The Scottish American History Club Newsletter
Peter Cooper was one of the most innovative and
resourceful of all the early American manufacturers.
Born February 12, 1791 in New York City of Scottish
ancestry—both grandfathers, Campbell and Cooper, fought
in the Revolutionary War—he moved from hat making to
brewing to shearing machines to food sales to glue
making to ironworks, blast furnaces and rolling mills.
Cooper believed that Baltimore would have tremendous
growth if a railroad could be successfully built and
operated. With his help, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad
was started on July 4, 1828. Charles Carroll, the last
surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence,
turned the first sod, but one year later the railroad
was in financial difficulty. Their locomotive could not
go around a curve with a radius of less than 300 feet.
The railroad, however, had built their curves with a
radius of from 150 to 200 feet in order to save on cost.
In 1830, Cooper built the first practical steam
locomotive in America. As an experiment it was about the
size of a handcar and was never intended to operate as a
working engine. It was called the “Tom Thumb” because of
its size. The engine weighed less than a ton, but the
principles developed are still used in engines today.
“Peter Cooper is representative of so many of the
peculiar talents and abilities of early Scottish
craftsmen. He was an untutored inventor who became a
strong, individualist businessman. He bought his own
iron mines to feed his blast furnaces and rolling mills.
Out of these mills he produced the first iron structural
beams. He manufactured the wire and joined Cyrus Fields
in laying the first transatlantic cable. Cooper was the
first to use the Bessemer steel making process in the
In 1876, Peter Cooper was nominated for President by the
Greenback Party. In 1879, he was honored by the Iron and
Steel Institute of Great Britain with the Bessemer Gold
Medal. New York University elected him to the Hall of
Fame of Great Americans. He died October 4, 1883 in New
More information is available at
Cooper Union. For more pictures, see
New York Architectural images.
have been reading a book loaned to me by Colin Ferguson
of the Bank of Scotland. It is A Dance Called America
by James Hunter. The book is well written, often said,
about the displacement of Highland people to the Untied
States and Canada. It was deeply struck by the
difficulty of the passage. We travel so easily in our
modern world, but it was not always so. He quotes the
American novelist, Herman Melville: “How then, with the
friendless emigrants, stowed away like bales of cotton
and packed like slaves in a slave ship, confined in a
place that, during storm time, must be closed against
both light and air; who can do no cooking, nor warm so
much as a cup of water, for the drenching seas would
instantly flood the fire in their exposed gallery on
deck. We had not been at sea one week, when to hold your
head down the hatchway was like holding it down a
suddenly opened cesspool.”
In September, 1773, 200 Highland people embarked on the
brig, Nancy. Three months later only about 100
stepped ashore in New York. Fifty-one children were
under the age of four, all died but one. “...passengers
were expected to get by on corrupted water and musty,
rotting oatmeal said to be ‘hardly fit for swine’.”
Howard Van Doren Shaw
* Someone You Should Know *
Mr. Shaw was born in Chicago May 7, 1869. His father was
Theodore Andrews Shaw, a wholesale dry-goods merchant of
Madison, Indiana whose Scotch Presbyterian ancestry went
back to the settlement of Pennsylvania. Shaw graduated
from Yale College in 1890 and studied architecture at
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Upon his
return to Chicago, he entered the office of William
LeBaron Jenney and William B. Mundie, pioneers in the
design and erection of the skyscraper. Mundie was the
architect of the Scottish Home and a member of the Board
of Governors of the Illinois St. Andrew Society.
Later when Mr. Shaw opened his own office he began
designing houses for his friends. “His practice soon
increased, however, and as his performance and his
reputation grew together he became probably the most
highly regarded architect in the sphere of domestic,
ecclesiastical, and non-commercial architecture in the
About 1898 he built a beautiful house, “Ragdale” in Lake
Forest, Illinois, where he lived until his death. The
estate became an experimental laboratory for the testing
of his taste and craftsmanship. Here, in his spare
hours, he became an excellent carpenter, bricklayer,
tree surgeon, gardener and painter. He also designed the
setting, lighting effects, and scenery for an outdoor
theater and did much of the work on it.
He designed many town houses in Chicago and country
houses in Lake Forest and other fashionable suburbs. In
Chicago he designed the Lakeside Press Building, the
Fourth Presbyterian Church (with Cram, Goodhue and
Ferguson), and the Goodman Memorial Theatre.
In Lake Forest, Shaw designed the Market Square in 1916.
He was “the first integrated and artfully designed
shopping center in this country.” There were twenty-five
stories, 12 offices and 28 apartments. At the east end
of the square a fountain is dedicated to Howard Van
Throughout his life, he sought recreation in travel,
often in Europe. Although he was of a markedly retiring
disposition, behind the scenes he exerted a powerful
influence in many civic and charitable activities. He
was a trustee of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1900,
chairman of the state art commission, a trustee of the
United Charities and of Illinois College, Jacksonville,
More information can be found at the
Columbia College library.
Pete Thomson, who lives in Ottawa, Illinois, was a
member of the Fourth Regiment Marines on Corregidor. He
was among the 11,500 taken prisoner by the Japanese and
was part of the brutal Bataan death march in 1942.
Mr. Thomson was finally taken to Japan to work in a zinc
factory. He survived on pumpkin soup and twice each
month was given a piece of meat the size of a silver
dollar. Coffee was burnt rice water.
After the atomic bombs were dropped in August 1945,
their prison guards deserted the camp. A few days later,
they were rescued by American forces and taken to a
hospital ship in Tokyo Bay. At the time he weighed 70
pounds. In 1954, he joined the Ottawa fire department
and was chief for almost seven years, retiring in 1978.
This highly-decorated Scottish-American veteran is the
brother of James C. Thomson, past-president of the
Illinois St. Andrew Society.
On this Fourth of July, we honor all Scottish-American
veterans who have fought for our freedom.
The General who Loved the Sea
George Smith Patton was the most aggressive field
commander of World War II. He liberated more territory
in less time than any commander in history.
Patton was born November 11, 1885 in San Gabriel,
California. He was the fifth generation of Robert Patton
who came to Virginia from Scotland during the American
Revolution. Robert Patton had eight sons, served in
Congress and was Governor of Virginia. Six of his sons
fought on the side of the south in the Civil War and two
were killed. One of those killed was Brigadier General
George Patton, the great-great grandfather of the World
War II general.
General Patton graduated from West Point in 1909. He was
badly wounded in World War I and because of his
experience shifted his emphasis from the cavalry to
tanks. He was chosen by General Dwight Eisenhower to
lead the invasion of North Africa and then the invasion
of Sicily. Patton was later placed in charge of the
Third Army which moved across the English Channel in
1944. Here Patton broke the German restraints and sent
the enemy backward in confusion.
Patton, the tank commander, also loved the sea. During
his early years in California he learned to sail and
later owned a 50-foot yacht which he sailed to and from
Hawaii during the 1930’s. In 1939 Patton had F. F.
Pendleton design a sailing ship which he named “When and
If”. The ship was designed to sail the oceans of the
world and was made from the finest materials. He named
the ship “When and If” because he sensed that the
war in Europe would not allow the fulfillment of his
dream to sail the world.
During a storm in 1990, the “When and If” broke
loose from her moorings and was smashed on the rocks at
Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts. The ship is now
being rebuilt in Martha’s Vineyard and may soon be ready
to sail again.
General Patton died December 21, 1945 of injuries
suffered in an auto accident in Germany. He is a member
of the Scottish-American Hall of Fame at The Scottish
Home in North Riverside, Illinois.
More information can be found on the
Burns Club of Atlanta
In the 1870’s, admirers of Robert Burns in Atlanta began
to meet in private homes to celebrate the Bard’s
birthday. On January 25, 1896, the club was officially
founded. In 1907 the club began an effort to obtain land
and erect a “Burns Cottage” to be used as a clubhouse. A
nine-acre tract of land was obtained on what is now
“Atlanta architect and member, Thomas H. Morgan,
obtained the exact measurements of the original Burns
cottage in Alloway, Scotland, and prepared plans for the
Atlanta replica. The construction that began in
November, 1910, was supervised by Robert McWhirter, a
member and a skilled stone mason. The cottage formally
opened on January 25, 1911 and is today on the National
Register of Historic Places.”
For 85 years, the club has met regularly on the first
Wednesday of each month. Tartans adorn the walls,
Scottish songs are sung, and “bagpipes often skirl into
Membership is open to “anyone of good citizenship and
with admiration and love for the great poet.”
More information can be found at the
MacGregor Jamieson (1920-1993) was born in Evanston,
Illinois to Scottish parents and began dancing at the
age of six. “He won his first medal as a Scottish
highland dancer at age six and a half and went on to
compete as a world class champion Highland dancer for
Following service in the U.S. Army during World War II,
he joined the cast of the national company of “Oklahoma”
and began a lifelong friendship and professional
collaboration with Agnes de Mille. In 1947, he joined
the cast of “Brigadoon” playing the role of Harry Beaton
in New York, London and Australia. “He performed in
every leading stock theater in the U.S. and restaged
“Brigadoon” many times for stock theater, musical
theater and opera companies, most recently for the New
York City Opera in 1991.”
Mr. Jamieson appeared on national television in the
Omnibus Series and performed at the White House for
President John F. Kennedy. He was also honored by
President George Bush as one of America’s “Thousand
Points of Light.” In 1956, Mr. Jamieson moved to
Wilmington, Delaware and founded the Academy of the
Dance with Madame Helen Antonova. In 1967, he began his
“celebrated productions of Tschaikovsky’s “The
Nutcracker Ballet” and for 27 consecutive years,
produced, directed and performed various roles in the
During his formative years, while living in Evanston, he
performed regularly at the Anniversary Dinner of the
Illinois St. Andrew Society. Additional information
would be greatly appreciated. (Thanks to Betty Priest
and the James Jamieson Foundation Newsletter for this
More information is available at
One of our readers, Jamie Thomson, reports that the
Boise Scottish Caledonian Society in Boise, Idaho, had
900 people present for a Burns Night Dinner. The event
is held on the Boise State University Campus and is
limited to 900. They could have sold another 100
tickets! Does anyone know of a large Burns celebration
in the United States?
The longest actively registered Boy Scout in America is
90 year old. H. McNeill Privett of Prince Ann, Maryland.
He was a Scout executive for 45 years.
Mickey Rooney recently visited the Glasgow slum where
his father was born. He said, “the Scottish people
should be filming more in order to bring a new industry
to Scotland.” Scots have recently complained that the
foreign film producers have left little cash in
In 1826, the
Rev. Patrick Bell, minister in the village
of Carmylie, invented the world’s first mechanical grass
cutter. In 1841,
Alexander Shanks of Arbroath invented
the world’s first powered cylinder mower.
Trust has property near Newquay in Cornwall where they
have a collection of some 100 lawnmowers.
From the Editor...
The Scottish American Hall of Fame is now in book form.
Julianna Greer of our Society staff has spent many hours
in seeing that the work of James C. Thomson is available
to the general public. We have used Mr. Thomson’s
material quite often in the Newsletter and now everyone
has a chance to have this book in their own library. The
cost is $20.00. You may send your order and check to The
The other book, The Scots of Chicago, Quiet Immigrants
and Their new Society, has been returned from the
publisher for various corrections and additions. The
book should be ready by fall.
On August 3, the Scottish Home will officially break
ground for the new addition. The ground breaking part of
the annual Scottish Home picnic will begin at l:00 p.m.
Events of the day will include piping, Scottish dancing,
games for children, a white elephant sale and a tea
room. Everyone is invited to attend this special day in
On September 22, the History Club and the Society will
join for a tour of the Pullman District in Chicago. The
afternoon will also serve as the quarterly meeting of
the Society and will offer everyone an opportunity to
tour this historic area. There are some interesting
More details will be included in the next issue of the