J. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) Currey.

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Chicago: Its History
and Its Builders





Honorary Vice President Illinois State Historical Society, Vice Presi-
dent Cook County Historical Society, Member Chicago Histori-
cal Society, American Historical Association, Illinois
State Library Association, National Geograph-
ical Society, Chicago Geographic Society.










11 1942 U\


t L



To say that Marshall Field was the greatest merchant of his day is to proclaim
that he was the most eminent merchant prince in the world's history ; and both
statements are true to the letter. In his boyhood he was noted for both industry
and perseverance, and, carrying the same preeminent traits into his mature life,
he came to tower above his fellow merchants of the great working world. He pene-
trated to the possibilities of men and business situations with lightning-like rapidity;
the intellectual sweep with which he finally organized a magnificent mercantile house
whose scope embraced both the old world and the new, proclaimed the man of vast
power, as well as penetration, and the unfailing courtesy and superb endurance of
the man carried all before him. The old-time merchants of the Stewart school
had these qualities of polished granite, but Marshall Field added to them a world-
view, and also the application of artistic genius to mercantile affairs and environ-
ment. He not only sold goods honestly and gave the people promptly what they
wanted, but he educated their tastes, showed them beautiful and new creations for
their persons and their homes, and then met their advanced and more refined wants
at as reasonable a cost as was compatible with honest goods and fair profits.

And when Marshall Field had personally progressed from the station of a raw
clerk from the country districts of New England to a world-wide eminence in the
field of mastery, he was still a modest, unassuming man. "There have been men,"
said a local journal on January 17, 1906, (the day after his death), "whom wealth
has made purse proud, arrogant, offensive to their equals and tyrants to their
employes. We are glad to say that Marshall Field was not one of them. Riches did
not change his manners. He was never aggressive or pompous. There was in him
no show of self-conceit in manner or speech. He was reticent, but it was the
reticence of modesty, not of pride. His employes were attached to him. He treated
them with the courtesy he extended to everybody. He was as quiet or reserved, and
as unostentatious, when he was worth a hundred millions as when he was worth a
thousandth part of that. He attended strictly to his own business, which he under-
stood perfectly, and did not meddle with that of others. He did not set himself up
as the general instructor of the community. He asked people to let him alone as
regarded the just conduct of his affairs, and he conceded to others the right he
proclaimed for himself.

"There was no man in Chicago more kindly regarded by his fellow citizens than
Mr. Field. There was no one so conspicuous of whom so few harsh things were
said. His riches made him odious to no one, for the people high and low saw that
he was untainted by wealth, and was always an upright man, fair and even generous
in his dealings. He was the first citizen of Chicago when he died, and he has left
no one to take his place. He will be sincerely mourned by the men, women and
children of Chicago."


! ~


In explanation of his lifelong inclination to keep himself in the background,
Marshall Field always said frankly that he preferred to work where he could do
the most good, which in his case he claimed was remote from public platforms and
showy places. When counsel was asked of him, however, either as a member of
society or as a citizen of Chicago, he gave it with exceptional power and insight,
couching his arguments and his conclusions in straightforward forcible language.
As a citizen he was ever ready to express an opinion, if he felt that it was wanted
and would be useful, and not long before his death he analyzed Chicago's financial
condition in a masterly manner, pointing out that many of its ills of dirt, decay of
public improvements, bad water and imperfect drainage were due to lack of busi-
nesslike handing of available funds.

Mr. Field's self-poised momentum as a merchant and a man was an especial
inspiration to young men, and, without assuming to be a teacher of moral, and even
business laws, within the later period of his life he wrote a number of brief and
pithy essays for their consideration, advising them of the value of economy, honesty
and industry. The practical suggestion set forth may be summarized as follows:
Never give a note. Never buy a share of stock on margin. Never borrow. Never
give a mortgage on your holdings. Hold all customers to a strict meeting of their
obligations. Do business on a cash basis. Give the best quality for the least money.
Sell on shorter time than competitors. Try to sell the same grade of goods for a
smaller price. Never speculate.

Mr. Field enjoyed the personal advantage that his physical appearance was in
perfect keeping with his high and substantial character. Many noble men and
women suffer a serious drawback through life because of physical characteristics
which seem a brutal contradiction of the real soul of their being. But Marshall
Field was both distinguished and genial in appearance, and all his features were
strong and large. With white hair and mustache, high and broad forehead, and
calm yet penetrating gray blue eyes shadow r ed by heavy brows, he was a man of
marked bearing who at once commanded attention and respect.

This superb personality originated and was nurtured near the little village of
Conway. Massachusetts, the year of Marshall Field's birth being 1834. In this
locality his English ancestors settled in 1650. The family homestead was about one
mile and a half from town, on the summit of a considerable elevation, which had
long been known as Field's Hill. Forest-clad hills were all around, and the pano-
ramic view of meadows, brooks, nesting farms and villages, was something to
soothe the mind for years after, in the smoke and bustle of great cities. Amid such
surroundings were born and reared the four sons and two daughters comprising the
Field family, Marshall being the third child and son. When he was six years of
age he commenced to attend winter school, and within the next few years assumed
the lead in such out-door sports as "Fox and Hound," which called for both speed
and endurance. It is a matter of record that Marshall was usually the fox, that
position requiring ingenuity as well, and old settlers who were boys in the days of
his residence recall a famous run of twenty miles to South Deerfield and return, in
which the fox finally came home untouched and unwinded. Ingenuity, speed and
endurance; that was Marshall Field — the boy, father to the man. On account of
the abandonment of the old road which ran past the homestead and lowered the
price of the property, the home farm was sold when Marshall was about fifteen years
of age, and, although another was purchased, it was decided that the third son was


better fitted for a store clerk than for an agriculturist. It is said that his mates
fully subscribed to this decision complaining that they had no chance to knife trade
when Marshall was in the ring. After serving a short apprenticeship in a store at
Pittsfield, which served to whet his ambition for a larger field, he decided in favor
of the great undeveloped west.

Mr. Field became a resident of Chicago in 1858, so that the fifty years inter-
vening between his majority and his death he devoted to the development of his
house, his character and the upholding of the city's name for mercantile, commercial
and civic honor. At the time of his arrival in the western city Cooley, Wadsworth
& Company were proprietors of its leading dry-goods house. The population was
estimated anywhere from sixtjr thousand inhabitants, which then seemed an empire
of people to the young Massachusetts man. Although then unformed to city ways,
when he said simply and firmly to the "boss" that he was a good clerk and could
sell goods there was that about him which carried conviction ; he was therefore
engaged and in today's vernacular "made good." In January, 1860, he was admitted
to the partnership and appointed manager of the business, then conducted as Cooley,
Farwell & Company but after his association, as Farwell, Field & Company. In
1860 Levi Z. Leiter also entered the firm, and in January, I860, Potter Palmer
(who already had been in business for thirty years) approached Messrs. Field and
Leiter with the proposition to buy his dry-goods house, that he might retire and
recuperate his broken health. Mr. Palmer's offer of part cash and notes for the
balance was accepted, and the firm of Field, Palmer & Leiter, which was formed
January 11, 1865 transacted a flourishing business until 1867, when the notes
were paid and Mr. Palmer's name dropped from the style.

The firm of Field, Leiter & Company was formed in January, 1867, and the
following September their business was installed in a large building erected by Mr.
Palmer on the northeast corner of State and Washington streets. For four years
and one month this was the grand center of the dry-goods trade of the northwest,
and at the time of the fire of 1871 their sales had reached the aggregate of eight
million dollars. But the fire swept away the business entailing a destruction of
three million five hundred thousand dollars worth of property, with an insurance of
two million five hundred thousand dollars. Before the ruins had ceased to smoke,
temporary headquarters were established in the old street car barns, at the corner of
State and Twentieth street and the business was there conducted until another
store was completed on the old site in 1873. Meantime a building had been erected
on the corner of Market and Madison streets, and a portion of it occupied for retail
purposes and known as Retail No. 2, for the benefit of patrons coming from the west
and north sides of the city. With the completion of the State street store in 1873,
the retail was separated from the wholesale business and transferred altogether to
the State street concern. Fire again visited Marshall Field's State street store in
1877, the loss being seven hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars, but it was
reopened in the following year, the business having in the meantime been carried
on in temporary quarters. So the development of the gigantic enterprise continued
apace, its intricate and powerful machinery hidden from the public, by its continu-
ous expansion indicated by the occupation of new space from year to year. In 1878
Mr. Higinbotham was admitted as a partner, and in 1881 Mr. Leiter retired. From
the latter year, for a quarter of a century, Mr. Field was the master spirit of the


In 1885 was commenced the vast granite structure covering the square bounded
by Adams, Franklin, Fifth avenue and Quincy. for the accommodation of the whole-
sale business, and it was completed in 1887. By the expansion of the retail depart-
ment seven-eighths of the block bounded by State, Washington and Randolph streets
and Wabash avenue has been covered with granite buildings twelve stories in height
— the portion which is still unoccupied being the corner of Randolph street and
Wabash avenue. Tbe different structures are connected by covered bridgeways
and for all conveniences are one. The Annex, on the corner of Washington street and
Wabash avenue, was completed in 1893; Central Music Hall and other property on
Randolph street, was razed and replaced by the Field buildings in 1901-02; in
1905 the great store was extended north of the Annex along Wabash avenue, and
during 1905 and 1906 the original building at the corner of State and Washington
streets, which had been a mercantile landmark for so many years, was taken down
and replaced by the present immense granite frontage. The floor area of the retail
establishment is now forty-one acres, and its employes number from six to nine
thousand, according to the season. Some thirty-five hundred persons are employed
in the wholesale house.

Mr. Field's public works are numerous and important. In March, 1871, he took
a leading part in the effort to merge the old Chicago Library Association into the
Young Men's Christian Association. After the great fire, he was one of the fore-
most to inspire hope, courage and confidence in business circles, and make possible
the greater Chicago which arose from the ruins. His services in the distribution of
money and supplies were invaluable. Identified with the Chicago Relief Society
from its organization, he was named by A. T. Stewart as first on the committee to
control the fifty thousand dollars donated by him for the relief of women and
children in Chicago. He was also for years a member of the Chicago Historical
Society, aided in founding the Art Institute, was one of the organizers of the
Citizens' League, and one of the charter members of the Commercial Club in 1877.
In 1881 he aided in the establishment of the Chicago Musical Festival Association
and of the Chicago Manual Training School in 1882. To the latter he gave twenty
thousand dollars and to the new Chicago University he devoted a tract of land near
the Midway Plaisance, now valued at two hundred thousand dollars, and known as
"Marshall Field." He was long a director of the Merchants' Loan & Trust Com-
pany, and was otherwise associated with many of the great commercial, financial
and industrial enterprises which have made Chicago a world's metropolis. The
climax of his public benefactions was the establishment of the Field Museum at
Jackson Park, by provisions of his will, eight million dollars being bequeathed for
its founding and support.

The death of Marshall Field, generally pronounced the foremost citizen of
Chicago, certainly one of the greatest figures of his day, occurred at the Holland
House, New York, where he was staying during an anticipated week's absence from
Chicago, on the 16th of January. 1906. There were present at his death bed his
wife (formerly Mrs. Arthur Caton) to whom he had been married only a few months.
Mr. Stanley Field, and Mrs. Marshall Field. Jr. The latter, who was the widow
of his only son, recalls the tragic death of Marshall Field. Jr.. less than two months
before, a blow to the father which he bore with dignified silence, but which is
thought by those nearest to him to have broken him in spirit and body. The great
bulk of his fortune amounting: to perhaps one hundred millions of dollars, went to


his two grandsons, Marshall Field III, and Henry Field. His only daughter, Mrs.
David Beatty, wife of Rear Admiral Beatty, of the British navy, inherited six million
dollars, and Mrs. Delia S. Caton Field the widow, as an ante-nuptial bequest, the
magnificent family residence, with contents and one million dollars.


Rufus Cutler Dawes, whose attention in business lines has largely been given to
the promotion of gas and electric light projects, is numbered among those men whose
initiative spirit carries them beyond the bounds in which the great majority labor,
and the extent and importance of the interests which he has financed and controlled
well entitle him to be numbered among Chicago's captains of industry. He was born
at Marietta, Ohio, July 30, 1867, a son of General Rufus R. and Mary Be-
man (Gates) Dawes. His father served in the war of the rebellion as a colonel of
the Sixth Wisconsin Regiment, which was a brilliant section of the famed Iron Bri-
gade, and was brevetted brigadier general for distinguished services and gallant con-
duct at the head of his command. He also served for one term in congress and died
about ten years ago at his home in Marietta, Ohio, where his widow still resides.
The Dawes family comes of old New England stock, of which William Dawes, who
rode with Paul Revere on the memorable night when the Continental troops were
aroused to repulse the British advance, was a member. Rufus C. Dawes was the
second in order of birth in a family of four sons and two daughters, includ-
ing: Charles G. Dawes, mentioned elsewhere in this volume; Hon. Beman G. Dawes,
of Marietta, Ohio, who was formerly a member of congress; Henry M., who is as-
sociated with his brother Rufus in business affairs ; Mary B., the wife of Rev. Arthur
G. Beach, of Ypsilanti, Michigan; and Betsy D., the wife of Harry B. Hoyt, man-
ager of the gas company at Jacksonville. Florida.

Rufus Cutler Dawes was graduated from Marietta College with the class of 1886,
winning the degree of Bachelor of Arts, while on the 3d of June, 1893, his alma mater
conferred upon him the Master of Arts degree. Fortunate in that he was not born
to a life of poverty or of closely restricted financial resources, Mr. Dawes in his busi-
ness career has nevertheless proven that success is not a matter of fortunate circum-
tances or of inherent genius, as held by some, but is rather the' outcome of clear
judgment, experience and keen discernment. Throughout almost his entire business
life he has given his attention to organizing and managing gas and electric compa-
nies, in many of which he has been interested officially as well as financially. At
present he holds a directorship and the presidency in the following institutions:
Union Gas & Electric Company, Metropolitan Gas & Electric Company, Shreveport
Gas, Electric Light & Power Company, Texarkana Gas & Electric Company, Mobile
Gas Company, Citizens' Gas & Electric Company, Seattle Lighting Company, Pu-
laski Gas Company, Beaumont Gas Light Company, and Central Indiana Gas Com-
pany; and he fills offices in these and similar capacities in a number of other con-
cerns of a' like nature. He also has other extensive moneyed interests, connecting
him inseparably with the promotion of business activity in the middle west, and is
widely recognized as an efficient and reliable business man, capable of recognizing


opportunities that others pass heedlessly by and capable also of coordinating forces
into a harmonious working whole.

Mr. Dawes was married in 1893 to Miss Helen V. Palmer and the children
born to them are William Mills, Charles Cutler and Jean Palmer Dawes. The
family residence is at No. 1800 Sheridan road, Evanston, Illinois. Mr. Dawes is a
republican in his political views and in matters of citizenship manifests a pro-
gressiveness and loyalty that constitute him one of the strong supporters of projects
for municipal upbuilding and betterment, and he is president of the board of educa-
tion, school district No. 75, Evanston, Illinois. He is, moreover, of a generous
nature in his support of philanthropic movements and his name is on the member-
ship roll of Chicago's leading social organizations, including the Chicago Club,
Glen View, Evanston Country and Evanston Clubs.


Albert Keep, whose activities were an element in the early commercial de-
velopment of Chicago, in his later years through his business connections reached
out to various sections of the country in the management and control of the affairs
of the Chicago & Northwestern Railway system, of which he was made president.
Ability may have been inherent, but it is only through the exercise and utilization of
one's talents that they are developed, and a life of intense and intelligently di-
rected activity gave to Albert Keep the power which made him for many years
a most forceful business factor in railway circles. He was born in Homer, Cort-
land county, New York, on the 30th of April, 1826, a son of Chauncey and Pru-
dence (Wolcott) Keep, and was the fifth in a family of seven sons, all of whom
were noted for superior business attainments and high character. The father
was a man of wealth and likewise of sound judgment, who realized that if his
sons were to become factors in the business world their instruction must be prac-
tical and that their powers must be tested in the actual field of service.

Albert Keep was sent as a pupil to the village schools and later spent two
years as a student in Cortland Academy, but made his initial step in the business
world when a youth of fourteen, being employed as clerk in a general country
store in his native town from 1841 until 184-6. His five years' experience there
demonstrated the fact that he possessed latent ability and that he would develop
it through industrious application. In all the five years he was never absent from
his work for a single week day, being on hand at seven o'clock in the morning
and often remaining until nine at night in the duties of the position.

The field of his activity was transferred to the west in 1846 and a long cher-
ished ambition saw its fulfillment when he became part owner of a store in White-
water, Wisconsin, his associates in the enterprise being Philander Peck and Henry
Keep. He remained in Whitewater until 1851, when the firm decided to dispose
of their business there, having more capital than was needed by the demands of
the trade in a small town. A removal was made to Chicago, where they opened
a dry-goods house under the firm style of Peck, Keep & Company, their location
being at No. 211 South Water street. The new undertaking was attended with
success from the beginning, but the great activity in real estate led them to dis-



pose of their mercantile interest in 1856, making investment of their capital in
property. Mr. Keep erected a number of buildings which he rented and also sold
as opportunity came to dispose of them at an advantageous figure. He continued
to deal extensively in real estate and in making loans for himself and others. He
suffered losses in the memorable fire of October, 1871, his office and most of his
buildings being destroyed, but he at once resumed operations and continued ac-
tively in business circles as a builder and dealer in real estate until June, 1873.
He was then called to the presidency of the Chicago & Northwestern Railway
system. His election to this office was a great tribute to him from the fact that
he was not even a stockholder of the company at that time. It was necessary,
however, for him to purchase stock in order to qualify for the presidency. He
was closely associated with his brother Henry until chosen president of the rail-
road company, their extensive interests being held mostly in partnership relations.
During the many years that they were associated in business they worked in
entire harmony, no contention or dissatisfaction ever arising. Their business ideas
as well as their family relationship held them in a close bond after Albert Keep was
elected to the railroad presidency. The multitudinous duties of such a position
were in a measure familiar to him. He had had some previous experience with
railway interests, having been retained in 1864 by the Lake Shore & Michigan
Southern and the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad Companies to acquire
greatly increased rights of way for them and also depot facilities, which they
needed in and about Chicago. On his election to the directorate of the Lake Shore
Railroad he was made a member of its executive committee and continued as a
director for eighteen years, when the pressure of other business interests com-
pelled him to resign. He remained as president of the Chicago & Northwestern
for fourteen years, or until 1887, when he resigned to become chairman of the
company's board of directors and under his administration as president and in
his later office as chairman of the directorate the property of the company in-
creased continuously in extent and value. He found the property poorly main-
tained and equipped but his practical business methods soon wrought a change
and his able management did much toward making the Northwestern one of the
greatest railroads in the country. He resigned as chairman of the board in 1901
but continued as a director to the time of his death. He was likewise a director

Online LibraryJ. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) CurreyChicago: its history and its builders .. (Volume 4) → online text (page 1 of 67)