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The Scottish American History Club Newsletter
October 2003

A Forgotten Inventor

Alexander Winton was born in Grangemouth, Scotland, on June 20, 1860. He died on June 21, 1932. He was a pioneer automobile manufacturer and his was the first American company to sell a motor car. His company was incorporated on March 15, 1897, and he was also the owner of the Winton Bicycle Company. His first automobile was called a “horseless carriage” and was built by hand and assembled piece by piece. Every vehicle had fancy paint, padded seats, a leather roof, and gas lamps. It sold for $1,000.

One of his first automobiles was powered by a 10 horsepower motor and achieved a speed of 33.64 mph on a test around a Cleveland horse track. To overcome public skepticism and to prove its durability, Winton had his car undergo an 800 mile run from Cleveland to New York City. The trip took ten days.  The first person to buy an American-built automobile was Robert Allison of Port Carbon, Pennsylvania. One year later, the company would see more than one hundred vehicles sold. The first dealership was opened by H. W. Koler in Reading, Pennsylvania. To deliver the cars, the Winton Company built the first auto hauler in America. Both Reginald and Alfred Vanderbilt purchased Winton automobiles, and in 1903 Horatio Nelson Jackson was the first person to drive across the United States in a new Winton.

Henry Ford was invited to come to Cleveland for an interview at the Winton Company. Alexander Winton was not impressed with Henry Ford and decided not to hire him. James W. Packard, a maker of electrical products, whose firm later became the Packard Cable Division of General Motors, visited Winton’s office in Cleveland to offer a few suggestions. Winton lost his temper and said: “If you don’t like the car, why don’t you build your own?” The rest is history.

In 1901 Henry Ford challenged Winton to race and prove which car was the best. “Before the contest, the Scot told Ford he reckoned his steering gear was dangerous and sportingly loaned him the mechanism from one of his cars. Thanks to the new device, Ford went on to win the race. The subsequent publicity saw Ford’s reputation soar. Within 20 months he had established the Ford Motor Company. The contest has become known as ‘the race that changed the world.’”

The Winton Automobile Company ceased production in 1924. However, Alexander Winton continued to build marine and stationary gasoline engines. The new company became the Winton Engine Corporation and produced the first practical 2-stroke-cycle diesel engines in the higher horsepower ranges. This engine powered early Electro-Motive Corporation (of GM) diesel locomotives and Navy submarines. It is still in business today.

Alexander Winton, known as “a short-tempered Scotsman” is buried in Section 17 of the Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio.

Thanks to James Rodden of Dundee, Scotland for calling this story to our attention.

A Forgotten Hero

The first Secret Service agent killed in the line of duty was William Craig, born in Scotland, November 1855. He was fair-haired, blue-eyed and stood 6 foot 4 and weighed 260 pounds. “Big Bill” spent 12 years in the British military and after being honorably discharged came to Chicago’s South Side at the age of 38. Craig entered the Secret Service in 1900 which had been formed in 1865 to battle counterfeiters. After the assassination of President William McKinley they were given the task of protecting the presidents. At first, Theodore Roosevelt resented the idea of having a “shadow” but soon they became friends. Bill Craig was killed on September 3, 1902 when a speeding trolley car rammed into the open-air horse carriage carrying President Roosevelt. The President suffered cuts and bruises but the carriage ran over Craig and he was killed. The President was quoted as saying, “The man who was killed was one of whom I was fond and whom I greatly prized for his loyalty and faithfulness.”

William Craig was brought back to Chicago and buried at Oak Woods Cemetery on the South Side. For many years his cemetery marker had remained unnoticed, hidden behind bushes and facing a concrete wall topped with barbed wire. But all that changed recently with a procession of bagpipes and drums followed by a crowd of police, secret service officials and Craig’s family from Minneapolis. A task force of Chicago-based agents and city police officers had uncovered Craig’s history. With the family’s permission his grave site at Oak Woods was revamped and covered with a marker telling his story and marking the 100th anniversary of his death.

Thanks to Jack Sutherland for the article from the Chicago Tribune.

Forgotten Accomplishments

mcclellanoct03George Brinton McClellan, Jr., was born November 23, 1865 in Dresden, Saxony, Germany. He was the son of General George B. McClellan. He studied law at Princeton and later joined Tammany Hall in 1889 and became one of its most prominent orators. He was president of the board of aldermen of New York City in 1893, and was  elected to the United States House of Representatives and served from 1913 until 1915.

During World War I, McClellan served in the Ordnance Department.  He was mayor of New York City from 1903 until 1909. During his administration the city acquired 277 acres of park land, completed construction of the New York Public Library and built Grand Central Terminal. He presided over the opening of the subway,  licensed the first taxi cab, and opened the Queensboro and Manhattan bridges. During his term the world’s first high-pressure water system was installed to fight fires. He replaced the city’s gas street lamp system with electrical lamps and built 19 new fire houses. His administration built 110 school buildings, 11 new high schools and constructed 35 miles of new wharfage, including 51 new piers. Among these were the Chelsea Piers, which The New York Times described as the “most extensive and complete steamship terminal in this country and one of the most remarkable urban design achievements of its day.”

After he retired from politics, McClellan taught at Princeton, where he was professor of economic history from 1912 until his retirement in 1931.  He was an authority on Venetian history and wrote Venice and Bonaparte (1931) and Modern Italy (1933).  He died on November 30, 1940 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Section 2, Lot #3394.

A Forgotten Scottish Connection

The Reverend James Caldwell (1734-1781) was a true patriot. He was born in Cub Creek, Virginia on April 14, 1734 to Ulster-Scots parents. He became a Presbyterian minister at Elizabeth, New Jersey, and was one of the many clergymen who served as chaplains during the Revolutionary War. At the battle of Springfield, New Jersey, “when his company ran out of wadding, Caldwell was said to have dashed into a nearby Presbyterian Church, scooped up as many Watts hymnals as he could carry and distributed them to the troops, shouting ‘put Watts into them, boys.’” He was killed by James Morgan with a single shot. Morgan was then arrested, tried and hung on January 29, 1782. Mrs. Caldwell was killed earlier. She had been deliberately shot by the Hessians under the command of the British. They left nine children to be raised by friends. One of their girls, Hannah Ogden Caldwell, married James R. Smith of New York City.

James R. Smith had come to this country as a child from Kirkudbright, Scotland. By energy and ability he became a successful merchant in New York City. He showed his shrewd business ability by buying property along Broadway up to and beyond Thirty-fourth street. He lived on Pearl Street and had a summer home in Greenwich near what is now Washington Square. (Years later, Thomas A. Edison would build his first central generating station at 255 and 257 Pearl Street. On September 4, 1882, he threw a switch in the office of one of his main investors, J. Pierpont Morgan, and initiated electric service to the area.) Hanna Caldwell and James R. Smith had a  daughter named Elizabeth Caldwell Smith, born on Pearl Street, March 28, l808. After the death of her mother, Elizabeth moved to Washington, D.C. to live with her sister, Mrs. Matthew St. Clair Clarke whose husband was the clerk of the House of Representatives.

Elizabeth Smith was once invited to have dinner at the White House when John Q. Adams was President. She “wore a crimson silk dress with her hair in three puffs on the top and three puffs on the each side of the head - high tortoise shell comb.” She also wore silk stockings and black satin slippers. At dinner she met General Duncan from Kaskaskia, Illinois and Henry Clay told her “of his goodness to his mother - said he was not only a good looking fellow but was a good son and brother, having taken care of his mother and educated his sister and two brothers.” Elizabeth Caldwell Smith became the bride of Joseph Duncan and moved to Jacksonville, Illinois.

~ Continued in the next issue~

A Forgotten Building

Most everyone who lives in Chicago has seen the R. R. Donnelley building on the near south side. The factory was once the center of a great printing empire as Chicago became the national leader in the printing industry. The building, consisting of 8 floors and a tower, was built in stages between 1912 and 1929. The building was designed by Howard Van Doren Shaw and completed by Charles Klauder after Shaw’s death. The plant was closed in 1993 after Sears, Roebuck and Co. discontinued its mail order catalog. The Chicago Commission on Landmarks has voted to give the building preliminary landmark status. We have often written about Howard Van Doren Shaw and his Scottish background.

From the Editor

We continue to receive interesting items for the Scottish-American Museum. Roland Ceragioli, member of the local Lions Club, has contributed again. His gift this time is a small booklet belonging to Civil War veteran Samuel Hay. It is dated July 29, 1845 and is handwritten by his father. It contains such messages as: “no matter what your circumstances are write as often as once a month to your parents. Keep no company except the best, and always be on your guard. Never be in debt for postage, nor neglect answering letters that require an answer. Keep a debt and credit book while you are gone.” On the front of the small green booklet is the word Pennsylvania. The second gift from Mr. Ceragioli is a book entitled “Lives of The Wesleys.” It was published in 1851 and is signed by Captain John Hay and dated November 11, 1857. The book has a red cover and very small print.

Fiona Calder recently visited the Scottish Home and brought numerous items, including pictures, books and newspaper articles, that belonged to her father. George Calder was a very famous musician and baritone who, with Dorothy Marwick, a soprano, presented programs under the banner “The Royal Scots.” Mr. Calder was an active member of the Illinois St. Andrew Society and led the Scottish Choir at numerous events including the 1933 Worlds Fair. Among the newspaper clippings was an article by Norman Ross published in the Chicago Daily News, January 29, 1965, on the death of Winston Churchill. Mr. Ross is also a life member of the Society. Captain Calder fought with the 9th Royal Scots, a cavalry regiment in France, during World War I and the stirrups from his saddle will now be displayed in our museum. Thanks, Fiona, for your gifts in memory of your most impressive father.

We were also pleased to receive from Ian Lisk a record of “The Songs of Robert Burns” by Kenneth McKellar. In his letter, Ian Lisk tells of the high school choir of the United Church of Christ in Gleview, Illinois, that took a 17-day tour of Scotland and England in 1975. His three daughters were all members of the 95-member choir that made the trip accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. Lisk. “The five middle days of the tour were spent in and around our hometown of Arbroath, where the group gave a fabulous full-house concert in a hall Irene and I knew well in our youth. It was the emotional highlight of the trip for the choir, and especially for us.”

James Roddy from Dundee, Scotland, also presented the museum with a hand-carved Scottish Egg done by Ian McGuire. The carving shows St. Andrew with his cross on one side and a Scottish lily on the other. Around the egg is one of the sayings from Robert Burns. McGuire’s wood carving studio is also located in Dundee.


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