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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Andrew Carnegie and His Library Legacy


Before towns had public libraries they often had “reading rooms.” Waukegan had maintained one through its library association beginning in 1845, but the dream was always to have a true library for its citizens. If not for a generous donation from Andrew Carnegie in 1903, that dream may have taken many more years to be realized.

Andrew Carnegie visiting Waukegan, circa 1903. LCDM Collection.
Carnegie (1835-1919) was one of America’s most successful businessmen. He immigrated to the United States from Scotland with his family in 1848, and settled in Allegheny, Pennsylvania.

Carnegie worked at a cotton mill, Western Union and the Pennsylvania Railroad before beginning his own business in 1865—the Carnegie Steel Company.

Through his shrewd and often criticized business practices, Carnegie became the world’s wealthiest man.

He was convinced that education was life’s key and that people should have access to information for self-education. In this regard, he established the first Carnegie Library in his hometown in Scotland in 1881.

The first Carnegie Library in the United States was built in Braddock, Pennsylvania in 1889. Curt Teich postcard A23659 (1911).

The amount of money that Carnegie gave each town was based on U.S. Census figures, and averaged about $2 per person. Nearly all Carnegie libraries were built according to "The Carnegie Formula," which required matching contributions from the town that received the donation. Generally, this meant the people had to be willing to raise taxes to support the library. He also required that the town provide the building site, and free service to all.


The Carnegie Library in Waukegan, with its unusual semicircular shape and Ionian Greek style architecture stands at the corner of Washington Street and Sheridan Road. It served as the community’s library from 1903-1965.


Jack Benny worked as a pit musician at the Barrison Theater (on left in postcard above) until 1911, when he left Waukegan to perform in a vaudeville act with Barrison pianist Cora Salisbury. Postcard, circa 1907 (LCDM 61.8.101).


Carnegie's donations coincided with a time of expansion for many towns, and when states were seeing the need to establish public libraries. Waukegan Public Library, circa 1910 (LCDM 61.8.121).


Another view of the library, showing the unusual construction on the bluff at Sheridan Road, circa 1945 (LCDM 2006.17.2).

In all, Carnegie provided the funds to build approximately 1,900 public libraries in the United States and over 2,800 worldwide. It cost him over $41 million to build the U.S. libraries, and in his lifetime he gave away $350 million. After his death, the Carnegie Corporation of New York continued his tradition of philanthropy.

Waukegan's "new" public library is located on County Street, near the county courthouse. The Carnegie Library still stands on Sheridan Road, and there is much debate over what function the building can serve.

One of America’s greatest living writers, and Waukegan native, Ray Bradbury (1920- ), discovered books and a love of reading at Waukegan's Carnegie Library, benefiting from Andrew Carnegie's belief that “the man who dies rich, dies disgraced.”

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Dinner


Holiday dinners are special for the traditional food and decorations, and for families and friends gathering to celebrate.

I searched the collection for images of holiday meals, and the ones that stood out featured soldiers and sailors. In these images, enlisted men are celebrating Christmas far from home.

This postcard from 1917 taken at the U.S. Naval Station Great Lakes shows young sailors having their Christmas dinner. I find this image particularly sweet as they smile for the camera, making the best of being away from home. Even though the table is crowded with so many seated for dinner, it also appears festive with white china and greenery for centerpieces.

This is the back of the Christmas Dinner postcard. Oddly, it is postmarked June 17, 1918. Maybe it was the only postcard available or it evoked the "Great life up here" that he writes about in the message.

This Christmas dinner was held at Fort Sheridan, circa 1930. At each place setting, the coffee cup is turned upside down and an apple is set on top. There are also gift items on each plate, including a pack of cigarettes and a cigar. The meal consists of pies, roasted meat, mashed potatoes and butter.

This photo was taken in the Officers Club at Fort Sheridan, December 6, 1967. The room is decorated for the Officers Wives Club Christmas tea. A white aluminum Christmas tree with tinsel is prominently displayed at the center of the tables. Look closely you may be able to see that the platters of hors d'oeuvres include some in the shape of snowmen.

Happy holidays!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sitting Bull - On This Day in History


One of the legends that has persisted in the annals of Lake County history is that the Native American, Sitting Bull, was imprisoned at Fort Sheridan in the late 1800s.


The confusion probably arises from the fact that a group of Sioux warriors were escorted to Fort Sheridan in early 1891. However, Sitting Bull could not have been among those men, because he had been killed months earlier on December 15, 1890.




Sitting Bull (c. 1831 – 1890) was a Sioux holy man, notable in American history for his role in the victory at the Battle of Little Bighorn against Lt. Colonel George Custer and the U.S. 7th Cavalry on June 25, 1876.

In the 1880s, he toured briefly with “Buffalo Bill” Cody’s Wild West Show. He is shown at left in a studio portrait with Bill Cody.

Sitting Bull urged his people to accept no further compromise and relinquish no more land to the U.S. Government. He participated in the "Ghost Dance," a ceremonial movement with a messianic message. Because of his great influence, his involvement raised fears of an uprising. Federal agents ordered Sitting Bull arrested, and in a pre-dawn raid on 15 December 1890, more than three dozen tribal policemen backed by military escort were dispatched to his cabin. In the ensuing chaos Sitting Bull was shot and killed.

Two weeks later, the Indian Wars came to a tragic end at Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota. Big Foot, another Sioux leader, led his people to an area he thought safe. Federal troops caught up with him and opened fire massacring 370 Lakota.


Shortly thereafter, 19 Sioux warriors were escorted to Fort Sheridan. The idea was to show the warriors the newly constructed fort with all its buildings, soldiers, and weapons, to impress on them the might of the U.S. military. Pictured above are the Sioux who were brought to Fort Sheridan, as photographed by George E. Spencer.

Buffalo Bill Cody heard of their capture and asked the U.S. Government for permission to ask the men to join his Wild West Show. A letter dated March 1891, from General Miles states that Cody’s offer “would give them [Sioux] occupation for a year and a half without expense to the government; they would be away from the Sioux country during that time... [it] will educate them as to the extent, power and number of the white race.”

The Sioux warriors toured Europe with Cody, and returned to Illinois to perform at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Once no longer employed by Cody, the U.S. army allowed them to return to their homes.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Gordon Keith Ray and Pearl Harbor


I would like to commemorate the 68th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor with the story of one Lake County soldier and his family.

It was on the evening of December 7, 1941, while the Ray family was having dinner in their Diamond Lake home, when the music on the radio broke with the news of Pearl Harbor. Their son, Gordon Keith, was stationed at Schofield Barracks not far from Pearl Harbor.

In the spring of 1941, Gordon Keith Ray (1919 - 2006), had finished his senior year at the University of Illinois and received a commission in the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant. When he left home that July, his father Gordon, wrote in his diary: "this seemed like the end as we returned to an empty house, but Keith never let us down."

This photo of Gordon Keith on furlough was featured in "The Ray's" newsletter. LCDM 96.1.56 (right)

At the end of August, Keith was told that he was being assigned to a new post. He wrote to his father: "I don't know when the boat will sail; they're keeping it secret."

Gordon wrote back: "I hope you don't have to go to Hawaii, but if you do, take it on the chin, and trusting God."

As fate would have it, Keith was sent to Hawaii, and the family was devastated to hear the news of the attack on that December evening.

Gordon wrote in his diary: "We could only wait for news to come, but the days passed and no news came. Everyone tried to console us by saying that 'no news is good news,' but it didn't satisfy our anxiety."

On December 16, the Rays sent a cablegram to Keith, but there was no reply. Three days later, the U.S. Government broadcasted on the radio that anyone who had not heard from the War Department should be assured their boys were O.K.

Still, the family prayed for news from Keith.

It was Monday, December 22 at 8:30 a.m. when Gordon and Marie Ray received a telegram from their son saying, "Am all right, why not?"

The same day they received a letter from Keith written on December 9:

"Dear Folks, I don't know when you will get this, but I thought I'd drop you a line to let you know that I'm still kicking. We seem to be in a war and are working 24 hours a day. I'm really doing things, but I'm afraid I can't tell you anything now. When I get home, I'll have some real stories to tell of air raids, blackouts, and defense work in the field. Lots of rumors, but not much war. Don't believe everything you hear from Washington or Tokyo. They both tell a lot of lies. Love, Keith."


The Ray Brothers resort on Diamond Lake was a popular hang-out for picnics, dancing and the community to gather. In 1943, the "V" for Victory collage of local servicemen was displayed prominently at the resort. (above) LCDM 96.1.51

On May 2, 1944, Keith came home from the war. He wasted no time filling up on Ray Brothers' hamburgers, shakes and pies.

December 5, 1944, almost three years to the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Gordon Keith Ray married Betty Gridley at the Gridley home in Libertyville. LCDM 96.1.61

Keith received an honorable discharge in October, 1945. He went on to become a professional engineer, and received international recognition as an authority on the design and construction of concrete pavements for roads and airport runways.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Palatine, Lake Zurich & Wauconda Railroad


After the Civil War, Chicago's population boomed, and the city became the railroad hub of the nation. Railroad lines stretched out from the city like tendrils, reaching and connecting a myriad of small towns, and an entire nation.

The first railway into Lake County was the Chicago & Milwaukee Railroad which arrived in Waukegan to much fanfare in 1855. (right)

By the 1870s and 1880s, many towns in Lake County had railroad depots, including Grayslake, Gurnee, and Lake Villa. Though Wauconda seemed forgotten, the townsfolk dreamt of having a railroad come through its borders to connect Cook County to Wisconsin.

Finally, in 1911 work on the Palatine, Lake Zurich & Wauconda (PLZ & W) Railroad began. The last obstacle to making the dream a reality was purchasing land on Lake Zurich Golf Club property.

Golf Club founder Charley Wood and other members of the club learned that the railroad could not condemn cemeteries. Doctors who were also club members went to the county morgue for the unclaimed bodies of four deceased men. They buried the men and put up a sign to mark the “ad hoc” cemetery and stop the railroad from acquiring the land. Fortunately for Wauconda, this only caused a short delay while the railroad rerouted its tracks.

In 1913, an 1885-built engine named “Old Maud” was purchased from the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad and the new line was in business.

Real photo postcard of the dedication of the new railroad with the first train arriving in Wauconda. (above)

PLZ&W abandoned depot in Lake Zurich, photographed about 1965.

Unfortunately, the railroad struggled for many years, never attracting passengers during the winter months and losing customers to the growing popularity of automobiles and trucks. In 1924, only 11 years after its promising start, the dream of the PLZ&W Railroad came to an end.

A PLZ&W Railroad overpass in disrepair, photographed about 1965.

There are no remains of the PLZ&W to be found. The site of the Wauconda depot is now home to Wauconda's Police Department.



Map showing the PLZ&W Railroad line. Created by Richard Whitney and used in his book, "Old Maud: The Story of the Palatine, Lake Zurich & Wauconda Railroad." 1992.

Nationwide from the 1950s and 1970s, enormous amounts of rail heritage were abandoned and ripped up, including railroad lines and New York's original, legendary Pennsylvania Station. Nostalgia for railway history has sparked an interest in preservation. Though it's too late for the PLZ&W, other aspects of railway history are being saved from demolition or preserved in museums.

The nation's largest railway museum is located in Union, Illinois. The Illinois Railway Museum’s mission is dedicated to preserving the history of rail operations in and around Chicago (including the area’s extensive trolley operations), as well as the entire country.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Waukegan Bachelors' Club


In 1891, a group of Waukegan businessmen formed the Waukegan Bachelors' Club—a men's club for social and "improvement" reasons.

Members included the elite of Waukegan such as future mayor, Dr. William Pearce, banker Theodore Durst, general store proprietor George Warren, and county clerk Lew Hendee.

(Lew Hendee photographed about 1910, LCDM 94.34.220).


The founding members purchased property on the east side of Third Lake and built a clubhouse with eight bedrooms, a large gathering room with a piano, and a large kitchen.

Opening Day photo, June 14, 1903.

"Opening Day" was usually held on a Sunday in June. According to an invitation sent by Lew Hendee and other members, the event began at 4 a.m. and continued until it was "time to go to work the following day."

The bachelors decided the fate of one of their own at that first meeting each year. According to Dr. Pearce, "a candidate was selected by ballot to make a proposal for marriage that year. Some took the verdict good naturedly, others became terror stricken, but before the year had elapsed they have, thus far, persuaded some trusting damsel to share their fortunes."

A view of the clubhouse and members, circa 1908.

Even after the men married, they remained dues-paying members to help with the property taxes on the clubhouse. The club also held a Family Day when bachelors could bring their girlfriends, and the married men could bring their wives and children for a picnic.

The bachelors hosted exclusive parties, but also spent a good deal of time outdoors fishing, boating, hunting, and even had a baseball team.

The bachelors on an outing to the Mineola Hotel, Fox Lake, circa 1907.

As time went on, more of the men married and interest in the club declined. By the 1920s, there were only a handful of members, and they purchased the land and subdivided it.

In 1905, Lew Hendee ended his bachelor days by marrying Miss Lila Favor.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Native American Collection


The museum has a significant Native American collection, most of which was collected or donated in the mid 1950s to mid 1960s.

One of the most beautiful and intriguing objects is a birchbark cradle, made about 1870. (LCDM 94.0.7)

In September, Curley Youpee of the Fort Peck Tribes of Montana made a consultation visit to the museum and examined the cradle.

Mr. Youpee noted the mix of Native American and European imagery on the cradle, created with hand-dyed porcupine quills on birchbark, and in the form of a traditional European rocking cradle. He felt the European rooster and chicken design, and Native American floral design represented the blending of the two cultures.

Photo by Mark Widhalm 2006 (left)


Another object carefully examined by Mr. Youpee was a sash.

The museum's files indicate the sash, still on its original loom, and shown here on its conservation mount, was collected at Bad River Reservation, WI in 1915. (LCDM 70.17.46)

The sash had been culturally identified as Chippewa, but Mr. Youpee advised that the leaf shooter design should be classified as Yankton Sioux.

Culturally identifying Native American objects can be difficult and often sources are contradictory.

This bandolier bag has been identified as Chippewa (Ojibwe) from about 1890, but due to the vivid red color used on the floral design, it has been speculated that the bag was made by Potawatomi.
(LCDM 70.16.23)




The bags, worn in pairs one over each shoulder, were adapted from the European style of ammunition belts, such as those worn by British Red Coats. Over time, these pouches evolved into purely decorative costume with the bags sewn shut.

Today, bandolier bags are worn as a symbol of prestige at pow-wows, or given as gifts.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Irish Settlement of Everett


The area of today's west Lake Forest, at the intersection of Route 43 and Everett Road, was once the site of a small Irish settlement known as Everett.

Students of the Everett School wrote in 1918 about the community's beginnings:

"Almost all the early settlers came from Ireland. A few of the very early ones came before the Potato Famine. Most of them came right after it." Cover of the Everett School History, 1918 (right)







The Michael Yore family was one of the first to settle in what would become an Irish-Catholic community. Yore Family cabin built circa 1841, as photographed in 1918.

The Everett School students documented what had been passed down to them by their elders about Michael Yore:

"He fostered education, he befriended the poor, he landed the thrifty and encouraged the shiftless, consoled the griefstricken, quashed the bickering, and by precept and example taught peace, industry and honesty." Photo of Michael Yore's eldest son, George, photographed in 1918 at the age of 80.





Photo taken by an Everett School student of sheep in a pen of an area farm. The photo's handwritten caption reads: "Doing their bit for their country" referencing the World War I war effort.

An anecdote related by the students was that in "those early years, pioneers saw fit to have a 'grog boss' to distribute liquid refreshments at their gatherings." John Bolgar was appointed because he had "many qualifications for this position. He would never indulge too much himself, and had a very pleasant way of being deaf to those thirsty parties who would importune him for another 'jiggar.'"

Until 1892, the community was called "Lancasterville" for James Lancaster who homesteaded here and ran a general store. This real photo postcard show's the store in circa 1910, several years after the town changed its name to Everett. The origin of the name Everett is unknown.

The settlers founded St. Patrick's Church about 1844, one of the oldest churches in the Chicago Archdiocese. Postcard of St. Patrick's Church and Rectory, 1909.

Everett School scholars who compiled the 1918 history of their school and community. Left to right: Harold Tulley, Gerald Yore, Rita Conway, Joe Yore, Florence Zieman, Fred Reum, Helen Man, Harriet Seyl, and Bessie Sneddon.

This school history is available for research at the archives. Grant funding to have this history and several dozen more from other schools transcribed, digitized and made available online is being sought by the museum.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Food in the Atomic Age


The postwar era of the 1950s, changed the way America cooked and ate. Television allowed companies to mass-market their products to consumers, and the automobile culture boomed with the freedom to enjoy food on the go.

The phrase "Atomic Age" was coined by New York Times journalist, William Laurence, who was the official journalist for the U.S. Manhattan Project which developed the first nuclear weapons, and tested them in 1945.

During the 1950s, Las Vegas became a tourist destination known for its casinos and the atomic mushroom clouds seen on the distant horizon, as shown in this 1952 Teich postcard (2CP2072).

The Nevada Test Site, a U.S. Department of Energy reservation located 65 miles northwest of Vegas, was established in 1951 to test nuclear devices. The blasts spurred the growth of the city through tourism and could easily be seen from downtown Vegas hotels.

After the lean years of rationing during World War II (1941-1945), Americans were ready to enjoy life to the fullest again. The new prosperity allowed families to renovate kitchens and buy new appliances for the first time.

The look was cleaner and less fussy than the kitchens of the 1930s, and relied heavily on electricity, which was an efficient power source for the plethora of new gadgets available to housewives. 5CK493 Teich postcard, 1955.





In 1955, the Lyon Company advertised steel cabinets for kitchens with this Teich postcard (D10797). Color was all the rage from pink cabinets to blue blenders. Anything but white was preferred. The cabinet's advantages included doors that opened with a tap, convenient storage in corner, ventilation, and built-in ranges.

Eighteen million women worked during World War II to keep the country and the war effort going. When the war ended, most women left or were forced out of their jobs to make way for returning soldiers.

1950s fashion was characterized by full skirts that accented a slim waistline. The conservatively flattering looks were emphasized by a pageant of colors and patterns influenced by European, Turkish and Asian cultures. Green cotton dress worn in the Mundelein area, circa 1954.


Stainless steel was the material of choice for a durable, modern look. These stainless steel mint julep cups were manufactured by Craft Manufacturing in North Chicago, circa 1950.

Swanson TV Dinners were introduced in 1953 and fit well into the new age of convenience. 9CK713 Teich postcard, 1959.

The postcards and objects shared in this blog are a small portion of items selected and researched by collections staff for the museum's upcoming exhibit, "Food in the Atomic Age" open November 14, 2009 to February 21, 2010.

Friday, October 23, 2009

George Lawrence Photographer


Chicago photographer George Lawrence (1868-1938) was a renowned inventor of cameras and an innovator of photographic processes.

In 1896, Lawrence opened a photographic studio in Chicago with the motto: "The hitherto impossible in photography is our specialty."

One day while walking along Chicago's Michigan Avenue, Lawrence observed a kite trailing an advertising banner. This inspiration led him to develop cameras which could be taken aloft by kites. (As early as 1895, another American photographer, William Eddy, experimented with this idea).

Lawrence's new kite cameras were suspended below 5 to 17 kites. With his kite-flying cameras, he took aerial photos around the region including at Fort Sheridan, North Chicago, Zion, Waukegan and Rockefeller (Mundelein).

Fort Sheridan 1908 by George Lawrence, Library of Congress.

Rockefeller (later Mundelein) about 1906 by George Lawrence, Library of Congress.

Zion parade about 1906 by George Lawrence, Library of Congress.

In 1906, he traveled to San Francisco to photograph the aftermath of the earthquake and fire.

The panoramic, kite-flying camera created a photograph so stunning in detail, clarity and objectivity of the disaster, that it became famous and was reprinted many times. Sales of the photo earned Lawrence $15,000 (equivalent to $300,000 today). Library of Congress.

In 1909, Lawrence abandoned photography to design and build airplanes. After World War I, government contracts for airplanes declined and Lawrence turned to analyzing lenses.

Lawrence pioneered aerial photography before airplanes were able to fly high enough to capture the spectacular photographs he took with his "kite cameras." He is also known for building the world's largest camera in order to photograph the Chicago and Alton Railroad's new passenger train. To capture the entire train in one photo, Lawrence used a glass plate negative measuring 56 x 96 inches.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Fascist visits Chicago World's Fair



A Century of Progress International Exposition was the name given to the World's Fair held in Chicago from 1933 to 1934.

The Century of Progress celebrated the city's centennial, and has become known for many things, including appearances by future stars Judy Garland and the Andrews Sisters, its' Art Deco buildings, and exhibits relating to its' theme of technological innovation.

It was most likely the emphasis on innovation and the chance for publicity that lured fascist leader, and Italian Air Marshall, Italo Balbo (1896-1940), to the Century of Progress.

In 1922, Balbo was one of four men who brought Benito Mussolini to power in Italy. He served as Mussolini's general of militia and minister of aviation. Although he knew nothing about aviation when he was appointed, Balbo quickly learned to fly and set out to re-organize Italy's air force.


Balbo was eager to promote advances in Italian aircraft and made a spectacular trans-atlantic flight to Chicago for the Century of Progress in 1933. He led 24 Savoia-Marchetti S-55 double-hulled flying boats from Italy to land in Lake Michigan in just over 48 hours, setting records for speed, payload, altitude and range.

The planes maintained a tight "V" formation for the entire Atlantic crossing. To this day, pilots often refer to a large formation of aircraft as a "Balbo." Shown here are General Balbo's flying boats arriving at the Century of Progress in Chicago.

When the planes landed in Lake Michigan it was reported as one of the proudest moments for Chicago's Italian community. At the time, many Americans supported Mussolini and his fascist regime. It was not until the United States declared war on Italy in 1941 when that sentiment changed sharply.

Balbo was charming and educated, and his adventurousness appealed to Americans. During his 5-day stay in Chicago he visited Fort Sheridan. Balbo is shown here at Fort Sheridan with Chaplain Aristeo Simoni. During World War I, First Lieutenant (Chaplain) Simoni of the 111th Infantry Regiment, 28th Division, A.E.F., received the Distinguished Service Cross for rescuing three wounded servicemen from the frontlines in France.

The Chicago visit included mass at Holy Name Cathedral celebrated by Cardinal Mundelein, who in 1924 had a town in Lake County named in his honor.

After returing to Italy, Balbo became Mussolini's possible heir. In 1938, Balbo met with Aldolf Hitler. Two years later, Balbo was killed in an air crash in Libya. Some have claimed that his plane was shot down mistakenly by his own military.

Chicago retains two reminders of General Italo Balbo's famous visit. The most prominent one is Balbo Drive. Then Mayor Ed Kelly capitalized on the excitment of the visit by renaming 7th Street in Balbo's honor.

The second landmark was a gift from Mussolini, who donated an ancient Roman column from the temple in Ostia to the people of Chicago, to commemorate Balbo's voyage and to symbolize the greatness of Fascist Italy. The column now stands as the last remnant--in its original spot--from the Century of Progress exhibition. It is located a few feet off Chicago's lakefront bike path, and within a hundred yards of Soldier Field.