Archives For Historic article

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.

FruitBell2

Citations:
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

Fisher gallery picA young architect carved the distinctive lion heads on the lacquered-cherry wood fireplace mantel and the bookcases in the gallery of the Marble Palace. He was Robert E. Seyfarth, (Born 1878, Blue Island, Illinois) and an employee of both August Fiedler and George Washington Maher.

Seyfarth studied at the Chicago Manual Training School founded under the auspices of the Commercial Club of Chicago.

It was a private secondary institution that taught drafting and shop as well as a regular high school curriculum. Located at 11th and Michigan, the campus was later moved to the University of Chicago where it was absorbed into the lab school program.

Chicago_Manual_Training_School_cropped

Illustration of the Chicago Manual Training School

first Seyfarth house in Blue Island_cropped

The first Seyfarth house in Blue Island

Seyfarth went to work as a draughtsman for August Fiedler after graduation in 1895. At the same time he joined the Chicago Architectural Club where he most likely met influential Prairie School architect George Washington Maher. By 1900, Seyfarth was involved in the redecoration of the trophy room and gallery of the home that Lucius George Fisher Jr. had recently purchased from Samuel Mayo Nickerson. Maher designed homes in Seyfarth’s hometown of Blue Island and that possibly helped to cement their relationship.

However by 1909, Seyfarth went into business for himself. Until the Depression, he had offices downtown. But the economic downturn forced him to relocate his practice to Highland Park, Illinois. No longer identifying with Maher’s Prairie School designs, the handsome homes Seyfarth created along Chicago’s North Shore and in the city have elements associated with Tudor and Colonial styles.Lawrence_Howe_House_Winnetkaarticle on Seyfarth

 

800px-Seyfarth_House_-2_Highland_Park_1911_photoFor a gallery of Seyfarth’s homes click here.  Much of Seyfarth’s work was photographed and he was a proponent of advertising as a means of marketing his practice. He would remain a vibrant and engaged member of the Highland Park community until his death in 1950.

 

Sources: http://www.robertseyfartharchitect.com/

 

 

Samuel and Mathilda Nickerson were patriarch and matriarch of this fine home, but we can’t overlook their son Roland and his wife Adelaide, who shared the mansion with the elder Nickersons and started their young family here.

Continue Reading...

Our upcoming evening event featuring The Great Gatsby (1974) has us reminiscing about another grand party that took place years ago in our Gilded Age mansion.

Continue Reading...

This week is the 133rd anniversary of the patent for Thomas Edison’s lightbulb, a replica of which the Driehaus Museum uses throughout its halls and galleries today.

Continue Reading...

Chicago’s 19th-century elite lived together and died—or at least were buried—together, too. You can find them in Graceland Cemetery on the North Side.

Continue Reading...

Looking back at a Gilded Age’s worth of Fourth of July celebrations in Chicago, here are some of the best (and worst) moments between the Civil and First World Wars.

Continue Reading...

How could a live-in servant system like what we see in Downton Abbey survive in such an individualistic, capitalistic, and optimistic nation?

Continue Reading...

Although Mr. Nickerson’s likeness is portrayed in our historic photograph gallery, visitors wonder about the lady of the house.

Continue Reading...