The Scottish American History Club Newsletter
Franklin MacVeagh and
the Buffalo Nickel
While visiting Graceland Cemetery last summer with the
History Club of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society, I
came across a stone for Franklin MacVeagh (1837-1934). I
was struck not only by the Scottish name and the long
life, but the inscription, “Secretary of the Treasury of
the United States of American from 1909 to 1913.” I have
since found that he was instrumental in bringing about
the Buffalo nickel.
MacVeagh was born on a farm in Chester County,
Pennsylvania. His father died in the mid-1850s and his
brother Wayne became his guardian. His brother remained
a close friend for 50 years thereafter, while Wayne
worked as attorney general during Garfield’s
administration and also served in several ambassadorial
Franklin graduated from Yale in 1862, and earned a law
degree in 1864 from Columbia University. He practiced
law in New York from 1864-1866. In 1866, he moved to
Chicago, where he established a wholesale grocery
company. He became a director of the Commercial National
Bank, served there for 29 years. This bank later merged
with the Continental National Bank in 1910.
He became a democratic candidate for the United States
Senate in 1894, but lost the race and changed parties
two years later. He was a founding member of the then
all-male Chicago Literary Club in 1874, served as
president from 1906-1907, and was a member for 60 years.
MacVeagh was appointed Secretary of the Treasury by
Theodore Roosevelt, probably at the request of his
successor William Howard Taft. His era was marked by
efforts to modernize the federal government and MacVeagh
promoted efficiency and economy within the Treasury
Department. He resigned in 1913 at the end of Taft’s
term, to be succeeded by William G. McAdoo.
For the people of today, perhaps his most enduring
legacy is the Buffalo nickel, which was first issued in
1913. The previous design, known as the Liberty head
nickel, had been minted since 1883. His son suggested to
him that a new nickel would be “a permanent souvenir of
the most attractive sort.” The engraver chosen was
another Scot, James Earle Fraser, who trained at the Art
Institute in Chicago (For more information on James
Fraser see the
October 1994 issue of the Newsletter).
The first nickels were presented to outgoing President
Taft and 33 Indian chiefs on March 4, 1913.
The above article was written by Society member, Dave
Simpson of Brookfield, Illinois.
Pictured: Franklin McVeagh
Scottish Home Fire
Most of you who have followed our history know that the
Scottish Home was destroyed by fire in 1917 with the
tragic loss of four lives. You might also know that the
fire was discovered by two dogs around 2 o’clock in the
morning. Topsy, a collie and McDougal, a Scotch terrier,
awakened Mrs. Cummings who sounded the alarm. McDougal
died in the flames.
The fire occurred on Sunday and action was taken
immediately by the Governors who met in the office of
John Williamson the next day. They promised to rebuild
the home. The building was insured for $30,000, but the
new construction would more than double the amount of
insurance. Within two weeks sufficient funds were raised
to rebuild. The war was raging in Europe, horses and
building materials were difficult to obtain, but they
began clearing the debris and construction began
A hand-written note from Mrs. Cummings, found in an old
scrap book, answers a few more questions. She wrote that
excavations “for rebuilding the home has begun”. The
date was July 11, 1917. By December, the west wing was
completed and the “family” returned. Some of the people
had been living in a rented house, which Mrs. Cummings
calls “the Hodri house.” One could assume that the
middle section of the home containing the living room,
dining room and kitchen were also finished.
December 1917 was a cold, snowy month. The temperature
rose to 11° with a low of 3° and it was snowing on the
31st. The wind was gusting to 26 miles per hour. Prior
to their moving, Cora Cummings wrote in the newspaper,
“Do you suppose any of your readers have an old,
able-bodied trunk they could spare? Most of our
residents lost their trunks and valises (suitcases) in
the fire last March. We are about to move into the new
building and the old folks are sadly in need of
receptacles in which to pack their belongings.”
Mrs. Cummings in her handwritten note says, “They came
home in bobsleds from the Hodri house in Riverside.”
What a scene that must have been! The Home was formally
dedicated in June, 1918. As of this date the Hodri house
Pictured: The Scottish Home just after the
fire. Note the silhouette of the fireman on the
path to the left.
Alan Cunningham of Barrhead, Reffrewshire, Scotland,
who, for the past four weeks has been visiting his
brother John T. Cunningham, 3030 Sheridan Road,
vice-president of the Saint Andrew Society, plans to
return to East Orange, New Jersey to spend a few more
weeks with his daughter before sailing for his native
Mr. Cunningham is greatly impressed with the way the
Yankees do things. “You are not afraid to spend your
money”, he said “and I like the importance you give to
comfort and recreation. Your workingman and his family
with his automobile, radio, telephone, picture palaces,
etc., have a better time of it than our average
workingman, but I think we live quieter more contented
sort of lives.”
In remarking on our traffic problems, Mr. Cunningham
told of writing home about the multitude of motors that
crowd Michigan Avenue and other streets at almost every
hour of the day. His nephew carried the letter to Mr.
Cunningham’s brother-in-law in a small village in
Ayrshire, who, upon reading it, said “Och aye. Nae doot
the traffic is great. But if he’d ha’s ben doon
Stewartron Cross th’ nicht he wud ha’e seen somethin.”
R. Douglas Stuart
“A consignment of 1,400 pounds of poultry feed has been
donated to the Scottish Old People’s Home by R. Douglas
Stuart, president of the Quaker Oats Company. Mr.
Stuart, who is a member of the board of governors, is
much interested in the Home’s efforts at
poultry-raising, and is generously assisting in this
way. One hundred young pullets, raised this summer, will
profit by this valuable donation.” It was reported that
“the poultry yard supplied 116 dozens eggs during
Monument to Sir Walter Scott
In our last issue, we talked about a proposed monument
in Chicago to Sir Walter Scott. The Society had
celebrated the “Scott Centenary” with a banquet and had
money left. The proposal was to duplicate the Sir Walter
Scott Monument that is located on Princess Street in
Edinburgh, Scotland. The original plans of the Monument
were sent to Chicago in September 1871. The question
was, did the plans escape the Great Fire which occurred
in October of the same year?
In preparing the history presentation given on October 7
of this year, the answer was discovered. General John
McArthur, President of the Society in 1871 addressed the
question of the proposed Monument to Sir Walter Scott in
his annual report. “As suggested by me at the last
anniversary of our Society, the “Scott Centenary” has
been honorably celebrated in this city, and I am
gratified at bearing testimony to the unanimous and
hearty co-operation of all nationalities in thus
perpetuating the undying fame of the immortal author.
Circumstances beyond the control of the committee
prevented them from realizing a sum sufficient to erect
a monument, as they desired, and for which the original
design by Kemp was so kindly loaned by its owners, and
so ruthlessly destroyed by the great fire; still, a
surplus remains to the credit of that fund, and I would
here suggest...the appropriateness of handing it over to
the city to help build a commemorative monument of the
old safes that are now being collected in Union Park
with that object in view. In this way the record of the
loss of the beautiful and original drawing could be
preserved.” It is unclear if the monument of old safes
was ever constructed.
A recent, but quick, visit to Union Park did not find a
monument made of the old safes. Does anyone know where
it is located?
Naming your Child
The Donald A. Campbell History Fund recently bought a
used book on Ebay entitled “Scots in Michigan” by Alan
T. Forrester. He writes about the traditions of naming
and says the following was traditional:
The first son was named after the father’s father.
The second son was named after the mother’s father.
The third son was named after the father.
The fourth son was named after the father’s eldest
The first daughter was named after the mother’s mother.
The second daughter was named after the father’s mother.
The third daughter was named after the mother.
The fourth daughter was named after the mother’s eldest
“Official middle names were not always given, but when
they were, they were typically the mother’s maiden name
or another surname honoring grandparents, other
relatives, or close friends.”
Soccer Match at Cubs Park
“Stardom of the soccer football world will be seen in
action on Sunday afternoon July 17, 1927, at the Cubs’
Ball Park, in a game for the benefit of the Scottish Old
People’s Home. An all-star team, picked from all teams
in the Illinois State Football Association, will try to
humble the pride of the Bricklayers and followers of the
game know that the stars have a job on their hands.
Robert Black, president of the Illinois Saint Andrew
Society, is sponsor for the game in aid of the Home.
William Wrigley, Jr., owner of the Cubs, donated the use
of the park and it is expected that this stellar event
in soccer football will draw a capacity crowd.
The Chicago Highlanders’ Pipe Band will be on hand to
provide the proper atmosphere for the event under the
leadership of Pipe Major Robert Sim. The Illinois Saint
Andrew Society appreciates the generosity of Mr. Wrigley
in donating the use of the Cubs’ Park to help the
cause.” For tickets, individuals were to call Mr. Black
whose telephone was Wabash 3440. 1927
New Items for our Historical
We are pleased to have our first Civil War medal for the
museum. Thanks to Dr. Stanford McDonald, who sent us the
medal that belonged to his great uncle, William B.
McDonald who served with the Ohio Volunteer Cavalry,
13th Company, E 18. If any of our readers have war
medals, we would be happy to have them in our museum.
Call (630) 629-4516.
William Nichol of LaGrange Park gave the collection a
Scottish flag that he purchased many years ago in
Toronto. It is said to have flown from a Scottish ship.
He also gave us a copy of “Kyle’s Scottish Lyric Gems”
published in Glasgow in 1880.
Bob McLeod gave the collection a WW I field jacket and
the medals of his father, Robert J. McLeod, Sr., 37th
Division, 145th Infantry, 112 Medical Corps. He served
in the Solomon Islands, during WW II.
Museum Dates and Subjects
January 6, 2007 - This PowerPoint presentation
will be about the Robert Burns Monument in Garfield
Park. All of the Scottish organizations in Chicago
worked together in raising the money to erect the
statue. They often struggled in their cooperation, but
had a great celebration when it was dedicated. A
February 3, 2007 - “Seven Minutes with Abraham
Lincoln and His Scottish Connections” February is
President’s Month, so we will consider all the
Presidents with Scottish blood, especially Mr. Lincoln.
March 3, 2007 - We will consider the beginnings
of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society in 1845. Was
General George McClellan a founding member of the
Society? If not, who was the McClellan who attended the
first Saint Andrew’s Day Dinner?
April 7, 2007 - Many Scots came to Illinois in
the 1840s to work in the coal mines. Braidwood and Coal
City were heavily populated by Scots. Michele Micetich
is the curator of the Coal City museum and will give the
presentation. Part of Coal City was called Scot’s Hill
and she knows all of the family names. Michele will
bring various items from the museum as well. You will
find it interesting.
The museum is open the first Saturday of each month,
except July, August and December. Special arrangements
to visit can be made by calling (630) 629-4516 and
setting up an appointment. The museum is open at 9:00
a.m. and the presentation begins at 10:00 a.m.
Attendance at these Saturday events is running between
35 and 50, including some children. Anyone is welcome
and it’s a good place to meet your friends.
We serve coffee, tea and scones.