Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Glessner House School Room

Photo by Hedrich Blessing, 1987

The last stop on a tour of Glessner House Museum is the school room.  Situated at the southeast corner of the house, it is the only family space located at the basement level.  Although more simply finished than other spaces within the house, in some ways, the school room most effectively shows Richardson’s brilliance in executing the floor plan for the house, and how carefully he considered function and circulation.  In this article, we will examine those issues, as well as taking a look at the room as its function changed over the course of the last 129 years.


As originally designed, the room was to serve as the school room for the Glessners’ two children, George and Fanny, who were aged 16 and 9 respectively at the time the family moved into the house in December 1887.  It is the only room in the house to be finished in pine.  This does not reflect a desire to cut costs, for even the servants’ bedrooms are trimmed in quarter sawn oak.  The pine is more a reflection of the overall design of the room, which incorporates many features of the Colonial Revival that became popular following the centennial of the United States in 1876.  The room is dominated by a huge paneled fireplace faced in dark brick.  Dentil trim, a beamed ceiling, and fluted pilasters all reflect Richardson’s interest in using Colonial detailing, and pine was considered the most appropriate choice for these types of interior spaces.

What is most impressive about the room, however, is how it is accessed.  Located just inside the main entrance of the house, three doorways enable the room to function as an independent space within the larger house.  The entrance way leading from the main hall down six steps can be closed off with a paneled pocket door, making the doorway all but invisible to visitors going up and down the main stair case.  Having the room located at the front of the house allowed for the friends of the Glessner children to easily come and go without disrupting activity elsewhere in the house.

A second doorway, up two steps at the southwest corner of the room, leads to the entrance from the porte cochere.  In this way, the children and their friends would have had direct access to the courtyard when the weather was favorable for outdoor activities.  This doorway also opens to the base of the three-story spiral staircase, which allowed the children easy access to their bedrooms and bathrooms on the second floor. 

The third doorway, at the northwest corner of the room, leads into the basement, accessed by going up two stairs.  The floor level of the basement is 24” higher than in the schoolroom – which was dug deeper to permit greater ceiling height in the room.  The first room in the basement off of the school room was possibly used by George Glessner as a dark room.  It is known that he did develop some of his negatives at home, and the proximity of this space to the schoolroom, combined with the fact there is only one small window, would have made it an ideal space for this purpose.  Continuing through this room, one has access to the full basement and then the staircase leading to the kitchen.  In this way meals could easily be taken to the children and their tutor, again without disrupting other activities in the household.

It is interesting to note that all three doors in the room are solid oak.  In each case, however, the door has been faced in pine on the school room side – even the door leading into the basement has the more expensive oak on the basement side of the door – clearly a sign that pine was not used to save money!

The room had central heat, as did the rest of the house, but in this space, which is nearly 50% below ground level, a large radiator was hung on the north wall of the room, and then covered with a huge brass panel.  Presumably that system worked well.  The radiator has long since been disconnected, and, as a result, the room continues to be the coolest in the house during the winter months.

In addition to the large work table in the middle of the room (originally the dining room table in the Glessners’ previous home), ample bookshelves held the children’s books and other items related to their school work.  Numerous cardboard boxes, carefully numbered, held hundreds of George’s glass plate negatives.  Of particular interest, along the north wall beneath the radiator, was a table which held various pieces of George’s equipment including a telegraph that connected to several of his friends in the neighborhood, and a fire alarm that was connected directly to the Chicago Fire Department.  (For more information, see the blog article “George Glessner and His Love of Technology” dated January 2, 2012).

Not surprisingly, the room functioned as the center for Christmas celebrations when the children were young.  In December 1888, George photographed the small table-top tree displayed on the school room table, decorated by the children on Christmas Eve.


Both children married in 1898, at which time the Glessners made the decision to convert the school room into a sitting room.  The central table and its chairs were given to George and his wife Alice, who returned them to their originally intended use in their dining room.   Plans originally called for an extensive redecoration of the room, and in January 1899, Frances Glessner noted that Louis Comfort Tiffany had been consulted about ideas for the space; those plans were never executed.  

The Glessners commissioned A. H. Davenport, the Boston-based firm that had made numerous pieces of furniture for the house when they first moved in, to make new pieces for the room.  The furniture included a sofa and adjustable back chair, copies of pieces in their library, both covered in the same cut-velvet fabric, Utrecht, by Morris & Co.  A sofa table was designed with a removable panel on the top to hold books.

The Lithographic Technical Foundation occupied the house from 1946 until the mid-1960s.  Ironically, they returned the room to its original function as a class room.  In the image below, taken in 1946 by Hedrich Blessing, the room is furnished with a series of student desks, suitable for the seminars and other training sessions held in the house.

After the house was rescued from demolition in 1966, the school room took on a new use.  Given its proximity to the front door, it functioned perfectly as an office, the executive director and her assistant easily able to answer the door when visitors arrived, often for impromptu tours.

By the mid-1970s, significant work was needed in the room, including the floor which was badly rotted due to there being only a dirt floor beneath.  The entire maple floor and chestnut sleepers beneath were removed, concrete poured, and a new maple floor installed.  

Missing sections of bookcases were recreated, and repairs were made to the staircase and fireplace. 

Eventually, the offices were moved elsewhere in the building, and the room was restored to its original appearance as the school room.  Many of the original items, including a Morris Sussex chair, vases, pictures frames, and numerous books, were returned to the museum by the Glessner family and were put back into the room, based on the historic photos taken by George Glessner.

Today, the school room, with its books and writing tablets spread across the table, gives the appearance George and Fanny have just stepped out for a few minutes.  The space is of special interest to the many children who visit the house – unable to imagine the idea of their teacher coming to them, and having a classroom in their own home.  It reinforces the importance of education that the Glessners placed on their children, prompting John Glessner to recall:

“Over the threshold of this has passed a regular procession of teachers for you – in literature, languages, classical and modern, mathematics, chemistry, art, and the whole gamut of the humanities and the practical, considerably beyond the curricula of the High Schools. . . Of this I am sure, that it gave to each of you a great fund of general information, a power of observation and of reasoning, an ability and desire for study, and to be thoroughly proficient in what you might undertake.  If ever there was a royal road for that, you had it . . .”

Monday, March 21, 2016

Rose Fay Thomas

On March 29, 2016, music historian Joan Bentley Hoffman will present a lecture on the life and accomplishments of Rose Fay Thomas, the first is a series of three spring lectures exploring women prominent in the advancement of classical music at the turn of the 20th century.  (Additional lectures will examine Frances Glessner on April 28 and Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler on May 24.  For more information, or to reserve tickets, visit www.glessnerhouse.org/events/).   In this article, we will look briefly at the life of Rose Fay Thomas.

Rose Fay arrived in Chicago in 1878, taking up residence with her brother Charles.  She became acquainted with Frances Glessner through her sister Amy, an accomplished pianist, and one of the first women to study in Europe.  In May of 1890, Rose married Theodore Thomas, the nationally-recognized music director who had brought his celebrated orchestra to Chicago annually since 1869.  Soon after, Thomas accepted the position to establish a permanent orchestra in Chicago, the present day Chicago Symphony Orchestra, now celebrating its 125th anniversary season.

Rose Thomas became her husband’s able help mate and most ardent supporter.  In a letter to Frances Glessner dated May 3, 1892, she noted in part:

“I want to tell Mr. Glessner how much pleasure his letter gave to Mr. Thomas.  He has worked himself almost to death this winter to bring the orchestra up to the highest standard, and make the concerts as perfect as possible. . . “

Regarding the criticisms he was receiving, she went on to acknowledge the Glessners:

‘for the generous sympathy, and support of those far seeing, and noble minded men and women, like yourself and Mr. Glessner, who can grasp the situation, and understand that Mr. Thomas is here to establish a great Art Work, and to make Chicago one of the first musical centers of the world.”

During the World’s Columbian Exposition, for which Theodore Thomas was placed in charge of the extensive musical program, Rose Thomas organized the music clubs of the country into the National Federation of Music Clubs.  She served as the first president and was later appointed honorary president, a position she held until her death.

In August 1894, the Thomases visited the Glessners at their summer estate, The Rocks, in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  While driving through the surrounding countryside:

“Mrs. Thomas was in raptures over one of the views and locations and came back thoroughly in love with it . . . The Thomases went to Bethlehem and bought about fourteen acres out of Whitcomb’s farm – for which they paid $800.  They have been wild with enthusiasm and interest ever since.”

Two years later, the Thomases completed their home, Felsengarten, on the property, with Rose Thomas personally supervising much of the work.  From this point forward, they spent their summers at their beloved summer estate, as neighbors of the Glessners.  Rose Thomas became an accomplished gardener, frequently sharing plants with Frances Glessner, and in 1904 Rose Thomas published an account of her estate, entitled Our Mountain Garden, a copy of which she presented to Frances Glessner for Christmas.

Rose Thomas was passionate about the abolition of cruelty toward animals.  In January 1899, she convened a small group of ladies to organize what evolved into the Anti-Cruelty Society.  Two months later, by-laws were adopted, and Rose Thomas was appointed president, one of the first women to head a Humane Society in the country.
(Today, the Rose Fay Thomas Society recognizes those individuals who have made planned gifts for the ongoing support of the Anti-Cruelty Society). 

Theodore Thomas died of pneumonia on January 4, 1905, just two weeks after the official opening of Orchestra Hall.  His widow soon gave up their home at 43 Bellevue Place, moving to an apartment at 2000 S. Indiana Avenue, just a few blocks from the Glessners.  Before the move, she came to stay with the Glessners for much needed rest, Frances Glessner noting:

“Mrs. Thomas came in the afternoon to stay with us.  She brought her little dog.  She was perfectly worn out with all the hard work and anxiety she has gone through.  I gave her the big corner room with a bright fire in it – and have left her alone as much as possible.  She says it is the first rest she has had since October and has visibly improved since coming.”

She remained a champion of her husband’s work and in 1911 published Memoirs of Theodore Thomas, dedicating the volume to her brother Charles Norman Fay, “the best and truest friend of Theodore Thomas and the chief promoter of his art.” 

When she died in 1929, she was given a military funeral in recognition of her significant service assisting enlisted men as a director of the Soldiers and Sailors Club.  She was the first woman in New England and only the fourth in the United States to be accorded a military funeral up to that time.  She was interred beside her husband at Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Today, the Anti-Cruelty Society and the National Federation of Music Clubs serve as the enduring legacy of this fascinating and inspiring individual.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Mikado

On March 14, 1885, the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company premiered Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta, The Mikado, at the Savoy Theatre in London.  Cleverly satirizing British politics and institutions by disguising them as Japanese, the production also reflected the growing interest and influence of Japanese art, fashion and aesthetics on western culture.  

The original "Three Little Maids"

Enjoying enormous popularity, The Mikado ran for 672 performances, the second longest run of any musical theater production up to that time.  By the end of the year, it was estimated that 150 companies in Europe and America had staged the production.

The authorized American production opened at the Fifth Avenue Theatre on August 19, 1885.  In the late 1870s, theater manager John T. Ford had entered into an agreement with the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company to stage the official productions of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, beginning with H. M. S. Pinafore.  The world premiere of The Pirates of Penzance took place there in 1879.  The theatre also gained distinction as being the first in the world to offer air conditioning, produced by blowing air over huge blocks of ice.

The Glessners stopped in New York while returning from their summer estate, The Rocks, in late September 1885.  Frances Glessner noted in her journal on September 30th, “In the evening we went to the 5th Ave. theatre to hear and see the Mikado – excellent.”

Not surprisingly, The Mikado made its way to Chicago soon after.  Less than two months after seeing it in New York, Frances Glessner noted in her journal on Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 1885, “I took the children to McVicker’s to see the Mikado.”

McVicker’s Theatre was one of the oldest in Chicago, dating back to 1857, and rebuilt after the Great Chicago Fire.  It had been extensively remodeled by Adler & Sullivan in 1883 as seen in the image above.  It burned in 1891, but was rebuilt twice, finally being torn down in 1985, after declining into a third-rate movie house.

The most legendary social event ever held on Prairie Avenue was the Mikado Ball, held at the home of Marshall Field on New Year’s Day 1886.  Designed as a party for Marshall Field II and his sister Ethel, aged 17 and 12 respectively, the party reportedly cost their father $75,000.  Sherry's, the exclusive catering firm in New York, provided two private railroad cars full of silver, china, linen, and food.  Special calcium-vapor lights were installed to illuminate the exterior of the Field House, as well as several blocks of Prairie Avenue.  The Chicago Tribune carried an extensive account of the elaborate decoration of the house:

“Mr. Marshall Field’s residence at No. 1905 Prairie avenue was the scene last evening of the first complete ‘Mikado’ ball yet given in America.  It has been the custom of Mrs. Field to have a Christmas-tree party for her children and their little friends, but her son having reached the age of 17 she determined to celebrate it by giving an entertainment of a more mature character than a tree party.  Accordingly the idea of a Mikado ball was conceived and brilliantly executed. 

“Of course everything was purely Japanese.  There was such a bewildering mass of rich and costly stuffs that no detailed description could be well given.  The front entrance was closed and hidden by a large copy of the landscape background of the second set of the Mikado as presented by the original Mikado company at the Fifth Avenue Theatre.  Other scenery and borders divided the hall at the centre into an octagonal Japanese court.  Upon one side of this court was erected a miniature pagoda which was occupied by the musicians – Johnny Hand’s orchestra. 

“In front of the winding stairway at the extreme rear end of the hall stood an enormous bronze stork with uplifted beak.  Before the stork stood a screen in variegated colors.  The stairway banisters and railing were obscured by hangings.  Above all was an enormous Japanese parasol and swinging paper lanterns, together with a number of film silk lanterns containing electric lights. 

“All of the doors had been taken off their hinges and in their place were hung the swinging fringe curtains of beaded wood, ivory, and glass used for doors by the wealthy of Japan.  The walls of the halls were hung thickly with satin and bamboo screens.  The ceilings, like the ceilings of all the rooms, were nearly concealed from view by lanterns of every possible color and design. 

“The walls of the octagonal reception-room were entirely covered with Japanese tapestries in imperial black and gold, while here and there stood bronzes and porcelains.  The walls and ceiling of the yellow room were almost hidden by screens, and banners, and festoonings of stuffs in silk and satin.  There were also in this room three superb screens, one in inlaid wood and ivory representing the god of children.  Another was of bronze and the other was of varied colors. 

“To the rear of the yellow room and connected with it by a large open arch was the ball-room.  At one end, beneath another immense parasol, stood two immense Japanese flower trees in full bloom, made by a Japanese artist.  They were the first of the kind executed in the country.  The flowers were distributed as a portion of favors at the german.  There were heaps of favors of other descriptions.  There were toy animals, lanterns, parasols, slippers, storks, etc.  Two of the favors were especially rich.  One was of peacock feathers and a satin sash, the other a flower and lantern.  These were especially designed for Mrs. Field by Whistler, the London artist. 

“The conservatory had been emptied of its plants and flowers and in their place were lanterns, screens, vases, etc.  The floors were heaped with Oriental rugs.  The fountain had been removed and upon its site stood a table bearing a mammoth punch-bowl, and silver urn, and cups.”

The party began at 6:00pm, with 200 friends of Marshall Field II and an equal number of friends of sister Ethel, all of whom arrived in full Japanese costume.  In addition to Chicago friends, children travelled from Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cincinnati, and elsewhere to participate and “do honor to their hosts.”  

Grace Woodhouse of New York

Notables, as recorded in the Tribune, included Mr. Richardson of Boston, Miss Woodhouse of New York, and Miss Pendleton of Cincinnati.

Ethel Field (at center) with friends Alice Keith
and Florence Otis, as the "Three Little Maids"

After the children had all arrived, they were posed in tableaux before the pagoda and were photographed.  Then followed hours of dancing to music from The Mikado, as well as all of the other Gilbert and Sullivan productions.  It was well after midnight before the party concluded and the children “sought rest in good American beds.” 

Mrs. Field held a reception the next day from 4:00 to 8:00pm for the parents and other friends, all of the decorations remaining in place until that event had concluded.

On August 31, 1889, the Glessner children staged tableaux vivants at The Rocks.  (See blog article dated September 1, 2014 for a full account).  The continuing popularity of The Mikado is reinforced by the fact that one of the tableaux featured Fanny dressed as Yum-Yum, one of the “three little maids” from The Mikado.  Frances Glessner noted in her journal, “The first tableau was of Fanny as Yum-Yum – bound up in a window curtain and bed quilt.”

The Mikado is still frequently performed, and it remains the most popular of Gilbert and Sullivan’s fourteen operettas.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Julia Ward Howe

Exactly 125 years ago this week, Julia Ward Howe, best remembered today as the author of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” was a house guest of John and Frances Glessner.  In this article, we will look briefly at Julia Ward Howe’s life and then focus on her frequent interactions with the Glessners during a friendship that lasted over twenty years.

Julia Ward was born in New York City on May 27, 1819, the daughter of a successful banker and stock broker.  Well-educated and extremely intelligent, she began writing essays, plays, and dramas.  In 1841, she married Samuel Gridley Howe, a reformer and founder of the Perkins School for the Blind; he was 18 years her senior.  Her husband in general did not approve of her writing, especially since it often focused on the rights and roles of women in society. 

In November 1861, the Howes were invited to meet President Abraham Lincoln at the White House.  During that trip she wrote new words to the popular song “John Brown’s Body” and the new version was published in the Atlantic Monthly in February 1862.  It became one of the most popular songs of the Union during the Civil War and remains so to this day.

The popularity of the Battle Hymn raised her profile in the public eye, and she continued to write and publish extensively, on topics ranging from literature and her travels to pacifism and women’s suffrage.  In 1868, she was a co-founder of the New England Women’s Club, the first women’s club in the United States, and later served as its president.  She was also a founder and long-time president of the New England Woman Suffrage Association and later, the Association of American Women, and served in a leadership position in numerous other organizations advocating for suffrage and women’s rights.  In 1908, she became the first woman to be elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The Glessners came to know Julia Ward Howe through her daughter, the author Maud Howe Elliott (see blog article November 16, 2015), whom they first met at a tea given by the English artist William Pretyman at his studio in April 1888.  (Four years later, the Glessners would commission Pretyman to design and execute the hand-painted burlap wallcovering in their parlor).

Just one year later, on April 16, 1889, Frances Glessner noted in her journal, “Had calls all the afternoon.  Mrs. Julia Ward Howe one of my callers.”  The following Monday she hosted a small luncheon in honor of Mrs. Howe to which twelve ladies were invited.  Following luncheon, Mrs. Howe and Mrs. Carpenter (one of the guests) sang, much to the delighted of the party.

Two days later, Frances Glessner attended another luncheon for Mrs. Howe, this time given by Mrs. Franklin MacVeagh (owner of the other H. H. Richardson designed house in Chicago).  She remained in the city for several more days, as indicated by the entry Frances Glessner made in her journal on May 3rd:

“Friday I went to the Fortnightly and heard Mrs. Julia Ward Howe read a paper on Dante and Beatrice, I also heard some wonderful eulogies pronounced upon her by Mrs. Dexter, Mrs. Donelson, and Dr. Stevenson – who left no words in the language unused to heap praise upon Mrs. Howe.”

During a trip to Boston in February 1891 to visit their son George, the Glessners paid a call on Julia Ward Howe at her home, 241 Beacon Street.  She returned the call the following week, and invited them to breakfast at her home the next morning.  Of the breakfast, Frances Glessner wrote:

“Thursday we went to Mrs. Howe’s to breakfast where we met Mrs. Laura E. Richards, Miss Amy Richards, General Walker, Mr. and Mrs. Jack Gardner – the much talked of.  It was very pleasant.”

(Notes:  Laura E. Richards was a daughter of Mrs. Howe.  General Walker was president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  “The much talked of” Mrs. Jack Gardner was the art patron and collector Isabella Stewart Gardner, creator of Fenway Court – now the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston).

During the breakfast there was apparently some discussion that Mrs. Howe would be visiting Chicago in early March.  Soon after, Frances Glessner wrote to her inviting her to stay with the Glessners during her time in Chicago.  On March 4th, Howe quickly penned a note to Frances Glessner:

“My dear Mrs. Glessner,
I am much concerned to have left your kind letter so long unanswered.  The rush and strain of ten days of almost constant sitting in Convention must be my excuse,  the fatigue of the meetings, pleasant as they were, incapacitating me from doing anything outside of them.  Without further preamble, let me say that I have arranged to leave this place tomorrow, Mar. 5th at 3.30 p.m. by what is called the Pennsylvania Route, reaching Chicago some time on Friday.  I am sorry to say that my stay with you can only be until Monday, as I have a lecture in Hinsdale on Monday evening, another in Rockford on Tuesday evening, and one in Dubuque on Thursday, 12th.  This, you see, will not allow me to attend the Fortnightly on the 13th.  I am so tired just now that the prospect of two quiet days with you is delightful, but I shall of course be glad to meet any friends whom you might wish to invite.  My dear Maud is intruding, I know, to profit by your very kind invitation to her.  Hoping to reach you safely on Friday, and not at some unearthly hour, believe me, dear Mrs. Glessner, cordially and gratefully
Mrs. Julia W. Howe.”


Mrs. Howe arrived at the Glessner home on Friday afternoon.  In the evening, the Glessners took her to Hooley’s Theatre to see The Silver Shield, starring Rosina Vokes and Courtenay Thorpe.  Frances Glessner noted in her journal that “Courtenay Thorpe recognized Mrs. Howe and looked hard at her.”  The next day, Frances Glessner, daughter Fanny, and her companion Violette Scharff accompanied Mrs. Howe to the Columbia Theatre to see the Lilliputians “a company of German dwarfs” that the party found clever and amusing. 

Autographed photo of Courtenay Thorpe,
presented to Frances Glessner

Mrs. Howe’s daughter Maud Howe Elliott and her husband, the English artist John Elliott, arrived from St. Paul on Sunday.  Frances Glessner noted that “Courtenay Thorpe called on Mrs. Howe and Mrs. Elliott in the afternoon – he was very pleasant.”

On Monday, Mrs. Howe travelled to Hinsdale to give a lecture.  The next day, she and her daughter left for Denver where she was to give additional lectures.  They returned at the end of the month, staying in the Glessner home for one additional night before returning to Boston.

In October 1891, Mrs. Howe was back in Chicago and Frances Glessner saw her at an informal tea given by Bertha Palmer.  In early December, the Glessners were back in Boston, and Mrs. Howe invited Frances Glessner to attend a meeting of the New England Women’s Club.  She sent over her personal card in a note which read:

“Dear Mrs. Glessner,
The enclosed card will admit you to the Club session this afternoon.  You should be a 5 Park St., up one flight, by 3:15 p.m.
Cordially and in great haste,
Julia W. Howe”

Park Street, Boston; the New England Women's Club
met in the building at the far left

The Glessners were invited to lunch at Mrs. Elliott’s home later that week, and Mrs. Howe was present.  Frances Glessner noted that:

“There we met Augustus St. Gaudens – who came in for a few minutes with Mr. Elliott.  After luncheon Mr. Elliott took us over to see the new public library.  We went all over the building.”

(Note:  In 1901, John Elliott painted a large two-panel mural entitled “Triumph of Time” on the ceiling of the library.)

Mrs. Howe paid yet another visit on the Glessners when she was back in Chicago in May 1892.  And the Glessners lunched with Mrs. Howe when they were in Boston the following March.


In May 1893, both Julia Ward Howe and her daughter Maud came to Chicago to participate in the Congress of Women at the World’s Columbian Exposition, staying at the Glessner home.  Frances Glessner noted in her journal that “Maud Howe Elliott has been here for two weeks.  Mrs. Julia Ward Howe has been here a week. . . Mrs. Howe and Mrs. Elliott have been going to the Women’s Congress this week.”

The Congress of Women, held in the Woman’s Building on the fairgrounds, consisted of a series of more than 80 meetings held over the course of a week.  Nearly 500 women from 27 countries spoke on a broad range of topics regarding women’s concerns, and it was estimated than more than 150,000 people listened to the speeches.  Julia Ward Howe spoke on the topic “Women in the Greek Drama.” 

The journal records several additional visits over the course of the next fifteen years in both Boston and Chicago.  In March 1902, Mrs. Florence Howe Hall, a daughter of Julia Ward Howe, presented a paper to Frances Glessner’s Monday Morning Reading Class entitled “Personal Reminiscences of Distinguished People” discussing Longfellow, Emerson, Lowell, Holmes, Agassiz, and others.

The last recorded visit with Mrs. Howe took place in May 1909, when the Glessners were passing through Boston on the way to their summer estate, The Rocks. 

In later years, John Glessner was persuaded by his children to write a manuscript entitled “Ghosts of Yesterday” where he discussed various prominent friends who visited the Glessner home on Prairie Avenue.  Of Julia Ward Howe, he wrote:

“Mrs. Julia Ward Howe and her daughter Maud Howe Elliott were with us many times, and Mrs. Howe delighted in her favorite stunt – reading her Battle Hymn and telling how she was inspired to write it.  She was really a great lady, with her excusable and generally admirable peculiarities – deeply interested in the Sanitary Commission during and after the Civil War.  And her daughter Maud’s filial love and admiration would inspire all observers.”

Julia Ward Howe died on October 17, 1910 at her home in Portsmouth, Rhode Island at the age of 91.  She was interred at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  At her memorial service, more than 4,000 people sang the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” as a sign of respect.
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