Friday, September 30, 2016


I have become acquainted with some very nice people during the fourteen years I have been involved with the Find a Grave website. I have even been contacted through the site by distant cousins who I didn't know existed.  Every Find a Grave photo request I accept is a chance to "meet" someone who shares my interests in history and genealogy.  Such was the case recently when I filled a Find a Grave photo request for Alix H. who had posted a photo request for her relative Adolph Karpen, who died in 1935 and was interred in the Rosehill mausoleum. 

I had already created a Find a Grave memorial page for Adolph - I had run across his listing and photo in the wonderful book History of the Jews of Chicago edited by Hyman L. Meites and published in 1924 by the Jewish Historical Society of Illinois.  [Note: Copies of this rare book can go for as much as $1,200.00 but you can access a scanned copy for free at:]

Over time, I transferred the memorial page to Alix and she added Adolph Karpen's obituary from the Chicago Tribune.  After reading that I decided that he would be an interesting subject for this blog, so let's see what we can "dig up" about Adolph Karpen.

Adolph Karpen was born October 5, 1860 in Wongrowitz, Posen which was then part of Prussia and is now part of Poland.  His parents were Moritz Karpen (1823-1886) and Johanna, nee Cohn (1835-1902). Moritz and Johanna had nine sons:

Solomon (Sam) Karpen  (1858-1936)
Oscar Karpen  (1859-1953)
Adolph Karpen  (1860-1935)
Benjamin (Ben) Karpen  (1862-1895)
Isaac (Ike) Karpen  (1865-1918)
Michael (Mike) Karpen  (1866-1950)
Wilhelm (Will) Karpen  (1867-1915)
Leopold (Leo) Karpen  (1870-1950)
Julius Karpen  (1873-1907)

Jews in Prussia, unlike Jews in the other German areas in the early nineteenth century, were allowed to learn crafts. The Karpens had been cabinet makers there for several generations.

On April 10, 1872, emigration papers were signed by the Prussian District Court, Wongrowitz for Moritz Karpen (an established cabinet maker), Johanna (Cohn) and eight sons under the age of 12. In early June the family took a train from Wongrowitz to Poznan, Prussia to Germany.  From there they boarded a ship, crossing the North Sea to Glasgow, Scotland.  Their transatlantic travel to America began on 15 Jun 1872 on the maiden voyage of the SS 'California' (Anchor Line). For safety, each of the younger boys was tied to an older sibling.  The ship stopped at Moville, Londonderry to pick up more passengers and arrived in New York (Castle Garden) on June 29, 1872. From there the family traveled to East Lyme CT having been promised work in a woolen mill.   In 1873, the Karpens moved to Chicago to take advantage of the great opportunities offered in rebuilding the manufacturing district after its destruction in the 'Great Chicago Fire' of October, 1871.  The 1873 Chicago City Directory finds "Morris" Karpen, carpenter, living with his family at 481 N. Franklin.  

During their first year in Chicago the last of the Karpen children – their ninth son, Julius – was born. At about the same time, the Karpens severed their remaining financial ties to Wongrowitz by selling both their home and Moritz Karpen’s workshop. Moritz initially worked in a Chicago furniture factory but then started a small upholstered furniture business. Solomon (usually called “Sam” or “S.K.”) attended night school, apprenticed as an upholsterer to acquire expertise, and worked for several upholstered furniture manufacturers in Chicago and Kansas City, Missouri. He rose to the level of foreman.

When Solomon was twenty (1878), his parents started allowing him to keep his earnings. He quickly accumulated $580 (approximately $15,000 in today's funds) and decided to go into business for himself. He wanted to fulfill his elderly father’s dream of building a factory that would “combine progressive American ideas with the craftsmanship of the Old World, where building fine furniture was an art, not just an industry.”  At the time, Chicago had not yet become a center for furniture manufacturing, and the city had fewer than forty firms that produced upholstered pieces.  

Solomon Karpen's younger brother Adolph had received his early education in the grammar schools of Germany, but once in Chicago he attended the Chicago Atheneum and night schools while he worked in the daytime to help maintain himself.  In 1879 he entered the Chicago College of Pharmacy and after three years graduated with a Graduate in Pharmacy degree (PH.G.) no longer offered in the United States.   

Adolph Karpen participated in the 1880 US Census on June 5, 1880. He was nineteen years old and living as a "Boarder" with the family of druggist John G. Schar at 671 (now 2020) South Blue Island Avenue in Chicago.  Adolph listed his occupation as "Clerk in a Drug Store." 

2020 S. Blue Island Avenue, Chicago

In August 1880, after only eight years in America, Solomon Karpen founded S. Karpen & Bros., which he named after himself and his brothers – in anticipation of bringing them into the business.  Solomon opened a workshop in the basement of a building a few blocks from the family home.  Using hand tools, he and his brothers produced upholstered parlor suites and chairs, which Solomon then sold to retail furniture stores and department stores in Chicago. Oscar was the first of the Karpen brothers to join Solomon.  Oscar had already worked as a furniture gilder (a skilled craftsman who applies gold leaf to ornate furniture). Brothers Isaac and Michael were still teenagers when they joined the business.  In its first year, S. Karpen & Bros. realized profits of more than $7,000 (approximately $155,000 in today's funds), kept moving to larger workshops, and added a showroom.

After he graduated from pharmacy school in 1883, Adolph Karpen continued working as a clerk in a drug store.  

By the mid 1880s, Adolph gave up his career in pharmacy and joined his brothers in the thriving furniture business.  

On October 26, 1886, twenty six-year-old Adolph Karpen married twenty-year-old Scandinavian beauty Eugenia Wilhelmina Svensson (1866-1943) in Wheaton, Du Page County, Illinois.

Eugenia was the daughter of Zacharias Svensson and Anna Johansdotter who emigrated from Sweden.  Zacharias Svensson listed his occupation as "arbetskarl" which translates to "workman."  The Svensson family came to the US and ultimately to Chicago in 1880.

Here is a photo of Adolph Karpen from about that time:

In the 1890s, Chicago continued to grow by leaps and bounds, and S. Karpen and Bros. grew right along with it.  The Karpen brothers built a magnificent building at 187-188 (now 900-910 S.) Michigan Avenue (a mixed-use high rise building currently occupies that space).  The building contained all the offices of the Karpen firm, as well as lavish furniture showrooms.  The building itself was called "one of the most beautiful in the City of Chicago."  The Karpens were so proud of their building they used it in their advertisements.  Here is an ad from American Cabinet Maker and Upholsterer, a trade journal, in 1899:


Even though Ben Karpen had died in 1896, the family continued to include his photo right alongside the living brothers.

The 1900 US Census finds Adolph and Eugenia Karpen living in the Leland Hotel on Michigan at Jackson in Chicago:

Adolph Karpen listed his occupation as "Merchant."  Both Adolph and Eugenia were naturalized US citizens.  They had no children.

In 1902 S. Karpen & Bros., was incorporated under the laws of the State of Illinois.  Adolph Karpen was named Secretary and Treasurer of the new corporation.

The Karpen factory shown in the  advertisement above, was located at Twenty-second and Union streets in Chicago.  The factory employed seven hundred and fifty men producing quality furniture that proudly wore the name of S. Karpen & Bros.  In addition, there was a smaller factory in Brooklyn, New York. 

The 900-910 S. Michigan building was the principal showroom for the Karpens, but they also had showrooms in New York and Boston. For those who could not make it to one of their showrooms, they also produced catalogues of the furniture they offered.  Here is the cover from one of their catalogues:

The 1910 US Census finds Adolph and Eugenia Karpen living at 706-708 Sheridan Road in Chicago (now part of the campus of Loyola University.)  Adolph gave his occupation as "Secretary/Treasurer - Furniture Manufacturing."  

No story of the life of Adolph Karpen would be complete without mentioning his involvement with Bakelite and its creator Dr. Leo Baekeland.  Bakelite was one of the first plastics made from synthetic components.  After Baekeland had made his invention known and received the patents for it in 1910, many manufacturers rushed to take advantage of the new material's properties. Bakelite was used for its electrical nonconductivity and heat-resistant properties in electrical insulators, radio and telephone casings and such diverse products as kitchenware, jewelry, pipe stems, children's toys, and firearms. 

About the same time that Baekeland was conducting his experiments, Adolph and Sam Karpen began working with chemist L. V. Redman to find ways to improve the varnish they used on the furniture they manufactured.  In 1911, Dr. Lawrence Redman and a subsidiary of S. Karpen & Bros. had applied for the patent for Redmanol, a plastic (phenolic resin) similar to Bakelite. Having secured the patent, the Karpens founded the Redmanol Chemical Products Co., which produced Redmanol smoking pipes, cigarette holders, and products for industrial uses. The Redmanol factory was located on the campus of the Karpens’ Chicago furniture factory. In the ensuing years, Dr. Baekeland charged the Karpens with patent infringement, eventually winning. Nevertheless, through Adolph’s financial maneuvering, Redmanol Chemical Products Co. (and Condensite Company) merged with the General Bakelite Company in 1921. The Redmanol name was used into the mid-1920s, after which all products were produced under the Bakelite name.  Adolph Karpen and later Leopold Karpen were officers of the Bakelite Corporation until the company was bought by Union Carbide in 1939.

The business world was learning to never underestimate Adolph Karpen.

Although the Karpens branched out into different businesses, their primary product was still upholstered furniture.  Originally the Karpens produced and sold furniture on a wholesale basis only, but eventually they expanded the business to include direct sales of furniture to the consumer.  One way they did this was through their elaborate catalogues that showcased the furniture they produced. If you go to the link below you will be able to browse through S. Karpen & Bros. 1914 catalogue:

Here's a Karpen ad from the Ladies' Home Journal Magazine:

Although he never actively engaged in politics, Adolph Karpen had always been interested in movements for the political and civic betterment of Chicago and the State of Illinois.  In 1914 he was appointed by Governor Edward F. Dunne as a member of the Illinois Commission to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition and was made chairman of that body.  Despite the many demands on his time, both business and personal, Karpen found time to take a personal interest in the Illinois Building and exhibit at San Francisco.  He devoted much time to arranging the details of the proposed building and the exhibits placed in it.   When the fair opened, he personally made the trip to San Francisco and assisted in getting the Illinois Building into final shape for opening.  Much of the credit for Illinois' excellent showing at the Exposition went to the tireless efforts of Adolph Karpen.

On the business front, everything was going well for Adolph Karpen. On the home front, however, he was not so successful.  On July 1, 1916 Eugenia Karpen separated from her husband.  In response to questions, Mrs. Karpen said, "He tormented me until there was nothing left for me to do except leave.  We had been quarreling about a friend of his whom I refused to accept."

Eugenia Karpen

After the separation, Adolph Karpen divided his time between Chicago and New York.  I was unable to find any 1920 US Census entry for him, so the census taker must not have been able to catch him in either place.

On January 12, 1923, the Chicago Daily Tribune ran an item about Adolph Karpen:


Adolph Karpen, a member of the firm of S. Karpen & Brothers, was elected president of the Chicago Furniture Market Association yesterday.  Other officers are J. W. Caswell of Huntington, Ind., vice president; A. C. Hehn, Sheboygan, Wis., treasurer; Irving L. Brown, Chicago, secretary.   

Although Adolph and Eugenia Karpen had separated in 1916, they did not actually get divorced until 1927.  The Chicago Daily Tribune from July 17, 1927 carried the following item:


An alimony settlement of $500,000 has been arranged out of court, it was reported yesterday, to be paid by Adolph Karpen, 67 years old, secretary and treasurer of S. Karpen & Bros. Furniture company, who was divorced yesterday by Mrs. Eugenia W. Karpen of 3520 Sheridan Road.  They were married on Oct. 8, 1886, at Wheaton, Ill.

Judge George Fred Rush indicated he would grant Mrs. Karpen a decree on the grounds of desertion.  Mr. Karpen did not contest the case nor did he appear in court.  He was represented by Attorney John E. Kehoe.

Eugenia Wilhelmina Svensson Karpen died December 5, 1943 from cancer in Progresso, Texas.  She was 77 years old.

Apparently her body was shipped back to Chicago for burial, but I have been unable to find out where her grave is.

The 1930 US Census shows Adolph Karpen living at the Shoreland Hotel, 5454 South Shore Drive in Chicago.  

He was living as a "Lodger/Friend" to Otto and Mayme Kaspar and Mayme's father.  Adolph listed his occupation as "Treasurer-Furniture Manufacturer."  The rent for the apartment was $1,125.00 per month - quite a sum for 1930. 

Even at the age of 74, Adolph Karpen was actively involved with the running of the firm, as evidenced by this article from the Chicago Daily Tribune of May 20, 1934:


One of the largest furniture leases of the year was closed yesterday when S. Karpen & Brothers, furniture manufacturers since 1880, rented 18,000 square feet of space on the eighteenth floor of the Merchandise Mart.  The lessees will move at once from the Karpen building at Wabash and 8th, which they have under long term lease.

Adolph Karpen, secretary, treasurer and general manager of the company, said a thorough survey of all American furniture markets was made before signing the lease.  The firm has factories in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York.  It started in 1880 with a small wood working shop and has grown to be one of the largest producers of fine upholstered furniture in the world, according to Mr. Karpen.

T. J. Reed, general manager of the Merchandise Mart, stated that this was the sixth furniture lease closed in the last two weeks.

Adolph Karpen died on New Year's Eve, December 31, 1935 from heart disease.  Here is his Death Certificate:

He was 75 years old.  Here is his Obituary from the Chicago Daily Tribune, January 1, 1936:


In Business 55 Years; Passes at 75.

Adolph Karpen, secretary-treasurer and general manager of S. Karpen & Brothers, furniture manufacturers, died yesterday at Michael Reese hospital after a brief illness.  Mr. Karpen, who resided at the Sherry hotel, 1725 East 53rd street, was 75 years old.

He was born in Posen, Poland, and came to the United States when he was 12 years old.  He attended the public schools of Chicago, and graduated from the Chicago College of Pharmacy.

With Company Since 1880.

In 1880 he joined two of his brothers, Oscar and Salomon, in the furniture concern with which he remained for 55 years.  He branched out into other business fields, and at the time of his death was a director of Drying Systems, Inc.  He was one of the early presidents of the Chicago Furniture Manufacturers' association.  In 1923 he helped organize the Bakelite corporation of New York, in which he remained active as vice president and a director until recently.  The company maintains offices in Chicago.  He assisted in the reorganization of the Autopoint company, pencil manufacturers, with which he was connected for about a decade, part of the time as president.

Mr. Karpen was chairman of the commission which erected the Illinois building a the Panama-Pacific exposition in San Francisco in 1915.

Funeral To Be Tomorrow.

A bronze plaque was presented to the Illinois group for its energy in completing the building in time for the exposition after a late start.

Mr. Karpen is survived by his four brothers, Solomon, Oscar, Michael, and Leo.  He was married in 1886 and divorced in 1927. He had no children.  Funeral services will be held tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. from the chapel at 936 East 47th street.

As mentioned in his obituary, at the time of his death Adolph Karpen was living in the Sherry Hotel, 1725 East 53rd Street in Chicago:

Postcard courtesy John Chuckman's Places:

Now the family had to decide where to bury Adolph.  The Karpens did not have a family plot.  The parents, Moritz and Johanna were buried in Jewish Graceland Cemetery.  Benjamin, who died in 1895 was buried at Rosehill; Julius, who died in 1907 was buried at Forest Home; William who died in Hollywood in 1915 is buried in Los Angeles; and Isaac, who died from the Spanish Influenza in 1918 is buried in the Sons and Daughters of Jacob section of Jewish Waldheim.  So for reasons lost to history, they decided to inter Adolph Karpen in the mausoleum of Rosehill Cemetery:

Here is his Death Notice from the January 1, 1936 Tribune:

Adolph Karpen - business was his life - and he was good at it - may he rest in peace. 

PS - when I wrote this story I mentioned that when Eugenia Karpen, Adolph's ex-wife, died in 1943 her body was shipped back to Chicago but I didn't know where she was buried.  Today I was in the Rosehill mausoleum looking for the crypts of the grandparents of someone who lives out of state.  I found his grandparents and photographed their crypts.  As long as I was there, I decided to photograph all the crypts in that section to add to Find a Grave at a later date.  I was going along looking through the viewfinder as I snapped the photos when all of a sudden I saw this:

There she was - interred in the Rosehill mausoleum right around the corner from the crypt of her ex-husband. She said during the divorce that he gave her no choice but to leave.  Well, she didn't end up going very far away from him after all.

Thursday, September 15, 2016


It's not every day when the death of someone from Evanston makes the front page of the New York Times - but that is exactly what happened on Saturday, November 8, 1902 when readers saw this:

Illinois Man Contracts Fatal Blood Poisoning
While Picking Flowers

Special to the New York Times

Chicago, Nov. 7. - Charles G. Ayars, for thirty years a citizen of Evanston, died from the effects of blood poisoning Thursday at Orlando, Fla., where he had made his home for a year past.  Ten days ago Mr. Ayars, who was extremely fond of flowers, was plucking roses in his garden.  A thorn pricked his thumb, and blood poisoning set in with fatal results.

Charles G. Ayars was born seventy-two years ago in Paterson, N. J. His father, James Ayars, was a well-known minister in the early days of the Methodist Church and one of the founders of Northwestern University.  Charles Ayars was educated at Rutgers College, Vermont, and came to Chicago in 1867.  

An interesting way to die - to be sure.  Let's see what else we can "dig up" about Charles Ayars and see if we can find out whether or not he ever sang for Abraham Lincoln.

Charles Gerry Ayars was born December 28, 1831 in Paterson, New Jersey (some sources say Newton, New Jersey).  His father was the Rev. James B. Ayars, Sr. (1805-1873), a minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church and a tireless worker for the temperance cause.  His mother was Harriet Amelia, nee Reed (1807-1869).

James and Harriet Ayars had five sons.  The oldest, Enoch Reed Ayars (1827-1856) was a dentist who joined Walker's expedition to Nicaragua and died of wounds he received in the Battle of Rivos in 1856.

Charles Gerry Ayars (1831-1902) is the subject of this article.

James B. Ayars, Jr. (1829-1893) was an insurance adjuster and an attorney who lived in Chicago for a time and died in Indiana in 1893.

William Henry Ayars (1840-1865) was a student at Northwestern University in Evanston when the Civil War broke out.  He enlisted, and served eighteen months in the Union Army.  He became a lieutenant of what was then called a "colored regiment" and was killed at the Battle of Petersburgh, Virginia in 1865. 

Howard B. Ayars (1839-1844) was the youngest and he died at the age of five years in 1844.

Charles G. Ayars came from an interesting family, to say the least.  Ayars received his elementary education wherever his father happened to be stationed at the time.  He finished his education at Rutgers College in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and entered the business world in 1848 when he was seventeen.  He was a clerk at several stores and spent one year with a wholesale paper house in New York.  In 1857, Charles Ayars relocated to Covington, Kentucky where he became a General Agent with the Phoenix Fire Insurance Company of Hartford, Connecticut.

In 1859 he became a resident of Cook County and engaged in farming at Evanston.

On April 25, 1859 Charles G. Ayars married Miss Margaret Fredenberg (1830-1913) of New York.  She was the daughter of William and Julia Fredenberg.  Margaret had one brother, Cornelius Fredenberg.

The 1860 US Census finds the newlyweds living with the Rev. James Ayars and family in Evanston.  Charles listed his occupation as "Farmer."  

In 1861, Charles and Margaret Ayars moved to the area known as Forest Hill, at the crossing of the Wabash and Pan Handle railroads. Today that neighborhood is in the vicinity of West 75th street and South Oakley avenue.  Charles operated a large farm in this area, producing large quantities of hay for the Chicago market.  While he lived there, Ayars served six years as the Clerk of Lake Township.

In 1867 Charles Ayars was appointed a deputy sheriff of Cook County and then of Chicago.  Around this time there was much litigation over land titles.  Many squatters had to be dispossessed, and his duties as deputy sheriff sometimes brought him exciting experiences.

The 1870 US Census finds Charles and Margaret Ayars living in Lake Township, Cook County, with the Post Office of the Union Stockyards.  He listed his occupation as "Deputy Sheriff."

In 1874 Ayars and his wife moved back to Evanston, where he was elected County Commissioner for the Evanston District.  At the expiration of his first term he was re-elected and served a total of six years in this position.

The 1880 US Census for the Village of Evanston was conducted by Philo P. Judson.  He reported that Charles and Margaret Ayars were living in the Village, with Charles' brother James, and James' wife Lucy. James Ayars was an insurance salesman; Charles was "County Commissioner."  They had one live-in servant:  20 year old Apolonia Kerrscht.

In 1883, Charles Ayars renewed his association with the Phoenix Fire Insurance Company, as state agent for Illinois, having charge of all business outside of Chicago.  He remained in the fire insurance business until late in life when his failing health forced him to give up his business activities.  

Charles and Margaret Ayars were named in the 1891 Chicago Blue Book of Selected Names of Chicago and Suburban Towns Containing the Names and Addresses of Prominent Residents.  The Blue Book reported that they were living at the Avenue House on Chicago avenue in Evanston, pre-cursor to the North Shore Hotel.

The 1900 US Census shows Charles and Margaret Ayars living at 421 Greenwood Boulevard in Evanston.  An apartment building sits on that site today.  Charles was 68, Margaret was 67.  They reported that they had no children.  Charles listed his occupation as "Fire Insurance." Strangely they said their live-in servant's name was "Minnie Ayars." They listed her as a servant, but then told the census taker that Minnie was "at school."  They said she was fourteen-years-old and that she had been born in Michigan.  

About this time, Charles Ayars' health was failing, and he decided to get out of the harsh Chicago winters and spend his remaining winters in Florida, and that's where he was when the news of his death came across the wires, as related at the beginning of this article.  

Here's his Obituary from the Evanston Index from Saturday, November 8, 1902:

Charles G. Ayars

In the death of Charles G. Ayars at Orlando, Fla., Thursday, Evanston lost a citizen who had long been prominent in social and political life. Mr. Ayars had been in poor health for some time and had been spending his winters in Florida for several years.  He had been quite unwell for some time but his immediate taking off was caused by blood poisoning resulting from his hand being pricked by a thorn while plucking roses in a garden.  His body will arrive here Sunday and will be placed in a vault until Mrs. Ayars arrives which will not be for some days.  At that time funeral services will be held.

Charles G. Ayars was born seventy-two years ago in Patterson, N. J. He was the son of James Ayars, one of the well known ministers of the Methodist church.  He was educated at Rutger's college and came to Evanston in 1859.  In 1861 he removed to Lake township where he remained for ten years engaged in farming.  While residing in the town of Lake he held the positions of town clerk, and he was deputy-sheriff of Cook County from 1866 to 1874.  He returned to Evanston in 1871 and has made his home here ever since.  In 1875 he was elected county commissioner and held the position until 1881.  Mr. Ayars was in the fire insurance business for many years until poor health compelled him to give up active business life.  Mr. Ayars was a man who was always highly respected.  He was of spotless character.  Mr. Ayars was a strikingly handsome man and his genial temper and kindly ways made him friends all through life.  

He was a member of the masonic fraternity and valued his masonic ties very highly.

Mrs. Ayars who survives him was Miss Margaret Fredenburgh, and comes from one of the oldest New York families.

Mrs. Ayars had her husband's body brought back from Florida to Chicago, where it was interred in Rosehill Cemetery. 

From the Evanston Index, November 15, 1902:

Charles Gerry Ayars

The funeral services of the late Charles Gerry Ayars will be held at 3 o'clock tomorrow afternoon at the new chapel in the Rose Hill cemetery.  The services will be conducted by Evans lodge, Evanston commandery acting as an escort.  Rev. Dr. Milton S. Terry and Rev. Dr. William Macafee will assist.

What about the tale that Charles Ayars sang for Abraham Lincoln?  Did it really happen, or is it apocryphal, as so many stories about Lincoln are.

For the "rest of the story" we turn to a book entitled Abraham Lincoln's Visit to Evanston in 1860 published by Evanston's City National Bank and written by Josiah Seymour Currey, the then president of the Evanston Historical Society.   

Currey relates that Lincoln was invited to visit Evanston by his old friend Julius White who later went on to become a general in the Union Army.  At the time of Lincoln's visit, Mr. White was a member of the Chicago Board of Trade and was harbor master.  He had a home at the northwest corner of  Ridge avenue and Church street.  

Lincoln was not thrilled about a visit to Evanston.  Noted sculptor Leonard Volk (a past subject of this blog) was after Lincoln to sit for a bust of him Volk wanted to carve.  Volk later said that Lincoln told him, “I'd rather come and sit to you for the bust than go there and meet a lot of college professors and others, all strangers to me.” When Lincoln tried to beg off of the visit, Julius White wouldn't hear of it saying that all the guests for the engagement would be disappointed.

Lincoln came to Evanston on Thursday, April 5, 1860, more than three years before Evanston was officially incorporated as a city and six weeks before Lincoln was nominated to run for President of the United States.  

Lincoln was brought from Chicago to Evanston by Harvey B. Hurd, who had been designated to act as his escort.  Upon his arrival in Evanston, Lincoln was taken for a carriage ride around town by Julius White. After the ride they returned to White's house where a general invitation had been extended to the people to come in the evening and shake hands with the distinguished visitor.  The house was soon filled with visitors and Lincoln stood in front of the fireplace in the drawing room and conversed with the people as they arrived.  Lincoln was soon drawn outside by residents on the home’s front lawn, who had taken to “blowing horns, singing and shouting” and, eventually, calling for the famed orator to make a speech.  Although he had originally not wanted to make the visit, Lincoln was enough of a politician that he was quickly able to charm the crowd.  The Evanston Index reported that “He stood shaking hands with admiring friends while a stream of wit and humor, and story and laughter, came bubbling up from the great soul within."

At one point Lincoln and the assembled citizens were serenaded by a local quartet.  The particulars were related by Henry A. Pearsons, who attended the event:

"A really good quartet, led by our long-time friend and fellow citizen Charles G. Ayars, called for Lincoln's special commendation.  I recall how (Lincoln) put his arms around Ayars' shoulders and said: "Young man, I wish I could sing as well as you. Unfortunately I only know two tunes, one is "Old Hundred," and the other isn't.' "   

So now you know the story of the Evanstonian who sang for Abraham Lincoln on Lincoln's only visit to Evanston in 1860.

Charles G. Ayars - he really did sing for Lincoln - may he rest in peace.   

Special thanks to Mr. Mike Kelly for bringing this interesting Evanstonian to my attention.