a high place reserved for them in Paradise, few of us need cherish great expectations of getting there.

Monday, February 1, 2016

A Tragic Chapter in Our History

On February 5, 1891, exactly 125 years ago, Frances Glessner noted in her journal a visit to Fort Sheridan to see “Indians” who had recently been brought there from South Dakota.  Who were the indigenous people she saw and why were they there?  The events in South Dakota that precipitated their relocation to the Fort, and their subsequent treatment are dark chapters in our history, but chapters that need to be told as cautious reminders that all too similar incidents are still taking place all over the world.

The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation was established in southwest South Dakota in 1889, the same year that South Dakota was granted statehood.  It was occupied in large part by the Lakota, an indigenous people of present day North and South Dakota, who were part of a confederation of seven Sioux tribes.

In late December 1890, a mixed band of Lakota sought refuge at Pine Ridge after fleeing the Standing Rock Agency, where Sitting Bull had been killed on December 15th.  On December 29th, the families were intercepted by a heavily armed detachment of the Seventh Cavalry.  Nearly 300 Lakota were killed, including more than 200 women and children.  The massacre was the result of a misunderstanding that took place when a deaf Lakota did not understand the order to surrender his gun.  It accidentally discharged, and the battle began.  Ironically, the 25 American soldiers that were killed were mostly victims of friendly fire, as few of the Lakota were armed. 

General Nelson A. Miles (1839-1925) played a major role in nearly all of the Army’s campaigns against the indigenous peoples of the Great Plains and was brought back into the field in early 1890 after his promotion to major general, during the last major resistance of the Sioux on the Lakota reservations, known as the Ghost Dance War (it ended in January 1891 with the surrender by Sioux leader Kicking Bear).  Although he believed that the United States should have authority over the Lakota and other tribes, he was outraged at the massacre at Wounded Knee and was highly critical of the commanding officers, Colonel James W. Forsyth.  A few days after the incident, Miles wrote to his wife regarding Wounded Knee, calling it “the most abominable criminal military blunder and a horrible massacre of women and children.”  He later fought for compensation payments to the survivors of the massacre.  (Note: He is also remembered in Chicago as commanding the troops that were mobilized to put down the Pullman strike riots in 1894).

On January 26, 1891, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Clark Corbin, stationed at Chicago, received a telegram from General Miles which read as follows:
“I expect to reach Chicago some time tomorrow night, with Taming Bear, Short Bull, Two Strike, and others, thirty in all.  I desire that preparations be made to remove them to Fort Sheridan immediately.”

The specific reason for bringing the survivors to Fort Sheridan was the source of some speculation, as noted in the Chicago Tribune on January 27th:
“The announcement that the Indians are to be rounded up at Fort Sheridan will cause considerable surprise, as it had been generally believed that they would be taken on to Washington to have a pow-wow with the Great Father.  The Indians themselves, without doubt, share this belief, otherwise it would have been no easy matter to prevail on them to leave Pine Ridge Agency and come East.  The purpose of the War Department in the matter is not fully understood.

“It is said that it is the intention of Gen. Miles to enlist the Indians in the regular army, subject them to the same discipline as other recruits so as to have them ready for service against hostile Indians in Indian wars which may break out in the future.”

On January 28th, the Chicago Tribune reported that the “delegation of Indian chiefs” had arrived in Chicago.
“On the train were forty-four Indians, and of these thirty are to be quartered at Fort Sheridan.  Those who are to be left so close to Chicago are all Brules, headed by Kicking Bear and Short Bull.  When the train reached the Northwestern Depot at 8:45 last night there was a crowd of sight-seers waiting to catch a glimpse of the Indians. . . Capt. McKibben and Lieut. Maxwell of Fort Sheridan were at the depot with a detail of four non-commissioned officers and six privates to guard the Brules on their way to their new home.”

The remaining fourteen continued on to Washington, D. C. The illustration above, showing the chiefs in the railroad car after pulling into the station, was drawn the Chicago Tribune’s chief cartoonist, Harold R. Heaton. 

Newspaper reports indicated that all remained peaceful at the Fort other than the large number of curious visitors.  On January 29th, the Chicago Tribune reported that:
“Every village boy in Fort Sheridan and about two hundred from Highland Park formed a cordon around the tepees of the Indians, and the sentinel had more trouble in keeping the white man out than he had in keeping the red man in.  The truth of the matter is that the Indians are in no sense prisoners.  Every member of the guard that was mounted at Fort Sheridan yesterday morning had strict orders to allow the Indians to do as they choose. . . The reds, in short, are to have every liberty, provided they go it alone.”

Frances Corbin, the wife of Lieutenant Colonel Corbin, organized an outing for young people to see the “visitors” to the Fort.  In a note to Frances Glessner dated February 3rd, she stated:

“Col. Corbin and I would like to have Mr. Glessner and yourself assist us in caring for a party of young people we are taking out to see the Indians at Ft. Sheridan Thursday afternoon Feb. 5th at two o’clock.”

Frances Glessner responded that she would attend, and was invited to bring along the wife of Charles Eliot, President of Harvard, who was her house guest at the time.  Frances Glessner noted that visit in her journal:
“We had a special train with two Pullman coaches.  Genl. Miles, Captain Maus, and other members of the staff were in the party.  Some ambulances drawn by mules met us at the station at Fort Sheridan – we went up to where the Indians are in camp.  Genl. Miles had them dress in their native costumes, war paint and feathers, and line up for us to look at them.  We shook hands, said ‘how,’ and gave them cigarettes.  We went then in the ambulances to the guard house where there was a huge fire of blazing logs.  Then we drove about the place down to the lake etc. – back to the guard house where we watched the young people dance – then home.”

The visit was covered in detail by the Chicago Tribune the next morning.  It would be the first of many public displays the prisoners would be subject to during their stay at Fort Sheridan.  

On February 14th, fifteen of them were sent to the Y.M.C.A. in Evanston to watch a gymnastics demonstration after which they were taken to the Evanston Club for sandwiches and coffee.  But the real purpose of the outing appears to have been the performance they were summoned to give:

“Afterwards the reds gave a regulation ghost dance, in which there was nothing lacking except the ghost shirts and the antelope-hoof necklaces.  They danced around the banquet hall of the Evanston Club for the pleasure of about 500 invited guests and for the delectation of hundreds of uninvited boys and girls, who peeped through the many windows.”

On February 28th, ten prisoners were taken to the Grand Opera-House to see a minstrel show provided by a visiting troupe from Cleveland.  One wonders whether the other members of the audience felt the “real show” was on stage or in the private boxes, where the delegation was seated.

On March 14th, the Chicago Tribune announced the fate of the 27 Oglala and Brule braves and the three squaws:

“They will go abroad to hobnob with the nobility of Europe.  This unexpected change of affairs was brought about by Col. W. F. Cody, better known as ‘Buffalo Bill.’  The Colonel, desiring to secure more red men for his European tour this summer, first obtained the consent of Secretary Blaine and the Department of the Interior and then went to Fort Sheridan to learn how the Indians felt about the matter. . . The Indians did not need much persuasion, and readily accepted ‘Buffalo Bill’s’ offer to accompany him across the ‘great river.’”

That announcement was met with disdain by those who were fighting for the rights of the prisoners, including Miss Mary C. Collins, who had served as a Congregational missionary among the Sioux Indians for sixteen years.  The Chicago Tribune noted her speech before the Congregational Club on March 16th:

“I understand that Buffalo Bill has arranged to take a band of the prisoners out here at Fort Sheridan around with his show this season.  It is an outrage to our Christian civilization.  If they are guilty, let them be punished, and if not, send them back to the reservation.  I appeal to you gentlemen here tonight whether you will let them be sent out as curiosities. 

“Continuing, she told how she had gone out to Fort Sheridan, and how the Indians had said they would be hung when they were sent back to the reservation unless they went with Buffalo Bill to Europe.  And the authorities at the fort allowed the prisoners to be taken out to neighboring towns and put on exhibition.”

Before adjourning for the evening, the club passed a resolution which was to be communicated to the President of the United States, which stated, in part:

“Whereas, Such treatment of these prisoners of war is a travesty of justice, and would result in the demoralization to the whole Indian people as far as known, and particularly to the Dakota tribes to which they are related; and

“Whereas, This treatment of these or any Indians is utterly opposed to the judgment of our missionaries, who are laboring for this race, and is repugnant to the higher instincts of the Christian people of the land.  Therefore be it

“Resolved, That it is the sense of the Congregational Club that the order granting this permission should be countermanded and our country saved this disgrace.”

The well intentioned resolution had no effect.  A special dispatch from Washington D.C. on March 19th noted that the Secretary of War gave his approval for the prisoners at Fort Sheridan to join the Wild West show.   

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