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The Scottish American History Club Newsletter
July 1998


Chicago's First Plumber

Municipal records list a Scotsman named Alexander Raffen as the city's first plumber and he is the only plumber listed in the professional directory of 1850. The annual report of the Illinois St. Andrew Society shows an Alexander W. Raffen, who became a member in 1850 as having been from Cupar, Fifeshire, Scotland. In the list of Scottish people who lost their homes and business in the great fire of 1871, Alexander Raffen is listed as a plumber on Dearborn street whose loss was in stock. No dollar amount of his loss is given.

There is ample evidence that some plumbing was in place in Chicago by 1815. "Excavations from the period indicate water mains had been installed with great resourcefulness and ingenuity." The conduit of choice was hollowed wooden logs made of cedar. These probably were floated down from Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The logs were cut in 8 to 10 foot lengths, hand-drilled from each end and joined by an internal sleeve of the same wood. Tees appear to have been little more than holes drilled in the log with lead pipes to the buildings held in place by hollow corks.

A picture of Raffen hangs in the union hall of Local 130 on West Washington Street in Chicago, Illinois.
 



Internet Facts

~ By volume, Loch Ness is the largest body of fresh water in the U.K., containing more water than all the lakes of England and Wales put together.

~ Edinburgh has 26 golf courses within the city limits.

~ Paul McCartney lives near the Mull of Kintyre.

~ In the 18th century, Glasgow became the world's first industrial city.

~ Fortingall in Perthshire claims to be the birthplace of Pontius Pilate.

~ Glasgow has the largest area of urban parkland in Europe.

~ The world's first coal mines were begun in the Forth Valley during the 12th century.

~ The largest bookshop in Scotland is James Thin in Edinburgh.

~ Oil was first extracted from shale in Scotland 200 years ago, making Scotland the world's first petroleum producer.

~ Stan Laurel began his comedy career in Glasgow in 1906.1
 



The Scot who Died with Custer
* Someone You Should Know *

"St. John's Episcopal church, Edinburgh, is a familiar landmark at the end of Princes Street. It contains a number of interesting features but perhaps the most intriguing is to be found in the north aisle - a brass plaque in memory of one John Stuart Stuart Forbes."

John S. S. Forbes was born in Rugby on May 28, 1849. He appears to have been in New York in 1869 or 1870, but must have been in New Zealand in 1871 since he acted as godfather to the present baronet's father, the 10th Baronet, and signed himself "John S. Stuart Forbes, San Francisco, Broker."

In 1872, he joined the 7th Cavalry under the name of John Stuart Hiley and it is by this name he is listed in the muster rolls of the 7th in 1873 and 1876. He was killed in action June 25, 1876. He died with George Armstrong Custer's troops who were wiped out to a man by a massed force of Sioux and Cheyenne Indians at the Battle of the Little Big Horn in Montana.

Throughout his service he apparently was a member of "E" company, known as the gray horse company. Almost all the men of this company were killed in a deep ravine several yards south of the ridge where Custer himself was killed. All the dead were stripped of their uniforms and possessions by the Indians, thereby rendering identification impossible, except in a few cases, and the bodies were buried in a mass grave. In 1881 all the remains were disinterred and reburied around the base of the monument.

"When Hiley's trunk was opened, in it was found among other things, a Fargo bank book, Hiley being a great gambler. In the trunk was also a letter from his mother, showing her to be a lady of the nobility in Scotland. In the letter she informed him that the trouble he had gotten into in his native country was soon to be settled up and he could then return home without molestation."

There is no record as to who placed the plaque in St. John's. One would suspect his mother who died in 1905 and is interred in the church yard. The father is also buried there and the memorial window to him is just above his son's plaque. The plaque is solid brass measuring 2 feet and 5 inches by 8 and a quarter inches. The letter is Gothic script with the first letter of each word in red enamel.

In Memory of
John Stuart Stuart Forbes
7th Reg't United States Cavlry,
born at Rugby
28th May 1849, Killed in Action
25th June 1876
St. James 4:13-14-15 Romans
8:35-37

It is interesting to note that his great uncle was Lt. Col. James MacDonell, Coldstream Guards, the hero of Hougomont, during the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.2

See Mandan Historical Society
 


The Carnegie Club

The Carnegie Club owns several properties around the world including Skibo Castle, Dornoch, Sutherland, Scotland. They now have purchased properties in the United States.

Just one hour south of Boston on Newport, Rhode Island, they have bought 350 acres of ocean-front land and have received zoning for their Donald Steed links-style championship golf course. They also own Vernon Court on Bellevue Avenue "which is one of the Grand Mansions of the 'Gilded Age'." The club will open in less than two years.

Their second purchase is in South Carolina, between Charleston and Savannah. Here they have contracted to purchase the legendary Cherokee Plantation. It covers 4,000 acres and is "spectacular with magnificent trees, ponds, lakes and pastures forming an estate of great beauty..." Donald Steed has also designed a championship course for this location that is scheduled for opening in 15 months.
 



James McNeill Whistler

James McNeill Whistler was one of the most controversial American artists of his time. He added new and restored old dimensions to nineteenth century painting. He was also a witty and caustic writer. He is probably best known for the painting, Portrait of My Mother, which hangs in the Louvre in Paris.

Whistler was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, July 10, 1834. His grandfather, John Whistler, was a Scottish major in the British Army under General Burgoyne. He settled in America after the Revolutionary War. His mother, Anna McNeill, was also descended from early Scottish settlers. Her family had been Stuart supporters and came to America in 1746 after the Battle of Culloden.

His father, George Washington Whistler, was a graduate of West Point who once led a surveying team that helped establish the boundaries between the United States and Canada. Whistler spent his boyhood in St. Petersburg, Russia, where his father was working as a railroad engineer.

When James was 15, his father died and the family returned to the U.S. He attended West Point Military Academy but left in his third year. In 1855 he left the U.S. for Europe and never returned. He studied in Paris and later was honored by many European art societies.

However, as an artist, Whistler was not widely appreciated in his early years. His originality brought strong criticism. His portraits had a ghostly style and some of his paintings were somewhat abstract by 19th century standards. He produced more than 400 etchings which some critics have classed with those of Rembrandt. Examples are found in the art galleries of London, Paris, New York and Venice. He also produced some remarkable watercolors and pastel paintings.

Whistler is said to have imposed himself on his age because of his dissatisfaction with the clutter and detail of conventional painting. He engaged in disputatious writing about the taste of his critics. When John Ruskin ridiculed Whistler's abstract art, Whistler sued and won. He died in Chelsea, England, on July 17, 1903.

He was once questioned about the legality of his will that had been signed J. McNeill Whistler instead of his legal name of James Abbott Whistler. He replied, "as my mother's eldest son, I have the real right to bear her Highland name of which we are all very proud."

Stanley Weintraub in his biography, Whistler, explains the origin of the "butterfly" signatures which Whistler used on his work. The bold scrawl of a signature, he had told Whistler as the canvas stood unsold, would not do...and he suggested initials, and dropping 'Abbott' in favor of 'McNeill', used 'J.M.W.' which he gradually shaped into the famous butterfly. Eventually it replaced his initials altogether, even in his correspondence, but the first canvas to receive the butterfly is unknown; earlier purchasers of his work sometimes asked him to apply the ideograph ex post facto. He did."

The Hunterian Museum of the University of Glasgow holds the pre-eminent research collections for Whistler. They include nearly 1,000 of his works of art and some 7,000 original letters and other documents. The University holds the copyright on his extensive correspondence of some 11,000 letters.

The Art Institute of Chicago is currently presenting an exhibition of Whistler's work. Recently a delegation from the University of Glasgow led by Malcolm MacLeod visited Chicago and participated in a weekend workshop.3

An extensive biography can be seen at NOAA



Seiichiro Otsuka

Mr. Seiichiro Otsuka was the first Consul General of Japan to Scotland. He was stationed in Edinburgh in 1991 and covered Scotland and the North of England. During his short stay in Scotland, Mr. Otsuka immersed himself in Scottish traditions. He wore the kilt, learned to play the bagpipe and became a star attraction at Burns Suppers. Mr. Otsuka is now the Ambassador and Consul General of Japan stationed in New York City. When the Consul General of Japan found that Robert Burns had not written about Scotland's own game of golf, he decided to speculate on what might have been, with deep apologies to the Bard, here is Mr. Otsuka's
"Address to the Golf Ball."

Fair fa' your honest wee white face
Great Mischieftan o' the human race
Weel are ye worthy o' a grace
As lang's you traivel straight
Ye aim tae reach that distant hill
Nae bother tae play wi' skylark shrill
The dinky dimples o' yer saucy face
Should stay awa safe frae ills o' life
The whins, waters, traps an' trails
That lie between us and our holy grail
Ay ye sleekit, tyrannous, drunken beastie
Gae straight!
Why the hell do ye gae left and richt?
Now don't squat there deep drowned in bunker
Like a stupid fried egg in stinker
Poor devil! I'll gie ye one last chance
Tae be my trusty, couthy crony
If ye wish tae prove yersel worthy
O' my gratefu' prayer
For once, Gae straight and get in there
Amen, and grant me a day sea groovy
And a glorious-ever bonnie burdie.4
 



References:

1. www.
scotland.com
2. The internet site of the Scottish Military Historical Society
3. Scottish American Hall of Fame and materials supplied by Duncan MacDonald.
4. The Herald, July 27, 1992, Page 18
 



 

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

2014