J. Young Scammon

George Healy's portrait of J. Young Scammon

May 2006

The visit of two descendants of J. Young Scammon was particularly satisfying for a very personal reason. Scammon was the lawyer in whose offices the organizational meeting of the Chicago Historical Society was convened in April 1856. (See Angle, Paul M., The Chicago Historical Society 1856-1956: An Unconventional Chronicle. Rand McNally & Company. New York, 1956.) Let me emphasize the word "lawyer"! For the skeptics who wondered about yours truly becoming the eighth President of the Chicago Historical Society, I now can point to the instrumental role of J. Young Scammon, Esq. The other organizers were I.N. Arnold, J.D. Webster, W. Barry, J.H. Kinzie, and Mason Brayman. When the Society elected its first officers, the first President (i.e., Chairman of the Board), was William H. Brown, and W.B. Ogden was First Vice President. Scammon became Second Vice President. Now, the family members who visited me thought that Scammon might have been the first President, except for his plans to take an extended trip to Europe. I can't verify that, of course—but it sounds good to me. In any event, I learned much about Scammon from his family, including his friendship with Lincoln and his role in the preparation for the World Columbian Exposition. The George Healy portrait of Scammon actually was too large to hang over my fireplace, so we made a photographic copy, and that copy will have a permanent place of honor in my office. We all should be very grateful to the founders of the Chicago Historical Society—now the Chicago History Museum. This is Chicago's oldest cultural institution. The fact that the leading citizens of such a young city created, of all things, an historical society says something about Chicago, Even then, I suspect, they believed that the continuing story of this city would be a fascinating one.

Scammon descendents

Family of J. Young Scammon

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