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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Great Heart - Horse High Jumper at Fort Sheridan

One of the greatest high jumping horses of all times—Great Heart—made an appearance at Fort Sheridan in the 1920s.



Photo taken of Great Heart clearing an obstacle set at 8 feet 3 inches at Fort Sheridan, circa 1923. LCDM 92.24.1307

This champion horse has escaped the local history books, but fortunately this photograph survived to document the event.

The snapshot came with a collection of photographs donated to the museum in 1992 by the U.S. Center for Military History out of the former Fort Sheridan museum. The 5 3/4" x 3 3/4" photo has pieces of black photo corners adhered to it from when it was stored in someone's photo album.

Over the years, I have probably looked at this image dozens of times, but recently something made me stop and take a really good look at it. Then I wanted to know more. Well, once you get the bug you've got to do the research!

At the beginning of the 20th century, horse high jumps were an integral part of horse shows. In the Chicago area there were a number of horse shows held each year at Fort Sheridan, Onwentsia Club in Lake Forest, Soldier Field, Chicago Riding Club, South Shore Country Club and so on.

In 1910, the world's record high jump was reportedly set by a horse named Confidense who cleared 8 feet and 1/2 inch at an event in Ontario, Canada.

In 1922, Charles Weeghman's chestnut gelding, Strongheart, won the high jump at the International Horse show in Chicago, clearing the bars at 5 feet 6 inches. That same year, at the South Shore Country Club's horse show, Great Heart cleared the bar at 7 feet 6 inches to win the high jump championship, but failed in his attempt to best the world record.


Image of Great Heart at the South Shore Country Club horse show in Chicago, June 1922. Great Heart won the high jump, but would not set the world's record until the following year. Chicago Tribune photo (June 11, 1922)

Chicago coal baron and founder of Peabody Coal, Francis S. Peabody (1858 - 1922) had purchased Great Heart as a young colt, and after Peabody's death in 1922, his son Stuyvesant "Jack" Peabody continued to train the horse. Great Heart had an affinity for jumping, especially bars set at 6 feet and above.

Great Heart was entered into the South Shore Country Club's horse show in 1923 with the intent of breaking the world record. On June 8, 1923, Great Heart cleared the mark, becoming the world's greatest high jumper by jumping bars set at 8 feet and 3 inches.


Great Heart breaking the World Record, June 8, 1923, ridden by Fred Vesey. Photo courtesy of the DuPage County Forest Preserve.


Detail of Great Heart clearing bars set at 8 feet and 3 inches at Fort Sheridan, circa 1923. This must have been a repeat performance for his fans after his June 8th triumph in Chicago. Notice the photographer has written the height of the bars at the right of the photo. (LCDM 92.24.1307)

Great Heart was retired to the Peabody farm (presumably Stuyvesant "Jack" Peabody's rural farm in Lemont, Illinois) soon after winning the world's champion title. In 1924, the family honored the horse by choosing "Great Heart" as the trade name for the fine grade of coal being mined at Peabody's Mine 30 in Kenvir, Kentucky.

One source claims the world champion high jumping horse is Huaso, a horse ridden by Chilean Captain Alberto Larraguibel, who set the high-jump world record on February 5, 1949, by jumping 8 feet and 1 inch—two inches less than Great Heart's jump of 1923.


Perhaps someone with more information on these statistics can clarify this. Until then, Great Heart is my world's champion.

Special thanks to Janneke Fowers, Heritage Interpreter, for the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County for additional information and the photograph of Great Heart breaking the World Record.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Swedish Christmas Tree - Ljuskrona

In 1976, Ruth Olsson Dixon (1910-2006), wife of Judge Laverne A. Dixon, donated to the museum a unique expression of her Swedish-American heritage—a ljuskrona.



The Olsson Family ljuskrona made in 1922 by a tinsmith in Moline, Illinois. LCDM 76.15.60

Ljuskrona (pronounced use-kroona) is a term used for candelabra, and in this case, one in the shape of a tree used during the Christmas season from December 13 to January 13.

The ljuskrona is linked to the Swedish holiday of Saint Lucia Day (December 13), who is the "bringer of light." This feast day replaced the winter solstice, which in ancient times was celebrated on December 13.


Saint Lucia Day marks the beginning of the Christmas season. Very early on that morning, the eldest daughter of the family wakes up her parents and brings them a warm cup of coffee with lots of milk and a special cake. The girl wears a wreath of candles on her head, bringing light to her family.


The holiday tree in this postcard is reminiscent of the Olsson's ljuskrona with its festive decorations and lighted candles. The Swedish Christmas postcard was sent to Alice Carlson of Waukegan from Klara in Lundsbrunn, Sweden, 1919. LCDM Collection.

Ruth's mother, Anna M. Olsson (b. 1879), immigrated from Smöland, Sweden in 1894. She married Gustaf A. Olsson in 1900, and soon thereafter settled in Rock Island, Illinois, where Ruth was born.

According to Ruth, about 1922 her mother decided to "omit the usual fresh Christmas tree with lighted candles. She asked a friend who was a tinsmith in Moline, Illinois to make a ljuskrona which could be kept and used every year."


The tinsmith needed 3" crimped "pie plates" for the candle drip pans. Ruth found them (above) at Luknow's (?) Pharmacy on 14th Avenue and 42nd Street in Rock Island. The metal plates were filled with a chocolate fudge mixture and came with a tiny inch-long spoon, and cost only a penny each. I'm sure twelve-year old Ruth was very excited by her tasty contribution to the family's ljuskrona.


Weeks later, the tinsmith delivered the ljuskrona to the family. "It was not very attractive until it was 'dressed' with fringed tissue paper," Ruth wrote in a letter to the museum in 1991. Detail of ljuskrona LCDM 76.15.60

When Anna came to live with Ruth in Lake County, she brought the ljuskrona and gifted it to her daughter. Ruth then updated the decorations with gold-beaded garland and gold ornaments.


The Olsson's ljuskrona is an unusual piece of folk art and remembrance of the family's Swedish heritage. As Ruth wrote: "Without electric lights the candle lighted ljuskrona is fascinating."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Waukegan Academy 1846-1869



Lake County's first school of higher learning was the Waukegan Academy, a place where many prominent citizens became students. (above) The Academy (left) and Baptist Church are shown on Genesee Street in Waukegan in this circa 1870 stereograph. (LCDM 2011.0.236)

Prior to the Academy's establishment in 1846, schooling in Lake County was limited to grade school level courses provided at local one-room schoolhouses.


In July 1846, the Academy's first classes were held in the basement of the county courthouse (shown above) in Little Fort (Waukegan). Henry L. Hatch (1814 - 1892) of Vermont was the teacher. Hatch and his wife Elizabeth arrived in Lake County in 1845, and purchased land in Warren Township along the Des Plaines River.

The Academy was first known as the Little Fort High School and then Little Fort Academy. In 1848, a school building was constructed on the northwest corner of Clayton and Genesee Streets with an oak frame and Portland cement foundation.


The Waukegan Academy building photographed circa 1900. LCDM Collection.

It has long been asserted that Hatch was responsible for the building's construction, but new research shows that Reverend David Root (1791-1873) of New Haven, Connecticut paid for the construction. Reverend Root was an abolitionist and strongly encouraged the teaching of abolitionist ideals. His connection to Hatch is unclear, but Root purchased Hatch's Warren Township land, and moved to the Chicago area about 1851.

Henry Hatch was the Academy's principal and English teacher, Isaac L. Clarke the associate principal and ancient languages and mathematics teacher, Miss Alathea Crocker the preceptress (instructor) and modern languages and music teacher, Miss Calisia E. Branchard the preceptress, Miss Frances A. Shekell music teacher, Miss Sylvia L. Clarke the superintendent of the juvenile department (for very young scholars), and Dr. David Cory the school's secretary.

Interestingly, on March 12, 1855, Reverend Root donated the land and the Academy to Beloit College (in Beloit, Wisconsin) under the condition that it continue to hire a professor of theology who had abolitionist principals.


(above) Isaac Clarke (1824-1863) was the Academy's associate principal and teacher from 1848-1850 when he went to the California gold mines, returning in 1857 to practice law. In 1862, Clarke enlisted with the 96th Illinois Regiment. He was shot and killed at the Battle of Chickamauga, Georgia on September 19-20, 1863.

Scholars, both male and female, attending the Academy could choose college prep classes or a curriculum which emphasized education for future teachers. Tuition was by course and ranged from $2.00 for German, French and Spanish, $3.75 for science and philosophy, and a whopping $5.25 for Greek and Latin.


Rooms were available for boarding in the school's basement for $2.00 per week. Most students found lodging elsewhere, since the building could not accommodate the 140 scholars it had in 1849, and 472 in 1854. About one-third of its students were from Waukegan and the rest from Lake County, Chicago and Milwaukee.


Among the Academy's scholars was Joseph C. Whitney (1833-1914) of Lake Zurich. (above)

On September 29, 1854, Whitney left home to attend the Academy. He wrote to his parents: "We arrived safe and sound, but the dust was so bad that we arrived black as Ethiopians. We went down to Lake Michigan and had a wash which altered our appearance very much. It cost me one dollar to get to Waukegan. We stayed at Dan's the first night... Now we are settled at Mr. Gentzel's boarding house for 14 shillings a week [$1.40]." Later he wrote that the school had: “a complete and excellent board of teachers throughout.” Image of Whitney and quote excerpted from the book "Kiss Clara for Me" by Robert J. Snetsinger.


In August 1862, Jannet Minto of Millburn pouted in a letter (above) to her brother David: "I should like to go [to the Academy] first rate but then I know better than to say any thing about it..." (Minto Collection LCDM 93.45.521.2)


Jannet Minto, circa 1855. Minto Collection LCDM 93.45.75

David was fighting in the Civil War and the family did not have the means to send her to the private school. In the same letter, Jannet went on to say: "I have been kind of bawkey ever since you went away because they would not let me go to [the Academy] I'll pay them for it some time." (Minto Collection LCDM 93.45.521.2)


Photograph of the Academy building before it was razed in 1915. (LCDM Collection)


In 1916, the Academy Theater was built on the site of the former Waukegan Academy, hence the theater's name. The theater was open until 1986, and about 1988 became the Fiesta Palace, a center for Waukegan's Mexican community. In 2004, the theater was destroyed by fire. Postcard of the Academy Theater and Baptist Church, circa 1945. L.L. Cook Company postcard. (LCDM 92.27.453)

Other higher learning schools followed in the Waukegan Academy's footsteps and included: Wauconda Academy (1856 – c. 1866), Lake Forest Academy (est. 1858), Ferry Hall (est. 1869), Waukegan High School (est. 1870), Lake Forest College (est. 1876), and the Northwestern Military Academy (1888 – 1915).

Special thanks to museum volunteer and researcher, Al Westerman.