Chicago Fashions and Bronze Peacocks

One of my chief reasons for visiting Chicago in 2018 was to see the works of Frank Lloyd Wright. My visit to The Rookery is detailed at Daveno Travels, with additional photos on Pinterest. A short walk from that building brought me to the Chicago Exchange Building, where I had hoped to go to the 5th floor gallery to view the trading floor. It’s one of the cases where the guide books are incorrect…

Later that day, I missed a “Gangsta Walking Tour” for my inability to find the start point, but happily stumbled into the Chicago History Museum. On display there was this ensemble – a coat and shoes worn by a trader on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade (the building that I could not access this morning). Traders and others on the floor of the Board of Trade could be recognized by their coats. I believe it dates from the 1950’s.

Also on display was this example of women’s swimwear from the 1940’s.

I found a collection of Bes-Ben hats here. Benjamin B. Green-Field and his sister Bes founded the firm together and sold hats from the 1920’s-60’s. Their more famous customers included Hellen Keller, Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich and Elizabeth Taylor. In the summer of 1936 they held a clearance sale that became legendary – Ben stood on his balcony and threw hats into the crowd that had gathered below. Hats valued at $425 could be purchased for $5 if you could catch one…

Chicago was also the home of the mail order catalog. You have Aaron Montgomery Ward and Richard Sears to thank for our current “buy off the internet”. Then as now, the practice forced smaller stores, many of them rural, out of business because they could not compete.

Near the History Museum, in the Old Town Triangle District, I was seeking Crilly Court, a residential area built in the late 1800’s and redeveloped after WWII. I was particularly interested in this area because many of the buildings were renovated by Edgar Miller.

Edgar Miller was a modern day Renaissance Man, working in sculpting, painting, batik, lithography, architecture, interior design and stained glass. He was an illustrator for Marshal Fields’ magazine and pioneered the use of modern art in advertising during the early 1920’s. He disliked repetition, considering it “the mark of an uncreative artist.” He used recycled materials to turn old homes into works of art, a practice he called “social adventure”, a practice that I found endearing and texturally interesting.

  • There are additional photos at Daveno Travels. To read more about this little known artist, I highly recommend “Edgar Miller and the Handmade Home” which is lavishly illustrated.

After dinner, I head back downtown for a drink / photo opportunity at the Palmer House. Rebuilt three times between 1871 and 1926, it boasts 24 floors, 2250 rooms, and a ceiling painted by an unnamed Italian artist.

C.D. Peacock Jeweler was the first business to incorporate in Chicago in 1834, and opened a shop here in 1927. It’s Peacock Doors were designed by Louis Tiffany and cast in bronze, and featured on the Palmer House Christmas card that year. I’m thinking of how to feature this on a hat.

And now, with visions of peacocks a’dance in my head, I’m back to the Pittsfield to retire to bed…

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.