Objects of fascination – Chicago Magazine

John Dillinger Death Mask

Little documentation accompanied this macabre curiosity when it was donated to the museum by Charles R. Walgreen Jr., a descendant of the drugstore chain family, so its creator is not known. Death masks weren’t quite common in 1934, when the 31-year-old bank robber was shot and killed by FBI agents, but given his fame at the time, one can imagine an enterprising coroner sell a few. Indeed, other Dillinger death masks have appeared in private and public collections across the country. That crescent-shaped mark under the right eye? A gunshot wound.

James Horan's Fire Helmet

James Horan’s Fire Helmet

In the early hours of December 22, 1910, James Horan and dozens of other firefighters responded to a massive fire during a meat-packing operation in the Union Stock Yards. The beloved fire chief and 20 of his men died when one of the buildings collapsed. It was the biggest loss of life for all of the city’s fire departments in the collapse of a building until September 11, 2001. smoldering ruins and sat on top of his coffin in a funeral procession seen by thousands of people.

Mary Todd Lincoln Fan

Mary Todd Lincoln Fan

As any fan of period films or John Singer Sargent paintings will know, women of the Victorian era often wore fans, both for fashion and, in the absence of air conditioning, for comfort. This one, in painted black muslin, belonged to Mary Todd Lincoln, and although museum collections experts cannot confirm, the color suggests Mrs. Lincoln may have worn this fan after her husband was murdered in 1865. .

Bertha Palmer diamond choker

Bertha Palmer diamond choker

The museum has a large collection of clothing and accessories worn by the famous socialite and philanthropist of the turn of the century. This necklace, dating from around 1900, is adorned with several large European-cut diamonds and 1,169 small rose-cut diamonds; it was used to embellish a hat that Palmer liked to wear. How much is it worth? “For insurance purposes, we place a value on all of our items,” says Britta Arendt, senior collection manager, “but we don’t share this information.”

Chicago fire melted tea cups

Chicago fire melted tea cups

The museum has hundreds of artefacts rescued from the 1871 fire – or its ashes. “A lot of people kept pieces like these as keepsakes when they returned home and into their business,” says Arendt. These four white porcelain tea cups, donated by a Max Rosenfeld, who may have inherited them from a family member, were fused together by the heat of the fire, which destroyed three and a half miles of the city. The streaks of color are believed to be fused glazing. (The teacups will be on display in October, as part of an exhibit commemorating the 150th anniversary of the fire.)

Abraham Lincoln Buckskin Moccasins

Abraham Lincoln Buckskin Moccasins

The tongues of these glass bead slippers – which belonged for years to artifact collector Lincoln Oliver Barrett before being acquired by the museum in 1952 – bear the initials A and L. Arendt assumes the moccasins were made. hand for Lincoln as a gift. “If you look at women’s magazines from the 1860s,” she says, “you’ll see patterns to make slippers similar to these.” One wonders if Lincoln wore them: the 11-inch-long moccasins fit a size 11; Lincoln would have worn a 14.

Bottle of Prohibition-Era whiskey

Bottle of Prohibition-Era whiskey

An inscription on the unopened bottle reads: “From the first shipment received after the repeal of the 18th Amendment in 1933.” The words were written by the donor, Lawrence O’Toole, whose father had apparently acquired at least some of this cargo and, presumably after quenching his thirst, set aside a bottle for posterity. A few ounces of Chapin & Gore whiskey (which was sold as Kentucky bourbon even though it was distilled in Chicago) was lost through evaporation, but what remains would be perfectly pleasant to drink.

John Jones Certificate of Freedom

John Jones Certificate of Freedom

This remarkably well-preserved document, written in 1844 by a clerk in Edwardsville, Illinois, attests to John Jones’ status as a free man. (The museum has the almost identical certificate for his wife, Mary.) The certificate gives a physical description of Jones and declares him “a resident or citizen of the State of Illinois, and entitled to be respected accordingly, in person and in property, anytime, anywhere. It was precious paper indeed, offering the once enslaved person at least nominal protection from slavery resale. Jones became Cook County’s first African-American commissioner.

About Myra R.

Myra R.

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