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Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Bright and Prosperous New Year!

Several years ago, I decided to get smarter about handling the rush of the holiday season, and started sending New Year's cards. By New Year's Day, the frenzy of shopping, wrapping, decorating and merrymaking is over and done with, and I can write a nice note to family and friends wishing them the best for the coming year.

What seemed like a novel idea to me, and the people who got my "post holiday" cards, is actually an old tradition. At the turn of the 20th century, sending New Year's greetings in the form of a postcard or greeting card was quite popular. New Year's postcard, circa 1915 (left).

Many of the traditions and superstitions of ringing in the New Year are pictured on postcards. 

This German postcard from 1905 was sent from Chicago, and portrays a pig and monk dancing on a keg of beer. The pig (especially in Austrian tradition) foretells a year filled with fortune and good luck, as do the clovers. The keg of beer and dancing represent the festivities surrounding the New Year. Postcard from the Dorothy Gleiser Collection, 1905 (73.9.99).

This American New Year's greeting is one of my favorite New Year's cards in the collection—mainly because of the cat, but also because it's such a dynamic greeting for the New Year. Of course, the bottle of bubbly represents celebration, but the loud pop of the cork has the added benefit of scaring away evil spirits. Postcard from the Dorothy Gleiser Collection, 1906 (73.9.99).

Noise making stems from Old World tales that evil spirits hover near as the New Year approaches. The noise of blowing whistles and horns, ringing bells, and popping champagne corks, all ward off impending danger.

This design of the "year" festooned with four-leaf clovers was easily understood by the recipient as a wish for good luck throughout the coming year. Year date postcards were particularly popular between 1908-1912. Postcard from the Dorothy Gleiser Collection, 1907 (73.9.99).

There is a lot of symbolism in this 1908 Swiss New Year's postcard. It was sent from a relation in Frauenfeld, Switzerland to Lizzie Schlager in Waukegan, Illinois.

The child with the broom and ladder is a chimney sweep and represents sweeping away the pains and tribulations of the past year and beginning with a clean slate. Also pictured is a red and white mushroom and horse shoe, both symbols of good fortune. And of course, the clock's hands are on twelve, striking midnight to ring in the New Year. Lizzie Schlager Collection, 1908 (61.8.300).

This stunning colorized photo postcard is from Lundsbrunn, Sweden. The children represent renewal, much like babies (versus an "Old Man" the symbol of the past year). The four-leaf clovers, horse shoe and bag of money are all representations of good fortune and plenty, while the number "1" is for January 1st and a new beginning. Postcard 1915 (LCHA).

This is the back of the Swedish postcard, showing that it is addressed to Miss Alice Carlsson of Waukegan.

Any combination of the symbols seen above were employed to make an appealing New Year's wish. Additionally, you might see a stork carrying a baby (rebirth), a couple kissing (good luck to celebrate the first few minutes of the New Year with the one you love), shooting stars (induces prosperity), and elves with red hats ("Tomtens" for good fortune and popular with the Pennsylvania Dutch).

The museum's archival collections hold approximately 160 postcards related to the New Year.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Images of Christmas Past

In December 1865, Susannah Smith of Millburn wrote in her diary:

22nd - Will have no school till Tuesday because Monday will be “Merry Christmas.”

24th - Went to Church.

25th - Cousin William, and family came to spend Merry Christmas with us and we had a merry, merry time. They stayed all night.

As a young unmarried woman, Susannah taught at a one-room schoolhouse, Grubb School, located at Grass Lake and Beck Roads one half mile east of Deep Lake Road (now part of Lake Villa). Her diary gives many insights into rural life, including a glimpse into holiday festivities, and the fact that school was back in session the day after Christmas.

In this 1908 photograph, Mildred Holloway Minto of Millburn sits with her daughters, Ruth (on lap) and Katherine in front of the family's Christmas tree. Mildred married David Harold Minto in 1905, who was the son of Civil War veteran David J. Minto and Susannah Smith. 

Susannah Smith Minto continued to keep a diary for many years. In 1910, she commented on activities surrounding the coming holiday:

December 10th - I rec’d a nice box of writing papers & cards as a Christmas gift from Mrs J.M. Strong of 60 So. Euclid ave Pasadena Cal. 

December 22nd - Men got Christmas trees from our woods. [The Minto property  was on Deep Lake Road north of Grass Lake Road, adjacent to Loon Lake.]

The diary page shown above is for December 23 and 24, 1910. Transcribed here is an excerpt:

Una [Susannah's daughter] has quite a hard cold, hope it may be better tomorrow as she has promised to go to M. [Millburn] to help to decorate Christmas trees for evening. H [Susannah's son, David Harold Minto] making ironing board for K. [his daughter Katherine] on Christmas; he is working down in cellar making it this evening. I made shortbread.

Susannah's granddaughters, Katherine Minto and Lura Minto Johaningsmeier donated the photo above among other photos, family letters and diaries to the museum in 1993. The donation, known as the Minto Collection, has become one of the museum's most invaluable resources to staff and researchers.

On Christmas day 1911, the Wilton Family gathered in Avon Township for this family portrait: 

The photo was probably taken at the Wilton Farm on Drury Lane and Rollins Road. 

Pictured are: William Wilton holding William Bratzke (center of photo), Emma Wilton & Isabel Bratzke, Martha Hucker, Maggie Tweed, Eliza Elsbury, Elbert Elsbury, Joe Wilmington, Charles Bratzke, Fred Hucker, Cora Moody, Net Hucker, Anna Bratzke, Charles Hucker, Harriet Fenlon, Leo Fenlon, Everett Hucker, Marjorie Moody, George Hucker, Evelyn Fenlon, Esther Fenlon, Bessie Moody, Keneth Moody, Harold Hucker, George Elsbury, Lloyd Elsbury, Howard Moody, John Petersen, Bernice Elsbury. Photoby Corel Ruth Hucker. 

Jumping several decades, here are a couple of photographs from a Women's Army Corps holiday luncheon at Fort Sheridan, circa 1962. My mother would be pleased to see they're serving olives. That is certainly a tradition at all special meals at our house!

There's something about this young man that reminds me of my brother at that age. The cowboy look became immensely popular with the advent of television Westerns in the 1950s and 1960s, so this unidentified youngster was certainly having a very good Christmas. 

Happy holidays! 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Kenar - Jakubowski, North Chicago

In 2007, a collection of photographs and documents from the Kenar-Jakubowski Family of North Chicago was donated to the museum.

For the museum, the donation enhances its holdings for the North Chicago area, and the period of the 1920s - 1940s. It also increases our understanding of immigration to the county. Much of the county's history is related to settlement and growth, and this donation is the story of first generation Americans.

Jacob Kenar (photo 1944)
The patriarch of the family, Jacob Kenar (1878-1944), was a Polish immigrant and naturalized U.S. citizen. He arrived in the United States in 1900 and settled in North Chicago with his wife, Anna. Jacob became a leader among Polish people in the community, was a member of the Polish National Alliance Society and Holy Rosary Church, and worked for 25 years at the Chicago Hardware Foundry Company.

Julia Kenar (1904-1984), circa 1920
in her North Chicago letterman sweater
The bulk of the donation relates to Jacob and Anna's eldest child, Julia, and her husband Joseph Jakubowski.

The collection gives insight into life in North Chicago in the first half of the 20th century, and into the lives of immigrant families and their children. These were ordinary people living out ordinary lives, and in part that's what  makes the materials all the more fascinating. It's a slice of life.

Julia was the only woman in the Kenar family to drive a car.
Pictured here on Victoria Street, North Chicago, circa 1925.
Julia's husband, Joseph Jakubowski
(1902-1976), studio photo circa 1920. 
Joe worked as a butcher. He's pictured here in
the meat market's slaughter yard. The original
Holy Rosary Church can be seen in the
background at 14th and Victoria.
Photo circa 1922. 

Julia and Joe had this house built between 1941-1946
on Skokie Highway near Stearns School Road in Gurnee. 
One of many receipts related to the
construction of
Julia and Joe's home.  
Another local business the Jakubowski's
patronized as they furnished their new home.
Julia Kenar Jakubowski was a plant superintendent at
Pfanstiehl (Fansteel) Chemical Corporation. She is
shown in this photo at the plant, standing in the back
of the room, 1942. 
The images shared here are a sampling of what the Kenar-Jakubowski Collection has to offer historians and genealogists. The collection consists of one-linear foot of material.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Maynard Log Cabin

Jesse H. Maynard

In 1844, Jesse H. Maynard (1809-1890) moved from New Hampshire to Waukegan with his wife, Augusta Marshall (1813-1884) and their children. The Maynards' ancestors were from England, settling in Massachusetts in 1630. 

Jesse Maynard built a log cabin for his family and farmed the land along Grand Avenue, just east of Greenbay Road in Waukegan. Augusta Maynard taught the first school at Spaulding's Corner (intersection of Grand and Greenbay Roads), named for the David Spaulding family who settled there in 1836. 

In 1856, Jesse started a brickyard on his property at 3015 Grand Avenue. He noted in his diary in1864 that Dr. Price of Waukegan ordered 1,000 soft bricks. 

Maynard Brickyard, Waukegan
Locally made brick was in great demand. Using the surface clay on site, Maynard made bricks which were first sun-dried, then stacked and covered for curing, and later baked in kilns located under a roof. A windmill on site provided power to pump water for the manufacturing process. 

In the 1880s, the family covered their log cabin with siding, added rooms and plastered the interior walls (below). 

Maynard home, circa 1885. The center, two-story
structure was the original log cabin built by Jesse Maynard
 in 1844. In this photograph, Jessee is seated near the front door.
Standing behind a bush (at left) is the housekeeper,
Tilda Sweet, and front center is Jesse and Augusta's daughter,
Augusta Phillips (1839-1889). 
About 1962, the North Shore Gas Company purchased the house along with 12.5 acres from Jesse Maynard's great-grandson, Edward N. Maynard. North Shore Gas in turn donated the house to the Lake County Museum (then located in Wadsworth), in order to save the log cabin. 

In 1964, the central two-story portion of the historic Maynard home was moved to the Lake County Highway Department yard in Libertyville. That location was chosen, since the Lake County Museum was hoping to build a new museum either in Libertyville near the Winchester House or in Wauconda at Lakewood Forest Preserve. 

Russell Rouse (left) and Oscar F. Rogers, vice-president of North Shore Gas company, examined the hand-forged nails used by Jesse Maynard.

Maynard cabin on its trip to Libertyville, 1964.

Despite the best of intentions, the Maynard log cabin lingered outside exposed to the elements until the mid-1970s, while plans were developed for a new museum site. The cabin was carefully dismantled, each section numbered, and transported to Lakewood Forest Preserve about 1975. By then, the damage had been done, and much of the timbers had been eaten away by beetles. 

Sadly, all that remains of this worthy preservation project are the photographs taken to document the work of the many volunteers, including the Carpenters & Joiners of America Local No. 1996, and George Palaske House Raising and Moving Company, as they uncovered and moved the cabin from its original site.