Sunday, January 21, 2018

The History of the Tinker Family and the Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum and Gardens in Rockford, Illinois.

The Tinker Swiss Cottage is an historic house museum and gardens in Rockford, Illinois.
The Tinker Swiss Cottage in 1915. Note the sundial on the side of the driveway.
This house was built by Robert Hall Tinker between 1865-1870. The Tinker house was the first in Rockford to have electricity before the turn of the 20th century.
Most striking is the interior for its dimensions including the high ceilings, angled roof, and unique designs in many of the first floor rooms. Many elements of the house were created or inspired by the ideas of Tinker, including the walnut spiral staircase made by Robert out of a single piece of wood and the rooms with rounded corners. The museum contains all the original objects from the family from furniture, and artwork, to clothing and diaries.
The Victorian Living Room of Tinker Swiss Cottage. In 1855, Abraham Lincoln sat in the rocking chair during a visit to the nearby South Main Street mansion of Rockford industrialist John H. Manny.
   
The museum house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) on December 27, 1972.
Robert Hall Tinker (1836-1924) was born to the Rev. Reuben and Mary Throop Wood Tinker on December 31, 1836 in the Sandwich Islands (modern day Hawaii). The family settled in Westfield, New York, when Robert was 13. At the age of 15, Robert left school and began working as a bank clerk. In 1856, William Knowlton was visiting his brother in Westfield, New York, met Robert Tinker, and was impressed with him. Arriving back in Rockford, Knowlton decided to write Robert and offer him a position as clerk in the Manny Reaper Co., where he was business manager for the wealthy widow, Mrs. John H. Manny. Robert accepted the offer and arrived in Rockford on August 12th, 1856.

Knowlton and Mrs. Manny were out of the city when he arrived, so he was given a room on the second story of a small dwelling standing opposite the St. Paul freight house. When Knowlton returned he gave Robert a position as a clerk, which he held before going to work as a bookkeeper for the Emerson-Talcott Company. Later, the eastern young man, who even then was familiarly known as Bob Tinker, returned to his first employer. Knowlton and Tinker formed a partnership to sell Manny Reapers. Tinker was later placed n charge of the Manny factory.

In 1862, Robert spent 9 months traveling extensively throughout Europe. As soon as his trip was over, he began to purchase land near Mrs. Manny’s mansion and started building his cottage. On April 24, 1870, Robert Tinker and Mary Manny married and began living in his cottage in the winter and in her mansion on the north side of Kent Creek in the summer.

When he was 39 years old he served as Mayor of Rockford in 1875. Robert was instrumental in helping Rockford to acquire a Public Library and an Opera House and was prominently identified with Rockford’s business and industrial growth for 68 years.
He became President of the Rockford Oatmeal Co., Rockford Steel and Bolt Co., and of C&R and Northern R.R. until it was absorbed by the C.B.&Q line. He was head of the Water Power for many years until he resigned in 1915. Robert also served on the Rockford Park Board until he retired on February 16th, 1924.

In 1901, Mary, Robert’s wife of 31 years, passed away. He then married her niece, Jessie Dorr Hurd, in 1904. It is thought of as a marriage of convenience. In 1908, Robert became a father, at the age of 71, when Jessie adopted a son, Theodore Tinker. Robert died in the Cottage on December 31, 1924, his eighty-eighth birthday. Upon Robert Tinker's death in 1924, Jessie created a partnership with the Rockford Park District, allowing her to remain in the house until her death. After her death in 1942 the Rockford Park District acquired the property and opened the house as a museum in 1943.

Mary Dorr Manny Tinker (1829-1901) was born August 29, 1829 in Hoosick Falls, New York, the youngest of three. She was reared in her grandparents’ stately mansion and received her education at the Academy in her native city. She became interested in the manufacturing of farm implements, and it was this lively interest in and attention to her family’s occupations, public and private, that attracted her future husband’s regard to her.  She maintained this interest in business through her life, and the great force of her character was intensified highly by just the culture and training she received in her early youth.

In 1852, she was married in her grandparents’ mansion to the young Reaper inventor, John H. Manny. They came to Rockford in 1853 and made their home in a small, white frame house on South Main Street. In January of 1856, John H. Manny died of tuberculosis and left Mary a widow at the age of 28. Mary was a businesswoman, staying involved with the Manny Reaper Company after John Manny’s death. She owned several parcels of land in Rockford, including the Holland House located on the north side of the creek. By 1857, Robert Tinker became her personal secretary, and on April 24, 1870 they were wed. Mary died September 4, 1901 at the age of 72.

Mary was a member of the Second Congregational Church and Women’s Missionary Society, Women’s Christian Temperance Union, Rockford’s Seminary Visiting Committee, and was a founding member of the Ladies Union Aid Society that has evolved into today’s Family Counseling Services of Northern Illinois.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Why Chicago Street Signs were changed from Black on Yellow to White on Green.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s "Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices" (MUTCD), a constantly evolving guidebook that has shown cities the standard in street signage since 1935.

In the 1970s, the MUTCD began a national effort to help foreign visitors navigate the United States by adopting a color-coded sign system similar to Europe’s. Chicago adopted the white-on-green street signs as part of that effort in 1975.
Many Chicagoans remember the yellow street signs that Chicago used.
The MUTCD’s revised guidelines restricted the use of yellow in signage to warning signs. It also mandated white backgrounds with black and red lettering or symbols for use as regulatory signs (for instance, “No U-Turn” signs were replaced with a black U with a red slash on a white background).

The guidelines recommended phasing out words on signs where possible and relying instead on universally understood symbols, like a red circle broken by a white line to indicate “Do Not Enter.” Under that scheme, the color symbols for guidance were green and white – so “reflectorized” white-on-green street name signs became the new standard.

There was no official system in place during the city’s early years, making wayfinding pretty tough in our fast growing city. A public call for street identification signs began around the turn of the 20th century, when street names were often simply painted onto poles at neighborhood corners (if they were indicated at all).
Later, black-and-white or brown-and-white signs appeared
around the city, particularly downtown.
Finally in 1936, President Franklin Roosevelt approved a grant for Chicago to hang 64,000 black-on-yellow steel street signs as a Public Works Administration project – but those signs didn’t stick around very long. Most were removed for metal drives during World War II.

Not long after the war ended, the city began to examine new sign designs, testing out various lettering styles in the Loop. Once a style was settled upon, Chicago ordered new porcelain-coated steel street signs, again in the black-on-yellow color scheme, beginning in 1950. Over the next few years the signs were installed, beginning at the city’s edges and working their way into the Loop. This time, rather than attaching the signs to the poles with straps that would rust and break, the signs were secured with bolts going into the poles.
When Chicago moved to the white-on-green signs in 1975, Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) again went through the gradual process of installing thousands of signs throughout the city’s more than 800 streets. But this time, the city had the brilliant idea of selling the beloved yellow signs to residents, which is why from time to time you’ll see a yellow sign decorating a home or business.
In my personal collection, West Arthur Avenue, the street I grew up on.
In 2009, the Federal Highway Administration announced in its MUTCD that all cities should use the upper and lowercase format for their street signs because upper/lowercase words are actually easier to read than all uppercase. 
According to research performed by the Pennsylvania Transportation Institute, people read all-uppercase words one letter at a time, but recognize upper/lowercase formatted words as a whole, making reading “MICHIGAN AVENUE” slower and more difficult than reading “Michigan Avenue” while driving past. The upper/lower format also leaves more open space around each letter, which makes the letters easier to distinguish for aging eyes.

WTTW, Ask Geoffrey
Edited by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

"The Spirit of the Fighting Yank," WWII Memorial in Chicago, Illinois.

The "Fighting Yank" by E.M. Viquesney is a life-sized figure, cast in bronze-plated zinc, on a high pedestal protected by an iron picket fence is located at 2720 West Devon at the corner of Fairfield Avenue in Chicago's West Ridge community.
It is outside of the Republic Bank (formerly First Cook Community Bank) which is in a brick colonial-style building inspired by Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the original home of the Liberty Bell.
The statue was modeled by E.M. Viquesney (1876-1946). An early version of the "Fighting Yank" was carved in limestone and dedicated in 1944 at the Monroe County Courthouse in Bloomington, Indiana.
After Viquesney's death, Ralph Gropp reproduced the statue in bronze-plated zinc at his Chicago Studio in 1951.
The statue has been recoated and refurbished, including
repairs to the Tommy-gun, by Jane Foley.
The figure, a fully geared army soldier, is striding forward, about to lob a live grenade with his taut right arm, staring out intently at his target.
The plaque on the black granite base reads "Lest We Forget They Died...That We Can Live in Independence. Independence Hall, Dedicated May 30, 1958. Presented and Created By Harry A. Cooper.

The dedication date of May 30, 1958 is the same date that unidentified veterans from WWII and the Korean War were interred at the 'Tomb of the Unknowns' in Arlington National Cemetery.

Unlike most other memorials to war veterans, this figure is frozen in a perpetual pose of impending defense, suggests that even in death, soldiers endeavor is the protection of the democratic way of life.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.