Search This Blog

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 


      • 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. 

Thursday, June 17, 2021

From Cavalry to Tanks: George S. Patton Jr.

Cavalry descending a bluff to the beach at Fort Sheridan with photographers documenting their training. Circa 1925. Fort Sheridan Collection, Bess Bower Dunn Museum 92.24.2658

The most famous cavalry officer to be stationed at Fort Sheridan was George S. Patton Jr. (1885-1945). Though the cavalryman-turned-tanker had a relatively brief stay at the Fort from 1909 to 1911, he made an indelible impression on all who encountered him. 

The U.S. Army post at Fort Sheridan (est. 1887) became known as a cavalry post with the arrival of the 7th Cavalry in 1892. 

The Fort's unique terrain was a welcome challenge for cavalry training. Cavalrymen tested their own and their horses' skills by descending the bluffs to the sandy beach, and traversing acres of uneven ground. 

After graduating from West Point in June 1909, a 24-year-old George S. Patton Jr. took a commission as a 2nd lieutenant with the 15th Cavalry and was stationed at Fort Sheridan near Highland Park in Lake County, Illinois. 

15th Cavalry officer, George S. Patton Jr., at Fort Sheridan, circa 1910. Fort Sheridan Collection, Bess Bower Dunn Museum 92.24.1966.

Partial lists of "officers present and absent" at Fort Sheridan, September 1909. George S. Patton Jr. (#52) is noted as having returned from leave on September 12. Returns From U.S. Military Posts, 1800-1916. Original data from National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 94.

On May 26, 1910, Patton married his childhood friend and sweetheart, Beatrice Banning Ayer of Boston, Massachusetts. 
Lt. George S. Patton Jr. and Beatrice Banning Ayer on their wedding day, May 26, 1910.

Wedding details as published by the Boston Globe on May 27, 1910.

After a month-long honeymoon, the newlyweds made their home at Fort Sheridan. The Boston Globe, May 27, 1910.

As a married officer, Patton was assigned to new quarters in Building 92 on Leonard Wood Avenue East. On March 19, 1911, the couple welcomed their first child, Beatrice Ayer Patton, who was born at Fort Sheridan. 
Building 92 on Leonard Wood Avenue East (north of Martin's Lane) where Cavalry officer, George S. Patton Jr., his wife Beatrice and baby daughter Beatrice lived on the north side of this duplex. Fort Sheridan Collection, Bess Bower Dunn Museum, 95.32.68. 

A story relayed by the Ray Family of Diamond Lake (near Mundelein) is that Patton would come for Harriet Rouse Ray's famous chicken dinners on Sundays at the Ray's Lakeside Cottage. Patton arrived on horseback and in uniform, of course.

According to biographer, Ladislas Farago, Patton and his wife were known at the Fort as the "Duke and Duchess." Patton was independently wealthy, and the couple enjoyed dressing up for dinner, driving expensive automobiles, and were both equestrians. Chicago Tribune, October 25, 1964. 

Lt. George S. Patton Jr. on the porch of his Army residence at Fort Sheridan (Building 92), circa 1910. Fort Sheridan Collection, Bess Bower Dunn Museum, 92.24.2020.

At Fort Sheridan, Patton impressed his superiors and was known as a hard-driving leader. 

In late 1911, he was transferred to Fort Myer, Virginia, where he would come to know many of the Army's senior leaders. 

Patton (right) fencing in the 1912 Summer Olympics held in Stockholm, Sweden. He finished fifth overall in the modern pentathlon.  Swedish Press photo, public domain. Wikipedia.

In 1917, Patton joined General John J. Pershing's staff for the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in World War I. While in France training American infantry troops, Patton became interested in tanks. His new military path quickly developed as he advocated for the development of a tank corps. When the 1st Tank Brigade was created, Patton was placed in charge. Along with British tankers, he and his men achieved victory at Cambrai, France, during the world's first major tank battle in Nov-Dec, 1917.

During World War II, Patton was the Army's leading strategist in tank warfare. He commanded the Western Task Force in the Allied invasion of North Africa in November 1942, the Seventh Army during the invasion of Sicily in July 1943, and was given command of the Third Army in France in 1944. 

An imaginative, shrewd, and often undiplomatic military commander, Patton is remembered as one of the most brilliant and successful generals in United States history. While his military genius in tank warfare was put to the test on Europe's battlefields, Fort Sheridan will always be Patton-the-cavalryman's first Army post.

- Diana Dretske

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

The Dairy Queen: Grace Garrett Durand

Grace Garrett Durand with her cows. Crab Tree Farm, circa 1910.

Grace Garrett Durand (1867-1948), founder of Crab Tree Farm in Lake Bluff, Illinois, was one of the most forward thinking dairy farmers of her day. Through her philanthropic nature and society connections she advanced children’s health and the production of clean milk.

Durand was born in Burlington, Iowa to Martha Rorer and William Garrett. 
Grace’s ties to the Chicago area likely began with her brother’s marriage to Miss Ada Sawyer in 1884. Ada was the daughter of one Chicago's “pioneer druggists,” Dr. Sidney Sawyer. 

In February 1888, Ada Sawyer Garrett and her mother, Elizabeth Sawyer, gave Grace an “elegant reception" at their home. This may have been Grace’s formal introduction to Chicago society. In the following years, 
Chicago’s Inter Ocean newspaper would note Dr. and Mrs. Sawyers’ travels with Miss Grace Garrett as their guest. 

Society page notice of the reception in honor of Grace Garrett. The Inter Ocean, Chicago, February 5, 1888.

Grace had quickly become the darling of social circles for her “sweet winning face and vivacious manner.” The Sawyers took her to New York where they stayed at the Windsor Hotel, and wintered together at the famed luxury resort, the Hotel Alcazar—today’s Lightner Museum—in St. Augustine, Florida.

On news of her mother’s declining health, Grace returned home to Iowa to care for her. Martha Garrett died in February 1893.

In April 1894, Grace married wealthy sugar broker, Scott Sloan Durand of Lake Forest. Their wedding was held in Burlington, Iowa “in the presence of a brilliant assemblage of invited guests.”
Grace’s maid of honor was the famous watercolor artist and illustrator, Maud Humphrey (1868-1940) of New York. Today, Maud is better known as the mother of Hollywood legend, Humphrey Bogart.
Sketch of Grace Garrett for an article titled, "Two Fond Hearts United," on the occasion of her marriage to Scott Durand. 
Inter Ocean, Chicago, April 6, 1894.

The Inter Ocean reported that the bride wore a “Queen Louise gown of white satin… and a white veil trimmed in duchesse lace.” At this point in her life, Grace was considered a “lady of fashion.” Within a few years, newspapers would spend less time talking about her clothes and more about her leadership qualities.

The newlyweds returned to Lake Forest and in 1896 built a new home on 20 acres at the northeast corner of Sheridan Road and Crabtree Lane. When Lake Forest held its first election for the Board of Education in May 1897, Durand was motivated to run. This was also the first time Lake Forest women could vote. Grace Durand and Miss Mary Neimeyer were elected to the board. 

At the turn of the century, Durand shifted her focus to dairy farming as she became aware of infant mortality rates in Chicago linked to contaminated milk. Impure milk was a problem that had been combatted with varying success for centuries, but with the rapid growth of cities the problem was exacerbated. 
Inspired by her mother’s example of helping others, Grace saw a desperate need to provide clean milk to children.

In 1904, Durand established Crab Tree dairy farm on her Lake Forest property. However, her neighbors were not enamored of having a dairy herd in the neighborhood. Some complained of the “odor and flies” and that the herd’s “bawling” kept them awake at night. 

Artist's fanciful illustration of Grace Durand astride one of her dairy cows. Washington Herald, November 28. 1915.

In 1906, the Durands’ purchased 256-acres, formerly owned by Judge Henry W. Blodgett, on Sheridan Road north of Lake Bluff. Grace marched her cows up the road to the new farm. Her dairy operation was celebrated in newspapers across the nation. The New Castle Herald noted that Durand sold: “the purest of milk… at a profit in air tight silver jugs.” Grace even enrolled in a farmer’s ten-day course at the Wisconsin University College of Agriculture in Madison, WI.
An article in Pearson’s Magazine explained how Grace’s visit to Chicago's “tenement district revealed… most of the infant mortality was due to the want of nourishment, which meant good milk, and that good milk was a rare commodity, difficult to procure, even at exorbitant prices.” Durand used the profits from selling milk and thick cream to Chicago’s most select hotels, restaurants and tea rooms to support needy children.

In 1910, several buildings on her farm were lost to fire. Durand "tearfully" sold her herd, because she could not get barns built before winter. The Durands commissioned Chicago architect, Solon S. Beman (1853 - 1914) to design her new ideal model dairy farm. It was the only farm complex Beman designed.

Crab Tree Farm buildings designed by Solon S. Beman and Durand's new herd of cows, circa 1911. Private collection
Durand was known to pamper her cows and referred to them as her "pets." She enlisted the unusual method of playing opera music while the cows were milked. Grace claimed the music made the cows happy and consequently their milk tasted better and was more nutritious. 

With her success in raising standards in dairying, Durand began to be called the “dairy queen.” 

Dairy farmers were eager to learn the "dairy queen's" methods at the Farmer's Institute
 in Edwardsville, IL. Mantoon Journal Gazette, February 17, 1910.
She became a popular lecturer at farmers’ institutes across the Midwest, sharing her experiences in dairy work, and belief in hygienic and systematic methods to enhance dairy products. Her “charming manner and decisiveness impressed” all who heard her. 

Unfortunately, Durand had setbacks in her dairy operations. In fall 1915, her herd was confirmed to have Foot and Mouth Disease, a highly infectious viral disease of hooved animals. Crab Tree Farm was one of many in the region suffering from the disease. Durand fought the diagnosis through litigation, but lost her legal battle in the Illinois Supreme Court. Consequently, the herd was destroyed. Of course, the tenacious Durand began again. 

In addition to dairy farming, Durand supported the prevention and treatment of Tuberculosis. She was one of the incorporators of the Lake County Tuberculosis Institute (Waukegan) in October 1908, along with Dr. Elva A. Wright (1868-1950) of Lake Forest. 

In July 1932, the Durand family made news when their adopted son Jack Durand received a letter threatening to kidnap his 2-year old daughter unless he handed over $50,000 (nearly $1 million today).
Grace Durand outwitted criminals in a plot to kidnap her grandchild. 
The Times, Streator, Illinois. July 12, 1932.

The police were notified of the threat and waiting at Jack Durand's home. However, the would-be kidnappers went mistakenly to Grace Durand's home at Crab Tree Farm and asked for him. A "quick thinking" Grace told them that Jack would be home soon and they should have a seat on the porch to wait. Meanwhile, she phoned the police. Perhaps it was her persuasive personality, but oddly enough the thugs waited as suggested and were rounded up when the police arrived. 

Grace was also a Temperance advocate and member of the Lake Bluff chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. It was more than a little embarrassing when her husband Scott Durand was indicted for selling 30 million pounds of sugar (from 1929 to 1932) to persons who used it to manufacture liquor.
Grace Durand as featured in Harper's Weekly, May 9, 1914.

Dairy operations ceased when Grace Durand died on February 26, 1948. During her lifetime she was recognized as one of the “most powerful leaders in the milk crusade.” 

Following Durand's death, William McCormick Blair (1884-1982) and his wife, Helen Bowen Blair (1890-1972), purchased Crab Tree Farm. The Blairs association with Durand had begun in 1926, with the purchase of 11-acres of the farm overlooking Lake Michigan. 

Since 1985, Durand’s Crab Tree Farm has been owned by the John H. Bryan family. The property is still a working farm, and the original historic buildings have been renovated and now display collections of American and English Arts and Crafts furniture and decorative arts.

Special thanks to Laurie Stein, Curator at the History Center of Lake Forest-Lake Bluff, for additional research and enthusiasm for this topic. 

- Diana Dretske

Crab Tree Farm,
History Center of Lake Forest-Lake Bluff,
Olmstead, Alan L. and Paul W. Rhode. Arresting Contagion: Science, Policy, and Conflicts Over Animal Disease Control. Harvard University Press, 2015.
“Garrett, Timothy M.” Chicago City Directory, 1882.
“Past Pleasures.” The Inter Ocean, Chicago, Illinois, February 5, 1888.
“Durand—Garrett.” The Daily Leader, Davenport, Iowa, April 1, 1894.
“Two Fond Hearts United.The Inter Ocean, Chicago, Illinois. April 6, 1894.
American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record, Vol. 25. 1894.
“Lake Forest Dames Vote: Five Run for Office and Two Win at the Ballot.” Chicago Daily Tribune, May 9, 1897.
“Mrs. Scott Durand a Student.” Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Illinois. February 5, 1908. 
“Dairy Queen Is To Speak.” Journal Gazette, Mantoon, Illinois. February 17, 1910.
Saint Maur, Kate V. “Mrs. Scott Durand - Milk Woman.” Pearson's Magazine, July 1910.
Mrs. Durand Tearfully Orders Dairy Pets Sold.The Inter Ocean, Chicago, Illinois. November 8, 1910.
Mrs. Durand: A Twentieth Century Product. Harper's Weekly, May 9, 1914.
“The Gentile Woman Farmer and Her Fight to Save Her $30,000 Herd.” Washington Herald, Washington, D.C. November 28,    1915.
“3 Suspects in Kidnaping Plot. The Times, Streator, Illinois. July 12, 1932.
“Arrests Nip Durand Baby $50,000 Kidnapping Plot.” Chicago Daily Tribune, July 13, 1932.
“Wealthy Broker, Mate of Rum Foe, Indicted by U.S." The Decatur Daily Review, Decatur, Illinois, February 17, 1933.