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The Scottish American History Club Newsletter
October 2006


A Monument to Sir Walter Scott

On September 17, 1871, the Chicago Tribune reported on a meeting at the home of Dr. John D. M. Carr. Dr. Carr was the President of the Scott Centenary Celebration Union and the first meeting was held at his residence on West Madison Street. On display was the original design of the Scott monument in Edinburgh, Scotland. Architect C. M. Kemp was paid $20,000 in 1812 to design the monument. Upon his death, his heirs became owners of the design and they had it “beautifully framed.” They were willing to allow one monument to be erected in America without any cost for the use of the design.

The design was first mailed to John Walker of Staten Island giving New York City the first opportunity to erect the monument. However, they had already erected a monument to Sir Walter Scott and thus did not qualify to use the design. Chicago was the next choice and so the framed design was sent to Dr. Carr.

Dr. John Carr served as the chairman, and several members of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society participated in the “Scott Centenary Celebration” notably, General John McArthur, Carlyle Mason, and Robert Clark. It was General McArthur who suggested that if the celebration created a surplus, it could be used to erect a monument to Scott. The banquet was held at the Tremont hotel.

A surplus was created from the banquet and all citizens of Chicago were invited to subscribe and at the same time indicate where they would like to have the monument placed. Since the monument in Edinburgh had often been described “as the finest monument in the world,” it was believed that Chicago would receive much acclaim if the project could be completed. The design was to be in the office of Dr. Carr for at least one week, beginning September 17, 1871, where citizens could call and examine it. His office was located in the McVicker Theater Building. In 1871, Dr. John D.M. Carr was elected an honorary member of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society. He died November 29, 1882.

In early October, Chicago was destroyed by fire including the McVicker Theater Building. It is unclear if the monument design escaped destruction. If the design only remained on display for one week, it is quite possible that it had been returned. Perhaps someone in Scotland knows the answer to this question. After the fire, the issue of a monument to Sir Walter Scott was not raised again in Chicago. At the turn of the century, interest focused on a monument to Robert Burns instead of Scott.

In doing some research about the Great Fire, I came across an interesting article. It is especially relevant since we have just celebrated the one year anniversary of Katrina and the destruction of New Orleans. The lumbermen of Chicago held a meeting on February 20, 1872 to talk about the Federal tax on materials imported and used in the construction of buildings in Chicago after the fire. It was their feeling that the tax should be withdrawn, at least temporarily. They passed the following resolution which is interesting when you compare it to our attitudes today:

“Resolved, That the citizens of Chicago do not ask any donation from the General Government to enable them to rebuild their burned homes and places of business, but respectfully represent that the Government should obtain the revenue from the profits and prosperity of the country, and not from its losses and calamities; and, inasmuch as the property destroyed in the unparalleled conflagration of the 7th, 8th and 9th of October last...we hold that it is unjust to require the payment of these taxes...” No donation from the General Government, “they intend to rebuild their city...!” How much we have changed as a nation. Fifty-two lumbermen signed the resolution which was sent to The Honorable John A. Logan, United States Senator from Illinois. By 1893, the city was rebuilt without the help of the “General Government,” and Chicago would host the World’s Columbian Exposition.

The monument to Robert Burns also became a reality and now stands in Garfield Park. It was dedicated one hundred years ago, August 25, 1906.

State Street Stores to Change

It was announced recently that the Marshall Field stores has changed their name to Macy’s and that Carson Pirie Scott on State Street will close. Both stores have in the past been closely allied with the Scottish community and the Scottish Home. Many of our Scottish immigrants found employment in these stores when they arrived in Chicago.

James Simpson, born in Glasgow, Scotland, was elected president of Marshall Field & Company in 1923. At the time, the company was the largest merchandising establishment of its kind in the world. At the same time, Mr. Simpson was a member of the Board of Governors of the Scottish Old People’s Home. After the Scottish Home burned in 1917 all the furniture for the new home was purchased from Marshall Field’s and at least one piece of that furniture still exists and is in the Hall of Fame area of the Scottish Home.

Houston McBain, president of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society in 1963, was also the president of Marshall Field’s. He went to work at Marshall Field & Company when he was 20 years old and when he was elected president in 1943, he was the youngest president in the company’s history. His accomplishments would fill an entire newsletter and then some. Someday, we will devote an issue to Mr. McBain of McBain who was also the 21st hereditary chief of the Clan McBain. Mr. McBain died in 1977 at the age of 75. There will never be another Marshall Field & Company.

Few companies are as strongly associated with Chicago as the department store of Carson Pirie Scott and Company. In 1904, two businessmen from Germany, Leopold Schlesinger and Daniel Mayer, sold their interest in the department store that stood at the corner of State and Madison for more than thirty years to Carson Pirie Scott and Company. But the Scottish roots of the company are far older.

John T. Pirie was born in Scotland in 1837. He left his homeland to work in his uncle’s dry-goods store in Ireland at the age of 15. There he met another young man, Samuel Carson. They decided to move to Belfast to try their hand at bigger plans. They didn’t stay in Belfast long, however, for they soon learned of a flourishing business in the thriving Illinois river town of Peru. They decided to emigrate to America, and in 1855 they established a store in nearby LaSalle, Illinois. They prospered and soon opened up other stores.

Looking for better and bigger opportunities, they directed their attention to the rough-and-ready frontier town of Chicago. George and Robert Scott had already operated the downstate outlets. Soon they too came to Chicago, and the firm of Carson Pirie Scott and Company was born.

The success of the firm was due largely to the business acumen and solid determination of a somber Scotsman named Andrew MacLeish. Born in Glasgow in June 1838, Andrew MacLeish was the second son of Archibald MacLeish. The family originally hailed from Lochwinnoch in the Scottish Highlands.

MacLeish arrived in Chicago when he was eighteen with a fellow Scot named Edward Couper. On their first evening in the rough town, they enjoyed a walk out to the boundless prairie at Union Park.

MacLeish worked for numerous dry-goods stores without much success until 1867, when Samuel Carson invited him to Carson and Pirie, a wholesaler, as a junior partner. His assignment? To develop a retail store in Chicago. With MacLeish at the helm as the new store’s founder and manager, business blossomed. By the mid-1870s, the newly named Carson Pirie Scott and Company had become one of the city’s leading department stores.

Years later, more than 120 Carson executives gathered on the eighth floor of the store to honor Bruce MacLeish, the 74-year-old chairman as he completed his fiftieth year with the company that was founded by his father, Andrew, in 1867. A young Scottish American dancer, Margaret Baikie, played the pipes.

Archibald MacLeish, Andrew’s famous poet son, later described his father as a reserved man who spoke very little:

"My father came from a very old country in the north and far away, and he belonged to an old strange race, the race older than any other. He did not talk of his country but he sang bits of old songs with words that he said no one could understand any more.
When his parents moved to Glencoe, Illinois, in 1889, they named their home Craigie Lea, after the words to a Scottish ballad.”

Taken from The Scots of Chicago, Pages 94 and 95
More history on Marshall Field & Co., can be found on the Encyclopedia of Chicago history.

Pictured first: The clock outside the Marshall Field building
Pictured second:  Houston McBain

Pictured third:  Entrance to Carson, Pirie, Scott


In the last issue, I mentioned Mary Scott, who is buried at Forest Home Cemetery and her headstone simply says, “Born in Scotland.” I now have a death certificate which gives a little more information.

When Mary Scott died on May 12, 1899, she was 55 years of age. She was married and her occupation was “housewife.” She lived at 259 Harrison Street and the cause of death was “organic heart disease.” Apparently no obituary was printed in the paper.

Those of you who have been attending the History Club meetings the first Saturday of each month will recognize the name Maxwell Edgar. Born in Scotland, he came to Chicago in 1880. He was the individual who sued the officers of the Saint Andrew Society for mismanagement. Maxwell Edgar was finally admitted to the State Hospital in Elgin where he died from staff abuse in 1917. In spite of his actions, the Society came to his aid financially as he sought treatment for his mental problems. He is buried in an unmarked grave in the Bluff City Cemetery of Elgin, Illinois.

We had wondered about his wife, Jeannie, who was a graduate of the Conservatory of Paris and had often played for Scottish events. Now that we have a death certificate, we know that she died at the age of 71 and lived at 5331 Kenmore Ave. Her father’s name was Alexander Weil and she was born in Alsace, France. Jeannie Maxwell was cremated at Graceland, the ashes delivered to the undertaker. We would assume that her niece, Fernande Combet, who lived at the same address, was the final recipient. So ends an interesting story about two individuals and their interaction with our Society.

Pictured:  State Hospital, Elgin, IL

War Medals

Do you ever wonder what happens to a person’s military medals? A person dies, and at some point the family is no longer interested in keeping them. Where do they go?

The Scottish American History Club in November will look at the lives of several of our members who participated in various wars, especially the Civil War.

We have several items in our museum from the Civil War, but no medals. I have yet to make contact with Fiona Calder, but I understand she will donate her father’s medals to the museum. He fought in France during WWI.

Do others of you have medals and pictures that you would like to donate before they are lost, stolen or sold? If so, please let us know.

Scottish American Museum

Our museum is open every day by appointment, but it will be open to the public the first Saturday of each month (except July, August and December), from 9:00 a.m. until 12 noon. A PowerPoint presentation will be given on each of these Saturdays at
10:00 a.m. Please check our website for the exact dates.

October 7, 2006 - Scottish sufferers and the fire of 1871. You will hear a little known description of the Great Fire written by a member of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society. See a list of the “Scottish sufferers” and who responded to their cry for help.

November 4, 2006 - Chicago Scots in the Civil War. We will feature the lives and stories of the Scots who fought and died. The sword of Colonel George Mason carried at Shiloh, from the June Steele collection, will be on display.

January 6, 2007 - The unveiling of the Burns Monument in Garfield Park. Scottish organizations struggled to cooperate in the raising of money and the placement of the Burns statue in Chicago. Hear about the great celebration when it was finally dedicated.

Boy’s Healthful Attire is the Kilt

This article was published in a newspaper called the Inter-Ocean on October 16, 1904. Mr. J. Cantlie gave an address in London in which he stated that the "most healthy form of attire for boys was the kilt." Too often, he said, “mothers want their little boys to look like little men and so they dress them in middy’s costume" but such tight fitting clothes are detrimental to their health. "Nothing in the way of dress better developed the all important physical blessings of health and strength than the kilted skirt. It gives warmth to the loins most conductive to the strength of future man."

Mr. Cantile went on to state that boys dressed in Eton suits and tight fitting collars do not stand the same chance for good health as boys in loose fitting garments. As an example, he points to the Highlands where children who wear kilts are "invariably strong, and turn out to be strong men." Look at the Scotch regiments, he said: "No stronger or finer set of men exists throughout the service." He declares that this strength is due to the fact that many of these soldiers wore kilts in their youth which gave "their limbs full scope to develop."

I am not sure if this idea still prevails in our modern society.

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