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Lindsay, Marketing Manager at the Driehaus Museum

Lindsay, Marketing Manager at the Driehaus Museum

Our staff is always asked about our backgrounds and why we ended up working for the Driehaus Museum.  So we wanted to share some of our amazing team with everyone.  And, as always, let us know if you have any other questions.

First name? Lindsay

What is your title and what role does your position play at the Driehaus Museum? Marketing Manager – I handle the advertising, marketing, social media, PR, as well as the website for the Museum.

Where are you from/where do you currently reside? I grew up in a tiny town outside of Houston, Texas.  In 2006, my wife and I moved to Chicago sight unseen and fell in love with the Lakeview area. We decided to try out downtown living in 2013, moved to the South Loop, and have enjoyed being able to walk to/from anything happening in the city such as the Pritzker Pavilion, Art Institute, Lollapalooza, Jazz Fest, etc.

What is your education/experience background? How or why did you come to work at the Driehaus Museum? I have a BFA in Graphic Design & Advertising, as well as minors in both English and Art History from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas.  My dream was to work in an art museum, and tried on many occasions to get a job at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.  Each time I was told to start lower – interning, volunteering, or taking a small job such as in the store.

When we moved to Chicago, the job I was transferring with fell through once we got into the city which caused me to start a hunt for something new.  A position opened up as a supervisor in the store at The Field Museum and I easily got the job with my extensive retail background.  It only took about 6 months until I was promoted to the back office area helping out the buyers.  I stayed with the Field for over 8 years, holding several different positions, lastly in the Communications department. During my time at the Field, I went back to school and earned a Masters of Arts in Museum Studies, as I had finally decided that this was the career for me.

I decided I missed my art history roots, began searching out art museums in the city and happened upon the Driehaus Museum.  After reading about how new (in the museum world) it was and how the Museum was started thanks to Mr. Driehaus, I was shocked that more people in the city didn’t know about it.  And I wanted to tell everyone.  So when the position for the Marketing Manager came up I knew I had to jump on it so I could tell everyone about this hidden treasure of a museum!

If you were a staff member of the Nickerson Mansion at the turn of the century, what role would you have and why? Most likely the cook since I love cooking and entertaining for others.

If you were trapped in the Museum overnight, what would you do? If it was possible, I would light the fireplace in the Front Parlor, pull the sofa from the Drawing Room into the Parlor, bring in a bottle of wine, and read by fire light in the mansion as the city bustles about outside.

What is your favorite movie?  Book? Favorite movie is Jurassic Park.  Favorite book is a tie between Orlando by Virginia Woolf, The Princess Bride and any of the Harry Potter books (though Goblet of Fire has always held a special place in my heart).

What is your favorite holiday/program or event at the Museum? The Summer Servants tour.  I have never experienced a living history tour until coming to the Driehaus Museum.  It is a engaging and educational way to learn about the Nickerson family, the house, as well as the Gilded Age.

What is your dream job? Ever since I was little I wanted to be a paleontologist – but then I discovered you had to be decent at math, which is my worst subject.  So if they took that part out and just let me dig in the dirt all day I would be a happy camper.

Tell us about one of your favorite moments during your time working at the Museum? The day we announced the Downton Abbey exhibition to the public was so much fun.  Watching the press and social media grabbing onto to the news and being so excited about it made me smile.  Not to mention the amount of messages from my own friends wanting to come see it.  Sorry guys! You have to wait until October to purchase tickets just like everyone else! I cannot wait to see this exhibition in person when it’s installed inside the mansion.  It’s going to be very elegant and so enjoyable for fans of the show, myself included.

It’s finally summer in Chicago and you’ve done the usual:  baseball game, boat tours, street festivals and so forth.  It’s time to check out some of the gems of the city, some of which a lot of people don’t realize are right near them.  We are going back through the archives of the Driehaus Museum Blog to suggest some great places to bike or take the train over and explore!

The Other McCormickville: Lincoln Park’s Seminary Townhouses – Right off the Fullerton Train Station are historic townhouses preserving pieces of Chicago’s Gilded Age.

A Visit to Jackson Park – Did you know that the Museum of Science and Industry is housed in a building built for the 1893 World’s Fair? Or that nearby there’s a Japanese garden from the same fair?  Take a step back to 1893 all throughout Jackson Park.

Going to Graceland – Burnham, McCormick, Sullivan, Field, Glessner.  If you live in Chicago, you most likely recognize these last names.  A visit to the Graceland Cemetery is a must for anyone who appreciates Chicago history.

Do you have any other favorite little-known places to visit in Chicago?





Spring has come to Chicago—and to the Chicago gallery of our latest exhibition, Maker & Muse: Women and Early Twentieth Century Art Jewelry. A silver tiara, adorned with a spray of springtime lilacs, leaves, and vines, heralded the new season when it arrived at the Driehaus Museum this week.


The elegant circlet is repossé silver, crafted from melted silver spoons donated by the women of Lombard, Illinois, in 1930. It was created as a symbol of Lilac Time, the annual springtime celebration in this west-suburban village. The crown adorned the first Lilac Festival Queen—whose name and the names of several other early Queens are etched in the crown’s interior—and continues to be an integral part of the festivities today.


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It’s also a late commission from artist and designer Christia M. Reade. Reade’s heyday was right at the turn of the century in Chicago, when the ideas from the Arts and Crafts Movement, having drifted over from England, took root here and bred a unique regional movement of its own. Arts and Crafts was about the artisanal talents of makers, and they weren’t shy about showing off asymmetry, unfaceted semiprecious stones, minute imperfections, and common metals—all indications of items made by hand in a studio, rather than by machine. Nature, as you can see in the Lilac crown, was chief among Arts and Crafts inspirations, often depicted in a freeform, romantic, medieval way.


Reade was the daughter of Josiah and Christia Reade; her father was a Chicago native, her mother a New York schoolteacher. Reade studied at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, and soon became one of the city’s biggest names associated with the Arts and Crafts movement here. She achieved prominence as a principal designer of the Krayle Company, a domestic decorative arts firm with its office in the Marshall Field Building. Her ambitions took her to study in Paris for two years, probably under the artist Luc-Olivier Merson. When she returned from Europe, Reade opened her own studio at 211 Wabash Avenue, which she maintained until the 1920s.


Near Reade’s crown in the Chicago gallery you’ll see other stunning works of jewelry from the same period, many of them made by her female contemporaries. These include Clara Barck Welles, founder of Kalo Shop. She and Reade were fellow graduate of the Art Institute, and are listed as co-jurors on the committee selecting works for the Art Institute’s first annual exhibition of “Original Designs for Decorations and Examples of Art Crafts Having Distinct Artistic Merit” in 1902–03. (This was, incidentally, also a time when Samuel M. Nickerson was still a trustee of this institution.)


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The February 1897 issue of The Decorator and Furnisher devoted a spread to “Miss Christina M. Reade, and Her Work.”


“The woman decorator of today is a well established institution. She demands—and receives—full and due recognition for her work, not because she is a woman, but because her work is as a rule meritorious, and deserving of notice. She has had much to struggle against in the way of popular prejudice, but in spite of adverse criticism she has worked her way steadily to the front in a field hitherto conceded to man alone. We refer to her as a coalition; but from this great and growing unit we take pleasure in selecting the work of Miss Christina M. Reade of Chicago as excellent examples of artistic work…”


Reade was best known for her metalwork, but commanded a range of media and exhibited throughout the Midwest. To the same Art Institute exhibition in 1902–3, for example, she submitted a carved walnut bellows, mahogany book rack, copper mounting for a leather bag, copper lock with plates and hinge ornaments, an oak screen with copper panels, and copper buckles, brooches, and cloak buttons set with semiprecious stones like opal, malachite, and amber. She also designed metal lampshades. In The House Beautiful (Volume XI, 1901–1902), a “pierced brass” shade designed by “Miss Christia M. Reade, of the Krayle Company,” was recommended by the publication for one reader’s library drop light.


Reade would have been around 70 years old when she designed the Lilac crown for her hometown of Lombard, but it is filled with the same Renaissance simplicity that imbued her early work. The geometric Art Deco movement may have prevailed in 1930, but in Reade’s world, the romance of nature and the rustic beauty of a perfectly handmade object still captivated her.


The Lilac Festival crown is on loan from the Lombard Historical Society and will be on view at the Richard H. Driehaus Museum through February 2016.



By: Tasia Hoffman

On February 14, 2015, The Driehaus Museum will open an exhibit entitled Maker & Muse: Women and Early Twentieth Century Art JewelryThis exhibition will focus on women as the creators of and inspiration for Arts and Crafts-style and Art Nouveau-style jewelry.

…Arts and Crafts?  Art Nouveau?!

Whether these art historical terms are old friends or uncharted territory, let this month’s blog post serve as a mini-prep course for February’s bejeweled extravaganza.

First up: the Arts and Crafts Movement.William Morris, Green Dining Room, 1867.

The Arts and Crafts Movement began in England and was shaped by the ideas of writer/critic John Ruskin and designer/activist William Morris.  These men chose not to embrace “modern life” as brought about by industrialization, instead advocating an art and a lifestyle dictated by an intrinsic set of values including work ethic, community, spirituality, and equality.  Ruskin and Morris denounced industrial capitalism, which alienated workers from their own humanity, and opposed machine-made goods, which numbed the freedom and creativity of the brain.

(c) Glasgow Museums; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Charles Rennie Mackintosh, The Wassail, 1900-1912.

Art, they felt, should be crafted “…by the people for the people as a joy for the maker and the user” and designed in a manner that integrates functionality with supreme aesthetic quality.

Arts and Crafts objects and structures are known for their use of natural (streamlined or simplified) forms, fondness of floral and geometric repetitive patterns, and dedication to high-quality artisanship.  A wide range of influences, from medieval to Japanese, were drawn upon to produce a harmonious, but decidedly non-Victorian, aesthetic.

Frank Lloyd Wright, Detail of Thaxter Shaw House Living Area, 1906.

Tiffany & Co., Bowl, 1900.

Tiffany & Co., Bowl, 1900

In America, the British Arts and Crafts tradition was modified by a material shift to regional resources and an aesthetic shift to include local environmental forms.  Native American and Asian design influences were readily employed, paralleling a growing interest in “handmade” appearance and simplified geometric forms.  Architect/interior designer Frank Lloyd Wright and furniture manufacturer/publisher Gustav Stickley advocated the use of machinery alongside skilled craftsworkers to expedite the furniture-making process, allow craftsworkers to operate in a more “exclusively creative” capacity, and, ultimately, draw the cost of furniture down to a middle-class price bracket.

Craftsman Workshops of Gustav Stickley, Armchair, 1907.

Craftsman Workshops of Gustav Stickley, Armchair, 1907

 Stickley began publishing The Craftsman, a magazine that circulated the idea of Arts and Crafts interiors and products as a bridge to a more desirable, simpler life, one supportive of and connected to the ideals of an honest, hard-working America.  That being said, many of the Arts and Crafts products created still catered to an upper class audience, and, while the objects embodied romantic notions of unity, they did not make those ideas a tangible reality.

-Miller, Angela L., et al. American Encounters: Art, History, and Cultural Identity. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2008.
-Kleiner, Fred S., and Christin J. Mamiya. Gardner’s Art Through The Ages. 12th ed. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2005.
-Photo: “Charles and Henry Greene, Mary E. Cole House, 1906-1907.”
-Photo: “William Morris, Green Dining Room, 1867.”
-Photo: “Charles Rennie Mackintosh, The Wassail, 1900-1912.”
-Photo: “Frank Lloyd Wright, Detail of Thaxter Shaw House Living Area, 1906.”
-Photo: “Tiffany & Co., Bowl, 1900.”
-Photo: “Craftsman Workshops of Gustav Stickley, Armchair, 1907.”

By: Tasia Hoffman

Last December, Time magazine published an article on the psychology of gift-giving, addressing the questions that plague us each year as we search for the perfect gift for the perfect—or not-so-perfect—person in our lives.

For the Sake of HumanityThe questions, paraphrased: If I don’t know what to give my significant other, do I not know him or her well enough? What if I find just the right gift for a family member, only to find that he or she doesn’t like it? Is there anything wrong with an unsentimental gift? Am I bad for only buying gift cards? What about re-gifting?  With a new holiday season upon us, I turn to a Gilded Age-era writer at The New York Times for answers—a self-proclaimed expert in the fields of gift selection and reception.

My author declares his respect for the practice of gift-giving, citing benevolent roots, “Charitable people gave food to the hungry and trousers to the ragged, as the best way of celebrating the Christmas season.”  He takes issue, however, with the “unnecessary and purely complementary” notions of gift exchanges.  Now, the Gilded Age was a historical period shaped by a newly wealthy class interested in visual splendor and lavish displays of finance, which means that, to assert his views on gift exchanges as boldly as he did, my author was a brave man.

…or perhaps he simply had a dry and clever wit.

The main issue with Gilded Age gift-giving, according to my author:

“Men give their wives gifts that the latter do not want, and they themselves fail to receive the things which they need… There are men who like to receive an occasional cake of delicate toilet soap, but when eleven different sisters, sisters-in-law, and cousins are simultaneously struck with the happy thought of giving Mr. Smith a cake of toilet soap, the excess soap begins to wear the look of an objectionable practical joke.”

Shop EarlyHow, then, does one select the ideal gift, a present that elicits a desirable response from the recipient?

My author believes it improbable—a misuse of time, energy, and money.  Instead, he proposes a New Year’s Day gift swap for a “scientific and effective” exchange of gifts.  The procedure is simple: each person purchases and gives away, on Christmas, the gifts that he or she hopes to receive.  Once all of the gifts have been opened, each family member can rejoice knowing that he or she will trade all gifts received for gifts purchased in a week’s time.  This process, in my author’s opinion, should be the future “common law of Christmas.”

So whether you indulge in the holiday gift hunt or send out and receive mass emails in the Gilded Age spirit of buy-me-this, whether you find and receive show-stopping surprise gifts or end up collecting receipts and returning everything—remember that laughing with your eleven sisters, sisters-in-law, and cousins while opening eleven cakes of toilet soap (again) can sometimes be the most memorable and gratifying event of the season.

Toys for ChristmasHappy Holidays, from the Driehaus Museum community to your family, and thank you for sharing in this past year with us.


This holiday season, celebrate Gilded Age style.  Find information on programs and events at


-          “Christmas Giving.” The New York Times. 28 December 1881. Print.
-          Photo: “The First Christmas Card” from
-          Photo: “Shop Early” courtesy of Library of Congress
-          Photo: “For the Sake of Humanity” courtesy of Library of Congress
-          Photo: “Toys for Christmas” courtesy of Library of Congress

By: Tasia Hoffman (with a little help from Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer)

World's Fair

The standard for the American mind, wrote M.G. Van Rensselaer, is to be “alive with mere curiosity as [much as] it is with a craving for instruction—pleased to look at anything, discontented only to think that other people are seeing things with which it cannot make acquaintance.” A perceptive and proactive woman, Mrs. Van Rensselaer published an article in Century Magazine that advised prospective visitors on how to best explore the 1893 World’s Colombian Exposition in Chicago. She warned that the visitor’s mind must be strictly trained to adhere to her “plan of campaign” but, in return, promised that time, energy, and disappointment would be saved.

MammothOctoMrs. Van Rensselaer’s steps are summarized as follows:

1. The first day belongs to curiosity. This is the day to roam the Fairgrounds, admire scenic views, and determine how much exertion the body can sustain. To ensure the best experience possible, utilize all available means of transportation—railways, boats, and rolling-chairs—and avoid entering any of the buildings.

2. On the second day, the wise visitor will stay in bed, at home, all day, to recover from the first day.

3. The third day is for learning; one must seek out what one has come to the Fair to study. If consumption of that material becomes exhausting, allow the mind to relax by visiting an unrelated exhibit.

“The things you know least about, and care least about, will then seem delightful, for you will have purchased the right to idle, and only its purchasers know the whole of the charm of idling.”

4. The previous step may need to be repeated in order to complete one’s studies.

Mrs. Van Rensselaer recommended that one tackle her “plan of campaign” as a solo endeavor. She tried the hand-in-hand method of perusing the Fair herself and reported, “I do not know which is more exasperating—to drag an unsympathetic soul about with you…or to be an unsympathetic soul dragged about…”

Lunch1893Mrs. Van Rensselaer encouraged husbands and wives to part willingly in order to view ethnological antiquities, dolls documenting the history of fashion, sporting goods, and kindergarten methods, among other exhibits, under more amiable circumstances. She also urged women to separate from their friends, stating, “Every woman knows that two women shopping together do not ‘accomplish’ half as much as though they had shopped separately…[and] the crowded galleries of the Fair will be like colossal shops…” She reassured her readers, vouching for the Fair as a safe place, one so filled with people that it would be impossible to annoyingly follow and observe any single individual.

The Van Rensselaer program never pledged a comprehensive experience of the Fair. In fact, Mrs. Van Rensselaer acknowledged the Fair’s unattainability by way of its size, “…no one can see the whole of a Fair like this [one]…” She did state, however, that her pupils would leave the Fair enriched and contented, knowing that they were able to enjoy the Fair as a place of knowledge and scholarship as well as a place of beauty and amusement.


For article:
Burns, Sarah, and John Davis. American Art to 1900: A Documentary History. Berkley: University of California Press, 2009.
For images:
  • “Palace of Mechanic Arts and lagoon at the World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, Illinois”
        Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

By Avery Glassman — Early next month the Driehaus Museum Book Club will discuss the novel, I am Madame X, presented by its author, Gioia Diliberto. Ms. Diliberto’s novel is based on the scandalous portrait of Virginie Gautreau by American artist, John Singer Sargent.  He originally titled it, Portrait of Madame ***, in an attempt to conceal his voluptuous sitter’s identity. As far as Paris society was concerned, the woman’s identity was far from the only asset the painting failed to cover. First exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1884, Madame X would swiftly undo the reputation Sargent had worked years to establish.

Driehaus Museum Chicago

Portrait of Madame ***, John Singer Sargent, 1884.

Portraiture was Sargent’s business, but Madame X was not a commissioned painting. Rather, Sargent sought out Gautreau as his subject. In a letter to his friend Ben Castillo, Sargent writes, “I have a great desire to paint her portrait and have reason to think that she would allow it and is waiting for someone to pay this homage to her beauty. If you are ‘bien avec elle’ and will see her in Paris you might tell her that I am a man of prodigious talent.” Born in New Orleans but raised in Paris, Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau was known in international circles as a professional beauty; she transformed the Gilded Age conceit of socializing and its notions of femininity into an act of performance. Inspired by her dramatic looks but just as influenced by her social prowess, Sargent was convinced that one confidently painted portrait of Gautreau would be enough to solidify his standing as the premier portraitist in France.

At the 1884 Salon, however, the painting was ridiculed by critics and the public alike, as indecent, obscene, and even morbid. The original composition depicts the left strap of Gautreau’s gown hanging off her shoulder. “Hanging” is a misleading descriptor, however, as the strap appears tightly bound. Gautreau’s flesh puckers around the strap’s encrustations as her deltoid muscle flexes from her hand’s firm placement on the table. Were the strap to drape limply over Gautreau’s shoulder, the slippage would seem accidental and therefore innocent; the lady a mere victim of gravity. But the tension of the strap within the exhibited composition instead affirms intention, a purposefully daring modification to an already provocative outfit. To viewers at the Salon it was aggressive—certainly the last thing a woman in 1884 was supposed to be. Madame X’s dominant womanhood is just as thoroughly imbued in her assertive stance, haughty profile, and ambiguous, undomestic surroundings. It is for these reasons that Madame X continued to offend viewers, even after Sargent’s sartorial edit.

Gautreau, who had expressed satisfaction with the work in Sargent’s studio, was humiliated and irate after its unveiling. She and her mother demanded that Sargent take it down.  He refused until the bitter dispute escalated with their threats to forcibly remove the painting. Ultimately, Sargent was compelled to evade disparaging remarks in Paris by permanently relocating to London. Sargent donated Madame X to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1916, along with some instructions. To the museum director Sargent wrote, “By the way, I should prefer, on account of the row I had with the lady years ago, that the picture should not be called by her name, at any rate for the present, and that her name should not be communicated to the newspapers.”

Throughout his career, the largest faction of John Singer Sargent’s clientele was American. One wonders if Samuel and Matilda Nickerson ever considered investing in a portrait by Sargent. It is unlikely that they gave it much thought after 1884, as Madame X’s unembellished, revealing gown presents a stark contrast to the heavily embroidered, conservative frocks Mrs. Nickerson was reported to have worn. The couple would certainly have caught wind of the Madame X scandal and, since their tastes were relatively traditional (as their art collection suggests), the Nickerson’s would probably have kept themselves far removed from a portraitist so avant-garde.



Centeno, Silvia, and Dorothy Mahon. “A Technical Study of John Singer Sargent’s Portrait of Madame Pierre Gautreau.” Metropolitan Museum Journal, 2005.

Diliberto, Gioia. “Sargent’s Muses: Was Madame X Actually a Mister?” New York Times, May 18, 2003.

Moss, Dorothy. “John Singer Sargent, ‘Madame X’ and ‘Baby Millbank’.” The Burlington Magazine, May 2001.

Ormond, Richard. Oxford Art Online / Grove Art Online entry on John Singer Sargent. September 27, 1999.

Sidlauskas, Susan. “Painting Skin: John Singer Sargent’s ‘Madame X’.” American Art, Autumn 2001.



The Driehaus Museum is excited to introduce its first Book Club series.  We begin the series with Sally Sexton Kalmbach’s book Jewel of the Gold Coast: Mrs. Potter Palmer’s Chicago. The Jewel of the Gold Coast book clubs take place on January 30th and February 5th.  Here is a brief selection from the book, as well as a conversation with Anna Wolff, Driehaus Museum Educator.


An Excerpt from The Jewel of the Gold Coast

On a warm day in late July of 1870, Bertha Honore married Potter Palmer at her parents’ fashionable limestone home at 157 Michigan Avenue, across the street from today’s site of the Art Institute of Chicago. The tree-lined residential street was filled with carriages depositing the forty relatives and close friends who attended the wedding ceremony. At 6 p.m. a pastor from the First Christian Church performed the ceremony. A wedding supper for seven hundred followed the service, catered by Kinsley’s, one of the most celebrated restaurants of the day. Noted for its oysters shipped from the East Coast, Kinsley’s was located on Washington Street between Dearborn and State, not far from the Honore home.

The petite 5’5″ dark-eyed woman of 21 was dressed in a gown of white satin and rose-point lace designed by Charles Frederick Worth, a designer who dominated Parisian fashion in the later half of the nineteenth century. Orange blossoms were arranged in her brown hair. Her small waist was encircled by a corset, an item of clothing in vogue throughout most of her life.

Potter Palmer was a happy man. At the age of forty-four, he was the most eligible bachelor in Chicago. He had illustrated his business acumen by amassing millions, traveled extensively in Europe, sown his wild oats, and now he was marrying the intelligent and graceful woman who had captured his attention eight years previously.

Her wedding present was the new Palmer House Hotel, valued at $3,500,000, and just being completed at the time of their marriage.

After the ceremony, the newly married couple departed for Europe, but Paris was not part of the itinerary because of the Franco-Prussian war raging in France. This was Bertha’s first journey to Europe, but her introduction to Paris and the Impressionists lay in the future.


What do you hope participants will get out of joining in the discussion?

Anna Wolff:  I see the book club as a relaxed way for our guests and members to further engage topics related to the museum.  We’ll be discussing Gilded Age fiction, biographies, and history with the authors and will expound upon the book from a literary perspective as well as discuss the larger historical context of its content.  Our Book Club is a great way for patrons to get to know each other better in an informal setting over shared interests.

How did you decide which books would be used for the first book club?

Clara_and_Mr_TiffanyWolff:  March’s Book Club will feature Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland.  This was a natural fit for us since Ms. Vreeland will speak in an informal lecture earlier that week.  With our current exhibition “Louis Comfort Tiffany: Treasures from the Driehaus Collection” we chose a book that celebrates that time period.

People are always very interested in Bertha Palmer. Since the book, The Jewel of the Gold Coast: Mrs. Potter Palmer’s Chicago, sells well in our Museum Store we knew many visitors and members would be interested in discussing the book and meeting its author in an intimate setting. For the winter series we found it very fitting to have one historic fictional novel and one more rooted in fact.

The first book featured is Jewel of the Gold Coast by Sally Kalmbach. What has it been like working with her on this new project?

Wolff:  Sally is a wealth of knowledge that is always eager to share information.  She will be bringing historic documents, images, and illustrations to further explain who Bertha Palmer was.

What did you find most interesting when reading The Jewel of the Gold Coast: Mrs. Potter Palmer’s Chicago?

Wolff:  I found it particularly interesting to learn about Mrs. Palmer’s life as an art collector.  I gained an understanding of who she actually was as opposed to her legacy as an art collector.  The process of her becoming an art collector is far different than I ever expected.

What’s next…what are some books you would like to include in future book clubs?

Wolff:  I would love to feature Devil in the White City or Death in the Haymarket both have a strong connection to Chicago history and are fascinating reads.



As the Nickerson and Fisher families looked forward to their holiday seasons, they and other Gilded Age families would have enjoyed games, toys and books in their spare time.

Post-Civil War America was a time of rapid economic growth; the middle class was expanding while industrialization allowed for increased leisure time and expendable income.  Middle and upper class children enjoyed play time, and new books, toys and games were introduced to appeal to children of the era.  Many of which still captivate the young minds of today.


A portrait of Nathaniel Hawthorne from the 1860s and “A Wonder Book for Girls and Boys”

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1851 publication A Wonder Book for Girls and Boys marked a change in American children’s literature.  Hawthorne observed his own children at play, seeing how their imaginations shaped their games.  He wanted to write a children’s book that would capture children’s imaginations and inspire them to read outside of school.  He decided to re-write six Greek myths and to incorporate children into the framing narratives.  The book was an immediate success and sparked a new publication trend for popular children’s books.  Authors like Louisa May Alcott, Lewis Carroll, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Rudyard Kipling, and Anna Sewall created stories especially for children.  In 1885, Robert Louis Stevenson published the still beloved A Child’s Garden of Verses, which continued Hawthorne’s focus on children’s imaginative play; Stevenson’s adventure stories like Treasure Island (1881) also sparked children’s imaginations.

LifePopular children’s games included marbles, checkers, Parcheesi, and cards.  Board games were first introduced in  the early part of the nineteenth century.  Milton Bradley and the Parker Brothers began their companies after the Civil War.  In 1860, Milton Bradley designed and produced the board game Life, which was an immediate success and remains so through the 21st century. George Parker published the first Parker Company/Parker Brothers game catalog in 1885.  Parker Brothers introduced the game Office Boy in 1889.  Similar to Milton Bradley’s Life, Office Boy had players begin as office boys at a company and work at various jobs trying to become head of the firm.  The 1894 Parker Brothers catalog included the World’s Fair Game, sure to be popular with Chicagoans.

tootsie toys

A variety of toys were manufactured in Chicago.  The toys reflected Chicago’s reputation as a manufacturing and architectural center.  Tootsietoys may have been the most popular, yet unknown, manufacturer of toys in Chicago.  The company created the miniature metal toys found in Cracker Jack boxes.  The Linotype machines used to stamp the toys were originally seen at the World’s Columbian Exposition.  Charles O. Dowst saw the machines being used to stamp metal parts for machines and realized that the same machine could be used to mass produce metal toys.  Some of the toys were miniature versions of the machines or products that Chicago’s factories produced, like cars, trains, and tractors.


Two of Chicago’s best known toys were made of wood:  Tinkertoys and Lincoln Logs.  Both allow children to build their own versions of skyscrapers and other buildings seen in Chicago.  Charles Pajeau invented Tinkertoys in 1914 in Evanston.  Pajeau was a stone mason by trade and set out to design and market a toy that would inspire the imagination.  John Lloyd Wright, son of Frank Lloyd Wright, invented Lincoln Logs in 1918.  His inspiration for the toy came a few years earlier while visiting Tokyo, Japan with his father.  The young Mr. Wright observed workers building the Imperial Hotel, they used a revolutionary technique of interlocking beams John Wright later used to design Lincoln Logs.



window sketch_feature

Cyrus H. McCormick was many things. A native Virginian who became one of Chicago’s great industrialists, he was also a famous penny-pincher, generous philanthropist, stolid Presbyterian, and  patent hound. He moved to Chicago in 1847, where he set up the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company factory and prospered.

His oldest son, Cyrus Hall McCormick II, was born on May 16, 1859 and became President of the McCormick Harvesting and Machine Company begininng in 1884.  Word is that Cyrus took little leisure time, but he did manage to begin courting Harriet Bradley Hammond, who had moved from Massachusetts to Chicago in 1875, at the age of 12. The pair got away to Monterey, California, to marry in 1889 at St. Mary’s-by-the-Sea, then spent a few weeks honeymooning in Hawaii and the rest of the summer in Europe.

Harriet Bradley Hammond

Harriet Bradley Hammond

They were together in Chicago until Harriet died in January of 1921. She was buried in Graceland, and after the services Cyrus contacted Tiffany Studios, by then a well-known and established company for private commissions. He requested an ecclesiastical window to be designed in her honor, and Tiffany—just a year away from retirement—signed off on this Foxglove design.

window sketch

Designs for McCormick Windows – Watercolor Sketch

The resulting windows, completed in 1922, Cyrus donated to St. Mary’s-by-the-Sea. They survive there today in memory of this Chicago titan’s first love.