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The Scottish American History Club Newsletter
July 2003

 The Campbell Apartment

When you visit Grand Central Station in New York City, be sure to see the Campbell Apartment. It is now an upscale bar, but was once the office of John W. Campbell who was the chairman of the board of the Credit Clearing House for many years prior to 1941. When he retired his company was taken over by Dun & Bradstreet.

The apartment lies just off the southwest corner of the building and was probably the most remarkable office New York City ever saw. The room is 30 by 60 with a ceiling that is 25 feet high. At the far end of the room was a massive Florentine desk where Mr. Campbell transacted business. The tables and chairs were 13th century Italian. There were flowered vases, fine statuary, rare books, petrified woods and uncut precious stones. The floor was covered with a single Persian rug. The entire collection of rugs was said to have cost $300,000. He installed a pipe organ and there was a fine piano. At night, Mr. & Mrs. Campbell turned the office into a reception hall where they entertained their friends. Fifty to sixty guest might gather in a single evening to hear famous musicians play the pipe organ or the concert piano. 

Mark C. Grossich is now the owner/Chief Executive, but no one seems to know what happened to all the valuable possessions that once resided in the Campbell Apartment.

More information is available in a New York Times article.

List of Famous & Infamous Scots

Debra Chisolm Ruehlman writes that she has visited our website and noted that her great-great Grandfather, Dr. John Julian Chisholm was not listed. She points out that he was a Civil War Surgeon who literally “wrote the book” on battlefield medicine. The Manual of Military Medicine went through three publications during the War, and has recently been republished as a historical ‘Bible’ for medical historians. This book was of great value to both the North and South.

In addition he was an inventor, providing a chloroform inhaler used well into the 20th century. After the war, Dr. Chisolm moved to Baltimore to teach at the University of Maryland Medical School. A noted ophthalmologist he performed a successful eye surgery, grafting a rabbit cornea to a human in 1888. Helen Keller was one of his patients and he is mentioned in the play “The Miracle Worker.”

Debra also points out that we missed Emily Chisholm, composer of the Christian hymn, “The Holly and the Ivy” and also failed to list Thomas O. Chisholm who wrote many hymns including “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”

Pictured above: John Julian Chisholm

The name list is an ongoing project and it is probably not possible to list every person of Scottish heritage; however, if we have missed someone you feel is important, please let us know.

The Buick Automobile & The Roscoe Company

The Buick automobile will soon be 100 years old and many special events are being planned to commemorate the centennial. The following historical marker was placed near the Renaissance Center in Detroit.

David Dunbar Buick, for whom the Buick automobile is named, came to Detroit from Scotland with his parents in 1856 at age two. A plumbing inventor and businessman, Buick turned to building gasoline engines for boats on the Detroit River during the 1890s. By 1900 his first motor firm, Buick Auto-Vim and Power Company, was operating some six blocks north of this site near what is now the southwest corner of Beaublen and Lafayette Streets. The firm’s overhead valve engines became famous for power. The first experimental Buick automobile was built in Detroit circa 1900. On May 19, 1903, David Buick incorporated the Buick Motor Company. That fall the firm was sold to the Flint Wagon Works in Flint where the first retail Buicks were built in 1904.”

In 1921, another Buik, George Buik from Dundee, Scotland, would open a small uniform cleaning operation on Roscoe street in Chicago. We know the business today as The Roscoe Company and it is now located along the Eisenhower Expressway near the Independence exit. In time, the Roscoe Company was purchased by the Don Buik family and Don became the president. Today, the president is James Buik, the grandson of George and the son of Don Buik. George Buik was president of our Society from 1948-1950 and Don Buik has served on the Board of Governors and continues to be very active in Society events. All members of the family belong to the Illinois Saint Andrew Society.

When Don Buik was serving as president of the Roscoe company, he purchased a 1921 Buick to commemorate the beginning of their company. That automobile, now restored, will be taken to Flint, Michigan, July 26, 2003, by Don Buik and his son Jim to join a huge collection of more than 2000 vintage Buicks. It will be shown from 8 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. There is also a possibility that the 1921 Buick will make an appearance at the Scottish Home annual picnic on August 2.

George Buik pictured with grandchild.

Robert Hutchison Powrie

The Father

Robert Hutchison Powrie was born July 27, 1842, in Kinnoull, Perthshire, Scotland. His family came to Wisconsin when he was 13 and settled near Sussex, Waukesha County. Five years later, when he was 18, Robert Powrie enlisted in the Northern Army and soon became the first musician of the 5th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, Regimental Band (F Company.) He served the entire four years of the war and left some 50 letters describing his experiences at Antietam, Fredericksburg, and the Wilderness. He often sketched military men, including General Grant. He once met President Lincoln. 

Throughout the war he carved bone and wood, sketched in charcoal and painted. He built a fiddle and learned the bugle and several other instruments. This would become his twin lifelong passions: art and music. In 1866, he married Elizabeth Powrie, his cousin, and they settled in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, where Robert began a business as a monument sculptor. He was naturally gifted as a sculptor and carved many exquisite monuments and tablets, including a monument for General John Gibbon which is at Arlington National Cemetery. 

He also executed tombstones for Fond du Lac’s famous General Bragg and artist Mark Harrison. Both are located at Rienzi Cemetery. Many of his carvings are to be found in St. Paul’s Cathedral and the First Presbyterian Church in Fond du Lac. In the public library hall there is an oil painting of Abraham Lincoln and in the circuit court house a carved bust of General Edward S. Bragg. He enjoyed art in all forms and began using glass slides made with a rudimentary camera. This impressed his children, especially one son, John Hutchison Powrie.

John Hutchison Powrie

The Son

John Hutchinson Powrie was born in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin about 1875. Following in his father’s footsteps, he began working with color in lithography. He traveled to Germany and studied the color process in the early 1900s and returned to the United States to advance his research in the laboratory of Thomas A. Edison until the destruction of the laboratory by fire in 1914. His first color patent was issued in 1906.

At first he was interested in prints on glass for projection, but after working with Edison, he turned to the possibilities of colored film. The prints on glass were called lantern slides and became a way to illustrate using screen projection. Thanks to Norman Nelson who is a member of the Society and lives in St. Charles, Illinois, we have 75 of the lantern slides made by John Powrie. They consist of pictures from Scotland and probably date from around the turn of the century. Lantern slide projectors are no longer available, except in museums, and so alternative ways must be used to display the slides. They are extremely interesting and we are indebted to Rev. Nelson for making them available to us. The lantern slides are now part of the museum at the Scottish Home.

In 1926, the Warner Powrie color film process was patented. In May, 1928, John Powrie presented his color film to a national film makers convention in California. By 1930, the firm was incorporated and ready to make full-length movies, but the Great Depression brought an end to those dreams. John Powrie died in Chicago about 1955 and is buried in Forest Home Cemetery in Forest Park, Illinois. In Woodlawn Cemetery in New York City, there is a grave stone with his name on it, but because he and his wife, Agnes Sophia Powrie, spent their last years in Chicago, he was buried in the same area as other member of his family. Forest Home Cemetery is one mile north of the Scottish Home on Des Plaines Avenue.

 Lustron Homes

lustron_homejul03Ronald MacLagan, who lives in Lombard, Illinois and who is a life member of the Society bought an all-metal Lustron home almost 50 years ago. In 1950, just released from the military with a wife and young son, he paid about $18,000 for his modest ranch house. At one time, Lombard had more than three dozen Lustron homes. About 2,500 metal homes were built before the company failed. One by one these houses are being destroyed to build larger homes on the land. A Lustron home consisted of 3,300 parts and weighted about 35,000 pounds. The interior walls are metal, so posters and pictures can be hung with magnets.

A recent newspaper article featured Mr. McLagan and his Lustron home.

From The Editor

On a recent trip to Florida, we visited again the home of Thomas Alva Edison. Edison is in our Scottish American Hall of Fame, but the tour guide said he was English. After the tour, I asked her about it, but she wasn’t very interested in talking about his Scottish roots, so I dropped the subject. His home and laboratory are well worth the visit. 

Whenever prominent people would visit Edison in Florida they were always encouraged to bring a stone with their name on it, and he used the stones to make a walkway. The very first stone in the walkway has the name of Samuel Insull written on it. Insull at the age of 22 became the personal secretary of Edison and later the vice-president of Edison General Electric Company in Schenectady, NY. He was sent to Chicago in 1892, and became president of Chicago Edison Company which is now know as Commonwealth Edison. He was often listed among the donors to our Society and once appeared on the program of the Anniversary Dinner. The other interesting thing about him was that in 1922  he donated the land on which the British Home was built. In 1932, he was indicted on charges of bankruptcy, embezzlement and using the mails to defraud.  He was acquitted on all charges.

Insull died of a heart attack in a Paris subway on July 16, 1938. The last of the Samuel Insulls died on May 17, 1997, with the passing of Samuel Insull III, the grandson of Samuel Insull.

When you visit the British Home to see their new assisted-living complex, look in the old building for the plaque that commemorates some of the people who made donations to their first building. There are several Scottish names well known to us, including John Williamson, who was such a force in the Scottish community in the early 1900's.

Samuel Insull pictured above.

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