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Thumbs Plus that is, still my favorite way to organize my image collection.  There are occasional problems, it’s true, but for the most part it’s a damn good program.  If you’re struggling with a large digital image collection you might want to take a look at it.

Ella Jane Osgood

In the process of sorting the photos I’ve already digitized, I came across some images that I’d love to share.  The first is my great-grandmother, Ella Jane Osgood, who was born in 1851 in Vermont.  She moved

John Walter Wilson

to Illinois to teach and married a farmer, John Walter Wilson, whose father moved to Illinois from Glasgow as a young man.  The Osgood women all had sultry eyes.

Ella Jane’s mother, Ellen Lee Osgood was born in Vermont in 1823 and died in Chicago, in her grand-daughter’s home, in 1922.

Ellen Lee Osgood

Lucy Kingsley Osgood

Ella Jane’s paternal grandmother, Lucy Kingsley Osgood was born in Vermont in 1783 and lived to be 91 years old.

It’s through the Osgoods that my family is related to: Katharine Hepburn,  John Hancock,  Robert H Goddard,  Robert Frost,  Samuel Morse,  Richard Lovelace,  Lillian Gish,  John Steinbeck,  E.E. Cummings,  Philo T. Farnsworth,  Julia Child,  Bette Davis (Who had the Osgood eyes),  Laura Ingalls Wilder,  Robert Graves,  Amelia Earhart,  Shirley Temple, and a number of Presidents and First Ladies.   My mother’s family has been in this country since at least the 1580s.  I’ve traced her family back to the late 12th century.

Minna Rusche Furhmann and her three sons.

My father’s family are relative latecomers to this country. The earliest mention of any of them settling here is 1606.  Pikers! His maternal great grandparents came from Germany in the late 19th century.  Minna and Henry had three boys, the eldest of whom, Henry Jr., was my great grandfather.  Most of Minna’s relatives remained in Germany and I have postcards and photos that they sent to her.  There’s evidence that there were any number of trips back and forth to visit each other, and her grand-daughter, Clara, may have moved back there at some point.

My father’s father came from Stroud in the UK.  He was the oldest boy in a family of eleven children, and I’ve saluted his mother’s stamina by naming one of my characters “Hopson” for her side of the family.  She looks like she could keep eleven children in line, doesn’t she?

My grandfather’s parents and some of his siblings

I enjoy the heck out of doing this.  I love the old photos; they make me feel more connected to my family even though I never met most of the people in them.  It’s a picture-takin’ family on both sides, and I’m the richer for it, particularly when I consider what it means to have old daguerreotypes like this one:

unknown Osgood-Lee-Wilson men

unknown Osgood-Lee-Wilson men (Photo credit: Tracy Rowan)

I also have a treasure trove of old snapshots my maternal grandparents took not only on their travels, but around Chicago at the turn of the last century.  Here’s a photo of Lincoln Park, looking north from the lagoon area, near the zoo towards the conservatory.

Lincoln Park, about 1910 or so

I could do this all day. Every day.

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In mid-July of 1919, the Wingfoot, a dirigible owned by the Goodyear company was making tests flights along Chicago's lakefront. On the third flight, the pilot decided to take the airship over the downtown area. Not too far from the lakefront, over Chicago's financial district, flames began to shoot out of the engines. The pilot told his passengers to jump, and took his own advice, landing on the roof of a nearby building. Not all the passengers were so fortunate, nor were the people in the bank beneath the burning airship. The now-flaming dirigible fell onto the roof of a bank, shattered the skylight and fell into the bank, crushing or incinerating those inside. Over the next twelve days, as an inquiry was launched into the air disaster, a young girl went missing and was eventually discovered to have been brutally murdered, race riots claimed hundreds of victims, and all transit workers went on strike, crippling the city. And the mayor went on vacation.

City of Scoundrels is an engaging account of an almost two-week period in the city's history when everything that could go wrong did. It's a story of the political machine (Still very much a force in Chicago politics.) and how it dealt with cumulative disasters. It's also intriguing because I've lived in this city for sixty years and had never heard of any of the events, not even the Wingfoot disaster which predated the Hindenburg by almost twenty years. Kudos to Gary Krist for chronicling it and the events which followed and helped to change the face of Chicago.

Krist's prose is tight and smooth which makes the social and political analysis easy to read and assimilate. This is, after all, a book about how the political institutions of the city functioned (or failed to) in a perfect storm of disaster and social unrest. It could have been dry; it isn't. It's an immediate, involving story, and if you have any interest at all in how cities are shaped, and in Chicago in particular, I highly recommend "City of Scoundrels."

The Wingfoot Air Exprress prior to liftof from...
The Wingfoot Air Exprress prior to liftof from Chicago's Grant Park site. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Tracy Rowan

August 2013

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