A few famous Chicago firsts

           

By Caryl Clem:

Many Chicago firsts lay quietly documented in print unknown to current Chicagoans.  

            A wealthy man traveled to Chicago in 1835 during heavy storms to supervise his brother-in-laws purchase of land in a settlement along Lake Michigan. The roads were muddy trails trapping stagecoaches, too swampy to even walk. The steady flow of settlers buying property along the Lake cumulated in a quick profit after selling only 1/3 of the land. William Butler Ogden, keenly aware of Chicago’s potential, stayed to build this city into a Midwest commercial center. He gave up his New York Senate seat.

            In 1837, William Ogden and 2 others ushered Chicago into cityhood complete with seal and motto Ogden had been the railroad genius consulted by Vice President Marin Van Buren to enable railroads to stretch from the East to Pennsylvania and New York.  Ogden as a member of the New York Assembly convinced members to fund railroads. He served as President on the committee that planned the western railroad expansions.  Believing transportation development was crucial for growth, he merged over 20 small railroads into the C & NW by 1863 cementing Chicago’s future success.

            The marshy canal laced land tracts were bought by the Chicago Land Company in 1853; Chicago’s first mayor was a principal stockholder.  Ogden had this land drained. .   Originally, Goose Island was heavily populated by Irish immigrants.  Alderman Thomas Keane recalled homeowners in the 1890’s loved raising chickens and gardening in the city while living near work.  After the Depression, failed businesses, fewer occupants decreased to three residents by 1970.  In 1990, Daley’s Planned Manufacturing District push revived this area.  

            The first beer research and brewing company in the United States in 1968, founded by a German chemist, John Edward Siebel became Siebel Institute of Technology.  Famous graduates John W. Stroh, Jr. and August A. Busch III demonstrated the quality of instruction offered.  John Hall bought a brewery in 1988 on Goose Island and created Chicago beers. all opens a brewery  In 2003, Siebel Institute offered classes at the Goose Island Brewpub on Clybourne Ave.

            Ogden lost his childhood sweetheart weeks before the wedding; he remained single until age 70.  He built a large house for his sister and mother hosting affairs for future Chicago supporters with a piano accompanied sing along and dinner party, truly Chicago’s first tycoon. He entertained famous guests Martin Van Buren and Daniel Webster. He was active in real estate, iron ore mining, lumbering, banking, and city transit systems.  His personal lawyer to secure land title transfers was Abraham Lincoln.  After the Great Fire in 1871, he moved back to New York City. His ability to shape greatness enabled Chicago to come roaring back, better and stronger from the fire’s ashes.

Thankful for classroom pencil sharpners

When I first began assisting in the elementary classroom, I looked around for something that would truly remind of my youth. Yes….there were bulletin boards but I loved having the chance to sharpen my pencils with an automatic pencil sharpener with the old crank and sometimes smell the pencil shavings. Though there were times, the sharpeners would jam if the plastic enclosure collecting shavings became too full. I also remember metal clips on the top of many to manipulate while fitting the pencils.

Today, teachers now ask me to sharpen student pencils and I still have fun selecting an appropriate hole to fit the pencil, pushing in gently and listen to the electronic motor do its work. But the elementary students, when given the chance, really like to push it…if you know what I mean. And if it stops, they keep trying different holes. It has a powerful motor with the patented smart stop feature that shuts off the motor and illuminates a blue LED light when the pencil is finished sharpening. The sharpeners also contains an area enclosed where shavings are stored and when full, the sharpener will not work at all.

For most of its existence, the Automatic Pencil Sharpener Company was owned and operated by the Spengler-Loomis MFG Co. of Chicago according to Made in Chicago. , aka APSCO—a brand so prominent, it was like the No. 2 Pencil of pencil sharpeners. According to research, it briefly began in New York, but eventually was designed by a Chicago inventor,Essington N. Gilfillan in 1906.

In 1910, hundreds were designed at 31- 35th and Randolph Street and sent to offices as promotional strategy. What many liked is that there were no additional parts involved and in 1913 a plant was opened in Rockford. The state-of-the-art Rockford factory, completed in 1914 and located at 2415 Kishwaukee Street, covered 26,000 square feet, with 150 employees soon working to produce half a million pencil sharpeners per year. The building is still there but the company was sold several times in the 1950s, 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s. Finally, it could not compete with the electric sharpener. However, many of the older models such as the Chicago pencil sharpener would stop cutting if a point was produced. The crank could not be moved.

The Made-in-Chicago Museum, est. 2015, offers quite a collection of automatic pencil sharpeners as well as a great photos online. In Rogers Park, There are over 300 industrial antiques and vintage wares on display so far—all of them dating from 1900 to 1970, and all of them, of course, Made in Chicago.

Native Americans enrich the tapestry of our American culture’s quilt

By Caryl Clem:

As a young child, I colored pictures of Pilgrims and Native Americans. I remember teepees and 2 seated skin canoes floating down rivers.   Years later, I discovered most of my knowledge about Indians was either false or based on a stereotype. November is the month to honor our Native American Indians.

Powerful prose continuously unites people when they share life’s experiences.  Distances disappear; the common desire for love embraces all. Joy Harjo, who has written poetry, published books and composed songs for decades; a Muskogee Indian was awarded the 23rd Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress on June 19, 2019.  Her quote” how time and timelessness can live together in a poem” during one of her interviews provides insight into the depth of her prose.  Playing saxophone in her band, “Arrow Dynamics”, several CD’s of her original music cumulated in receiving Native American Music Award for Best Female Artist of the Year in 2009. Listening to her music allows you experience layers of harmony and song.  Joy currently is writing a book that documents the contributions to jazz the Muskogee Indians can trace back to Congo Square in New Orleans.

New Orleans, Louisiana, world renown for gaudy, fascinating costumes featured during Mardi Gras celebrations. The Port of New Orleans constantly shipped slaves, a key labor force.   Local Indian tribes had had their own conflicts with “White Rule”.   Native Americans helped hide runaway Black slaves during Mardi Gras parades using elaborate costumes as a disguise.

The Cherokee Nation, a tribe from Iroquoian descent, inhabited the eight states in The Great Lakes area. Transportation across the water was done in huge hollowed out tree trunks, averaging 40 feet in length carrying 20 men.  Families built log cabins. The food staples known as the “Three Sisters” of corn, beans, and squash are found in any supermarket. Spices for flavor and medicinal purposes were Sassafras, Sage, Juniper, and various Chile peppers. In 1621, an Indian Chief brought popcorn to a Thanksgiving dinner.  The Spanish introduced peanuts to the Indians who learned to grow them.   In the Northwest, symbols of marriages and births in a family were carved into totem poles: visible sign of their wealth and influence.

Education of its citizens was considered the great equalizer; The Cherokee Nation formed an accepted common language and ran a printing press publishing its own newspaper in the 1820’s.   (Chicago’s earliest printer in 1833.)  The literacy rate of Cherokee citizens in Oklahoma ranked higher than the neighboring states of Arkansas or Texas.  Chief John Ross constructed the Cherokee Female Seminary in 1847, the first higher learning school available for women west of the Mississippi.  The Cherokee Male Seminary opened in 1851.  Cherokee sports included a stick ball game considered the beginning of Lacrosse, a popular sport today.

Native Americans are one of the reasons Americans are able to live in “Land of the Free”. Americans working on dreams coming true, in the country we love, all sharing the foundation given us by those who were here first.