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John Crerar

Merchant and Banker.
His Memorial: Chicago's John Crerar Library

John Crerar was one of mid-19th century Chicago's most prominent merchants, bankers, and railroad men. He was also an outstanding churchman and philanthropist. He left an estate of $4 million of which more than $1 million was bequeathed to religious and charitable institutions, including the Illinois St. Andrew Society. ■ He also left $2 million for the establishment of the John Crerar Library in Chicago which has become a specialized library of scientific and technical literature. The Crerar will also provided for the erection of a statue of Abraham Lincoln in Chicago's Grant Park. ■ John Crerar was born March 8, 1827, in New York City. Both of his parents were natives of Scotland. The father died shortly after the boy's birth. His mother later married William Boyd who was in the iron and steel business. ■ John worked as a clerk in Boston for his stepfather, but soon returned to New York where he developed a close relationship with a successful businessman named Morris K. Jessup. While in Chicago on a business trip, he became attracted by Chicago's potential. He bought Jessup's interest in a railroad supply manufacturer and distributor. His railroad supply firm became known as Crerar, Adams and Company. ■ He joined George Pullman in organizing the Pullman Palace Car Company. He turned to banking and financing and later became the director of a bank and a railroad. ■ Crerar was a devoted Presbyterian churchman with a kindly personality. He gave generously to many causes and charities and did much to alleviate the distress that followed the Chicago fire of 1871. ■ He never married and died October 19, 1889, in Chicago. His body was interred in a New York City cemetery.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
Scottish-American History Club
2800 Des Plaines Avenue
North Riverside, IL 60546