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The Scottish American History Club Newsletter
April 2010

In our last issue, we wrote about Andrew MacLeish, his marriages and his daughters. In this issue, we write about his sons. Mr. MacLeish was married three times. His first two wives died early in each marriage after giving birth to children. His first wife, Lillias Young died one year after giving birth to Lily Agnes (Mrs. C.L. Day) and Blanche E. (Mrs. C.K.G. Billings). His second wife was Louise Little of Chicago. One son, Bruce was born to this marriage. His third marriage was to Martha Hilliard and together they had four children: Norman Hillard, Archibald, Kenneth and Ishbel. In total there were seven children: three girls and four boys.

Bruce MacLeish, The Oldest Son

Bruce MacLeish was born in 1882 to Andrew and Louise Little. He graduated from the University of Chicago in 1903 and lived for a short time in New York City. Returning to Chicago in 1906, he found employment with Carson Pirie and Scott as a merchandise office assistant. In 1913, he was admitted to partnership and 1939 was elected vice president and secretary. He was elected president in 1946, chairman of the board of directors in 1952 and chairman of the executive committee in 1958.

His wife, Elizabeth Jane Moore, was born in Appleton, Wisconsin on July 6, 1882, and her parents moved to Evanston when she was a baby. She graduated from Evanston High school and from Wellesley College. They were married one year after her graduation in 1907. She was active in community affairs and many charities and she was a member of the Glencoe school board and later was elected president. She was a vice president of the Crippled Children’s Home of Prince’s Crossing, Illinois, until it was merged with the University of Chicago. She was also the Founder of the New Trier Women’s Republican club and a director of the Cook County School of Nursing. She died January 23, 1946 and left a husband, a daughter Mrs. John Dern; a son Hugh, a sister, five grandchildren and two great grandchildren. The funeral service was held in the Winnetka Congregational church, but her place of burial was not listed in the paper.

Chicago Daily Tribune of September 20, 1956, announces that Bruce MacLeish has now completed his 50th year with Carson, Pirie & Scott. A celebration was held in the “Men’s Grill” on the 8th floor of the State Street store. The room was decorated with “Scotch tartans” on the windows, walls, tables and even the menu. A young Margaret MacDonald, marched up and down, playing the bagpipe. The picture in the paper shows: Frederick H. Scott, John T. Pirie, Jr., Bruce MacLeish and Margaret MacDonald.

Bruce MacLeish lived to be 91 and died in 1973. At the time he was Chairman emeritus of Carson Pirie Scott & Co. He was survived by a son Hugh; a sister, two brothers, five grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. His daughter, Jean, married John Dern, who was a partner in the Sidley & Austin law firm. Their son, John, Jr. is the celebrated actor and his daughter is the actress Laura Dern. Hugh married Elizabeth Enslen Rees of Kansas City.


Norman Hillard MacLeish, the Artist

Norman, was born to Andrew and Martha Hillard MacLeish on August 29, 1890, in Glencoe, Illinois. A search of the Internet and Chicago newspapers did not reveal much information about this son, but here is what we found.

He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and later traveled to Paris and studied with P. Vignal. No dates could be found. During the Great Depression, he was a WPA supervisor in Chicago, apparently working with artists who painted murals in various schools. He also painted murals for the Carbondale, Illinois public schools, the University of Illinois-Champagne, and Evanston Township High School. Most of those paintings are probably gone now. I found one newspaper article which stated that the murals at the Lucy Flower High School in Chicago were painted over in 1941. Six murals had been painted at this school, each a “pictorial story of woman’s contribution to American progress.”

On June 2, 1922, Norman married Lenore Adah McCall in Philadelphia. Her father was the president of the Philadelphia Electric company. Archibald MacLeish was the best man and Miss Ishbel MacLeish was the maid of honor. This is from the
Chicago Daily Tribune, July 23, 1939: “Norman Hillard MacLeish, Chicago artist, filed suit in Superior court yesterday seeking a divorce from Lenore McCall MacLeish on the grounds of desertion. MacLeish, who is 48 years old, lives at 459 Linwood Avenue, Glencoe. His wife is now living in Jamestown, Rhode Island. The suit contends that Mrs. MacLeish left her husband on December 26, 1934. They were married in 1922, and have three children.”

In 1938, the Chicago Art Institute held its annual exhibition for artists living within 100 miles of Chicago. In the past five years, this exhibition had sold 424 paintings, 3,546 prints and 20 pieces of sculpture. (Not sure if this still continues.) “A painter who never won a prize before - pipe-smoking, easygoing Norman MacLeish - won the Logan medal and $500. This was the considered first prize and his painting was Watertown, “a composition of waterfront buildings in warm reds and neutral colors.” MacLeish was studying architecture in Paris in 1920 when he began painting. He lived in Winnetka, Illinois, but painted in the basement of his parent’s old mansion in Glencoe. His children were beginning to ask, “What are you doing that for, Daddy.”

Norman MacLeish was an artist his entire adult life and many of his paintings can be found for sale on the Internet. He must have been prolific based on the number of items listed for sale. It is unclear how long he remained in the Chicago area, but there is a reference to his living in an artist colony in St. Petersburg, Florida. He apparently did not remarry. In almost every article researching his life, the following statement would be attached: “Brother of the poet Archibald MacLeish.” He appears to have always lived in the shadow of his more famous brother.

His obituary is posted on August 21, 1975. “Services for Norman H. MacLeish, 84, a Chicago artist and director of the Works Project Administration Art Program here during the 1930s, will be held Thursday in Naples, Fla. Mr. MacLeish, a Naples resident for the last 19 years, died here Tuesday. He leaves two sons, Andrew and Roderick; a daughter, Mrs. Leonore Platt; a brother, Archibald, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and dramatist; a sister and nine grandchildren.”

I found this information connected to a blog dated December 29, 2006, about one of the grandsons: “Rod MacLeish, who just died this year, was an old friend of my parents’, and I knew him when I was a kid (and later), when he and my father were both foreign correspondents. He was primarily a journalist and commentator. Novels were his sideline and I haven’t read Prince Ombra, only The First Book of Eppe…” MacLeish, quite the Renaissance man, also recorded wonderful commentaries for all kinds of art museums, especially in Washington, D.C. where he lived. He was the son of Norman MacLeish, the painter, and nephew of the better-known poet Archibald MacLeish. His son Eric (Roderick, Jr.) was one of the lead attorneys on the victims/survivors’ side during the Boston RC clergy abuse scandal. Rod and family were Episcopalians.”

I am sure there are many family members around, so perhaps someone will call and give more information about this family. It would be wonderful if the St. Andrews Society had one of his paintings to display.

Pictured first:  "Church Steeple", by Norman MacLeish

Pictured second:  Clapp Octagon House, St. Petersburg, Florida where Norman once lived.

Archibald MacLeish, The Most Famous Son

Archibald was born May 7, 1892, in Glencoe, Illinois to Andrew and Hillard MacLeish. He first attended the Hotchkiss School and later Yale and then Harvard Law School. He was first in his class at Harvard. During his stay at Harvard, he began writing poetry. In 1916, he married Ada Hitchcock and they had four children. One child died as an infant. His wife became a professional singer.

At the outbreak of World War I, he volunteered as an ambulance driver and later became a captain in the American field artillery. After the war, he moved to Boston and became a lawyer, but it distracted him from his poetry. On the day he was promoted to partner in his firm, he resigned and moved with his family to Paris. During the next four years, he would produce four books of poetry. He became friends with Ernest Hemingway, but it was a difficult relationship.

In 1928, he returned to America and began to research and write his epic poem Conquistador which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932. From 1930 to 1938, he was the editor of Fortune Magazine and wrote two radio dramas warning Americans of the danger of fascism.

In 1939, President Roosevelt, appointed him as the Librarian of Congress and he served for five years. He completely reorganized the library. At the same time, he served as the director of the War Department’s Office of facts and figures. In 1944 he was appointed assistant Secretary of State for cultural affairs. After World War II, he was the first American member of UNESCO and lead their first conference in Paris.

He retired from “political activism” in 1949 and held positions at Harvard, Amherst College and continued to write. His
Collected Poems (1952) won him a second Pulitzer Prize and 1958, he won a third Pulitzer for a verse play based on the book of Job. In 1965, he won an Academy Award for his screen play of The Eleanor Roosevelt Story.

There is a wealth of information about Mr. MacLeish on the Internet, in books and interviews. He was an extraordinary man from an extraordinary family.

Pictured:  Archibald MacLeish


Kenneth MacLeish, The Pilot

Kenneth MacLeish, was born September 19, 1894, at Craigie Lea, the family home in Glencoe, Illinois. Kenneth followed his older brother and attended Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut. He started in September 1910 and four years later was at Yale. Kenneth was a distinguished athlete at Yale and was active in the Yale Home Mission. He joined the First Yale Unit in the winter of 1917 and later enlisted in the Navy.

Kenneth learned to fly with the First Yale Unit at Palm Beach, Florida and Huntington, New York and then was sent to Newport News, Virginia, as an instructor. Shortly thereafter he was sent overseas. In France, he trained to fly many different kinds of aircraft and was often used as a test pilot. He was transferred to many different stations, with combat duty that included bombing enemy targets, and engaging in dogfights with the Germans.

On October 13, 1918, three weeks before the war ended, Kenneth was killed. His body was not found until the day after Christmas. At first he was buried where he was found, but later his body was moved to the military cemetery in Waereghem, Belgium, known as Flanders Field.

Kenneth MacLeish and his relationship with Priscilla Murdock will be the subject of our History Club meeting on May 1, 2010. It is a wonderful story and each of you are invited to attend. There is no fee or registration. The meeting begins at 10 a.m. in Heritage Hall at The Scottish Home in North Riverside.

Pictured:  Kenneth MacLeish

More information is available at
The Millionnaires' Unit: First Yale Unit History and great pictures can be seen at the U. S. Naval Institute.

Summer Bus Tour

We have begun planning for our annual History Tour which is scheduled for July 17.  By charter bus, we will leave the Scottish Home and travel to Lake Forest, Illinois. Our initial plan is to tour the community and see various homes where Scottish people have lived. Lake Forest has a rich Scottish history, perhaps the most concentrated area of Scots in Illinois. You will have an opportunity to see Lake Forest College, founded by Scots, the lake shore of Lake Michigan, and if time allows, perhaps the cemetery.

Lake Forest is 30 miles north of the Loop and dates back to about 1834. By 1855, the railroads had connected the town to Chicago and a daily commute began. Presbyterians established the town and the college. The Onwentsia Club was opened in 1895 as a private country club and Market Square, completed in 1917,  is listed as the nation’s first planned shopping center. The former home of Ogden Armour is now the home of Lake Forest Academy, where the Chairman of our Board is one of the key individuals. We have not worked out all the details as this is being written, but we are hopeful that Andy Kerr will be able to give us a guided tour. Please watch the Saint Andrews Society
web site or our events page for more announcements.

From the Editor

I have enjoyed following the life of Andrew MacLeish and his family. It is truly a remarkable family story. From the Internet, I was able to purchase The Price of Honor, The World War One Letters of Naval Aviator Kenneth MacLeish. I read the book and then was able to contact Geoffrey L. Rossano, who is the editor. Using Switchboard, I was able to get a telephone number and address. We had a nice conversation. If you attend the next History Club meeting on May 1, you can hear the entire story.

My blogging has continued every day since January 1. With good weather coming, I may just write three days a week, instead of five. Thanks for the response.

On this website you can just click on the last button on the left above or you can bookmark http://chicagoscots.blogspot.com/. Be sure and register as a follower!

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