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Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Meister Brau's Stallion Hitch

Postcard of the "Original Lowenbrau Brewery Wagon" pulled by Westphalian stallions
 at the New York World's Fair 1964-1965. Rudi Kurzenberger is holding the team. 

In 1964, Lowenbrau Brewery of Munich, Germany brought its Westphalian stallions to the New York World’s Fair as a feature for their Lowenbrau Gardens. A few years later, these stallions would live on the Meister Brau, Inc. farm near Grayslake, Illinois.

The team of Westphalian draft horses named Pauli, Michel, Gustl, and Blasi (and backup horse Dammerl) were driven by Rudolf “Rudi” Kurzenberger (1931-1991), a native of Munich, Germany. The horses only understood German and were the first of their kind in the United States.

The Westphalian stallions were prized by the 600-year-old Lowenbrau Brewery. The stallions pulled the brewery’s 5,000-pound beer wagon through the World’s Fair venue, adding to the Bavarian charm of its beer garden. 

Lowenbrau's Westphalian stallions with their new owner, Donald E. Gingery. 
Buffalo News October 16, 1965.

When the World’s Fair ended in 1965, the plan was for the stallions to return to Germany, but they became some of the many fair attractions auctioned and sold. The stallions were purchased by Donald E. Gingery, chairman of the board for Peter Hand Brewery of Chicago. Gingery said, “I just had to have them.” Gingery was part of an investment group that purchased the financially troubled brewery, and renamed it Meister Brau, Inc. after its’ top brand.  

Lowenbrau's team driver, Rudi Kurzenberger, was hired to remain with the horses and take over management of the hitch. As part of the purchase of the stallions, Gingery was required to pledge to the German Trade Minister that the horses would never be separated.

Meister Brau was the only company in the U.S. to own Westphalians and the only hitch to be comprised totally of stallions, which tend to be temperamental. The stallions were also of a rare color called chestnut or sorrel, and featured a white mane and tail. 

Meister Brau's Westphalian hitch in Libertyville, IL, circa 1967.
Driving the team are Rudi Kurzenberger and wife Kathi in traditional Bavarian costumes. Dunn Museum, 2013.11.2.

With Meister Brau's brewery located in Chicago, the Westphalian stallions were brought to Illinois. They were initially stabled in Barrington (location unidentified), and then at the Robert E. Jones farm in Farmer City, Illinois. By early 1967, the stallions were moved to Winds Chant Farm, a Shetland pony farm near Grayslake. 

The 45-acre farm was located east of U.S. Route 45 on the south side of Route 120. About 20-acres of the farm’s former site is now part of Almond Marsh Forest Preserve. 

Star denotes former location of Meister Brau's 45-acre farm near Grayslake, IL. 
Lake County IL Maps Online (Basemap Streets).

The farm was owned and operated by Meister Brau, Inc. The herd of Westphalians increased from five to 14, as Meister Brau imported more stallions and two mares from Germany. In May 1967, the first generation of “American” Westphalians were born at the Lake County, Illinois farm, one filly and one colt, weighing 250 pounds each.

Meister Brau’s Lake County farm was open to the public for horse-drawn wagon rides, meet-and-greets with the famous horses, and tours of the farm. 

Westphalian stallion being walked at Meister Brau's farm near Grayslake, June 1967.
Note the "Meister Brau" on the barrel. Dunn Museum, News Sun Collection.

Westphalian stallions stabled at Meister Brau's farm near Grayslake. Chicago Tribune, June 23, 1967.

Kurzenberger and his team took the stallion hitch—which increased in size from four to six stallions—to advertised appearances at shopping malls, fairs and parades throughout the Midwest. The hitch won awards, including Governor Kerner’s award for excellence in performance at the Illinois State Fair (1966).
Meister Brau hitch at one of its many promotional appearances in the Chicago area.
Chicago Tribune, October 4, 1970.

The brewery wagon and horses were transported in specially built vans. Part of the draw for spectators was to watch the process of the horses being unloaded from the vans, wearing the beautiful harnesses made in Germany for Meister Brau, and hitched to the brewery wagon.

In 1971, Meister Brau leased its famous Westphalian team, wagon and gear to Midwest Park Service, Inc., the operators of Pioneer Park (today’s Blackberry Farm) in Aurora, Illinois. The horses remained stabled at the Lake County farm where Kurzenberger and his team continued to care for them. On days prior to their appearance, the stallions were washed and brushed. They were transported in Meister Brau’s vans to Pioneer Park and became a highlight of visitors to the living history park.

Westphalian stallion hitch at Pioneer Park, Aurora, IL. The Daily Chronicle, October 26, 1972.

In 1972, after over-extending itself in business ventures unrelated to brewing, Meister Brau, Inc. went into bankruptcy. It sold the Meister Brau and Lite brands to Miller Brewing Company, and their iconic Westphalian hitch to Pioneer Park. In 1978, after a decade of financial woes, the brewery closed.

At Pioneer Park, the Westphalians were given special care as there were less than 100 horses of the breed in existence. Only 14 registered stallions remained, eight in Germany and six at Pioneer Park.

Initially, Larry Mitchell, was the driver and trainer of the hitch at Pioneer Park. Brian Morrissey (1940-2023) later took over as driver of the hitch. Morissey was a co-owner and manager of Pioneer Park. The Westphalian stallion hitch made appearances at the park and elsewhere through 1974. If anyone has information about the stallions after 1974, please let me know.

Rudi Kurzenberger with the German-made harness at Meister Brau's farm near Grayslake, May 1967. 
Dunn Museum, News Sun Collection. 

Rudi Kurzenberger and his wife Kathi worked for Meister Brau until about 1972. They remained in Lake County and Rudi became a contractor and built homes. Kathi Kurzenberger shared her Bavarian heritage through yodeling and playing the zither at festivals and restaurants, including The Wunder-Bar Restaurant in Antioch.
The famous Westphalian stallion hitch in Waukegan, IL, March 1968. Pictured are Phil Archdale (left) of Archdale's bar and restaurant and Rudi Kurzenberger demonstrating how a barrel was rolled in the "good old days." Dunn Museum, News Sun Collection.

For a brief shining moment, Lake County, Illinois was home to the only “Westphalische Kaltblut” (Westphalian draft horses) in America. From 1965 to the early 1970s, Meister Brau’s stallion hitch was seen throughout the Midwest. Today, the appeal continues as collectibles of Meister Brau's famous hitch remain popular with breweriana collectors.

- Diana Dretske, Curator

Special thanks to museum volunteer, Al Westerman, for research assistance! 


Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County, News Sun Collection
Lake County, Illinois Maps Online
“Pony Show Slated as Eye Catcher,” Belvidere Daily Republican, August 7, 1958.
“See the Lowenbrau Westfaelisches Kaltblut,” The Record, March 23, 1965.
“Bring on Your Beer Barrels,” Illinois Press, October 16, 1965.
“Rare Stallions Shown Here,” Chicago Tribune, November 28, 1965
“Grayslake Corners Market on Rare Westphalians,” Chicago Tribune, April 23, 1967.
“Special Treat: The Westphalian Horses,” Daily Herald, August 6, 1967.
“Plan Rural Farm,” Chicago Tribune, July 21, 1968.
“In Illinois State Fair Horse Show,” Daily Sentinel, August 11, 1969.
“Stallions Appearing,” Daily Calumet, May 7, 1970.
“Famed Stallions to be Displayed,” Daily Herald, July 8, 1970.
“Meister Brau’s Stallion Hitch Comes to Meadowdale,” Cardunal Free Press, Carpentersville, IL, August 7, 1970.
“Rare Westphalisches Stallions to Make First Appearance Here,” Daily Herald, November 13, 1970.
“Young at Heart Group Visit a Gem Museum,” Daily Sentinel, July 1, 1971.
“Meister Brau Westphalian Hitch at Pioneer Park,” Cardunal Free Press, July 16, 1971.
“Famous Horses in Parade,” Daily Chronical, Dekalb, Illinois, October 26, 1972.
“Meadowdale Businessman Sponsor Meister Brau Hitch,” Cardunal Free Press, June 27, 1973.
“Westphalian Hitch a Parade Special,” Arthur Graphic, Clarion, Ilinois, August 23, 1973.
“Parade at Palestone Will Feature Westphalian Hitch,” Journal Gazette, August 25, 1973.
“Midwest’s Savory Autumn,” Chicago Tribune, September 22, 1974.
“Nevermore the Local Lagers,” Richard J. LaSusa, Chicago Tribune, April 24, 1977.
“The Last Call for Chicago’s Last Brewery,” Jon Anderson, Chicago Tribune, February 27, 1979.
“Action Line,” Chicago Tribune, August 30, 1979.
“Zither Player, Yodeler Thrilled Fans for Years,” Chicago Tribune, November 27, 2003. 

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Dark Souvenirs of the Civil War

Members of the 19th Illinois Regiment, from The Nineteenth Illinois: a Memoir of a Regiment of Volunteer Infantry Famous in the Civil War, James Henry, 1912. At least eight Lake County men enlisted in this regiment.

A charged object or "dark souvenir" is an object collected to share as a witness to historic events such as a natural disaster or military battle. The term “charged object” is used by museums to denote artifacts “charged” or permeated with the energy of an event. These Victorian terms may sound odd to the modern ear, but still represent the sentiment of how people collected and preserved what affected them.

The bullet-ridden battle flags of the 96th Illinois Infantry as photographed for the History of the 96th Illinois Regiment, 1887. The regiment consisted of four companies from Lake County and six companies from Jo Daviess County, IL. 

Battle flags, also known as the colors of a regiment, were one of the most common objects collected during the Civil War. By preserving and commemorating flags, charged with the energy of battle, the veterans of the regiment were able to honor the memory of their bravery and of their dead comrades. 

The Dunn Museum has over two dozen charged objects in its permanent collections of which at least sixteen pertain to the American Civil War. In caring for these items, the museum takes into consideration age, condition, and provenance.


Provenance is particularly important, since without the object’s history we would not know its’ connection to an event or person. The Dunn Museum’s Civil War relics represent conflict, loss, suffering and death, and therefore need special consideration when exhibited. Collections staff take into account how to represent souvenirs of war to give proper context and respect for those involved.

Tree stump from Kelly Farm (cannonball fragment not shown), Battle of Chickamauga, Sept 18-20, 1863. A paper note identifying the object is attached to the front right of the stump and was likely placed there after it was collected from the historic battle site. Dunn Museum, 2006.0.6 (1958).

Battlefields are rife with the memory of loss and victory. One object in the Museum’s collections is a tree stump taken from the Kelly Farm on the site of the Battle of Chickamauga, Georgia (September 18–20, 1863). The Battle of Chickamauga was especially significant to Lake County, since so many of its enlisted men fought there. 

George Smith of Millburn with the 96th Illinois, wrote to his sister Susie after surviving the battle: "When I get to thinking about it I will choke and tears of gratitude come into my eyes to think that one of us after feeling such a storm of lead and Iron should have escaped, but such is the chances of every battle." 

Chickamauga was the most substantial Union defeat in the Western Theater of the war, and had the second highest number of casualties of the war. At Chickamauga, the 96th Illinois suffered the third highest percentage of losses at 54 percent killed, wounded, or missing. The most casualties in a single battle of the war were sustained just two months earlier at the Battle of Gettysburg on July 1–3, 1863.

The Kelly Farm tree stump has an additional identification painted on top: "From Kelly Farm Chickamauga." Dunn Museum curators suspect this was done by Charles S. Bentley of La Grange, IL when the object was added to his Civil War relics museum in the early 1900s. Dunn Museum 2006.0.6 (1958). 

Many veterans returned to the battlefields where they had fought to collect souvenirs such as bullets and tree stumps imbedded with shot. These items became touchstones for remembering and commemorating the war and were believed to be “charged” with the energy of the event.

According to historian Anna Denov Rusk, "soldiers collected items that told a specific story or part of their war experience."
  • Andersonville Prison, Ga., August 17, 1864. East view taken from the stockade as photographed by A.J. Riddle (1828-1897). Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C
  • The deplorable conditions in prisons (both in the North and South) were a volatile subject during and after the war. William "Billy" Lewin of Russell, Illinois, served with the 96th Illinois and was a prisoner at Andersonville from May to September 1864. He recalled that he had “suffered even more than death [at] that prison, above all other prisons… [which has] no parallel in the world’s history.”

  • Camp Sumter in Georgia, commonly known as Andersonville, was used to imprison Union soldiers from early 1864 to May 1865. Though the prisoner camp was only in operation for fourteen months, 45,000 Union soldiers were imprisoned there, and nearly 13,000 died.
  • Wood from the stockade at Andersonville prison, presented to Charles S. Bentley in 1913. Dunn Museum 70.586 (1958).

  • A section of a wooden post (shown above) was sawn from the Andersonville prison stockade as a souvenir by Corporal George W. Healey (1842-1913) of the 5th Iowa Cavalry, Company E. The cavalryman became a prisoner at Andersonville after he was captured at the Battle of Brown’s Mill in Georgia on July 31, 1864. Healy and Billy Lewin were imprisoned at Andersonville during the same period, but it is unknown if they ever met, since the prison held tens of the thousands of men. 

    Healy likely collected the dark souvenir as a veteran returning to the site. In 1913, he presented it to Charles S. Bentley (1839-1924), veteran of the 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry, Company D, who had a Civil War museum in his home in La Grange, Illinois. The object came into the Dunn Museum’s possession through Robert Vogel, who purchased it at the auction of Bentley’s collection in 1958. Vogel, who founded the county's first history museum, undoubtedly understood the object's significance and connection to those who had served from Lake County.

    One of the most compelling charged objects in the Dunn Museum’s collections relates to the funeral of President Abraham Lincoln. Just five days after General Robert E. Lee’s surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, President Lincoln was fatally shot at Ford’s Theater on April 14, 1865. 
    Floral and textile remnants from President Lincoln's funeral catafalque, 1865. Dunn Museum 70.29.2

    • Charles Partridge of Waukegan with the 96th Illinois remembered the soldiers’ reactions to the terrible news: “The day before had seemed to these brave veterans the gladdest in all their lives; and now an unspeakable grief had blotted out their happiness and a gloom that seemed well-nigh impenetrable was upon them.”


      Citizens were desperate to make sense of the tragedy and millions stood along the route of the president’s funeral train as it made its way to his hometown of Springfield, Illinois. On May 1, the train made a scheduled stop in Chicago. 
    • President Lincoln's Funeral—The Catafalque at the City Hall, Chicago” as sketched by William Waud on May 1, 1865. Published in Harper's Weekly May 20, 1865. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress

    • An estimated 125,000 mourners viewed the late president’s “mortal remains” at the Cook County Courthouse in Chicago. The framed ribbon and floral remnants are from the decorated platform, known as a catafalque, on which President Lincoln’s coffin rested. People eager to find solace in their grief and overwhelmed by the tragedy of the president's death solidified the moment by taking bits of the decorations from the platform. 

      Leonard Doolittle of Fremont Township, Lake County was convalescing at the U.S. Army Hospital in Chicago after being wounded at Chickamauga while serving with the 96th Illinois. Doolittle left the hospital on crutches to go "down to the city" for the viewing. He remarked in a letter that "I think that I never saw as many men women and children at one time in my life... as I saw today." Though the dark souvenir in the Dunn Museum's collection is not directly associated with Leonard Doolittle, the object's provenance suggests that the materials were collected at the viewing of the late president's remains in Chicago. 

      According to historian, Robert I. Girardi, while the Civil War was not fought in Illinois, “the state was actively and vitally a participant in every aspect of the conflict.” Illinoisans “sent more men per capita into the army than any other state.” These men collected souvenirs charged with the events they had seen and experienced. 

      Dark souvenirs can teach us about history and human nature. They are a window into the lives of those who experienced these events and spent their lives trying to come to terms with them. It is important for museums to collect such objects in order to preserve the memory of what "our boys" went through in the Civil War and to explore the war's continuing significance.

    • - Diana Dretske, Curator

    • Sources: 

      • Bess Bower Dunn Museum, Libertyville, Illinois.
      • Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., online collections.  
      • Letter of George Smith to Susie Smith, October 6, 1863, Bess Bower Dunn Museum (93.45.460).  
      • Letter of Leonard Doolittle to David Minto, May 1, 1865, Bess Bower Dunn Museum (93.45.407). 
      • "150 Year Old Items Go On Auction Block: Historical Collection to Be Sold Today," Chicago Tribune, February 2, 1958. 
      • Girardi, Robert I. "Illinois and the Memory of the Civil War." Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1998-) Vol. 104, No. 1/2, Civil War Sesquicentennial Issue (Spring-Summer, 2011), pp. 8-13.
      • Rusk, Anna Denov. "Collections the Confederacy: The Civil War Scrapbook of Henry M. Whitney." Winterthur Portfolio, Vol. 47. No. 4 (Winter 2013), pp. 267-296. 
      • Wilson, R.C. "Gen. Bentley Has Real Museum: La Grange Man Has Wonderful Collection of Photographs, Letters, Fire Arms and Articles of Historic Interest." Uncited newspaper.  
      • Dretske, Diana L. The Bonds of War: A Story of Immigrants and Esprit de Corps in Company C, 96th Illinois Volunteer Infantry. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2021.
      • Partridge, Charles A. History of the Ninety-Sixth Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry. Chicago: Historical Society of the Regiment, 1887. 

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Legend of the Lotus

Linen postcard of map of the Chain O'Lakes, 1949. Dunn Museum, 2016.1.112/9BH1932.

The resort era began in Lake County in the 1870s with people visiting Waukegan's mineral springs to better their health, and sportsmen finding the best hunting and fishing in the Chain O'Lakes.

Among “The Chain’s” most popular lakes for tourists were Grass Lake and Fox Lake. Early “resorts” catered to hunters and fishermen, and were run by entrepreneurial farmers, who added rooms onto their farmhouses or allowed hunters to pitch tents on their land. As demand grew, cottages were built and rented as were grand hotels such as the Mineola on Fox Lake.

Train with vacationers at Antioch Depot, circa 1910. Dunn Museum, M-86.1.62

The growing popularity of the lakes region combined with the arrival of the Wisconsin and Central Railroad passenger service in Antioch in 1886 created a resort boom. Many of the vacationers were from Chicago and were eager to escape the pollution and bustle of the city for the seemingly boundless natural areas of Lake County. 

Colorized postcard of lotus in bloom on Grass Lake, circa 1910. Dunn Museum 2001.1.23

One of the biggest lures to the lakes were the vast lotus beds with large pale yellow blossoms that bloom in late July and early August. (Note: White water lily flowers are often mistaken for the lotus, but have much smaller white blossoms). The lotus beds were especially plentiful on Grass Lake and caused a tourism sensation from the 1880s to 1940s.

News clipping from the Woodstock Sentinel, August 3, 1911.

As a marketing gimmick, resorts and newspapers fabricated a legend to promote the lotus as originating in Egypt. Depending on who you spoke to the flower had either found its way to Lake County by a bird or an early settler who had brought it back from Egypt. The legend further claimed that the flower only grew in Lake County and Egypt. 

Cartoon in Chicago Sunday Tribune August 15, 1909 with article on "Sacred Lotus Flower of Egypt" found in the Calumet River south of Chicago. 

Visitors were so enamored with the beautiful lotus that they never questioned the legend. After all, it added to the excitement. So, why spoil the fun? 

In July 1911, the Waukegan Daily Sun set out to shake-up the myth of the lotus by stating: "Cherished Tradition that Flowers are Egyptian Appears Unfounded." The paper quoted Dr. Jesse M. Greenman, Assistant Botany Curator at the Field Museum, as saying the lotus are native to the U.S. and "interesting but not a great rarity." 

The American lotus (Nelumbo lutea) native habitat includes waterways throughout the eastern United States. It is thought that the plant originated in the east-central U.S. and its seeds and tubers were used as food by prehistoric peoples, who carried it with them as they traveled. The lakes region was the traditional home of tribal nations for thousands of years, where they had villages and were sustained by wild rice, fish, water fowl, beaver and aquatic plants from the lakes.

Bess Bower Dunn visiting the lotus beds of Grass Lake, circa 1909. Dunn Museum

Among the multitudes of visitors enchanted by the lotus beds was Bess Bower Dunn (1877-1959), the Dunn Museum's namesake. Bess is often associated with the preservation of Lake County's historical record, but she was also an avid naturalist. She traveled extensively throughout the county with her box camera and spent many pleasant days taking photographs of the lotus.

Bess Bower Dunn visited the lakes region often. This ledger entry for Gifford's Resort on Channel Lake for July 4, 1901 is from the collections of the Lakes Region Historical Society in Antioch. It shows Bess Bower with a group from Waukegan, including her best friend Isabel Spoor. 
Lakes Region Historical Society

The pressure of so many visitors to these natural areas ultimately led to the decline of the lotus. People loved the lotus nearly to obliteration from the lakes.

The demand for access to the beds by boats led to dams being built on the Chain. The first dam, the McHenry Dam officially known as the Stratton Lock Dam was constructed of wood in 1907 and replaced by steel by 1915. The lakes are naturally shallow and this raised water levels, which made it easier to navigate the lakes, but damaged the lotus’ habitat. Motorboatsand boat racingtore up lotus roots and made the lakes so muddy that sunlight could not penetrate through the water.

On August 3, 1911, The McHenry Plaindealer ran a story about an "excursion to the lotus beds" on the passenger boat "Alice." The article written by the boat's Captain William Koeppe stated: "The Alice is the only propeller boat that runs right into the beds so that passengers may pick the flowers without leaving their seats."

Postcard of motorboats cruising along a channel that was dug through lotus beds on Fox Lake. Blarney Island is shown in the distance, circa 1938. Dunn Museum M-86.1.206.

By the late 1910s, residents began to see the damage that was being done. They tried to mitigate the impact by preventing lotus from being picked by the boatloads, and worked to stop refuse from being dumped into the lakes.

A leader in this preservation effort was Colonel John P. Vidvard of Grass Lake. On August 19, 1917, Col. Vidvard and other respected citizens made a plea to "protect the valuable and most beautiful lotus beds in the world located at Grass Lake." In spite of their attempts to raise awareness, by the 1950s, the lotus beds were devastated and without them the tours stopped. For more, read post Col. John Vidvard

In the last several decades, thanks to continued conservation efforts the lotus have made a comeback, although limited. Lake water levels remain artificially high, but boat traffic restrictions and cleaner water have allowed the lotus beds to grow along shorelines.

Boat tours are popular once again, taking visitors out on the lakes to view historic buildings, hear stories of the resort era, and to learn about the natural beauty of the lakes. Though its’ domain has shrunk the pale yellow blossoms of the American lotus remain a popular attraction.

- Diana Dretske

Bess Bower Dunn Collection, Dunn Museum, Libertyville, IL
Chain O'Lakes Reference Files, Dunn Museum, Libertyville, IL 
Lakes Region Historical Society, Antioch, IL 
A History of Fox Lake, Illinois, 1917-1957, Fox Lake Golden Jubilee Commission. 
"Even the Sacred Lotus Flower of Egypt Has Taken a Fancy to the Calumet," Chicago Sunday Tribune, August 15, 1909.
"Square Mile of Lotus Blossoms at Grass Lake," Waukegan Daily Sun, July 25, 1911. 
"Excursion to Lotus Beds," Woodstock Sentinel, Woodstock IL, August 3, 1911.
"Surrounded by Lotus Beds, Plea Made to Save Them," Waukegan Daily Sun, August 20, 1917. "Stratton Lock and Dam." Accessed July 28, 2022. 
Flora of North America. 

Friday, December 17, 2021

Mary Louise Spoor Brand - Children's Book Illustrator

 Mary Spoor Brand's illustration for Bobby and Betty With the Workers by Katharine Elizabeth Dopp, published by Rand McNally & Company, 1923. 

The Golden Age of American illustration (1880 - 1914) gave women unprecedented opportunities to be employed as illustrators. The momentum it created would benefit Mary Louise Spoor Brand of Waukegan, who became a children's book illustrator in the first decades of the 20th century. 

Mary Louise Spoor Brand (1887-1985). volks1wag family tree.

Known as "Mollie" to her friends and family, Spoor was born on March 15, 1887 to Catherine Stressinger (1853-1947) and Marvin Spoor (1839-1927). Her father was an engineer for the North Western Railway, and except for an absence while serving with the 89th Illinois in the Civil War, Marvin Spoor ran a train between Waukegan and Chicago from the late 1850s until his retirement in 1902. 

Growing up in Waukegan, Mollie was surrounded by creative individuals, including her family's neighbor, Edward Amet, who was an early motion picture pioneer and inventor. See my post on Edward Amet. Mollie's brother, George K. Spoor, partnered with Amet in the motion picture business. About 1895, George featured his eight-year old sister, Mollie, in a short film of her playing with ducks.
Mollie Spoor on her high school graduation day, June 1905, at the courthouse in Waukegan. Dunn Museum Collections

In June 1905, Mollie graduated from Waukegan High School with "high honors" and was chosen class valedictorian for scholarship. Mollie was class treasurer and secretary of the school's drama club. The club's play that spring, "Hamlet," was held at the Schwartz Theater in Waukegan. Mollie Spoor starred as Ophelia alongside her high school sweetheart, Enoch J. Brand, who had the leading role as Hamlet. 

Waukegan High School's Class of 1905. Mollie Spoor and Enoch Brand are noted with yellow stars. 
Yearbook photo courtesy of Waukegan Historical Society. 

Schwartz Theater in Waukegan where Mollie Spoor and her high school classmates presented "Hamlet" in 1905. 
Photo 1950s. Dunn Museum Collections. 

The Waukegan Daily Sun noted that "Miss Spoor has a peculiar ability in executing pretty water colors and drawings, but she has not made any decision as to what she will do in later life." Within a year, Spoor found a path to her future career and enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. There she excelled in illustration and portraits. 
Mary L. Spoor's illustration featured in "The Art Institute of Chicago Circular of Instruction" for 1909-1910.

In 1907, Mollie's brother, George Spoor and actor/director "Broncho Billy" Anderson, founded a motion picture studio in Chicago. The studio's nameEssanaywas a play on the founders' initials "S and A." See my post on Essanay Studios
Mollie Spoor's inlaid wood design for Essanay Studio's logo. In 1961, she donated the piece to the Lake County History Museum 
(forerunner of the Bess Bower Dunn Museum). 61.33.1 Dunn Museum Collections.

George asked his artistic sister to design the studio's logo. The distinctive choice of a Native American in headdress was likely George's idea, but the design was all Mollie's. Her framed piece was made of inlaid wood and hung in her brother's studio office at 1333 W. Argyle Street in Chicago. 

In June 1910, Spoor graduated from the School of the Art Institute with honors. The Waukegan Daily Sun noted that "In every respect she is the ablest artist this city ever claimed... and has won honor after honor at the Chicago Institute." 
Waukegan Daily Sun piece celebrating Spoor's accomplishments at the Art Institute, June 18, 1910.

After graduation, she participated in a month-long Art Institute sketching class that went to the Eagle's Nest Art Colony in Oregon, Illinois. The colony was founded in 1898 by American sculptor Lorado Taft (1861-1936) and consisted of Chicago artists, many of whom were members of the Chicago Art Institute. 
"Bye Bye Bunting" illustration by Mary Louise Spoor, 1917.

Mollie made her home in Chicago and her art career took off. Her skill and professionalism was in great demand in the Midwest's publishing hub, where she found work with Rand McNally, Lyons & Carnahan, and Congdon Publishers. 

Jack and Jill chromolithograph by Mary Louise Spoor, 1917.

Decades of technical advances in printing and the falling price of paper fueled the "ten-cent magazine revolution," spurring a demand for magazines such as the Ladies' Home Journal, and also children's books. In the late 19th century, books designed solely for children were brought on by the Industrial Revolution and a growing middle class with an awareness of the importance of preserving children's innocence and the benefits of play and amusement. 

At the turn of the 20th century, a burgeoning demand for artists continued, and particularly for women artists as illustrators of literature targeted to women and children. 

In the midst of this exciting time for illustrators, Mollie Spoor partnered with fellow School of the Art Institute student, Gertrude S. Spaller (1891-1970). The women became friends and colleagues, and worked together for ten years, even sharing an art studio in the tower of the Auditorium Building in Chicago. 
Chicago Auditorium Building from Michigan Avenue. Spoor and Spaller's shared studio was located in the tower. 
Photo by JW Taylor. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons. 
Spaller and Spoor illustrated children's readers titled, The Easy Road to Reading Primer, for Lyons and Carnahan of Chicago/New York.
The Easy Road to Reading, First Reader. This series was illustrated by Mary Louise Spoor and Gertrude S. Spaller. 
Published by Lyons and Carnahan, 1919-1925.

Illustrations by Mary Louise Spoor for The Easy Road to Reading series published by Lyons and Carnahan.

Mollie Spoor also illustrated the stories of Katharine Elizabeth Dopp (1863-1944) for Rand McNally's Bobby and Betty children's books. Dopp was a notable American educator. The Bobby and Betty series featured the fictional children at play, at work, and in the country. 

Mary Spoor Brand's illustration of "The Milkman and His Horse" written by Katharine E. Dopp for Bobby and Betty With the Workers, 1923. 

During her career as an illustrator Spoor appeared under the name Mary Louise Spoor and after her marriage to Enoch J. Brand in August 1915, she was sometimes credited as Mary Spoor Brand. 

In many ways, Mollie was ahead of her time as a career woman. Many talented women illustrators gave up their art careers when they married, a societal norm at the time. According to her wedding notice in the Waukegan Daily Sun, Mollie's art "services were in great demand" in Chicago, so much so that she postponed her wedding until she finished a project for Rand McNally. 

Ten years after their high school graduation, Mollie Spoor and Enoch Brand wed in Waukegan. 
Waukegan Daily News, August 11, 1915.

Mollie and Enoch moved to Minnesota and then to Massachusetts for Brand's insurance work. Mollie temporarily set aside her career until her four sons were in school, and then returned to illustrating. 

In 1922, the family came back to Illinois. They settled in Winnetka where Spoor became an officer in the North Shore Art League (est. 1924), and continued to express herself through her love of art until her death in 1985.

Mollie Spoor's illustrations charmed a multitude of children and parents in the early decades of the 20th century. Her skill as an artist contributed to children's illustrated books being respected as an art form. Today her work has received renewed interest as vintage children's readers have become collector's items. 
Mary Spoor Brand illustration from Bobby and Betty with the Workers by Katharine Elizabeth Dopp for Rand McNally, 1923. 

- Diana Dretske

"Elect Club Officers," Waukegan Daily Sun, March 22, 1905. 
"Earn High Honors," Waukegan Daily Sun, June 22, 1905.
"Miss Molly Spoor Wins High Art Study Honors," Waukegan Daily Sun, June 18, 1910.
"Mary L. Spoor Becomes Bride of Enoch Brand Here," Waukegan Daily Sun, August 11, 1915. 
"Marvin Spoor Is Dead After Ailing For Over 25 Years," Waukegan Daily Sun, 1927. 
"Enoch J. Brand," Chicago Tribune, October 5, 1948. 
"Child Film Star' Mary Brand, 98," Chicago Tribune, October 31, 1985. 
- "The Art Institute of Chicago Circular of Instruction of Drawing, Painting, Modeling, Decorative Designing, Normal Instruction, Illustration and Architecture with a Catalogue for Students 1909 - 1910." Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 1909. 
- Smith Scanlan, Patricia. "'God-gifted girls'": The Rise of Women Illustrators in Late Nineteenth-Century Philadelphia." Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies. 
- Goodman, Helen. "Women Illustrators of the Golden Age of American Illustration." Women's Art Journal, Spring-Summer, 1987, Vol. 8, No. 1. Accessed December 1, 2021.
- Kosik, Corryn. "Children's Book Illustrators in the Gold Age of Illustration." 
- Kesaris, Paul L. American Primers: Guide to the Microfiche Collection. Bethesda, Maryland: University Publications of America, 1990. 
- Dopp, Katharine Elizabeth. Bobby and Betty With the Workers. Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1923. 
- Cowan, Liza, ed. "Artist: Mary Louise Spoor." SeeSaw: A Blog by Liza Cowan. February 7, 2012.

Special thanks for research assistance to Ann Darrow, Librarian, Waukegan Historical Society; and Corinne Court, Senior Cataloging and Metadata Assistant, School of the Art Institute of Chicago.